History of Liechtenstein

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Political identity came to the territory now occupied by the Principality of Liechtenstein in 814, with the formation of the subcountry of Lower Rhaetia.[1] Liechtenstein's borders have remained unchanged since 1434, when the Rhine established the border between the Holy Roman Empire and the Swiss cantons.



A 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 Ages

The area, part of Rhaetia, 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, but 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, the Reichstag, although its head was elevated to princely rank in the late 17th century.

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