History of the Princely House

An Overview

Emblem of Prince
Karl I. 1615

The Princely House of Liechtenstein is one of the oldest noble families. A bearer of this name is first mentioned in 1136 as Hugo of Liechtenstein.

He called himself after the Liechtenstein Castle, situated in the south of Vienna. The early Liechtenstein Family had properties in the vicinity of the family castle and at the north-eastern border with Lower Austria. The uninterrupted family line of the Liechtenstein Family began with Heinrich (I) (died 1265/66) of Liechtenstein, who obtained the lordship over Nikolsburg in South Moravia as free property. The acquisition was of great political importance, because resulting from this, the family acquired a substantial possession within the territory of the Wenzel Crown.

The importance of this acquisition was demonstrated in 1394, when Johann I of Liechtenstein, Chamberlain of the Royal Household of the Habsburg Duke Albrecht III, after nearly 30 years of government leadership on the Duke's behalf, virtually lost, together with his family, all the family's possessions, especially those in the south of the Danube, probably as the result of the Habsburg's power political aspirations. During the following decades, the family strove, by means of new acquisitions, to consolidate the possessions in Lower Austria. In South Moravia in particular the domain was further extended.

In the thirteenth century ... 

In the thirteenth century the family divided into three lines, the Liechtenstein, the Rohrauer and the Petroneller. The two last named lines became extinct already in the next generation and in consequence a great deal of the family property was lost. A similar course of events took place at the beginning of the 16th century when, with the Family Covenant of 1504, three lines were formed, a Stezregger, a Feldsberger and a Nikolsburger line. Only the Feldsberger line survived longer than a few generations, but this time, well considered family laws ensured that the property of the lines becoming extinct devolved upon the survivors.

At the turn of the 16th to the 17th century there were the three brothers Karl, Maximilian, and Gundaker, who initiated a new period in the history of the family. They converted to the Catholic belief. Karl acquired the Great Count Palatinate in 1606 and in 1608 the rank of Hereditary Prince.

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The geometrician and cartographer Johann Jacob Heber (1667-1725) was the first who mapped Liechtenstein in 1721.

His brothers were named in the rank of Hereditary Imperial Prince in 1623. The three brothers, Karl, Maximilian and Gundaker succeeded to enlarge the properties of Liechtenstein many times over. They signed another Family Covenant in 1606, which dictated, among others, that the first born of the oldest descendent line should have the right to the heritable title and should represent the House as a regent.

The provisions of this treaty as well as other provisions were summarised in 1993 in the new house law, which represents the basis for the right to throne succession valid in Liechtenstein. In the critical hours of the history of the Habsburgs, in the second decade of the 17th century, the House of Liechtenstein stood by the Habsburgs and the decisive victory against the Bohemian rebels in 1620 was achieved with the intervention of the brothers Karl and Maximilian.

Contract of sale of
18. January 1699

Banner of the house
of Liechtenstein (1606)

From the time of the attainment of the title of Imperial Prince, the House of Liechtenstein strove to acquire territory having imperial immediacy; however, it was nearly one hundred years before Karl's grandson, Prince Johann Adam I. (1657-1712) purchased in 1699 and 1712 the territories Schellenberg and Vaduz. With a diploma dated on the 23rd of January 1719, these were raised to the rank of Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein. After the male line of Prince Karl l became extinct in 1712, Anton Florian , a descendant of Gundaker, became the Ruling Prince.

Whereas in the 18th century the country tended to be rather of peripheral interest - at that time the family was still residing in Feldsberg (today the Czech Republic) and Vienna-, it occupied an increasingly central position following its attainment of sovereignty in 1806 and in the 20th century it became the residence of the Ruling Princes. Prince Franz Josef II (1906-1989) moved his permanent residence to Vaduz in 1938. All the members of the family living at the present time descend from Prince Johannes I (1760-1836).


Result of the popular vote on the power of veto of the Reigning Prince
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