Stranger than fiction

‘Party prince’ sues son over €1 sale of German castle

Ernst August of Hanover has launched legal bid to regain control of ancestral seat from state

The head of one of Germany’s most illustrious family dynasties has launched a legal bid to reclaim a German castle that his “ungrateful” son wants to hand over to the government.

The Welfs were “once among the foremost medieval dynasties in Europe” and have retained a “substantial portfolio of properties”, including the 135-room Marienburg Castle near Hanover, The Times reports.

Built in 1867, this castle is now at the heart of the dispute between family patriarch Prince Ernst August of Hanover - a distant cousin of the Queen - and his son, also Ernst August, the Duke of Braunschweig and Luneberg.

The ancestral seat and two other properties were transferred to the younger Ernst August in the mid-2000s by his father, who is the estranged husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco and who has been nicknamed “the party prince” over his “jet-set lifestyle and drunken escapades”, says The Local.

In 2018, however, the duke announced that he was selling the castle to the government for a symbolic €1 - a decision made “partly because of the huge costs of maintaining the mid-19th century Gothic-style building”, according to the news site.

Although the castle attracts around 200,000 tourists every year, the estimated bill for badly needed renovations totals around €27m (£23.3m).

The Bundestag has voted to contribute €13.6m towards the cost of the building work, and around 100 paintings and other artefacts from the castle have been passed to Hanover’s state museum.

But Ernst August senior is refusing to accept the handover deal, negotiated with the regional authorities of Lower Saxony.

The state court in Hanover this week announced that he has filed a lawsuit to try to to regain the castle and other properties from his son, who is accused of “base ingratitude” and “gravely violating the rights, legal entitlements and interests” of the prince.

The legal battle is the latest in a series of squabbles between the two men. The hostilities have been heightened since Ernst August senior declined to give his official consent to his son’s 2017 marriage to Russian-born fashion designer Ekaterina Malysheva and shunned the wedding. 

The younger man remains defiant in the face of the latest row, insisting that deal struck to transfer ownership of Marienburg Castle was “legally secure”.

“All the arguments in this lawsuit have already been refuted in an out-of-court settlement, he told Der Spiegel. “Against this background, we are relaxed about any dispute in court.” 

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