Reuss - Encyclopedia

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REUSS, the name of two small principalities of the German empire, called Reuss, elder line, or Reuss-Greiz, and Reuss, younger line, or Reuss-Schleiz-Gera. With a joint area of 44 1 sq. m. they form part of the complex of Thuringian states, and consist, roughly speaking, of two main blocks of territory, separated by the Neustadt district of the duchy of Saxe-Weimar. The more southerly, which is much the larger of the two portions, belongs to the bleak, mountainous region of the Frankenwald and the Vogtland, while the northern portion is hilly, but fertile. The chief rivers are the Weisse Elster and the Saale. About 35% of the total surface is occupied by forests, while about 4 o% is under tillage and about 19% under meadow and pasture. Wheat, rye and barley are the principal crops grown, and the breeding of cattle is an important industry.

Reuss-Greiz, with an area of 122 sq. m., belongs to the larger of the two divisions mentioned above, and consists of three large and several small parcels of land. On the whole, the soil is not favourable for agriculture, but the rearing of cattle is carried on with much success. About 63% of the inhabitants maintain themselves by industrial pursuits, the chief products of which are the making of woollen fabrics at Greiz, the capital, and of stockings at Zeulenroda. Other industries are machinebuilding, printing and the making of paper and porcelain. In 1905 the population of the principality was 70,603. The constitution of Reuss-Greiz dates from 1867, and provides for a representative chamber of twelve members, of whom three are appointed by the prince, while two are chosen by the landed proprietors, three by the towns and four by the rural districts. The revenue and expenditure amount to about £76,000 a year, and there is no public debt. The reigning prince is Henry XXIV. (b. 1878), but as he is incapable of discharging his duties, these are now undertaken by a regent.

Reuss-Schleiz-Gera, with an area of 319 sq. m., includes part of the southern and the whole of the northern of the two main divisions mentioned above; it touches Bavaria on the south and Prussian Saxony on the north. The former portion is known as the Oberland and the latter as the Unterland. Owing to the fertility of the Unterland, quite one-quarter of the people are supported by agricultural pursuits, although there is also much industrial activity. The chief industrial product consists of woollen goods, and the manufacture centres in the capital Gera, the largest of the six towns of the principality. Other industries are jute-spinning, dyeing and brewing, and the manufacture of musical instruments, chemicals, tobacco, cigars, porcelain and machinery. A considerable trade is carried on in these goods and also in timber, cattle and slate. Iron is mined in the Oberland, and large quantities of salt are yielded by the brine springs of Heinrichshall. In 1905 ReussSchleiz contained 144,584 inhabitants. Its annual revenue and expenditure amount to about £129,000, and in 1908 it had a public debt of £52,027. The constitution, which rests on laws of 1852 and 1856, provides for a representative assembly of r6 members which possesses limited legislative powers, the administrative duties being discharged by a cabinet of three members. The reigning prince is Henry XIV. (b. 1832), but since 1892 his duties have been undertaken by a regent. The states of Reuss return one member each to the Bundesrat, and one each to the Reichstag of the German empire.


The history of Reuss stretches back to the times when the German kings appointed vogts, or bailiffs (advocati imperii), to administer their lands. One of these vogts was a certain Henry, who died about 1120, after having been entrusted by the emperor Henry IV. with the vogtship of Gera and of Weida, and he is generally recognized as the ancestor of the princes of Reuss. His descendants called themselves lords of Weida, and some of them were men of note in their day, serving the emperors and German kings and distinguishing themselves in the ranks of the Teutonic order. The land under their rule gradually increased in size, and it is said that the name of Reuss was applied to it owing to the fact that one of its princes married a Russian princess, their son being called "der Russe," or the Russian. Another version is that the prince received this sobriquet because he passed many years in Russia. The district thus called Reuss was at one time much more extensive than it is at present, and for some years its rulers were margraves of Meissen. In 1564 the family was divided into three branches by the sons of Henry XVI. (d. 1535). One of these became extinct in 1616, but the remaining ones are those of Reuss-Greiz and Reuss-Schleiz-Gera, which are flourishing to-day. Although there have been further divisions these have not been lasting, and the lands of the former family have been undivided since 1768 and those of the latter since 1848. The lords of Reuss took the title of count in 1673; and the head of the elder line became a prince of the Empire in 1778, and the head of the younger line in 1806. In 1807 the two princes joined the Confederation of the Rhine and in 1815 the German confederation. In 1866 Reuss-Greiz was compelled to atone for its active sympathy with Austria by the payment of a fine. In 1871 both principalities became members of the new German empire. The princes of Reuss are very wealthy, their private domain including a great part of the territory over which they rule. In the event of either line becoming extinct, its possessions will fall to the other.

A curious custom prevails in the house of Reuss. The male members of both branches of the family all bear the name of Henry (Heinrich), the individuals being distinguished by numbers. In the elder line, according to an arrangement made in 1701, the enumeration continues until the number one hundred is reached when it begins again. In the younger line the first prince born in a new century is numbered I., and the numbers follow on until the end of the century when they begin again. Thus Henry XIV. of Reuss younger line, who was born in 1832, was the son of Henry Lxvii. (1789-1867), the former being the 14th prince born in the 19th century, and the latter the 67th prince born in the ,8th.

See B. Schmidt, Die Reussen, Genealogie des Gesamthauses Reuss (Schleiz, 1903); H. von Voss, Die Ahnen des reussischen Hauses (Lobenstein, 1882); C. F. Collmann, Reussische Geschichte. Das Vogtland im Mittelalter (Greiz, 1892), and O. Liebmann, Das Staatsrecht des Furstenthums Reuss (1884).

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