Principality of Liechtenstein
AntiquityA Roman road crossed the region from south to north, traversing the Alps by the Splügen Pass and following the right bank of the Rhine at the edge of the floodplain, for long uninhabited because of periodic flooding. Roman villas have been excavated in Schaanwald and Nendeln. The late Roman influx of the Alemanni from the north is memorialized by the remains of a Roman fort at Schaan.Middle AgesThe area, part of Raetia, was incorporated into the Carolingian empire, and divided into countships, which became subdivided over the generations. Because the duchy of Swabia lost its duke in 1268 and was never restored, all vassals of the duchy became immediate vassals of the Imperial Throne (as has happened in much of Westphalia when the duchy of Saxons was divided and partially dissolved in aftermath of the defeat of Henry the Lion).The medieval county of Vaduz was formed in 1342 as a small subdivision of the Werdenberg county of the dynasty of Montfort of Vorarlberg. The 15th century brought three wars and some devastation.The Principality takes its name from the Liechtenstein family, rather than vice-versa, and the family in turn takes its name from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria, which it owned from at least 1140 until the 13th century and from 1807 onwards. Over the centuries, the family acquired huge landed estates, mostly in Moravia, Lower Austria and Styria.All of these rich territories were held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, to which many Liechtensteins were close advisors. Thus, without holding any land directly under the Holy Roman Emperors, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet the primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial Diet, (German Reichstag), although its head was elevated to princely rank in the late 17th century.Early modern eraLiechtenstein was invaded by both Austrian and Swedish troops during the Thirty Years' War of 1618–1648. During the 17th century the country was afflicted by a plague and also by a witch hunt, in which more than 100 persons were persecuted and executed.Prince Johann Adam Andreas of Liechtenstein bought the domain of Schellenberg in 1699 and the county of Vaduz in 1712. This Prince of Liechtenstein had wide landholdings in Austria, Bohemia and Moravia, but none of his lands were held directly from the Emperor. Thus, the prince was barred from entry to the Council of Princes and the prestige and influence that would entail.By acquiring the Lordships of Schellenberg and Vaduz, modest areas of mountain villages each of which was directly subordinate to the Emperor because there was no duke of Swabia any longer, the Prince of Liechtenstein achieved his goal. The territory took the name of the family which now ruled it. On January 23, 1719, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that the counties of Vaduz and Schellenberg be promoted to a principality with the name Liechtenstein for his servant Anton Florian of Liechtenstein whereby he and his successors became Princes of the Holy Roman Empire.Nineteenth centuryLiechtenstein became a sovereign state in 1806 when it joined Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine upon the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.The French under Napoleon occupied the country for a few years, but Liechtenstein retained its independence in 1815. Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation (20 June 1815 – 24 August 1866, which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria).Then, in 1818, Johann I granted a constitution, although it was limited in its nature. 1818 also saw the first visit of a member of the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Alois. However, the first visit by a sovereign prince would not occur until 1842.In 1862, a new Constitution was promulgated, which provided for a Diet representative of the people. In 1868, after the German Confederation dissolved, Liechtenstein disbanded its army of 80 men and declared its permanent neutrality, which was respected during both World Wars.The Post-War eraIn dire financial straits following the war, the Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including for instance the portrait "Ginevra de' Benci" by Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United States in 1967. Liechtenstein prospered, however, during the decades following, as its economy modernized with the advantage of low corporate tax rates which drew many companies to the country. Liechtenstein became increasingly important as a financial center.In 1989, Prince Hans-Adam II succeeded his father to the throne, and in 1996, Russia returned the Liechtenstein family's archives, ending a long-running dispute between the two countries. In 1978, Liechtenstein became a member of the Council of Europe, and then joined the United Nations in 1990.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liechtenstein
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