german Houses: The Grand Ducal House of OIdenburg


The Grand Ducal House of Oldenburg

House of Oldenburg

The House Oldenburg is one of the most important Families of the ruling European Houses.  It was based on an old North German princes’ family, whose origins lie in the so-called Osnabrücker Nordland.  The earliest traceable ancestor is Elimar (Egilmar, Hilmar), a count living in 1108.  At the time the counts took their name from the district of Ammer (Ammergau), but in 1155 the existing locality of Oldenburg was fortified and henceforth they took their name from it. In 1247 one member of a younger branch, Otto, built the castle of Delmenhorst, and his successor Johann was probably the first to style himself count of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst.   By 1423 all lines were extinct except for Dietrich, from whom all later lines of Oldenburg descended.  He married Hedwig, sister of the last rulers of Schleswig and Holstein of the House of Schauenburg.  When he died in 1440, his sons were under age and were raised by their maternal uncle the duke of Holstein, who arranged for the eldest Christian to be elected King of Denmark in 1448, and for the youngest Gerhard to receive Oldenburg and Delmenhorst.  The other son Moritz was destined to become a cleric but instead he married and demanded his share: he received Delmenhorst in 1463, but his line became extinct with his son and Delmenhorst returned to Gerhard.
Counts of Oldenburg
1088-1108 Egilmar I.
1108-1143 Egilmar II.
1143-1167 Heinrich I.
1143-1167 Christian I.
1167-1209 Moritz I.
1209-1251 Otto I.
1209-1233 Christian II.
1233-1272 Johann I.
1272-1301 Otto II.
1275-1285 Christian III.
1285-1315 Johann II.
1315-1323 Christian IV.
1315-1342 Johann III.
1342-1347 Konrad I.
1345-1356 Johann IV.
1347-1401 Konrad II.
1368-1398 Christian V.
1401-1420 Moritz II.
1403-1423 Christian VI.
1423-1440 Dietrich
1440-1448 Christian
overviiew ofer the different lines
  • Christian I, King of Denmark
    • Frederik I., King of Denmark
      • Christian III. King of Denmark
        • Johann, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg
          • further lines see: Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
      • Adolf, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
        • Christian Albert
          • senior line who Holstein-Gottorp Romanov and reigned in Russia from 1762-1917
          • junior line: Prince Bishops of Lübeck
            • Kings of Sweden from 1751-1818
            • Duke’s of Oldenburg from 1773
  • Gerhard, Count of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst

County of Oldenburg
 junior line of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst

When Count Dietrich was elected King of Denmark in 1448 he gave Oldenburg to his youngest brother Gerhard, In 1464 Count Gerhard inherited Delmenhorst from his older brother Moritz. He also unsuccessfully disputed Schleswig and Holstein. His son Johann V. inherited Stadland and Budjadingerland; Johann V was succeeded by his youngest son Anton I who received in 1531 the first imperial investiture for Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, including Stadland and Budjadingerland. At his death in 1573 his lands were divided between Johann VII. (Oldenburg) and Anton II (Delmenhorst), but only for ten years. The younger brother then pressed for an equal division, and the resulting suits lasted for many years. To obviate these problems Johan XVI introduced by his will of 27.09.1603 a rule of primogeniture. Johann VII. was also made heir of Jever by Maria von Papinga, the last owner, and received the investiture after her death in 1573 from Philip II of Spain as Duke of Brabant, successfully fighting off the rival claims of the counts of Ostfriesland in the feudal court of Brussels. His only son Anton Günther inherited Delmenhorst at the extinction of Anton II’s line in 1647, and also succeeded in making his claims on Kniphausen, derived from Maria von Papinga’s will. In 1623 the Emperor Ferdinand II granted him the right to establish a toll on the river Weser. The peace of Westphalia firmly established the counts of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst as states of the Empire with a seat on the bench of Westphalian counts. Count Anton Günther’s marriage was childless, but he had an illegitimate son by Baroness Elisabeth Un gnad von Weissenwolf, named Anton von Aldenburg, raised by the Emperor to the rank of count in 1653. After attempts at making his illegitimate son his heir, he split his inheritance in the contract of Rendsburg from 1649  into three parts. Oldenburg, Delmenhort and generally everything that was possessed by his line up to Anton I went to the king of Denmark and the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp. The lordship of Jever and 2/3 of the fideicommis of Johann XVI went to his nephew the prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. Varel, Jade, Kniphausen and 1/3 of the fideicommis went to Anton von Aldenburg, established as a fideicommis with reversion for Varel and Jade to the feudal successors, and for the rest to Anhalt-Zerbst.
At the deah of Count Anton Günther in 1667 the partition was carried out; but the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön sued in the Reichshofrat, on the basis that he was closer to the original ancestor of the House of Oldenburg, and that an imperial diploma  from 01.04.1642 had designated as heir the closest jure agnationis.  During the suit, the King of Denmark bought from the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön his claims to Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, and, should the Duke succeed in the suit against the remaining defendant, the half of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst that he would thus secure, all for 300,000 Thaler.  The Reichshofrat ruled for the plaintiff  and the sons of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön ceded the share of the counties they had just won on 22.06.1676. Therefore the King of Denmark secured full possession of both counties.  Furthermore, since his right to the counties did not follow from the partition treaty of 1649, he felt that he could contest that treaty’s allocation of allodial goods.  He seized Jever from the Fürst of Anhalt-Zerbt who was forced to agree to a new arrangement in 1683, whereby he ceded to Denmark all his estates except Jever, as well as a sum of 100,000 Thaler; in exchange Denmark abandoned its claims to Jever, with the proviso that Jever should return to Denmark in case of extinction of the issue of Fürst Johann of Anhalt-Zerbst.  Likewise the Aldenburg family had to cede in 1693  its share of the Weser tolls, and other goods, to keep only Varel as “noble lordship”  and the immediate lordship of Kniphausen. In the Contract of Tsarkoje Selo from 1667 the the Tasarevitch and future Emperor Paul I.from the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romwnov renounced his territorial claims as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, took over the Ducal part of Holstein to Denmark, and received the counties of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst. The agreement was signed in 1767, and confirmed by Paul I when he came of age in 1773. The treaty of Zarskoe Selo came into force with the magnificence of the Grand Duke in 1773.  Four days after the conclusion of the treaty, Grand Duke Paul ceded the counties Oldenburg and Delmenhorst to  his great-uncle  Friedrich August from the younger line of the house of Holstein-Gottorf, the Fürst -Bishop of Lübeck, It was raised by Emperor Joseph II to the Duchy of Oldenburg

Counts of Oldenburg
1448-1500 Gerhard
married to Adelheid von Tecklenburg
1483-1500 Adolf
1500-1526 Johann V.
married to Princess Anna of Anhalt-Zerbst
1526-1542 Johann VI.
1526-1551 Georg
1526-1566 Christoph
1526-1573 Anton I.
married to Princess Sofie of Saxe-Lauenburg
1573-1603 Johann VII
married to Princess Elisabeth of Schwarzburg-Blankenburg
1573-1577 Anton II. who got Delmenhorst
1603-1667 anton Günther
married to Princess Sophie Catherine of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg


County of Delmenhorst

On 03.11. 1577 Count Anton  got Delmenhorst and other possessions through a division agreement with his older brother, Count Johann VII… In 1597, the Imperial Court of Justice confirmed the complete demolition of the County of Oldenburg. Thus, in 1577, Anton II became the founder of a younger line Oldenburg-Delmenhorst. After the death of his son Christian IX. In 1647, Delmenhorst finally fell back to Oldenburg.

Counts of Delmenhorst
1577-1619 Anton II.
married to Princess Sybille Elisabeth of Brunswick-Danneburg
1619-1647 Christian IX.


Duchy of Oldenburg

In 1774 the County of Oldenburg was raised to a Duchy by Emperor Joseph II. and Count Friedrich August became the first Duke of Oldenburg. The new Duchy consisted of two spatially separated parts: Oldenburg itself and the Hochstift Lübeck (after secularization from 1803 Principality of Lübeck with the residence town Eutin). As Duke Friedrich August’s only son Peter Friedrich Wilhelm was insane Duke Friedrich August arranged a guardianship for his son. The King of Denmark became Tutor of the person his nephew Peter Friedrich Ludwig Regent of the Duchy.  This arrangement was ratified by a convention of 07.07.1777 between all parties. Accordingly, after the death of DukefFriedrich August in 1785 Peter Friedrich Ludwig became Fürst-Bishop of Lübeck and regent of the Duchy. The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 abolished the toll on the Weser but compensated the Duchy of Oldenburg by uniting to it Wildeshausen (from Hanover) and Vectha and Kloppenburg (from Münster), and by giving to the Duke the secularized bishopric, now principality of Lübeck around Eutin). The Duke of Oldenburg and Fürst of Lübeck joined the Confederation of the Rhine on 14.10,1808 but the territories were annexed to the French Empire on 13.12.,1810. The Regent returned on .01.12.1813 and resumed the government of the Duchy, and also of Jever on behalf of the Czar of Russia who  ceded the territory to Oldenburg on 14.04.1818). At the Congress of Vienna the Duchy received the style of Grand-Duchy altough the first on to use the Title Grand Duke was Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig’s son August who succeeded in 1829.

Dukes of Oldenburg
1774-1785 Friedrich Augst
married to Princess Ulrike Friederike Wilhelmine of Hesse-Kassel
1785-1823 Peter Friedrich Wilhelm
1823-1829 Peter Friedrich Ludwig
married to Princess Friederike of Württemberg


Grand Duchy of Oldenburg

At the Congress of Vienna the Duchy received the style of Grand-Duchy (altought the title Grand Duke was not used until 1929) as well as a promised cession of territory which took place on 09.04,1817, in the form of a newly created principality of Birkenfeld consisting of part of the county of Sponheim, the lordship of Oberstein (possession of the counts of Limburg-Styrum) and various other pieces of land totalling 9 square miles and 20,000 inhabitants. This new territory, like the principality of Lübeck, was administered separately from the Duchy. In 1818 Oldenburg regained the rule of Jever from the Russian Tsar Alexander I. Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig was succeeded by his son  August in 1829  who assumed the title of Grand Duke conceded at Vienna in 1815 but spurned by his father as regent and reigning Duke.  A constitution was promulgated in 1849, and replaced by another one on  22.11.1852. In 1854, Oldenburg joined the German Customs Union and in 1867 the North German Confederation. At the beginning of 1864, the second national Red Cross Society of History was founded in Oldenburg with the association for the care of wounded warriors, the patronage over the society took over Grand Duke Peter II. A final increase in territory took place by treaty with Prussia on. 27.09.1866, as a consequence of the Grand Duke of Oldenburg’s claims to the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.   The peace treaty of Vienna of 30.10.1864 gave joint administration of the duchies to Prussia and Austria, and the peace of Prague of 23.08.1866 left Prussia in sole possession.  The Grand Duke of Oldenburg ceded all his claims to Prussia in exchange for Ahrensböck and a payment  of 1 million Thaler. On 01.01.1868, the Grand Duchy gave up its own post office. In the German War of 1866 Oldenburg troops fought on the side of Prussia against Austria. The Oldenburgian Infantry Regiment No. 91 and the Oldenburg Dragoon Regiment No. 19 also participated in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/1871. After a reign of years Grand Duke Peter II. died in 1900. He was succeeded by his son Fridrich August who was considered conservative and a typical representative of Wilhelminism. His personal interests were mostly in the technical field. Thus he showed a great predilection for the sea and the navy. He  strove to expand waterways, such as the Hunte-Ems Canal, built the ports of Oldenburg on the Weser and promoted the establishment of industrial enterprises in order to strengthen the economic power of the country
The Grand Duchy took part in the First World War as part of the German Empire. Grand Duke Friedrich August belonged to the group of radical “annexationists” who wanted to secure the German position by means of territorial acquisitions and a complete reconstruction of the European map. In addition to the annexation of Belgium, he wanted to make France a German vassal state and divide it into a northern republic and a southern kingdom of Bourbon. Presumably advanced by the Grand Admiral Tirpitz, whom he had worshiped, he proposed to the Bavarian King Ludwig III in March 1915. To demand, in the name of the German princes of Wilhelm II, the dismissal of the allegedly too weak Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, who was in the way of a “German peace.” He also decisively rejected the peace resolution of the Reichstag in 1917. In the course of the November revolution and the associated abolition of the monarchy in Germany, he abdicated on 11.11.1918


Grand Duke’s of Oldenburg
1829-1853 August II.
married first to Princess Adelheid of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg
married second to Princess Ida of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg
married third to Princess Cäcilie of Sweden
1853-1900 Peter II.
married to Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg
1900-1918 Friedrich August
married first to Princess Elisabeth of Prussia
married second to Duchess Elisabeth zu Mewcklenburg (-Schwerin)


The Grand Ducal House since the End of the Monarchy

After his abdication Grand Duke Friedrich August retired to Rastede Castle which remained in the posession of the Family. He died there on 24.02.1931. His successor as Head of the Grand Ducal House was his only son Nikolaus. Hereditary Grand Duke Nikolaus married in 1921 Princess Helene  zu Waldeck and Pyrmont,   a daughter ofthe last reigning  Fürst Friedrich zu Waldeck and Pyrmont. After her death in 1948, he married Anne-Marie von Schutzbar gen. Milchling, a divorced Countess of Bernstorff. Hereditary Grand Duke Nikolaus of Oldenburg  was a member of the NSDAP and the SA. As SA leader of the SA, he commanded the SA-Reiterstandarte 14. He was also Major of the Reserve in the Army. After his death on 03.04.1970 he oldest son Duke Anton Günther became the new Head of the Family. Under his cooperation in 1992 the foundation Eutin Castle was founded. The Grand Ducal Family brought the Castle, the Castle Garden und big parts of the Interieur of the rooms into the foundation. On the other Hand the country Schleswig-Hosltein undertook the renovate and restore the Castle.  Duke Anton Günther was from 1962 to 1986 he was chairman of the horse sport federation Schleswig-Holstein and was awarded the German Reiterkreuz in gold in 1978 and the Bundesverdienstkreuz 1st class in 1986.  Since 1991 he was a member of the advisory committee of the DRK-Landesverband Oldenburg. At the beginning of 2007, he was awarded the honorary mark of the German Red Cross. Duke Anton Günther died on 20.09.29014 and was succeded as Head of the Grand Ducal House by his only son Christian.

Heads of the Grand Ducal House since the End of the Monarchy
1918-1931 Grand Duke Friedrich August
married first to Princess Elisabeth of Prussia
married second to Duchess Elisabeth zu Mewcklenburg (-Schwerin)
1931-1970 Hereditary Grand Duke Nikolaus
married first to pricness Helene zu Waldeck and Pyrmont
married second to Anne-Marie von Schutzbar, gen. Milchling
1970-2014 Duke Anton Günther
married to Princess Ameli zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg
2014-    Duke Christian
married to Countess Caroline zu Rantzau


The present members of the Grand Ducal Family:

All members of the Grand Ducal Family bear the Title Duke/Duchess of Oldenburg and the style of Hghness (HH). The Head of the Family and his heir have the style of Royal Highness (HRH).

  • Nikolaus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Oldenbrug
    married first to Princess Helene zu Waldeck and Pyrmont
    married second to Anne-Marie von Schutzbar gen. Milchling
    from the first marriage:

    • Anton Günther
      married to Princess Ameli zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg

      • Helene
      • Christian
        married to Countess Caroline zu Rantzau

        • Alexander
        • Philipp
        • Anton
        • Katharina
    • Rixa
    • Peter
      married to Princess Gertrud zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg

      • Friedrich August
        married to Belinda Tatham Warter

        • Anastasia
        • Alice
        • Cara
      • Margarethe
        married to Prince Philippe of Croy
      • Nikolaus
        married to Anna Dyckerhoff

        • Christoph
        • Georg
        • Oscar
      • Georg-Moritz
    • Eilika
      married to Fürst Emich hzu Leinignen
    • Egilmar
    • Friedrich August
      married first (divorced) to Princess Marie-Cécilie of Prussia
      married second to Countess Donata zu Castell-Rüdenhausen
      from the first marriage:

      • Paul
        married to Pilar Méndez de Vigo y Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg

        • Kirill
        • Carlos
        • Paul
        • Maria Assunta
        • Louis Ferdinand
      • Rixa
        married to Stephan Sanders
        married to Peter Doerner
    • Altburg
      married to Freiherr Rüdiger of Erffa
    • Huno
      marired to Countess Felicitias-Anitia (Fenita) Schwerin of Krosigk

      • Beatrix
        married to Sven von Storch
      • Sophie
        married to Joseph-Maria von Radowitz
    • Johann
      married to Countess Ilka zun Ortenburg

      • Eilika
        married to Archduke Georg of Austra
      • Tatiana
        married to Comte Axel de Chavagnac
      • Konstantin
        married to Esther Sánchez Calvo



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