July 31, 1886 — Franz Liszt dies

Born in Hungary on October 22, 1811, Franz Liszt spent much of his life traveling. A large portion of his adolescence was spent in Paris, and it was here, on April 20, 1832, that he saw the great Paganini playing violin. Liszt was inspired by the master’s performance, and resolved to become as great a pianist as Paganini was a violinist.

By 1835, Liszt was a touring virtuoso and composer, rapidly building a reputation across all of Europe. By 1842, his fame was such that the term Lisztomania had been coined to describe it. He was the John Lennon of his day, although more temperate about comparing himself to Jesus. Liszt donated a large portion of his fees to charity – in fact, by 1857, this portion was virtually the entirety.

After an injury in 1881, Liszt’s health began to decline, and his compositions from this point onward show an increasing preoccupation with mortality. He finally died of pneumonia, although it has been suggested that a certain degree of medical malpractice may have contributed to his demise.

After his death, Liszt’s close friend Camille Saint-Saëns dedicated his third symphony to him in memorial.

June 13, 1886 — Ludwig II of Bavaria dies

Perhaps best known for his architectural legacy, “Mad” King Ludwig was born on August 25, 1845, and became the King of Bavaria on March 10, 1864. In the twenty-plus years of his reign, he was responsible for the creation of numerous buildings, many of which have since become popular tourist attractions, and almost all of which display, to say the least, an unusual aesthetic. Notable examples include the Winter Garden of the Residenz Palace in Munich (now dismantled); Neuschwanstein Castle (completed only after his death, and the inspiration for the Disneyland castles); parts of Linderhof Castle and Herrenchiemsee Castle. Ludwig was also unusual among monarchs in that he paid for the majority of his constructions out of his own pocket, rather than the realm’s.

In 1886, Ludwig’s uncle, Luitpold, deposed him amidst allegations of insanity – Ludwig’s castles being exhibit A. The following day, the king died in mysterious circumstances – he was found floating in shallow water in Lake Starnberg, but he had not drowned. Ludwig was known to be a strong swimmer, and in any case, an autopsy found no water in his lungs, nor other visible injuries. The likelihood is that he was either poisoned, or fell victim to a stroke or heart attack.

Ludwig is remembered fondly in Bavaria to this day, especially by those who work in the tourism sector.