I was rereading Royal Flash (part of the amazing and hilarious Flashman series) and got thinking about what Bavaria was like after Ludwig I and Lola Montez and all that good shenaniganry.
Then I discovered the horribly unfortunate life of Ludwig II, Ludwig I's grandson.
It's bad enough that he looks like a nineteenth-century Shia LeBoeuf without any of the other crap.
He ascended to the throne at 18, which is a pretty rough way to end your teen years: policy, fates of nations, relentless scrutiny, etc. He was very probably gay and had many close friendships with other men, but of course that wasn't really an option for a public figure in a Catholic country in the nineteenth century. So he got engaged to his cousin, Duchess Sophie Charlotte. She was the youngest sister of a woman we've discussed on this blog at length, the profoundly ill-fated Empress Sissi of Austria. I swear to god, this family is cursed. But then again, when you double-down on inbreeding as much as royal families do, one bout of bad luck affects most of the crowned heads of Europe.
The pressure was heavily on for them to get married and reproduce quickly, since he only had one brother, Otto, and Otto was mentally ill and too unstable to rule. Ludwig kept postponing their marriage, however, and eventually called it off entirely about ten months after the engagement was announced. The next year she went on to marry the Duke of Alençon and had (as far as I'm aware) a happy relationship with him.
Ludwig II never married or had children, and was never known to have mistresses or lovers of either gender. His brother Otto, who would inherit the throne after him, never married or had issue, either. So I can only imagine the pressure put on Ludwig to do right by his country and his feelings of failure surrounding producing an heir, not to mention his own reconcilliation of his religion with his (presumable) homosexuality. He probably had a few sleepless nights.
The throne would eventually pass from Ludwig II to Otto to their cousin, Ludwig III, who more than made up for his cousins' lack of issue by having 13 children. However, he was the last King of Bavaria, and only reigned for 5 years before everything went tits-up for the German states at the end of WWI.
Randy old he-goat, Ludwig III.
BUT LET'S GET BACK TO LUDWIG II FOR A MINUTE
Ludwig II made some bad decisions and spent money like there was no tomorrow in order to fund some of his pet projects, like building Sleeping Beauty's castle:
His cabinet ministers kept trying to rein him in, but he didn't want to hear it and thought about replacing them all with fresh faces. They responded by committing high treason. They claimed he was mentally unwell and therefore unfit to rule, and sought to depose him. It is uncertain to what degree they were correct about his mental state. Regardless, they staged a coup.
Ludwig II almost held them off, but didn't, and then he almost rallied the people to help him, but didn't, and then he almost escaped, but didn't. Rough luck, guy. He was captured and taken to a castle near Lake Starnbeg near Munich.
The very next day after his capture, he went for a walk with his doctor, who expressed optimism about Ludwig's mental state. After dinner, Ludwig II asked the doctor to accompany him on another walk by the lake. They never came back.
Hours later, both Ludwig II and the doctor were found floating in the lake. Everyone claimed to have heard and seen nothing. When Ludwig was autopsied, there was no water found in his lungs, which ruled out drowning. He was also an extremely strong swimmer and the water was only waist-deep. However, the official ruling on his death was 'suicide by drowning'. Clearly fishy stuff going on.
Many believe that Ludwig was either assassinated, in order to make his deposition much cleaner, while others indicate he was killed in an escape attempt. Of the latter, one of Ludwig's servants claims that he was part of a loyalist movement to rescue the King from captivity and he was there on the lake in a boat to row the king to safety. He claims that as soon as Ludwig stepped foot on to the both, he was gunned down. However, no wounds were reported on the autopsy at all.
Another theory suggests that he had a heart attack or stroke, which was brought on by the exertion and cold water he faced in the escape attempt. But this does not explain how the doctor died at the exact same time.
We still don't know what the hell happened on the shore of the lake, and probably never will.
Damn, y'all. This family.