This year was filled with reactionary dorks. In Arizona, Blake Masters tried and failed to larp his way into the Senate by posting creepy videos of himself shooting his many guns. In Manhattan, a dozen-or-so people maybe turned a bit fascist and maybe a bit Catholic and writers tried to figure out why rich kids would do something like that. In cyberspace, the absolute monarchist blogger once known as Mencius Moldbug emerged on Substack under his own name, Curtis Yarvin, and got written up in Tablet and Vox.
All of these people had moments. But none of them really went it for like Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, the descendant of princes arrested earlier this month by German authorities, who stands accused of being the ringleader of a coup plot inspired by the ludicrous theory that Germany is not a sovereign state but a company set up by western powers following World War II.
It sounds like a Nathan Fielder episode of overthrow. The plan? To storm the Reichstag, execute Chancellor Olaf Schulz, and put Reuss in power.
From one angle, it was more than a bit unsettling. After fanning out across Germany, Austria, and Italy, three thousand law enforcement officials arrested 25 people and found weapons at more than 50 of the roughly 150 locations they raided. From another angle, it was a chance to laugh at perhaps the year’s most pompous man.
This is that version of the story.
- For roughly 800 years, the Reuss family rules over a relatively minor principality in what is now Thuringia, a state in central Germany home to roughly 2.1 million people.
- As early as 1200, the Reuss family starts naming all of its males Heinrich. Some say it was to honor an ancestor. Others say it was to thank Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor who died in 1197, for helping the family. Regardless, the result is many Heinrichs. They are initially differentiated by descriptors: Heinrich the Younger; Heinrich the Older; Heinrich the Fat.
- Some time in the 17th century the descriptors are replaced by numbers. The first Heinrich born around the turn of a century is Heinrich I. From there, the numbers increase for the next 100-years-or-so before resetting at the beginning of the next century. Heinrich LXXV (75), born around 1800, still holds the Guinness World Record for the “highest postnominal number after a name.”
- In 1918, Prince Heinrich XXVII, Heinrich XIII’s great-grandfather, abdicates as a result of the revolution that ushers in the democratic Weimar republic. The principality is no more.
- After World War II, the Soviets expropriate most of the assets that remain in the House of Reuss’ possession in Germany.
- In 1951, our protagonist, Heinrich XIII, is born.
- Henrick XIII grows up in Hesse (the state that includes Frankfurt), studies engineering, and ends up marrying the daughter of an Iranian banker. Her background proves controversial in a family that still adheres to “house laws.” They split up after having two children, though she still calls herself a princess to this day.
- To make a living, Heinrich XIII works in real estate and produces sparkling wine. He calls himself “Prince Reuss” on his website, despite not being a prince. Outside of work, he develops a reputation as a dandy who likes beautiful women and fast cars. A German headline calls him “A Blue Blood with Gasoline in His Blood.”
- Heinrich XIII eventually recovers millions of dollars worth of art and artifacts expropriated by the Soviets via his many legal battles with the German state. He uses some of the money to buy the “Waidmannsheil” hunting lodge built in the 1830s in the town of Bad Lobenstein for Henry LXXII (72). His other legal efforts are less successful. Rumors develop that much of his fortune is being wasted on frivolous lawsuits.
- Heinrich XIII has hobbies, like hickory golf, a variant of the sport in which participants use old clubs made with wooden shafts. They dress accordingly.
- In 2019, while hosting a hickory golf tournament near his hunting lodge, Heinrich XIII kicks things off by firing a cannon named “Feodora.” The competition pits Germany against the “Rest of the World.” In a pattern unfortunately familiar to the self-proclaimed royal, the rest of the world wins decisively.
- Also in 2019, Heinrich XIII gives a conspiracy-filled speech at the Worldwebforum in Zurich titled: “Why Blue-Blooded Elite Became Servants.” He argues in labored English that “everything was fine” until his great-grandfather abdicated, claims a sovereign Germany no longer exists, and blames Freemasons, the Rothschilds, and large law firms for his and Germany’s problems.
The Lead-Up to the Coup
- The coup plotters use the hunting lodge for meetings, target practice, and as storage for weapons and explosives.
- Some in town are sympathetic to Heinrich XIII’s idea that Germany does not exist. As a local councilman explains, “[Townspeople] yell at us and say: ‘We are not Germans. We are not in a real German state! We are just a branch of a GmbH!’” (GmbH is the German equivalent of an LLC.)
- In 2021, the editor of the local paper learns about Heinrich XIII’s existence after seeing campaign posters for the “Reuss election commission.” It is particularly strange because there are no elections happening.
- The plotters think a secret group known as the “Alliance” will spring to their aid once they launch the coup. Despite Heinrich XIII’s romantic involvement with a younger Russian woman, efforts to gain Russia’s backing fail.
- On a wiretapped line, Heinrich XIII declares, “We’re going to crush them, the fun is over!”
- In early December, the plotters are arrested. No coup has happened. German privacy laws make it hard to identify many of the suspects, who are listed only by their first name and last initial. The Prince of Reuss is easy to spot: He is named in government documents as “Heinrich XIII P. R” and photographed in handcuffs wearing a tweed jacket, ochre trousers, and a neckerchief.
- Frank Heppner, a celebrity chef from Munich, is taken into custody at a five-star hotel in the Austrian ski town of Kitzbühelm. Heppner was reportedly part of the military arm of the coup effort. He was also slated to be in charge of the canteen for soldiers, as well as the personal chef to Heinrich XIII. Heppner is also the father of Shalimar Heppner, the girlfriend of star Real Madrid defender David Alaba.
- Some of the items seized by police include pistols, swords, knives, night vision goggles, satellite phones, and pounds of gold and silver. Two of the weapons belong to police officers involved in the plot.
- Heinrich XIII ends up nowhere near running Germany, let alone his own family.
- Heinrich XIV, the head of the House of Reuss, says about his estranged and distant cousin, “I am afraid that he is now a conspiracy theorist, a confused old man.” He adds that Heinrich XIII is 17th in line to the throne: “That means 16 of us would have to die before it is his turn.”
- In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Heinrich XIII’s hometown paper, a columnist writes that the would-be king doesn’t even dress like a ruler: At best, he looks like a man eating Fischbrötchen (a fish sandwich) on the Hamptons-esque island of Sylt. I choose to believe this was devastating in the original German.
As usual, the staff of Mother Jones is rounding up the heroes and monsters of the past year. Find all of 2o22’s here.