Heinrich XIII,the prince at centre of alleged coup plot,advocated for worldwide royal rule

Berlin: Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss is one of the last descendants of a dynasty that once ruled over swaths of eastern Germany. He is suspected of hoping to become the country’s new leader in a violent coup to overthrow the democratic order.

The 71-year-old was one of 25 members and supporters of a far-right groupplanning an alleged putsch who were arrested early on Wednesday (Berlin time) in nationwide raids,according to the authorities.

Masked police officers lead Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss to a police vehicle during a raid against so-called “Reich citizens” in Frankfurt,Germany,on Wednesday.

Masked police officers lead Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss to a police vehicle during a raid against so-called “Reich citizens” in Frankfurt,Germany,on Wednesday.AP

Police accused the suspects,including a retired paratrooper and a former judge,of discussing a coup but leaving unclear how concrete the plans were.

On Thursday,a German official and an MP said investigators may have detected real plotting,drunken fantasising,or both.

Sara Nanni,an MP with the Green party,part of the German government,suggested the group may not have been capable.

“More details keep coming to light that raise doubts about whether these people were even clever enough to plan and carry out such a coup,” Nanni said in a post on the social network Mastodon. “The fact is:no matter how crude their ideas are and how hopeless their plans,even the attempt is dangerous!”

Heinrich,a real estate developer,has for years publicly advocated the theory life was better worldwide under monarchy. He stems from the House of Reuss,which for centuries ruled over parts of present-day state of Thuringia until Germany’s 1918 revolution,which led to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.

Neither the House of Reuss nor Prince Reuss’ office responded to requests for comment.

He said in a 2019 speech to the World Web Forum – which describes itself as bringing together progressive minds to empower positive radical change – that in the principality of Reuss people led “happy lives” because the tax rate was just 10 per cent and the structures were “straightforward and transparent”.

“If things didn’t work well,you just went to the prince,” Heinrich said. “Who are you supposed to turn to today? Your parliamentarian,the local,federal or EU level? Good luck!”

In the speech,peppered with anti-Semitic conspiracies,he said Germany had been a vassal state government since World War II and needed to regain its sovereignty through a peace deal.

He said monarchies worldwide including that of France had been overthrown due to the meddling of foreign powers that wanted to establish corporate structures in the pursuit of profit. The people had suffered as a result,he said.

Prosecutors said Heinrich had reached out to representatives of Russia,whom the group saw as its central contact for establishing its new order. They said there was no evidence the representatives had reacted positively to the request. The Kremlin said there could be no question of any Russian involvement in the alleged plot.

Heinrich was arrested at his house in Frankfurt,led out by balaclava-clad policemen in handcuffs,sporting mustard-coloured corduroy trousers and a tartan-patterned jacket,with long grey hair.

Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss.

Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss.worldwebforum 2019 Keynote Prinz Reuss

Police also searched his hunting lodge in Thuringia where he was suspected of stockpiling weapons,according to theOstthueringer newspaper. The state in eastern Germany is known for the long-standing strength of the far-right there.

The federal prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the report,saying only there had been a raid in that area.

It also declined to comment on how,if at all,Heinrich was involved in the far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement,which denies the existence of the modern German state,and which prosecutors say inspired the group of suspects arrested.

Police walk to a residence that they raided earlier today in Berlin,Germany.

Police walk to a residence that they raided earlier today in Berlin,Germany.Getty

The Reuss dynasty named all its male children Heinrich or Henry after the end of the 12th century in honour of King Henry IV of Germany from 1054 to 1105,and Holy Roman Emperor,who bequeathed them the estates of Weida and Gera,now towns in Thuringia.

While officially,there are no princes and princesses any more in Germany,some descendants such as Heinrich have continued to use the title. He had named his real estate and financial services company,based in Frankfurt,the “Buero Prinz Reuss”.

The House of Reuss,currently headed by Heinrich XIV who lives in Austria,has however previously distanced itself from Heinrich XIII,calling him a confused man peddling conspiracy theories,according to local media.


Get a note directly from our foreigncorrespondentson what’s making headlines around the world.Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World