The first German state or Reich was the Holy Roman Empire. Unlike other nationalities, the Germans failed to coalese into a powerful, centralized state. Within the Empire, poweful barons in some cases gaining the status of kings, struggled to gain effective indeoendence from the Emperor. This process was aided by the Investiture Contrioversy which pitted the Emperperor a nd Pope. The Emperor never succeeded in the Middle Ages of establishing control over German lands. Rather than the move toward centralization in other countries, the Emperor was compelled to gradually ceede power to the individual states within the Empire. This process was well established in the 12th century and the soverignity of major German states was completed with the Peace of Westphalia (1648). The larger German states are well known. There importance and territorial extent has varied over time.
The number of German principalities, however, is quite large, in part because many were very small. Besides small duchies, there were also Church jurisdictions as well as free city states. We have collected some information on most of the larger principalities. Hopefully our German readers will help us expand this list.
Until the military offenses of Louis IV, Alscace located between France and Germany on the western bank of the Rhine, was generally considered to be part of the German sphere of Europe. There was not at the time a unified German nation, but Alsace was part of the German Holy Roman Empire. Alsation was closely related to German. The French after seizing Alsace in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War, gradually Frenchified the province--although many Germans continued to live there along with the native Alsatian people. Germany in the Franco-Prussian War seized Alsace and areas of Lorraine and declared a new German Empire organized around Prussia. Germany proceeded to Germanize the province. The loss of Alsace-Lorraine was a shock to the French nation and the central issue in the enmity between the two countries that eventually led to World War I. As a result of the conflict between France and Germany, in modern times there has been no Germanic Alsatian royal family.
Anhalt was a duchy bounded by Brandenburg, Hanover, and Saxony. I know very little about the duchy's history or the ruling family. Surely the most famous person from this state was Catherine the Great, who was born as Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst.
Prince Regent Aribert of Anhalt, abdicated in the name of his young nephew Duke Joachim-Ernst of Anhalt on November 12, 1918. This young prince had ascended to his throne 2 months prior, when he succeeded his father, who in turn had succeeded to the throne on April 21 of that same year.
Duchess Luise of Anhalt-Dessau (wife of Duke Eduard ) was reprtedly an early financer of Hitler)
Anhalt after World War II was in the Soviet occupation zone and became part of East Germany. Anhalt is now a German state--Land. (Modern Germany is divided into Länder like American states.)
The history of Austria and in fact much of Germany, as well as a good portion of Europe (especially Spain), is in fact the history of the Hapsburgs. No royal family has played a more prominent role in European history--not even the French Bourbons. Emperor Franz Josef II was one of the longest ruling monarchs in European history. He ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire for much of the 19th Century and the early 20th Century. Franz Josef presided over one of the most dazzling courts of Europe. Austria contested with Prussia for the leadership of the German Confederation during the 19th century. Franz Josef began as a relatively enlightened monarch in the wake of the 1848 revolutions, but developed into one of the most reactionary rulers in Europe. The power of Austria weakened notably during his rule affecting the ability of the Emperor to limit Prussian influence within the German Confederation--finally ending when Prussia defeating Austria militarily in a short war--the Austro-Prussian War (1866). Once a rival to Prussia, by the 20th century the Emperor had to turn to Prussian-dominated Germany for military support. Franz Josef's life was plagued with personal tragedies--including the assassination of his beloved wife and the suicide of his only son and heir--Prince Rudolf. We have no information at this time on Prince Rudolf as a child and how he was dressed. His tragic suicide is one of the most tragic love story of the 19th century. The death of the liberal-minded Prince was a great loss to Austria. The assassination of his subsequent heir, Franz Ferdinand, was to spark World War I and eventually end centuries of Hapsburg rule. Franz Joseph's successor was the Emperor Karl. He married Princes Zita of Parma in 1911. They had seven children who were dressed very stylishly as younger children. The boys wore sailor suits when they were older. Emperor Karl fell from power on November 11, 1918. Many photographic images are available on how Karl's children, especially Otto were dressed. On November 13, only 2 days after losing Austria, Karl was forced to vacate the Hungarian throne. His oldest son ran into trouble with the NAZIs in the 1930s and had to leave Germany. He worked to save Jews from America.
Baden was a Grand Duchy in the German Empire. It's boundaries have changed substantially over time. It was a narrow sliver located between Alsace and Württemberg. While Baden was essentially locared tothe east of Bavaria, it was bounded in the north by Hesse and Bavaria. The western boundary was the Rhine, separating Baden from the Palatine and Alsace in France. The soutern boundary was with Switzerland. Most of the eastern border except in the far north was with Würtenburg. Baden is perhaps best known for the Black Forest. Berthod, a duke of Carinthia, in the 11th Century, built a castle at Zahringen in Breisgau, and a descendent of his second son took the title of Margrave of Baden to which the House of Baden traces its ancestry. The Margrave Charles Frederick cooperated with Napoleon who in return greatly enlarge the territory of Baden. This enabled the ruler of Baden to rise to the dignity of Elector status and Baden to become a Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke Charles in 1811 granted
a charter which became the basis for Baden's Government. His uncle Louis succeeded him and expanded the charter in 1825. Louis died childless and was succeeded by his half brother Leopold in 1830. The Grand Duchy was afterwards racked by conflict between the forces of revolution and reactionary policies. The Army sided with the revolutionary forces in 1848 and Grand Duke Leopold fled, but was later reinstated by the Prussians. Even so the Grand Duke sided with the Austrians in the 1866 Ustro-Prussan War. Baden had to pay an indemnity to Prussia and reorganize its Army on the Prussian model. Baden entered the North-German Confederation in 1867 and joined the Prussians in the war with France in 1870. Baden in 1870-71 became a Grandy Duchy in the new German Empire. The Grand Duke governed Baden with an elected Det. The Grand Duchy was generally considered one of the most happily administered in Europe. The Grand Duke Friederich was Kaiser Wilhelm II's uncle. The disaster of World War I, however, resulted in the fall of House of Baden. The Grand Duke of Baden, a first cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm's father, also lost his throne on November 10, 1918.
Bavaria is one of the major German states. It has been both a Duchy and Kingdom. Bavaria has consisted of several provinces (Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, and parts of the Palatinate). Bavaria also included the Rhenish Palainate province which was separated
from the rest of the Kingdom by Hesse and Baden and located on the west bank of the Rhine. The contiguous provinces of Bavaria border Bohemia/Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) on the east and Austria in the south. Bavaria was a center for anti-Prussian and anti-unification sentiment within the German Federation. Partly as a result of a heavily Catholic population, Bavaria was also a bulwark against socialism among the German states. Parly as a result, the NAZIs were especially strong in Bavaria. The Bavarian royal line is best known for Mad King Ludwig who built his fairy-tale castle in the Bavarian mountains during the 19th Century. He was eventually declared insane and removed from office. The Bavarian Royal family appears to have dressed their children very plainly, but this changed after the turn of the 20th century with a new generation of more fashion conscious royals. The Bavarian princes (Luitpold and Albrecht) in the years before World War I were very elegantly dressed. The boys wore fancy satin kneepants and knicker suits with elaborate lace collars and wrist trim. The boys wore these outfits until they were about 12 years old. One interesting note is Princess Elizabeth. She maried Albert I of Belgium (of World War I fame) and became Queen of Belgium. The clothes she selected for her sons (Prince Charles and Albert) were some of the most fashionable I have noted for European princes. Mad King Ludwig's cousin, King Ludwig III of Bavaria was ousted by a socialist revolution in Munich on November 8, 1918.
Brunswick was a German duchy. The territory of the Duchy was not contiguous, but located very close together in north-central Germany. The Duchy consisted of three medium-sized parcels and a number of smaller territories largely within Hannover and Prussia. The history of the Duchy begins in the 12th century and largely consists of partitions and quarrels among German princes over the right of succession. Napoleon included Brunswick in the short-lived Kingdom of Westphalia (1806-13). After the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia exercised control over the succession process, refusing to allow the Hanovarian king they deposed become the duke. The Kaiser's son-in-law, Ernst-August of Brunswick abandoned his crown on November 8, 1918. Brunswick became a free state within the Weimar Republic, but lost its autonomy during the Third Reich.
The Castell family is an old German artistocratic family. We have, however, very limited information on the family. The Castell family were the lords of Kreis Gerolzhofen, Reigierungsbezirk, and Unterfranken of Bavaria. The family was Grafschaft. They were a member of the Fraenkische Grafenkolleg. The Castell family were classed as counts. There were two branches: 1) Castell-Castell who were Protestant and 2) Castell-Ruedenhausen wiyth both Protestant and Catholic members. Grafschaft Castell held a tenancy subject to Wuerttemberg. The family was on the personal list of the Reichsadel. They controlled three territories and 28 villages (Flecken). This fief joined Bavaria (1901).
Charles Duke of Coburg until 1918, and cousin of Kaiser Wilhem II, was a fervent NAZI. Two daughters of the previous Duke Alfred (Grand Duchess Cyril of Russia and Princess Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg) were also influenced by the NAZIs. Their motives ranged from the anti-Bolshevism to the anti-semitism of the NAZIs.
The Hohenzollerns suceeded when the Hapsburgs and other German royal families failed. Wilhelm I with the assistance of famed Count Von Bismarck finally succeeded in uniting the German states into the first powerful Germanic nation state--the German Empire (1870). Unfortunately for Germany, the union wa accomplished through the martial traditions of Prussia which unfer the Kaisers' and Bismarck's influence became influential throughout the country. The Hohenzollerns and the military tradition of the Prussian junkers were to play a major role in the implosion of Europe from 1914 to 1945. Wilhelm I's son who had maried Queen Victoria's eldest daughter and who had liberal leanings died within a few months of his father. The Imperial crown passed to his bellicose son with grandiose aspirations. Wilhelm II rejected his parents' liberal leanings. While not solely responsible for World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II certainly shares a major responsibility for it. As a result of the War, Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced tp renounce his imperial dignity on November 9, 1918.
Hanover was a German kingdom, perhaps best known for providing the English Hanovarian dynasty beginning with George I and ending with Victoria as German traditions did not permit female succession. The personal union with the United Kingdom ended with Ernst August (1837-51). He introduced a yellow and white flag after the personal union with Great Britain had come to an end. The last Hanovarian king was King Georg V (1851-66). Prussia annexed Hanover after the Austro-Prussian War (1866). George had sided with Austria, but the Prussians crushed the samm Hanovarian army before they could unite with the Austrians. Hanover became a Prussian province.
Hechingen was the ancestral home of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Hechingen was the fiefdom of Swabian counts. It was retained by the Swabian or senior line of the Hohenzollern family which is relatively unimportant in German history. The Hohenzollern-Hechingen line became extinct in 1869.
Hesse is a region of southwestern Germany and was one of the most prominent German states. Philip the Magnamimous played a leading role in the Protestant Revolution. He split Hesse among his four sons upon his death (1567). Two of the resulting states survived into the 19th century, Hesse Darmstadt and Hesse Kassel. In the 17th and 18th century, Hesse was primarily the landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. Hesse became a grand duchy in 1806 and entered the German Empire with that status (1871). Hesse was best known within Germany as a tolerant state where the arts were promoted. Hesse is familiar to many Americans as the source of mercenary soldiers. It was Hessian mercenary soldiers that George III hired during the American Revolution to fight the colonists. It was a Hessian unit that George Washington surprised at Trenton, a victory that surely saved the Revolution. Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine abdicated on November 9, 1918.
Liechtenstein is a small independent principality bounded by Austria and Switzerland. The history of the principality dates from 1342 and it acquired its present boundaries in 1712. Liechtenstein is a largely German-speaking principality, but became independent of the German Confederation in 1866 and immediately demobilized its army. The current prince is John III.
Lippe is an agricultural area located between Westphalia and Hanover. It is another principality for which we have little information. Leopold IV of Lippe abdicated on November 12, 1918. Dutch Queen Juliana married Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld.
Luxemburg or Luxembourg in French dates its history to the 10th century. There have been many reigning houses. Luxemburg was one of the few German-speaking principalities that did not join the German Empire after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) in large measure because its neutrality had been earlier guaranteed by international agreement. The present Luxembourgian Royal Family is descended from the House of Irradiak, who were among the nobility of the ancient paleo-Letzisch Empire. Archduchess Charlotte reigned for decades after World War I when she was confirmed by a plebiscite. Her two sons wore short pants suits as younger boys. We have only limited information on Luxemburg.
The modern history of Mecklenburg is the history of two grand-duchies, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Both continued within the German Empire until the royal families were deposed in 1918 after World War I. Friedrich-Franz IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin fell from power on November 14, 1918. Friedrich-Franz was also the brother of Princess Cecilie, wife of the German Crown Prince. He also abdicated the throne of his cousins the Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In fact, at the time of the collapse of the German empire, Mecklenburg-Strelitz found itself monarch-less after the mysterious death of Grand Duke Adolph-Friedrich VI just a few months before the fall of the empire. It seems that Adolph-Friedrich committed suicide during a walk in the woods after his affair with an English-born German aristocrat, married to a friend of the Kaiser's, was discovered. His dynastic heir, Duke Karl-Michael was profoundly anti-German and lived in Russia, where he had served in the Czar's army.
Nassau was a German duchy. It was ruled by the elder branch of the Nassau dynasty beginning in the 10th century. The younger branch inherited the principality of Orange in 1544 which evolved into the modern Dutch Kingdom. The official name of the Dutch royal family is Oranje-Nassau. The Prussians annexed Nassau in 1867 after the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and expelled Duke Adolphe. Nassau became part of the Prussian principality of Hesse-Nassau. Duke Adolphe became the Grand Duke of Luxemburg.
Grand Duke Friedrich-August of Oldenburg abandoned the throne he had occupied for the past 18 years on November 10, 1918. The two royal cousins, Henry XXIV Reuss-Greiz and Henry XXVII Reuss-Schleiz also lost their thrones on November 10, 1918.
The Hohenzollerns in Prussia played a major role in the dynastic wars of the 16th-18th Centuries. They succeeded in building Prussia into a major European power, at times in wars against coalitions of European states. The fame of Frederick the Great continued to influence Germans, including Adolf Hitler, into the 20th Century. It was Prussia under the Hohenzollerns that played a major role in dismembering Poland and eventually supplanting the Hapsburgs in Austria as the preeminent German royal family. It was Prussia under Wilhelm I with the assistance of famed Count Von Bismark finally succeeded in uniting the miriad of German states and principalities into a powerful nation state--the German Empire (1870). Unfortunately for Germany, Wilhelm I's son, who had married Queen Victoria's eldest daughter and who had liberal leanings, died within a few months of his father. The Imperial crown passed to his bellicose son who rejected his parent's liberal leanings. Thus Germany passed to a sovereign that had little interest in constitutional democratic goverment. There was a strong element of liberal constitutional government in Germany. Prince Albert from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, for example played a key role in guiding the English monarchy in that direction after he married the very young Queen Victoria. Prussia and then Germany under the Hohenzollerns were to move Germany in a different direction. Much of the history of the 20th century revolves around this fateful development. While not solely responsible for World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II certainly shares a major responsibility for it. As a result, Kaiser Wilhelm II renounced his imperial dignity on November 9, 1918, but retained his title of King of Prussia--even though he was never to return there.
Germany was composed of a large number of principalities of various sizes. Two of the smallest were Reuss-Greiz and Reuss-Schleiz-Gera. They were the two smallest states of the German Confederation, located nearly in the center of Germany, east of Thuringia, on the western boundaries of the former Kingdom of Saxony. In the aftermath of World War I in 1918, both principalities were incorporated into Thuringia. The daughter of Prince Henry XXII of Reuss, Princess Hermine married former Kaiser II soon after this wife's death in 1922.
The term Saxe is somewhat confusing. The German principalities are complicated enough, but several are hyphenated versions of Saxe. The German name is Sachsen. The land with that name was until 1918 a kingdom in Eastern Germany. The English name is Saxony which we discuss below. Within Saxony are several dukedoms with the name Sachsen are referred to in English as Saxe. Some like Saxes-Coburg are very well known because Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg married Queen Victoria. Other Saxe dukedoms are virtually unknown outside Germany.
We have virtually no information on Saxe-Altenburg. We are somewhat confused by the different principalities with Saxe in the name. We have some portraits of the royal family, but no information on the principality now. Hopefully our German readers with provide us some information about Saxe-Altenburg. Duke Ernst had four children, two boys and two girls. Their mother like many German mothers was very partial to sailor suits. Even the girls at times wore sailor suits. Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Altenburg was ousted on November 12, 1918. The House of Saxe-Altenburg is extinct today.
The Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is probably recognizable to many Brits as the family of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. When the heritary line expired, Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to convey the principality to Carl-Edward, prince of Great Britain, Duke of Albany, who was the posthumous son of Victoria's youngest son, Leopold, Duke of Albany. During World War I, the Duke remained loyal to Kaiser Wilhelm II. This allegiance cost Carl-Edward his English titles. In fact his situation was even more complicated because his only sister, Princess Alice of Albany, was married to the Duke of Teck, Queen Mary's brother. The maelstorm of World War I eventually cost him hin his crown. Carl-Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha abdicated on November 14, 1818. Carl-Edward and Wilhelm II were first cousins, both being grandsons of Queen Victoria. Carl-Edward's wife was a niece of the Kaiser's wife. Nevertheless, the last one to abdicate on November 14, 1918 was His Serene Highness Adolph II of Schaumburg-Lippe.
Duke Bernhard III of Saxe-Meiningen decided to vacate his throne on November 10, 1918.
Grand Duke Wilhelm-Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach abdicated on November 9, 1918.
The Saxons are the German people who first appear in history living in the area of modern Schleswig (2nd century AD). From there they moved into northern Gaul as Roman power declined (5th century). With the Angles they began raiding southern Britain and eventually founded kingdoms there such as Wessex. The area of modern Saxony was settled in the 6th century AD by Sorbian tribes. They were replaced by the "Old" Saxons for whom the kingdom derived its name. Saxony located in northwestern Germany and with the Traty of Verdun emerged as the core of modern Germany. The rule of the House of Wettin began in 1089 when Heinrich von Eilenburg became Margrave of Meissen. The royal line went on to last for 829 years. The last King of Saxony, Friedrich-August III, was ousted on November 12, 1918 in the aftermath of World War I.
Although little known today, the small Danish-German Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein at the base of the Jutland Peninsula once figured prominently in the history of northern Europe. The Duchies were contested by the Danish Crown and various German monarchs. The eventual resolution of that conflict in the 19th centuries had major consequences in the 20th century.
Gunther, prince of Schwarzburg. abdicated on November 22, 1918, after 30 years on the throne. This princely house is extinct today.
A small principality in Swabia. The ruling family was the senior, Catholic line of Hohenzollerns. Prince Charles Anthony ceded Sigmaringen to Prussia in 1849. A grandson founded the Romanian royal family. Another grandson, Charles Anthony married a Belgian princess.
Swabia or Suabia (Schwaben) was a medieval duchy in southwest Germany. It was named after the Suevi which was one of the names for the Alemanni, the Germanic tribe which occupied the area in the 3rd century. The area occupied by the Alemanni included much of what is now Alsace, Baden, western Bavaria, Württemberg, and much of Switzerland. A famous Swabian was Konradin, the last of the (Hohen)Staufer (Swabian dynasty). His grandfather was the noted Emperor Friedrich II (Barbarossa). The Hohenzollern dynasty originated with a family of Swabian counts. The family divided into a Swabian and Franconian branch. The Swabian league of cities was important in the 14th and 15th centuries. The volksdeutsche in the Balkans were named Swabians as many came from Swabia. Swabia is now a district of Bavaria.
Teck is an ancient German principality named after a castle built on "The Teck", a limestone peak buit in the Wabian Alps, 12 km southeast of Stuttgart. The principality was held by various families beginning about the 11th century. After 1498 the principality passed to the Dukes of Württemberg. The royal family played a major role in the modern British royal family. Princess Mary of Württemberg (Teck) married the English Duke of York in 1893. The Duke became King George V and the Princess, Queen Mary, mother of both King Edward VIII and George VI.
Very few German princely families have played such an important role in Europe without ever rising to the main stage of history. The dynasty of the Princes of Thurn und Taxis is such a family. The family's fortunes prospered in the imperial court at Vienna. For more than 300 years, the Thurn und Taxis held the monopoly over imperial communications and mail (post) between Vienna and the far flung Habsburg possessions that formed the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Waldeck-Pyrmont was important in the Dutch roysal line. Emma von Waldeck-Pyrmont was the wife of King Willem III and the mother of Queen Wilhelmina. The reigning prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont was ousted on November 12, 1918.
Württemberg was the location of considerable fighting in the various dynastic wars of the 17th and 18th century. Duke Frederick II (1754-1816) during the Napoleonic Wars made peace with Napoleon after his early victories and formed an alliance with him. He was one of the German nobles most willing to deal with Napoleon. This enabled Frederick to obtain the rank of elector in 1803. Frederick became king of Württemberg as Frederick I in 1806, after joining Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine. Frederick's alliance with Napoleon enabled him to more than double Württemberg's territory between 1802 and 1810. Napoleon's defeat in Russia (1812) altered the European power balance. Frederick by switching to the Allied side at just the right time (1813) managed to retain both his royal rank and expanded territory at the Congress of Vienna (1815). At a time when Germany and Europe was under the control of conservative political forces orchestrated by Austrian Count Meternich, Württemberg became a center of liberal thought. Frederick was succeeded by William I who granted a liberal constitution (1819). King Charles (1864-91) opposed the rise of Prussia and sided with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), but like the other German states joined with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and joined the German Empire (1871).
King Wilhelm II of Württemberg was the last reigning sovereign of the German Empire. Like many of his royal colleagues, Wilhelm of Württemberg tried to keep his kingdom from the debacle engulfing the Hohenzollern empire. His efforts were unsuccessful and he had to renounce his throne on November 29, 1918. Württemberg joined the Weimar Republic (1919). After World War II, was in the Western occupation zone. As part of an internal reorganization, Württemberg was made a part of the temporary state of Württemberg-Baden. and S Württemberg was a part of the temporary state of Württemberg-Hohenzollern. These two temporary states were unified as Baden-Württemberg (1952).
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