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Son Marroig & Archduke Salvator

High in the Tramuntana Mountains near Deia is the large house Son Marroig and it is surrounded by wonderful gardens which give you some of the best views of the north coast of the island. Today it houses the Ludwig Salvator Museum, a memorial to a remarkable man who came to Mallorca to get over the loss of one love and then discovered another.

Ludwig was born in Florence in 1847, son of Leopold III of Tuscany and Marie Antoinette de Bourbon. He was also a grandson of Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany and great-grandson of Emperor Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany. It was an impressive heritage, one which afforded Ludwig the title, Archduke Salvator von Habsburg-Lothringen.

As a distant member of the ruling House of Habsburg-Lorraine, young Ludwig lived a privileged life and married Princess Mathilde when he came of age. But they had not been married for long when disaster struck. The young princess was bored while watching a parade and sneaked off to smoke a secret cigarette. Somehow she set fire to her clothes, suffered terrible burns and died, leaving the young Archduke heartbroken.

Ludwig soon retired from the court in Vienna and visited Mallorca under the under a pseudonym, using his title the Count of Neuendorf. He immediately fell in love with the clean air, the blue sea and the dazzling blue skies. He had discovered a different kind of love, a love of nature. Walking the Tramuntana Mountains, wearing Mallorcan peasant clothes, he explored and learnt about the environment, taking notes and making sketches.

Over time he used his two steam-yachts, Nixe 1 and Nixe 2 to explore the Mediterranean. Today some would probably consider him to be an aristocratic hippy or drop-out. Others would call him an ecologist ahead of his time. As Ludwig's knowledge increased so did the number of books he wrote; around 80 all together. His seminal work was the multi volume series "The Balearics" (1884), a study of Mallorca's culture and wildlife which took over 20 years to write and is considered an authority on its subject. He was interested in the environment during an era when European countries were fixated on industry and preparing for war; it was an era when conservation was unheard of.

In 1872 Ludwig purchased his first property, Miramar and it included Miramar Monastery, which had been founded in 1276 by Ramon Llull. Mallorca's first printing press was installed in the building in 1485 and it printed the first books on the island. Over the years that followed he bought more, including his best known acquisition, the neighbouring Son Marroig. He also acquired estates and ancient olive plantations along the north coast of the island to save them from development.

Although Ludwig did not marry again he had numerous relationships, many of them with Mallorcan women, and although is not known how many children he had, it is said that he cared for them all. His notable long term relationship was with his housekeeper, Catalina Homar. She convinced Ludwig to let her visit the Holy Land and sailed across the Mediterranean in Nixe 2. Unfortunately, Catalina contracted leprosy in Jerusalem and either died from the illness or took her own life in 1905.

Ludwig's idyllic life came to an end in August 1914 when World War I began. His family ordered him home and was never to see his beloved Mallorca again. He died in March 1915 at the family castle of Brandy's nad Labem, Bohemia. He was buried in Vienna.

Much of the Archduke's estate now belongs to the actor Michael Douglas, most notably the Moorish style palace 'S'Estaca' that Ludwig converted from a ruined old manor house. However, the Archduke's main residence was at Son Marroig and since 1927 it has been preserved by the family of Ludwig's secretary, Antoni Vives. They have maintained the house in the same style and several rooms are filled with his photographs, paintings, books and other items devoted to his life. There are also many Phoenician, Greek and Roman objects as well as antique Mallorcan and fabrics.

Son Marroig , is about two miles west of Deia, and it is well a visit just to take in the views along the coast. In the gardens is a white marble Greek temple style rotunda, made from Carrara marble imported from Italy. You can sit by it and gaze down on one of the favourite views along the Mallorcan north coast; the tiny Sa Foradada peninsula and its 'pierced rock', a large diameter hole in the rocks. You can also dine in the restaurant which overlooks the peninsula (the house and restaurant are only open weekends in the winter).

There is also a display of paintings, photographs, books and other items relating to Archduke Ludwig Salvator's life in the Valldemossa's Royal Carthusian Monastery.

Find out more at www.ludwig-salvator.com or www.sonmarroig.com



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