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You’ve probably heard of “mad” King Ludwig here and there — he’s the 19th century Bavarian king who built Neuschwanstein, arguably the world’s most famous castle. You may even know that his death was surrounded in mystery. When did he die? June 13, 1886: 131 years ago today.
How did King Ludwig II Die?
First, a bit of background is helpful in understanding why Ludwig died when he did. He was only 40, and despite some poor health issues and the era, this was still a young age for a king to die.
The basics: some higher-ups in the Bavarian government (Bavaria is a state in southern Germany, by the way) had become wearied by Ludwig. The king, while he built great castles, was reclusive and had to be forced to do even the most basic governmental duties. Additionally, his mania with building took quite a bit of money — which he was running out of.
So, the officials found a doctor who would write a report stating that Ludwig was insane. Was he insane? This has been debated for year. But, since there was a report now stating that he was, he was not allowed to rule any longer. Early on the morning of June 10, 1886, the doctor and a group of officials headed to Neuschwanstein to tell Ludwig this news, and to bring him to Berg Castle, where he would be “treated” (well, basically jailed).
There were many ins and outs with this treacherous mission, but to make a long story short, Ludwig did not take the news of his dethroning well (can’t say as I blame him). Under duress, he did finally go to Berg Castle with his captors on June 12.
After a long and stressful journey, the delegation arrived at Berg Castle on the banks of Lake Starnberg. Ludwig was shown to his own small room, which must have seemed like an insult to him after the surroundings he was accustomed to in his castles. He met with Dr. Gudden, who had declared him insane.
Ludwig and the doctor went on a walk near the shores of the lake, and Dr. Gudden was impressed by how calm and rational his patient seemed. Later that evening, when the two went on a walk again, Dr. Gudden told the men who accompanied them that they could return to the castle. No assistance was needed with the former king.
But, when Ludwig and Gudden had not returned by 8 p.m., those at the castle became worried. They sent out a search party. It didn’t take long to find both Ludwig and the doctor, both dead, and both in about 3 feet of water.
What happened? There are numerous theories. Some think Ludwig got into a fight with Gudden, killing him, and then having a heart attack himself. Some think both were shot (Ludwig was popular with the common people and killing him would get rid of him as a problem). There are other theories as well. If you’re curious to learn more — and there is a lot more, believe me — you can read my biography of Ludwig, Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II.