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Neuschwanstein Castle Is A Disney Inspiration Designed By A Mad King

By: Anna Todd

This castle is a real-life fairytale oasis.

August 01, 2019

Once upon a time (the 19th century, to be specific), in a kingdom far, far away (an alpine town in southern Germany), a ruler named "Mad" King Ludwig II designed a medieval-style château called Neuschwanstein Castle. He didn't do it for a strategic or defense purpose, though—he just did it for his own amusement. Nevertheless, it remains a real-life fairytale oasis to this day.

Why We're Covering This:

  • Because the real-life story is far more fascinating than the fairy tale

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Delusion Of Grandeur

Ludwig grew up down the street from his future fairytale abode in another German castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau. He became king of Bavaria at just 19 years old. The young king spent the majority of his time wrapped up in Romantic literature and operas, especially the works of composer and fellow German Richard Wagner. Ludwig began building Neuschwanstein Castle in honor of Wagner in 1869. And, according to the castle's website, its third and fourth floors reflect Ludwig's love of Wagnerian operas and feature decor inspired by many of the composer's characters. The castle's name itself directly translates to "New Swan Castle," in honor of one of Wagner's characters, "the Swan Knight."

Yes, the castle is whimsical and grandiose, but it was certainly an anachronism for the relatively modern style of the 19th century. For a frame of reference, the Neuschwanstein has automatic flushing toilets and a central heating system. It's only about as old as the Eiffel Tower. Ludwig commissioned the strange castle simply because admired Romanticism and the Byzantine style. As for the castle's placement at the top of a hill? Also completely unnecessary. He didn't need to see approaching armies; he simply enjoyed the view. The king also built himself a grotto, which was made into a private theater here he could watch Wagnerian operas. The grotto includes a fake waterfall, stage lights that change colors, and a wave machine. He often had someone row him around in a gondola during performances. Needless to say, Ludwig's eccentric interests and expensive taste landed him the nickname "Mad" King Ludwig. After sending the country into financial decline, a government commission declared Ludwig mentally unfit to serve as king of Bavaria in 1886.

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Fit For Two Disney Princesses

While Ludwig's story doesn't have a happy ending, his castles did inspire a man who is known for crafting happy endings: Walt Disney. Sleeping Beauty's Castle was inspired by Ludwig's Neuschwanstein, as was Cinderella's Castle. As Today I Found Out states, the Bavarian castle's "dainty turrets and romantic views," as well as its "cylindrical towers" and Romanesque style made it the perfect architectural model for both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

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