The name Liechtenstein was first mentioned in about 1136. Hugo von Liechtenstein probably took his name from Liechtenstein Castle, south of Vienna. The uninterrupted family line began with Heinrich I von Liechtenstein (who died in 1265/66).
Heinrich I von Liechtenstein was given freehold ownership of the baronial estate of Nikolsburg in South Moravia by King Ottokar of Bohemia. This gift was of great importance to the Liechtenstein family, as it meant that – in addition to their properties in Austria – they also owned substantial real estate in the historical land of Bohemia.
In the 13th century the family divided into three lines, the Liechtenstein, Rohrauer and Petroneller branches. However, the last two died out in only the next generation and as a consequence a great deal of valuable family property was lost.
There was another division at the start of the 16th century when a family covenant in 1504 formed the Steyregger, Feldsberger and Nikolsburger lines. Only the Feldsberger line survived, but this time well-designed family laws ensured that property belonging to the lines which died out passed into the ownership of the surviving line.
From when Prince Karl I acquired the hereditary title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1608, the Princely House of Liechtenstein tried to acquire land that was governed directly by the Emperor. In 1699, Prince Johann Adam Andreas I acquired the lordship of Schellenberg and in 1712 the county of Vaduz. Vaduz Castle has belonged to the Princes of Liechtenstein since 1712. When the two territories were combined in 1719, they were elevated to the status of Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein.
In the days of Prince Johann I, Napoleon included the Principality of Liechtenstein in the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 and so laid the foundations for the country’s sovereignty. All living members of the family today are descended from Prince Johann I.
In 1921, Prince Johann II gave Liechtenstein a Constitution based on parliamentary democratic principles. In 1938, Prince Franz Josef II was the first Prince to take up residence in Liechtenstein. It was thanks to his efforts that the country was able to maintain its independence in the Second World War.
The reigning Prince Hans-Adam II is particularly committed to maintaining an independent foreign policy for Liechtenstein. Under his leadership, Liechtenstein joined the United Nations (UN) in 1990 and the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1995.