House of Zähringen

House of Zähringen
Country Duchy of Carinthia
March of Verona
Margraviate of Baden
Ethnicity German
Founded 11th century
Founder Berthold I
Final ruler Last Duke of Zähringen:
Berthold V
Titles Count, Duke, Margrave
Dissolution 1218 (Dukes of Zähringen)
Cadet branches House of Baden

Zähringen is an old German noble family in Swabia, which founded a large number of cities in the area that is today Switzerland and the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The name is derived from Zähringen castle near Freiburg im Breisgau, now in ruins, which the family founded in 1120.

While the junior line which first assumed the title of Duke of Zähringen became extinct in 1218, the senior line (known as the House of Baden) persists and currently uses the title of "Margrave of Baden, Duke of Zähringen". In the German language, the word Zähringer is used for "House of Zähringen".


The earliest known ancestor of the family was one Berthold, Count in the Breisgau (d. 982), who was first mentioned in 962. In view of his name, he may have been related to the Alemannic Ahalolfing dynasty. Berthold's great-grandson, Berthold I of Zähringen (c. 1000 – 6 November 1078), held several lordships (Herrschaften) in the Breisgau, in Thurgau, Ortenau, and Baar. By his mother, he was related to the rising Hohenstaufen family.

Emperor Henry III had promised his liensman Berthold I of Zähringen the Duchy of Swabia, but this was not fulfilled, as upon Henry's death, his widow Agnes of Poitou appointed Count Rudolf of Rheinfelden to the position of Duke of Swabia in 1057. In compensation, Berthold was made Duke of Carinthia and Margrave of Verona in 1061. However, this dignity was only a titular one, and Berthold subsequently lost it when, in the course of the Investiture Controversy, he joined the rising of his former rival Rudolf of Rheinfelden against German king Henry IV in 1073.

Berthold's son Berthold II, who like his father fought against Henry IV, inherited a lot of the lands of Rudolf's son Count Berthold of Rheinfelden in 1090 (though not his comital title, which stayed with the family von Wetter-Rheinfelden). In 1092, Berthold II was elected Duke of Swabia against Frederick I of Hohenstaufen. In 1098, he reconciled with Frederick, renounced all claims to Swabia and instead concentrated on his possessions in the Breisgau region, assuming the title of Duke of Zähringen. He was succeeded in turn by his sons, Berthold III (d. 1122) and Conrad (d. 1152).

In 1127, upon the assassination of his nephew Count William III, Conrad claimed the inheritance of the County of Burgundy against Count Renaud III of Mâcon. Renaud prevailed, though he had to cede large parts of the eastern Transjuranian lands to Conrad, who thereupon was appointed by Emperor Lothair III as a "rector" of the Imperial Kingdom of Arles or Burgundy. This office was confirmed in 1152 and held by the Zähringen dukes until 1218, hence they are sometimes called "Dukes of Burgundy", although the existing Duchy of Burgundy was not an Imperial but a French fief. Duke Berthold IV (d. 1186), who followed his father Conrad and founded the Swiss city of Fryburg (today's Fribourg-Freiburg) in 1157, spent much of his time in Italy in the train of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.

His son and successor, Berthold V, showed his prowess by reducing the Burgundian nobles to order. This latter duke was the founder of the city of Bern (1191), and when he died in February 1218, the ducal line of the Zähringen family became extinct. Among other titles, the Zähringen family acted as Reichsvogt of the Zürichgau area.

After the extinction of the ducal line in 1218, much of their extensive territory in the Breisgau and modern-day Switzerland returned to the crown, except for their allodial titles, which were divided between the Counts of Urach (who subsequent called themselves the Counts of Freiburg) and the Counts of Kyburg, both of whom had married sisters of Berthold V. Less than fifty years later, the Kyburgs died out and large portions of their domains were inherited by the House of Habsburg. Bern achieved the status of a free imperial city, whereas other cities such as Fribourg-Freiburg only obtained the same status later in history.


House of Zähringen

Succession of Zähringer dukes:

  • Berthold I (c. 1000–1078), Duke of Carinthia and Margrave of Verona (as Berthold II) from 1061 to 1077
  • Berthold II (c. 1050–1111), son, Duke of Swabia from 1092 to 1098 (against Frederick I of Hohenstaufen), then Duke of Zähringen from about 1100
  • Berthold III (c. 1085–1122), son, Duke of Zähringen from 1111
  • Conrad I (c. 1090–1152), brother, Duke of Zähringen from 1122, rector of Burgundy from 1127
  • Berthold IV (c. 1125–1186), son, Duke of Zähringen from 1152, rector of Burgundy
  • Berthold V (1160–1218), son, Duke of Zähringen from 1186, rector of Burgundy

Other notable Zähringer:

House of Baden

The Veronese margravial title was used by Herman I of Baden, the eldest son of Berthold I of Zähringen. Herman's son, Herman II, was the first to use the title of Margrave of Baden in 1112.

Now more commonly known as the House of Baden, Herman's descendants ruled successively as margraves until the Final Recess of 1803, as Electors of the Electorate of Baden until 1806, then as Grand Dukes of Baden until the end of the German monarchy in 1918.

The current holder of the title of "Margrave of Baden, Duke of Zähringen" is Maximilian, Margrave of Baden (b. 1933), a grandson of the last chancellor of the German Empire (Prince Max von Baden), who seems to have revived the Zähringen title after it apparently had not been in official usage since the death of Berthold V.[1] Another branch was that of the Dukes of Teck, descendants of Duke Conrad's son Adalbert, whose line became extinct in 1439.

Dukes of Teck

Adalbert I (d. 1195) was a son of Duke Conrad I of Zähringen, and upon the death of his brother Berthold IV in 1186, he inherited the family estates around Teck Castle and, from 1187, adopted the title of Duke of Teck. His descendant Conrad II of Teck (1235–1292) allegedly was designated King of the Romans shortly before his assassination. The line became extinct in 1439 with the death of Louis of Teck, Patriarch of Aquileia.

This ducal title was later granted to Count Francis of Hohenstein (1837–1900), a morganatic son of Duke Alexander of Württemberg, in 1871. Francis' daughter Mary of Teck (1867–1953), as the wife of King George V, was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India.

Zähringer cities



See also


  1. "Baden". Paul Theroff’s Royal Genealogy Site.


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