Hohenzollern Castle is a castle about 50 kilometers (31 mi) south of Stuttgart, Germany. It is considered the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, which emerged in the Middle Ages and eventually became German Emperors.The castle is located on top of Berg (Mount) Hohenzollern at an elevation of 855 meters (2,805 ft) above sea level, 234 m (768 ft) above surrounding Hechingen and nearby Bisingen to the south, both located at the foothills of the Schwäbische Alb. It was originally constructed in the first part of the 11th century.
When the family split into two branches, the castle remained the property of the Swabian branch, which was dynastically senior to the Franconian/Brandenburg branch which eventually acquired an imperial throne. The castle was completely destroyed after a 10-month siege in 1423 by the imperial cities of Swabia. A second, larger and sturdier castle was constructed from 1454 to 1461 and served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns during wartime, including during the Thirty Years' War. By the end of the 18th century, however, the castle was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. Today, only the chapel remains from the medieval castle.
The third version of the castle, which stands today, was constructed for Frederick William IV of Prussia between 1846 and 1867, under the direction of Friedrich August Stüler, who based his design on English Neo-Gothic style as well as the castles of the Loire Valley. Because the castle was built as a family memorial, no member of the Hohenzollern family took residence in this third castle until 1945, when it became home to the last Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm; he and his wife, Crown Princess Cecilie, are buried there.
Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle today are the Crown of Wilhelm II and some of the personal effects of Frederick the Great and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Baron von Steuben, a scion of the House of Hohenzollern, for his service in the American Revolutionary War. The castle is today a popular tourist destination.
After the castle was rebuilt, it was not regularly occupied, rather it was used mostly as a show castle. Only the last Prussian Crown Prince William lived in the castle for several months, following his flight from Potsdam during the closing months of World War II. William and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are both buried at the castle, as the family's estates in Brandenburg had been occupied by the Soviet Union.
Since 1952, the castle has been filled with art and historical artifacts, from the collection of the Hohenzollern family and from the former Hollenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Two of the major pieces in the collection are the Prussian king's crown and a uniform that belonged to Frederick the Great. From 1952 until 1991 the caskets of Frederick Wilhelm I and Frederick the Great were in the museum. Following the German reunification in 1991, the caskets were moved back to Potsdam.
Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned. Two-thirds of the castle belongs to the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the Hohenzollern, while one-third is owned by the Swabian line of the family. Since 1954, the castle has also been used by the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin. Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.