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The regents of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt

Counts became princes

The regents of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt who resided in Rudolstadt until 1918 were of minor political and economical importance. However, they succeeded in defending their territory almost unchanged since the 16th century against the turmoils throughout the centuries until the beginning of the 20th century. Especially important for the princely house was the fact that their dynasty could be traced back to the 8th century and that in 1349, even if only for a few months, Guenther XXI, a Schwarzburgian, ascended the German king’s throne.

In 1571, Count Albrecht VII of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt chose Rudolstadt as his place of residence. Heidecksburg Palace became the permanent domicile of the counts and princes of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.

The following short articles on the individual regents are excerpts from the in-house publications on the counts and princes of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. More details on these two publications, which contain the long versions of the regents' texts based on intensive research, can be found here.

Albrecht was the second youngest son of Count Günther XL of Schwarzburg and his wife Elisabeth, a born Countess of Isenburg and Büdingen, and spent his childhood mainly at Sondershausen Palace. He got a teacher who was supposed to take care of his education there, so that the foundations for his later studies were laid. At the age of 15, Albrecht lost his father, who had been dining socially that evening and was later struck by a stroke in his room. Since Albrecht and his brother Wilhelm were still minors, the brothers Günther XLI and Johann Günther jointly took over the rule of the county of Schwarzburg in 1552. Albrecht's mother was given her widow's seat in Sondershausen Palace.
After attending the Augustinian School in Strasbourg, the brothers Albrecht and Wilhelm studied at the universities in Erfurt, Jena and Leuven. In 1555, they left for Italy to deepen their education in Padua. A number of books that have survived to this day in the holdings of the Historical Library of the City of Rudolstadt may have been purchased by Albrecht during his studies in Italy. Among them were writings on architectural theory, in which knowledge of ancient architecture was imparted. The most valuable testimony from Albrecht's study time in Italy is a family album created by him.

Approximately at the beginning of 1557, the two brothers, now of full age, returned to their homeland. Since Count Günther XLI and Count Johann Günther had taken over the regency as guardians, Albrecht and Wilhelm now had to share appropriately as rulers. This was initially done through a precise division of income and participation in the exercise of the regency. However, with the further promotions of the young counts, a process was initiated that finally resulted in the division of the Schwarzburg county. From 1571, Albrecht VII and Günther XLI ruled the overlordship and Counts Johann Günther and Wilhelm the underlordship. Between Günther XLI and Albrecht VII there was subsequently a further division of the suzerainty, as joint government had become problematic. While Günther XLI used Neideck Castle as his residence in Arnstadt, the castle in Rudolstadt was available for Albrecht's court camp. However, since this was in great need of overhaul, he immediately began with the necessary reconstruction work. The master builder Georg Robin, later Christoph Junghans and Nikol Schleizer, took over the planning. In 1573, a completely new situation arose for the construction work, because a fire destroyed large parts of the existing residential wings of the castle. Thereupon, Abrecht VII, using the previous building, had a three-winged chateau complex built. He also devoted his attention to the expansion of the residential town of Rudolstadt. He realized the construction of the new St. Andrew's Church and planned the building of a grammar school, which, however, was only carried out by his son.
Albrecht VII married Juliane of Nassau-Dillenburg, a sister of William of Orania, who, brought up strictly in the Lutheran faith, shaped life at the Rudolstadt court. It was a hard blow for Albrecht VII when his wife died in childbirth in 1588. She had borne him ten children, three sons and seven daughters. Nevertheless, he married again three and a half years later. This time he took Elisabeth, a née Countess of Leiningen-Westerburg, as his wife.

In the late 16th century, Albrecht VII had to deal with another division of Schwarzburg territory. He had outlived his brother Günther XLI and the other two brothers died childless, so he had to come to an agreement with the sons of Johann Günther. As a result of the treaty concluded in Stadtilm in 1599, the counties of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen were formed.

Albrecht VII died on April 10, 1605, and he created those intellectual and cultural foundations that would eventually come to be effective in Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Karl Günther was the first-born son of Count Albrecht VII of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and his wife Juliane, née Countess of Nassau-Dillenburg. He began his studies in Jena in 1593, then moved to Frankenhausen in 1597, before going to Leipzig for further studies in the same year. Finally, as it was already determined before his departure from Rudolstadt, he ended up in Strasbourg, where a new phase of life began for Karl Günther. He was unable to make a trip to France as planned and returned to Rudolstadt in 1599. On behalf of his father, he spent time in various offices in order to become acquainted with business and administration.

Already together with his father Albrecht VII, who died in 1605, Karl Günther had the castle in Rudolstadt rebuilt into a residential palace since the 70s of the 16th century. He also had a riding school built below the new stables, on the Middle Terrace, which was completed in the summer of 1611. Karl Günther married Anna Sophie of Anhalt, who soon took on the task of redesigning the palace garden after moving to Rudolstadt. In 1615, the count acquired the Cumbach estate, which he turned into a pleasure garden with an associated pleasure house. The grounds later developed into an orangery. An order from Karl Günther to Albrecht Günther in 1620 to look for good mares indicates that a stud farm was possibly already to be established in Cumbach around this time.

Count Karl Günther died on September 24, 1630, after his marriage also remained childless.

Albrecht Günther was born as the sixth child and third son of Count Albrecht VII of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and spent his early years at the court in Rudolstadt. After the death of his mother, Albrecht Günther's father gave his ten children into the care of his sister-in-law Countess Katharina of Schwarzburg in Arnstadt. In 1598, the two sons of the count, Albrecht Günther and Ludwig Günther, were sent to the university in Jena. After studying here for two years, it was decided to send them on an educational journey that took them via Arnstadt, Eisenach, Marksuhl, Fulda, Hanau, Oppenheim, Worms, Speyer and Landau to Strasbourg. After a year and a half stay in Strasbourg, the journey continued to Paris in 1602. In addition to training in horsemanship, the French language and fencing lessons, the two young counts had an extensive sightseeing program to complete. In 1603, the journey took them via Le Havre, Amiens and Orléans to Blois; from there to Tours, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. In October 1603, the brothers followed their father's orders to return to Germany. The health of Albrecht VII of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt had been seized, whereupon he died in 1605. Because all three sons were of age, they could have taken over the government together. However, at first only the eldest son, Karl Günther, took over. Consequently, Albrecht Günther went to France again, where he settled for a longer period of time.

In 1612, Count Albrecht Günther was in Rudolstadt again and an amicable division between the brothers took place. The county of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was divided into three parts, a Rudolstadt part, a Frankenhausen part and an Ilm part. In this partition treaty, Karl Günther received Rudolstadt, Ludwig Günther Frankenhausen and Albrecht Günther Stadtilm. In 1624, Albrecht Günther and Ludwig Günther exchanged their residences and Albrecht Günther moved to Frankenhausen. After the death of Karl Günther, renewed partition negotiations took place, as a result of which Albrecht Günther was awarded Rudolstadt. Heidecksburg Palace became his new residence, but only for three years. His life, which was characterized by travels and moves and relocations, ultimately came to an end on a journey as well. In 1634, he died on his way back from Frankenhausen in Erfurt, presumably as a result of a stroke.

Countess Juliane, née of Nassau Dillenburg, gave birth to Ludwig Günther as her fifth child. After her death following the birth of her tenth child, he lived for a time with his aunt in Arnstadt. His upbringing was closely coupled with that of his slightly younger brother Albrecht Günther. The brothers studied in Jena and then embarked on an educational journey to Strasbourg before finally continuing to France. At the beginning of January 1604, they returned to Rudolstadt, where Ludwig Günther remained for the following months, taking over from his brother Karl Günther, who had assisted their ailing father Albrecht VII in administrative matters until then. After his death in 1605, all three of the brothers were in charge of the government. As a result, they concluded a contract that transferred the administration of the county solely to Karl Günther. This allowed Ludwig Günther and his brother Albrecht renewed freedom to undertake journeys, but these were to cost the court considerable sums, which Karl Günther struggled to raise.

After a long period of absence, Ludwig Günther returned to Rudolstadt in 1610. A temporal division divided the county into a Rudolstadt, a Frankenhausen and an Ilm part, by which Ludwig Günther consequently resided in Frankenhausen. The next period passed without notable events, with new divisions bringing changes between the brothers and finally leading to Ludwig Günther and Albrecht Günther exchanging their residences and the former moving his court to Stadtilm.

In 1630, the death of Karl Günther in Rudolstadt necessitated a division of the offices he administered. Ludwig Günther took over the offices of Blankenburg, Kranichfeld and Kelbra. Only after the death of Albrecht Günther in 1634 a period of partition lasting about 30 years ended for the county. Ludwig Günther's brothers had left no descendants and he himself was without family, so that the Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt line was threatened with extinction. This changed, however, when Aemilie Antonie of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst came to the court in 1637. They married in 1638 and in the following years fathered four daughters and a son.
After a long illness, the count died in 1646 and his wife Aemilie Antonie took over the guardianship of their son, who was still too young.

In 1646, Countess Aemilie Antonie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, née of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst, who was only 32 years old, followed her late husband Ludwig Günther I of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, 33 years older than her, as guardian of her son Albert Anton in governing the county until he came of age in 1662. Her regency was under the most difficult conditions and lasted longer than those of most counts and princes of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Under her care and supervision, her children received a solid upbringing for the time as well as a scientific education. Her actions were always very precise; what she ordered, she also controlled.

In order to alleviate the hardship of the country in the prevailing times of the 30 Years' War, Aemilie Antonie obtained a letter of protection for the county of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt from the Roman Emperor Ferdinand III by skilfully using her late husband's high standing at the imperial court. She also endeavoured to alleviate the hardship of the people through skilful governing and frugal economic management. She always maintained economic contacts with the county of Delmenhorst. The county recovered very slowly. Despite the strained financial situation, buildings were erected at Heidecksburg. At Schwarzburg, on the other hand, building work was largely at rest. Leutenberg Castle, her future widow's residence, received her full attention.

Aemilie Antonie promoted education in the county and appointed Johann Nikolaus Stender, a magister from Jena, as headmaster of the Rudolstadt state school, so that it soon became known beyond the borders of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. In her widow's residence, the countess, together with her daughters and under the advice of the court physician, ran a pharmacy with a laboratory and materials store to be able to help people in a difficult time of deprivation and illness. From this time, handwritten books by the women with medicine recipes have survived in the Rudolstadt Historical Library and the Thuringian State Archives in Rudolstadt. She also did a lot for the churches of the country. She died at the age of 56 in 1670.

Albert Anton of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt came into the world in the midst of the 30 Years' War as the only son of Ludwig Günther I of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Aemilie Antonie, née of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst, in 1641. Since his father, the reigning count, died when he was still a minor, his mother took over the guardianship of the government. As the sole heir, Albert Anton was under constant supervision and enjoyed a wide range of education. At the age of 17, he was sent on educational trips to various places in Germany. Studying at university seemed too risky in view of illnesses and war disturbances, for example. Before his journey began, detailed expert opinions were obtained on the conditions in the German countries to be visited, as well as on places where smallpox, measles, dysentery or the plague had occurred. Albert Anton eventually travelled to the cities of Gotha, Eisenach, Marburg, Giessen, Hanau, Mainz, Darmstadt, Worms, Speyer, Heidelberg, Nürnberg and Bamberg. He also attended the coronation of Leopold I as emperor in Frankfurt.

Finally, he embarked on a cavalier tour in 1659, supervised by Court Master Biesenrod, as far as the Netherlands. He also spent a few weeks at the court of his cousin, Count Anton Günther of Oldenburg, where he visited the stud and studied the layout of the court. At the end of the year he returned to Rudolstadt, to the delight of his mother and sisters, who donated some money to the poor of the town to mark his coming of age. With Albert Anton's coming of age at 21, the guardianship of his mother Aemilie Antonie ended in 1662 and he took up his government duties. He tried to promote the economy of the country by introducing cameralism. Privileges were confirmed and the establishment of commercial enterprises was supported. At the same time, the reconstruction and expansion of mining began, the revenue from which increased annually. Further income was provided by the sale of timber, which was one of the most important economic sectors in Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt due to the rich forest stock.

Hunting was one of Albert Anton's favourite pastimes, with the Paulinzella hunting lodge and Schwarzburg serving as stays, among other places. The Schwarzburg, as the ancestral palace, was rebuilt and remodelled under Albert Anton until 1683. The interiors were altered in the Baroque style and the castle church was redesigned. The joy of this did not last long, however, because in 1695 the interior of the church fell victim to a fire.

Albert Anton's policies gradually stabilised the country's economy. Schooling and education improved. The rebuilding of churches destroyed in the war gave people a foothold again. The population grew.

The count married his cousin Aemilie Juliane of Barby-Mühlingen, who grew up with him at the Rudolstadt court after the death of her parents. Their wedding took place in 1665 in the Great Hall of Heidecksburg Castle. On 15 October 1667 the count and countess were given a son, who was baptised Ludwig Friedrich. Their happiness grew with the birth of their daughter Albertine Antonie, who, however, only lived a few days and left behind great pain. Albert Anton and Aemilie Juliane were not granted any further children and the grief for their daughter ran deep for decades. Ludwig Friedrich was nevertheless their only happiness and enjoyed a wide range of care. Later, his children brought variety into the everyday life of the counts and he influenced life at court by transferring his impressions of his cavalier tour to France.

In 1706, Albert Anton's beloved wife died and was buried in the town church. Now the count's constitution also deteriorated until he himself suffered a stroke in 1707. He recovered, but had to struggle with speech disorders and paralysis. As a result, his son Ludwig Friedrich took over the government of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt in the same year. Albert Anton had ruled the county for 45 years.

When a son was born to the Count and Countess Albert Anton and Aemilie Juliane of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt in the Residence Palace on 15 October 1667, he was given the name Ludwig Friedrich at his christening the following day. In 1687, the young hereditary count began his educational journey to France. After a long time of waiting, he succeeded in paying his respects to the French King Louis XIV in Versailles. In 1688, Ludwig Friedrich, who met the most important rulers of the European world on his journey, arrived back in Rudolstadt and first had to get used to the small world of the Schwarzburg county again.

The connection established in Paris with the Duke of Gotha led to his marriage to his eldest daughter, Duchess Anna Sophie, on 15 October 1691. This union produced 13 children, four of them sons.

The death of Countess Aemilie Juliane in 1706 marked the generational change in the Schwarzburg county. Albert Anton left the affairs of state in the hands of Ludwig Friedrich until his death in 1710. While Albert Anton was still alive, Count Ludwig Friedrich and his descendants were elevated to the rank of imperial princes by an imperial diploma, which made the former county a principality. In the euphoria that gripped the new imperial prince, he developed the plan to leave the capital Rudolstadt with the court and authorities and to reside in Schwarzburg, which was consequently to be expanded and elevated to the status of a city. His role model, Louis XIV, had left Paris to rule from Versailles. But Rudolstadt remained the Schwarzburg capital.

Ludwig Friedrich initiated numerous measures to modernise the state. In addition to a reform of the authorities, he began building activities in Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg. The intention to develop Schwarzburg into a residence is evident in the construction of the castle church, which also housed a hereditary burial place for the princely family. The construction of the Emperor's Hall and the Baroque palace garden were intended to make Schwarzburg Palace more homely. In Rudolstadt, a bell foundry was built and the new town was extended. In Heidecksburg Palace, the living quarters in the south wing were modernised and the mirror cabinet was installed, and the garden terraces were redesigned.

Prince Ludwig Friedrich died on 24 June 1718 at the age of 51.

As the son of Hereditary Prince Ludwig Friedrich of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and his wife Anna Sophie, Friedrich Anton was born on 14 August 1692. His baptism, which he received on the same day, was witnessed by his grandparents Count Albert Anton and Countess Aemilie Juliane. They made the greatest effort in his upbringing and showed him much affection. He tirelessly learned the most diverse subjects as well as fencing, riding and dancing. He discovered poetry for himself.

His first major journey took him to Frankfurt am Main, Würzburg and Nürnberg in 1711. From 1715 to 1716, Friedrich Anton travelled as »Baron von Heideck« to Arnstadt, Gotha, Eisenach and again Frankfurt, before finally travelling on to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Paris, Heidelberg, Würzburg, Munich, Vienna and Prague. When he returned to Heidecksburg Palace in 1716, he was immediately involved in the affairs of state. When Ludwig Friedrich died in 1718, Friedrich Anton, at the age of 26, had to bear the full burden of government. This was not easy, as this period was very turbulent in terms of both foreign and domestic policy. Especially in the early days of his government, he delegated important decisions to his chancellor Georg Ulrich von Beulwitz in a spirit of trust.

Friedrich Anton of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt married Sophie Wilhelmine of Saxony-Saalfeld, who gave him a healthy son in 1721, the later Prince Johann Friedrich. The second-born daughter died after just three months. Sophie Albertine saw the light of day in 1724. To Friedrich Anton's deep sorrow, his wife fell ill in 1727 and died after a few days. During this time, the prince wrote many religious texts and poems. After a year of mourning, he married again, this time to Christine Sophie of East Frisia.

He was troubled by the devastating fires at Schwarzburg Palace in 1726 and the major fire at Heidecksburg Palace in Rudolstadt in 1735, which destroyed most of the palace's buildings, including the tower. The necessary building measures that resulted from this put a strain on the finances for many years. Friedrich Anton decided to rebuild his castle in Rudolstadt. Together with his son Johann Friedrich, he finally commissioned the Weimar master builder and artist Gottfried Heinrich Krohne. With the new castle tower and the west wing, Friedrich Anton turned the palace into one of the most important baroque castles in Germany.
Friedrich Anton's reign also saw the establishment of a faience factory in Rudolstadt, the first »Vogelschiessen«, the foundation stone laying ceremony for the town palace and the construction of a dam along the river Saale. Nevertheless, the prince suffered both physically and mentally during the years of his reign, which was evident from his medical records from 1741. An unhealthy lifestyle, high blood pressure and chronic asthma plagued him. He finally died in 1744.

Johann Friedrich was one of the rulers of the Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt who had a long-lasting influence on intellectual life at court and in the country, on church and school life, science and art, as well as on economic development. 
In 1727, six years after his birth, his mother, Sophie Wilhelmine of Schwarzburg, née Princess of Saxony-Saalfeld, died. This event overshadowed his childhood, and he was now dependent on his educators. From the age of 17 to 21, the young prince went on educational journeys to various countries and became acquainted with important centres of science and court life. This became a decisive experience that influenced his basic positions and the way he governed in later years.

After the unexpected death of his father Friedrich Anton, Johann Friedrich took over the government in 1744 at the age of 23. At first, he endeavoured to advance the work on Heidecksburg Palace and to recruit artisans and visual artists for the interior work. The enormous costs of the building, in addition to the already excessive financial outlay for the court, virtually forced the princely government to use all the natural resources of the land and to promote trade and commerce.

Johann Friedrich was known beyond the borders of the principality as a ruler who was particularly open to the arts and sciences. This is demonstrated by his lively correspondence with scholars and their visits to the residence, whereby professors from the University of Jena in the neighbouring Duchy of Saxony-Weimar were particularly welcome guests of the court. There were also close ties with the university in Leipzig, Saxony.
Johann Friedrich died unexpectedly on 10 July 1767. Later dissection showed that a stroke had caused this rapid death.

Ludwig Günther was born in 1708 as the 13th child of the princely couple Ludwig Friedrich I of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Anna Sophie. His father died when he was 10 years old and at 14 his mother sent him to Utrecht for studies, as the necessary teachers were not available for him in Rudolstadt. In doing so, Anna Sophie referred to her husband's will, which contained precise instructions about Ludwig Günther's education. The Rudolstadt court ultimately intended - through contacts with important European princely courts - to pave the way for Ludwig Günther to pursue a career in the civil service or the military, since a regency was out of the question due to primogeniture. He left Rudolstadt for almost ten years. Besides Utrecht, he stayed in Geneva and in Italy, the latter mainly due to increasingly frequent health problems. This trip, however, was to shape the rest of his life, as in Italy the prince became familiar with the art of antiquity, the Renaissance and the Baroque at a time when the Rudolstadt court was still influenced by Pietism. On the basis of his travel journal, it is easy to understand that he came into contact with works by important artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Caravaggio, as well as with patrons. Moreover, he left no collection, no chamber of rarities and no armoury out of his contemplation. His interest was in the testimonies of antiquity, he climbed the Mount Vesuv, visited spas, grottos, sulphur and alum springs.
In 1725, Ludwig Günther decided to serve the Austrian Emperor in Italy. Discussions took place about a post of colonel in the Langletian regiment under General Daxelhofer. In February 1726, he took up the post in Milan. The prince travelled to Rudolstadt only twice between 1722 and 1731. In 1731, he unexpectedly submitted his resignation, as he suffered from increasing hearing loss in his right ear, which was a hindrance to his military career.
In 1733, Ludwig Günther married Sophie Henriette of Reuß at Plauen-Untergreiz and moved with her to Heidecksburg Palace. This enabled him to better follow the construction at Schönfeld's estate, where he had the old manor building demolished and on the foundation walls arranged for the construction of Ludwigsburg in Rudolstadt, which was named after him. In 1742, he and his family finally moved into his city palace.

While being ruled from Heidecksburg Palace, Ludwig Günther spent the next 25 years with his family relatively carefree. He was a horse lover and his daily routine was filled with paintings and drawings of horses that he made himself. The horse room at Schwarzburg Palace displayed 246 of his oil paintings, of which only a few have survived today and are on display in the south wing of Heidecksburg Palace. Likewise, the castle library still contains horse pedigrees from the princely stud farm made by him, together with watercolour drawings. In addition to painting, Ludwig Günther filled his time with his pronounced passion for collecting – e.g. copper engravings, paintings, casts of antique and contemporary sculptures, books and natural objects.

Ludwig Günther was greatly dismayed by the unexpected death of Prince Johann Friedrich of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt in 1767, as he now had to take over the regency for lack of male heirs to Johann Friedrich. However, he was hardly interested in the business of government and gave his chancellors a free hand. He did, however, attach particular importance to the promotion of crafts and trade. The most important work on the new palace in Rudolstadt was completed under Ludwig Günther II. In 1778, the prince decided to generously furnish a new library on the upper floor of the north/west wing and further increased his book collection. By 1773, it had already grown to about 10,000 volumes. The collection was opened to the public every Monday.

In the last years of his life, the Prince withdrew more and more due to health problems and died in 1790 at the age of 81 as the oldest reigning Prince in Germany.

Friedrich Karl of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was born in 1736 in the residential palace of Heidecksburg, the son of Ludwig Günther of Schwarzburg Rudolstadt and Sophie Henriette, and consequently enjoyed a Christian upbringing and education. At the age of five, he moved with his parents to the city palace of Ludwigsburg, where he lived until 1767 and devoted himself to painting, music and poetry. Two key experiences stimulated a passion for natural history in him early on - a visit to a natural history cabinet in Greiz and a view of minerals and petrified wood in Coburg.
In 1755, the court decided to send Friedrich Karl on an educational trip to France. In addition to intensive language studies, he devoted himself there to art, science and economics. In September 1756, he travelled home via Holland, where he also visited several natural history cabinets, and returned to Rudolstadt on 11 November 1756.

On 26 March 1757, he had the misfortune to be thrown from a horse and dragged even further, resulting in considerable injuries. For the next eight years he had to cure himself of these injuries and spent weeks and months confined to bed. During his convalescence, he was visited by the geologist, physicist and later court physician Georg Christian Füchsel, who filled the long hours by teaching him geosciences and arranging his small collection of ore and rock specimens. Friedrich Karl later named this time in his memoirs as the founding period of his own natural history cabinet. From then on, the collection was to grow rapidly with exhibits from all three kingdoms of nature. By 1785, it already filled seven medium-sized rooms in Ludwigsburg Palace and was distinguished above all by its rare collection of conchyls. At the same time, an exquisite library developed. 
Friedrich Karl was not a natural scientist, but he was certainly a knowledgeable nature lover who knew how to put his passion for collecting to good use. He spent enormous sums on his cabinet - 6,277 thalers by 1790. In addition, he was experimentally engaged in questions of electricity and chemistry, carried out meteorological observations and had a botanical garden with 300 herbaceous flowering plant species laid out in the princely tree garden.

In 1761, Prince Johann Friedrich had the foresight to arrange for his cousin Friedrich Karl to attend meetings of the Privy Council in order to familiarise him with the business of government. In 1757, the reigning prince had become a widower without male descendants and did not consider a second marriage. Thus, the already 50-year-old Ludwig Günther, but above all his first-born son, could be prepared to take over the succession. When Johann Friedrich died in 1767, Friedrich Karl advanced to become hereditary prince.
In 1763, Friedrich Karl married Friederike Sophie Auguste, the eldest daughter of the reigning Prince Johann Friedrich. The couple consequently took up residence in the Residence Palace and six children followed. In the 1770s, smallpox became prevalent in Rudolstadt. After much deliberation at court, it was decided in 1777 to infect the children of the hereditary prince with the variola virus as a precautionary measure - as an early example of active immunisation.
In 1778, Friedrich Karl's wife died at the age of 33, which caused him deep depression and made a cure necessary. In 1780, he finally married again, this time to Auguste Louise Friederike, the eldest daughter of Johann August of Saxony-Gotha-Altenburg. However, the marriage remained childless.

In 1790, with the death of Ludwig Günther II, the hereditary prince finally took over the official government as prince and sovereign. He had already devoted 29 years to state affairs and exerted influence under two princes in the Privy Council. As early as autumn 1792, however, he suffered a stroke that left him entirely mentally confused and physically debilitated, whereupon he finally died in the Residence Palace on 13 April 1793.

Ludwig Friedrich was the first-born son of Hereditary Prince Friedrich Karl of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. One month before his birth, his grandfather Ludwig Günther took over the government after the unexpected death of Prince Johann Friedrich, who had remained without male descendants. 
Prince Ludwig Friedrich was influenced by his dealings with the family von Stein, von Lengefeld and von Beulwitz. The Steins were on friendly and neighbourly terms at the Rudolstadt princely court. In 1786, Ludwig Friedrich was a guest for the first time in the house of the court counsellor von Beulwitz, where he met his mother-in-law and her two daughters. In the following years, the prince met many interesting people in the house of the Beulwitz-Lengefeld family. On 29 May 1788, he made the acquaintance of Friedrich Schiller, and on 7 September of the same year, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Finally, from 1789, Louise von Lengefeld, who had been a widow since 1775, lived at the court as court mistress to the daughters of Hereditary Prince Friedrich Karl and became the confidante of the princely children.

In 1789, the decision was made to send the princes Ludwig Friedrich and Karl Günther on an educational journey, for which Geneva was chosen. News of the storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution became a permanent topic. In November, the princes met Wilhelm von Humboldt. Finally, in March 1790, they set off on their return journey, on the way meeting other interesting personalities such as August Wilhelm Iffland, Adolf von Knigge, Matthias Claudius and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. In Berlin, they met again with Wilhem von Humboldt, and in Dresden they arranged to meet with the consistorial councillor Christian Gottfried Körner, Schiller's friend.

After the death of Ludwig Günther in 1790 and the accession to power of Ludwig Friedrich's father Friedrich Karl, the successor heir to the throne became preoccupied with the idea of having to take over the government himself one day. In 1791, he married the eldest daughter of the Landgrave of Hessen-Homburg, Karoline Louise. When Ludwig Friedrich II of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt came to power, Germany was in the throes of the French Revolution. In the early years, the young prince left the administration of the state to his officials, as he had already overcome in his thinking the traditional understanding of the role of a prince that had characterised his predecessors. But the role of art lover, as much as Ludwig Friedrich enjoyed living it, could not replace politics in the long run. Reform of the state administration and relations with France were, after all, important issues of the time. In 1796, the prince initiated reforms. In addition, at the end of the 1790s he began to plan building projects in the royal seat and to realise them according to his possibilities.

In 1804, with the proclamation of Napoleon as emperor for life, Louis Frederick II feared for the existence of his small country and went to Mainz for an audience with the emperor. In 1805, Napoleon became the dominant ruler in Germany and with the resignation of the imperial crown by Franz II in 1806, the old German Empire came to an end. Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt remained neutral in the coming conflicts, but Rudolstadt became a sideshow in the war when a battle was fought near Saalfeld on 10 October 1806 and Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia was mortally wounded there. After Napoleon's victory at Jena and Auerstädt, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was placed under French forced administration, but this was revoked in 1807. Consequently, the principality joins the Confederation of the Rhine on 18 April 1807, the same day that Ludwig Friedrich II appoints his wife Karoline Louise as regent in his testament. He died ten days later.

The daughter of Landgrave Friedrich V of Hessen-Homburg and his wife Karoline of Hessen-Darmstadt, Karoline Louise was born in 1771. Her education was formal and thorough as well as determined by piety. In 1791, she married Ludwig Friedrich of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and from then on exerted considerable influence on the artistic life of the residence. Seven children were born of the marriage.

In accordance with her husband's will, Karoline Louise of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, as his widow, assumed the duties of a provincial regent in 1807 and managed the affairs with prudence and energy until her eldest son Friedrich Günther came of age. Through her family, which had married into great German ruling houses, she had a wide range of information and connections that were useful for her regency. She maintained an extensive correspondence with important contemporaries, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt, who remained loyal to her for many years.

Friedrich Günther was born in 1793 as the son of the princely couple Ludwig Friedrich II and Karoline Louise of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. From 1799, rooms on the upper floor of the west wing of Heidecksburg Palace served as living quarters for the young prince, so that the Upper Court Library, which had been housed there until then, had to make way for rooms in the south wing. After the early death of his father, his mother was solely responsible for his upbringing, and from then on she also took over the affairs of state. 
In 1810/11, the young prince spent a year in Switzerland for his education. He also travelled to Italy, where he visited Venice and Milan.

After the Battle of Leipzig and the Principality's withdrawal from the Confederation of the Rhine in 1813, Friedrich Günther wished to participate in the war against Napoleon, at least as an onlooker, which Prince Philipp of Hessen-Homburg made possible for him, whom he was allowed to accompany for a time. In 1814, he returned from France and officially took over the government. In 1816, he married Amalie Auguste of Anhalt-Dessau.

Friedrich Günther's 53-year regency should become the longest and at the same time most peaceful period of a Rudolstadt regent, which was only shaken by riots in the years 1830/31 and 1848/49. At first, he hardly set his own course, as the »grande dame« of the Rudolstadt court, his mother Karoline Louise, continued to intervene in a regulatory manner for decades. According to contemporaries, Friedrich Günther preferred the life of a private man, and when political decisions had to be made, he always preferred reaction over action. While his father, Ludwig Friedrich II, was still the defining personality of an era, there is hardly any evidence that Friedrich Günther intervened in a formative way in political and social life.

Friedrich Günther's rather reluctant perception of state affairs intensified after the events of 1848/49. His increasing retreat into the private sphere certainly had something to do with his disappointment at the »uproar of his state children«, but several deaths also shook the princely house within a few years. After two sons had already died at an early age, the last one, Hereditary Prince Friedrich Günther Leopold, died in 1845. Friedrich Günther's wife Amalie Auguste died in 1854, and a few days later his aged mother Karoline Louise and her sister Louise Ulrike also died. With the death of the hereditary prince Friedrich Günther Leopold, the constellation of succession at the Rudolstadt court also changed, so that Friedrich Günther's brother Albert and his son Georg now succeeded to the regency. Tensions in the family eventually led to Friedrich Günther often leaving Rudolstadt for weeks at a time without communicating his whereabouts. He also married twice – surprisingly and out of wedlock. He finally died of a »cerebral apoplexy« on 28 June 1867.

Albert was the fifth child of Prince Ludwig Friedrich II of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and his wife Karoline Louise. As a child, he experienced the conflict between France and Prussia, which involved troops passing through Schwarzburg territory. He showed an early interest in the military. After Albert's confirmation in 1814, Karl Günther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt asked the Prussian king to accept his nephew Albert into military service in the cavalry. A few days later, Albert left his hometown to serve as a lieutenant alongside Lieutenant-General Prince Ludwig of Hessen-Homburg. In the Prussian army, Albert experienced the campaign against Napoleon's troops. He took part in the siege of French cities and entered Paris with allied troops. He rarely stayed in Rudolstadt. Until 1820, he served in the Cuirassier Regiment, until 1827 as »Rittmeister« and finally as a Major in the Guard Cuirassiers. At the Prussian court, Albert met his future wife Auguste of Solms-Braunfels and moved with her to Heidecksburg Palace in 1827, where their life initially followed a uniform course. They undertook many journeys and were invited to large parties held at the courts in Berlin, Braunfels, Homburg, Dessau and Hanover. Nevertheless, the young couple also faced stresses, for Auguste suffered from a nervous disease and two of their children were stillborn, a third dying shortly after birth. In 1833, however, they were blessed with the birth of their daughter Elisabeth and in 1838 their son Georg.

A tragic event changed Albert's position at court. In 1845, the hereditary prince Friedrich Günther Leopold died, causing him to succeed in his place. After 1848, the condition of his wife also deteriorated, and she was finally transferred to a closed institution and died in 1865. Albert, who was now 67 years old and suffering from a heart disease, withdrew more and more, but had to take over the government of the country after the death of the reigning Prince Friedrich Günther in 1867.
Albert's order to dissolve the parliament in 1869 had far-reaching consequences for the principality. This step led to a state crisis. It was not until his son Georg that the state parliament was reinstated and the necessary reforms carried out. Under Prince Albert's regency, Prussia's supremacy was finally recognised, and he also placed the military of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt under the control of the Great Power. Albert died of pneumonia on 26 November 1869 at the age of 71.

Georg Albert, called Georg, was born on 23 November 1838 as the son of Prince Albert of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and his wife Auguste, née of Solms-Braunfels. In the letters to his sister Elisabeth, some of which are still preserved today, it becomes clear that he found his childhood and youth in his »beloved« Rudolstadt carefree and happy. From his earliest youth, two things attracted Georg's special attention – horses and the military. Even as a child he was given three ponies and his sketchbooks contain mainly depictions of horses. His drawing teacher Heinrich Cotta dedicated a graphic series of 40 etchings to him entitled »Der kleine Pferdezeichner. A book of drawings for industrious boys«. Regular riding lessons at the »Princely Riding School« made him a respectable rider who knew how to handle the animals skilfully. During longer stays outside Rudolstadt, stable servants always had to report to him by letter on the condition of his horses.

It became apparent early on that Georg would pursue a military career and was promoted by his father, who was himself an officer in the Prussian service. In 1848, Georg and other children of noble families and bourgeois officials founded a children's guard that reflected the Rudolstadt Citizen's Guard in a childlike, playful way. He also set up a small collection of weapons in the tower room of Heidecksburg Palace.

After Georg's education in Rudolstadt, the decision was made to send him as a student to Göttingen and Bonn when he reached the age of 18, where he took history of law, philosophy, economics, and political and financial science. He did not complete his studies in Bonn, as the war in Upper Italy also led to mobilisation in Prussia and he decided to join the army in 1859, where he was recruited directly into the Garde du corps as a premier lieutenant à la suite.
In 1867, the reigning Prince Friedrich Günther died and Georg's father Albert took over the government of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt at the proud age of 69 and already marked by illness. Georg was now the official heir to the throne, contrary to the original succession. Prince Albert died after only two years, so that he had to take over the government in Rudolstadt from 26 November 1869. As reigning Prince, Georg could of course not devote himself exclusively to his military career and his wish to become a commanding general was no longer fulfilled. He had to take up the reins of government in the midst of a state crisis, as the parliament had been dissolved by his father.

George's personal interests were the archaeological finds of his homeland as well as late medieval altars and sculptures. His collection of historical glass and ceramics was also well-known and praised. The Schwarzburg weapons collection was also expanded by him. Georg had an armoury built for himself on the first floor in the south wing of Heidecksburg Palace as well, where a neo-Gothic style living area was created for him. The occasion for the new furnishings was the planned wedding to Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. However, the engagement was broken off.
Prince Georg died completely unexpectedly at the age of 51 of pneumonia when an influenza epidemic was rampant in 1890. He died without a will and his entire estate passed to his sister Elisabeth.

Günther Viktor of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was born in 1852, the only son of four children of the princely couple Franz Friedrich Karl Adolph and Mathilde, née of Schönburg-Waldenburg. He spent his childhood in Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg and Droyßig near Zeitz. Even during his childhood and adolescence, Günther frequently fell ill, so that he was forced to visit various health resorts and spas. In 1868, his parents decided to send Günther Viktor to Dresden to attend the Vitzthum grammar school, making him the first Schwarzburg prince at a public school. In addition to preparing him for a military career, since a regency was not in the cards, he undertook study trips to Belgium, France and England. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Günther Viktor left the grammar school and volunteered to join the Mecklenburg dragoon regiment.

In 1871, he stayed in Dresden and Hermsdorf, where he saw his cousin Anna Luise of Schönburg-Waldenburg for the first time, who would eventually become his wife 20 years later.
After Günther Viktor had experienced the war with the sieges of Metz, Toul, Soissons, Paris, the battles of Orléans and Le Mans as well as the battles at Dreux, Villorceau, Bemay, the Emperor allowed him a leave to continue his studies. Consequently, he studied law, political science and art history in Leipzig. In 1874 he returned to active military service. In 1880, he was a riding instructor responsible for training four- to five-year-old horses at the Military Riding Institute in Hanover, where he also attended the art school. In 1889, he was transferred to Berlin as a cavalry captain. Although Günther Viktor had already been granted convalescent leave, the Emperor granted him a six-month leave to restore his health, from which he did not return to Berlin, as on 19 January 1890 his cousin Georg, who had been ruling as Prince until then, died unexpectedly and he took over the government of the Principality just one day later.

The affairs of state were conducted by the Minister of State Wilhelm von Starck and, from 1903, Franz Freiherr von der Recke. Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt was a constitutional monarchy according to the constitution of March 1854, which was known as the Basic Law. The duties of a ruling prince were thus more representative in nature.

In 1890, he became engaged to Luise Charlotte Marie Agnes of Saxony-Altenburg, but only three months later the engagement was called off. In November 1891, he finally became engaged again to his cousin Anna Luise of Schönburg-Waldenburg and just one month later the wedding took place in Rudolstadt. The couple spent their honeymoon at Schwarzburg Palace, which, along with Rathsfeld Castle, became their favourite place to stay. Anna Luise's pregnancy was also welcomed with great joy a little later, but in the seventh month she gave birth to a dead son and she herself fell into childbed fever. In addition, she suffered from pleurisy and abdominal inflammation as well as partial heart paralysis. The severe course of the illness made another pregnancy impossible – a dynastic disaster for Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Consequently, Günther's great cousin Sizzo, who was the offspring of Prince Friedrich Günther's unequal marriage, was designated to succeed to the regency. As a consequence of this stroke of fate, not having any descendants himself, Günther Viktor withdrew more and more and his wife took over the duties of representation. A particular highlight of the regency was the inauguration of the Kyffhäuser Monument in the presence of the Emperor in 1896. Great tensions developed between Günther Viktor and Sizzo, in which Anna Luise tried to intervene.

Günther Viktor paid great attention to the restoration and expansion of the princely collections. He had the Schwarzburg armoury collection uniformly designed, the catalogue for which was supplied by Carl Anton Ossbahr, the secretary of the royal armoury in Stockholm. On Günther's behalf, Court Marshal Klüber took care of the professional restoration of paintings, textiles and porcelain. He also made collection objects available for exhibition purposes.
At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, Günther Viktor was already suffering from various illnesses, especially increasing heart weakness. With the unexpected death of the childless Prince Karl Günther of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in March 1909, Günther Viktor now also had to rule this principality in personal union.

With the November Revolution of 1918, the political influence of the Princely House of Schwarzburg on the fate of the country came to an end. The abdication of the Emperor and the proclamation of politics finally represented the decisive caesura that forced all German princes to resign. Günther Viktor was the last of them to abdicate, on 23 November 1918 for Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and on 25 November 1918 for Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. The princely couple retained the castles of Schwarzburg and Rathsfeld, together with their inventory and hunting grounds, at their free disposal for life and secured residential rights in the castles of Heidecksburg and Sondershausen. The not inconsiderable assets of the House of Schwarzburg in terms of real estate and art possessions were transferred to the Günther Foundation, later to the State of Thuringia, which made the permanent preservation of the castles, the facilities and collections and the use for the public possible – the foundation stone for the later museum establishment was thus laid. Günther Viktor died at the age of 72 on 16 April 1925, leaving Anna Luise as a widow.