Thursday, July 30, 2015

CastleTalk #3: The House of Guelph, Its Branches and Their Last Name

Schloss Marienburg
One of the first German royal and noble families I got interested in was the House of Guelph. (I blame it on the fact that I grew up close to both Hanover and Brunswick and their main residence, Schloss Marienburg, actually being the castle of my childhood meaning that the first picture that comes into my mind when I think of castles is exactly die Marienburg as it is simply called where I am from.) However, something I never really understood their (alleged) last name: Prinz von Hannover Herzog zu Braunschweig-Lüneburg Königlicher Prinz von Großbritannien und Irland. (Yes, that's a loooong last name last name!)

But let's start in the beginning (kind of) with some historical background: The Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Braunschweig-Lüneburg) was created in the 13th century. It took its name from the two biggest towns of the territory at the time, Brunswick and Lüneburg. While the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg continued to exist and all branches of the family continued to use the title Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, there were several divisions (and mergings) of the estates. These estates were known as Principalities. The first division divided the Duchy (which, again, continued to exist) into the Principality of Brunswick and the Principality of Lüneburg.

Depending on how many sons there were, the Duchy was divided into more Principalities and if there weren't any sons, or a son didn't have an heir, they were merged again. It was the way it was common back then in what today is Germany. At times, there were up to five Principalities within the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg. All of them continued to exist until 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist.

Already in 1692, the Principality of Calenberg-Göttingen was raised to the rank of an electorate as a thank you from Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I for their support in the Nine Years War. The Principality became hencefort officially known as the "Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg", though it was already colloquially called "Electorate of Hanover" as Hanover was its capital. As a consequence of becoming an electorate, the "Electorate of Hanover" had to already abandon the further divison of the territory among the sons, something that had previously been practised for centuries. The first Elector was Ernst-August. His wife though would become much more famous: Electress Sophia (née Sophie of the Palatinate), heiress to the British crown. Their son Georg Ludwig would become the first Hanoverian ruler on the British throne.

The Congress of Vienna had a major impact on European history. One of the changes was the elimination of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, which ceased to exist. Instead, the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, called Hanover, became the Kingdom of Hanover. And secondly, the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (plus the Principality of Blankenburg) became the Duchy of Brunswick. Both the Kingdom of Hanover and the Duchy of Brunswick continued to be ruled by Guelph rulers. Between 1807 and 1813, both were part of the Kingdom of Westphalia ruled by Jerôme Bonaparte. The Kingdom of Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866 after the Austro-German War, during which the Hanoverian rulers had sided with the Habsburgs. The Hanoverian Guelphs then went into exile to Austria.

In 1884, the Duke Wilhelm of Brunswick died and with him the last heir of the Brunswick(-Wolfenbüttel) line of the House of Guelph. Naturally, the Duchy would have fallen to the only other surviving branch of the family, the Hanoverian (formerly Calenberg-Göttingen) line. However, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck wasn't in favour of the exiled last Hanoverian Crown Prince becoming Duke of Brunswick and thus they were prevented and the Duchy instead governed by Prussian and Mecklenburgian princes. This changed in 1913, when the last Crown Prince's son, Ernst August, married Viktoria Luise of Prussia, only daughter of the Kaiser. The Crown Prince (a.k.a. The Duke of Cumberland) signed away his rights to the Duchy and thus his son and daughter-in-law became the new Duke and Duchess of Brunswick (until the monarchy was abolished 5 years later). 

After the monarchy was abolished, it was decided that German royals and nobles would lose their titles, which would become last names instead. And so the Guelph family got the very long last name from the beginning of this CastleTalk translating to "Prince of Hanover Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg Royal Prince of Great Britain and Ireland" (for males. There's also the female variation with princess and duchess.) Now I wonder, why is it Herzog zu Braunschweig-Lüneburg? Did they continue to use this title after the end of the Duchy in 1806? Shouldn't it be Herzog zu Braunschweig only as in the title held between 1913 and 1918? Or was the registrar simply confused after 1918 and gave them all names they wished to?

Can you enlighten me?

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