King Ludwig II had three castles.
Three? Really? Not quite.
The fabulous King had no lack of imagination and taste, a man obsessed with a fairy-tale world. During his lifetime he completely built the smallest castle Linderhof and almost completely built Herrenchiemsee. In Neuschwanstein, only 15 of the rooms were completed, but in the long gallery hall of Neuschwanstein, the King hung plans for the fourth castle, named Falkenstein.
King Ludwig II, born in 1845, was brought up by his father King Maximillian of Bavaria, and his mother Princess Marie of Prussia. While being young, he spent a lot of time as a Prince at Hohenschwangau Castle, which was redeveloped from a ruin by his father. Hohenschwangau is a spectacular and secluded castle, decorated in gothic revival style with frescoes depicting heroic sagas, used by the family as a summer and hunting residence. By the age of 18, after the death of his Father, the Price became King Ludwig II. The King Ludwig’s greatest passions, and his real interests were in art, music, and architecture. Notably, one his first acts in reign, only a few months after his succession to the crown, was to summon the great Wagner to his court. Furthermore, in 1864, he layed the foundation stone to a new court of theatre, now known as the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz (Gärtnerplatz Theatre). However, only 2 years after his coronation, the state of the expanding Prussia conquered Bavaria, along with Austria, in only a matter of weeks. This demoted Bavaria from an independent nation to a part of Prussia. A greatly humiliating vanquish for Ludwig and Bavaria, which then later joined the North German Confederation in 1870. This great defeat is believed to have made Ludwig to retreat into himself and that he was tormented by this until his death.
It was then a year later that Ludwig mostly withdrew himself from politics. Devoting his time to his creative projects, and what he is most well-known for, the creation of his castles.
The King had a great obsession with the works of Richard Wagner, a German composer. Which were especially appealing to his fantastical imagination. It is believed that Wagner inspired Ludwig and his castles. However, in December 1865, Ludwig had to ask Wagner to leave Bavaria, after his perceived scandalous and extravagant behaviour in the capital, which unsettled conservative individuals. After this, Ludwig had considerations of abdicating the crown to follow Wagner in his exile, but Wagner persuaded the King to remain in Bavaria to continue his rule.
King Ludwig’s castles
Ludwig‘ private palace of Linderhof, constructed in the Bavarian countryside, is in a neo-French Rocco style. The palace designed with a mere 10 rooms was perfect for a man who loved the company of few people, showed especially by the dining table, with only space for one person. It also had a grotto, lit by electricity, for hosting performances of his dear friend Wagner. It is considered by many historicists that the gardens of Linderhof palace are one of the most beautiful of historical garden designs. It combines elements of Renaissance and Baroque formal gardens with sections similar to the English Landscape Garden. Does this represent ‘the Fairy-tale King’ Ludwig himself? Renaissance and Baroque, representing his formal side, embodying his Royal standing, and how the people of Bavaria must see him as a structured individual. On the other hand, his more natural side, his extravagant imagination and artistic, free willed side that he wants the people to see, is represented by the sections that are of an English Gardenesque style. This is also where the Venus Grotto is located.
In 1868, the King commissioned the first drawings for his buildings. He commenced with Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein, although the work on Herrenchiemsee did not commence for another decade, in 1878.
Ludwig attempted to recreate the Palace of Versailles; the neo-baroque palace presents itself as King Ludwig’s admiration for King Louis XIV of France. In 1878, the construction of Herrenchiemsee begun on a floating island within Germanys largest lake. It was to be the largest and the last of Ludwig’s architectural projects, as construction halted upon the King‘s death in 1886. He left it with only the central portion of the palace completed. Only 20 of the 70 planned rooms were completed. It had been planned to be as grand, if not grander than the original Palace of Versailles, with its great hall of mirrors, hall of war and hall of peace. The dining room features a table elevator and the world’s largest Meissen porcelain chandelier. The new palace would also benefit from nearly two centuries of technological progress. The original Palace of Versailles lacked water, bathroom facilities, and central heating, while Herrenchiemsee included all of these. The cost of Herrenchiemsee was more than the cost of Linderhof and Neuschwanstein together and almost brought the royal family to bankruptcy. Despite this, the new palace of Herrenchiemsee always remained in the shadow of the grandeur of the Neuschwanstein Castle and its fairy-tale like design.
The most famous of Ludwig’ castles is the Neuschwanstein. A fortress with fairy-tale like towers – the very same castle that also inspired the Disneyland Castle. It poses above the childhood home of Ludwig, on an alpine crag. Ludwig himself oversaw and approved every detail of the architecture, decorations and furnishings. Notably, the laying of the cornerstone in 1869, was also overseen by Ludwig. The palace would have had more than 200 rooms and halls, but only 15 were completed before Ludwig‘s unexpected and sudden death, which was announced a suicide but is clouded in mystery and conspiracies. At the time of the King’s death he only ever spent eleven nights in Neuschwanstein. With the castle still under construction, it was decided that the castle would be completed in a more simplified fashion. The external structures of the Palas and Gatehouse had been mostly finished, but the rectangular Tower was still covered in scaffolding. In 1892, the Bower, on which no construction had been started, was completed in a more simplicity style. For example, its planned figures of female saints, were left unconsidered. The palace complex, a keep of 90 metres (300 ft) high, planned in the upper courtyard was unfinished. Furthermore, the connecting wing of the Gatehouse and Bower was not realised. In 1886, the interior royal living space was mostly completed, however, the corridors and lobbies had been repainted in a matching style in 1888. Even though many other areas of the castle had been simplified or not completed, after the death of Ludwig, shockingly a complete development of Neuschwanstein was never planned. This led to numerous rooms not having any utilisation concept.
The King’s intention was not to make the palace accessible to the public. Yet, no more than six weeks after Ludwig’s death, the regent Lutipold ordered the palace should be opened to paying visitors. By 1899, the administrators of the late King’s estate managed to balance the debts which were caused by the construction. Then onwards up until World War 1, the Neuschwanstein castle was a stable and profitable source of income. To this day, the palace attracts nearly 1.5 million tourists a day. In 1995, two of these were Terry and Kim Young.
The Fourth Castle
During their visit to the castle they received a tour which included a gallery hall. In the gallery hall hung drawings of the three castles Ludwig had built. Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee, and Neuschwanstein itself. However, it was one drawing in particular, a design for castle unfamiliar to the couple, that caught their attention the most. It was only after personally inquiring about the art piece, that it appeared to be a plan for a fourth castle to be built by Ludwig. Falkenstein.
Falkenstein castle was to be built by Ludwig on the ruins of an older castle named Castrum Pfronten. Situated in the Bavarian Alps, near the town Pfronten, lies the ruins of this 13th century castle which was destroyed in the 17th century, during the thirty-year war. This is where Ludwig planned to build his fairy-tale castle. Only water lines and roads were constructed to service the site. The only completed work on the castle itself was a paper Mache version and the final plans for King Ludwig’s fairy-tale castle. All work seized after the King’s death, and even to this day, the ruins of Castrum remain.
The King hid the drawings and plans for Falkenstein in his castle Neuschwanstein. This is because he did not see eye to eye with his uncle, over his construction projects, and so he decided to keep them from him. When the Youngs inquired to see these drawings, they had been informed that Wilhelm Kienberger, the previous director of Neuschwanstein, had taken the drawings with him whilst working on his book about King Ludwig II. The Youngs located the previous director Mr. Kienberger with the help of the current Director. Mr. Kienberger created copies of Christian Jank’s artistic rendering of the castle. He was also the designer of Neuschwanstein. They also received other detailed sketches of the castle plans. The Youngs decided to build their very own Falkenstein Castle in Texas after having an immense feeling that they had come across something extremely special.
Upon the Youngs return to their hometown of Burnet, Texas in the United States, the couple commenced work on Falkenstein. Positioned above the rolling Texas hills country, within the preserved Texas parkland, it has a 360-degree view of up to 30 miles in any direction. A castle once completed, has a footprint of 174,240 squared feet (4 acres). In the construction hundreds of thousands of pounds of limestone, granite, sand, cement, rock and block had been used. The castle is authentic on the inside as it is on the outside, with examples such as a gothic style chapel, featuring a hand carved French gothic altar, enough room for 195 people that can be extended to 250, and a 35ft high ceiling. Enough for a King and all his guests. Other features include spectacularly arched doors and stained-glass windows, very much like the original castles built by Ludwig.
The finished Texas based castle looks from the exterior evidently like a Ludwig castle, with its iconic crenulations, and steep conical tower roofs. Ludwig had great fairy-tale plans with almost unrealistic proportions. These fantastic influences are evident in the final designs for Ludwig’s Falkenstein, by Julius Hofmann and Eugen Drollinger. These architects knew that it was very unlikely that Falkenstein would ever be built. Because of this, they created spectacular and extravagant designs. Drollinger was working on the design for the King’s bedchamber when he learnt of his death. Although, the Texas based castle is more symmetrical and has fewer towers than Ludwig’s original plan, it has a hint of modern realism, still looking like a fantastical creation. It leaves you wondering that, if “The Mad King” was more realistic and economical with his designs, at least his 3 constructed castles might have been completed. But then, would they be as spectacular and as world famous as they are? Probably not.
Now serving as a private residence, it formerly served as a popular wedding destination and has even been used for film and television projects, as well as charitable events. However, it is normally closed to the public, and is ‘no longer offering weddings’ (stated on their Facebook page).
So, after almost a century’s wait to complete Falkenstein, a place Ludwig writes about in his diary on the 16th of October 1867 as “Falkenstein wild, romantic”, ‘der Märchenkönig (the fairy-tale King)’ no longer only has 3 castles. He himself was not involved in the construction of Falkenstein or the Young’s own modern-day plans before they commenced their work in 1996. However, in some sense the King truly did gain a fourth castle. The day the Youngs toured Neuschwanstein back in 1995, he inspired them to do something, even Ludwig’s architects thought would never be completed. Funnily, it might be even beyond “The Mad King” Ludwig’s imagination, that one of his castles would be in Texas. It is truly magical what the Youngs achieved. In some sense it is even more magical than what Ludwig did, as they didn’t have the title of King and the power that is bestowed upon that. Even so, they completed what King Ludwig II couldn’t, which is his fourth castle. The castle of Falkenstein in Burnet, Texas, USA.