Wagner und Koenig Ludwig von Bayern

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015

 "The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."

Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich

Wagner's fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II (see left) succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

Ever since his governess Sibylle Meilhaus had inspired him with tales of Lohengrin, his enthusiasm for Wagner had grown steadily.
Ludwig's interest in Wagner increased considerably when he first saw 'Lohengrin' at the impressionable age of 15½, followed by 'Tannhäuser' ten months later.

Koenig Ludwig II von Bayern
© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
Undoubtedly Wagner's operas appealed to the king's fantasy-filled imagination.
Wagner had a notorious reputation as a political radical and philanderer, and was constantly on the run from creditors.
But on 4 May 1864, the 51-year-old Wagner was given an unprecedented 1¾ hour audience with Ludwig in the Royal Palace in Munich; later the composer wrote prophetically of his first meeting with Ludwig,
"Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods."
Ludwig was probably the savior of Wagner's career. Without Ludwig, it is doubtful that Wagner's later operas would have been composed, much less premiered at the prestigious Munich Royal Court Theatre (now the Bavarian State Opera).

Die Meistersinger
He settled Wagner's considerable debts, (which the composer had been running from for many years), and proposed to stage 'Tristan', 'Die Meistersinger' the 'Ring', and the other operas Wagner planned.
Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography, 'Mein Leben', at the King's request.
To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Meyerbeer, noting ungratefully that
"this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day".
'Tristan und Isolde'
© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
A year after Wagner's first meeting the King, Wagner presented his latest work, 'Tristan und Isolde', in Munich to great acclaim.
But the composer's extravagant and scandalous behavior in the capital was unsettling for the conservative people of Bavaria, and the King was forced to ask Wagner to leave the city six months later, in December 1865.
Subsequently, Ludwig considered abdicating to follow Wagner, but Wagner persuaded him to stay - Ludwig, without the wealth of his kingdom would be of little use to Wagner.
Ludwig subsequently provided a residence for Wagner in Switzerland.
Wagner completed 'Die Meistersinger' there; it was premiered in Munich in 1868.
When Wagner returned to his 'Ring Cycle', Ludwig demanded "special previews" of the first two works ('Das Rheingold' and 'Die Walküre') at Munich in 1869 and 1870.
With regard to Ludwig's threats to abdicate, there had been rumors in München that 

Ludwig's Brother Seine Majestät König Otto von Bayern
Ludwig might abdicate in favor of his brother (Otto Wilhelm Luitpold Adalbert Waldemar von Wittelsbach - Prinz Otto von Bayern).

(27 April 1848 – 11 October 1916), was King of Bavaria from 1886 to 1913. However, he never actively reigned due to severe mental illness;

27 April 1848 - 13 June 1886: Seine Königliche Hoheit Prinz Otto von Bayern
13 June 1886 - 5 November 1913: Seine Majestät der König von Bayern

5 November 1913 - 11 October 1916: Seine Majestät König Otto von Bayern

There could, of course, have been several reasons:
In Ludwig’s mind Otto could provide an heir.
Ludwig was also upset with the whole political situation.
As referred to above, another reason was that he could devote the rest of his life to the building of the Royal castles, as well as collaborating with Wagner on the creation of future operas.
However, early in 1871, Ludwig started to worry about his brother’s strange behavior.
He wrote to his beloved childhood governess:
"Otto did not take his boots off for eight weeks, he behaves like a mad man, makes terrible faces and barks like a dog. At times he says the most indecorous things; and then again he is quite normal for awhile. Gietl and Solbrig examined him and if he does not follow their advice, soon it will be forever too late." 
Otto’s mental health was rapidly deteriorating. Ludwig wrote to his mother:
"Fortunately I found Otto less excitable than expected. He still does not go outside and pretends to have boils on his feet."
 The Queen Mother made this entry in her journal at the end of the year:
"Otto ill during the winter. Upon advice from the Doctors, and Dr. Solbrig, he was removed to Nymphenburg on February 26th, where we rarely see him. Dr. Solbrig died on May 31st of this year and Dr. von Gudden took over the medical care."
The Royal family spent the summer of 1873 at Hohenschwangau, where Otto joined them. It was here that the Queen Mother was confronted with the horrible realization that one of her sons was hopelessly insane, and the other distinctly abnormal.
Otto was moved to Fuerstenried where he and Ludwig had spent many happy childhood days.
There he lived for the rest of his life under supervision until his death in 1916.

So who was Koenig Ludwig ?

Wappen des Königreichs Bayern
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2015
Koenig von Bayern was a title held by the hereditary Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria in the state known as the Kingdom of Bavaria from 1805 until 1918, when the kingdom was abolished.

It was the second kingdom, almost a thousand years after the short-lived Carolingian kingdom of Bavaria.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Pressburg concluded December 26, 1805 between Napoleonic France and Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, several principalities allied to Napoleon were elevated to kingdoms.

One of the staunchest of these had been the prince-elector of Bavaria, Maximilian IV Joseph, and on January 1, 1806, he formally assumed the title King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria.

He was a member of the Wittelsbach branch Palatinate-Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken.
In 1864, Maximilian II died early, and his eighteen year-old son, Ludwig II, arguably the most famous of the Bavarian kings, became King of Bavaria as escalating tensions between Austria and Prussia grew steadily.

Wappen des Königreiches von Preußen
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2015
Otto von Bismarck
Prussia's Minister-President Otto von Bismarck, recognizing the immediate likelihood of war, attempted to sway Bavaria towards neutrality in the conflict.

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890. In the 1860s he engineered a series of wars that unified the German states (excluding Austria) into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership. With that accomplished by 1871 he skillfully used balance of power diplomacy to preserve German hegemony in a Europe which, despite many disputes and war scares, remained at peace. Bismarck remained undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess for almost twenty years after 1871, and devoted himself exclusively, and successfully, to maintaining peace between the powers.

Austro-Prussian War 
Austro-Prussian War 
Ludwig II refused Bismarck's offers, and foolishly continued Bavaria's alliance with Austria.
In 1866, violence erupted between Austria and Prussia, and the Austro-Prussian War began. 
In April of 1866, a few months before the Austro-Prussian war broke out on June 14, Wagner denigrated Bismarck as:
“an Ambitious Junker who betrays his imbecile of a King - Wilhelm I of Prussia - in the most brazen manner.”
Bavaria and most of the south German states, with the exception of Austria and Saxony, contributed far less to the war effort against Prussia.
Austria quickly faltered after its defeat at the Battle of Königgrätz, and was totally defeated shortly afterward.
Austria was humiliated by defeat, and was forced to concede control, and its sphere of influence, over the south German states.
Bavaria was spared harsh terms in the peace settlement, - however from this point on it and the other south German states steadily progressed into Prussia's sphere of influence.
The outcome of the war, in addition, caused Wagner, to revise his opinion of Bismarck. 
With Austria's defeat in the Austro-Prussian War, the northern German states quickly unified into the North German Confederation, with Prussia's King leading the state.

Napoleon III - Emperor of the French
Personal Standard of Napoleon III

Bavaria's previous inhibitions towards Prussia changed, along with those of many of the south German states, after French emperor Napoleon III began speaking of France's need for "compensation" from its loss in 1814 and included Bavarian-held Palatinate as part of its territorial claims.

Ludwig II joined an alliance with Prussia, in 1870, against France, which was seen by Germans as the greatest enemy to a united Germany.

At the same time, Bavaria increased its political, legal, and trade ties with the North German Confederation.

In 1870, war erupted between France and Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War.

Franco-Prussian War - French Cavalry
It was at this time that Wagner was still completing his magnum opus, 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'.
Wagner’s slow progress can be attributed to the shadow of war as well as the birth of his son Siegfried on June 6, 1869.
The Franco-Prussian war which finally broke out in July 1870 with Bavaria siding with Prussia, was fought against a background of rising national pride in Germany.
The partisan attitude of Wagner, and his mistress, and future wife, Cosima, reflected the prevalent sentiment among Germans.
Cosima’s frequent diary entries regarding the Franco-Prussian war provide researchers with wonderful insight into Wagner’s views on the conflict.
Upon France’s declaration of war, Wagner remarked:
“Typical of a Frenchman: he does not keep his word, but when one reminds him of it, one is obliged to fight a duel with him.”
Wagner was completely content with Prussia’s representation of Germany as a whole.

Franco-Prussian War
There is little doubt that Cosima’s thoughts mirror those of Wagner; she writes on July 17 of her “complete sympathy with Prussia.”
Richard and Cosima were completely disgusted with the French.
Wagner said, “The French are the putrefaction of the Renaissance.”
Wagner actually demanded that his friends understand how much he and Cosima hated the French character.
By this time Wagner was ready to glorify war, and Wagner commented:
War is something noble, it shows the unimportance of the individual; war is so to speak, a dance performed with the most dreadful of powers, like a Beethoven finale in which he unleashes all the demons in a magnificent dance.
Otto von Bismark
As Cosima wrote:
'Ever-mounting pleasure in Bismarck, whose revelations show ever more clearly how wisely and at the same time how righteously he has been acting; he says he did in fact have to temporize with the French in order to enjoy at least a few years of peace. He has also forced England, by casting ceaseless aspersions on its actions, to stop supplying France with coal and ammunition — How uplifting it must be for Bavaria, Saxony, and Württemberg to be fighting now as a German army !'

The Bavarian Army was sent under the command of the Prussian crown prince against the French army.

Richard Wagner
As the war progressed, Wagner became so angry with the behavior of the French troops that he advocated the burning of Paris, as Cosima notes in her diary:

'Richard says he hopes Paris will be burned down - the burning of Paris would be a symbol of the world’s liberation at last from the pressure of all that is bad. Richard would like to write to Bismarck, requesting him to shoot all of Paris down.'
Finally, with the defeat and surrender of the French, the newly married Wagners could rejoice; taking the victory personally.
In the following entry, the French capitulation is viewed as a christening present for their son, Siegfried.
'September 3: “The entire army under Wimpffen has capitulated, Napoleon III has surrendered to the King ! What a christening present for Fidi (Siegfried) !' 
- (Cosima's Diary)
Proclomation of the II Reich - Versailles
Kaiser Wilhelm I
With France's defeat and humiliation against the combined German forces, it was Ludwig II who proposed that Prussian King Wilhelm I be proclaimed German Emperor or "Kaiser" of the German Empire ("Deutsches Reich"), which occurred in 1871 in German occupied Versailles, France.

Großes Wappen Seiner Majestät des Kaisers
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2015
The territories of the German Empire were declared, which included the states of the North German Confederation and all of the south German states, with the major exception of Austria.
The Empire also annexed the formerly French territory of Alsace-Lorraine, due in large part to Ludwig's desire to move the French frontier away from the Palatinate.
Bavaria's entry into the German Empire changed, from jubilation over France's defeat, to dismay shortly afterward, over the direction of Germany under the new German Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister, Otto von Bismarck.
The Bavarian delegation under Count Otto von Bray-Steinburg had secured a privileged status of the Kingdom of Bavaria within the German Empire (Reservatrechte).
Within the Empire the Kingdom of Bavaria was even able to retain its own diplomatic body and its own army, which would fall under Prussian command only in times of war.
But the persecution of the Catholic Church' in Bismarck's 'Kulturkampf' frustrated the predominantly Catholic southern German states, including Bavaria, although Bismarck was eventually compelled to moderate his policies.

Wagner’s politics, however, strongly supported the new German Reich during this period, and manifested itself in a number of lesser-known works.
In January 1871, Wagner composed a short five-stanza poem entitled, “An das deutsche Heer vor Paris” (To the German Army before Paris) which celebrated German military conquest and the new Reich.
April of 1871 brought the first performance of the 'Kaisermarsch', written to celebrate the coronation of Wilhelm I, a work that Wagner hoped would become a new national anthem.

Alfred Rosenberg
Wagner’s attack on alien influences on German culture and art would eventually carry over to biological and racial issues.
His final prose works would address this theme often.
The theme of racial decay would be carried on in the works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Alfred Rosenberg, and Adolf Hitler.

Schloss Neuschwanstein 
Ludwig, however,was far less bellicose than Wagner, and his love of all things French, and in particular the France of Louis XIV, prevented him from sharing Wagner's enthusiasm for the Franco-Prussian war, and after 1871, Ludwig largely withdrew from politics, and devoted himself to his personal creative projects, most famously his castles.


Ludwig had always had an attractive to handsome men, but his religious upbringing made it difficult for him to accept his sexual orientation.

While in his teens, Ludwig became best friends/lovers with the handsome aristocrat Paul von Thurn und Taxis.

Lohengrin Wearing Silver Armor
© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
“cosy little room,”
Paul and Ludwig also shared a passion for composer Richard Wagner and the theater.
Paul was gifted with a beautiful voice, and sang for the king many times.
When Paul and Ludwig visited Wagner’s home, the two young men shared a “cosy little room,” as described in one of Paul’s letters.
Wagner rehearsed Paul in a portion of his opera 'Lohengrin', which was performed for the 20th birthday of the king on August 25, 1865, at the Alpsee in Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig’s family had a favorite castle.
It was magnificently staged, with Paul dressed as the hero Lohengrin, wearing silver armor, drawn over the lake by an artificial swan, as the scenery was illuminated by electric lights (run from Ludwig's private generator).
The King sat enraptured as his intimate friend sang his favorite music.

Paul Maximilian Lamoral
Fürst von Thurn und Taxis
They rode, read poetry, staged scenes from the operas of Wagner - in particular 'Lohengrin' - in which Paul played the part of the handsome, mysterious young knight.

A letter from Paul to Ludwig:

"Dear and Beloved Ludwig! I am just finishing my diary with the thought of the beautiful hours which we spent together that evening a week ago, which made me the happiest man on earth... Oh, Ludwig, Ludwig, I am devoted to you! I couldn't stand the people around me; I sat still and, in my thoughts I was still with you... How my heart beats when, as I passed the Residenz, I saw a light in your window." 

Unfortunately for Ludwig, Paul was forced into an early dynastic marriage.

Ludwig, however, found a new love in Richard Hornig, a groom employed at one his many royal stables.

Hornig was a dashing blond and blue eyed Prussian, five years older than the king who shared Ludwig's passion for riding.

Very quickly, and not surprisingly, Hornig was promoted to the office of Crown Equerry and Master of the Horse.

This made him a much more respectable companion for the king.

Hornig was in charge of all the royal stable, coaches and 500 horses.
It's interesting to note that this affair started the summer that Ludwig was to be married to Sophie - marriage that Ludwig was unable to go through with.
From the diary entries of Ludwig, and Hornig’s letters, it obvious that their relationship was intense and serious. King Ludwig and Richard Hornig traveled together in a four horse carriage to the king’s remote castles and private chalets. They dined alone by candle light, waited on by Ludwig’s servants outfitted in 18th century style livery. Soon Hornig was acting as a go-between for Ludwig and his ministers, which caused a scandal in royal circles.
Hornig was not Ludwig’s only lover.
Ludwig was was obsessed with beauty, and so he had a succession of handsome and stylish young men in his life.
Two of them were actors; the Hungarian Josef Kainz and Alfons Weber.
Ludwig showered them with expensive gifts, vacations and inviting them to stay in his castles with him.

Ludwig II and Richard Wagner
© Copyright
 Zac Sawyer 2015
Although Ludwig generally preferred much younger men - and even stable boys and young soldiers, he had a huge unrequited crush on the composer Richard Wagner, a known womanizer.
Ludwig generously paid off all of Wagner’s debts and even built a theater and a villa for him.
Without Ludwig’s patronage, Wagner might have never been able to get out of debt or complete many of his greatest works.
Reports are that Wagner knew about Ludwig’s attraction to him; there were many passionate letters.
Possibly Wagner cautiously played with Ludwig’s affection in order to keep the money rolling in.
Undoubtedly it must have been Ludwig's love of Wagner's music that blinded him to the fact that Wagner was for from young, or good-looking, compared to his other male friends.
A letter from Ludwig (in is early twenties) to Richard Wagner (in his middle fifties):
.. Love has strength for all. You are the star that shines upon my life, and the sight of you ever wonderfully strengthens me. – Ardently I long for you, O my presiding Saint, to whom I pray! I should be immensely pleased to see my friend here in about a week; oh, we have plenty to say! If only I could quite banish from me the curse of which you speak, and send it back to the deeps of night from whence it sprang! – How I love, how I love you, my one, my highest good! . . .

My enthusiasm and love for you are boundless. Once more I swear you faith till death!

Ever, ever your devoted

Significantly, until the unification of Bavaria and the German Reich, homosexuality was not illegal in staunchly Catholic Bavaria.

Josef Gottfried Ignaz Kainz
Ludwig's last love, before he was deposed and mysteriously died was Josef Gottfried Ignaz Kainz, a Hungarian actor.
The first time Ludwig saw Kainz on stage, during the interval he sent him a pair of ivory opera glasses; several nights later he gave him a diamond and sapphire ring and a gold chain from which hung a swan, symbol of the 'Swan King'.
Unable to give substance to his dreams on the political stage, Ludwig refused to meet his ministers and gradually became a recluse; always at odds with his family, they managed to keep him virtually imprisoned at his hunting box Schloss Berg, where he apparently held homoerotic 'parties' with stable boys and troopers dancing naked.
A secret committee of the Bavarian Parliament heard testimony of the king's weakness for muscular country lads.

Schloß Berg
On June 12, 1886, a commission arrived at Neuschwanstein castle and served the king with an order of deposition, escorting him to Schloß Berg on the shores of Lake Starnberg.
The next day the king’s body was discovered floating in the lake, alongside the corpse of Dr. Gudden, one of the psychiatrists who had declared the king insane.
Gudden’s body showed evidence of a struggle, and attempted strangulation, suggesting that the king tried to kill him (Ludwig was 6'4" tall and heavy-set, so there is validity to this theory).
The exact cause of the king’s death remains open to speculation, since an autopsy found no water present in his lungs.

to be continued

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