Saturday, August 2, 2014

King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his Fairytale Castle



This story will be included in my upcoming e-book: European Royals: The Tale of Madness and Controversies

Was the King really mad? Or just merely eccentric?

King Ludwig II of Bavaria, from the royal house of Wittelsbach.
He was known in history as the Mad King.
He was deposed on the ground of mental illness, but the accusation lacked sufficient evidence as he was not clinically examined. He died mysteriously in the lake near Berg Castle south of Munich where he was imprisoned. His death was rolled a suicide though further evidence would tell he was murdered. 

A century had passed since his mysterious death but the story of this Bavarian King continued to fascinate modern royalists due to the controversial circumstances of his demise and the intriguing accusation of his mental insanity that was never proven true.

Here's a strip of the story of this controversial German royal.

Who could ever forget the classic story of King Ludwig II of Bavaria whose supposed madness had cost his throne and his life? 

He was best remembered for his devotion to art and architecture and known for his obsession of pompous castles and palaces, the most popular being the Neuschwanstein Castle, a fairy tale structure that perched above the rugged hills of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Munich, Germany. 

King Ludwig II ascended the Bavarian throne in 1864. He was often described in history as shy and timid and hated the trappings of royalty. He detested social gatherings and would often excuse himself from attending state occasions to watch theater plays of Richard Wagner, a German composer. He did not marry despite several attempts of his ministers and family to find a suitable royal bride. He preferred a life in seclusion at the comfort of his castle.

He was deposed on the ground of mental illness, but the manner in which Bavarian ministers handled his case was something of a controvery as it lacked sufficient evidence on the mental state of the King. Ludwig II was never clinically examined to verify his mental instability which made the deposition illegal. Evidences gathered were merely speculations like talking to imaginary people, sending his staff to a lengthy expedition just to research ideas for fantasy castles, letting his footmen dressed in ancient livery reminiscent to the costumes in the characters of Wagner's plays.

However, historians in later centuries would agree that the King could not be categorized as insane and mad but just eccentric and whimsical. He reportedly loved to spend most of his time day dreaming and would often withdraw to the comfort of his apartment in the Castle when the weight of the responsibility of being a King became too much for him. 

By most accounts, King Ludwig II was generally loved by many of his subjects in Bavaria. He adored nature, poetry and art and find happiness in romantic operas. He was especially close to his first cousin, The Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Some would point that the stress of growing up in the royal family with rigorous royal training was the main cause of Ludwig’s peculiar behavior in adult life. He had at least an ancestor in the same category of peculiarity, his grandfather and namesake, King Ludwig I, who came from the family of eccentrics.



The King was brought to Berg Castle south of Munich after he was deposed but found dead on the following day in the Lake Starnberg. His death puzzled historians as the King was a good swimmer and the water was only deep waist. No water was found on the lungs of the King during the initial autopsy supporting earlier speculation that he was murdered. Years later, one note of a lone witness was revealed providing evidence that King Ludwig II was shot to death when he tried to escape.

Until the modern age, the life of this peculiar Bavarian monarch was a subject of curiosity that many royalists, including scholars, had expressed interest to conduct further studies on his reign and personal circumstances.
The breathtaking Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
This fairytale castle was built under the supervision of King Ludwig II,
intended as his personal retreat and a homage to his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. The King wanted the construction of the castle to be perfect, so he commissioned theater artists to design the interior of the castle and rooms similar to the fairytale plays of Wagner.
Perched above the rugged cliff of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Germany,
the castle is surrounded with a magnificent landscape of lakes and parklands.
It has a walled garden and an artificial cave and its interior is beautifully designed
under a fairytale concept. Ironically, it was King Ludwig II's obsession of fairytale castles that had cost his life and throne. He was deposed on the ground of insanity. This castle was not finished at the time of his death but several years later it was opened to the public to raise income for the struggling state of Bavaria. Today, the castle drew thousands of tourists annually and became Europe's eternal symbol  of fairytale. It appeared several times in many fairytale movies. It also inspired the construction of Disneyland's Magic Kingdom.

His most ambitious project, the Neuschwanstein Castle, intended to be his private home and a personal homage to Richard Wagner, was made open to the public years after his death to raise income to the struggling state of Bavaria. Now, this castle, is one of the most popular tourist landmarks in the world and Europe's eternal symbol of fairytale. It's a living witness to King Ludwig II's fascination towards art and fantasy. 

King Ludwig II was succeeded by his younger brother Otto, but he too was deposed on the ground of mental illness. The throne passed to their first cousin, King Ludwig III and reigned until 1918 when all German princely states and Kingdoms were disbanded at the close of World War I. 

Today, the Bavarian throne is still in existence though not officially, and reduced to the status of a Dukedom. It is currently ruled by Prince Franz, the Duke of Bavaria, also considered as the rightful heir to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland through the Jacobite succession. Princess Sophie, the wife of Prince Alois, the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, is Franz's niece.

More of this story and other interesting facts about European Royals in my upcoming e-book.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Europe's New Queen Consorts


Europe has new Queen Consorts, both young, vibrant, highly cultured and glamorous, whose sudden ascent to fame as Their Majesties is attributed to the abdication of their respective parent-in-law.

The Netherlands

Queen Maxima is the wife of the current Dutch monarch, King Wilhelm-Alexander. She is an Argentinian by birth and had worked as an investment banker at Deutsche Bank in New York before she met the then Prince of Orange. Maxima is known for his gorgeous fashion style and taste. Her choice of wardrobe consistently put her on top of the list of the most glamorous female royals in Europe.

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands
Queen Maxima with husband, King Wilhelm-Alexander of the Netherlands

Her journey from the corporate world to the Dutch royal court was not an easy one. Her relationship with the future King was met with protest and disapproval from the parliament due to the rumoured involvement of her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, to the atrocities that happened in Argentina during the regime of President Jorge Videla. Maxima's father worked as a cabinet secretary of agriculture during the regime. Through series of investigation, it was revealed however that Zorreguieta was innocent with the accusation. 



The future King and Queen tied the knot on February 2, 2002 in Amsterdam without Maxima's father. The couple have three daughters, Catharina-Amalia, Hereditary Princess of Orange, Princess Alexia and Princess Arriane. Upon her husband ascension to the throne in April 2013, Maxima became the first Dutch Queen Consort in more than 100 years since Queen Emma in 1890. 

Queen Maxima currently serves as Secretary General on Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development in the United Nations. Despite being married to a protestant King, Maxima remained a Roman Catholic. Through her father, Maxima has five line of descent from King Alfonso XIII of Portugal. 

Belgium

Queen Mathilde is the only current Queen Consort in Europe that has a noble ancestry. She descended from the long list of Lords, Barons and Counts and her father is a titled Baron. She has a Princess as a grandmother on her mother's side.

The 41-year-old Queen Consort is known with her very professional approach to the media, with finesse and proper etiquette, she never generated controversy and her attitude towards the public has been touted as always formal and warm.

Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of Belgium

Queen Mathilde has a master's degree in psychology and before her marriage to Prince Philippe in 1999, she worked as a speech therapist. Their Majesties have four children together: Princess Elisabeth, the Duchess of Brabant and the heir-apparent, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eleonore.

Spain

With the abdication of King Juan Carlos last June 2, 2014, Europe loses the only Queen Consort in modern times who was royal by birth. Queen Sophia is the last true-blooded Princess to marry into the present-day European royal court, she is a former Greek princess, eldest daughter of King Paul of Greece and niece of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain).

The reigning Spanish King, Felipe VI, only son of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, married a commoner with no aristocratic background, Letezia Ortiz Rocasolano, a former TV news anchor. Just like in the Netherlands, Felipe's relationship to Letezia also generated controversies. She was previously married to a college professor but obtained divorce before she met the future Spanish King. A situation found by many as slightly uneventful and inappropriate for a woman who would become a wife of a future King. Nonetheless, King Juan Carlos gave his permission and the marriage proceeded without opposition on May 22, 2004.

King Felipe VI and Queen Letezia of Spain

Queen Letezia is the first Queen Consort of Spain who is a commoner. But through out the years that she assumed the title of Princess of Asturias, she projected an image and reputation of a highly dignified woman with a strong sense of character, duty and refinement, thus earning respect and admiration from the public. She and King Felipe have two daughters: Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofia.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Legend of Dracula

This story is part of the chapter in my e-book about European Royals: The Royal Madness.
The world knows Dracula was written by Bram Stoker, an Irish novelist, but it was not clear however if Stoker really based the concept of the story on Prince Vlad III, who waged a reign of terror in Wallachia during the 15th century. Wallachia was once an ancient principality in Central Europe that was known later as Transylvania (and now part of Romania), the setting of Dracula.
Sketch of Vlad III, though no records accurately show 
how he looked like exactly
Trivia: Did you know that the name DRACULA is not really mean "devil" in ancient Wallachia? This word means "son of the dragon". Dracul means dragon, an ancient chivalric order in Wallachia use to defend Christianity against invaders. Vlad III's father was a famous member of this group. 
Dracula started to achieve an evil reputation translation when Bram Stoker published a book about a Transylvanian Count with a voodoo history.

Here's the strip of Vlad III's story which I included in the chapter of my e-book about madness in the royal court.
If there’s one horrid story about mental derangement crossing the border of sadistic insanity, it's Vlad III's story. The saga of his vampirism act was so popular in Europe even during the 17th century that it inspired Bram Stoker to write a novel about a horrendous man that drinks blood, Dracula.
If we would combine the sadistic nature of Ivan The Terrible of Russia and the psychotic maladies of Caligula of Rome, we will get a dose of terror with Vlad III of Wallachia. He was dreadful and gruesome and if there’s anything maddening about protecting the Kingdom from invaders, it was Vlad III’s historical legacy of resorting to impaling.
Whether Stoker really based his novel to a Voodoo Prince in Wallachia that finds pleasure in torturing people with his spikes, no one really knew exactly, it was only a speculation, but the story of Count Dracula is somewhat closer to Vlad III’s vampirism tendencies.
Vlad III was Prince of Wallachia, now part of Romania in Central Europe, from 1452 to his death, with deposition and exile in-betweens, making him to rule the tiny principality for about three times. He reigned during the troubled period of 15th century when invasion, wars and chaos were popular in the continent.
His father was Vlad II, the Dracul, which means Dragon because he was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. Vlad III was known as Dracula, meaning son of the dragon, but in later decades the name dragon was replaced with “devil” referring to the vicious crimes of murders and tortures committed by Vlad III during his reign, thus, Dracula in the present time means “son of the devil.”
During his youth, Wallachia suffered discord from rival factions and his father was ousted in 1442. He regained the throne after securing support from Ottoman by agreeing to pay a tribute. Part of this loyalty was sending his two sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court. It was in this exile that the young Vlad was trained and learned skills in warfare.
Vlad II was murdered  by the faction of John Hunyadi, a Hungarian regent, it ignited another war in Wallachia, Ottoman rescued the principality and put Vlad III on the throne. What followed next was a series of uproar and disturbances that shaped Vlad III’s personality and reputation in later years. His life was dominated with the terror of war, political unrest and murders that the only way to survive is to become awful and hostile.
He returned to Wallachia and regained the throne only to find a miserable land devastated by poverty, widespread crime and  depressing agricultural fall out. Realizing it could never be amended with systematic and lenient governance, he decided to austere methods to restore progress.
His reign was not entirely troublesome and grisly, there were also periods that his people experienced harmony, development and fairness particularly in the trading, economy and infrastructure. He created several reform measures especially among merchants. But despite turning his attention to Wallachia’s reforms and development, he did not forget the group that killed his father and brother which he believed had also caused trouble in his land, the Boyars. 
To secure peace and order and to strengthen his reign, he had most of the Boyars nobles killed and gradually became harsh in creating laws for criminals and offenders. It was during this period that he started implementing his severe punishment of executing enemies through impaling.
The most brutal part of this way of execution was the spikes that boiled in oil to implicate horrible pain to the victims. At the height of his cruelty and Dracula streak, he would held a feast in the forest and kill everyone leaving the corpses to rot in the ground.
He had reportedly killed close to 100,000 people mostly in a grisly way, torturing, impaling and burning at stake. At one point, he made a killing rampage along Danube, burning houses, killing everyone he found in the village, men, women, old, young, infant.
His sadistic pleasure in torturing was unimaginable. He had children roasted and fed to their mothers, cut off the breasts of women and forced the husband to eat it and had them all impaled. His reputation for cruelty horrified even his enemies, it was reported that when invaders discovered impaled corpses on the banks of Danube river, they were sickened with what they saw and retreated in fright.
Vlad III paid a high prize though. When he engaged in a battle against the Turks, he was killed and beheaded and had his severely mutilated head brought to Constantinople to present to the Sultan who had wished nothing but Vlad III's downfall and death.
More of the undiscovered stories of terror and madness in the European royal court in my upcoming e-book: European Royals: Madness and Intrigues



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Infanta Leonor of Spain: The youngest Heir-Presumptive


Important note: Spain is one of the three remaining royal houses in Europe that has not yet adopted the absolute law on succession, therefore, Infanta Leonor, the eldest daughter of Felipe, Prince of Asturias, who would become King Felipe VI of Spain upon his accession, would never be called heir-apparent and Princess of Asturias.
 Infanta Leonor of Spain 
At 8 years old, she is the youngest heir-presumptive in the European royal court in modern times.
She would not be called Princess of Asturias when her father, Prince Felipe, ascend the Spanish throne later this month because the country has not yet adopted the Absolute Law on Succession, a law that guarantees a sovereign's eldest daughter to succeed without being pushed aside by a younger brother in the line of succession

Infanta Leonor with her sister, Infanta Sofia

After months of intense speculation on whether he would abdicate, finally, on June 2, 2014, the once much adored King of Spain, Juan Carlos, renounced the  crown he had been wearing for nearly 39 years. In his abdication speech, the King recognized the needed change in the monarchy to allow younger generation of royals to take center stage and unite the nation. His successor is his only son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias.

The King of Spain, grown tired and frail due to poor health condition, yielded to media pressures after years of enduring controversies due to the long-running corruption scandal supposedly committed by his son-in-law, Iñaki, Urdanganin, husband of his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. In addition, the King of Spain has long been battling several illnesses which made him to undergo surgical procedures more than nine times in just two years.

Upon his abdication, the center of public attention geared towards his son's future reign as Spanish monarch. Most of the Spanish subjects have high hopes on Felipe that he could help restore the prestige of the crown tarnished by scandals.

 Three generations: King Juan Carlos, Prince Felipe and Infanta Leonor

Along with this attention came the innocent face of Felipe's eldest daughter, Infanta Leonor (Infanta is a Spanish term for Princess). The cherubic young royal is only eight years old, born on October 31, 2005, but now would be thrust to the public eye due to her father’s sudden ascent to the throne. Her mother, Letezia, is a  former TV news anchor and would be the first commoner to become a Spanish Queen Consort.

Infanta Leonor and her younger sister, Infanta Sofia, have been largely kept out from the public by their parents. Except for official photo calls and when the family is holidaying, the two royal tots remained in the background. 

The royal couple and their daughters.
The Prince and Princess of Asturias, Infanta Sofia and Infanta Leonor



In an effort to raise them normally away from the rigid royal protocol, the Prince and Princess of Asturias allowed their daughters to attend a public school like commoners to enjoy the company of other children and to experience the life outside the palace walls.

Infanta Leonor attended Santa Maria de los Rosales School in Madrid since 2008 where she takes classes in Chinese and English.

As her father prepares to take the throne as King Felipe VI later this month, debates on Infanta Leonor's future started to surface in public. Is  she an heir-presumptive or heir-apparent? The very obvious answer is of course the former. Spain still adopts the male-preference primogeniture law on succession which only guarantees an eldest son of the sovereign to take over the throne.

It is not known however if Spain would switch laws in later years. If the country retains the male-preference primogeniture law on succession then Infanta Leonor will only be heir-presumptive and can only inherit the throne if her parents would not produce a son. She could not take the Princess of Asturias title as this is reserve to a wife of a Prince of Asturias unless she would become the heir-apparent.

This is similar to the situation of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain in 1936. When her father, the then Prince Bertie, the Duke of York, ascended the British throne as King George VI, she has no brothers, but she was only heir-presumptive and could not take the title Princess of Wales as this is reserve to a wife of the Prince of Wales, the heir-apparent to the British throne. Elizabeth remained Princess of Britain until she married in 1947 to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and took the title Duchess of Edinburgh.

Whether Infanta Leonor would really be the next Queen regnant of Spain, that depends on the succeeding circumstances in the Spanish constitutional law.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

King Juan Carlos of Spain Abdicates


After a year of speculation whether he would abdicate or continue his reign until death, King Juan Carlos of Spain, on Monday, June 2, 2014, ended the controversies by announcing his abdication in favor of his only son, Felipe, the Prince of Asturias.

In his memorable abdication speech, he acknowledged the need of the century's old monarchy to breath fresh air under young royals, "A new generation must be at the forefront...younger people with new energy", the King announced.

The Spanish King became the third European monarch to step down from the throne in two years time after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (April 2013) and King Albert II of Belgium (July 2013). Nearly 39 years of ruling Spain, the King has become an instrument of the sweeping changes that the country experienced since the transition of the government from the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

The King, who reigned under the royal house of Bourbon-Hapsburg, largely shaped the modern history of Spain and credited for revitalizing the country's stature in the global community. He has been on the throne since November 1975 in what could have been a highly successful reign of any other Kings in Europe in the modern times. He became extremely popular and enjoyed enormous admiration from his subjects for the last three decades. Until series of controversies involving his direct family tarnished the prestige of the crown.

His popularity further plummeted when the country's financial condition did not recover after the recession, the royal household spending in the middle of crisis was intrigued as somewhat crossing the boundary line, he was further criticized when it was known that he spent lavishly on an elephant hunting trip in Botswana amidst the country's financial meltdown.

The final blow that tore the last strand of trust came after his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdanganin, was involved in a corruption issues for misusing funds of the foundation he managed. The corruption scandal was even implicated his younger daughter, Princess Cristina, the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, as one of the major players in the corruption charges, though no strong evidence could justify the accusations.

The King and the rest of the royal family tried hard to distance themselves from the issues, even to the point of removing the profile of Cristina's husband in the official page of the royal household, but media pressures and public protests became intense that no other fair option for the King but to abdicate.

Father and Son
Felipe, the Prince of Asturias, and King Juan Carlos of Spain

The abdication of King Juan Carlos did not actually surprise most royalists as this event was already speculated since last year. Though King Juan Carlos vehemently denied the issues early this year, several analysts predicted that only a matter of time before the King would yield to pressures.
 
In addition to the controversies, he King suffered poor health for the last four years, he had undergone multiple hip replacement surgeries in just three years. He often graced public engagements in crutches.
Their Majesties, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia
The Queen is formerly Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
eldest child of King Paul of Greece and Queen Federica, she is a niece of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain
King Juan Carlos, Queen Sophia, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II and most current European monarchs are third cousins through Queen Victoria of England

King Juan Carlos came to the Spanish throne after his father, Prince Juan, after.Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who led the Spanish revolution during World War II, died in 1975. The revolution forced Juan Carlos's grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, to give up the throne and went into exile in Italy. After series of negotiation with Alfonso's heir, Prince Juan, the Count of Barcelona, Franco relented and agreed to restore the monarchy to the family after his death.In November 1975, Franco died, but Prince Juan declined the crown in favor of his only surviving son, Prince Juan Carlos.
The Spanish royal family
From left: Princess Letezia, Prince Felipe, King Juan Carlos, Queen Sophia, Infanta Elena
Front row: Infanta Eleanor and Infanta Sofia, Felipe's daughters 
At the King's abdication, his subjects are hoping his successor, Prince Felipe, could bring back the prestige of the Spanish crown. Having a new royal family that will unite the divided Spain is a fresh breather.

Prince Felipe, the Prince of Asturias, 45, just like his father, is an Olympian, he took part in Sailing/Yachting event during the Barcelona Olympics. He is married to Letezia Ortiz Rocasolano, a former news anchor. They have two daughters, Infanta Eleanor and Infanta Sofia. Upon her husband's accession to the throne, Letezia would be the first commoner Queen Consort of Spain.

It was not known however what role King Juan Carlos would be assuming after the accession of his son, who would reign under the name King Felipe VI. But just like the rest of the European monarchs who abdicated, the King might not take part actively in the ceremonial functions of the monarchy and might prefer to remain private.