The Principality of Liechtenstein Becomes a Country

1712 onwards

A year after Vaduz and Schellenberg had been brought together under Prince Hans Adam I, the Emperor Charles VI raise the country to the position of a principality under the immediate authority of the Emperor (reichsunmittelbares Fürstentum), granting the ruling family to name it after themselves.

Most of the history of the royal family can be found in the history of the royal family. During the early years of the Liechtenstein rule, the Princes were Generals and Field marshals in the Emperor's armies, and the strategic position Liechtenstein enjoyed on the borders with the traditional enemy - Switzerland - and on the main military road to Italy, troops were constantly moving through the country.

The French Revolution also brought more unrest. Coalitions were formed to prevent similar ideas from forming in other European countries, and once again troops moved through the country. In Liechtenstein all men between eighteen and fifty were called up. In December 1794 Austrian troops moved into the country to the dismay of the peasant population who were forced

Under Napoleon, the French began to win many battles. An old painting in the chapel in Dux, above Schaan, depicts Austrian soldiers camped around the church and a few words beneath the picture beg for protection against the French who were expected to break through Lutzisteig, south of Balzers.

In the autumn of 1798 the French held the western bank of the Rhine from Bad Ragaz down to Lake Constance, whilst the Imperial army held the eastern, or Liechtensteiner bank. The next year the French crossed the Rhine at Balzers and pressed forward as far as Gallmist. Looting all the villages on the way. A great battle took place there, with 4,000 dead littering the battlefield. The French retreated when their leader was killed.

Then the Russians, allies of the Austrians arrived from a long and dangerous journey across the Alps through Graubünden. They were completed starved and they took everything they could, eating unripe grapes and stripping the people of their clothes.

Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte - who first recognised Liechtenstein's sovereigntyIn 1806 the German Emperor Franz I resigned to become Emperor of Austria only, allowing German princes who had been under him to be independent suddenly. Liechtenstein, in this way, also became a sovereign state. Napoleon persuaded twelve of these states to form a league under his influence - called the Rheinbund or Rhineland Federation. Despite never taking part in this federation, Liechtenstein was one of the twelve. It is due to Napoleon's acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Liechtenstein that it remains an independent state today.

When Napoleon was exiled to Elba, the Rheinbund renounced their allegiance to him, and on his return even fought against him. When Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815, peace descended on Europe and Liechtenstein had been invaded for the last time.

In 1842, Prince Alois II was the first prince to visit the country. He was greeted by a national holiday and danced with many of his subjects. This personal contact helped the Prince gain a greater interest in his subjects and this led to the building of dykes to prevent the disastrous Rhine floods. He paid two more visits to his country before he died.

In 1852, Liechtenstein signed a customs union agreement with Austria which included co-operated in economic and political affairs. This was favoured by the ruling family who still had their seat near the Austrian capital, Vienna. Ten years later, Prince Johann granted the people a new constitution giving them the rights to elect their own representatives, without whose consent no laws could be passed or altered. In this way the country became a constitutional monarchy.

Liechtenstein Army helmetThe war of 1866 between Austria and Prussia ended the German League of which Liechtenstein was a member. The country went to war against the Prussians, and as they never signed the Prague peace accord, it could be said that they are still at war with Prussia! It is even said the the Prussian Feldmarshal Moltke avoided Liechtenstein when he visited the spa at Bad Ragaz years later.

Liechtenstein, however, never fought in this war. The army consisted of 58 men who were sent to guard an Austrian pass against Italian insurgents. On their return home they were escorted by an Austrian liaison officer - so 58 men went to war and 59 returned. The army was disbanded in 1868, and no army has ever been formed by Liechtensteiners since.

The Princes of Liechtenstein still rule the country, but the 20th century is explored on a separate page.


The Rätians > Romans > Goths & Franks > Counts of Montfort > Barons of Brandis > Counts of Sulz > Counts of Hohenems > Princes of Liechtenstein > The modern day