What Do We Know About Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss?

BERLIN — Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, a descendant of a 700-year-old noble family that once reigned over a tiny state in eastern Germany, was a relatively obscure figure — until Wednesday, when he was named as one of the leaders of a group accused of plotting to overthrow the German government.

Earlier this year, his family publicly distanced themselves from him, according to MDR, a local public broadcaster, after the prince met publicly with a local mayor who was known to be sympathetic to the Reichsbürger movement, a far-right group that denies the legitimacy of the modern German state. The mayor was suspended from office after attacking a journalist.

“I am afraid that he is now a conspiracy theorist, a confused old man,” Heinrich XIV of Reuss, who speaks for the House of Reuss, told MDR at the time, adding that Heinrich XIII, 71, had broken all ties to the family more than a decade earlier. (Male members of several branches of the family are traditionally all named Heinrich, and the spokesman is not the son of Heinrich XIII.)

The House of Reuss reigned until 1918 in a principality around Gera, in present-day Thuringia, that was incorporated into the German Empire. In modern Germany, hereditary nobles have no special legal standing; their titles carry no formal weight, but they are still sometimes used as parts of names.

The prince, whose professional website calls him Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss and says he offers “Coordination of Business interest,” worked as a high-end real-estate broker. He was arrested in Frankfurt, where he has both an apartment and offices in the exclusive West End neighborhood.

Under Germany’s strict privacy laws, the authorities give only initials for suspects’ surnames, but the name they gave for him — “Heinrich XIII P. R.” — and photos and details of the arrests made his identity clear. A Russian citizen identified as Vitalia B., who according to German news outlets was the prince’s life partner, and another co-conspirator identified as Norbert G., were arrested closer to the ancestral home of the prince in the vicinity of Bad Lobenstein, in Thuringia.

Police officers also raided his castle there, where conspirators occasionally met, MDR reported. The prince is said to have funded some of the group’s activities, according to media reports.

Over the years the prince, whose great-grandfather was the last sovereign of the line until he abdicated at the end of World War I, had worked to maintain family history and burial sites. Born in West Germany during the German division, he became active in the region once ruled by his ancestors after reunification, supervising a dig in search of an ancestor’s tomb in 2014 and renovating a local theater.

But his interest in conspiracy theories and antisemitic tendencies were also well documented.

In January 2019, he gave a lecture at the WorldWebForum in Zurich, Switzerland, that was entitled “Experience the rise and fall of the blue-blooded elite.” In the 15-minute speech, he railed against the Rothschild family and claimed World War I was forced on the German kaiser by international financial interests — both common antisemitic dog whistles — and that modern democratic Germany was just an illusion.

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