If you look at the two bottom rows in the left-hand section of the display case, you’ll see the earliest seals of the Counts of Solms. They’re especially noteworthy, and we’d like to draw on them to tell you something about the beginnings of this dynasty of counts and later princes.
The person who first verifiably bore the name is the nobleman Marquardus de Sulmese. He served as a witness to the founding of Schiffenberg Monastery near the town of Giessen and was named in the foundation charter in 1129. His ancestral seat was in nearby Burgsolms. Unfortunately, nothing of that structure survives, not even the remains of the castle walls.
A little less than a hundred years later, the brothers Marquard the Second and Heinrich the First each held the title of count. The oldest preserved seal, listed as number three, shows Marquard the Second as a proud horseman in armour, bearing a sword and shield. His brother Heinrich used that same shield as his own seal – displayed here as number one. Both variants are entirely typical of the period. Name and title are barely decipherable in the circumscription. The drawing on your screen may be helpful here.
The seal of Count Reinbold from 1255, number seven, is the first to show the lion of Solms, which has adorned the family’s armorial crest since the 13th century. That was also when Braunfels Castle was built, which was to become the seigneurial seat of the Solms-Braunfels line.
Over time, the dynasty split into several lines, and you can see their seals in the central and right-hand sections of the showcase. The coats of arms became more complex. In addition to the Solms lion, other symbols reference estates beyond the borders of the original county. But we’d prefer to show you what we mean by drawing on a larger example – the princely letters patent at stop number 22.
All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels