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Josef Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen

Josef Friedrich Wilhelm (born 12 November 1717 in Bayreuth; died 9 April 1798 in Hechingen), was prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen from 1750 until his death.

Josef Friedrich Wilhelm
Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
Reign4 June 1750 – 9 April 1798
PredecessorFrederick Louis
Born(1717-11-12)12 November 1717
Died9 April 1798(1798-04-09) (aged 80)
SpousePrincess Maria Theresia Folch de Cardona y Silva
Countess Maria Theresia of Waldburg-Zeil
Maria Crescentia
Maria Theresia
Maria Antonia
Full name
German: Josef Friedrich Wilhelm
HouseHouse of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
FatherPrince Herman Frederick of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
MotherCountess Maria Josepha Theresia of Oettingen-Spielberg



Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm, Officer in Imperial Service, was the son of Imperial field Marshal Herman Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Josepha von Oettingen zu Spielberg. He succeeded his unmarried cousin, Frederick Louis, in 1750. On 25 June 1750 in Vienna, Josef married Princess Maria Theresia Folch de Cardona y Silva, the 18-year-old daughter of Fürst von Cardona. Maria Theresia died only three months into the marriage and left behind her family's fortune in its entirety. Marriages in the House of Hohenzollern-Hechingen were often chosen based on dowry and inheritance.

In 1751, Josef married Countess Maria Theresia of Waldburg-Zeil who bore him six children, of which only the youngest daughter grew past childhood.

Josef was an enthusiastic hunter and traveler. In 1764, during a stay in Bad Wildbad, he became acquainted with a Prussian Stabskapitän who had been released from the Prussian army after the end of the Seven Years' War. This man was Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730–1794), who would spend the next 12 years as Hofmarschall in Josef's service before his role assisting George Washington in the Revolutionary War as General Inspector and Organizer of the United States Army.

Steuben was also involved when the prince began to implement money-saving or money-creating policies. These include his attempt in 1772 to dissolve the court and to travel incognito with only his wife and Steuben accompanying him. He stayed for extended periods of time in Strasbourg, Montpellier, and Lyon. Josef spent much of his money and time with company, fine dining, gambling, theater, carnival, and hunting. This continued for three full years, until the princess succeeded in convincing the prince to end his masquerade.

In the following years, Josef became comfortable in the position of an enlightened leader; he promoted agriculture and established compulsory education. In 1775, he founded a Gymnasium (roughly equivalent to the American high school) as well as a Latin school in the "Old Castle", and contributed to the reduction of churchly holidays despite resistance from the population. He was considered to be tolerant towards Protestants and Jews.

His need for representation led to the establishment of the Collegiate church in Hechingen. In 1764, the well-renowned French architect Pierre Michel d'Ixnard was hired as the director of this construction project.

Although the prince intended to always appear as a friendly father-figure for his people, he was relentless in conflicts with his subjects and was always distrustful of his potential successors. On 9 April 1798, Josef died after 48 years of reigning.

Because he had no male successors, the crown passed to his nephew Hermann.


Josef Friedrich Wilhelm and his second wife Countess Maria Theresia of Waldburg-Zeil had six children:

  • Meinrad Joseph Maria Friedrich Erbgraf von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 9 October 1751, Hechingen; † 28 September 1752, Hechingen)
  • Joseph Wilhelm Franz Erbgraf von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 12 December 1752, Hechingen; † 7 July 1754, Hechingen)
  • Maria Crescentia Josepha Gräfin von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 4 September 1754, Hechingen; † 29 September 1754)
  • Maria Theresia Josephine Karoline Gräfin von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 3 December 1756, Hechingen; † December 1756)
  • Hieronymus Joseph Karl Erbgraf von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 18 April 1758, Hechingen; † 23 June 1759, Hechingen)
  • Maria Antonia Anna Gräfin von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (* 10 November 1760, Hechingen; † 25 July 1797, Hechingen)


  • [Philipp Matthäus Hahn]: Kurze Beschreibung einer kleinen beweglichen Welt-MACHINE, welche Sr. Hochfürstl. Durchlaucht dem regierenden Fürsten [Joseph Friedrich Wilhelm] zu Hohenzollern Hechingen unter der DIRECTION des Pfarrers M[agistri]. Hahns von Onstmettingen von dem Schulmeister Schaudten [i. e. Philipp Gottfried Schaudt] daselbst verfertiget worden. 1770. [Vignette] Gedruckt zu Constanz bey Johann Gerhard Lüdolph.[1]
  • Jürgen Brüstle: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben – Eine Biographie. Marburg 2006.
  • Ludwig Egler: Chronik der Stadt Hechingen. 1889. S. 158-167.
  • Gustav Schilling: Geschichte des Hauses Hohenzollern, in genealogisch fortlaufenden Biographien aller seiner Regenten von den ältesten bis auf die neuesten Zeiten, nach Urkunden und andern authentischen Quellen. F. Fleischer, 1843, pp. 245 ff.
  • E. G. Johler: Geschichte, Land- und Ortskunde der souverainen teutschen Fürstenthümer Hohenzollern, Hechingen und Sigmaringen. 1824, pp. 58 ff. (Digitalisat)


  1. ^ A nephew of Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm ordered also an astronomic machine constructed by Philipp Matthäus Hahn: Franz Joseph Reichsgraf von Thun und Hohenstein (* 1734). – Cf. Reinhard Breymayer: Erhard Weigels Schüler Detlev Clüver und sein Einfluss auf Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782) [...].. In: Katharina Habermann, Klaus-Dieter Herbst (Hg.): Erhard Weigel (1625–1699) und seine Schüler. Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2016, pp. (269)–323; here pp. 317–322: "Nachweis einer Verbindung zwischen dem mit Mozart und Beethoven vertrauten Franz Joseph Reichsgraf von Thun und Hohenstein, dem Mechaniker Philipp Gottfried Schaudt und dem Pfarrer Philipp Matthäus Hahn. Findet sich eine Spur von Hahns Theologie in Schillers Ode 'An die Freude'?" According to Breymayer's statement Schiller's verses "Brüder - überm Sternenzelt/ muß ein lieber Vater wohnen" ("Brothers, above the starry canopy/ There must dwell a loving Father"; Ode to Joy) reflecting the poet's Philosophy of Love are a reference to Philipp Matthäus Hahn's Theology of Love. – Franz Joseph Reichsgraf von Thun und Hohenstein, owner of a palace in Vienna, was husband of Maria Wilhelmina Reichsgräfin von Thun und Hohenstein née Comtessin von Uhlfeld and wife's father of Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky (1761–1814), both remembered for her patronage of music and his relationships with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven who integrated these verses in his Symphony No. 9.
Josef Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
Cadet branch of the House of Hohenzollern
Born: 12 November 1717 Died: 9 April 1798
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick Louis
Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen
4 June 1750 – 9 April 1798
Succeeded by