Refers again to the countess Marie Louise Elizabeth Mendel, whose cousin was Ludwig II of Bavaria—Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm—also known as “The Swan King” or “The Fairytale King.” Ludwig was staunchly opposed to the Germanic Unification Movement and aided in stalling unification temporarily. Ludwig II is also connected with line 7 of “The Burial of the Dead”:
…coming over the Starnbergersee
One of the numerous Fairytale Castles he commissioned and oversaw the construction of overlooked Lake Starnberg (in German: Starnbergersee). It was at this castle that Ludwig was imprisoned after being deposed by his (pro-Germanic Unification) Cabinet and where, that same evening, he was assassinated. His body and that of his personal physician were found in the lake the next morning: both were dead in the shin-depth water. Again Ludwig II shows up in “The Burial of the Dead” lines 28-31:
As well as in line 38: “Oed' und leer das Meer.”
Both of these allusions come from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde—a masterpiece that without Ludwig II. Wagner would have never written. Wagner met with the Archduke, having been granted an audience because Ludwig much admired his work, Wagner was at this time utterly destitute, had been renounced by all of his patrons, and could find no one generous enough provide him with so much as a meal or shelter. Ludwig’s heart was touched and because of his love for the man’s art, he insisted Wagner reside at the castle and partake of his hospitalities until “Tristan” was finished. Wagner also partook of the remote beauty created by the Fairytale Castle, mountains, forests, and lakes in the surrounding area as they appear—some by name others by allusion—in Wagner’s finished opera.
Ludwig II was the cousin of Countess Larisch, though a distant one, because of her being the niece of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was wife to the Emperor Franz Joseph and was of the same house (Wittelsbach) as Ludwig II.
Marie had other cousins who were Archdukes: Rudolf and Franz Ferdinand. Marie Larisch was supposedly a go-between for Rudolf and his mistress (also named Marie), whose tragic love affair ended in the two of them having been found dead in what is deemed a suicide pact. It is therefore ambiguous who is meant by the archduke cousin.
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