Princess Elisabeth of Austria- Sisi of the Sorrows

The Wittelsbachs had a history of crazy.  Both Ludwig I and Ludwig II had their foibles (See posts on both of them here:  http://www.historynaked.com/spanish-dancer-king/ and here:  http://www.historynaked.com/ludwig-mad-king/ ) However, Ludwig II’s cousin, Elisabeth or Sisi as she was known, had a life more tragic than crazy.  On the surface, Sisi had it all-  beauty, wealth, a good marriage- but it was all a sham.  The lady had a life full of sorrow.

Born Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie on Christmas Eve 1837, Sisi as she was called by the family was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria.  As was customary with royal marriages, her parents were second cousins.  Not a great idea when you have a family like the Wittelsbachs, but they were obsessed with keeping the bloodline pure.  What they did was heighten the crazy, but I digress.  Her childhood was peaceful and free, and she and her siblings were raised at Possenhofen Castle.  There Sisi developed a love of horseback riding and nature.  They were happy far from the intrigues of court.  At the age of 16, she was broken out of this idyllic world.

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was looking for a wife, or more correctly his mother was looking for a wife for him.  The formidable Princess Sophie of Bavaria decided on Helene, Sisi’s elder sister.  Princess Sophie was not a person to be crossed and was described as “the only man in the Hofburg” for her authoritarian ways.  She orchestrated everything in her son’s life, including his first sexual experience.  When Franz Joseph was 18, she found a healthy peasant girl and promised her a good marriage to a court official if she would take the Prince’s virginity.  She even had it set up son Franz Joseph thought it was a natural relationship and she really liked him.  No one knows if he ever found out about what his mother did, but he did see the girl again at a court function and was not allowed to speak to her.  So this is the kind of woman we’re dealing with.

Again, this was a cousin’s marriage, which was asking for trouble, but no one seemed to mind.  Helene, Sisi and their mother traveled to Bad Ischl to formalize the betrothal.  Slight problem.  When Franz Joseph got there he barely looked at Helene, his bride to be.  Instead, he was smitten with the bride’s younger sister, Sisi.  This was no surprise as Sisi was stunning- tall and slim with beautiful long hair.  Franz Joseph stood up to his dominating mama and told her he’d marry Sisi or no one.  If there was going to be a betrothal, then she’d better get on board.  It was no big deal to Sisi’s family, they got an empress out of the deal no matter what.  No one asked the jilted Helene how she felt.  At any rate, five days later the betrothal of Sisi and Franz Joseph was announced.  

Eight months later the two were married, and no one had prepared the poor girl for court or married life.  Sisi hated crowds and had a panic attack at her wedding reception.  After the wedding night, poor Sisi locked herself in her room for three days.  One can only imagine what sex would be like for a sheltered sixteen year old.  After the freedom of her childhood at Possenhofen, Sisi could never adapt to the rigidity and formality of court life.  A series of maudlin bad poetry bewailed the fetters of her new cage.

Soon she fell ill, and it was discovered she was pregnant, but even this happy event turned to tragedy.  As soon as the little princess was born, Sophie took charge of her grandchild and cut Sisi completely out of the loop.  She even named the child… after herself.  Well, that’s modest.  The same thing happened when Franz Joseph and Sisi’s second daughter, Gisela, was born.  Sophie was angry that Sisi was only producing daughters instead of the needed male heir, and began to treat her daughter-in-law worse.  Sophie actually left a pamphlet on her daughter-in-law’s desk with the following underlined:

“…The natural destiny of a Queen is to give an heir to the throne. If the Queen is so fortunate as to provide the State with a Crown-Prince this should be the end of her ambition – she should by no means meddle with the government of an Empire, the care of which is not a task for women… If the Queen bears no sons, she is merely a foreigner in the State, and a very dangerous foreigner, too. For as she can never hope to be looked on kindly here, and must always expect to be sent back whence she came, so will she always seek to win the King by other than natural means; she will struggle for position and power by intrigue and the sowing of discord, to the mischief of the King, the nation, and the Empire..”

Well, isn’t that sweet.  

Sisi got a respite from the stress of court on a visit to Hungary, but that visit soon turned tragic as her two daughters contracted an illness.  Gisela recovered, but two year old Sophie died.  This sent Sisi into a terrible depression from which she never really recovered.  She was unable to care for Gisela, and as a result their relationship never recovered.  Sophie blamed Sisi for allowing her namesake to get sick and die.  Nice.  She gave birth to the longed for male heir, Rudolf, in 1788 and he was whisked away by Sophie.  It was not until the birth of her fourth child that Sisi was allowed to be a mother.  She was reported to have said to a lady in waiting,

“Only now do I understand what bliss a child means. Now I have finally had the courage to love the baby and keep it with me. My other children were taken away from me at once. I was permitted to see the children only when Archduchess Sophie gave permission. She was always present when I visited the children. Finally I gave up the struggle and went upstairs only rarely.”

The only thing she could control was her physical appearance and she had a ruthless beauty regimen.  In fact, she did not look a day over thirty her entire life.  She bathed in warm olive oil and distilled water.  One night a week, she reportedly slept in sheets lined with beefsteak to keep her skin taut.  She was also probably anorexic as she would not eat to be laced as tightly as possible.  She was famous for her wasp waist, which infuriated her mother-in-law as she expected Sisi to be perpetually pregnant.  Her waist remained at 19.5 inches for most of her life.  Almost a Scarlett O’Hara waist.  Whenever she traveled, she would bring her own cows and would live on a diet of meat juice, fresh milk and egg whites mixed with salt.  She was also the first woman to do gymnastics, lift weights and work at the barre like a ballerina as a regular exercise to help with her figure.  Someone once told her it would help her complexion to sleep without pillows, so pillows were banished from her bed.

Her most recognizable feature was her glorious chestnut hair, which reached all the way to her feet.  She was obsessive about how it was dressed, and her Greek tutor Konstantin Christomanos described the ritual, “Behind the Empress’s armchair stood the hairdresser…With her white hands she burrowed in the waves of hair, raised them and ran her fingertips over them as she might over velvet and silk, twisted them around her arms like rivers she wanted to capture because they did not want to run but to fly.”  Any hair that came out during the braiding was required to be put in a silver bowl for Sisi’s inspection.  It was so bad that the hairdresser put a piece of tape under her apron to hide the hair so she wouldn’t have to have it undergo inspection.  Her glorious hair was washed every three weeks and that was a nightmare in itself.  It was rinsed with raw eggs and brandy then air dried as Sisi paced her chamber in a waterproof dressing gown.  However, her hairdresser was well compensated being paid a yearly salary of 2,000 guldens, which corresponded to a university professor.

A rare picture with Sisi’s hair unbound

By this time, Sisi and Franz Joseph were living separate lives.  Franz Joseph was having affairs and after a brief reconciliation which resulted in their fourth child, the bloom was definitely off the rose.  Sisi for her part was coming into her own.  She had balls for young people and didn’t invite their stodgy mothers.  She had a companion from England and snuck off to Ireland for incognito hunting trips.  Things settled into a an amicable separation.  However, Sisi’s world plunged into to tragedy again in 1898 when her son was found dead.  He was found with his mistress Mary Vetsera at his hunting lodge in a suspected suicide pact.  (For more on this, please see this post:  http://www.historynaked.com/the-mayerling-incident/ )  She and Rudolf were not close, but his death still devastated her.  She was convinced there was some madness in the Wittelsbachs and the Habsburgs that contributed to her son’s death.  She isn’t far off there.  Look at her family.   Sisi began drifting from spa to spa trying to find some meaning.

It was on one of these spa trips, she was killed.  Sisi had stayed at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, supposedly incognito.  However, someone must have found out as word leaked.  Sisi was hurrying to board the lake steamer “Genève”.  She had been advised against travelling as there were assassination attempts everywhere, but she didn’t pay them any mind.  As she rushed down the street to the pier without her entourage, Luigi Lucheni ran towards her and stabbed her in the heart with a makeshift weapon.   An Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, had intended to kill the French Duke d’Orleans, but went to Geneva instead on a whim and found out Sisi was there.  Neither Sisi or Countess Irma Sztáray, her lady in waiting, realized what happened.  They thought it had been a robbery attempt, and went on to the ship.  It is suspected that Sisi was able to walk the hundred yards to the ship without noticing anything was amiss because of her tight corset.  A few minutes later, Sisi passed out and Countess Sztáray noticed blood on her dress.  Sisi was carried to back to the Hotel Beau-Rivage on an improvised stretcher and was pronounced dead shortly after.  So ends a tragic life.

ER

The Mayerling Incident

Photographs of Crown Prince Rudolf and Baroness Mary Vetsera.

Crown Prince Rudolf was the heir to the Habsburg throne and the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph and his beautiful wife Elisabeth, or Sisi.  He was in a notoriously bad marriage to Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, daughter of Leopold II.  At first, the prince seemed to be in love but Stéphanie suffered under her mother-in-laws scorn.  The elegant Sisi referred to Stéphanie as a “clumsy oaf”.  Rudolf and his mother were more alike in their ideals than his very conservative father, however, their relationship was not close.  Sisi suffered from depression and Rudolf’s care was primarily from Sisi’s formidable mother-in-law.  Not much a good example of family life to follow.  Rudolf and Stéphanie drifted apart after the birth of their daughter in 1883.  Rudolf took comfort in drink and women, and it was known about court he was having at least one affair probably more.  In 1887, Rudolf bought a hunting lodge in the village of Mayerling.  It was the perfect get away from the formality of court life to drink and carouse.  

On January 29, 1889, Rudolf attended a family dinner with his parents before they were to leave for Hungary.  Rudolf excused himself headed for Mayerling for a day of shooting with his current mistress, the 17 year old Baroness Mary Vetsera.  What happened after that is anyone’s guess.  What we do know is on January 31, Rudolf’s valet, Loschek, went to his rooms at Mayerling to call him and there was no answer.  Rudolf’s shooting partner, Count Joseph Hoyos, joined in and still got no response.  Hoyos became concerned and got an axe and broke down the door.  What he found was terrifying.  Rudolf was seated at the side of the bed, motionless and with a trickle of blood running from his mouth.  Mary was lying on the bed, ice cold and rigid.  The heir to the throne was dead with his mistress.

Hoyos sprang into action and took a special train back to Vienna to get help.  Hoyos and the Emperor’s Adjutant General told the Empress’ favorite lady in waiting, who informed the Empress.  She was the only one with the authority to tell her husband of their son’s death.  In this strict court, even in the face of this tragedy proper protocol had to be followed.  The Empress was distraught, but pulled it together enough to tell her husband.  He left the room a broken man.  In the meantime, there had to be a cover story.  No one knew exactly what happened, but Hoyos suspected poison as strychnine caused bleeding when taken.  It was later found Rudolf and Mary both died of gunshot wounds.  However, the Crown Prince could not have been known to have committed suicide.    The Minister of Police was dispatched to secure the hunting lodge and the body.  A story was released that the Crown Prince had died “due to a rupture of an aneurysm of the heart”.  Rudolf’s body was taken to be buried in the Imperial Crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna.  Mary’s body was smuggled out in the middle of the night and put in a hastily dug grave in the cemetery of the Holy Cross Abbey in Heiligenkreuz.  And that was to be that.  But what really happened?  There are several theories.

The obvious answer is suicide.  Several historians suspect Rudolf had syphilis.  His health deteriorated markedly while relatively young.  Pictures show that he aged prematurely and suffered early tooth loss.  Brigitte Hamann suggests in her biography of Rudolf that he had infected his wife Stéphanie with syphilis and felt guilty.  She goes on to tell the tale of Mizzi Kaspar, who was a prominent courtesan in the Habsburg court.  She and Rudolf were lovers and she claims Rudolf proposed a “love murder-suicide” to her.  She refused.  The thought is that Rudolf then pitched the same idea to the love struck 17 year old Mary.  Rudolf even admitted he wasn’t in love with her, but was taken by her devotion to him.  According to this theory, that devotion ran deep enough for her to accept her death at his hands.  It has also been hypothesized that the two fought and Rudolf killed Mary in a crime of passion.  Franz Joseph did not approve of their relationship, and some sources say he brought Mary to Mayerling to break it off.  Perhaps she did not take it well?  Gerd Holler writes in his book a bit of a different story.  He believes that Mary was pregnant, and Rudolf had taken her to Mayerling for an abortion.  When she died in the process, Rudolf committed suicide.

Then there are those who say it was not suicide at all.  Clemens M. Gruber claims in his account “The Fateful Days of Mayerling” that Rudolf died in a brawl.  He tells the story that Mary’s relatives fought their way into the hunting lodge and Rudolf drew a revolver.  In the midst of the fight, the gun went off killing Mary.  Rudolf was then taken out by her enraged relatives.  Empress Zita, the widow of the last Austrian emperor, claimed before she died in 1989 that Rudolf and Mary had been murdered as part of a political conspiracy.  She claimed that a pro-French faction in the court approached Rudolf about deposing his father, and then run the country with a more pro-French slant.  He refused, and supposedly they killed him.

After all this time, no one has the permission to exhume Rudolf’s remains.  However, much later a report came to light that his body showed signs of violent struggle.  In 1992 Mary’s remains were stolen from the Heiligenkreuz cemetery.  They were tracked down by Viennese police and examined by the Viennese Medical Institute.  The identity of the remains were confirmed as Mary Vetsera, and they reported there was no bullet hole in the skull.  However, there was evidence she was killed by several violent blows to the head.  A contemporary report did state that all six bullets were fired from the gun at the scene, but it did not belong to Rudolf and there was no report of where those bullets went.

We will never know the truth about what happened that night at Mayerling.  In his grief, Franz Joseph had the hunting lodge turned into a convent.  Masses were said for the soul of his dead son.  No one really said much about his companion, and Mary went unremembered.

ER

The Spanish Dancer and the King

800px-Joseph_Karl_Stieler-Lola_Montez1847
Lola Montez (1847), painted by Joseph Karl Stieler for Ludwig I of Bavaria and his Schönheitengalerie

In a previous post, we took a look at the life of Ludwig, the Mad King of Bavaria.  (Please see this post:  http://www.historynaked.com/ludwig-mad-king/)  He was not the only odd ball in the Wittelsbach family.   The grandfather for which he was named had a distinctly overbearing personality and an obsession beautiful actresses.  Ludwig came to the throne at the age of thirty-nine and cut a rather unimpressive figure.  He was known as a stingy eccentric, who liked to wander the streets of Munich dressed in threadbare clothes and carrying a broken umbrella.  As previously mentioned, he loved beautiful women and courted a string of women to whom he wrote reams of bad poetry.  His first wife, Queen Theresa, was a notable beauty, however, he preferred to find his muses outside of his marriage.  At his palace in Nymphenburg, he decorated the walls with thirty-six portraits of women he found attractive.  These ranged from chambermaids to nobility, even just women he passed on the street and was drawn to.  Sadly, when it came to actresses, Ludwig usually disappointed as instead of giving them something pretty and highly pawnable he gave them his own bad poetry.  I’m sure that is exactly what they were looking for.

800px-Ludwig_I.,_König_von_Bayern_Arround_1860
King Ludwig I, c1860. source: Wikipedia

Ludwig met his match in raven haired and tempestuous, Lola Montez.  Lola was born Maria Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in County Sligo, Ireland.  She claimed to be descended from Spanish Royalty through her Moorish mother, but this was a dubious claim at best.  She was educated in Britain and France, but spent a significant amount of time in India after she eloped with an army lieutenant  They divorced and she hit the London stage billed as Lola Montez, the Spanish Dancer in June 1843.  She was booed off the stage as she was recognized as an army wife.  For anyone less determined and single minded this would have been the end of the story.  Not Lola.  She retreated to the continent and won fame for her beauty and celebrity and her trademark “Tarantula Dance”.  There she had a string of affairs with the notables of the day, and usually they did not end well.  She could include among her lovers Franz Liszt, Alexandre Dumas and a French journalist Dujarrier.  When Dujarrier was killed in a duel, he left Lola 20,000 francs so she was rather well set.  Except, Lola liked the high life and she needed more cash.  On to Bavaria and an audition at the State Theater.  At the audition she was told her dancing might cause offence to the extremely moral theater manager.  Not taking no for an answer, Lola stormed to the palace and demanded an audience to plead her case to Ludwig himself.  Ludwig was a sucker for beauty.  Legend says she cut her bodice strings with a letter opener and exposed her breasts when Ludwig asked if they were real.  Apparently they passed muster as the sixty year old king was instantly smitten with the twenty-five year old dancer.  

Lola remained on the Munich stage for only two performances, then was whisked away for her primary role as mistress to the king.  It was a good thing he was a king because he was as ugly as Lola was beautiful.  He had never cut a dashing figure, but in his old age he had gotten worse.  He lost his hair and his teeth and a large cyst in the middle of his forehead.  However, Lola gritted her teeth and though of England as it were.  Ludwig had her portrait painted and added to his collection at Nymphenburg.  Ludwig showered her with gifts, a castle, money and even made her the Baroness Rosenthal and Countess of Landsfield.  Decisions of state were subject to Lola’s opinion, and the cabinet at that time were called the “Lolaministerium”.  Lola did not endear herself to anyone else but the king.  She had a habit of boxing the ears or even horse whipping anyone who displeased her.  She carried around a huge bulldog wherever she went and swore voraciously.  The papers of the day called her “the Apocalyptic Whore”.  She had to go.

Matter came to a head and an angry mob demanded she leave the country.  Ludwig tried to brave it out, but no one was having it.  Lola had to go and was banished from the country.  Ludwig was forced to abdicate in favor of his son.  Lola went on to more adventures in both England and America, after a succession of marriage died of pneumonia a month before her 40th birthday.  Ludwig never saw Lola again, but did continue to send her poetry through the mail.  Lucky her.

ER

Ludwig the Mad King

Ludwig II's coronation portrait, 1865 Photo Credit- scan from Michael Petzet, Ludwig II. und seine Schlösser.
Ludwig II’s coronation portrait, 1865 Photo Credit- scan from Michael Petzet, Ludwig II. und seine Schlösser.

The Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria and in a landscape of mentally unstable royals, they were a special breed.  Ludwig was born into a family rife with eccentricities if not downright psychosis.  His aunt Alexandra was convinced she had swallowed an entire grand piano made of glass.  That just lets you know what we are dealing with.

Ludwig was born to Maximilian II and his wife Princess Marie of Prussia at Nymphenburg Palace.  They were a mismatch pair even though they were cousins as Maximilian was Catholic and Marie was Protestant.  Marrying cousins is never a great idea, however, in a family rife with mental illness it’s a disaster.  When both Ludwig and his younger brother Otto began showing signs of mental instability the Wittelsbachs closed ranks and tried to blame Marie’s Prussian blood.  No dice.  The poor kids had problems on all sides.

He was originally going to be named Otto, but his grandfather Ludwig I stepped in and insisted the new baby named after him.  The new prince was born on his grandfather’s birthday and even in the same hour, so why not?  Ludwig I had his own problems over and above being overbearing, specifically with a  scandalous actress named Lola Montez, but that is another post.  Actually, the two Ludwigs became very close, much closer than Ludwig and his father.  However, the young prince was not very close to anyone in his family.  He grew up isolated in a very sparse and sheltered environment.  Like many lonely children, he lived in his own head and had a vivid imagination.  According to his mother, he enjoyed dressing up and play acting.  His favorites were Medieval chivalry and legends and fairy tale castles.  These interests turned into an obsession later in life.  His childhood home was Hohenschwangau, or “high region of the swan”.  This made a huge impression on Ludwig, who later became known as the “Swan King”.

Ludwig was thrust from this sheltered environment into the limelight when his father unexpectedly died in 1864.  Ludwig became king at age 18, but had no training or education for a life of politics.  He himself admitted, “I became king much too early. I had not learned enough. I had made such a good beginning … with the learning of state laws. Suddenly I was snatched away from my books and set on the throne. Well, I am still trying to learn …”  The only bright spot for the young king was being able to meet his idol Richard Wagner.  He had been exposed to Wagner’s music at a young age and he was fascinated with the Swan Knight from Lohengrin.  Ludwig quickly became obsessed with Wagner and the legends his operas depicted.  The two began a copious correspondence and the king financed the composer- paying his debts and building him a new Festspeilhaus concert hall in Bayreuth in 1876.  His advisers at court were not happy with this obsession as they felt it was throwing money down a rathole.  The country had already suffered a defeat in the Austro-Prussian War, where Bavaria had sided with Austria.  They had joined the newly created Northern German Confederation in 1870, but maintained a privileged status with quasi-independence.  This loss of status to Prussia haunted Ludwig and he longed to be an omnipotent and powerful medieval rules of old. However, the reality was Bavaria was short of cash as wars will do and no one in the government wanted to spend what they had on some composer.  Ludwig was forced to exile Wagner in 1865, but they remained close until Wagner’s death in 1883.

Even with Wagner out of the way, Ludwig found other obsessions to pour money into.  In 1868, he began an extensive building campaign.  Three massive castles were built-  Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee.  In these castles, he made Wagner’s world of German legend come to life.  Neuschwanstein is probably the most famous of these castles in southwest Bavaria.  The theme of the castle is the Swan Knight, first encountered by Ludwig in Lohengrin.  Underneath it, there is a private grotto and cave complete with swan gondola.  Ludwig became obsessed with the Holy Grail and began to identify himself as the mythical Grail King.   Neuschwanstein became the Castle of the Holy Grail and the Throne Room was redesigned as the Hall of the Holy Grail.  Unbelievably, Neuschwanstein was not designed by an architect.  Christian Jank was a theatrical set designer, which accounts for its magical appearance.  In fact, Neuschwanstein is the model for the Disney castle at DisneyLand and DisneyWorld.

By 1886, Ludwig had become a recluse.  He slept all day and did not get up until 5pm at night.  He insisted on having dinners with long dead monarchs and had a special table constructed that lowered through the floor so he would see no servants change the courses.  Ludwig threw massive performances just for him in his castles of Wagner operas, and only communicated to his ministers by letter.  He had tried to get married, but had chickened out.  There is much speculation that he was a homosexual.  There were a series of close friendships with men, but this was just rumor.  However, he was starting on a new castle at Falkenstein and was about to spare no expense.  He was already 14 million marks in debt and foreign banks were about to seize all his property.  His ministers had had enough.

Neuschwanstein Castle Photo Credit- http://travelinnate.com/category/castles/
Neuschwanstein Castle Photo Credit- http://travelinnate.com/category/castles/

From January 1886 to March 1886, the Ärztliches Gutachten was assembled.  This was a medical report on whether Ludwig was fit to rule.  Ludwig’s uncle Luitpold had agreed to depose him only on the condition Ludwig was found insane.  So the ministers were going to do just that.  Count von Holnstein, Ludwig’s chief opponent in the ministry, was in charge of compiling the report, which turned into a litany of complaints.  The report was certified by Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, Dr. Hubert von Gashey, Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Hagen and Dr. Max Hubrich.  They concluded Ludwig was suffering from paranoia, a condition which today would be classified as schizophrenia, and unfit to rule.  They also pointed to the fact Ludwig’s brother Otto was certifiably insane as the proof of family instability.  The accuracy of this report is not known.  However, a later study led by Heinz Häfner suggests Ludwig was not schizophrenic.  In their article in the History Psychiatry, they state Ludwig’s behavior did not “provide reliable evidence of his purported mental illness.”  It turns out, none of the doctors ever spoke to Ludwig.  They based this diagnosis on secret interviews with his servants.

Despite these questions later, the verdict of insanity was all that was needed to dethrone Ludwig on June 10, 1886.  It did not go well.  The ministers as well as Dr. Gudden arrived at Neuschwanstein to place Ludwig into custody, however, he had been tipped off to their arrival.  He summoned the local police to protect him, who turned back the ministers at gunpoint.  To make things even stranger, Baroness Spera von Truchseß attacked the ministers, hitting them with an umbrella.  It didn’t matter.  Luitpold was proclaimed as Prince Regent, and Ludwig was finally apprehended and taken to Berg Castle on the shores of Lake Starnberg.  And here’s where a weird story gets weirder.

On June 13, Ludwig and Dr. Gudden took a stroll around the grounds alone.  They were last seen at 6:30 pm.  The two did not return even after a huge storm with heavy rain and lightning hit.  Their bodies were found floating in the shallows of the lake.  Gudden had sustained blows to the head and neck and showed signs of strangulation.  Ludwig’s death was ruled a suicide even though there was no water in his lungs and he had been a strong swimmer in his youth.  Much later, Countess Josephine von Wrba-Kaunitz would show visitors a coat she claimed was worn by Ludwig when he died with two bullet holes in the back.  Unfortunately, this coat was lost in a fire.  A Bavarian art historian and specialist in 19th century painting also analyzed a portrait painted of Ludwig only hours after his death.  Siegfried Wichmann maintains there is a trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth, which does not support the drowning theory.  

We will never know the truth as the remaining members of the Wittelsbach family refuse to have Ludwig’s body exhumed for an autopsy.  A memorial cross was constructed in the lake where Ludwig’s body was found.

ER