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Ludwig II (Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm;1 sometimes rendered as Louis II in English) (25 August 18452 – 13 June 1886) was King of Bavaria from 1864 until shortly before his death. He is sometimes called the Swan King (English) and der Märchenkönig, the Fairy tale King, (German). Additional titles were Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Franconia and in Swabia3
Ludwig is sometimes also called “Mad King Ludwig”, though the accuracy of that label has been disputed. Because Ludwig was deposed on grounds of mental illness without any medical examination and died a day later under mysterious circumstances, questions about the medical “diagnosis” remain controversial.4 One of his most quoted sayings was “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.”5
Ludwig is best known as an eccentric whose legacy is intertwined with the history of art and architecture. He commissioned the construction of several extravagant fantasy castles and palaces, the most famous being Neuschwanstein, and was a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner. Since his legacy of grandiose castles lives on in the form of massive tourist revenue, King Ludwig is generally well liked and even revered by many in Bavaria today.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a landmark well-known by many non-Germans, and was used by Walt Disney in the twentieth century as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castles at Disneylands around the world. The castle has had over 50 million visitors since it was opened to the public on 1 August 1886, including 1.3 million in 2008 alone.42