Bavaria’s Mad King Ludwig Liked Building Fairy Castles
Ludwig II, or “Mad King Ludwig” (1845 – 1886), reigned in Bavaria from 1864 to 1886. A generous patron of the arts, he was a benefactor of the composer Richard Wagner. During his reign, he devoted himself to artistic and architectural projects, and his biggest hobby was building opulent fairy tale castles. He ended up bankrupting himself with their construction costs.
The Mad King withdrew from governance after Bavaria joined the German Empire in 1871, and showed little interest from then on in affairs of state. Instead, he went into a morbid seclusion and devoted himself wholly to the arts. He could not get enough of the theater and the opera, particularly the works of Richard Wagner, whose lifelong benefactor and patron he became.
Ludwig’s greatest and costliest hobby, however, was building palaces and castles in the Bavarian mountains. He started with the Linderhoff Palace, built between 1869 to 1878. Simultaneously, he commenced construction of his most famous project, Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle precariously situated on a crag and decorated with scenes from Wagner’s operas. Built from 1869 to 1886, it was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. While that one was being built, the Mad King began an even greater project in 1878, the Herrenchiemsee Palace, a copy of Versailles. It was never completed, because Ludwig went bankrupt.
Between abandonment of his official duties, profligate spending on expensive hobbies, and withdrawal into the life of a recluse among other bizarre behavior, Ludwig’s ministers finally had enough. In 1886, he was declared insane, and sent to a remote palace. Three days later, he drowned himself in a lake, and took his psychiatrist with him.
Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) was China’s main Marxist theorist, and a guerrilla fighter, soldier, and statesman, who presided over his country’s communist revolution. He led the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his death, and after the communists won control in 1949, he ruled China from that date until his demise. During his time in power, Mao was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions Chinese. They were killed outright by his followers, or starved to death because of Mao’s disastrous economic policies.
However, there was more to Mao than a revolutionary and man of action. He had a particular fondness for classical Chinese poetry and literature. In addition to being a prolific mass murder, Mao was also a prolific writer and poet. Surprisingly, for a man so politically radical and revolutionary, he liked to write and pen verses in classical Chinese forms. It would be akin to a modern American anarchist who liked writing in the manner of Chaucer.
As with most intellectuals of his generation, Mao’s education was based on a foundation of classical Chinese literature. However, while most of his contemporaries moved on to modern styles and themes, Mao stuck with the old when it came to literature and poetry. From his youth, he composed poetry in the classical style. Indeed, his image as a poet was a significant part of his public persona as he rose to power in China.
Mao was actually considered a good poet. Not just by critics in China, who would have been foolhardy indeed to pan his poetry, but also by literary critics outside China and beyond Mao’s clutches. His poetry tended to be on romantic end of things, rather than the more modern realist genre, and hearkened back to the style of the Tang Dynasty, of the 7th to 9th centuries.
Alone I stand in the autumn cold On the tip of Orange Island, The Xiang flowing northward; I see a thousand hills crimsoned through By their serried woods deep-dyed, And a hundred barges vying Over crystal blue waters. Eagles cleave the air, Fish glide under the shallow water; Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom. Brooding over this immensity, I ask, on this bondless land Who rules over man’s destiny? I was here with a throng of companions, Vivid yet those crowded months and years. Young we were, schoolmates, At life’s full flowering; Filled with student enthusiasm Boldly we cast all restraints aside. Pointing to our mountains and rivers, Setting people afire with our words, We counted the mighty no more than muck. Remember still How, venturing midstream, we struck the waters And the waves stayed the speeding boats?
Nero Fancied Himself a Musician and Olympic Athlete
Nero (37 – 68 AD) was one of Rome’s worst rulers. He was born in 37, a nephew of the emperor Caligula, and grand nephew of his successor, the emperor Claudius. Claudius fell in love with his niece and Nero’s mother, Agrippina. He married her and adopted Nero, naming him his heir and successor. Agrippina had Claudius poisoned in 54 AD, and her teenaged son became emperor.
Nero was dominated by his mother during the first five years of his rule, so to escape her smothering embrace, he decided to murder her. He tried to make it look accidental, such as with a roof designed to collapse and crush her. The roof fell on and crushed one of her maids, instead. Next, Nero give his mother a gift of a pleasure barge, which was rigged to capsize in the middle of a lake. Before Nero’s horrified gaze, as he watched from a villa overlooking the lake, his mother swam from the sinking barge to shore like an otter. At his wit’s end, and dreading an awkward confrontation, Nero sent in some sailor to club her death with oars.
Free at last from his mother, Nero gave free rein to his impulses and indulged himself to the fullest. Fancying himself a talented musician, he threw exceptionally long concerts, during which he would sing while playing a lyre. Few dared leave before completion, or observe with anything less than rapt attention. The performances were so bad that women faked labor in order to leave, and men faked heart attacks or death so they could get carried out.
Nero had also dreamt since childhood of becoming an Olympics champion. So he arranged for the games to be delayed for two years until he could visit Greece. He competed in chariot racing, and his competitors tried to throw the race by slowing down. Still, Nero failed to reach the finish line because he crashed and wrecked his chariot. The judges, combining sycophancy with fear of an unstable man who could have them crucified with a snap of his fingers, awarded him the victor’s wreath anyhow, on the theory that he would have won but for the crash. They also awarded him victor’s wreaths for every event in which he competed, for events in which he did not compete, and for events that were not part of the Olympic competition, such as singing and lyre playing.
Nero spent extravagantly in pursuit of his hobbies and to satisfy his whims, until the treasury was emptied. In the meantime, he left the business of running the government to incompetent and corrupt cronies who wrecked it. By 68 AD, the Roman Empire had had enough, and numerous rebellions broke out. In Rome, the Senate officially declared Nero a public enemy, and his Praetorian Guard abandoned him.
Nero toyed with impractical ideas, such as throwing himself upon the mercy of the public and begging their forgiveness. He reasoned that if he sang for them while playing the lyre, it would “soften their hearts”, and he would be allowed to retire to an out of the way province as its governor. He composed a speech and wrote a song, but changed his mind after it was pointed out that he would probably be torn apart by a mob as soon as he was sighted in public, before he got the chance to orate or sing.
While mulling alternatives, news came that he had been declared a public enemy by the Senate, had been sentenced to be publicly beaten to death, and that soldiers were on the way to arrest him. All hope gone, Nero decided to end his life. Unable to do it himself, he had a freedman stab him, crying out before the fatal blow: “Oh, what an artist dies in me!”
Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) was the founder of Italy’s Fascist Party, who went on to become Italy’s prime minister and leader from 1922 to 1943. He was the first European fascist dictator, and was an inspirational figure for Adolf Hitler, who sought to model himself after Mussolini during his own rise to power. Eventually, the Italian dictator was overshadowed by his German imitator, and Mussolini ended up as Hitler’s sidekick.
He had delusions of grandeur, and sought to revive the Roman Empire. Neither he nor Italy were up to the task, however, and Mussolini kept biting more than he or his country could chew. The results were often farcical, ending in humiliating setbacks and defeats. Towards the end of his career, having dragged an unprepared Italy into WWII and bungled it badly, Mussolini’s image had morphed from that of a great statesman to a hapless buffoon. It ended badly for him, when his countrymen captured him in the final days of WWII in Europe. They killed him and his mistress, and displayed both in downtown Milan, suspended upside down by their ankles from meat hooks.
When he was not inspiring would be fascist dictators, or getting his unwarlike countrymen into wars they neither wanted nor could win, Mussolini liked to unwind by writing erotic letters. And often cringe-worthy erotic letters, as was discovered when the diary of Clara Petacci, the mistress killed and strung up by his side, came to light in 2009.
For all his shortcomings, one thing Il Duce (Italian for leader) had going for him was an incredible libido and remarkable sexual stamina. As described by Petacci, Mussolini often had up to 14 mistresses at a time, and would regularly go through 3 or 4 different women in a single evening. He was also jarringly loud while having sex: “his screams seem like those of a wounded beast“, as Petacci put it.
He was a total hound, who seemed to lust after every woman he met. As he described it, after his first sexual encounter with a hooker at age 17: “Naked women entered my life, my dreams, my desires. I undressed them with my eyes, the girls that I met, I lusted after them violently with my thoughts“. Luckily for him, many Italian women had the hots for him as well, and at the height of his power, thousands of women sent letters propositioning him every day.
Mussolini had underlings sort the letters by senders into “known” and “new”. After police background checks on the “new” women, the more interesting ones were put in folders and passed on to him. The ones who caught his eye – usually big breasted and broad hipped – would then be summoned for an afternoon liaison at his palace. He wasted no time, and usually got down to sex quickly on the carpet, against the wall, or on a stone window seat.
Those who pleased him would get added to his many mistresses, and in correspondence with them, Mussolini held little back. E.g.; ” Orgasm is good for you: it sharpens your thoughts, it widens your horizons, it helps your brain, makes it vivid and brilliant“. Or “Be afraid of my love. It’s like a cyclone. It’s tremendous; it overwhelms everything. You must tremble.” And “I tremble in telling you, but I have a feverish desire for your delicious little body which I want to kiss all over. And you must adore my body, your giant…“. Or “Your flesh has got me – from now on I’m a slave to your flesh.” And ” I’m bad – hit me, hurt me, punish me, but don’t suffer. I love you. I think about you all day, even when I’m working.”
Ibrahim the Mad Liked Feeding Fish Gold Coins, and Collecting Concubines With Cow-Like Vaginas
Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I (1615 – 1648), or Ibrahim the Mad, reigned from 1640 to 1648. When his older brother Murad IV became sultan, he had the then-8 year old Ibrahim sent to the Kafes, or “Cage” – a secluded part of the Harem where possible successors to the throne were confined. There, they were kept under house arrest, under surveillance, and isolated from the outside world to prevent intrigues and plots.
While Ibrahim was in the Cage, sultan Murad executed his other brothers, one by one, until Ibrahim was the last one left, constantly terrified that he might be next. He remained in confinement until his brother’s death without issue in 1640. When he was taken out of the Cage and told that he would be crowned sultan, Ibrahim refused at first. He rushed back to the Cage to barricade himself inside, suspecting it was a trick to entrap him into saying or doing something that his fratricidal brother would take as treasonous.
Finally, his brother’s corpse was brought to the door for him to examine. Even then, it still took the pleas of his mother, “who had to coax him out like a kitten with food“, for Ibrahim to come out and accept the throne. However, the years of isolation, and the ever present fear of execution, had unhinged Ibrahim. His condition was worsened by depression over the death of his brother, whom he loved in a Stockholm Syndrome type of way.
The new Sultan’s habit feeding of fish in the palace pool with coins instead of food was an early worrying sign. As it became clear that Ibrahim was insane, his mother ruled for him. To keep him busy, the sultan was encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the Harem with his nearly 300 concubines. It was intended to keep him out of his mother’s hair and out of trouble, and to father male heirs since, by then, he was the last surviving Ottoman.
For years, Ibrahim took to the Harem with relish, fathering three future sultans and a number of daughters. As a contemporary put it “In the palace gardens he frequently assembled all the virgins, made them strip themselves naked, and neighing like a stallion ran amongst them and as it were ravished one or the other”. The insanity never went away, however: one day he woke up, and out of the blue, ordered his entire Harem tied in weighted sacks and drowned in the sea.
Ibrahim also had a thing for fat women. One time he got turned on by a cow’s vagina, so he commissioned gold copies and sent them around the empire, to find a woman with a similar looking vagina. Searchers eventually found a 350 pound woman with matching parts, who became one of his favorite concubines. He also had a fetish for fur, decorating his clothes, curtains, walls, and furniture with it. He stuffed his pillows with it, and liked having sex on sable furs.
When he saw the beautiful daughter of the Grand Mufti, the empire’s highest religious authority, he asked for her hand in marriage. Aware of Ibrahim’s depravities, the Mufti urged his daughter to decline. When she did, Ibrahim ordered her kidnapped and carried to his palace, where he ravished her for days, before sending her back to her father.
Eventually, he exiled his mother and assumed personal control of the government. The results were disastrous: after ordering the execution of his most capable ministers, Ibrahim spent like only a madman can. Eventually, he emptied the treasury, even as he got himself into a series of wars and managed them poorly. By 1647, between heavy taxes, the bungled wars, and with a Venetian blockade bringing the Ottoman capital to the brink of starvation, discontent boiled over. In 1648, the population revolted, urged on by religious scholars, and were joined by the army. An angry mob seized Ibrahim’s Grand Vizier and tore him to pieces, and the sultan was deposed in favor of his 6 year old son. A fatwa was then issued for Ibrahim’s execution, which was carried out by strangulation.