Most Googled: Does Germany have a royal family?

Most Googled: Does Germany have a royal family?

It’s that time of the week again, where we answer the internet's most googled questions on Germany. This week we are going to look into the German royal family, or lack thereof, and see why so many people are asking.

Rulers of Germany?

So, does Germany have a royal family? Short answer: No. Germany hasn’t had a royal family or monarch since the end of World War I, when Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the German and Prussian thrones.

Since there was no agreement made on his successor, which would have been his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, Germany became a de facto republic on November 9, 1918. The republic became legally recognised in February 1919 when the position of President of Germany was created and, when the Weimar Constitution entered into force on August 14, 1919, the legal privileges and titles of German nobility were abolished. The first President of Germany was Friedrich Ebert, followed by Paul von Hindenburg in 1925.

This period of German democracy was known as the Weimar Republic and would continue until von Hindenburg died in 1934. Von Hindenburg made Adolf Hitler Chancellor in 1933 and, after his death, Hitler took advantage of a recently enacted law to proclaim himself Führer und Reichskanzler (supreme leader and chancellor).

This dictatorship ended with Germany’s defeat in World War II, before the institution of West and East Germany. Eventually, Germany was reunited and the German government as we know it today was established.

The last kings of Germany

While the modern-day country known as Germany has never had a monarch, historically the states that made up the old German Empire were typically ruled by royal houses. The German Empire began with the unification of Germany in 1871. This unification brought together the North German Confederation, which was headed and controlled by the Kingdom of Prussia, and the southern Germanic states, which comprised of the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Grand Duchy of Hesse.

The first German emperor was Wilhelm I (the grandfather of Wilhelm II). Both Wilhelms were from the House of Hohenzollern, which had become the royal house of Prussia after its elevation to a Kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire in 1701. Since Prussia was the de facto leader of the North German Confederation, it became the leading state in the German Empire and its king, Wilhelm I, was proclaimed Kaiser (emperor) in 1871. So, if we had to pinpoint Germany’s royal family, the House of Hohenzollern would be the closest we could get.

The rulers of German states

However, before the unification of Germany, other royal and noble families ruled over their separate states. Before the North German Confederation, there was the German Confederation, an association of 39 sovereign states that was created through the Congress of Vienna in 1815, as a replacement for the former Holy Roman Empire. 

Each of these states had its own ruler, hailing from a number of different prominent families. Thus, there are many old ruling houses that governed over numerous German states until the mid- to late-19th century.  

The last king of Bavaria, for example, was Ludwig III of House Wittelsbach, and the last king of Württemberg was Wilhelm II of House Württemberg. The Grand Duchies of Baden and Hesse were both sovereign states, ruled by Grand Dukes belonging to House Zähringen and House Hesse-Darmstadt, respectively. Every one of these houses has such a vast and complicated history we could write an article about each of them, but suffice to say, they were once great forces to be reckoned with. 

So, while Germany doesn’t have an existing royal family like in the UK, it does have several noble houses that at one point ruled over one or several of the German states that eventually became the German Empire, which in itself, eventually became modern Germany. The most important ruling house, as the leaders of Prussia and the emperors of Germany, is the House of Hohenzollern.

This House still exists today and is headed by Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, who is a prominent businessman and the Prince of Prussia, as the great-great-grandson of Wilhelm II. In fact, most European royal families are actually the descendants of German nobility. For instance, most famously, close family relations exist between the British monarch's House of Windsor and the Hohenzollern family. 

The more you know

So there you have it. It can be hard to get your head around all the Wilhelms and confederations, but if you managed it, you can go and impress all your German friends on your knowledge of German kings and queens. Tune in next time for the answer to another of the internet’s burning questions.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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