Léo Larguier wrote this essay in 1911 about Ludwig the Mad of Bavaria, the nineteenth-century king who built three amazing castles before being forced to abdicate when Bismarck engineered the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership:
Was he really crazy, this Louis II who drowned himself in Lake Starnberg? No, only a diehard romantic. . . . When a man is only one in the midst of thousands of men, idealism, along with a taste for silence and fantasy, singles him out for praise; when that man is a king, it becomes terrifying, as his case proves.
He, King of Bavaria, Prince Palatine of the Rhine, lived alone, having neither queen nor favorite, in a country where large families were esteemed; he did not drink beer, even though he lived all his life in Munich; he loved champagne and France, and he did not hide his tastes even at Versailles, when the two white coats and barbarous helmets of Bismarck and Field-Marshal Moltke could be seen in the shadows. . . .
Were the good Bavarian officials invisible, then? Well fed with cabbage, goose and sausages, well watered with good beer, in a dress without elegance but solid, with their good wives and their many children, they went to listen, on Sunday, to the music under the linden trees, and God blessed them and gave them each year a red-haired boy or a blonde girl.
So was the king one of those good people? They never knew.
He did not appear at court galas, nor at festivals in the city. He preferred the meditative intoxication of the vast loneliness of the mountains.
Sometimes he stopped before the humble house of a peasant who adored him, asking for a glass of ice water that a girl half asleep came to offer him at the door of his carriage, then set off again.
He also liked to lie down in the diamond-dewed grass, leaving his servants and the illuminated car on the night road, spending hours at the bottom of the Tyrolean chasms, by cold lakes where the stars were drowning.
This prince palatine of the Rhine was a fairy king; he must have reigned in times of chivalry and legend over a kingdom of deep valleys, snowy peaks, and blue ponds, sovereign of the forest of elves and the pale pools where Lorelei haunted.
Born too late, in the time of Bismarck and the Prussian conquest, he had abdicated in his heart long before he was dispossessed.
Serious business did not interest him. He hated the grim old counselors, he did not want to see his ministers, especially if they were too ugly, but he built castles on virgin peaks, and when he arrived in Triebschen, without escort, like the most humble, the most dazzled fan, he slept in a camp-bed set up for him in Richard Wagner's study, in this oratory, with heavy furniture, and always perfumed with the extract of white roses. His kingdom was not of this world, as was proved to him.