King Maximilians advisers had often suggested to him
that on his daily walks in the English Garden he might like at least sometimes
to be accompanied by his future successor. "But what am I supposed to say to
him?" His Majesty answered; "after all, my son takes no interest in what other
people tell him." And so contact between the two Wittelsbach royals continued to be
restricted almost exclusively to brief arid encounters at official occasions or over
breakfast or the evening meal. But evidently the mother too, a Hohenzollern princess, was
incapable of forming a warm relationship with her two sons, with the result that in later
years Ludwig II referred to her as "my predecessors consort" or "the
colonel-in-chief of the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment"! Thus it was that Crown Prince
Ludwig, who had just come of age, was not prepared for high office when in March 1864 his
father died after a three-day illness. A report has come down to us that Ludwig turned
pale when a servant addressed him for the first time as "Your Majesty".
from the beginning the new king won the affection of his subjects. "When Ludwig came
to the throne," his biographer Gottfried von Boehm wrote, "he appeared to many
like a veritable young god. This Apollo-like figure was seemingly blessed with all the
mental and spiritual qualities that Nature can bestow upon a person. He was adored not
only by women. Men too were touched by his innate nobility, kindliness and charm."
In the first months of his reign, he gained the affection of his ministers through the
childlike enthusiasm with which he studied documents submitted to him. Over and over again
it happened that he impatiently enquired as to whether there were no new papers for him to
read or sign.
His father had once asked a scholar whether science could provide copper-bottomed proof
that rulers were also allocated a special position in the next king dom. For his son, the
Wittelsbach kingdom soon occupied an exceptional position here on earth. Whereas in much
of Europe nations were struggling for rights and freedom, the King of Bavaria, whose
grandfather had lost his crown in these upheavals, sought his models in long-forgotten
absolutist times with Frances Bourbon kings. The Bavarian king paid homage to
faded majesties at Linderhof to Louis XV and his ladies, at Herrenchiemsee to Louis
XIV whose reign he celebrated like a religious ritual. Thus, for example, the
throne room at Neuschwanstein Castle looks more like the inside of a church than the
audience chamber of a worldly sovereign.
Courtly ceremonial meant more to Ludwig II than the business of politics. True, in his
early years he received rulers from other countries for example the Emperor Franz
Joseph and his Empress Elisabeth in Bad Kissingen, Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna at Lake
Starnberg, Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie en route between Augsburg and
Prien on the Chiemsee, and the Prussian King Wilhelm in Hohenschwangau and yet the
only one of his crowned colleagues whom he went out of his way to visit was the French
emperor, whom he met shortly before the Augsburg encounter on the first of his three very
brief trips to France. The Wittelsbach sovereign never once went to Vienna or Berlin,and
even in his own country he traveled only extremely rarely. Most of his journeys took him
"uphill", where he came of course to Switzerland, the land of William Tell. But
he did not need to travel to discover the world he created it in his imagination.
He dreamed up reality.
Ludwig It of Bavaria was indeed, as the French poet Paul Verlaine wrote, "le seul
vrai roi de ce siècle" this centurys only real king.