Monday, April 9, 2007

The break-up

Ludwig's lavish wedding coach was never used.

The date for the Ludwig and Sophie's wedding was first set for August, 1867, but as summer approached it was changed to October 12th - with the excuse that this was the date both Ludwig I and Max II had married. It was clear, however, that the relationship was falling apart; the couple looked unhappy, and Ludwig often left the entertainments they attended early, and alone. The king even confided to the Court Secretary that he would rather drown himself than marry.

At the time, Wagner was his closest confidante - in fact, the court, feeling the composer's influence over the king was unhealthy, had forced him to decamp to Switzerland. As the wedding date drew near, Ludwig wrote to his friend, "Oh, if only I could be carried on a magic carpet to you . . . at dear, peaceful Tribschen (Wagner's house in Lucerne, Switzerland, where Ludwig had installed him) - even for an hour or two. What I would give to be able to do that!" Meanwhile, humiliated and despondent, Sophie sent Ludwig a letter offering him his freedom; he responded by once more postponing the wedding - indefinitely.

Finally Sophie's father demanded Ludwig set a date at the end of November, or withdraw his proposal. Ludwig immediately did just that, writing in his diary, "Sophie is finished with. The gloomy picture vanishes. I longed for freedom, I thirsted for freedom, to wake from this horrible nightmare."

Sophie quickly moved on; within a few months she was engaged to the Duke of Alençon, whom she would marry the next year and bear two children. Meanwhile the distraught king fled to his childhood home, Hohenschwangau, and wrote to his beloved Wagner: "I write these lines sitting in my cozy gothic bow-window, by the light of my lonely lamp, while outside the blizzard rages. It is so peaceful here, this silence is stimulating, whereas in the clamour of the world I feel absolutely miserable. Thank God I am alone at last. My mother is far away, as is my former bride, who would have made me unspeakably unhappy. Before me stands a bust of the one, true Friend whom I shall love until death. . . If only I had the opportunity to die for you . . ."

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