Speed Reads

We don't have to be royals

German coup plot suspect Heinrich XIII's family was unimpressed with his princely ambitions

Germany last week arrested a minor member of the country's abolished nobility plus two dozen others accused of plotting to overthrow the German government, execute the chancellor, and replace the republic with an authoritarian state modeled on pre-1918 Germany. The minor noble tapped to lead this new reich was a wealthy former real estate broker who calls himself Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss. The plot was hatched, and the weapons were stored, in the basement of Heinrich XIII's ancestral hunting lodge in the scenic spa town of Bad Lobenstein in eastern Thuringia state, police say.

The House of Reuss once ruled Thuringia, "the state where the Nazis first won power locally more than 90 years ago," The New York Times reports. Heinrich XIII raised some of the money for the coup plot from other German-speaking nobility in Austria and Switzerland. But his antisemitic screeds and slide into the Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) conspiracy theory — which holds that Germany isn't a sovereign state but a corporation created by Allied occupiers after World War II — alienated him from other members of his own family, the Times reports.

"The head of the Reuss family, a distant cousin who, like all male heirs to the Reuss throne, is also named Heinrich, called him 'a confused old man' and pointed out that even if his coup had been successful, he was only 17th in line for the throne," the Times reports. "'That means 16 of us would have to die before it is his turn,' he said." 

Heinrich XIII may sound like a colorful eccentric in a Wes Anderson movie, but he and his co-conspirators "are not harmless crazy people but suspected terrorists who are now in custody," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told Bild am Sonntag on Sunday. Germany will "soon tighten gun laws further," she added.

Germany's domestic intelligence service had been watching Prince Heinrich XIII since the fall of 2021, the Times reports. Other people implicated in the alleged plot include police officers, current and former member of the elite special forces, a sitting judge, military reservists, and a former lawmaker with the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, the biggest political force in Thuringia. You can read more about the prince and the alleged coup plot at The New York Times.