The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings, and emperors of Prussia, Germany, and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near the forementioned town.
The family uses the motto Nihil Sine Deo (English: Nothing Without God). The family coat of arms, first adopted in 1192, began as a simple shield quarterly sable and argent. The head and shoulders of a hound were added in 1317 by Frederick IV. Later quartering incorporated other branches of the family.
The family split into two branches, the Catholic Swabian branch and Protestant Franconian branch. The Swabian branch ruled the area of Hechingen until their eventual extinction in 1869. The Franconian branch was comparatively more successful. Branches within the Franconian branch ascended the throne of Margravate of Brandenburg in 1415 and of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525. The union of these two Franconian branches in 1618 allowed the creation of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701, the state which led the unification of Germany and the creation of the German Empire in 1871.
Social unrest at the end of World War I led to the German Revolution of 1918, with the subsequent formation of the Weimar Republic forcing the Hohenzollerns to abdicate, thus bringing an end to the modern German monarchy. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 set the final terms for the dismantling of the German Empire.
The oldest known mentioning of the Zollern dates from 1061. It was a countship, ruled by the counts of Zollern. The accepted origin of the counts of Zollern is that they are derived from the Burchardinger dynasty.
Count Frederick III of Zollern was a loyal retainer of the Holy Roman emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI and about 1185 he married Sophia of Raabs, the daughter of Conrad II, Burgrave of Nuremberg.
After the death of Conrad II, who left no male heirs, Frederick III was granted the burgraviate of Nuremberg in 1192 as burgrave Frederick I of Nuremberg-Zollern. Since then the family name became to be known as Hohenzollern.
After Frederick's death, his sons partitioned the family lands between themselves:
Beginning in the 16th century, this branch of the family became Protestant and decided on expansion through marriage and a purchase of surrounding lands.
The family were supporters of the rulers from the House of Hohenstaufen and the House of Habsburg of the Holy Roman Empire during the 12th to 15th centuries, by which they were rewarded with several territorial benefits.
These acquisitions were to eventually propel the Hohenzollerns from a minor German princely family into one of the most important in Europe.
After John III/I's death on 11 June 1420, the two principalities were shortly reunited under Frederick VI/I/I. From 1412 Frederick VI became Margrave of Brandenburg as Frederick I and Elector of Brandenburg as Frederick I. From 1420 he became Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. Upon his death on 21 September 1440, his territories were divided between his sons:
From 1427 onwards the title of Burgrave of Nuremberg was absorbed into the titles of Margrave of Brandenburg-Alsbach and Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.
From 1701 the title of Elector of Brandenburg was attached to the title of King in and of Prussia.
The Duchy of Brandenburg-Jägerndorf was purchased in 1523.
The duchy of Brandenburg-Jägerndorf was confiscated by Ferdinand III of the Holy Roman Empire in 1622.
The short-lived Margraviate of Brandenburg-Küstrin (principality) was set up, against the Hohenzollern house laws on succession, as a secundogenitur fief of the House of Hohenzollern, a typical German institution.
He died without issue. The Margraviate of Brandenburg-Küstrin was absorbed in 1571 into the Margraviate and Electorate of Brandenburg.
From 1688 onwards the Margraves of Brandenburg-Schwedt were a side branch of the House of Hohenzollern. The Margraviate of Brandenburg-Schwedt although never was a principality with allodial rights in its own right.
In 1788 the title was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia.
From 1701 the title of Duke of Prussia was attached to the title of King in and of Prussia.
In 1701 the title of King in Prussia was granted, without the Duchy of Prussia being elevated to a Kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. From 1701 onwards the titles of Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg were always attached to the title of King in Prussia.
In 1772 the Duchy of Prussia was elevated to a kingdom.
In 1772 the title of King of Prussia was granted with the establishment of the Kingdom of Prussia. From 1772 onwards the titles of Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg were always attached to the title of King of Prussia.
In 1871 the Kingdom of Prussia was a constituting member of the German Empire.
In 1871 the German empire was proclaimed. With the accession of William I to the newly-established imperial German throne, the titles of King of Prussia, Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg were always attached to the title of German Emperor.
In 1918 the German empire was abolished and replaced by the Weimar Republic.
The House of Hohenzollern never relinquished their claims to the thrones of Prussia and the German Empire. At present, the claims are not recognised by the Federal Republic of Germany.
The head of the house is the titular King of Prussia and German Empire. He also bears a historical claim to the title of prince of Orange. Members of this line style themselves princes of Prussia.
The junior Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern was founded by Frederick IV, Burgrave of Nuremberg.
Ruling the minor German principalities of Hechingen, Sigmaringen and Haigerloch, this branch of the family decided to remain Roman Catholic and from 1567 onwards split into the Hohenzollern-Hechingen, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Haigerloch branches. When the last count of Hohenzollern, Charles I of Hohenzollern (1512-1579) died, the territory was to be divided up between his three sons:
They never expanded from these three Swabian principalities, which was one of the reasons they became relatively unimportant in German history for much of their existence. However, they kept royal lineage and married members of the great royal European houses.
In 1767 the principality of Hohenzollern-Haigerloch was incorporated in the other two principalities. In 1850, the princes of both Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen abdicated their thrones, and their principalities were incorporated as the Prussian province of Hohenzollern.
The last ruling Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Karl Anton, would later serve as Minister-President of Prussia between 1858 and 1862.
However, a member of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family, Charles Eitel, second son of prince Karl Anton, was chosen to become prince of Romania as Charles I in 1866. In 1881 Charles I became the first king of the Romanians.
Charles' older brother, Leopold, was offered the Spanish throne after a revolt removed queen Isabella II in 1870. Although encouraged by Bismarck to accept it, Leopold backed down once France's Emperor, Napoleon III, stated his objection. Despite this, France still declared war, beginning the Franco-Prussian war.
Charles I had no children of his own, so Leopold's younger son Ferdinand I would succeed his uncle as king of the Romanians in 1906, and his descendants continued to rule in Romania until the end of the monarchy in 1947.
Today this branch is represented only by the last king, Michael, and his daughters. The descendants of Leopold's oldest son William continue to use the titles of prince or princess of Hohenzollern.
The County of Hohenzollern-Haigerloch was established in 1567 without allodial rights
Between 1630 and 1681 the county was temporarly integrated into the Margraviate of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
With the death of Francis Christoph Anthony, the county of Hohenzollern-Haigenloch was definitely absorbed into the principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in 1767.
The County of Hohenzollern-Hechingen was established in 1576 with allodial rights.
In 1850 the principality was sold to the Franconian branch of the family and incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. The branch became extinct in dynastic line with Konstantin's death in 1869.
The County of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was established in 1576 with allodial rights.
In 1850 the principality was sold to the Franconian branch of the family and incorporated into the kingdom of Prussia. Since then the family continue to use the princely title of Fürsten von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen until 1869 and Fürsten von Hohenzollern until today.
The Principality of Romania was established in 1862, after the Ottoman vassal states of Wallachia and Moldavia had been united in 1859 under Alexander John Cuza as Prince of Romania in a personal union.
In 1881 the Principality of Romania was proclaimed a Kingdom.
In 1947 the Kingdom of Romania was abolished and replaced with the People's Republic of Romania.
King Michael has retained his claim on the Romanian throne. At present, the claim is not recognised by Romania, a republic.
The princely House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen never relinquished their claims to the princely throne of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen or the royal throne of Romania. Because the last reigning king of the Romanians, Michael I, has no male issue, upon his death the claim will devolve to the head of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
The head of the family is styled His Serene Highness The Prince of Hohenzollern.
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