The one who dreamed of a throne found himself sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed. Germany was stunned to discover the existence of Prince Reuss Henry XIII, considered a central figure in a plot against the state foiled on Wednesday by the authorities.
On Wednesday, security forces landed at his Frankfurt residence. At the same time, his castle in Bad Lobenstein, in the region of Thuringia (east) where his aristocratic lineage originated, was also searched. It is in this large residence that the prince would have invited sympathizers to hatch a coup d’etat against the Federal Republic, the culmination of which was to be taken by the arms of parliament.
The “Citizens of the Reich”
Twenty-five people in all were arrested during the dragnet at the heart of a radical cell fueled by the ideology of the “Reichsbürger”, the “Citizens of the Reich”, an extremist movement which grew with the health restrictions. The investigation concerns 54 people in total and new arrests are not excluded, according to the authorities.
A speech delivered in 2019 in Zürich during a forum of actors of the digital world sheds light on the vision of the world of the aristocrat. Dressed in an elegant blue suit, locks of white hair pulled back, he accuses pell-mell “the Jewish financial industry” of having destroyed the monarchy, “foreign Freemasons” of having caused the First World War , denies any legitimacy to the Federal Republic of Germany, an “administrative structure of the Allies”, who also wrote the constitution.
“Crazy Old Man”
If the man is proud of his blue blood and continues to demand reparation for his “despoiled” family, his relatives have long distanced themselves, says Prince Henry XIV, who presents himself as the head of the aristocratic siblings of some 60 members. “We have no contact with this black sheep of the family”, he declares from the outset, presenting him as “a mad old man, alas” who has not belonged to the family council for fourteen years already.
According to Berliner Zeitung, he would have been married to an Iranian woman with whom he would have had two children. His son, born in 1991, would be called Henri XXVIII. “We are a big family with a great history, we reigned for 850 years in the region” of Thuringia, assures Prince Henry XIV, regretting that the errors of his relative tarnish the “reputation” of the whole clan.
From “crossbow” to “rifles”
Opinions differ on the degree of danger to be given to the dismantled network. It would certainly be “easy” to tax these conspirators as “harmless madmen”, underlines the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung. But they come “from the upper classes of our society, with nobles, teachers, doctors, businessmen, as well as soldiers and police officers”, points out the newspaper.
Among the main suspects arrested are indeed elite soldiers and a judge, a former far-right deputy. The conspiracy group had many weapons, ranging from “crossbows to rifles and ammunition” and was therefore potentially dangerous, added the head of the criminal police (BKA), Holger Münch on the ARD television channel.
21,000 people in the country
However, before adding: “it should not be assumed that a group comprising a few dozen [de membres], maybe a few hundred, is in a position to really challenge the state system in Germany”. The Reichsbürger movement has around 21,000 people in the country, of which around “10% are oriented towards violence”, estimated on RTL Thomas Haldenwang, head of internal intelligence.
For everyday Frankfurter Allgemeine, we must be right: “Nothing suggests that the group would have succeeded in its monstrous plan”, he wrote and “a large section of the population does not support this style of conspiratorial and erroneous ideology”.