1. History of the Forest Estate Ditzrod

The Forest Estate Ditzrod with its hunting area of approx. 5,000 acres is located in one of the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia most abounding in woodland, in the district Siegen-Wittgenstein, directly bordering on the North East of the state of Hesse. The Estate has been in the Sayn-Wittgenstein Family's possession for about 900 years.

Our game population leads a life which, to a large extent, is untroubled by motorways and other perterbations. We strictly prohibit hunting at night and shooting at a decoy place.

Leading wild sows and leaders are preserved all year round.

The main activities of the Forest Estate are concentrated on the forestry, the hunting and the property management of the Princely Family of Wittgenstein.

2. History of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg Family

The history of the Princely Family Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg dates back to the 12th century. The dynasty is flourishing today in the two main lines Berleburg (Princes of the Empire since 1792), Hohenstein (Princes of the Empire since 1801) and the special line Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (Prussian and Russian Princedom since 1834).

The elder Counts of Sayn

A first unconfirmed mention of the Counts of Sayn can be found as early as in the 10th century. Presumably they were subordinate counts of the counts palatine in the Auelgau. The Family is mentioned in a document for the first time in 1134 by naming the two brothers Count Eberhard and Count Heinrich of Sayn.

The Sayn Family's sphere of influence steadily expanded from the central Rhine area to the region around Bonn and Cologne. The biggest accession of its territory was experienced by the Family early in the 13th century under Count Heinrich (Henry) III the Great marrying Mechtild of Meissen-Landsberg whose dowry were other important territories on the Rhine from the landgravian-Thuringian possessions owned by her mother. In 1205 Bruno of Sayn became Archbishop of Cologne.

The Counts of Sayn from the House of Sponheim

The male lineage of Sayn-Wittgenstein takes its rise from the dynasty of the Counts of Spanheim (Sponheim) who domiciliated in the Nahegau region and occupied the dukery of Carinthia in the 13th century.

Count Gottfried (Godfrey) of Spanheim married Adelheid (Adelaide) of Sayn, heiress of the County of Sayn which Gottfried took over including its name in 1247. Adelheid's brothers ranked among the great lords of that time: Count Heinrich (Henry) III who died without issue and whose beautiful sepulchre is in the Germanic National Museum of Nuremberg, and Count Eberhard who officiated as military leader in Livonia.

The wife's name of one of Gottfried's descendants, Count Salentin of Sayn, was again Adelheid. She brought as a dowry the County of Wittgenstein in 1352. Since that time we have called ourselves Sayn-Wittgenstein. Until 1974 inclusively the old County formed the district Wittgenstein.

The elder Counts of Wittgenstein

In 1174 Count Werner of Wittgenstein is mentioned in a document for the first time. He resided in Battenberg. The name Wittgenstein – in its oldest versions Widechinstein, Widegenstein – points to Saxon origin. Since 1238 our ancestors have named themselves Counts of Battenberg and Counts of Wittgenstein after the two fortified castles. The Battenbergs became extinct; thereupon the County of Mainz (Mayence) was seized and then devolved on Hesse. In 1851 the children of Prince Alexander Hesse-Darmstadt received the name Battenberg which was transformed to Mountbatten in England. As escutcheon of their coat of arms they bear the Wittgenstein's family coat of arms: two black pallets in silver.

The brothers Wilhelm (William) and Johann (John) divided the County of Wittgenstein among themselves in 1506. Wilhelm chose as residence the Wittgenstein Palace near Laasphe and Johann the Palace in Berleburg. Both places were small towns inhabited by townsmen who cultivate some land and both places were protected by fortifications which do no longer exist today. The rural settlements were entirely surrounded by forests in an extent of many miles – a hunting paradise with big game including bigger game birds, boars, bears and wolves. Since about 1440 the County of Wittgenstein has, owing to its richness in woodland, been of importance for the heavy industry at that time of the Siegerland, the area of Dill and Lahn and for Southern Westphalia as it supplied the charcoal for the ironworks.

Their descendants partitioned the possession in 1605 into the counties Berleburg (since 1792 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg), Sayn (Counts zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, extinct in 1846) and Wittgenstein (since 1801 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein).

The Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg

Count Johann (John) VIII zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (1601-1657), a grandson of Ludwig (Louis), fought several years in the Thirty Years' War and it was not until 1635 that he returned to Berleburg. He was appointed as privy councillor of Brandenburg in 1642. As an envoy principal of Brandenburg he then in 1645 participated in the peace negotiations in Münster and Osnabrück which led to the Peace of Westphalia in October 1648.

A long time was required to obliterate the traces left by the cruel war. The Counties had hardly recovered when a new war approached, in this case having a duration of seven years (1756-1763).

The Counts Johann-Ludwig (John Louis) and Ludwig-Ferdinand (Louis Ferdinand) being loyal to the emperor stood by Austria's side and hence, they had to sustain taxes, forced contributions, pillages and compulsory quarterings. Nevertheless, due to their loyalty the Counts of Wittgenstein were raised to the rank of a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Franz (Francis) II. That was in the year 1793, shortly before the decline of the independent states in Germany. Henceforth, each one of the Princes of the Empire as His Serene Highness was entitled to write: "We, Prince zu Wittgenstein, reigning by the Grace of God, …" In 1806, however, the independence of the Counties ended. Moreover, according to the resolution of the Congress of Vienna of 1815 the two Counties were united and annexed to Prussia.

Today's head of the collective House is Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg living in Berleburg Palace and being married to Princess Benedikte of Denmark.
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