The Solms family already held the title of count by the 13th century. But a noble title wasn’t necessarily set in stone. The emperor could award higher titles. It was one way for him to reward loyal followers – and replenish his empty war chest. Being elevated to a higher rank cost a significant amount of money. From the 17th century onwards, the increasing number of elevations resulted in out-and-out title inflation, which put the nobility under pressure to adapt.
In Braunfels, Count Friedrich Wilhelm succeeded in achieving the rank of a prince in 1742. The diploma of elevation issued by Emperor Charles the Seventh is on display here. In three hundred years, he was the only occupant of the imperial throne who was not from the House of Habsburg, and he was caught up in the costly War of the Austrian Succession against Maria Theresa. While the attached imperial seal with the imperial eagle confirms the legal validity of the document, the page at which the diploma lies open displays the princely rank acquired by Frederick William. His elevation is indicated by the princely crown. The two supporters holding the shield – the Wild Man and the Griffin – symbolise Braunfels and Greifenstein respectively.
Have you noticed the additions to the escutcheon, compared to the early 13th century coats of arms? One consistent feature is the lion in the centre, representing the centrepiece of the domain in the Solmser Land. If you’d like to know more about the significance of the other coats of arms, take a look at the label, which provides some information.
Friedrich Wilhelm zu Solms-Braunfels was first married to Magdalena Henriette von Nassau-Weilburg, whose costumes you saw in the room next door. Some members of her birth family had also acquired a princely title, but her father failed to pay his share of the costs, so that his cousins refused to give him the diploma.
Next to the document on the left are several miniatures – not just of Magdalena Henriette, but also of Princess Maria, née Countess Kinsky from Bohemia, who was considered a great beauty.
Now, please move on into the small room to the right of the uniforms, where you’ll encounter Princess Maria in life size and be able to see a selection of magnificent Bohemian gold ruby glass.
All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels