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Coat of arms of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis
Coat of arms of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis

The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis (German: Fürstenhaus Thurn und Taxis [ˈtuːɐ̯n ʔʊnt ˈtaksɪs]) is a family of German nobility that is part of the Briefadel. It was a key player in the postal services in Europe during the 16th century, until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and became well known as the owner of breweries and builder of many castles. The current head of the house is Albert, 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis. The family is one of the wealthiest in Germany and has resided at St. Emmeram Castle in Regensburg since 1748.


County of Thurn and Taxis
Grafschaft Thurn und Taxis
Coat of arms of Thurn und Taxis
Coat of arms
StatusState of the Holy Roman Empire
Historical eraEarly modern period
• Raised to Briefadel
• Raised to Reichsfreiherren
• Hereditary Imperial Postmaster General
• Raised to County
• Granted princely rank (Spanish Court)
• Postal monopoly nationalised
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Bavaria

See also: Compagnia dei Corrieri and Kaiserliche Reichspost

The Tasso family (from the Italian word for "badger") was a Lombard family in the area of Bergamo. The earliest records place them in Almenno in the Val Brembana around 1200,[1] before they fled to the more distant village of Cornello to escape feuding between Bergamo's Colleoni (Guelf) and Suardi (Ghibelline) families. Around 1290,[2] after Milan had conquered Bergamo, Omodeo Tasso organized 32 of his relatives into the Company of Couriers (Compagnia dei Corrieri) and linked Milan with Venice and Rome.[3] The recipient of royal and papal patronage, his post riders were so comparatively efficient that they became known as bergamaschi throughout Italy.[4]

Ruggiero de Tassis was named to the court of the emperor Frederick the Peaceful in 1443. He organized a post system between Bergamo and Vienna by 1450;[2] from Innsbruck to Italy and Styria around 1460; and Vienna with Brussels around 1480.[2] Upon his success, Ruggiero was knighted and made a gentleman of the Chamber.[4][5] Janetto von Taxis [de] was appointed Chief Master of Postal Services at Innsbruck in 1489. Philip of Burgundy elevated Janetto's brother Francesco I de Tassis [it] to captain of his post in 1502.[6] Owing to a payment dispute with Philip, Francisco opened his post to public use in 1506.[2] By 1516, Francisco had moved the family to Brussels in the Duchy of Brabant, where they became instrumental to Habsburg rule, linking the rich Habsburg Netherlands to the Spanish court.[6] The normal route passed through France, but a secondary route across the Alps to Genoa was available in times of hostility.

At the death of Francisco in 1517, emperor Charles V appointed Francisco's nephew Johann Baptista von Taxis (1470-1541) as Generalpostmeister of the Reichspost. Johann Baptista was briefly succeeded by his eldest son, Franz II von Taxis (1514-1543), after whose untimely death the family split into two further branches. The youngest son, Leonhard I von Taxis, succeeded as Generalpostmeister and is the ancestor of the princely Thurn and Taxis family. Johann Baptista's second-eldest son, Raymond de Tassis (1515-1579), took over the office of postmaster-general to the Crown of Spain and settled in Spain. Raymond married into Spanish nobility, and his eldest son Juan de Tassis was created Count of Villamediana in 1603 by Phillip III. The Spanish line of the family became extinct with Juan de Tassis, 2nd Count of Villamediana, a celebrated poet who died in mysterious circumstances in 1622.[7]

The name Thurn und Taxis arose from the translation into German of the family's French title (de La Tour et Tassis or de Tour et Taxis). Charles V named Giovanni Battista de Tassis as master of his post in 1520; Maximilian I expanded their network throughout the Holy Roman Empire.[8] In 1624, the family members were elevated to grafen (counts), and they formally adopted the German form of their name in 1650. They were named 'princely' in 1695 at the behest of Emperor Leopold I.

The family operated the Thurn-und-Taxis Post, successor to the Imperial Reichspost of the Holy Roman Empire, between 1806 and 1867. Their postal service was gradually lost over the centuries, with the Spanish network being bought by the crown in the 18th century and the German post being purchased by Prussia after the fall of the Free City of Frankfurt in 1866. The family seat was established in Regensburg, Germany, and it has remained at St. Emmeram Castle there since 1748.

Small section of the extensive family seat at St. Emmeram Castle in Regensburg, Germany
Small section of the extensive family seat at St. Emmeram Castle in Regensburg, Germany

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his Duino Elegies while visiting Princess Marie of Thurn and Taxis (née Princess of Hohenlohe) at her family's Duino Castle. Rilke later dedicated his only novel (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge) to the princess, who was his patroness. Princess Marie's relation to Regensburg's Thurn and Taxis family is rather distant, however – she was married to Prince Alexander of Thurn and Taxis, a member of the family's Czech branch that in the early 19th century settled in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and became strongly connected to Czech national culture and history.

Several members of the family have been Knights of Malta.

Until 1919, the titles of the head of the princely house were Seine Durchlaucht der Fürst von Thurn und Taxis, Fürst zu Buchau und Fürst von Krotoszyn, Herzog zu Wörth und Donaustauf, gefürsteter Graf zu Friedberg-Scheer, Graf zu Valle-Sássina, auch zu Marchtal, Neresheim usw., Erbgeneralpostmeister (His Serene Highness the Prince of Thurn and Taxis, Prince of Buchau and Prince of Krotoszyn, Duke of Wörth and Donaustauf, Princely Count of Friedberg-Scheer, Count of Valle-Sássina, Marchtal, Neresheim etc., Hereditary Postmaster General).[9]

The current head of the house of Thurn and Taxis is Albert II, 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, son of Johannes and his wife, Gloria. The family is one of the wealthiest in Germany. The family's brewery was sold to the Paulaner Group of Munich in 1996, but it still produces beer under the brand of Thurn und Taxis.

Princes of Thurn and Taxis

The Thurn and Taxis family came to massive media attention during the late 1970s through mid-1980s when the late Prince Johannes married Countess Mariae Gloria of Schönburg-Glauchau, a member of an impoverished but mediatized noble family. The couple's wild, "jet set" lifestyle and Princess Gloria's over-the-top appearance (characterized by bright hair colours and avant-garde clothes) earned her the nickname of "Princess TNT".[10]

Cultural references

See also

References and sources

  1. ^ Serassi, Pierantonio. La vita di Torquato Tasso, pp. 4 ff. Pagliarini, 1785. Retrieved 2 October 2013. (in Italian)
  2. ^ a b c d The Encyclopedia Americana: The International Reference Work, Vol. 25, p. 476. Utgiver Americana Corporation, 1958. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  3. ^ Turismo Lombardia. "Il Borgo di Camerata Cornello dei Tasso Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine". Retrieved 3 October 2013. (in Italian)
  4. ^ a b López Jurado, Luis Felipe. Prefilatelia de Murcia: Historia Postal del Reino de Murcia desde 1569 hasta 1861, pp. 26 ff. "La Familia Tassis". Editora Regional de Murcia, 2006. Retrieved 3 October 2013. (in Spanish)
  5. ^ Le Folklore Brabancon, p. 372. (Brabant), 1981. Retrieved 3 October 2013. (in French)
  6. ^ a b Papadopoulos, A.G. Urban Regimes and Strategies: Building Europe's Central Executive District in Brussels (University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 41. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  7. ^ Frederick A. de Armas, "The Play's the Thing': Clues to a Murder in Villamediana's La Gloria de Niquea," Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 78 (2001): 439-54.
  8. ^ McRobbie, L. R. Gute Prinzessinnen kommen ins Märchen, böse schreiben Geschichte: Von Olga, der Wilden, über Kaiserin Sisi bis zu Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. BTB Verlag, 2014.
  9. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser. Band XV, Limburg/Lahn 1997, S. 474.
  10. ^ Princess TNT Archived 26 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine (also referred to as "Princess TNT, the dynamite socialite") according to the June 2006 edition of Vanity Fair Magazine).