The Princes of Liechtenstein originally hailed from Lower Austria. In 1699 and 1712 they purchased the County of Vaduz and the Dominion of Schellenberg. These two areas were then merged via Imperial Diploma on 23 January 1719 to create the Principality of Liechtenstein. Prince Franz Josef II (1906-1989) became the first Prince to have his official place of residence in Liechtenstein when he moved to Vaduz in 1938.
The Princely House of Liechtenstein is among the world's oldest noble families. The first recorded mention of the name "Liechtenstein" dates back to 1136 and Hugo von Liechtenstein, who adopted the it from Liechtenstein Castle to the south of Vienna. It was around this castle and near the north-eastern border of Lower Austria that the family owned several areas of land. The unbroken family line begins with Heinrich I von Liechtenstein (died 1265/66), who obtained lordship over Nikolsburg in South Moravia as free property. This was of significant political importance as it gave the Liechtenstein family substantial land ownership within the territory of the Wenzel Crown.
The true importance of this land was then shown in 1394 when Johann I von Liechtenstein, who for 30 years had been in charge of government affairs at the court of the Habsburg Duke Albrecht III, became a victim of the Habsburgs' thirst for power and fell out of favour. He and his family were forced to hand over parts of the land belonging to them, especialy those south of the Danube.
In the decades that followed the family attempted to secure its power in Lower Austria by purchasing further areas of land, particularly in South Moravia. In the 13th century the family divided into three lines: Liechtenstein, Rohrauer and Petroneller. However, the Rohrauer and Petroneller lines died out just one generation later, meaning that much of the family's valuable property was lost. In the early 16th century the family divided once again: the 1504 family treaty resulted in the Steyregger, Feldsberger and Nikolsburger lines. Only the Feldsberger line survived. However, this time well-thought-out family laws meant that the property belonging to the Steyregger and Nikolsburger lines passed to the surviving Feldsberger line.
At the turn of the 16th to the 17th century the three brothers Karl, Maximilian and Gundaker initiated a new period in the history of the family. They converted to Catholicism. Karl received the Great Count Palatinate in 1606 and the rank of Hereditary Prince in 1608.
His brothers were raised to the status of hereditary princes in 1623. Together, Karl, Maximilian and Gundaker succeeded in significantly increasing the family's land and property. In 1606 they concluded a new family contract stipulating, among other things, that the first-born son would receive all hereditary titles and represent the family as regent. The provisions of this contract form the basis of the 1993 House Law that determines succession to the throne in Liechtenstein.
During the critical period at the start of the 17th century, the Liechtenstein House sided with the Habsburgs. Karl and Maximilian's intervention contributed to achieving the decisive victory over the Bohemian rebels in 1620.
From the time of the attainment of the title Imperial Prince, the Liechtenstein family strove to acquire land with imperial immediacy. However, it was almost a century before Karl's grandson, Prince Johann Adam I (1657-1712), purchased the territories of Schellenberg and Vaduz in 1699 and 1712. With a diploma dated 23 January 1719, these were raised to the rank of Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein. After the male line of Prince Karl I became extinct in 1712, Anton Florian, a decendant of Gundaker, became the Ruling Prince. Whereas in the 18th century the country was of rather peripheral interest at that time the family was still residing in Feldsberg (today the Czech Republic) and Vienna it occupied an increasingly central position following its attainhment of sovereignty in 1806 and in the 20th century it became the residence of the Ruling Princes. Prince Franz Josef II (1906-1989) moved his permanent residence to Vaduz in 1938. All of the members of the family living at the present time descend from Prince Johannes I (1760-1836).
The current head of state, Prince Hans-Adam II, is the 15th Prince of the House of Liechtenstein. He was born in 1945 and is the first Reigning Prince to have grown up in the Principality. Shortly after becoming Prince, he announced his intention to follow the example of his father Prince Franz Josef II (19061989) and entrust his sovereign powers as head of state to the Hereditary Prince. This was carried out on National Day in 2004. In order to prepare him for his future position as Prince, Hans-Adam II named His Serene Highness Hereditary Prince Alois as his Representative and passed all sovereign powers to him. Today, Hans-Adam II is still the Prince, but it is his son Hereditary Prince Alois who is reponsible for performing the tasks of head of state.
On 13 November 2014 Liechtenstein celebrated the 25th anniversary of Prince Hans Adam II taking the throne. To mark the 25th anniversary of H.S.H. Prince Hans Adam II succeeding to the throne and the 10th anniversary of H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois being installed as his representative, an interview was carried out with the three generations of the Princely Family Reigning Prince Hans Adam, Hereditary Prince Alois and 19-year-old Prince Wenzel. Read the interview