The Principality is one of two countries on the planet that have the same name as their head of state. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein is, however, the first Prince who actually grew up in Liechtenstein. For although the Princely Family is one of the oldest noble families, it has been domiciled in Liechtenstein only since 1938. The family resides at Vaduz Castle, the country's iconic building that stands majestically 120 metres above the capital.
The form of government in the Principality of Liechtenstein is unique. According to the constitution, it is a "constitutional hereditary monarchy based on democratic and parliamentary principles." This means sovereignty is anchored simultaneously "in the Prince and in the people." Liechtenstein therefore combines two essentially contradictory principles the monarchical and the democratic. The head of state is His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein. The Prince is entitled to exercise state authority by virtue of the provisions of the constitution and other laws.
The Liechtenstein Princely Family is one of the oldest noble families in the world. Hugo of Liechtenstein was the first member of the family to bear the name, recorded in the year 1130. He took his name from Liechtenstein Fortress to the south of Vienna. Between the late 16th century and the early 17th century, the three brothers Karl, Maximilian and Gundaker ushered in a new phase in the history of the family. In 1608, Karl was raised to the status of a hereditary price, and the three brothers multiplied the lands owned by the Liechtenstein family many times over. Their objective: to acquire territory with imperial immediacy. It took almost another 100 years, however, before Prince Johann Adam I Karl's grandson had the opportunity to acquire the properties of Schellenberg and Vaduz in the years 1699 and 1712. In 1719, the two territories were merged and elevated to the status of the Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein.
While the country remained of marginal interest during the 18th century, and the family resided in Feldsberg, Eisgrub and Vienna it became increasingly important after it achieved sovereignty in 1806. In 1938 Prince Franz Josef II (1906-1989) was the first Prince to relocate his permanent residence to Vaduz.
In the year 1606, the brothers Karl, Maximilian and Gundaker of Liechtenstein entered into a family agreement. This stated that the first born of the oldest line was entitled to the hereditary title, and would represent the Family externally as the Regent. In 1993, the provisions of this agreement passed into the new House Statute of the Princely Family, which represents the basis for the right of succession to the throne that is valid to this day. The principle of "primogeniture" prevailed. This meant that upon the death of the head of the family, the oldest son of the oldest line became the new head of the family.
On 15 August 2004, the current Head of State, His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, appointed hereditary Prince Alois as his Deputy, and assigned to him all of the sovereign rights to which he was entitled. Ever since, while the Prince remains the Prince, all government business has been in the hands of Hereditary Prince Alois. The next in line to the throne is Prince Wenzel, the eldest son of Hereditary Prince Alois and Hereditary Princess Sophie, who celebrated his 20th birthday in the year 2015.
The Liechtenstein Princely Family is characterised by its closeness to the people. It is far from rare, for example, to meet a member of the Princely Family on the street or ski piste. And they also like to mingle with the population on Liechtenstein's traditional National Day. In addition, the Princely Consorts have always been closely involved in charitable and non-profit activities. In 2015, for example, Hereditary Princess Sophie succeeded Princess Marie as Chair of the Liechtenstein Red Cross.