A Mad King.
(Weekly Scotsman.) The name of Ludwig, the inad King of Bavaria, is indissolubly connected in the public mind with the building of magnificent palaces and with the "discovery and patronage of Wagner. Taught like all the princes of the Royal House of Prussia, since the French Revolution had shown, the ease with which thrones were upset, to earn his bread, Ludwig, v. ho mxl already shown an inherited taste for architecture, was initiated into the art of building. For a fortnight he worked con-' scien-tiously under a stone mason, and at the end of that time he went to his mother a!;:! told her that he could lay a brick as neatly as any workman. '•But could you earn your living at the trade?" asked her Majesty, smiling at his confident air. "Make my living at it?" he answered. "Why, I could make* my fortune at it, for if I offered myself as a bricklayer, any master mason would be glad to lake me into partnership, as my name would bring him more business than m" hands would do." But he h.'ui an. inborn distaste for work, and his uncommon individuality was not understood by -his parents. He was highly nervous, hypersensitive, and fastidious, and had an insurmountable repugnance to the sight of physical suffering; while his abhorrence of ugliness was so great thathe habitually turned 'his face to the wall when those unfavored by nature entered his presence. At the sight of very plain attendants, iLudwig would resolutely close his eyes or hide behind curtains or scrccn-s. Ludwig succeeded to the throne of Bavaria in his nineteenth year. 'His youth, his reputation for goodness and cleverness, together with his personal appearance, appealed to 'his subjects, for, says Mr (Fitzgerald Molloy in "The Romance of Royalty," he" was strikingly handsome. His face was clear and colorless, with thick black hair waving above a wide, imaginative forehead, its features delicately cut. and expressing dignity; but its chief attraction lay in the eyes, large, grey, and luminous, or impenetrable depths,_ -magnetic, with the indescribable plaintiveness of one set apart, veritable windows, through which were caught sudden and bewildering glimpses of a distraught soul. For the dramatically spectacular and ceremonial Ludwig had a pronounced taste, and the gorgeous pageant of a military review or a church festival strongly appealed to him. This probably explains his liking for the operas of Wagner, though there appears to have been something magnetic in the personality of Wagner, who so influenced Ludwig's after life. Under Wagner's influence Ludwig, when restless and weary of his surroundings, would, selecting darkness as his time, mount his fleetest horse, and, secretly leaving the palace, take his way through the silent streets of the capital, and gaining the open country, gallop recklessly until he had crossed the frontier and reached Triebschen, exhausted from the long ride. Here he would remain two or three days, listening to the composer's exuberant talk and his grandiose schemes of the future. TTien, in the same mysterious way, Ludwig returned to Munich. His desire tint none should recognise him while he paid these visits occasionallyled to amusing mistakes. One day, whileenjoying a holiday in Switzerland, Cat-ulle Mendes, the French poet, resolved to call upon Wagner. On his ordering a carriage for Triebschen at Lucerne, he was overwhelmed by signs of the utmost- respect; the servants bowing low as they passed, people in the. streets uncovering, and the landlord kissing his hands. On asking why he was treated thus, the host let it be known thathe appreciated the high honor done him bv King Ludwig in staying under his roof; and when the poet laughingly assured him that ho was mistaken, the landlord replied, "Sure, everything shall be in. accordance with your Majesty's wishes: and since that is desired, your Majesty's incognito will be respected." It was frequently Ludwig's pleasure to listen to the opera singers, engaged for Wagner's operas, as he glided noiselessly over the- lake in the winte-r garden he had constructed at enormous expense on the top of the Royal residence at Munich, and which was so large that it extended along the whole length of the west wing -of the palaee. Interiorly its color, splendor, and perfume made it seem ail enchanted place. Countless roses hung from its high arched roof: thousands of lights glowed softly from under the leaves of palms, plantains, and other tropical trees, from its blossoming shrubberies rose the slender minarets ancl glittering cupolas of kiosks; paroquets flew from branch to branch, and waterfalls splashed musically. Here is a golden boat shaped like that in which Lohengrin appears, and propelled by a mechanical swan. His Majesty, clad in silvc-r armour like that enchanted knight, spent the hours while the world slept, listening to si-ringed instruments or to singers concealed behind the foliage. One opera singer, whose superb voice had won his enthusiastic admiration, was Fraulein Schefszky, in whose portly person beat- a scheming heart-, and who had sent him verses hinting of her ardeoit- love. She was invited to sit with Ludwig and Wanner in the boat, and in a moment of silence succeeding her song, while his Majesty. lost in reverie, stared into space, the lady leant forward and gently passed her fingers through his hair, when, shocked and disgusted by such familiarity, he pushed her away so roughly that the boat upset and flung all three into the lake. 'Die King clambered up the bank, a.nd strode away without turning to see whatbecame of his companions, and the prima donna, drenched and disillusioned, was rescued by the composer with the assistance of a boat-hook.
• Ot all historical personages, those who appealed most to his imagination, and whom ultimately he came to regard as living realities, were Louis XI., Louis XV., and Marie Antoinette. Not- only -did he erect palaces in imitation of those in which, they had fr'tted away their useless lives, but' statues and pictures of "them were placed in every room he occupied. A bust of that ill-fated Queen was so situated in his bedroom in the Royal Palace at Munich, that his eyes mightfa!! upon it when he woke. Not far from it stood a bust of Louis XIV. This, or a replica, was frequently honored with an invitation to the King's dinner-table, when it was addressed with the most ceremonious respect. To one, in particular, of the statues of Marie Antoinette he paid profound homage, and after standing before it, lost in admiration, he would back from its presence. itis belief was that this representation of her Majesty shared with himself a horror of being stared at by the vulgar, and the servants were strictly forbidden to raise their eyes to her face. One day on seeing Heffelschwerdt, the Roval furrier, boldly looking at the Queen, Luchvig compelled him to kneel down before her, and with outstretched hands to implore her pardonBv this time his attendants had become gravelv concerned at his growing eccentricities. At times they were startled by the appearance of his pale, haggard face, whose eyes blazed with feverish unrest—tho result of headaches, caused, as he explained, by an ever-tightening crown of scorpions binding his forehead. By inght lie- was beset by terrible dreams, in which blood-stained faces, crowned with flaming hair, bent in circles above him, their souljess eyes fixed on him watchfully, their cruel " lips mocking him, their serpenttongues hissing. From these he would wake screaming, and. fleeing from the scene of his agony, would mount his horse in haste and nde through the night indifferent to danger, and seeking escape. . . After Wagner's death in 1883, Lndwig s mental condition became graver. He been me morose and vindictive. At times his attendants were ordered to prostrate themselves on entering his presence, and above all were forbidden to look at his Majesty: one of them, who had been his valet for fourteen vears, was sentenced to wear a black mosk for twelve* months because he had looked the King in the face. On arriving at the castle of Linderhof, or when leaving it, he affectionately embraced a column which stands at the entrance; he towed with the utmost respect
to a tree standing in the grounds; and to a certain hedge he gave a benediction with outstretched arms.
He was quite irresponsible for his actions, and he was quietly deposed, and the Regency entrusted to his uncle. Ludwig was sane enough, however, to understand. "I could endure to have the government taken from me,'' he said; "but to be declared insane—that I cannot outlive."
His disposition was announced to him 011 June 9th, 1886. Oil June 13th came the climax to his tragic life. After dinner, served at six o'clock, the King was taken for a walk by Dr Gudden, who-, deceived by his calmness, turned to the keeper as they left the castle, and dispensed with his attendance. As his Majesty and Dr Gudden had not returned by eight o'clock, a search party was organised. A wild commotion was caused by the startling news that the King's hat had been found beside the lake; then his Majesty's coat and overcoat, with Dr Gulden's hat and umbrella, were discovered on the bank.
Before long tire dead bodies of the King and Dr Gudden were found in the lake. Whether the King, intent on suicide, not only drowned himself but the man who would have rescued him, or whether he lost his life in striving to gain the opposite shore with the int-eaifcion of escaping from his captors, are questions that must remain for ever unanswered. At the time of the tragedy the Empress of Austria was staying at- the castle of Feldaffing, almost opposite the castle of Berg where Ludwig was. Before his eccentricities had reached the stage of madness, the King hud often, received visits from the Empress, who was almost Ins only woman friend, and who alone was in complete svmpathy with him. On that Sunday night- when Ludwig met his death, a, wild scream alarmed her Majesty's attendants, who, on_ rushing to her room, found her almost beside herself with terror, because of a dream from which she had just wakened, and which she couad hardly convince herself was not reality. In this she had seen Ludwig standing by her bed, looking pale and distraught, water pouring from his hair and clothes in torrents that threatened to flood the room and drown her.
In the grey of morning, news of tlic tragedy reached her. The following night she was rowed across the lake and taken to the chapel in the castle of Berg, where Ludwig lay. There she went.down on her knees beside him, sobs choking her, pity rending her heart, while she implored mercy for this man, haunted through life and doomed to a tragic death by some mysterious fate. An hour of silence and gloom passed before those who waited outside entered the chapel, where they found the Empress lving senseless on the floor. When with some difficulty consciousness was restored, she turned imploring eyes on those around her, saying, "For God's sake release th-e King. 'He is only pretending to be dand that he may be left in peace and not tormented any more."
From this story of the. unhappy Ludwig, told at great length by Mr Molloy in his two handsomely illustrated volumes, the reader may judge of the others, lit Molioy comes to such subjects as pn experienced writer with a solid equipment of facts and a graceful, easy style, and a tactful delicacy, where such is required, os in the story of Isabella 11. of Spain. The tragedy of the Duchess d'Alencon, who lost her life in the Paris Charity Bazaar fire, is told in a few pages, while other romantic apd tragic stories dealt with are "Th-e Romance of the Second Empire''" and "The Tragedy of Maximilian."
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A Mad King., Oamaru Mail, Volume XXIX, Issue 8643, 19 November 1904, Supplement
A Mad King. Oamaru Mail, Volume XXIX, Issue 8643, 19 November 1904, Supplement
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