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Peinture de Louis II, roi de Bavière

ELISABETH AND LUDWIG OR THE CURSED COUSINS – Part II

Erupted the final crisis. The situation had become unbearable, ministers and courtesans decided to render the king incapable of causing harm. They went to find his uncle, the prince Leopold. They persuaded him that, were his nephew not deposed, and were he not to accept the regency, monarchy would collapse. Leopold agreed. Not due to personal ambition, but because he was convinced that maintaining his nephew on the throne would drive the dynasty to ruin. Having gotten wind of the plot, Louis II entrenched himself in his fantastic castle of Neuschwanstein.

Painting - Louis II king of Baviara

Painting – Louis II king of Baviara

He kept some loyal friends, who wanted to organize a resistance. And so arrived, under torrential rainfalls, the delegates in charge of tending to the king. In front of the decidedly locked doors of the castle, they retreated, or rather they fled. A few days later, they came back in full force. At midnight, they presented themselves at Neuschwanstein and silently invaded the castle. Tired, Louis II allowed himself to be arrested and taken by those that had come to dethrone him. At four in the morning, he left his castle of Neuschwanstain, which would remain for the posterity of his great glory. He knew he was never to return.

The fantastic castle of Neuschwanstein.

The fantastic castle of Neuschwanstein

The convoy of black sedans sunk into the dark night. Louis II was brought to the castle of Berg, a royal property where he had often sojourned, and which stood on the banks of Lake Starnberg. The news spread through the country at the speed of lightning. In an instant, his unpopularity was forgotten: the people were revolted by the way he had been treated. The new masters of the country, who had expected to find the Bavarians satisfied to be freed from such an expensive king, understood that he had become a martyr and hence a permanent threat to them. Doctor Gudden treated him as if he were a dangerous madman. Louis II had to submit to constant surveillance, to the extent that he could not bath alone! Nothing seemed to justify these actions, as he remained perfectly calm, composed, in control of himself.

On the morning of June 13th 1886, Louis II woke up fresh and rested. He called for the doctor Gudden and interrogated him in depth on the reasons that had led him to declare him mad. The doctor did as best as he could, but the dialogue with this intelligent king was not really to his advantage. When after lunch Louis II expressed the desire to take a walk through the castle’s park, not only did Gudden accept and offer to accompany him, but he also refused all other company, be it guards or nurses, who could have bothered the king. The king had his lunch served to him in the middle of the afternoon. He drank and ate a lot, as was his habit.

Doctor Bernhard_von_Gudden

Doctor Bernhard von Gudden

At 6:45 pm, the king and the psychiatrist went out for their walk as promised. It was heavily raining and night was already falling. The two men took the path leading to the lakeshore. The royal dinner was scheduled for 8pm, but by that time the disgraced diner had yet to return. At the castle, people were starting to worry. Doctor Gudden’s assistant sent stationed policemen to search for them: they found no one…

the banks of Lake Starnberg

The banks of Lake Starnberg

Upon their return, all the castle’s personnel, alerted and equipped with lanterns, dived into the park’s foliage under pouring rain, with no new results. Suddenly the first clue appeared: the king’s coat was found floating on the lake, very close to the shore. Further off, his umbrella, and his hat. Later, they found the coat and umbrella of the doctor. It was decided to search the lake instead of the park. A fisherman’s boat was requisitioned and they paddled in the dark. Very quickly a first body was seen, head and belly sunk into the water: it was King Louis II. A few meters away, Doctor Gudden’s body was found. Despite the medical assistant’s best effort to return them to life, the two men were dead.

The Empress Elisabeth did not have the courage to bow down before his mortal remains. The corpse brought back to Munich was exposed in the chapel of the royal palace, the Residenz. Dressed in his gala uniform, he wore all his decorations embedded with diamonds, his lifeless hands pressed against a modest jasmine bouquet sent by Elisabeth.

The Empress Elisabeth

The Empress Elisabeth “Sissi”


by Prince Michael of Greece

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