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Principality of Lippe
Fürstentum Lippe
Flag of Lippe
Coat of arms of Lippe
Coat of arms
The Principality of Lippe within the German Empire
The Principality of Lippe within the German Empire
StatusState of the Holy Roman Empire
State of the Confederation of the Rhine
State of the German Confederation
State of the North German Confederation
Federated State of the German Empire
Common languagesWest Low German
Church of Lippe
• 1789–1802
Leopold I (first)
• 1905–1918
Leopold IV (last)
• Established
• Raised to Principality
• German Revolution
12 November 1918
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Saxony
County of Lippe
Free State of Lippe

Lippe (later Lippe-Detmold and then again Lippe) was a historical state in Germany, ruled by the House of Lippe. It was located between the Weser river and the southeast part of the Teutoburg Forest.

In 1910 it had an area of 1215 Kmq and over 150,000 inhabitants.


The founder of what would become the County of Lippe (1528–1789), then the Principality of Lippe (1789–1918) was Bernhard I, who received a grant of territory from Lothair III in 1123. Bernhard I assumed the title of Edler Herr zu Lippe ("Noble Lord at Lippe"). The history of the dynasty and its further acquisitions of land really began with Bernard II. His territory was probably formed out of land he acquired on the destruction of the Duchy of Saxony following the demise of Henry the Lion in 1180. Simon V was the first ruler of Lippe to style himself as a count (Graf) in 1528.[1]

Following the death of Simon VI in 1613, the county was partitioned between his three sons; Lippe-Detmold went to Simon VII, Lippe-Brake to Otto and Lippe-Alverdissen went to Philip I. The county of Lippe-Brake was reunited with the main Detmold line in 1709. A son of Simon VII, Jobst Herman, founded another branch of the family, the Lippe-Biesterfeld line;[1] the Lippe-Weissenfeld branch later separated from the Lippe-Biesterfelds. Both Lippe-Biesterfeld and Lippe-Weissenfeld were paragiums (non-sovereign estates of a cadet-branch) within the County of Lippe, and both branches, owning only modest manor houses in the county, acquired property in other states by marriage and moved out of the county in the late 18th century, the Biesterfeld branch to the Rhineland and the Weissenfeld branch to Saxony.

Boundary stone between the Principality of Lippe and the Kingdom of Prussia in Wüsten-Pehlen
Boundary stone between the Principality of Lippe and the Kingdom of Prussia in Wüsten-Pehlen

Leopold I (1767-1802) became the first Prince of Lippe in 1789.[1] Lippe joined the North German Confederation in 1866 and the German Empire in 1871. On 20 July 1895, Prince Woldemar died childless. The title nominally passed to his brother Alexander who was incapable of governing due to mental illness. The regency initially passed to Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, in accordance with Woldemar's will.

Since the counts of Lippe-Biesterfled and Lippe-Weissenfeld also laid claim to the regency and the right to succeed Alexander, a succession dispute arose, which continued until 1905. The Schaumburg-Lippe claim was actively supported by Emperor Wilhelm II (whose sister was married to Prince Adolf). A ruling in the Reichsgericht in Leipzig in 1897 decided the matter in favour of Count Ernest of Lippe-Biesterfeld, who then assumed the regency. However, at the instruction of Wilhelm II, the military forces stationed in Lippe refused to address him as "illustrious" and denied the other honours that he was entitled to. In response, Ernest sent a letter round to the other sovereign princes of the German Empire in which he complained about the Emperor's behaviour - an unprecedented action, which brought German public opinion strongly in favour of Ernest's position.[2]

After Ernest's death in 1904, his son Leopold assumed the regency. When Prince Alexander died the following year, the Reichsgericht finally recognised the right of House Lippe-Biesterfeld to the succession and Leopold took the throne as Prince Leopold IV.[1]

The Principality of Lippe came to an end on 12 November 1918 with the abdication of Leopold IV. Lippe becoming a Free State.[3] In 1947, Lippe merged into the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The princely family still owns the estate and Fürstliches Residenzschloss [de] in Detmold.[4]

County of Lippe, late 18th century.jpg
Lippe and neighbouring states
in the late 18th century
Lippe in 1918


An 1819/20 attempt to establish a constitution failed and the first basic law was passed in 1836. It was liberalised in 1849, restored in 1853 and then steadily modernised in 1853, 1876, and 1912. The 1876 electoral law abolished an estates-based system and introduced the three-class franchise, which did not offer a general, equal, or democratic possibility of participation to the citizens. Lippe increasingly developed into a constitutional monarchy. In 1836, a Landtag [de] (parliament) was established, which gave moderate legislative power to the landed nobility. The highest national authority was the cabinet, headed by the State Minister, which oversaw the top-level administrative and legal authorities. The top-level administrative authority was German: Regierungsollegium (governing college). In 1868, the property of the princes and the property of the state were separated. The Princes retained a large personal estate, including palaces, land, forests, long-term leases, Bad Meinberg, and the salt deposits at Uflen, which mostly came under state control after the abdication of Leopold IV in 1918.

As a state of the German empire, Lippe was represented on the Bundesrat (Federal Council). Lippe had a single representative, who was selected by the landed nobility. The Bundesrat was dominated by Prussia, which had 17 representatives, out of a total of 58, meaning that Lippe was practically irrelevant in the council. It was one of sixteen states with only one representative on the council.


From 1817, Lippe fell under the Oberappellationsgericht [de] (upper appellate court) in Wolfenbüttel, along with the Duchy of Braunschweig, and the principalities of Schaumberg-Lippe and Waldeck.[5] When the Wolfenbüttel court was abolished, an "interim upper appellate court" was established, which had oversight of the courts in Lippe. In 1857, Lippe placed itself under the Oberlandsgericht (supreme regional court) at Celle [de] in the Kingdom of Hannover. After the Prussian annexation of Hannover in 1866, this was subordinated to the Prussian appellate system, but then became an Oberlandsgericht once more in 1879. Its role as Lippe's Oberlandsgericht was regulated by a treaty of 4 January 1879. Most of Lippe fell within the Detmold court district [de], which contained the Amtsgerichte (district courts) of Blomberg, Detmold, Hohenhausen, Horn, Lage, Lemgo, Oerlinghausen, and Salzuflen. The exclaves of Lipperode and Cappel came under the Prussian district court in Lippstadt.[6][7][8] Lippe belonged to Celle until 1944.

Administrative subdivisions

Population by administrative district according to the 1871 census
Cities 1871 populations
Barntrup 01116
Blomberg 02203
Detmold 06469
Horn 01717
Lage 02514
Lemgo 04801
Salzuflen 02072
Amt 1871 Population
Blomberg 03608
Brake [de] 07981
Detmold 08513
Hohenhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia [de] 06482
Horn 05800
Lage 13406
Lipperode [de] 00728
Oerlinghausen 08571
Schieder 03660
Schötmar [de] 10806
Schwalenberg 06225
Sternberg-Barntrup 09223
Varenholz [de] 05140

In 1879, the Principality was divided into five administrative subdivisions, called Ämter (singular German: Amt): Blomberg, Brake [de], Detmold, Schötmar [de] and Lipperode-Cappel. The cities of Barntrup, Blomberg, Detmold, Horn, Lage, Lemgo and Salzuflen, as well as the village of Schwalenberg were outside of the Amt-system (Schwalenberg received the status of city in 1906).

In 1910, the system was reformed. Lippe was divided into five Verwaltungsämter, containing thirteen Ämtern.

The eight cities remained outside the Amt-system.


Hoffmann's Stärkefabriken around 1890

On the whole, Lippe was always an agrarian state and, in economic terms, was one of the weakest states in the German Empire. The loess floodplains of the Werre and the Bega always enabled intensive agriculture. In the less fertile sandy soils of the Senne region, on the other hand, intensive agriculture was not possible. Instead, activity focussed on animal husbandry and the breeding of Senner horses at Jagdschloss Lopshorn [de].[8]

Industry existed only on a limited scale and was mostly based on the direct extraction of the land's mineral and forest resources. This was partially a consequence of the power of the landed nobility and the unfriendly attitude of the monarchs towards economic undertakings at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The monarchy's economic interventions focussed mainly on securing their own economic power, which rested more on the direct income from the princes' own estates, forests, salt mines and health baths, than on taxes on independent production and trade.[8]

The textile industry supported flax farming and linen production. The largest industrial concern was probably Hoffmann's Stärkefabriken. The Principality also had a significant sepiolite industry in Lemgo, salt evaporation ponds in Salzuflen (1878: 1,240,000 kg of salt) and a timber industry, which still exists today, with numerous sawmills processing material from Lippe's forests. As in neighbouring Prussia, the cigar industry also gained particular significance. Like the textile industry, it was partially organised in a proto-industrial fashion, through the putting-out system. There were also beer breweries (e.g. Strate [de] and Falkenkrug [de]), brickworks, a sugar factory in Lage, and oil mills. The spa towns of Bad Meinberg und Bad Salzuflen also gained economic significance.[8]

For industry, the construction of the Lippe railway (1880) and the Lippische branch line [de] (1895) was important, since they connected the region to the Hamm–Minden railway.[8]

List of Princes of Lippe

Ruler Born Reign Death Consort Notes
Leopold I
Leopold I. Fürst zur Lippe.jpg
2 December 1767 1789-1802 4 April 1802 Pauline Christine of Anhalt-Bernburg
2 January 1796
Count of Lippe-Detmold from 1782
Regency of Pauline Christine of Anhalt-Bernburg (1802-1820)
Leopold II
6 November 1796 1802-1851 1 January 1851 Emilia Frederica of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
23 April 1820
Leopold III
1 September 1821 1851-1875 8 December 1875 Elisabeth of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
17 April 1852
Left no descendants. The principality fell to his brother.
Woldemar of Lippe.jpg
18 April 1824 1875-1895 20 March 1895 Sophie of Baden
9 November 1858
Left no descendants. The principality fell to his brother.
Regencies of Ernest, Count of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1895-1904) and Leopold, Count of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1904-1905)
Alexander zur Lippe.jpg
16 January 1831 1895-1905 13 January 1905 Unmarried Incapable of exercising office due to mental illness.
Leopold IV
Porträt der Fürst Leopold IV von Lippe.png
30 May 1871 1904-1905 30 December 1949 Bertha of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld
16 August 1901
Anna of Ysenburg and Büdingen
16 April 1922
From the Lippe-Biesterfeld line, regent of Lippe from 1904. In 1918, he abdicated following the dissolution of the monarchy.

List of State Ministers

Heads of government of Lippe
Name Image Born-Died Party affiliation Start of Tenure End of Tenure
Karl Friedrich Funk von Senftenau [de]
1748-1828 1810 1828
Friedrich Wilhelm Helwing [de]
Helwing, Friedrich Wilhelm.jpg
1758-1833 1829 1832
Wilhelm Arnold Eschenburg [de]
Wilhelm Arnold Eschenburg.png
1778-1861 1832 1848
Friedrich Simon Leopold Petri [de]
Petri, Friedrich Simon Leopold.jpg
1775-1850 1848 1850
Christian Theodor von Meien [de]
Meien, Christian Theodor von.jpg
1781-1857 1850 1853
Laurenz Hannibal Fischer [de]
Fischer, Laurenz Hannibal.jpg
1784-1868 1853 1855
Alexander von Oheimb [de] 1820-1903 1856 1868
Carl Theodor Heldman [de]
Heldman, Carl Theodor.jpg
1801-1872 1868 1872
Adalbert von Flottwell [de] 1829-1909 DkP 1872 1875
August Eschenburg [de]
Eschenburg, August.jpg
1823-1904 1876 1885
Hugo Samuel von Richthofen [de]
Richthofen, Hugo von.jpg
1842-1904 1885 1889
Friedrich Otto Hermann von Wolffgramm [de]
Wolffgramm, Friedrich Otto Hermann von.jpg
1836-1895 1889 1895
Karl Friedrich von Oertzen [de]
Oertzen, Karl von.jpg
1844-1914 1895 1897
Karl Miesitschek von Wischkau [de] 1859-1937 1897 1899
Max von Gevekot [de]
Max von Gevekot.jpg
1845-1916 1900 1912
Karl Ludwig von Biedenweg [de] 1864-1940 1913 1918

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 740.
  2. ^ Lippischer Erbfolgestreit on Wikisource
  3. ^ G. Benecke, Society and Politics in Germany, 1500–1750, Routletge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1974, p. 41.
  4. ^ "Wo Deutschland fast noch eine Monarchie ist" by Andreas Fasel, Die Welt, 25 December 2015 (in German)
  5. ^ Andreas Kunz (ed.): Lippe Detmold. (PDF; 37 kB) in
  6. ^ Der Freistaat Lippe im Überblick
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference Verfassung was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ a b c d e Meyers Konversationslexikon. Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, Leipzig / Wien, 4. Aufl., 1885–1892.



Further reading