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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
County of Wittgenstein
County / Principality of Sayn-Wittgenstein
coat of arms
Sayn Wittgenstein coat of arms WWB 261.jpg
1450 Sayn Map.jpg
County Sayn (brown) with Wittgenstein (light brown, right) and Herrschaft Homburg (white) in the 15th century
Alternative names Wittichenstein
Form of rule monarchy
Ruler / government Count

Prince (since 1792)

Today's region / s DE-NW
Reich register 1 horseman, 4 foot soldiers, 14 guilders
Reichskreis Upper Rhine Empire Circle

Lower Rhine-Westphalian Circle (from approx. 1500)

District council Reichsfürstenrat : part of a curate voice of the Wetterauische count bank
Capitals / residences Laasphe , Berleburg , Homburg
Dynasties Wittgenstein
1361: Sayn-Homburg
Denomination / Religions reformed
Language / n German
surface 280 km² (around 1800)
Residents 24,000 (around 1800)
Incorporated into 1806: H.-Darmstadt , Homburg an GHzm Berg
1815: Prussia

The house Sayn-Wittgenstein is a family of former German nobility . It ruled several independent counties and principalities in the Holy Roman Empire directly and was represented with a seat and vote in the Imperial Council of the Reichstag . Around 1806 these territories were mediatized and lost their independence; after that the lines of the house belonged to the landlords of the German Confederation .

In the male line , the Sayn-Wittgenstein family goes back to the Sponheim family. By marriage, the family that ruled in the county of Sponheim acquired the county of Sayn with its seat at Castle Sayn from the family of the same name, extinct counts. Several inheritance divisions followed and in 1361, also by way of inheritance, the County of Wittgenstein with its seat at Castle Wittgenstein , whose lords, the Counts of Battenberg and Wittgenstein, had also expired.

Since 1605 the family has been divided into the three lines Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg , Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn and Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein . The latter two became extinct in 1636 and 1948 respectively. They were succeeded by younger branches of the Berleburger line.


Count of Sponheim

Coat of arms of the Sponheimers

Siegfried I von Sponheim († 1065), the first documented name bearer of the Sponheimers (historically often called Spanheimers), came to Carinthia in the wake of the Salier Emperor Konrad II from Rhine Franconia. By marrying Richgard von Lavant († 1072), Sieghardinger's heir , he came to rich estates in Tyrol and Carinthia. His son Engelbert I was appointed Margrave of Istria in 1090 . Engelbert's youngest son Heinrich achieved the duchy of the Duchy of Carinthia in 1122 and rule over the margraviate of Verona , which the Sponheimers held until 1269.

Gottfried III. von Sponheim (* before 1183–1218) married Adelheid von Sayn († 1263) in 1202, one of the two sisters and heiresses of the last Count of Sayn , Heinrich III. After his death in 1246/47 parts of the county of Sayn fell to Gottfried's son Johann I , the founder of the Sponheim- Starkenburg line , his brother Heinrich I von Heinsberg founded the Sponheim-Heinsberg line and the youngest brother, Simon I , founded the line Sponheim- Kreuznach . Johann I von Sponheim-Starkenburg had a son Gottfried I (1266–1284), among whose sons an inheritance was divided in 1294: Johann II inherited the County of Sayn and founded the line of the Counts of Sayn-Sayn; his brother Engelbert I inherited Vallendar and from maternal inheritance the rule of Homburg with Homburg Castle and founded the line of the Counts of Sayn-Homburg. The latter line inherited the County of Wittgenstein in 1361 and thus founded the Sayn-Wittgenstein family. The Rhenish main line of the Sponheimer counts (in Sponheim ) died out in the 15th century, but the Counts of Ortenburg also formed a branch of the Sponheim male line that ruled directly until 1805 and still exists today.

Counts of Sayn (until 1246)

Coat of arms of the Counts of Sayn

After the castle Sayn near Bendorf , which was probably built in the 10th or 11th century , a family of counts called themselves the Counts of Sayn , which is documented for the first time in 1139. The counts gradually acquired goods in the Westerwald , where they founded the castle around 1180 and subsequently the town of Hachenburg , as well as on the Sieg and Lower Rhine . They also founded the Marienstatt Cistercian monastery in 1222 . The exact origins of the first Counts of Sayn are still unknown, but a descent from the House of Nassau is likely.

The original Count of Sayn died in 1246 with the death of Heinrich III. out. His sister Adelheid was with Gottfried III. von Sponheim married and brought the county of Sayn as heir to the Counts of Sponheim. Some possessions then fell to Gottfried's second son Heinrich von Sponheim-Heinsberg, lord of the Heinsberg lordship . The grandson of Gottfried III. through his eldest son Johann I (also named Gottfried) finally founded the younger line of the Counts of Sayn (of the Sponheim tribe).

Counts of Wittgenstein (until 1361)

Laasphe with Wittgenstein Castle
Coat of arms of the Counts of Battenberg and Wittgenstein

The name of Wittgenstein Castle (Widechinstein), located above the town of Laasphe , was first mentioned in 1174. The Count of Battenberg then called himself Werner von Battenberg and Wittgenstein after his two castles . The Counts of Wittgenstein were thus a branch of the Counts of Battenberg , who until 1238 called themselves sometimes von Battenberg and sometimes von Wittgenstein and whose property was around Battenberg (Eder) and Wittgenstein . With the construction of Wittgenstein Castle around 1187, they extended their territory to the Lahn .

In 1238 the counties of Battenberg and Wittgenstein were divided among the grandsons of Count Werner I : Widekind II received the Battenberg possessions and Siegfried I received Wittgenstein Castle and the town of Laasphe . In 1295 Wittgenstein submitted to the feudal lordship of the Archbishops of Cologne . Count Siegfried I also acquired ownership rights to the village of Berleburg from the Grafschaft monastery , which in 1322 became the sole property of Siegfried II von Wittgenstein . In 1361, after the male line of Wittgenstein had died out, the Counts Eberhardt and Heinrich von Sayn , sons of Salentin von Sayn-Homburg (of the Sponheim tribe) and Adelheid von Wittgenstein, inherited the county of Wittgenstein .

Counts of Sayn-Sayn and Sayn-Wittgenstein (from 1361)

From 1361 the possessions were continued in two lines:

The following counts ruled the County of Wittgenstein in succession:

  • Salentin von Sayn, Count of Wittgenstein (around 1310-1392)
  • Johann IV. Von Sayn, Count of Wittgenstein (died around 1436)
  • Georg von Sayn, Count of Wittgenstein (around 1400–1472)
  • Eberhard von Sayn, Count zu Wittgenstein (1425–1494) and his brother Johann, who later transferred to the clergy
  • Wilhelm von Sayn, Count zu Wittgenstein (1488–1570) and his brother Johann (d. 1551)
  • Ludwig the Elder of Sayn, Count of Wittgenstein (1532–1605)

Since 1500 the county of Wittgenstein belonged to the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire , while the County of Sayn belonged to the Upper Rhine Empire . In the second half of the 16th century, the Reformation was introduced in the county.

In 1606 the Sayn-Sayn line, which had owned the actual county of Sayn since 1294 , died out in the male line. Their last representative, Heinrich IV. , Had already bequeathed the county to his only relative, his niece Anna Elisabeth, who was married to the third son of Count Ludwig von Sayn-Wittgenstein, Wilhelm III., So that the two lines were for a short time Time were reunited.

Counts and princes of Sayn-Wittgenstein from 1605 to 1806

Ludwig I (1532–1605), Count of Sayn zu Wittgenstein, united both counties, Sayn and Wittgenstein , in one hand. But already in 1605 he divided his inheritance between his three sons:

  • Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
    The eldest son, Georg (* 1565) inherited the northern part of the County of Wittgenstein, based in Berleburg, as well as the imperial rule of Homburg . He founded the line of the Counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg , who were made imperial princes in 1792 . Became known Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (1934-2017) as the husband of Princess Benedikte of Denmark . His successor as the current line manager and owner of Berleburg Castle is his son Gustav (* 1969). From the Berleburger line split off in the early 18th century, the Count's branches of Karlsburg and Ludwigsburg , founded by Karl Wilhelm zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Karlsburg (1693–1749) and Ludwig Franz II zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg (1694–1750), the two younger brothers of the ruling Berleburg Count Casimir (1687–1741). The Ludwigsburg branch was raised to the Prussian prince's status in 1834 and founded the younger line Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (see below).
  • The second son, Wilhelm III. (* 1569), was first married to Countess Anna Elisabeth von Sayn, heiress of the Sayn-Sayn line, which died out in 1606. In 1605 he founded the (older) line of the Counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn , based in Sayn . This line died out with Count Ernst in 1636 and his widow, Louise Juliane , was driven out by relatives of her husband. After she had regained the legacy with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 , she divided it into the County of Sayn-Hachenburg and the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen in 1652 , which then fell to other houses through their two daughters.
  • Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein
    The third son, Ludwig II (* 1571, ruled 1607–1634), inherited the southern part of the County of Wittgenstein with Wittgenstein Castle in Laasphe . He founded the line of the Counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Wittgenstein . Since Johann VIII received the county of Hohnstein in the Harz Mountains as a Brandenburg fief in 1647 , the line was called Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein ; But already in 1699 the Brandenburg elector moved in the Hohnsteiner Grafschaft again, but the counts who continued to rule in Wittgenstein kept the name. In 1801 they were made imperial princes . The Wittgenstein-Hohenstein line expired in 1948. The last prince, August (1868–1948), divided his inheritance between various relatives. His adoptive son Christian Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (1908–1983) from the Berleburg line and after him his son Bernhart (* 1962) carry the historical title Prince zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein in private traffic . His residence is now the Schwarzenau manor house after Wittgenstein Castle was converted into a boarding school.
  • A side branch of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg line, the Counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg, founded with Count Ludwig Franz II the third line of the Princes of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (from 1834 princes in the Kingdom of Prussia ). Ludwig Adolph Friedrich Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Ludwigsburg (1799–1866), eldest son of the Imperial Russian Field Marshal Prince Ludwig Adolph Peter , returned from Russia in 1848 with his wife Leonilla Barjatinsky (1816–1918), received from the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV . the ruins of the castle Sayn and the location at the foot of Castle hill Castle Sayn given that he extend novelty. He founded a Fideikommiss in Sayn and received the title of Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn for the respective head of this new line . His eldest son Peter (1832–1886) died childless, the second son Friedrich (1836–1909) had descendants from two morganatic marriages (von Falkenburg and, from 1899, Russian princes of Sayn-Wittgenstein), the third son died childless fourth son, Alexander (1847–1940) renounced in favor of his sons from his first marriage and, together with his children from his second (improper) marriage, took the name Graf von Hachenburg ; His son Stanislaus (1872–1958) was awarded the title of prince, followed by his nephew Ludwig (1915–1962), who in turn was his son Alexander (* 1943) as the current line manager . This branch converted to Catholicism in the 19th century.


The county of Sayn-Wittgenstein was on the upper reaches of the Eder and Lahn . Neighboring gentlemen were:

The two principalities that emerged from the county , Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Sayn-Wittgenstein-Wittgenstein- (Hohenstein), were mediated in 1806 and initially attached to the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt , but then handed over to Prussia by resolution of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 . Reunified, they formed the Wittgenstein district in the southeastern part of the Westphalia province from 1817 . The Wittgenstein district in North Rhine-Westphalia was merged with Siegen in 1975 to form today's Siegen-Wittgenstein district .

coat of arms

The Counts of Wittgenstein had the following coat of arms: Two black posts in silver (see above). It still appears today in a number of current municipal coats of arms, e.g. B .:

The Counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein (-Homburg) had a family coat of arms with four fields in the main shield and a heart shield (see above):

  • Main shield, field 1 and 4 (top left and bottom right): Two black posts in silver - for Wittgenstein
  • Main shield, field 2 (top right): In red a two-tower, silver, black-grooved castle - for Homburg
  • Main shield, field 3 (bottom left): In black, a silver sloping bar covered with three black, right- facing pig's heads - for Freusberg (In later depictions the field is turned so that the boar's heads look inwards.)
  • Heart shield: A golden lion leopard in red - for Sayn

Named “Fürst zu”, “Prinz zu” and “Fürst von” Sayn-Wittgenstein

"Prince zu" and "Prinz zu" Sayn-Wittgenstein

Since the Weimar Constitution came into force on August 14, 1919, all German family members of the various lines bear the official surname “Prince or Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-…”. The princely titles of the three line chiefs Berleburg, Hohenstein and Sayn, which were once inherited in Primogenitur , are still used - in some cases - in private traffic.

The members of the Russian (Ludwigsburg) branch of the Berleburg line, who today mainly live in Canada , all bear the name Fürst or Fürstin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein . This came about in the following way: The primogenely hereditary title Prince zu Sayn and Wittgenstein was given to the son of Count Christian Ludwig zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg (1725–1797), the Imperial Russian Lieutenant General Count Peter (1769–1843), in 1834 awarded in Prussia. In Russia, this title was then, also in 1834, confirmed as Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein and Prince Peter was thus included in the hereditary Russian nobility of the royal class. However, Russian princely titles were - as a rule - not only primogenically hereditary, but - in contrast to German princely law - were held by all family members at the same time, thus not only by the respective line manager, but also by younger sons and their descendants and also by unmarried daughters. This Russian princely title was then carried on by the descendants of Peter's second son Friedrich (1836–1909), while the fourth and youngest son Alexander (1847–1940), who returned to Germany, established the line “zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn”, which continued the primogenic Prussian prince title under this name, which was inherited only to the respective line chief, while the younger descendants carried the title "Prince / Princess to", which became the official family name in 1919.

The German businesswoman Corinna Larsen acquired the family name through a marriage with Johann Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (* 1976), son of the head of the house Alexander zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn . In reporting on her liaison with the Spanish King Juan Carlos I , the Madrid press called her the "German Princess". Despite the opposition of the Sayn-Wittgenstein family, she let herself be dubbed “princess” even after the divorce. She correctly explained to the press that it was her “legitimate right” to continue to use the family name acquired through marriage after the divorce.

"Prince of" Sayn-Wittgenstein

Origin and extinction in the male line

In October 1904 a new Bavarian branch split off from the family: Prince Hermann zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein, who had entered into an unequal marriage with Gertrude Katharina Westenberger, and his son Alexander, who came from this connection, were included in the kingdom's nobility registers Bavaria enrolled in the princely class, but with the title "Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein". On January 23, 1905, Hermann renounced membership of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein family. The Austrian prevalence of the family took place on July 11, 1912 in Vienna. This new Bavarian-Austrian line died out with the two sons of Hermanns, Alexander (1876–1947) and Adalbert (1887–1959), in the male line.

Name transfer via marriages and adoptions

The last legitimate name bearer of this line under nobility law, Alexander's only daughter Elisabeth Gertrud (* 1927) married Bruno Lothar Koch in 1979 through the mediation of the title dealer Hans-Hermann Weyer , who took the name Prince von Sayn-Wittgenstein. According to Alexander zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, this has also established a "chain" of name transfers through adoptions , which has led to more than 50 name bearers of the name form "Fürst / in von" . This includes B. the entrepreneur Karl-Heinz Richard von Sayn-Wittgenstein (formerly Böswirth), who appeared on television as "The Real Estate Prince". The former AfD politician Doris Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein is also suspected of being adopted. The Sayn-Wittgenstein family warns of fraudsters and marriage swindlers who use the name "von Sayn-Wittgenstein".

Known family members

Johann VIII., Count zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein (1601–1657), Swedish colonel in the Thirty Years War

See also


  • Antiquitates Saynenses a Joh. Phil. De Reifenberg anno 1644 collectae. Aachen, 1830.
  • Johannes Burkardt: County Wittgenstein [Art.]. In: Handbuch der Hessischen Geschichte, Vol. 3: Knights, Counts and Princes - secular dominions in the Hessian area approx. 900–1806. Edited by Winfried Speitkamp (Publications of the Historical Commission for Hesse 63.3), Marburg 2014, pp. 466–489.
  • Matthias Dahlhoff: History of the County of Sayn. Dillenburg, 1874.
  • Karl E. Demandt: History of the State of Hesse. 2nd edition, Kassel 1972 (pp. 514-520). ISBN 3-7618-0404-0 .
  • Günther Wrede: Territorial history of the county of Wittgenstein. Marburg 1927.
  • Hellmuth Gensicke: State history of the Westerwald. Wiesbaden 1958, reprint 1987.
  • Johannes Burkardt, Ulf Lückel: The Princely House of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. German princely houses. Vol. 17. Börde, Werl ³2006. ISBN 3-9810315-0-4 .
  • Ulf Lückel, Andreas Kroh: The Princely House of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein. German princely houses. Vol. 11. Börde, Werl 2004. ISBN 3-9809107-1-7 .
  • Ludwig Tavernier: The Princely House Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. German princely houses. Vol. 6. Börde, Werl 2005. ISBN 3-9807740-3-1 .
  • Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke, Franz-Eugen Volz: The coins and medals of the Count's houses in Sayn. Schulten, Frankfurt am Main 1975. ISBN 3-921302-10-2 .
  • Albert Hardt: Document book of the Sayn rule. Vol. 1.2. Wolfenacker, Wiesbaden 2012.

Web links

Commons : Haus Sayn-Wittgenstein  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Two parts of the curiate voice during the 18th century for Wittgenstein and Berleburg
  2. ^ Köbler, Gerhard: "Historisches Lexikon der Deutschen Länder", p. 615
  3. ↑ In the Imperial Council of Princes, the house had a share in the curate vote of the Wetterauische Grafenbank (during the 18th century with two shares for Wittgenstein and Berleburg).
  4. ^ Köbler, Gerhard: "Historisches Lexikon der Deutschen Länder", p. 799
  5. ^ Grafschaft Wittgenstein at
  6. Rentkammer Wittgenstein ( Memento from August 2, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ "Development and variants of the Sayn-Wittgensteiner coat of arms" at
  8. According to GHdA , Volume 133, Princely Houses XVII 2004, the Berleburger line no longer makes use of the primogeneity title privately.
  9. ^ Genealogical handbook of the nobility , Princely Houses, Volume XV, Limburg (Lahn) 1997, pp. 628–634.
  10. Thomas Urban , "I'm in the league of the great" , February 26, 2013.
  11. Los Wittgenstein desmontan el mito de Corinna como princesa , July 8 2017th
  12. Corinna replica a su ex: "Tengo derecho legítimo a seguir usando el apellido de casada tras divorciarme" , July 13, 2017.
  13. Cf. Die Fürsten von Sayn-Wittgenstein or
  14. See
  15. ^ Title of nobility: The adopted princes. In: Saarbrücker Zeitung , June 15, 2017.
  16. a b Diana Zinkler: How did AfD Fuerstin get its title? In: Berliner Morgenpost , December 6, 2017.
  17. a b Jörn Wenge: Discussion about AfD politician - "I suspect that she has been adopted" In: Frankfurter Allgemeine (online), December 5, 2017.
  18. Helmut Wanner: Multimillionaire as Hartz IV man. In: Mittelbayerische , April 29, 2013.