French inspired "Follies" ... Herrenchiemsee ... Ludwig "French" mad megalomania ... or ... very expensive escapism ...
Most historians believe that Ludwig was deeply peculiar and irresponsible, but the question of clinical insanity remains unresolved. The brain researcher Heinz Häfner disagreed that there were signs for insanity. Others believe he may have suffered from the effects of chloroform used in an effort to control chronic toothache rather than any psychological disorder. His cousin Empress Elisabeth held that "The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."
Herrenchiemsee, a replica (although only the central section was ever built) of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles, France, which was meant to outdo its predecessor in scale and opulence - for instance, at 98 meters the Hall of Mirrors is a third longer than the original. The palace is located on the Herren Island in the middle of the Chiemsee Lake. Most of the palace was never completed once the king ran out of money, and Ludwig lived there for only 10 days in October 1885, less than a year before his mysterious death. It is interesting to note that tourists come from France to view the recreation of the famous Ambassadors' Staircase. The original Ambassadors' Staircase at Versailles was demolished in 1752.
The unfinished New Palace was designed by Christian Jank, Franz Seitz, and Georg von Dollmann and built between 1878 and 1885. Between 1863 and 1886 a total of 16,579,674 Marks was spent constructing Herrenchiemsee. An 1890 '20 Mark' gold coin contained 0.2304 troy ounce (7.171 g) of gold. Therefore, 16,579,674 Marks would equate to 190,998 oz of gold, which at recent gold prices (March 2007) is worth approximately £70,500,000GBP or (August 2007) $125,400,000 USD.
Ludwig only had the opportunity to stay within the Palace for a few days in September 1885. After his death in the following year, all construction work discontinued and the building was opened for the public. In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht gave the palace to the State of Bavaria
Unlike the medieval design of Neuschwanstein Castle begun in 1869, the New Palace is, in a sense, a Neo-Baroque monument to Ludwig's admiration of King Louis XIV of France. In the great hall of mirrors of the palace the ceiling is painted with 25 tableaux showing Louis XIV at his best.
It was to have been an equivalent to the Palace of Versailles, but only the central portion was built before the king died in 1886, whereafter construction was discontinued leaving 50 of the 70 rooms of the palace incomplete. It was never meant to be a perfectly exact replica of Versailles and in several places surpasses it. With a length of 98 m (322 ft) and 23 arches the Hall of Mirrors is larger than the Versailles equivalent. The dining room features an elevator table and a huge chandelier of Meissen porcelain, the largest in the world. The building also benefits from nearly two centuries of technological progress, while the original Versailles palace did not have a single toilet and the only running water was outside in the fountains. King Ludwig's "copy" has more modern facilities including a central heating system and a large heated bathtub. Also, unlike Versailles, it was built on an island and is now only accessible by a small ferry - thereby Herrenchiemsee always remained slightly in the shadow of Neuschwanstein
The formal gardens are filled with fountains, a copy of the Versailles Bassin de Latone and statues in both the classical style typical of Versailles and in the fantastic style typical of romanticism that was favored by King Ludwig. Cool maidens which look as if they have stepped out of a museum of classical antiquity are never too far from dragons, winged warriors, giant lizards and other extravagant beings which look as if they have come from one of Richard Wagner's romantic operas.