On May 12, 1664 Emperor Leopold I issued a Golden Bull, elevating Wilhelm Egon, Franz Egon, and Hermann Egon, three brothers of the Heiligenberg branch, to princes.28 Although the Messkirch branch aimed to be next in line, realpolitik and the lack of funds delayed the progression. By 1670 the Stühlingen branch too had developed a sense of entitlement.29
Before we complete the narrative of the residual Fürstenberg promotion, let us explore the issue of patrilineal primogeniture. It is natural for parents to wish to ensure the future welfare of their progeny. For farmers and nobles, this future welfare is closely tied to the amount of land that can be left to each of their children. In many jurisdictions, this intent has led to a progressive fragmentation of property, to the point that eventually none of the descendants could make a living or, even less, exert power. For this reason, in many societies immovable property is bequeathed to only one child – commonly, the oldest son. But the other siblings too had to be compensated in some way – usually by money. This process of inheritance is the so-called patrilineal primogeniture. In the seventeenth century, senior members of the three Fürstenberg branches concluded that they had to change their modus of inheritance to patrilineal primogeniture in order to prevent further crumbling of dynastic wealth and power.30 However, by the early decades of the eighteenth century, this problem had resolved itself: the only vital male line left was that of the young count Joseph Wilhelm Ernst von Fürstenberg-Stühlingen.31
By 1711 Prince Anton Egon,32 the doyen of the Fürstenberg clan, had decided to designate Joseph Wilhelm as his heir and ultimately concentrate the collective wealth and power of the three branches in the latter’s hands. Despite his unsuccessful attempts – whether political or litigious – at getting the education of the young count under his control,33 Prince Anton persisted in pursuing the promotion of the whole Fürstenberg family. He died short of having achieved his goal in 1716. The final diploma, which had cost the family another 41,000 fl. in fees and bribes, was finally issued in 1718, elevating the heads of the Messkirch and Stühlingen branches to princes.
The next task for the guardians was to find a suitable match for the young prince. The first potential candidate, the impecunious daughter of the former king of Poland Stanislaus Leszinsky,34 unfortunately was snatched away at the last moment by King Louis XV of France.35 The second attempt was more successful: Theresia Anna Maria Eleonora Countess Waldstein proved a perfect alliance, both from a dynastic and an economic point of view. Because of the bride’s young age of fifteen, Emperor Charles VI gave a special dispensation in 1722.36 The marriage took place on June 6, 1723 at Duchov Castle in Bohemia, the bride having reached her sixteenth year.37 The cost of the festivities to the prince’s coffers alone amounted to 40,000 fl.
31Tumbült, “Das Fürstentum Fürstenberg,” 245–7.
32Stoyan, “Eine WWW-Personendatenbank,” Pid = 31000297.
33Mauerer, Südwestdeutscher Reichsadel, 343.
34Münch, Geschichte des Hauses Fürstenberg, 240.