History Highlights

The Hohenstaufen, Hohenzollern, Hapsburg and Welf dynasties originated in the German region of Swabia

A great many historical leaders came from a small region in southwestern Germany. They include the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the Hapsburg dynasty, the Hohenzollern dynasty, and the Welf dynasty. All of these important families originated in Swabia, or Schwaben, a region in Germany that was located in what is now part of the states of Baden-Württemberg and part of Bavaria.

Swabia was the home of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, which included Germany’s most celebrated medieval Kaiser, Friedrich Barbarossa.

Legendary Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa in center with his sons Heinrich, the future Kaiser Heinrich VI, and Friedrich, Duke of Swabia and first Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights

Barbarossa’s symbol of 3 fierce lions in a vertical stack became the coat of arms of Schwaben (Swabia) and can still be seen on today’s Baden- Württemberg coat of arms.

Today’s Baden- Württemberg coat of arms….
3 lions of the medieval Hohenstaufen dynasty with a deer and a griffin holding the shield…
the smaller coats of arms are
the Franken rake,
the black and white of the Hohenzollern dynasty,
the red and gold of Baden,
the 3 antlers of the Wuerttemberg dynasty.
the lion symbol of Kurpfalz, and the
red and white of the Hapsburg dynasty.

The Hohenzollern dynasty also arose in Swabia. This family included the 17th century’s celebrated Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, then his grandson Frederick the Great in the 18th century, and the 19th century Kaiser Wilhelm I, who unified modern Germany. This German royal dynasty had members who were variously princes, electors, kings and emperors of Hohenzollern, Brandenburg, Prussia, the German Empire, and Romania. The family arose in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century and took their name from Hohenzollern Castle.

Hohenzollern Castle.…As loyal vassals of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the Hohenzollerns were able to significantly enlarge their territory. Count Frederick III accompanied Emperor Frederick Barbarossa against Henry the Lion in 1180, and through his marriage was granted the Burgraviate of Nuremberg by Emperor Henry VI in 1192.

The Habsburg  dynasty also originated in Swabia…they were one of the most influential royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was continuously occupied by the Habsburgs from 1438 until its dissolution in 1806. The house also produced kings of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal and Spain with their respective colonies, as well as rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy and emperors of Austria, Austria-Hungary and Mexico. From the 16th century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried.

The house takes its name from Habsburg Castle, a fortress built in the 1020s in present-day Switzerland although at the time of its construction the location was part of the Duchy of Swabia. 

And the Welf dynasty, known as Welf, Guelf or Guelph, also originated in Swabia. They were German nobles and rulers who were the chief rivals of the Hohenstaufens in Italy and Germany in the Middle Ages. One of the best known Welfs was Henry the Lion who ruled Bavaria and Saxony. Henry the Lion’s son Otto of Brunswick was elected King of the Romans, meaning King of the Germans, and crowned Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV. He was the only Welf to become Holy Roman Emperor.

Heinrich der Löwe (Henry the Lion) was one of the most powerful German princes of his time. He founded many cities, among them Munich and Lübeck. He also founded and developed numerous other cities in Northern Germany and Bavaria: Augsburg, Hildesheim, Stade, Kassel, Güstrow, Lüneburg, Salzwedel, Schwerin and Braunschweig (Brunswick).

Notable Welf family members and their personal coat of arms

The Hanoverian Welfs, with the accession of George I to the British throne in 1714, became rulers of Great Britain and Ireland. This Hanoverian branch of the Welf dynasty became the British royal family from 1714 until today. George I of Hanover formed a personal union between the British crown and the Electorate of Hanover, which lasted until well after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. When Queen Victoria married the German Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, the royal family became known as the House of Saxe Coburg until anti-German sentiment during WWI caused the family to adopt the English sounding name, House of Windsor.

The coat of arms of Great Britain under George I in 1714 ….the first quadrant is 3 lions for England and 1 lion for Scotland… second Quadrant is for France…third quadrant is for Ireland. On the lower quadrant, two lions for Brunswick… a standing lion for Luneburg…a horse for Hanover and in their center is the Crown of Charlemagne for George I holding the ceremonial title of Archtreasurer of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.


Swabia’s borders today are thought of as comprising the former German state of Württemberg (with the Prussian Hohenzollern Province) and the administrative region of Bavarian Swabia.




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Tagged Baden-WürttembergBavariagermanGerman Empiregerman historygerman royal dynastiesHapsburgHohenstaufenHohenzollern,  SchwabenSwabiaWelf dynasty

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