Whenever I tell friends that I am going to visit a castle, there are slightly perplexed that there are still some left. (Hundreds and thousands, in fact.) However, in the vicinity of where I live, there actually aren't too many. By visiting Schloss Herzberg in what was probably the last castle adventure of the year a few weekends ago, I think I crossed the last (publicly open) current and former Guelph castle off the list. (See them all here.)
Truth be told, even though the castle is open to the public, there are not many signs of royal life left for it hasn't been used as a residence in 300 years. Today, Schloss Herzberg is used as the district court and also houses a restaurant in addition to being a museum with one part of it dedicated to the castle's history and the Guelph family who has owned different castles situated on the same hill since 1158. That year, Heinrich (Henry) the Lion received the castle during an exchange of possessions with Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. Already previously the Guelphs had meddled with the castle's history owning it at different points in time.
For 708 years, the Guelps continued to own the Schloss until the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover by Prussia in 1866. In 1218, Maria of Brabant, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, temporarily stayed at the castle. It was later used as a home for the widow of Duke Albrecht the Great before becoming the residence of the Grubenhagen line of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1290 until their line went extinct again in 1596. During their time at Herzberg, the current Schloss was built. A serious fire in November 1510 destroyed much of the previous castle with the ducal family saved at the last minute. The duke's shield bearer and the duchess's chambermaid, however, died in the fire. Afterwards, the present castle was erected as an enclosed four-winged building made out of sandstone basements and half-timbered upper storeys. Construction was completed in 1528.
The most famous member of the Guelph family connected to Schloss Herzberg probably was Elector Ernst-August, who was born at the castle in 1629. The first Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg was married to Sophia of the Palatinate, who went on to become heiress presumptive to the British crown, and father to King George I of Great Britain. Ernst-August's parents, Duke Georg of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Landgravine Anna Eleanor of Hesse-Darmstadt, lived in the castle until 1635.
The castle towering over the small town of Herzberg remained a royal residence until 1714, the year the Guelphs ascended to the British throne, when it was given up and all furniture moved to other estates of the family. In 1882, the castle became the seat of the district court of Herzberg. A museum was opened in 1900. While times had generally been kind to the Schloss and there hadn't been much violent damage for more than 400 years, the Second World War changed that. In spring of 1945, a mighty explosion at a nearby ammunition dump, where 40,000 kilos of explosives and 8,000 mines had been stored, shook the castle and surrounding town. The roof of the castle was blown off and the museum was destroyed and subsequently looted. In 1947, further damage was caused when some nearby military bunkers were blown up.
Luckily, the castle was later restored after the war with sums in the double-digit millions going into further renovations works in the past 15 years. The castle's museum portrays the history of the forestry industry in the Harz mountains, the castle's history and that of the Guelphs, as well as the history of local arms manufacture as well as organ making - and while it isn't the first Guelph castle I would recommend you to visit, it was definitely worth the trip.
...at least here on Confessions of a Castleholic, I'm sure it has been more rounds for the family. Just the other week I said over on Twitter that deposed royal families without their family disputes would only be half the fun - and one of the most intriguing family disputes within the German nobility has reared is ugly head again as of late: The inheritance dispute within the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg family. It is based on a will that was drawn up during the days of the Third Reich and includes some, well, racist, to say the least, stipulations. Yours truly still has a hard time to understand that someone would actually try to enforce those... Then again, there is an estate said to be worth about a half of a billion euros up for grabs - and that's probably where most friendships (or cordial family relations) end.
(To catch up: What is this will?What is the dispute about?)
To recap: In 1943, Fürst Gustav Albrecht of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg drew up a will for his inheri…
In Germany, Köpenick isn't famous for its castle but for an infamous imposter, the Captain of Köpenick, who even amused the last German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. What did the imposter do? Wilhelm Voigt masqueraded as a Prussian military officer, rounded up a bunch of soldiers under his "command" and "confiscated" more than 4,000 German gold mark from the municipal treasury of Köpenick. It was on October 16, 1906, that the out-of-work shoemaker donned a second-hand military captain's uniform he had purchased in a store, walked out into the street and assumed control of a company of soldiers marching past.
He led them to the town hall of Köpenick, at the time a small town just outside of Berlin and today part of the German capital, arrested the mayor and the treasurer on charges of embezzlement, and took possession of 4,000 Mark from the town treasury. He then disappeared with the money but was later found out and arrested. Affectionately known as the &qu…
They came to power during the 12th century in the days of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa - and on November 7, 1918, their head of the family was the first German King forced to abdicate. But in the end, the former Royal Family of Bavaria may just have gotten the best deals of all the formerly reigning families in Germany. You see, the German nobility is full of curious inheritance cases like the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg's or the Thurn und Taxis'. In addition to these internal family matters, there are also some interesting constructions between former German reigning family and the German state - or one of its federal states. Case in point: The Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds. It was established as a public foundation in 1923 within the framework of the apportionment of assets and liabilities between the Free State of Bavaria and their former royal family, the Wittelsbachs.
Five years prior, in 1918, the monarchies in Germany had come to their ends and all German-…