Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Freiherr of Finance

Germany’s new finance minister, Freiherr zu Guttenberg & his wife, Freifrau Stephanie.
Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg does not have a snappy name. Perhaps that is why he is known in Bavaria as “the Rocking Baron”. Unusually for a man whose family tree stretches back to the 12th century, the 37-year-old aristocrat has charisma and a glittering political future. In February he became Germany’s youngest economics minister, and in Sunday’s elections he won the highest percentage of constituency votes of any candidate. He became the envy of fellow politicians by attracting thousands of people to his rallies, a phenomenon not witnessed since Helmut Kohl. The Windsors should take note. As the leading contenders drained the colour from their campaigns by trying to say as little as possible, the young baron triumphed by being himself — a mixture of fiscal conservatism and an even-handed personality unafraid to challenge orthodoxy. He opposed the proposed buyout of Opel by a consortium led by the Canadian spare parts maker Magna and the Russian bank Sberbank, but he got plaudits for standing up to Angela Merkel. Guts are in the family genes. His great-grand-uncle, the Catholic monarchist Karl Ludwig von Guttenberg, was tortured by the Gestapo and shot after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler. He revealed no names of the fellow plotters. Mr Guttenberg does not need a job. He gets more than he needs from his family estate in Bavaria. If duty impels him, German politics will be all the richer.

Unmentioned by this editorial is that Baron zu Guttenberg’s grandfather (his mother’s father) was the late German winemaker & Croatian politician the Count of Vukovar. From the Count, Baron zu Guttenberg is descended from the noble house of Eltz, who are responsible for one of my favourite castles in the whole world, Burg Eltz, which once graced the 500-deutschmark note.

At the ripe age of 70, the Count of Vukovar took up arms in defence of the town of Vukovar during the Yugoslav Wars of 1991. The Count was elected to the Croatian parliament the following year as an independent, and served in that body until 1999, when he retired from politics. Nonetheless, the Croatian parliament persuaded him to accept honourary membership of parliament in his own right, in which role he continued until his death in 2006.

The Baron’s wife, meanwhile, is Stephanie, Countess of Bismarck-Schönhausen, great-great-granddaughter of the “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck. A portent of this economics minister’s future?

This post was published on Monday, October 5th, 2009 8:10 am. It has been categorised under Germany Nobility Politics and been tagged under , , .
5 Oct 2009 9:18 am

A favorable review in the Guardian. Does that mean this fellow is a blood-sucking apologetic for the lunatic left, or is he an okay guy?

5 Oct 2009 9:56 am

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change.”

5 Oct 2009 10:01 am

The “okay guy” was the righteous part.

Andrew Cusack
5 Oct 2009 10:07 am

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change.”

Coincidentally, “Kelly’s Heroes” (from which this is quoted) was filmed in Croatia when it was still part of Yugoslavia.

As to the Baron, he’s a harsh critic of FARC terrorism and of Germany’s far-left Linke party, so it would seem that we can file him under Douglas’s category of “okay guy”. Admittedly, it is odd reading this in the Guardian.

Árpád Farkas Horváth
5 Oct 2009 10:12 am

“Always with the negative waves, Moriarity, always with the negative waves!”

“Have a little faith, baby, have a little faith.”

5 Oct 2009 11:47 pm

Lots of clueless comments from haters at the Guardian site. The German aristocracy was not abolished after WWI; in fact, the framers of the law left that wording out of the text on purpose. The aristocracy did lose its special status and privileges under the law, which still recognized its continued existence. Most Germans don’t know this either.

Baron v Senden
6 Oct 2009 7:45 am

An extremely handsome and well connected couple.
Wonderful to think that such a blue blood might one day actually be Chancellor of Germany.
It is not quite true to say that the nobility was not abolished. Titles continued, but as part of the legal name. Thus a person born “Prinz” but then succeeding his father as “Fürst” must go through a long and expensive procedure before he can legally call himself such. Of course this is ignored in society.
What keeps them powerful and influential, other than their intelligence and sense of duty, is the fact that their properties were not expropriated after World War I. Those who did not live in the East have mostly remained in possession of their estates, and are often very well off. Thus they can devote much of their time to public affairs, either local or national. Both Count Lambsdorff and Prince Solms were recent prominent members of the Bundestag.

6 Oct 2009 10:45 am

My understanding is that the German abolition of the nobility permitted titles to be used as part of a legal name and socially. But if I understand the Austrian situation correctly, their approach was much more radical denying the use of titles socially or as part of names and even attaching criminal penalties to such use. I think that law is still in force. Not only Austria and the German states, but Europe and the wider world might have been better off had the monarchies not been tossed aside. But that is my constant soapbox issue.

6 Oct 2009 11:25 am

The German nobility was not abolished, but did lose their privileged status with the Weimar Constitution:

“Mit dem Inkrafttreten der Weimarer Reichsverfassung am 11. August 1919 wurden alle Vorrechte des Adels abgeschafft (Artikel 109 Abs. 2 WRV). Alle Bürger wurden vor dem Gesetz gleichgestellt; Vorrechte der Geburt, des Geschlechtes, des Standes, der Klasse und des Bekenntnisses ausgeschlossen. Die von einigen Abgeordneten beantragte weitergehende Formulierung in Artikel 109: Der Adel ist abgeschafft. wurde von der verfassunggebenden Versammlung am 15. Juli 1919 nach ausführlicher Diskussion abgelehnt.” (Sebastian-Johannes von Spoenla-Metternich: Namenserwerb, Namensführung und Namensänderung unter Berücksichtigung von Namensbestandteilen. Peter Lang, Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-631-31779-4, S. 119 ff.)

A German baron is as much a baron in 2009 as he was in 1918. He simply has no special privileges under law now.

Peter Kraus
6 Oct 2009 7:45 pm

In some German states, nobility must actually ask for formal permission from the State Diets to use a title upon inheriting it. Although such a request has never been refused since founding of the Federal Republic of Germany after the Second World War, it is a law on that remains in force.

7 Oct 2009 9:41 am

Peter –

Do you know of a source that explains this asking the Diet process?

Peter Kraus
7 Oct 2009 2:41 pm


Let me see what I can find – I learned of this law while reading an article last year in a Bavarian Newspaper about a Graf who inherited the title at age 42 (?) after the death of his father. The article went on to state that he had to apply to the local magistrate to use the family title and the paper work went through the efficient bureaucracy of the Bavarian State. His request was approved.

8 Oct 2009 4:14 am

The female form for Freiherr is Freifrau (not Freiherrin) for married women and Freiin for unmarried ones!
In swedish however the female form is friherrinna!

8 Oct 2009 10:49 am

Peter –

Based on my dangerously little understanding of the situation in Germany, I think that the Graf in question did not have to apply to the local magistrate to use the title, but rather to change his name to include the title as part of his (new) surname. That is my understanding of how the German system now works. So Georg Friedrich Hohenzollern changed his name to Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preussen so that he could “use” his title. Legally his title is not recognized but his new last name (“Prinz von Preussen”) is recognized. Austria will not permit this being dead set against any whiff of monarchy sad to say.

8 Oct 2009 12:11 pm

I believe Harolds understanding of the legal situation is correct. The nobility as a legal body in Germany is abolished and the title carries no legal recognition. The title as a part of the name is merely a issue under name-law which apparently varies under different jurisdictions. How is the situation in th UK? Is the legal name of lord Derby, the Earl of Derby, or is it Mr. Stanley?

Baron v Senden
8 Oct 2009 6:17 pm

Normally a Graf would not need to change his name when succeeding his father. There are a very few families with the rule that only the head of the family is a Graf, the rest being Freiherrn only. In this case the new head of the family would need to change his name. But in most cases he is already a Graf and need do nothing in this regard.
As I remarked earlier, many families do not bother with the legal niceties; i. e. they might choose to remain legally a Freiherr but be known socially as “Graf von X”.
I understand that Albert Thurn und Taxis has done precisely this, remaining legally Prinz but known to everyone as Fürst.
The Austrian regime is a disgrace, by the way. They are the last government in Europe with a hammer and sickle in their national emblem. Loathsome socialists and anti-clericals, the lot of them.

9 Oct 2009 8:25 am

I don’t suppose there is a growing monarchist movement in Germany or Austria? That would be hoping for too much, right?

Peter Kraus
9 Oct 2009 9:13 am

From my observations there is more interest today in Germany’s imperial past than at any time since the establishment of the republic. One need only look at the works being published about this era and their sales.

However, there are no serious political or social movements to reinstate the monarchy or restore the privileges of the aristocracy and I firmly believe given the nature of German politics that any such political or social movements would be frowned upon by the German electorate.

10 Oct 2009 3:30 pm

Now come to think of it, back in the 1980’s when one could watch David Letterman on something other than an empty stomach, he used to have on as a guest some rocking twenty-something German royal from time to time. She used to scuttle over to Paul and the band and do her nightclub dance with them before the commercials. I remember once she said she had a farm in Georgia or Alabama or some such…Letterman suggested she was training troops down there, which was funny because people really did laugh at Letterman’s jokes back then.

Anyway, that makes her forty-something and perhaps not so rocking today. Andrew, how about an update with pictures?

Baron v Senden
11 Oct 2009 4:27 am

Are you referring by any chance to Gloria Thurn und Taxis?
If so I am happy to be able to inform you that she is now a pillar of Catholic orthodoxy, a friend of Pope Benedict’s and a scourge of the politically correct.
I understand that she has an apartment in New York City; Letterman ought to have her on again – she would blow him out of the water.

Another point: Princess Thurn und Taxis is not “royal”. People seem confused by the European versus the English use of the princely title. In England a “prince” will always be royal, but this is almost never the case on the Continent. Habsburgs, Wittelsbachs, Welfs, Wettins, etc; these are royal, and there is hardly a “prince” amongst them. Schwarzenbergs, Fúrstenbergs, Solms, Hohenlohes, etc; these are princely, but not royal, even with the occasional dukedom thrown in. Liechtensteins now-a-days count as royal, but aren’t really.

12 Oct 2009 1:52 pm

Aye, she’s the one.

Leave a comment

Name (required)

Email (required)



Home | About | Contact | Categories | Paginated Index | Twitter | Facebook | RSS/Atom Feed | © Andrew Cusack 2004-present (Unless otherwise stated)