7. Princes and Lords May Flourish or May Fade
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1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The relationship between the three Fürstenberg branches was complex. The two central issues were the elevation of the Fürstenberg counts to princes (Reichsfürsten) and the enactment of a patrilineal primogeniture succession for the Fürstenberg family as a whole.22 At first glance, the difference between a mere count and a prince in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation might appear to be of a merely decorative nature. But there is more to it. Although the emperor was the chief of state and absolute ruler, he was supported, advised, and sometimes challenged by a parliament – the imperial diet (Reichstag). Prior to the second half of the nineteenth century, the diet was not a democratically elected body. Its decision-making mechanism rested on three colleges (Kurien): the electors, the princes, and the cities.23 After the Thirty Years’ War, the diet voted in two parallel colleges regarding religious issues: one Catholic and the other Protestant. Apart from the seven structural electors, the nobility was represented in the diet by the princes and counts. But the actual political power of the nobility lay with the princes in the form of the College of Princes (Reichsfürstenrat).24 Thus, the princes had immediate access to the emperor in the diet, while the lesser nobles needed an intermediary. Whereas the original Worms Register (Wormser Matrikel) listed only twenty-four secular “old princes” by the end of the eighteenth century, there were actually sixty-one.25

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In order for an ordinary count to be elevated to prince, four conditions had to be met, as set out by Arenberg:26

1 “The possession of an immediate county”: With the demise of the Duchy of Swabia in 1268 the three Stühlingen branches had become immediate fiefdoms under the suzerainty of the emperor.
2 “The consent of the emperor, of the Council of Electors, and of the Council of Princes”: This required a great deal of politicking and expenditures
3 “The assumption of an appropriate share in supplying the financial, military, and other needs of the empire”: more expenditures.
4 “Membership in one of the ten Imperial Circles [Reichskreise]”: Due to their location, all three Fürstenberg territories belonged to the Swabian Circle.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Apart from the mainly constitutional aspect, the title “Prince” brought tremendous social prestige and was the hallmark of a leading personality in the empire. A prince had a great deal of political influence that could be wangled into highly profitable positions for himself and other family members. And, finally, it greatly expanded the scope for strategic marriages. But first one had to raise the capital for the entry ticket.27

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0  

22Ibid., 309, 326.

23After the Congress of Vienna (1814/5), the diet was constituted differently.

24Neuhaus, “Das Reich in der Frühen Neuzeit.”

25Ibid., 28.

26Arenberg, “The Lesser Princes,” 15.

27Mauerer, “Südwestdeutscher Reichsadel,” 316.

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Source: https://www.stuehlingen.online/Book/?page_id=1507