The ‘mad’ prince behind an attempt to overthrow the German state


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A prince dismissed by his own family as a “mad old man” has emerged as a central figure in an alleged plot to overthrow the German government. He was arrested along with other alleged plotters – including a right-wing ex-MP and former soldiers – in a nationwide operation carried out by thousands of security forces on Wednesday. 

Prince Heinrich XIII Reuss, a descendant of a noble family with a history dating back over eight centuries, was supposed to be installed as Germany’s new leader if the bizarre plan had succeeded, officials say.

The group are alleged members of the Citizens of the Reich (Reichsbuerger), a movement that unites far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists.

The suspected seditionists are said to have planned to storm parliament and had sketched out details of their new government.

Heinrich XIII, a real estate businessman, was arrested at his residence in Frankfurt and led out by police wearing masks. His castle in Bad Lobenstein in the eastern region of Thuringia – where his aristocratic family once ruled over a stretch of land – was also searched. 

It was at this grand residence where the prince allegedly plotted with others to overthrow the German government.

The 71-year-old made little attempt to hide his extremist views, which chime with the Reichsbuerger movement’s belief in the continuation of a pre-World War I German Reich, or empire, under a monarchy.

In a rambling speech to a conference in Zurich in 2019, he lamented the abdication of the German emperor in 1918 and insisted that the modern-day German republic was illegitimate. 

He referred to the “so-called Federal Republic of Germany” and said the country was “being controlled based on administrative structures installed by the Allies after World War II” who had also written the constitution.

‘Black sheep’ 

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