Stolberg is a town (sometimes itself called 'Harz' in historical references) and a former municipality in the district of Mansfeld-Südharz, in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is situated in the southern part of the Harz mountains, about 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Sangerhausen, and 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of Nordhausen. Since 1 September 2010, it has been part of the municipality of Südharz.
From its earliest days, Stolberg had been the residence and family seat of the counts of Stolberg. In 1548 it became the seat of Stolberg-Stolberg. In 1738 the counts of Stolberg were forced to recognize the suzerainty of the Electorate of Saxony. The town was awarded to the Kingdom of Prussia in the 1815 Congress of Vienna and Stolberg was subsequently administered by the Prussian Province of Saxony.
The County of Stolberg (German: Grafschaft Stolberg) was a county of the Holy Roman Empire located in the Harz mountain range in present-day Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was ruled by a branch of the House of Stolberg.
The Counts of Stolberg (Grafen zu Stolberg) probably derived from a branch of the counts of Hohnstein castle near Nordhausen in Thuringia. The castle of Stolberg was first mentioned in 1210 as Stalberg, then the seat of one count Henry originally from nearby Voigtstedt. It remained a property of the comital family until its expropriation in 1945.
The Stolberg lands, which were located mostly east of the Harz, included Stolberg, Hayn, the lower County of Hohnstein (1417), as well as Kelbra and Heringen (1413/17), the two latter territories being ruled alongside the House of Schwarzburg.
The Counts of Stolberg could significantly enlarge their territory when they inherited the County of Wernigerode in 1429, the County of Königstein in 1535, and the County of Rochefort in 1544. The Protestant Reformation was introduced into their territory in 1539. On 19 March 1548 the line was split between a Harz line (Stolberg-Stolberg) and a Rhenish line with the possessions in Rochefort (Stolberg-Rochefort) and Königstein im Taunus (Stolberg-Königstein).
The princes and counts of Stolberg are members of a large German dynasty of the former Holy Roman Empire's higher aristocracy (Hoher Adel). They played a significant role in feudal Germany's history and, as a mediatized dynasty, enjoyed princely privileges until the collapse of the German Empire in 1918. The house has numerous branches.
There are over ten different theories about the origin of the counts of Stolberg, but none has been commonly accepted. Stolbergs themselves claimed descent from the 6th century Italian noble, Otto Colonna. This claim was symbolized by the column device on the Stolberg arms. However, it is most likely that they are descended from the counts of Hohnstein, when in 1222 Heinrich I of Hohnstein wrested the county from Ludwig III. The first representative of this family, Count Henry of Stolberg, appears in a 1210 document, having already been mentioned in 1200 as Count Henry of Voigtstedt. Although Voigtstedt near Artern was the initial seat of this comital family, it had moved to Stolberg (Harz) no later than the beginning of the 13th century. The castle there remained in the hands of the family until they were dispossessed as part of the 1945 land reform in the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany created after the Second World War.
In 1429 the counts of Stolberg succeeded in purchasing the County of Wernigerode in the Northern Harz as part of a contract of inheritance and thereby extended their area of influence considerably.
In 1645 the house was permanently divided into the Older Main Line (Ältere Hauptlinie) of Stolberg-Wernigerode and the Younger Main Line (Jüngere Hauptlinie) of Stolberg-Stolberg. At the beginning of the 18th century, the lines of Stolberg-Gedern (to 1804) and Stolberg-Schwarza (to 1748) branched off from Stolberg-Wernigerode. In 1706, Stolberg-Stolberg was divided into the two lines of Stolberg-Stolberg and Stolberg-Rossla.
In 1742 representatives of the line of Stolberg-Gedern were elevated to the Estate of Imperial Princes (Reichsfürstenstand) by Emperor Charles VII.
In the 18th century, as a result of mediatisation, the imperially immediate counts of Stolberg-Wernigerode were forced to subordinate themselves to the Kingdom of Prussia and the counts of Stolberg-Stolberg and Stolberg-Roßla likewise to the Electorate of Saxony. On the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire's German nation in 1806 the Stolbergs lost their imperial comital status and, in 1815, finally became mediatized Prussian princes. However, the families retained certain privileges as to the Lutheran state churches of their mediatised state countries and had heritable seats in the Prussian House of Lords.
The head of each comital branch and his first-born son or heir presumptive in the Houses of Stolberg-Wernigerode, Stolberg-Stolberg and Stolberg-Roßla were granted permission on 22 October 1890 and 1893 respectively by Emperor Wilhelm II to bear princely titles. In 1980 a branch of the line of Stolberg-Stolberg was incorporated into the Dutch nobility as counts without, however, acknowledgement of their princely title.
Important members of the family are among others:
- Juliana, Countess of Stolberg-Wernigerode (15 February 1506 – 18 June 1580) was the mother of Willem the Silent, the leader of the successful Dutch Revolt against the Spanish in the 16th century. Juliana was born in Stolberg as the daughter of Bodo VIII, Count of Stolberg-Wernigerode and Anna of Eppstein-Königstein. She was raised a Roman Catholic but changed her religion twice, first to Lutheranism and later to Calvinism. She, along with her second husband, was a convinced Protestant and raised their children in the Protestant ways. In 1523 Juliana married Philip II of Hanau-Münzenberg (d. 1529), with whom she had 5 children. On 20 September 1531 Juliana married Willem, Count of Nassau. From this marriage twelve children were born, of which Willem the Silent was the eldest.
- Otto Graf (From 1890, Fürst) zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (30 October 1837 – 19 November 1896) was an Imperial German politician and the first Vice-Chancellor of Germany. He was the third and last child of Count Hermann zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (1802–1841, himself a son of Henry of Stolberg-Wernigerode) and his wife Countess Emma zu Erbach-Fürstenau (great-granddaughter of George Albert III, Count of Erbach-Fürstenau). On 22 August 1863 at Staniszów Castle, he married Anna Reuss of Köstritz (1837–1907). They had 7 children.
- Frederick Charles, Prince of Stolberg-Gedern (11 October 1693 – 28 September 1767), was a German politician. He founded the Stolberg-Gedern line of the House of Stolberg, which ended in 1804 when it became part of the line of Stolberg-Wernigerode.
- Countess Louise Augusta zu Stolberg-Stolberg, (7 January 1753 – 30 May 1835) is known for her lively correspondence with the poet and thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; she is known as Goethes Gustchen in the history of literature. By birth she was member of House of Stolberg and by marriage member of House of Bernstorff. She was daughter of Count Christian Günther zu Stolberg-Stolberg (1714–1765) and Countess Christiane Charlotte zu Castell-Remlingen (1722–1773). On 7 August 1783 Augusta Louise moved to Copenhagen, and later married the Danish Minister of State Count Andreas Peter von Bernstorff. They had no issue.