Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: House and Princely Family of Liechtenstein - Post-World War II

In the first part of our Luxarazzi 101 about the House and the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, we had a look the origin of the family and how they became what they are until the end of World War II. While they still fared pretty well during the war, their major blow came with the end of it and after the Second World War was over, the family basically had to start from scratch.

Prince Nikolaus, Prince Philipp, Prince
Hans-Adam, Prince Franz-Joseph II,
Princess Gina with Prince Wenzel
and Princess Nora
On the basis of the Beneš decrees the family lost their Czechoslovakian properties, including 17 castles and 1.600 square kilometres of agricultural and forest land, about two percent of the size of the Czech Republic.

[FYI, a series of laws, better known under the term of Beneš decrees, stripped Germans - everyone who spoke German was considered German - and Hungarians off their properties and forced them to flee the country. During the Cold War, citizens of Liechtenstein were not allowed to enter Czechoslovakia and only in 2009, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic as well as Slovakia respectively mutually recognised each other as states and started forming diplomatic relations for this reason.]

In addition large part of their Viennese homes were destroyed by bombs. All in all the family reportedly lost 80% of their assets. They, however, managed to bring the majority of their extensive art collection, which is often considered the world's second largest privately owned one, to Liechtenstein.

In the following years it was the main aim of the family to foster Liechtenstein's economic development. The country that once was a poor agricultural backwater became one of the richest countries (per capita) in the world. But it was a long way to the place where the country, and the family, is now.

The Liechtenstein family struggled economically until the mid-1970's as most of the properties they still owned were mismanaged and debt-ridden. Many relatives of the family, both on the maternal and paternal side, had lost all their assets. The castle located above Liechtenstein's capital Vaduz and adjoining buildings were crowded by fugitive family members and friends.

Princess Margaretha, Prince Nikolaus
and Prince Josef during last year's
Staatsfeiertag (Photo: Exklusiv)
During that time, the castle gardens were used to grow vegetables for self supply and until the 1960's Prince Franz Joseph II sold off pieces of the family's famous art collection to finance the family. Among those works sold were such priceless paintings as Leonardo DaVinci's "Ginevra de' Benci", which at the time was the most expensive piece of art ever sold, and Frans Hals' "Willem van Heythuysen".

In 1969, then Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam had graduated university and started to reorganise the family wealth. In fact, he had been named for Prince Hans-Adam I, who had been given the byname "the Rich" as he was considered some kind of a financial genius who managed to rebuild the family's wealth after it had been destroyed during the Great Turkish War in the 17th century. The current reigning prince claims that he knew from an early age that this would also be his main task in life and what the family expected of him. One can say without a doubt that he succeeded.

A year later, the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation was put into place. The foundation now owns an array of companies in the varying fields, from banking to agriculture and from forestry via real estate to energy as well as the family's art collection and museums. Today, the foundation is estimated to be worth between 6.25 to 7.6 billion U.S. dollar. While Prince Hans-Adam II is the chairman of the board of trustees, his youngest son Prince Constantin is the CEO.

Prince Hans-Adam II, Princess Marie,
Hereditary Prince Alois and Hereditary
Princess Sophie (Photo: Exklusiv)
The family's probably most - at least in the economic sense - valuable asset is the LGT Group which includes the famous LGT Bank. In 1930, ten years after it was founded, the family had bought a majority of shareholds. Already in 1923, the bank-client confidentiality had been anchored in Liechtenstein's banking law and three years later a law was passed to attract foreign investors. In 1986 the bank, at the time still known as Bank in Liechtenstein, went public, only to be reprivatised again in 1998. Today, the bank owns offices around the world and at the end of last year had total assets of 27.2 billion Swiss franc. The group's CEO and president is the reigning prince's second son Prince Max while the prince's brother Prince Philipp is the chairman of the board of trustees.

In addition to the round about 7 billion U.S. Dollar that the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation is worth, the sovereign prince is estimated to have a personal wealth of several billions making him one of the richest head of states in the world.

Prince Hans-Adam II wasn't only instrumental in modernising the family's finances but also the laws within the family. In 1993, he introduced a new house law which has been written by him and experts.

Interestingly, there were parts of the family who opposed the new law and threatened to veto it. In fact, unanimity had been one of the main points of the old law from 1606. Only when the Prince, his brothers, sons and nephews threatened in return to form a new family association under a new law independent from the old one - which everyone who wanted could join - the whole family agreed on the new House Law.

Princess Anunciata and Princess
Astrid (Photo: Oreste)
The new House Law is probably the most well written and comprehensive house law that I have ever seen. It covers pretty much all possible events while being clear and without leaving any questions. (Hello there, Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg!)

Some of the most important stipulations include that all members of the house are titled as Prince or Princess of Liechtenstein, Count or Countess of Rietberg with the style of a serene highness. Meanwhile, the reigning prince is titled as "Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, Duke of Troppau and Jägerndorf, Count Rietberg, Sovereign of the House of Liechtenstein". All male line descendants of Prince Johann I of Liechtenstein (1760-1836) born within a recognised marriage are members of the of the Princely House of Liechtenstein. As you can imagine, there are a lot of descendants which makes the Family not only one of the richest reigning families in the world but also one of the largest. And they keep growing. In addition, princesses do not lose their title and do not cease to be members of the House upon marriage.

The Prince of Liechtenstein is often described as Europe's most powerful monarch. In difference to his counterparts who have largely ceremonial roles, he actually wields wide powers. The reigning prince has possibility of an the absolute veto against any decision taken by the parliament or even the population of the of the principality, he has the right to dissolve the government, to dismiss parliament, and no judges can be appointed without his approval.

But not only his powers make the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family a rare kind. The family does not receive any money from the state, there is no civil list or anything along those lines. Instead, the family lives off the money they make - and as we covered above that they are quite successful at it. Prince Hans-Adam jokingly referred to this fact that he has to work in the morning, so he can afford to reign in the afternoon. As a consequence, the bulk of family members are very well educated and are gainfully employed all over the world.

So, why are we talking about this on a blog about the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg you might ask yourself if you are not a regular visitor on this site. For one, we recently introduced the Princely Family as an addition to the blog which we are going to cover whenever news of them come up. In addition, there are numerous ties between the Princely and the Grand Ducal Family which would make this post worth alone.

Wedding of Hereditary
Prince Alois and Duchess
Sophie in Bavaria
(Photo: Langevin-Orban /
Sygma / Corbis)
In 1982, Luxembourg's very own Princess Margaretha married Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein, brother of the current reigning prince. In fact, their's was the last marital union between two reigning European houses. The couple has three surviving children, Princess Maria-Anunciata, Princess Marie-Astrid and Prince Josef. If we can find the info, we cover what they've been up to on the blog.

The connections between the two family's however expand beyond that. Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte were friends with Prince Franz Joseph II and Princess Gina, and the Grand Ducal Family used to spend some of their skiing holidays in the principality. To this day, members of both families continue being of friendly terms, mingle in the same circles and attend each other's family events.

And so it is no big surprise that the bridal party at the 1993 wedding of Hereditary Prince Alois and Duchess Sophie in Bavaria not only included the groom's cousins, the aforementioned princesses Anunciata and Astrid, but also Prince Guillaume, Prince Félix and Prince Louis of Luxembourg. The Liechtenstein family was also numerously represented at the recent weddings of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Archduke Christoph.


  1. Hi, I just love your posts about the Liechtenstein's princely family. Do you guys know anything about the cause of Prince Wenzel's death?

  2. Thanks!

    Nothing definitive has ever been released by the Princely Family so there are only speculations about what happened.

  3. I find this very interesting and look forward to more posts.....especially on individual members of the family if possible. They appear to be very private or just not on anyone else's radar.......not sure which

  4. I'm curious as to what the daughters of Margaretha are up to - obviously they are private citizens but you never hear about careers, romances, and such.

  5. Astrid is a chef and Annunciated is doing some fashion design. Not sure if either are full time positions (they don't appear so).

    They are very discreet.

  6. I believe that Anunciata is doing the fashion design more as a hobby and that her main occupation is working for a company that researches the history of art.

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