Monday, January 21, 2013
Monarch Profile: King Otto of Bavaria
Soon after the war Prince Otto began displaying even more behavior that was considered strange (though not to me). He became very reclusive and suspicious about other people, especially strangers and did not like the public staring at him. He stopped shaving and seemed to have trouble remembering things (again, none of which seems odd to me) and concerns eventually reached all the way to Berlin. It probably did not help that his older brother was also coming to be considered as suffering from depression and other vague psychiatric disorders (they usually are). In 1872 he was officially diagnosed as being mentally ill, specialists were called in and the following year a noted expert in the field confirmed the diagnosis. Given that, I have to say here again that an “expert” in the field of psychiatry is a little misleading given how little, even today, medical science actually understands about the workings of the human mind. The royal handlers tried to keep Prince Otto out of public view but there were still incidents that caused shock, such as when he rushed into a church in his hunting clothes and asked the bishop to forgive his sins. Okay, maybe the timing could have been better but, isn’t that what a bishop is supposed to do for a penitent sinner? Still doesn’t seem that crazy to me.
So, Prince Luitpold went on being essentially the King of Bavaria in all but name while King Otto remained in his country estate, dressing in black, chain-smoking, ignoring people and other such “crazy” things. Of course, I am the last person who would ever try to make light of the mentally ill but it is simply that so many of the things cited as evidence of his unbalanced mental state are so ridiculous and I am well aware that a great many things psychiatric experts point to as “insane” behavior are often things plenty of people do who are never considered insane. Once a person has been painted with the brush of madness, nearly every little even slightly odd thing they may do seems “crazy” to outside observers while if someone else were to do the exact same thing that person would simply be shrugged off as a little eccentric. For example, King Otto insisted that all doors at his palace be kept open at all times and would fly into a rage if he found one closed. I know people who may not start shouting and banging on every closed door they find but who obsessively insist on keeping all their doors open. These people have never been diagnosed with any mental illness while yours truly (who medical science says there is a great deal wrong with) am a bit compulsive about keeping all doors shut. What does it prove?
King Otto died, to the surprise of everyone, from a bowel obstruction on October 11, 1916. As Germany was then in the middle of a world war, it was not quite the momentous event the death of a king usually is. He was buried in St Michael’s Church in Munich, a monarch who spent his entire reign as King in name only and who few people knew or had ever even seen. His is a rather sad case and though there are suspicions regarding the removal of his brother, the case of King Otto can be seen as an example to refute those willfully ignorant republicans who seem to think that a monarchy means total power is handed to the next person in line even if they are a raving lunatic. King Otto was certainly not that but he was, according to the experts of his time, not of sound mind and judgment. Therefore, with no fuss or uproar, had his legal powers taken up by a regent until he was finally replaced to live out the rest of his life under the care of his doctors and attendants.