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March 2013 Newsletter

Dear *|FNAME|*:

The temperature this morning both inside and outside our house was higher than fifty degrees – decidedly comfortable after the eight degrees we suffered one night in early January. Most of the fruit trees in the central valley where we travel are a cascade of light pink and white blossoms. Bad weather does pass and the glorious spring is just around the corner. We look forward to ten months when the weather in the mountains is absolute bliss. We also look forward to the time-change.

Our most popular picture in February was the artistically enhanced “Neuschwannstein” which my framer calls "the orange castle." I sold it to a lady in French Camp who said this:

“Thank you so much, I love this story! Some day when I go to see all the castles in Germany I'll remember this story you shared with me. I am truly grateful for your time and for sharing your knowledge of far away places." :)

Orange Castle

This prompted me to share the “mad” King Ludwig’s story. The picture is exquisite and best framed in antique gold.

This castle still exists today in Bavaria, Germany. If it looks a bit familiar, that may be because Walt Disney used it as inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at the Disney theme parks. While there is much that is peculiar about the supposedly mad king, I am not convinced that he was truly insane. Was he eccentric? Yes. Was he artistically brilliant? Indubitably! Was he way ahead of his time? I think so. Was he out of touch with reality? That is still in question. I leave the judgment to you.

Here are the facts:
Ludwig II was king of Bavaria for 22 years in the middle of the nineteenth century. The new ideas, initiated by the American and French Revolutions, continued to shake Europe, but change didn’t come instantly. The traditional, conservative monarchies and their landed aristocratic allies continued to rule in most countries of Europe towards the end of the nineteenth century. Ludwig was not really cut out to be a conservative king; such kings spent their time conquering territories and engaging in intrigues at court. Ludwig devoted himself instead to creating beautiful things. His legend is the castles that he built.

Neuschwannstein is set in one of the most scenic locations on Earth.

Castle in the snow   Summer Castle

The industrial revolution was spreading its influence in the last half of the nineteenth century, but these trends were strongly resisted by the conservative aristocratic courts, like Bavaria, who saw that the new ways and the new inventions could undermine their power. They liked and sought to protect the old order of bankers, clergy and the privileged but insulated aristocracy.

Ludwig II was cut from a different cloth. He created a kitchen in Neuschwannstein that was unusually modern with two automatic grills and a huge cast iron stove. Meals were delivered to the various floors via a lift system. Central heating, flushing toilets, hot running water were on hand for the king who spared no expense. He installed an electrical bell system to summon servants and his meals were raised via a lift to his dining room from the kitchen below. There was even a telephone, but Ludwig could only call to one place, which was in the nearby village of Füssen. Phones were, after all, brand new at the time. He was an early-adopter of new-fangled gadgets and his castle was technologically way ahead of its time.

His demise was precipitated by his extravagant spending. He started by funding his projects from his own family coffers, but by the time the castle was nearly finished his extravagance had brought him into conflict with not only his cabinet that feared insolvency, but also foreign banks, who were trying to seize the magnificent property. He first threatened to dissolve the cabinet and later threatened suicide if they didn’t help him line up more foreign loans to get it all done.

Instead, the cabinet decided to get rid of him and removed him from office, declaring him insane. It seems the insane accusations were pretty trumped up. There was a Count von Holnstein, who used bribery to extract a long list of false complaints, accounts, and gossip about Ludwig’s peculiarities from among his servants. Then (L.O.L) they had him pronounced insane by a doctor who had not seen him for over 12 years, and then only fleetingly. Ludwig II had never been a patient. The cabinet had him confined near Berg castle with the psychiatrist to take care of him.

Ludwig “drowned” at Lake Starnberg with this same doctor where the water was only waist high. There had been a struggle and the doctor had marks of strangulation on his neck.

Ludwig II was generally well-liked by his subjects in his day and today he is revered by many Bavarians. We note the irony that the kings’ legacy of architecture and art gives his nation a tourist income that makes Bavaria one of the richest states in Germany.

Do you think they should have funded him?

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Until next month!

Warm Regards,

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