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 History of Liechtenstein

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PostSubject: History of Liechtenstein   Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:06 am

At one time, the territory was part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. For centuries this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, had little impact on European history. Prior to the reign of its current dynasty, the region was enfeoffed to a line of the counts of Hohenems.

The Liechtenstein dynasty, from which the principality takes its name, comes from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria, which the family possessed from at least 1140 until the 13th century, and from 1807 onward. Through the centuries, the dynasty acquired vast tracts of land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria, though these territories were all held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, whom several Liechtenstein princes served as close advisers. Thus, without any territory held directly under the Imperial throne, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet (parliament), the Reichstag.

The family yearned for the added power a seat in the Imperial government would bring and therefore sought to acquire lands that would be unmittelbar, or held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz had exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.

On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It was on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases that the Princes of Liechtenstein did not set foot in their new principality for over 120 years.
Vaduz Castle, overlooking the capital, is still home to the Prince of Liechtenstein

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, by 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was under the control of French emperor Napoleon I. Napoleon dissolved the empire; this had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: imperial, legal and political mechanisms broke down. The state ceased to owe obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders.

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