Family History

History of the House of Sayn

The elder Counts of Sayn

In the 10th century a first unconfirmed naming of the Counts of Sayn can be found. Assumedly they were minor Counts to the Pfaltzgraves (Counts Palatine) in the Auelgau. The naming of the brothers Count Eberhard and Count Heinrich of Sayn back in 1139 is the first confirmed naming of ancestors of the Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein. 

Coat of Arms of the Counts of Sayn

Shortly after they widen their sphere of influence from the Mittelrhein (Koblenz / Westerwald area) to the regions around Bonn and Cologne. The biggest increment of the county comes  early in the 13th century when  Count Heinrich III., the Great, marries Mechtild of Meissen-Landsberg, who brings territories on the Rhine from the landgravian-Thuringian holdings of her mother into the mariage. 1205 Bruno of Sayn becomes Archbishop of Cologne.


The Counts of Sayn from the House of Sponheim

The county was inherited, on the childless death of Heinrich III., in 1247, by his sister Adelheid, married to Count Gottfried III. of Sponheim, a descendant of Count Stephan of Sponheim, first mentioned in 1052.

In 1294 the new counts of Sayn from the House of Sponheim split the county amongst the brothers Johann, who receives Sayn, and Engelbert, who inherits Marienburg Castle in Vallendar. The older line reigns in Sayn, Hachenburg and Altenkirchen until in 1606 when Count Heinrich IV. of Sayn-Sayn as the last male descendant dies.

Coat of arms of the Counts of Sayn-Sayn


The Counts of Sayn and Wittgenstein

Salentin of Sayn-Vallendar from the younger line marries in 1345 Adelheid, the heiress of the Wittgenstein County . Their descendants, the Counts of Sayn and Wittgenstein split the territory in 1605 amongst the sons of Ludwig the Elder into the Berleburg County (since 1792 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg), the Sayn County (Counts zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, extinct in 1846) and the Wittgenstein County (since 1801 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein).

The Counties Sayn-Hachenburg and Sayn-Altenkirchen

A claim of the line Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn on Sayn originates from the marriage of Count Wilhelm of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn with Anna Elisabeth of Sayn-Sayn, niece of Heinrich IV and heiress of the Sayn County. After a long quarrel within this line the Sayn County fell during the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to the granddaughters Ernestine and Johanette of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who founded two separate counties with respective residences in Hachenburg and Altenkirchen. Through female succession Sayn-Hachenburg at first fell to Manderscheid-Blankenheim, then to Kirchberg and eventually to Nassau-Weilburg. Whereas Sayn-Altenkirchen fell to Sachsen-Eisenach, later to Brandenburg-Ansbach and finally to Prussia. Bendorf is split amongst the two counties, whilst, in 1606, the ancestral seat in Sayn already becomes annexed by the Archbishop of Trier.

Field-Marshal Prince Peter

The Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn

Count Christian from the Ludwigsburg side-line of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg line joins  the Russian military service in the mid 18th century.  

His son Count Ludwig Adolph Peter, the later imperial Russian field-marshal, is celebrated as the saviour of St. Petersburg, due to his military achievements and victories during the liberation war of 1812-1813 against Napoleon. In 1834 he is awarded the title of Prince of (Fürst von)  Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg by the King of Prussia with acknowledgement of the Russian Tsar . 

The oldest son Ludwig Adolf Friedrich first marries Princess Stephanie Radziwil who brings into the marriage with 1.2 million hectares the biggest privately owned estate in Europe. On her early death she leaves one son, Peter (without issue), and a daughter Marie, wife of Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Chancellor of the German Empire.

In 1848 Prince Ludwig leaves Russia together with his second wife Leonilla, daughter of Field-Marshal Prince Ivan Bariatinsky. He receives as a present from King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. of Prussia the former family seat Sayn Castle, destroyed in the 30-year war. With the purchase of a former knights manor in Sayn he gains the title of Prince (Fürst) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.

Prince Ludwig (1799-1866)
Princess Leonilla (1816-1918)


Ludwig and Leonilla have the former baroque manor of the Counts of Boos-Waldeck below Sayn Castle reconstructed into a princely residence in neogothic stile. Their youngest son Alexander marries Yvonne, the daughter of the French Duke of Blacas and inherits Sayn after morganatic marriages of his older brothers Peter, Friedrich and Ludwig. After his wife's early death he remarries  and spends his life as Count of Hachenburg in the former family residences in Hachenburg and Friedewald in the Westerwald. Princess Leonilla dies 1918 at the age of 102 in Switzerland. Her oldest grandson Stanislaus first marries Maya Countess of Schönborn-Wiesentheid and after her death Donna Elena Ruffo della Scaletta. Both marriages stay without issue. 

Prince Ludwig (1915-1962) and Princess Marianne, Engagement 1942

So the Sayn property falls to his nephew Ludwig, son of the diplomat Prince Gustav Alexander and Baroness Walburga of Friesen. In 1942 Prince Ludwig marries Baroness Marianne of Mayr-Melnhof.

In 1945 the Sayn Palace gets destroyed by German troops. When in 1962 Ludwig dies in an accident at the age of 46 years, he leaves 5 children behind: Yvonne of Bolzano, Alexander, Elisabeth Baroness of Senden, Teresa Countess of Kageneck and Prince Peter, married with the actress Sunnyi Melles. 


Princess Marianne returns to her homeland Austria and becomes a celebrated photographer. 

The photobook "Mamarazza" was published with great success in both Germany and the United States. Her pictures have been shown in a large number of exhibitions. 



The exhibition  "SaynerZeit", a show of black & white photos from 1941 to 1961, was presented in 2006 in Sayn Castle, Vienna, Salzburg and Frankfort.



A book on the exhibition with 140 b&w photographs and text by Princess Marianne has been published by Kulturverlag Polzer in Salzburg, Austria.


New in July 2006: Sayn- Wittgenstein Collection, Photographs by Princess Marianne Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn,  in 5 languages, Introduction by Gunter Sachs, Sir Sean Connery and Dr. Beate Reifenscheid (Ludwig Museum Koblenz), teNeues Buchverlag, 2006, 256 pages, EUR 78,00, ISBN 3832791280, EUR 78,--



Alexander follows as the 7th Prince (Fürst) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. Reconstruction of the Sayn Palace and Castle and making the property accessible to tourism are main endeavours of Prince Alexander and Princess Gabriela, a Countess of Schönborn-Wiesentheid. 

Prince Alexander, a graduate of the Harvard Business School (MBA 68), is President of the German Castles Association (Deutsche Burgenvereinigung) and Vice-President of Europa Nostra, a pan-European federation for heritage.

Princess Gabriela was member of the Bendorf town council.


Prince Alexander and Princess Gabriela



Marriage of Hereditary Prince Heinrich 

to Donna Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta  

Hereditary Prince Heinrich (32), the eldest son of Prince Alexander and Princess Gabriela zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, married Donna Priscilla (28), daughter of Marchese Niccolo and Marchesa Giulia Incisa della Rocchetta on June 7th  in Sayn (civil) and June 21st 2003 in Bolgheri (religious ceremony).

Wedding of Heinrich and Priscilla in  Bolgheri

The bride was born in Rome. She studied history of art (BA and MA) at the University College London. Her great great grandmother Princess Antoinette Chigi-Albani della Rovere was the daughter of Prince Ludwig and Princess Leonilla zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.

Donna Priscilla's family resides in Bolgheri, Tuscany, where the  renowned Sassicaia wine is produced. Prince Heinrich’s sister Filippa Countess Mazzetti d’Albertis  introduced the young couple  to each other in Florence shortly before her death.

The groom is Vice-President at the Deutsche Bank.



Prince Louis



On June 24th 2006 the first child of Prince Heinrich and Princess Priscilla was baptised in the Chapel of Sayn Palace in the name Ludovico (Ludwig / Louis) Carlo Maria Rudolf Sebastiano Alexander. 


Marriage of Princess Alexandra and Count Stefano Hunyady


On 9. July 2005 Princess Alexandra married Count Stefano Hunyady de Kéthely  in Castagneto Carducci (LI). Count Stefano, a renowned photographer, is a first cousin of Princess Priscilla. The couple will reside in Bolgheri, Tuscany.


Princess Alexandra and Count Stefano Hunyady





Prince Alexander

The first child of Prince Casimir, Alexander Kyril Ludwig Peter Salentin Maria Gabriel, lives in London where Prince Casimir works as a banker.



Prince Casimir, son Alexander and grandfather Prince Alexander in the Ropac Gallery, Salzburg



Princess Filippa dies September 30th 2001

Princess Filippa was born on 23.7.1980 in Koblenz. She attended Primary School in Sayn and passed her Abitur 1999 at the Schönstätter Marienschule in Vallendar. Following school she studied for two years communication, photography and Italian  at the Academy of Arts “Lorenzo di Medici“ in Florence. Her hobbies were photography, art, languages and the Italian kitchen. She loved the nature and had pleasure in scuba-diving, hunting and fishing.


Filippa and Vittorio on the terrace of Sayn Palace

On June 10th 2001 Princess Filippa married at Sayn Abbey Count Vittorio Mazzetti d’Albertis, born August 24th 1965. His family lives in Tuscany and Rome. Count Vittorio, dottore in agricultural management, works for a Florentine winehouse.

Straight after their honeymoon Princess Filippa started work with the renowned Italian photographer Roberto Sisini. Her first foreign assignment took her to Cornwall in south-west England.

Filippa "photographs" her photography teacher Cosimo Bargellini

On Sunday, September 30th, returning to London a tragic accident occurred near the south-western English city of Bristol, at which the team’s campervan, for unknown reasons, was involved in a collision with council trucks unloading equipment on the hard shoulder of the M5. Both, Princess Filippa and Roberto Sisini, died instantly, whilst the driver and the two other occupants survived.

On October 7th 2001 Princess Filippa was buried in Montegemoli, Province Pisa, Italy.  

Notes from Filippa's diary have been published by DBV - Don Bosco Verlag, Munich, 

"Filippas Engel -  Aus den Tagebüchern von Filippa Sayn-Wittgenstein". 

(for orders see below).



Coat of arms of the Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg

The Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg 

Head of the overall house Sayn-Wittgenstein is Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg living in Berleburg Palace, married to Princess Benedikte of Denmark. 




Coat of arms of the Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein

... and zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein

The line Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein is represented by Prince Bernhart and Princess Katharina, born Countess of Podewils. They live in Schwarzenau Palace in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein.





Persons carrying the Name "Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein"

There is quite a number of persons carrying the name "Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein" (not "Fürst zu Sayn-Wittgenstein"), who are not members of the Princely House of Sayn-Wittgenstein (as defined by the former German Nobility Law). They received this name and again spread this name through  adoptions or marriages, sometimes advertised in newspapers. This is legal, as long as a payment is not (openly) involved. Unfortunately, several of these persons have already been sued or punished for criminal acts.

There is also a number of firms using the name "Fürst von Sayn-Wittgenstein" and often also the coat of arms of the Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein. Most are engaged in portfolio management, real estate management or consulting. Members of the former Princely House of Sayn-Wittgenstein (definition s. above) are in no way connected with these firms.


Literature related to the history of Sayn County and the family:

1. Filippas Engel, From the diaries of Filippa Sayn-Wittgenstein, DBV - Don Bosco Verlag, 2003, 208 pages, ISBN 3-7698-1437-1, EUR 14,90. A Spanish edition was published in Nov. 2005 by Ediciones Palabra in Madrid. 

2. Mamarazza, 5 centuries of society photography by Princess Marianne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Steidl Verlag, 1999, 240 pages with 2000 pictures, ISBN 3-88243-641-7, EUR 99,--

3. SaynerZeit 1941-1961, 140 b&w Photos and Text by Princess Marianne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Kulturverlag Polzer, Salzburg, 2006, ISBN 3-9501388-1-1, EUR 39,-

4. Sayn-Wittgenstein Collection, Photographs by Princess Marianne Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn,  in 5 languages, Introduction by Gunter Sachs, Sir Sean Connery and Dr. Beate Reifenscheid (Ludwig Museum Koblenz), teNeues Buchverlag, 2006, 256 pages, EUR 78,00, ISBN 3832791280, EUR 78,--

5. Das Fürstliche Haus Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Ludwig Tavernier, The Princes of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn from Field-Marshall Peter until today, Börde Verlag, 2002,  36 pages, ISBN 3-9807740-3-1, EUR 4,55, (signed on request).

6. Abtei Sayn,  Franz Hermann Kemp/Dietrich Schabow, The 800-years history of Sayn abbey, Görres Verlag, 2002, 244 pages, well illustrated, ISBN 3-935690-03-7, EUR 24,50

7. Sayner Hütte, Paul-Georg Custodis/ Barbara Friedhofen/ Dietrich Schabow, The Sayn foundry, an industrial monument of national cultural importance, and its ornamental cast iron artifacts, Görres Verlag, 2002, 235 Seiten, well illustrated, ISBN 3-935690-12-6, EUR 19,80

8. 1000 Jahre Grafen von Sponheim, Genealogical data on the Counts of Sponheim, Hrsg. Freundeskreis Sponheim e.V., EUR 19,--

9. Gräfin Mechthild von Sayn, Thomas Bohn, A study of history and culture in the medieval Rhineland, Böhlau Verlag, 2002, 772 pages, ISBN 3-412-10901-0, EUR 69,--

10. Original lithography "Schloss Sayn", 2001, S. Jakushev, Moscow, limited and numbered,  picture size 22x17,3cm (page size 37x28cm), EUR 45,-- (col. EUR 60,--)

Books are available in book stores or through: Verlag und Buchhandlung der Fürstl. Sayn-Wittgensteinschen Verwaltung, Schloss Str.100, 56170 Sayn

Mailing costs will be added.