House of Limburg-Stirum

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The house of Limburg Stirum (or Limburg-Styrum), which adopted its name in the 12th century from the immediate county of Limburg an der Lenne in what is now Germany, is one of the oldest families in Europe.[citation needed] It is the eldest and only surviving branch of the House of Berg, which was among the most powerful dynasties in the region of the lower Rhine during the Middle Ages. Some historians[who?] link them to an even older dynasty, the Ezzonen, going back to the 9th century.

Mediatized German family
Coat of arms
Coat of Arms
Parent houseHouse of Berg, Ezzonen
CountryHoly Roman Empire
Founded11th century as Counts of Berg
FounderAdolf I, Count of Berg
Current headFranz von Limburg Stirum
TitlesImperial Count
Estate(s)County of Berg, Altena, Isenberg, County of Limburg, Gemen, Styrum, Wisch, Bronkhorst and Borculo, Oberstein, etc.

The Limburg-Stirum were imperial counts within the Holy Roman Empire, until they were mediatised in 1806 by the Confederation of the Rhine. Although undisputedly a mediatised comital family, having enjoyed a dynastic status for over 600 years until the collapse of the Empire, they were omitted from the Almanach de Gotha because the branches of the family possessing mediatised lands were extinct by the time (1815) that the Congress of Vienna established the German Confederation's obligation to recognise their dynastic status.

Since the 9th century, the family counted five Counts Palatine of Lotharingia, several Dukes of Westphalia, Bavaria, Carinthia and Swabia, seven Archbishops of Cologne, one Prince-Bishop of Speyer, more than ten bishops in the Holy Roman Empire, and at least two saints of the Catholic Church (Saint Richenza, celebrated on 21 March, and Saint Engelbert of Cologne, celebrated on 7 November).

The territorial authority of the family, counts of Berg since 1077, counts of Altena and Isenberg, then counts of Limburg since 1246, was significantly reduced following the opposition of Frederick II, Count of Isenberg to the aggression of his cousin, the Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert II of Berg, leading to the murder of the latter. A cadet branch, the Counts van den Marck, later rose in importance as dukes of Cleves, Jülich and Berg, dukes of Nevers and Bouillon, counts of Schleiden, etc.

Today's members are mostly found in Belgium and The Netherlands.


The Ezzonian DynastyEdit

the crowning of Emperor Henry IV (left) by Clement III (center-right). Between them is Count Palatine Hermann II. Chronicle of Otto von Freising, Codex Jenensis Bose q.6 (1157).

The Ezzonen appear in the chronicles with Erenfried I (866-904), count of the Bliesgau, Keldachgau and Bonngau (maybe also count of Charmois). Probably he had Carolingian ancestors, although some historians prefer to link him to former Thuringian kings.

The Ezzonian dynasty (named after Count Palatine Ezzo) were the Counts Palatine of Lotharingia during the 10th and 11th centuries. They were important in governance of the region of the Middle and Lower Rhine. In spite of their military accomplishments in favour of the German emperors, the Ezzonians did not succeed in building a territorial entity in Lotharingia. During a limited period, they were, however, assigned the duchies of Swabia, Bavaria and Carinthia.

Famous members of the dynasty are:

Richeza of Lotharingia, Queen of Poland
  • Ezzo, Count Palatine of Lotharingia (1015–1034). According to the Brauweiler chronicle, he failed to succeed in the monarchy after the death of emperor Otto III (983–1002) in a rivalry with duke Heinrich II of Bavaria (1002–1024). The succession war between Ezzo and Heinrich II continued for over ten years. Both parties came to an agreement after a battle in Odernheim (1011). Kaiserswerth, Duisburg and the surrounding imperial territories were granted as a fief to Ezzo for renouncing the throne (after 1016). When the German crown passed from the Ottonian to the Salian (1024), the Ezzonen remained neutral, apparently after an agreement between Ezzo and Konrad II (1024–1039). The Annales Hildesheimenses record that "Hezo Palatinus comes" died after catching pox from his concubine.
  • Otto I, Count Palatine of Lotharingia (1035–1045) and Duke of Swabia (1045–1047). After a successful campaign against the rebelling count of Flanders (margrave of Valenciennes and Ename), Otto received the duchy of Swabia in 1045 in exchange for the cities of Kaiserswerth and Duisburg, which went back to the crown. At the same time, the palatinate of Lotharingia was passed to his nephew.
  • Heinrich I Furiosus, Count Palatine of Lotharingia from 1045 until 1060. He was elected as successor for the German kingdom during Emperor Heinrich III's illness. Hearing that his wife Mathilde (daughter of Duke Gozelo of Lotharingia, and sister of pope Stephen IX) had a love-affair with one of his relatives, he killed her with an axe. Heinrich then was enclosed into the abbey of Echternach, where he died in 1061.
  • Richeza of Lotharingia, Queen of Poland. Her marriage to Mieszko II was decided as part of peace an agreement between King Bolesław I the Brave and Emperor Otto III. After she returned to Germany after the deposition of her husband in 1031, she became later a nun and today is revered as Blessed Richeza of Lotharingia, celebrated on 21 March.
  • Conrad I, Duke of Bavaria, heir of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor. He was deprived of the dukedom in 1053 when the Emperor installed his son as Duke. He died in exile after an attempt to assassinate the Emperor and seize the throne.
  • Conrad III, was installed as Duke of Carinthia in 1057. The Annales of Berthold record the death in 1061 of Chounradus... Carantanis ducis.
  • Hermann I, Archbishop of Cologne, Chancellor of King Zwentibold of Lotharingia.
  • Hermann II, Archbishop of Cologne. He became Archchancellor of Italy and protector of Brauweiler (1053). He baptised and crowned the German king Henry IV.
  • Hermann II, Count Palatine of Lotharingia (1064–1085), count of the Ruhrgau, Zulpichgau and Brabant. Hermann is assumed to be last of the Ezzonians. After his death (in a duel with Albert III of Namur, nearby his castle of Dalhem on 20 September 1085) the Palatinate of Lotharingia was suspended. His widow remarried with the first count palatine of the Rhine, Henry of Laach.

The surviving line of the Ezzonen descends from Adolf I of Lotharingia, son of Hermann I "Pusillus", Count palatine of Lotharingia.

Counts of BergEdit

Statue of Adolf I de Monte, first Count of Berg, at Schloss Burg
In 1133, count Adolf II built Schloss Burg on a mountain over the river Wupper. It remained the main residence of the counts of Berg until the 14th century. After the Thirty Years' War, in 1648, Imperial troops destroyed the fortifications of the castle.
Count Frederick I of Altena purchased Schloss Mark near Hamm from the Edelherren of Rüdenberg and made it the residence of the new Counts of the Mark.

Adolf I of Lotharingia grandson, Adolf I of Berg, Vogt of Werden Abbey, became the first Count of Berg in 1050. The Counts of Berg became the most powerful dynasty in the Rhine region. Early rulers of Berg were:

Counts of Altena and IsenbergEdit

Eberhard IV of Berg, son of Adolf IV of Berg and Altena, inherited the eastern territorium of County of Berg. With him, the oldest line of the Counts of Berg takes from 1166 the name and title of Counts of Altena (on the Lenne, Westphalia). Eberhard's territorium was later divided between his two sons:

  • Arnold of Altena, the elder, inherited the north-western territorium of Altena (on the Ruhr, Hattingen) in 1200. He founded the line of the Counts of Isenberg and later Counts of Limburg (see below).
  • Frederick I, the younger, inherited the south-eastern territory of Altena, and founded of the line of the Counts von der Marck, from which descend the dukes of Cleves, Jülich and Berg, the dukes of Nevers and Bouillon, the counts of Schleiden, etc.

The murder: from Isenberg to LimburgEdit

Frederick II, Count of Isenberg was a leading figure in the opposition of Westphalian nobles to the aggressive power politics of his cousin, the Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert II of Berg. In 1225 at the Nobles' Assembly in Soest, Frederick met his cousin Engelbert von Berg in order to bring about a peaceful agreement concerning the stewardship (Vogtei) of the Abbey of Essen which Frederick, according to contemporary complaints, was abusing to his own benefit and to the detriment of the abbey. No conclusion was reached. During their return together from Soest to Cologne, Count Frederick arranged an ambush of his cousin, in a sunken lane of the early medieval historic road from Dortmund to Cologne near Gevelsberg late in the afternoon of 7 November 1225: the Archbishop was killed.

St Englebert II of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne

There is no consensus as to whether it was a deliberately planned murder, or whether the Archbishop was killed in the heat of combat. Current research assumes the latter: Engelbert was intended to have been taken into "knightly detention" so that the political demands of the opposing nobility could be pushed through. This was in accordance with the customs of the medieval feuding ethos.

Frederick of Isenberg was outlawed and excommunicated. He was stripped of all offices and stewardships and his personal wealth was confiscated. In the winter of 1225/1226 the new Archbishop of Cologne, Heinrich von Müllenark, besieged and destroyed his castle. His cousin, Adolf von der Mark, was attributed large portions of Frederick's possessions and as such re-united the former territory of Altena.

Frederick travelled with his brothers Dietrich and Engelbert, bishops of Münster and Osnabrück (both also implicated in the death of the Archbishop), and the notary of Isenberg with the necessary documents to the Curia in Rome, in order to have the excommunication lifted. On the return journey Frederick was taken prisoner at Liège and sold for 2,100 silver marks to the chapter of Cologne cathedral. On 14 November 1226 he was executed in front of the Severin Gate. His arms and legs were smashed and he was broken on the wheel, after which he was displayed on a stone pillar. He did not die until the next day.

His son Count Dietrich I of Isenberg, disinherited of all his territories in the Holy Roman Empire following the execution of his father, later fought with the military support of his uncle the Duke of Limburg, to retrieve his paternal inheritance. On 1 May 1243 a peace agreement was signed between Dietrich and Count Adolf von der Mark. He built the castles of Limburg (Hohenlimburg) and Neu Isenberg (soon lost in favour of the Counts von der Mark) and from 1246 took the title of Count of Limburg. Two of his son's, Johan and Eberhard founded two separate familylines. Johan the eldest died a few years after his marriage. Eberhard inherited after his father's death, the title of count of Limburg, (later on Limburg Broich) taking up residence at the castle Hohenlimburg an der Lenne.Johann acquired Mülheim an der Ruhr and thereby the castle of Styrum, taking up residence there.

16th to 18th centuryEdit

Count Georg of Limburg-Styrum married in 1539 Irmgarde van Wisch, Lady of Wisch op Oud-Wisch, Wildenborch, Overhagen and Lichtenvoorde, hereditary Countess of Bronckhorst. She inherited the possessions of her uncle, the last count of Bronckhorst and Borculo. Her considerable possessions passed to her son Hermann Georg of Limburg, and the family settled in Gelderland. His grandson, Jobst of Limburg-Styrum, married Maria of Holstein-Pinneberg, heiress of the immediate lordship of Gemen and of Illereichen. Gemen remained for two centuries in the possession of the Counts of Limburg Stirum.

Herman Otto I

His son Herman Otto I, Count of Limburg and Bronckhorst, lord of Gemen, served in the armies of the Dutch Republic. He commanded Christian of Brunswick's rearguard at the Battle of Stadtlohn (1623) and the Dutch cavalry at the Siege of Groenlo (1627).

In 1644, the three sons of Hermann Otto I divided the family possessions among themselves:

Limburg BronckhorstEdit

Otto of Limburg obtained the territories of Bronckhorst and Borculo, founding the older line, still flourishing.

In the long conflict (known as the "Borculo question") between the heirs of the last count of Limburg-Bronckhorst, Joost (deceased in 1553 without children), and the Prince-Bishop of Münster over ownership of Borculo, the Court of Gelderland ruled on 20 December 1615 in favour of Count Joost. The ruling was imposed by troops from Zutphen, taking over the castle and city of Lichtenvoorde in December 1615, and the castle and city of Borculo in February 1616 after short combat. Prince Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen, tried twice more to keep Borculo under Münster's authority, but without success.

The lordship of Bronckhorst was sold in 1721 by Maria of Limburg Styrum and in 1726 the lordship of Borculo was sold by Count Leopold to the count of Flodorf.

Limburg Stirum GemenEdit

Adolf Ernst of Limburg Stirum obtained the immediate lordship of Gemen and Illereichen in the 1644 partition and ruled it until his death in 1657, founding the line of Limburg Stirum Gemen. In 1782, with the extinction of the Gemen branch, Gemen was inherited by the line of Limburg Stirum Iller-Aicheheim

August Philip of Limburg Stirum, was Prince Bishop of Speyer and lord of Gemen.

In 1806, Gemen was mediatized to the princes of Salm-Kyrburg. It passed to France in 1810, then to Prussia in 1814.

Limburg StyrumEdit

Oberstein passed to the Limburg Styrum in the 18th Century, until its mediatization in 1801

Moritz of Limburg-Styrum obtained the ownership of Mülheim an der Ruhr and thereby of the immediate lordship of Styrum, and later Oberstein. Here he founded the line of counts of Limburg-Styrum-Styrum, extinct in 1809. Moritz later also became hereditary banneret of the Principality of Guelders and of the County of Zutphen. He married his cousin Maria Bernhardine of Limburg-Bronckhorst.

In the mediatisation of 1806, Styrum came under control of the Grand Duchy of Berg. The last count of Limburg-Styrum-Styrum, Ernst (deceased on 23 March 1809) left Styrum to the sister of his wife, Maria Margaretha von Humbracht, who sold it in 1825. Oberstein was mediatized at the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, however Ernst was never compensated by the Final Recess of the Empire in 1803.


The Limburg Stirum held seats in the Holy Roman Empire's Imperial Diet until 1800, through their possessions of immediate lordships in Gemen, Oberstein, Styrum, etc.

When the branch of Gemen became extinct in 1800, the branch of Styrum failed to inherit their possessions, and Gemen passed to the barons von Boyneburg-Bömelberg. In 1806 the Confederation of the Rhine occurred and Gemen was mediatised to the Principality of Salm-Kyrburg.

At the same moment Styrum was mediatised to the Grand Duchy of Berg. This branch became extinct three years later, in 1809. Since the Limburg Stirum held no imperial estate when the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806 (Gemen had been lost in 1800 and it is unclear if the Styrum branch did inherit the dynastic rights associated with Gemen), nor were any Limburg Stirum living in the German Confederation when the Congress of Vienna finalised the distinctions between the sovereign and non-sovereign dynasties of the former Empire (at that time all members were living in the newly created Kingdom of the Netherlands), the House of Limburg Stirum's centuries of previous status as immediate Reichsgrafen was not internationally recognised, nor was their head granted the style of Erlaucht (Illustrious Highness) and they were omitted from Section II of the Almanach de Gotha, which listed therein the other princely and countly families of mediatised dynastic rank. The house of Limburg Stirum is nevertheless considered part of the Standesherren by most authors on the subject.[1]

19th century until todayEdit

"Aanvaarding Hoogbewind" (1828). On Sunday 21 November 1813, Leopold of Limburg Stirum assuming power as part of the triumvirate, in order to re-establish the monarchy in the Netherlands. Painting by Jan Willem Pieneman (1779-1853).

The titles of the House of Limburg Stirum were confirmed in 1812 by Napoleon I and in 1814 the family was recognised in the nobility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (name: van Limburg Stirum).

Notable figures in recent history are:



See alsoEdit


  • Genealogische Handbuch des Adels, Gräfliche Häuser A Band II, 1955;
  • W. Gf v. Limburg Stirum, "Stamtafel der Graven van Limburg Stirum", 's Gravenhage 1878;
  • A.M.H.J. Stokvis, "Manuel d'Histoire, de Genealogie et de Chronologie de tous les États du Globe", Tome III, Leiden 1890–93;
  • W. K. Prins v. Isenburg, "Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europaischen Staaten", 2. Aufl., Marburg/Lahn, 1953.


  1. ^ Heinz Gollwitzer, Die Standesherren. Die politische und gesellschaftliche Stellung der Mediatisierten 1815-1918. Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Sozialgeschichte, Göttingen 1964
  2. ^ The Austrian Army 1740-80 (1): Cavalry, by Philip Haythornthwaite
  3. ^ "Mount Limburg Stirum". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2013-06-15.

External linksEdit