Author Topic: German History -- Of Reichs and Crowns  (Read 615 times)

Offline Alfred Keitzer

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German History -- Of Reichs and Crowns
« on: 10-Nov-2018, 17:11:33 pm »
We are all familiar with the rise and fall of the Third Reich, but what were the other two Reichs?

The First Reich was also known as the Holy Roman Empire, which existed as a loose collection of various states covering portions of present-day France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland and other European countries from 800 to 1806.  The first emperor, Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome on Christmas Day 800, and this is normally seen as the founding of the Empire. Sometimes the year of 962 is used, when Otto I (Otto the Great) was crowned. Both dates are referenced because after Charlemagne and before Otto I, several kings ruled portions of the Holy Roman Empire simultaneously. The position of King (Römisch-deutscher König in German) or King of Germany (Germaniae Rex in Latin) was often an elective position voted on by the dukes and princes of the various states that made up the empire and the coronation was approved and typically performed by the Pope. The empire existed mostly in name only following the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War between Catholics and Protestants in 1648, but was not formally dissolved until 6 August 1806 when Emperor Franz II abdicated following the military defeat at the hands of the French under Napoleon at Austerlitz.

As with any empire of the time, it was customary to have a royal crown.  Crown jewels are typically only worn at the time of coronation of a new king or emperor (Kaiser in German) and then remain on display as a representation of the power of the king or emperor until the next coronation. The crown of the Holy Roman Empire was created in the late 10th or early 11th century and is quite famous. Today the crown of the First Reich resides at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.

The Second Reich, also known as the Hohenzollern Empire (1871–1918), began with Wilhelm I of the Prussian House of Hohenzollen, after the successful Prussian Unification Wars against the countries of Denmark, Austria and France. Wilhelm I was already King of Prussia since 2 January 1861. During this coronation, the Crown of Prussia was used; considered to be much plainer than many other crowns of the time. Today, these Prussian Crown Jewels are on display in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin.

During the final days of the Prussian siege of Paris in January 1871, which ended the Franco-Prussian War, Wilhelm I was officially declared German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles.  No crown was used at this coronation as none existed for the State of Germany. A model for the new crown was drafted in 1871, but the actual crown was never created.  This design was very similar to the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

Wilhelm I died in 1888, known as the year of the three kings. He was succeeded by Frederick III, who survived only three months before dying of cancer of the larynx. Frederick was then succeeded by Wilhelm II, who reigned from June 1888 until the end of the Second Reich in 1918, when he lost the support of the military at the end of the First World War and the Weimar Republic began.  Like his predecessors, Wilhelm II took the title of Emperor of Germany; King of Prussia and for his coronation used a crown commissioned by his own House of Hohenzollern. Known as the Hohenzollern Crown, it is not really considered a German State Crown. When Wilhelm II abdicated in 1918 he was permitted to retain the family jewels, which included the Hohenzollern crown. To protect it from theft and destruction during the Second World War, it was hidden in a wall in the crypt of a church. After the war it was returned to the Hohenzollern family and today resides at Hohenzollern Castle south of Stuttgart.

Following the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1918, the original model for the German State Crown was kept in the Hohenzollern museum at Schloss Monbijou, which sat on the east bank of the Spree River in Berlin across from Museum Island. Schloss Monbijou was heavily damaged during the war and the remains of the palace were finally demolished by the Russians in 1959.

Sometime during the Second World War, the original model of the German State Crown disappeared from the museum of Schloss Monbijou and has never been recovered. However, today the German State Crown exists as two stone spires atop the columns on either side of the entrance to the Reichstag building in Berlin. 

« Last Edit: 10-Nov-2018, 17:28:09 pm by Alfred Keitzer »