Prince and People of Liechtenstein

The Principality of Liechtenstein is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. It is a hereditary principality with political powers shared equally between the elected parliament and the prince. Nobody knows what happens if ever they should agree to disagree because there is no proviso for a resolution process. The prince is also head of state.

The Austrian family of Liechtenstein was first mentioned in a document in the 12th century. Over the next few hundred years they became close allies to the Habsburg emperors and gained land and titles in what are today the Czech Republic and Hungary. They were made Princes in 1608 and bought the counties of Schellenberg and Vaduz in 1699 and 1712. These counties were joined by imperial decree to form the Principality of Liechtenstein.

When the Habsburg declared themselves Emperors of Austria in 1806, the prince opted not to be part of it and the principality became an independent state. The army was abolished in 1868 for budgeting reasons. The independent Principality of Liechtenstein was a natural ally of the Austrian Empire up to the latter's dissolution in 1918 and used the Austrian currency up to then. After that, Liechtenstein got closely linked to Switzerland, using the Swiss Franc as currency and entering into a customs union with Switzerland. Liechtenstein depends on the Swiss army for its defense, though there is no formal treaty to that effect.

The prince and his family live and reside in Vaduz Castle above the capital. The princes made Vaduz their permanent residence in 1938. Before that, they had resided in their Viennese Palace or their Czech or Hungarian Castles. The capital of Vaduz has 5,000 inhabitants and has an excellent art museum showing part of the princely art collection.

Liechtenstein is one of those famous and much reviled tax havens. When the German government started involving itself in Liechtenstein internal tax politics, a major diplomatic spat ensued. As a direct result, all art works owned by the prince have been repatriated from Germany and all loan agreements with major German art museums were cancelled.

The language spoken in the principality is Alemannic; its national language is German. It is the only country in the world with only German as a national language. Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations. Liechtenstein has accredited only seven ambassadors worldwide; otherwise the Swiss ambassadors double up for both countries. Liechtenstein athletes on an international level usually form part of the Swiss or Austrian national teams in the same sport but start for their own country. The Football (Soccer) Club of Vaduz plays in the Swiss league system.

To confuse the unwary, there are several Liechtenstein connotations due to a thousand years of family history. The Castle of Liechtenstein is situated near Vienna in Austria and belongs privately to the princely family since 1806. It had been the family seat until 1300 when it was sold. There is a new Castle of Liechtenstein just near the original one. It was built in 1820 by the princes, but it has been sold to the local community. And last but certainly not least, there is Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna which is owned by the prince and is run as an art museum showing the greater part of the princely collection. If in Vienna, you have to see it.

Further reading
Princes: Not All That Glitters
When One Prince is Not Enough: Andorra
San Marino: The World's Oldest Republic