Germany Holidays: The Saxecoburgs and the House of Windsor

Germany’s royals may no longer have any political clout, but you can still catch a glimpse of them at the family stately homes.

In the old antagonisms between Britain and Germany we tend to overlook the fact that our current royal family, and some of our previous dynasties, have been German in origin. The house of Windsor was the house of Saxecoburg and Gotha up until half-way through the First World War, when it was changed to Windsor by royal proclamation by the then King George V, fearful of wartime anti-German feeling.

Previous to the Saxecoburgs, we were also ruled by a German-origin dynasty, the house of Hanover. And when Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Phillip of Greece, who belonged to the Germanic House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, Phillip quickly renounced those titles and adopted the name Mountbatten instead.

Our current royal family, and some of our previous dynasties, have been German in origin

We shouldn’t be too surprised about sharing our royalty with Germany, for the latter has provided royals for much of Europe over the centuries, and Simeon, the recent, 47th Prime Minister of Bulgaria is also a Saxecoburg, and would-be Bulgarian king if such a position still existed. Even the last of the German dynasties to actually rule in Germany – the Hohenzollerns – are still out there, in royal seats. Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last of the Hohenzollern rulers, was forced to abdicate after the disaster of the First World War, which he instigated. But a branch of his family provided Romania with its royalty, and family members are still in situ over in Bucharest, hoping that they might one day be returned to power.

But back to the Saxecoburgs. They currently have two main castles, and both are visitable to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the family’s movements. Modern aristocratic dynasties don’t tend to make permanent homes in castles these days, but will maintain a presence that is sometimes used on a seasonal basis, for family gatherings and for big events.

So both Callenberg and Grein are visitable. The Callenberg castle is near the town of Coburg, about 60 miles north of Nuremburg, and situated on a mountain top surrounded by forest. This three-winged castle has recently been restored by Prince Andreas, head of the Saxecoburg clan, as has his other property at Grein, in a lovely setting on the banks of the Danube in Austria. Grein is equally lavishly restored, and also partly seasonally occupied by the Saxecoburg family.

The family website (German only) profiles both castles.

Looking for more? See other destinations in Southern Germany

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