~ T H E S P O NN E C K S A G A ~
A Family History
By Godfrey Harry Sponneck
Pastor, Manager, Director
For all our Sponeck / Sponnecksons and daughters
~~~ Especially for my owndaughters
Beverley Shannon & NicoleRenée ~~~
D E D I C A T I O N
Thiswork is dedicated to the memory of:
Lieutenant-GeneralHans Emil Otto Graf Sponeck
Born:12th February 1888
Died:23rd July 1944
C O N T E NT S
Foreword Professor H. Stoyan
ChapterI The Origin of the Name
Chapter2 The Castle Sponeck
Chapter3 The Württemberg Family
Chapter4 The von Hedwiger Family
Chapter 5 The Reichsgrafen von Spon(n)eck
Chapter6 The Vienna Files
Chapter7 The Danish Line – afSponneck
Chapter8 The French Line – deSponeck
Chapter9 The German Line – vonSponeck
Chapter10 The Heraldry of the Spon(n)eckFamily
Chapter11 Lieutenant General TheodorSponeck
Chapter12 Lieutenant General HansSponeck
AppendixI Transcription of the Vienna File
AppendixII Complete Family Tree from1510-2001
P R E F A CE
Formany years the idea has been with me to put into writing the vast amount ofinformation I have been able to accumulate on our family history. In earlier years we owed a debt to my uncle,Doctor Oluf Müller of Odense,Denmark forgiving us what we know of ‘The Family Tree’. These later years, since I have been in touch with the German branch ofthe family Sponeck so much more has come to hand, much of which was obviously alarge source of my dear uncle Oluf Müller’s information. All this information (much of it in German andDanish) needed to be translated, correlated and recorded and then broughttogether to give you and following generations a history of your family, whichwould be readable, interesting and accurate.
Some have asked: “Why a book on the SPON(N)ECK family?” Today, as never before, the quest forinformation on ancestry and the study of genealogy has become quite thevogue. The number of books on differentfamily histories is astonishing and I have examined many in my research andpreparation for this work. There is nodoubt that genealogy is a science today because of the vast research that goesinto it. The resource material that hasopened up, even in the past few years to genealogists is awe-inspiring as isthe number of people working to make this information available. The INTERNET too has helped in makinginformation available and if you would care to go into it, you would findSPONNECK and SPONECK listed also in Professor Stoyan’s WWPerson Website. The information is not up to date and it ismy intention to supply this updated material in the near future by way of ourown Family Tree Programme. For theSPONECK / SPONNECK family however, not too much research has had to be donebecause we have the privilege of having five hundred years of history recordedfor us in the German ‘Gotha’ and the ‘Danmarks Adels Aarbog’ andother historical documents listed in the bibliography section at the back ofthis book. These books record thearistocracy and nobility of those two countries. In the latter years, Oluf Müller, during hislifetime, did this for us of the Danish line. The German line has also been updating their families in the German ‘Gotha’. The resources I have at hand are written inGerman and Danish as can be expected. Iam pleased to say I have mastered the German language enough so as to be ableto unravel the secrets that they have kept hidden from us. The Danish history too has been hidden fromthe Danish line because of our Anglicisation. My thanks will be expressed in the acknowledgements of this book to allthe wonderful people to whom a debt of gratitude is owed for so muchinformation which otherwise would have been lost to us (the English speakingclan) forever.
I am of the opinion that a book on the SPONNECK / SPONECKfamily is important because we have a story to tell. As can be expected in every family we havehad our saints and our villains, and the only reason, why not to write a bookwould be to try and hide the truth! However, a good book will tell both the good and the bad and in that wefind the message. I have endeavoured totell the story as it is and as it has been documented with a list of my sourcematerial also available in the back of the book for inspection. Accuracy has been an important factor and Ihave endeavoured to be so, as far as humanly possible.
History – the story of man – the source of the HumanSciences starts in the family. Interwoven in the fabric of human existence is the story offamilies. The secret of the very reasonand purpose for life lies in the family – the very existence and continuance ofmankind rests in the family way of life. May the concept of ‘family’ never be removed from the earth for in thisnucleus lie all the reasons for Human Science and indeed all of creation. The SPON(N)ECK family has in a small way alsohad a part in this greater story. Hereyou will read of those of us who played a part in great historical events andbattles and who lived through some of the most exciting or trying times ofhuman history. If you enjoy history I amsure you will enjoy this work. Historyalso has to do with culture and heritage. To know ones history is to know from where you have come and thus toknow where you will be going. Yourheritage is your privilege and upon this you can build, in your turn, for thefuture, adding to the SPONNECK / SPONECK saga. Maybe even you have given the family names to your children, as has beendone through the ages, thus reaffirming the importance of your culture andheritage. You may do so with pride becausethe SPON(N)ECK FAMILY have made their footprints and left their marks in thesands of time and in the course of human history. Both the family lines have produced theirheroes, more of which you will read within these pages. The villains we will excuse because they arealso of human origin and while it is human to err, it is Divine toforgive! As we wish to imitate theDivine we too will forgive and forget the error of their ways but also rememberthem as having played their part in this family SAGA.
To find someone worthy of the dedication of this book wasnot difficult for me. While there havecertainly been others, it is with great pride and joy that I have long felt thededication would be to our hero, Lieutenant General Hans Emil Otto von Sponeckof the German line. It is with muchexcitement and a real thrill that I relate something of this man’s story withinthe pages of this book. If you readnothing else in this book – you are advised to read the chapter on hiscontribution and dedication and supreme sacrifice during those trying timesbetween the years 1940 -1944.
The choice of the title for this book came to me with somedifficulty. Firstly, because of the twomethods of spelling the name and because of the difficulty of using both forms,I decided to give preference to the use of the double ‘n’ name. My logic was the fact that the Danish line isthe senior line of the family. Alsobecause they are today the larger family of the two lines and lastly becausethe form ‘Sponneck’ is also historically correct as shown in the 1701 / 1702 Vienna documents. Secondly, because of the possible Germanmisunderstanding of the term ‘Saga’! While the alliteration and the English meaning lent itself perfectly tothe title of the book, the German meaning might imply something completely tothe contrary. I need therefore to givethe Oxford Dictionary definition of the English word – ‘saga’. It states the meaning as: “…story of heroic achievement or adventure;series of connected books (chapters) giving the history of a family etc” andthus I trust it will justify its name.
So for all of you SPON(N)ECK families and the twenty-twoboys and girls out there of the younger generation from both lines, that thiswork will encourage you all, is my sincere hope and trust and inspire you allto greater efforts and higher heights of achievements and goals, as you recallyour family history, for the continued benefit and interest of futuregenerations of SPONECK / SPONNECK and also for all humanity.
Godfrey Sponneck – Author - March 2002
Professor of Computer Science
This book is the result of long and active research in the sources anddevelopment of one of the noble families of ‘counts’ of the HolyRoman Empire. The familywas born as offspring of a duke, a pretty woman and her brothers’ whosedescendants took government and military services and spread over Europe and a good many of them, over the world. Thefamily was the cradle for pretty women, well-informed organisers and courageousmilitary men.
Theresearch of the development of a family constitutes history of society, as thefamily is the basic cornerstone of our society. We can find in family the results of decisions, which influenced their times. This way, the hobbyist family historiancontributes to the science of genealogy, like the many eager researchers in thearchives and libraries.
I hope the reader will find the worth of afamily tradition and that he may understand himself to be a living replicationof his predecessors. This may be acomforting thought in the difficult
situations of life.
To begin evento think of all the people to whom I owe such a debt of gratitude is difficult. I received so much assistance and help forthe completion of this work. There werejust so many, but I shall however attempt to do so here. I hope that at the final print I would nothave left anyone out who has helped to make this work possible. Through their kind assistance in so manydifferent ways they have helped to bring this book about.
Without a doubt, I would here wish to start with thememory of our first genealogist and the one who first inspired my interest inour history in the person of Doctor Oluf Müller of Odense, Denmark. It was Uncle Oluf who in my earliest years in1947 had sent to my family a copy of the ‘Danmarks Adels Aarbog’. Along with this he sent pictures of ourforefathers, to be seen in the website, and of the beautiful Sponeck / Sponneck‘Coat-of-Arms’. Also a little Danishdesk flag accompanied it all. I stillproudly fly it over the ‘Arms’ today, although somewhat old and faded now. From him we also came into a carefully typedout genealogy tree and a very brief history of our ancestors, just enough towet the appetite that has resulted in this work today. If only he had lived to see the fantasticmeans in order to study genealogy and the programmes available on the WorldWide Web today, I think he would have been very happy. It was my pleasure much later to meet UncleOluf on the occasion of a brief visit to South Africa and to have him stayin our home for a few days. He was areal gentleman and also the husband of my father’s only sister, AliceMathilde. I honour the memory of himtoday with the publication of this book.
It was in meeting Ottmar Sponeck through my very firstapproach letter to the German side of the family that I was to come upon a realtreasure. In wondering what he couldgive me for a present on the occasion of my first visit, it came to him to letme have a copy of the little red book called ‘Sponeck’ that was to really setme on the path of our family history. This little book, written in old Gothic German, was to inspire me withits total history of the Burg Sponeck and our relationship to it. I had been learning to read and speak Germanfor a short while, but this text really challenged me because of its contentand I have been told that my translation of it to English is nothing short of awonder for me to have done it! You findthis all in the chapter on the Castle Sponeck. To Ottmar Sponeck then also I express my heartfelt gratitude for hisgenerosity and so much kind assistance with papers, clippings and photographsthat have all helped me to piece the story together. Through Ottmar I met the rest of the Germanfamily and to them all also a word of thanks and appreciation. To Hans-Christof for the gift of preciouspictures and information so liberally shared. To Hans-Henning for his willingness to obtain documents and informationat his own expense from the Austrian Archives and for the memoirs of his father– Lieutenant General Theo Sponeck, which helped me so much with the chapter onhis life and times, I must say a big thank you. To Dieter and Margarete von Bezold, the sister and brother-in-law ofHans-Henning, I wish to express a special word of thanks. These folk were invaluable to me in thedocuments, pictures and papers they shared so willingly. Dieter spent hours in the Munich Librarysearching for information. It wasthrough these historical documents that we have the foundations of our chapteron the Württemberg family. Words willnever be able to express my gratitude.
From my side of the family I would like to start with mycousin Niels Müller and here express my thanks and praise to him for alsounstintingly helping me with pictures, illustrations and translations fromDanish to English. Also, the familyheirlooms he gave away to me including an early photograph of our great-greatgrandparents taken in about 1850 and framed by his father, Doctor Oluf Müllermany years ago. Your generosity isdeeply appreciated Cousin Niels! Then mycousin, John William Sponneck is also owed a debt of gratitude for hisgenerosity and understanding in my support. He also assisted me greatly with the Danish translations and the use ofhis Danish dictionary without which I would have been at a total loss. My brother-in-law and sister, Pastor Peterand Lynette Grage are greatly appreciated today for their love andencouragement in what I was doing. Itwas to Peter whom the documents from Vienna Archives finally arrived and thathave helped us to solve some of the mysteries of our history. The old Gothic is very hard to understand,but Peter contacted a Mrs. Ehlert of the Lutheran Church Archives, Neustadt, Germanywho worked through these documents of 1701/02 transcribing them intounderstandable German and today we have a clearer understanding of who we are,which will be revealed in this book. Avery special word of thanks is owed to Mrs. Ehlert, who did this transcribingfor us refusing any remuneration. Then Iwish to thank Peter also for the hours spent in libraries and in the one in Bremen getting the bookson General Hans, which greatly helped and indeed without which that chapterwould not have been able to be included in this work. I also owe to him the thanks for the book onthe Village of Jechtingen.
To my personal friend, Henry Gates, who knowing of myinterest in family tree matters gave me an early version of Family Tree Makerand so introduced me to this programme. I shall be forever grateful to him. Then to my own daughter, Beverley Shannon, who with so much love andexpense was at the right place at the right time to organise the latest FamilyTree Programme that helped in the launch of our own family site on theINTERNET. Only she knows how much herobtaining this special programme in the United States, just a few monthsafter its launch there, meant to me. Iam sure I am the first in SouthAfrica with this newer version, my thanks toher! My very special friend, HelgaZander also qualifies for my deep felt thanks and appreciation. Her untiring reading of German text and hoursof ‘deutsche stunde’ (German lessons) to help me get a grasp of the Germanlanguage so much so that I can now read, speak and write somewhat in German hasbeen of immeasurable value to the work. Helga, we all unite in thanking you for being there for me and for yourlove and help offered so unstintingly through the last few years!
I will never be able to thank my good friend, DrEngelhardt Bühler of Burg Sponeck enough, for his enthusiastic and costlyassistance. His contribution of thevolume on the total history of the Württemberg family and later, the volume on‘Jechtingen am Kaiserstuhl’ and all the pictures and copies of paintings of theBurg Sponeck have greatly enhanced this work. Also to my INTERNET genealogy buddies to whom I owe one great debt of gratitudefor all the help on research that was done on my behalf. To Cousin Niels Høyvald in particular withthe help on the understanding of my grandfather’s early history I wish to say abig thank you! Also Professor Stoyan whoalways came back to me whenever I had a question or query on the nobles of Europe. Thank youProfessor Stoyan for your kind assistance! The developers of Family Tree Maker also need a word of thanks for theirproduct which features heavily in this book and through whom our WEBPAGE isdone. This is a very professional toolindeed. To the Genealogical Societymembers of Port ElizabethI also need to say thank you because there I was able to piece together how Iwas going to go about this work. They were all so helpful and the approach togenealogy I learned with them was to stand me in very good stead for this book.
Then lastly, to my mother, Winnie, or Winifred néeSpencer, who I could always go to with new discoveries and discuss new lengthyfamily revelations without her getting bored or tired of me, I owe a deep senseof gratitude. She was so helpful inproof reading the text and helping with the grammar as well as being the onethat I could openly discuss all the content with for hours without tiring ofit. Her love and dedication to my causeis acknowledged here.
When I think about it, it all seemed to have come togetherso fantastically and marvellously that I must also thank my God and Saviour forHis guidance, inspiration and help in no small way, as the timing of everythingwas so perfect. I would feel it impossibleto have to say that there was no higher hand in the matter. I thank you, my Lord Jesus Christ for theprivilege of doing this work and I trust that it will challenge and touch thehearts of the readers with regard to the health and wealth of their bodies andsouls! It has been a privilege and apleasure to serve Him and the family in the time and effort spent in thecompilation of this family history.
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME
Whenever onestarts out on a quest for the origin and meaning of a family name, one startsout on a long journey into history filled with intrigue and sometimes suspense,but always with the reward of learning something of ones ancestors! So much can be learned from the etymology ofa name. Indeed there is nothing asimportant to any individual as the sound of his, or her, own name and muchmore, the discovery of the origin of that name and the meaning of the name forones self-esteem. In the search for theorigins and meanings of surnames or family names some very interesting factscome to light.
The use of family names came into being in different partsof the world at widely different time spans. The Far East, for example, was thefirst part of the world to record the use of surnames when a Chinese emperordecreed the adoption of hereditary family names in 2852 B.C. In Englandit was a gradual process beginning about 1000 A.D. and in most of Europe about the 13th century. Other nations like the Turks and the Jewsstarted using family names as late as the 20th century when theybecame obliged to do so by their governments or the governments of thecountries in which they resided.
Family names were ascribed by some very interesting andingenious ideas. People who had verypertinent occupations became known by that occupation such as the Smiths,Schmidts or Smits of which there were very many different types like farrierswho shoe horses or ironsmiths. Anothersuch name would be the ‘Taylor’family who were involved in clothe making. Of course the name ‘Butler’would also have a significant meaning for the head of the family’soccupation. Still other names identifieda particular person from their relationship with another person, usually thefather, such as ‘Johnson’ and ‘Mac Donald’. ‘Jensen’ would be the Scandinavian form of ‘son of Jens’. We then have those folk who became calledafter their residential area or town of origin. Speyers denote the family from the town of Speyerin North West Germany. The Yorkfamily also illustrates this as do the Attwood family (living at thewoods). The Gates family could well havebeen those living at the city gates or could have been the citygatekeepers. Further names were derivedfrom a person’s appearance such as ‘Brown’, ‘Little’ and ‘Grossmann’ denoting abig man in the German language. Thesurname of Blake too was originally an epithet – le Blac i.e.‘Black’. Exploits were also a source fora name such as ‘Armstrong’ and ‘Knight’!
The name SPONECK, which was the first variation, was not infact a family name or the surname of the particular family until very muchlater in the name’s history. Thisprivilege was also not the sole right of the present family. We shall however deal with this in a laterchapter. Most people cannot place the namewith any country such as Englandor Germanybecause of the uniqueness of this family name.
For the origins of the name SPONECK one would have to goback many centuries to the south western side of Germanyto the Rhine and to what is now the border between Franceand Germany. Somewhere between Heidelbergand Freiburg in the area called ‘Kaiserstuhl is the little town of Jechtingen. Right here at this spot at a curve in theRiver Rhine stood a very prominent and strategic hillock. What made the hill of such importance was thefact that it was the only elevated section in this stretch of the RhineRiverfor kilometres in the directions, north and south, giving a commanding view ofthe Rhine and surrounding area. Across the river in what is now part of France lays the much-disputed province called Alsace. From earliest times this hillock played avery important roll in the power struggles of the day. Many years before Christ there are signs thata developed civilisation was in existence here. During the Roman times when the Legions of Rome were spreading theiriron tentacles over so much of Europe, they found this hill so important forthe command of the Rhine and its crossing, tohave built a fortress there. Archaeological signs also point to a very important roadway from southto north crossing right over this hill. This linked in with the Rhine crossing at this point and he who hadcommand of the ‘hill’ had command of this important Rhinecrossing as well. A crossing exists fromthe town of Sasbach while a main crossing into France is alittle south of the hilltop at the town called Breisach. Little of the history of this originalfortress is known but as recently as 1979 the foundations and stone ruins ofthe wall of the Roman castle were uncovered and can be seen today at the Burgsite.
In the 13th century we know that the history ofthis hill continued with the building of a second fortress or castle on thishill by the German princes. This secondcastle was at first unnamed. In thearchives of the City of Freiburg dated 23rdOctober 1281 there is a document, which states that King Rudolph von Habsburgand the counts and burgers of Freiburg hadbeen in conflict. In this conflict theCastle Zähringen, near Freiburg had beendestroyed. This parchment was a ‘peacetreaty’ between King Rudolph von Habsburg and Count Egino von Freiburg. In it the counts of Freiburgand their burgers undertook to rebuild the Reichsburg Zähringen and topay the sum of ‘Eight Hundred Marc’ as expiation for damages causedduring the fray. It was also agreed thatin recompense, another castle would be build by the Counts von Freiburg and theburgers at a position chosen by King Rudolph. King Rudolph had chosen the raised hill site in the region ofJechtingen, near to the Rhine, for his new‘Burg’. In 1285 this promised castle wascompleted and its first occupant or Lehensträger is given in an entry inthe historical Breisach town records dated 26th January 1300 as KnightHildebrand Spenli, who was mayor or ruler of Breisach. As such he would also have been an importantofficial of the Emperor over an imperial town and possessions. When the castle was completed at the end ofthe 13th century we read in the minutes of the town council ofBreisach, in the same record dated 26th January 1300, that theruler, who was the Knight Hildebrand Spenli, took the name ‘von Spanecke’ whichname he had also given to the castle. Eckeis the German word for ‘corner’ thus it would denote Spenli’s Ecke orSpenli’s corner! The very first formthen of the name was SPANECKE from the BURG SPANECKE.
Two other variations of the origin of the castle’s namewere that Spenli had used the prefix SPAN from the German word spannungmeaning tension or suspense or Span=eck as in the word for ‘excitement’. This would have then meant ‘corner ofsuspense’! Although this Burg andits history certainly were steeped in intrigue and suspense with contention,not much credit can be given to this theory. The building and establishment of this castle – known as a Reichsburgor ‘Castle of the Empire’ – as had been the old Castle Zähringen, was apossession of the Empire and therefore was the property of the Emperor. This would have given it the highest statusavailable and it has enjoyed this status for most of its six hundred years ofhistory. The other idea was that Spenlicalled it Span=ecke because of the actual elbow or bend in the RiverRhine, just south of the hill on which Burg Spanecke was built. The ‘ecke’ again is denoting a corner. Whichever one it was that inspired this manin the naming of the Burg we will never know but that he did and thatthe name grew out of this is for sure. In the illustration you see the official seal of Spenli with theinscription of his office as Mayor of Breisach.
That he was the first occupant and ‘caretaker’ naming itproudly after himself is fully recorded in the historical archives. After his death, until 1309, his son, Johannvon Spanegge occupied the Burg. Acornerstone at the south wall of the Burg dated 1933 bears thisinscription. By the 14thcentury in the year 1306 the Burg is still recorded as Spanegge and by1318 it had developed into its present form of REICHSBURG SPONECK.
While it is not intended in this chapter to discuss theCastle Sponeck or the history of the Castle Sponeck, it is important to seehere that the name then comes from the early naming of this same fortress. Although it was by no means a large andsplendid edifice, as were some of the other castles along the RhineRiverit was its strategic importance to the German Empire through the centuries thatearned it the privileged title of Reichsburg Sponeck. The importance of this fact is shown in thetitle of Reichsgraf that was later conferred. The meaning of Reichsburg is in effect‘Castle of the Empire’ and thus the title of Reichsgraf –‘Count-of-the-Empire’ was later created using the same name.
There is a second chapter to the development of the name,which can be dealt with here, and that is the difference of the spelling of thename by the two main branches of the family. As it has been stated, the original form is – SPONECK – from the name ofthe Castle and thus the German family name ‘von Sponeck’. The ‘von’ denotes in English ‘from’ or‘of’. In Denmark the family were given theDanish equivalent of the word ‘von’ denoted by ‘af’. This ‘af’ then also means ‘from’Sponeck. There is also documentation ofa French Branch of the family (later extinct) that went under the French prefix‘de’ as in ‘de Sponeck’ like de Jager and de Jonger! We shall hear more of this French linelater. In the Historical Archives ofVienna, in the documentation of 1701, one finds the forefathers were given thetitle name of ‘Sponeck’ and further in another document dated 1702, verifyingtheir title creation, Georg Wilhelm and his siblings are called ‘von Sponneck’in this Imperial Letter of Introduction to the Bishops of Trier and Mainz. The Danish branch later accepted the use ofthe second ‘n’ making it ‘von Sponneck’ or af Sponneck. Documentation in the German ‘Gotha’ of 1867 would indicate that a Frenchbranch also used the double ‘n’ later as ‘de Sponneck’. The German family seemed to however retainthe single ‘n’ thereafter. This double‘n’ became the popular form of the name by the family of Georg Wilhelm oncethey were settled in Denmark. The family portraits of the Danish line inlate eighteenth century give the surname inscription underneath the paintingsin this form. Doctor Oluf Müller – thefamily genealogist – in his handmade copies of the family tree also gives theDanish ancestors the German title and name with the one letter ‘n’ up to themiddle of the 18th century. Thereafter he switches to the Danish title and spelling of the name inits present form. Of interest also is thefact that he uses the ‘von’ for the Danish branch up to the generation ofSponneck who were incorporated into the Danish aristocracy in the late 19thcentury. Thereafter his draft of thetree drops the ‘von’ for all the descendants of the Danish line in all three oftheir branches. It can thus be assumedthat this was done because of the assimilation of the family with their fullGerman title taken up into the Danish nobility and granted the Danishequivalent title for all their natural descendants. This will be dealt with in the later chapterdealing with the genealogy. It istherefore correct that the German family will continue to use the name VONSPONECK and the Danish family the name as - SPONNECK - that was officiallyrecognised by the Danish King Christian IX at the time of incorporation ofGeorg Wilhelm’s branch of the family into the Danish nobility by this King ofDenmark.
More recently, we have discovered a small number offamilies in Americawho can show claim through the Mormon archives to being descendant from thesame Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger through a Norwegian line and spell the name as‘Sponnick’.
Here then is the whole history of the name to its presentforms. Later we will discuss the familyin more detail and how they came into the usage of the Castle’s name as theirfamily name and who else owned the Castle and used its name in their titles.
THE CASTLE SPONECK
In the previouschapter we dealt with the name of SPONECK which as we now know was deriveddirectly from the old fortress built in 1285 on the little hill which was onthe German side of the Rhine overlooking the river just outside of the quaintlittle Dorf or village of Jechtingen. We know that it was a very strategic edifice built at the site where theruins of an original Roman Castle had been discovered and excavated by thepresent owners. It had been quite bychance that these ruins were discovered back in 1979. Little is known of the Roman Castleexcepting that it would have been built about the fourth century in AD360. It can however be assumed that itsage-old value had to do with its elevated topography and its relationship tothe Rhine and the Rhine River Crossing. Today the area is well wooded and covered in beautiful thick greenforest in every direction. One can justsee the River running through the rich green forest below the Burg.
In this chapter we attempt to tell as much of the Castle’shistory as will be of interest and in the development of the familySPONECK. Because of the duel spelling ofthe name from here on it will always be used in its correct form for theparticular place or family branch that we are referring to at the time ofdiscussion. When both family lines areintended, the name will be given with the second letter ‘n’ in brackets.
As we have already learned the first family associatedwith the ‘Burg Sponeck’ was that of Hildebrand Spenli. These next pages will take us through thehistory from 1285 to 1930, then up to the present time, and something of theCastle’s present state and owners. Someexplanation might be of benefit here with regard to the words ‘castle’ and‘burg’. In the German language the word Burgdenotes a fortress whereas the word for castle would be Schloß ifmeaning a mansion. In English we use theword ‘castle’ for both large homes called Châteaux and for the oldfortresses used for defence of the realm. Our discourse will from now on take the form of Burg in relatingto the Castle Sponeck.
Perhaps a brief history of Germany may be in order here tohelp you understand better the times and development of the country and itssocial development. Then we will betterunderstand the purpose of Burg Sponeck and the other many castles and theirplace in history. Solid historicalrecords of the German peoples began in about 50 BC when Julius Caesar’s GaelicWars brought him into contact with Germans and Celts. He crossed the Rhine in 55 BC and 58 BC andthe province of Gaul he created used the river as aboundary but most Germans lived well east of it. Direct Roman attacks on German tribes beganagain under Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus who pushed across the Rhine in 12BC and 9 BC while other Roman forces assaulted Germanic tribes through themiddle Danube to the south east. Fierce fighting in both the Rhine and Danubeareas continued until the famous victory of the German ‘Arminius’ in theTeutoburger Forest, which is southeast of modern day Bielefeld in 9 AD. Three Roman Legions were massacred there, whichshowed the Romans that conquering these tribes would require too much cost andeffort on their part. His German namewas ‘Hermann’ – a chief of the Cherusci Tribe. He obtained both citizenship and knightly title in earlier service ofthe Romans. Although he was a greatwarrior and chieftain, winning many great battles against other tribes and theRomans, he died at the age of 37 at the hands of his own people in 19 AD. The Roman frontier thus stabilized on theRhine and DanubeRivers,although sporadic campaigns extended control over Frisia and the coastal beltin the north and some of the lands east of the confluence of the Rhine, which included the site of the Burg. Both archaeology and Caesar’s own accounts ofhis wars show that the German tribes then lived on both sides of the Rhine.
After Romehad established its frontiers, commercial and cultural contacts were asimportant as direct conflict. Althoughthe frontier was heavily fortified with many fortresses and castles, thefrontier was never a barrier to trade or to people wishing to cross. In about 50 AD the tribes beside the Rhine learned to use Roman money. Germans also served in the Roman armies. Border raids were endemic between 150 AD and200 AD and whole series of Germanic groups moved south along the rivervalleys. These migrations resulted ingreat violence along the entire frontier during the 3rdcentury. Parts of Gaul suffered greatlyby the intensive campaigns of the Romans, which eventually brought the Germanictribes back under control so that by about 280 AD stability had again returnedto the Rhine region. The Roman army with an alliance systeminvolving Franks, Alemanni (German peoples) and Goths maintained the frontieruntil about 370 AD. It would have beenduring these times in the history of the Rhine that the original Roman Castlewould have been built on the East side of the Rhineat the strategic crossing site. By themiddle of the 5th century while the Roman Empire was withering fromwithin, the Germans, in 405 AD and 406 AD, put increasing pressure on the Rhinefrontier with an insurgence into the west bank side (known now as Alsace)settling or moving through as far as Spain ahead of the marauding ‘Hun’ tribes.As a result of these battles and skirmishes the original Roman Fortress on the‘hill’ was already in ruins before 475 AD. The Western Roman Empire ended in 476AD. After the Roman period the successorstates were a fusion of Germanic military power and the administrative know-howof Roman provincial aristocrats. Thetransformation was complete when Germanic warrior and Roman provincial eliteintermarried, bringing into being a new aristocracy that was to shape medieval Europe. When theWestern Roman Empire ended in 476 BC the Germanic tribes west of the Rhine were not politically united. The West Germanic tribes however spokedialects of a common language and shared social and political tradition. The traditions of these tribes had beeninfluenced by centuries of contact with the Roman world, both as federatedtroops within the empire and as participants in the broader political andeconomic network that extended beyond the Roman frontier. In particular, a strong military structure ofsocial organization under the direction of commanders termed ‘kings’ or ‘dukes’had developed among the federated tribes within the empire and spread to tribesliving outside the empire proper.
The first king to convert to orthodox Christianity was onecalled ‘Clovis’in about 500 AD. His successor,Theodebert I, brought much of what would later constitute Germany under the Frankish control, includingthe State of Thuringia in CentralGermany and the Alemanni and the Bavarians of the South. He ruled from 534 – 548. In areas under Frankish Lordship,Christianity made considerable progress through the efforts of native Raetians,of wandering Irish missionaries and of transplanted Frankish aristocrats whosupported monastic foundations. TheCarolingians ruled the Kingdom from the 730’s. The Carolingians, by the end of the 7th century were the clanthat finally succeeded in destroying the Merovingian Frankish rule. They were one of a number of powerfulcompeting aristocratic clans fighting for autonomy and hoping to establishhegemony over the Frankish realm. TheCarolingians drew their strength from extensive estates and loyal aristocraticsupporters in the lands between the Meuse and the Rhine. They did not however acquire the royal titleuntil the year 751. The pattern ofFrankish penetration east of the Rhine was toestablish small communities or churches, settled on land newly won from therich thick forests and marshes granted them by their Carolingianprotectors. Thus, from Frisia in thenorth to Bavariain the south, religious, economic and political penetration always went hand inhand.
The rule of Charlemagne was also one of expansion into theheart of Germany first southinto Bavariathen north into the Saxon territories. Charlemagne’s expeditions bit deep into the heart of Saxonyleaving behind bitter memories of forced conversions, deportations and massacres. His raids were inspired by religious as wellas political zeal and motives. Charlemagne tried to break Saxon resistance both to Christianity and hisFrankish rule with fire and sword. Thedecentralized nature of Saxon society however made ultimate conquest extremelydifficult. Whenever the Frankish armywas occupied elsewhere, the Saxons could be counted on to revolt, to slaughterFrankish officials and priests and to raid as far west as they could. Charlemagne in turn would punish the offendingtribes and garrison the defence points the Saxons had abandoned. Eventually the resistance gave way and loyalFrankish churchmen and aristocrats were introduced into the regions to secureand pacify them. Although the northernmost regions enjoyed Danish support and remained outside of Frankish control,most of Saxony gradually moved into the unitedFrankish realm. During the 9thcentury under ‘Louis the German’ (ruled 804 – 876) the close kinship andrivalries of the descendants of Charlemagne still united east and west Francia,however the eastern region was taking on the identity of Germany and the westwas merging as France. Because theCarolingians themselves were unable to provide effective defence for the wholekingdom, military command and the political and economic power necessary tosupport it necessarily devolved on local leaders whose regions wereattacked. The inevitable result was thedecentralization and decay of royal authority to the profit of the regionaldukes. These dukes were not appointed bythe people nor were they descendants of the tribal chieftains of the pastmigration period. Their dukes wereCarolingian counts, part of the international ‘imperial aristocracy’ of theCarolingians who took the initiative in organizing defence on a localbasis. Their initial success establishedthem in the hearts of those whom they protected. The transformation of the ‘imperialaristocracy’ to a local elite was accompanied by an increasingly dynasticaloriented aristocratic society that was bound together through ties of vassalageand exercised personal lordship over the free and half-free populations of theregion. Under the patronage of ‘Louisthe German’ the Gospels were translated into Germanic dialects and the firstattempts at writing Germanic poetry with Christian and traditional themes wereundertaken.
The next ruler was ‘Louis the Child’ (911 – 918 AD). He died without leaving a male heir. He was crowned as Conrad I, and he was quiteunequal to the situation in Germany. The first two Salian kings- Conrad II (1024 –1039) and Henry III (1039 – 1056) bestowed vacant duchies quite freely on theirown kin and on men from outside the boundaries. They competed against ducal power but could neither abolish nor replaceit. In the 11th century, asbefore, the dukes held assemblies of their folk, led the tribal host in war,and enforced peace. The counts, who werethe ordinary officers of justice in serious criminal cases, obeyed the ducalsummons but for the most part they received their power to capital punishmentfrom the king himself. In the time ofOtto III (983 – 1002) there rose another order of ‘aristocrat’ called ‘advocates’ or Vögte who could pass judgementsof blood on the behalf of the bishop. Inthe 10th and 11th centuries these advocates had to berecruited from the aristocracy. Thusthere arose powerful lines of margraves, counts and hereditary advocates whoenriched themselves at the expense of the church and the crown and in competitionwith one another. From the abler morefortunate and long-lived races among these dynasts sprang the territorialprinces of the late 12th and 13th centuries absorbing andfinally inheriting most of the rights of government. The king was the personal overlord of all thegreat nobles. His court was the seat ofgovernment and it went with him on his long journeys. The German kings even more than othermedieval rulers could only make their authority respected in far-flung regionsof the kingdom by travelling ceaselessly from duchy to duchy, which were ruledby the dukes, and from frontier to frontier. Hence they would have these castles scattered over their kingdom wherethey would stay and wherever they stayed their jurisdiction superseded the standingpower of the dukes, counts and advocates. They could collect the profits of local justice (fines) and wield somecontrol over it. As they came into eachregion they summonsed its leaders to attend their solemn crown wearingceremonies, deliberated with them on the affairs of the State and the locality,presided over pleas, granted privileges and made war against peace breakers athome and abroad. The royal revenues camefrom the king’s demesne land and from his share of the tributes of foreign tribeswhenever he could enforce his claim of overlordship on them. There were also profits from tolls and mints(some provinces minted their own gold money). The Demesnes were the kings working ‘capital’ and theking and his household lived on its produce during their wanderings through theKingdom and it also served to provide for the king’s family, to found churchesand to reward faithful service done for him, especially in war. This later extended to the Emperor with his Reichsburgenand kingdoms subservient to him.
It is noteworthy that in the 11th century theposition of the bishops and abbots was the conducting of the affairs of theReich much more than the counts and lower aristocracy, even in war. They were the habitual diplomats andambassadors of the king in foreign matters. The king appointed most of them and to him alone they owed allegiance.
We now come to the second stage of the history of the‘Burg’ site. In the first stage wediscussed the development and then decline of the Roman fortress during thefirst half of the first century some 500 years after Christ. This next stage is set between 1070 and1250. Some time round the year 1070fortresses had been built. They hadbelonged to the German King, Henry IV, and were known as a Reichsburgen. This German king having come of age since hiscoronation as king at the age of six in 1056 now used petty south German noblesand his ministeriales to recover some of the crown lands and rightswhich the princes and certain prelates of the church had acquired during hisminority. We shall hear more of these ministerialeslater. In the year 1073 a revolt brokeout against Henry IV by the Saxon nobles who had to bear the brunt of thestatute labour in the building of the royal strongholds and castles against theKing’s Frankish and Swabian officials. To overcome this startling revolt and save his fortresses the kingneeded the military strength of the South German Princes. Rudolph of Rheinfelden, Duke of Swabia, WelfIV being Duke Welf I of Bavaria and one, Berthold of Zähringen being Berthold I– Duke of Carinthia were called upon to assist. Their forces enabled King Henry to defeat the Saxon rebellion in June 1075. King Henry had then presented a Burg nearFreiburg to Berthold for his assistance inthis conflict. We have recorded then theowner of a Reichsburg in the person of the Duke of Carinthia who namedthe Castle after himself – Berthold von Zähringen. The Dukes of Zähringen were a dynastic familyin Switzerlandbetween the 11th and 13th centuries. They founded the City of Bern and today the Zähringen fountain in thecity centre bears their name. Thebeautiful Castle of Zähringen-Kyburg in the town of Thunon the AareRiver is today a museum. The tower dates back to 1191 and the livingquarters were built during 1429. TheZähringen dynasty became extinct in 1218. Many European ennobled families have been awarded castle names as partof their titles through the centuries. Some of these higher noble families owned their own castles whilstothers of the lower ranks of nobility managed the estates and castles of theirrulers. We shall deal with this subjectmore fully later. Berthold died in 1078and had been married twice with heirs from both spouses. The offspring of the first marriage were allnamed Berthold, being Berthold I up to the V. From the second spouse his heirs were called Hermann I to HermannIV. From the first line we have thedevelopment of the Markgrafen von Hachberg. The second line developed into the Markgrafenvon Baden. A Markgraf wasindeed a greater count and his title denoted that he had his state on the Reichborder and his function was to enlarge or increase this state beyond theborders thus forcing the increase of the realm. He was the buffer between the realm and the neighbouring states and hewas to make conquests of land by agitation and seduction.
King Henry’s son, Frederick II secured the crown in1215. His demesne was in Swabia,Franconia and Alsace and on the middle Rhine and was very considerable, including the ReichsburgZähringen. During his reign he was ableto recover certain fiefs and advocacies that had been lost during earlier civilwars. Their administration was greatlyimproved and they provided valuable forces for his southern campaigns. He died in 1250. His two sons, Conrad IV and William ofHolland then ruled jointly. HoweverConrad left to fight for his father’s interests in Italy and so left William to ruleuntil 1256. Conrad died in 1254, nodoubt during his Italian Campaign. William of Holland also died in 1256 at the hands of the Friesiansfighting for his Dutch interests in the north.
We now look at the rise of the Ministeriales. This matter deserves our attention due to thefact that the first occupant and nobleman to occupy the new ‘Burg’ atJechtingen was of this rank and title. The position of a Knight or Ministeriale came into the uniqueposition in Germanyas a result of the fragmentation of the country between the dukes and princesafter the death of Frederick II in 1250. Every prince ruled over his own province or principality and territorywith rights and privileges in governing. Some of these privileges were the right to take tolls, taxes and evenoperate their own mints in order to issue money. Their obligation to the king was to forwardsome of the revenues and also give obligatory service to the king with theirsubjects when called upon by him to do so in order to wage war. The princes however often proved less thanco-operative so the king turned more often to these knights forallegiance. These knights had firstbecome important administrators and soldiers on the estates of the Church earlyin the 11th century. Theirstatus was fixed by Seigniorial ordinances and the king could rely onthem. These ministeriales wereused to administer the king’s direct demesne (private property) as householdofficers at court and as garrisons for their castles. They formed a small army that the king couldmobilize without having to appeal to the princes for support. By the Thirteenth Century the ministerialeshad ceased to be the dependable servants that they once had been. Many freenobles voluntarily joined their ranks and the knights thus assimilated therights of the free aristocracy. Theybecame the governing class of the territorial principalities and the standingcouncillors of their masters whose household offices and local justice theymonopolized and held in See (under orders of the Pope) for manygenerations. Without the consent of thisterritorial nobility the princes could not even tax or legislate.
Even the less important knights whom only administeredmanors for their lords entrenched themselves as hereditary bailiffs who keptsurplus produce for themselves and usurped seigniorial dues so that it paid theowners to commute the labour services of their villains (menial serfs) intomoney rents and so to lease out those portions of the demesne that the unfreepeasants had cultivated for them. Bythis time these hereditary officials could not easily be dislodged. By 1250 there was no really effective centralauthority left in Germanyunder the Hohenstaufen Emperor. TheHohenstaufen breakdown after 1250 left a gap in Swabia(province of the ‘Burg’) that no rising territorial power was able tofill. Countless petty lords and imperialknights or ministeriales of the southwest succeeded in holding theirseigniories as immediate vassals of the Reich directly under the emperor. There independent territories often survivedfor centuries. This then gives us someinsight to the Knight Hildebrand Spenli and as to what he was and why heheld Burg Sponeck and the Sponeck Estate for the king. Remember that any place or property, beingcastle or county that was called a ReichsCastle or ReichsCountywas the direct property of the emperor and thus an imperial possession. Such were the Reichsburg Zähringen and thenewly constructed Reichsburg, which became the Reichsburg Sponeck. And so we see Knight Spenli as more thanlikely one of these ministeriales of the newly appointed King Rudolph ofHabsburg.
Our study of the history of Germany now brings us to the timeof the beginning of the saga of the Reichsburg Sponeck. In Germany, the death of Frederick IIin 1250 ushered in the period known as the ‘Great Interregnum’ being from 1250– 1273. This was a period of internalconfusion and political disorder. Theecclesiastical princes at the behest of the Pope elected Count William of Holland, the son ofFrederick II as king. William’s titlewas recognised initially only in the lower Rhineland, but his marriage toElizabeth of Brunswick in 1252 ensured his acceptance by the interrelatedprincely dynasties of north Germany. The death of his brother, Conrad IV leftWilliam without arrival in Germany. He however devoted himself to his dynasticpolicies in the north pursuing a feud with Margaret, Countess of Flanders overtheir conflicting territorial claims in Zeeland at the mouth of the Rhine. Hisattempts to obtain complete mastery of the Zuider-Zee by thrusting eastwards atthe expense of the Friesland led to his deathby the hands of the same Friesians in 1256. At the death of William, Pope Alexander IV forbade the election of aHohenstaufen king. The initiative wastaken by a small group of influential German princes acting out ofself-interest to approach a foreign monarch. None of the princes desired the election of a ruler who was powerfulenough to threaten their growing independence as territorial princes nor didthey single out a German candidate who might prove to be as uncontrollable asWilliam. Archbishop Conrad of Cologne approached Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother ofHenry III of England. Richard’s gifts and assurances of futurefavour bought him the vote of the Archbishops of Cologne and Mainz,the Count Palatine of the Rhine and Otakar II of Bohemia. He was formally elected in 1257 and crowned at Aachen, the traditional place of the crowningof German kings and emperors. Richardhowever paid four fleeting visits to Germanyfrom Englandbecause of the turbulence of the aristocracy in his own country. Richard died in 1272. This gave rise to the coming of the Habsburgfamily to the throne. When Richard diedin 1272, the electorial princes were spurred into action by the Pope Gregory X,who desired the election of a German monarch sympathetic towards a crusade forthe recovery of the Holy Land. The princes, dreading an overly powerful kingchose Rudolph of Habsburg in 1273. Rudolph was a minor count of Swabia wholacked the strength to regain the crown domains the electors had stolen from himduring the Interregnum. The ReichsburgZähringen must also have been part of one of these domains, which he would haveinherited from his forefathers, the Dukes of Zähringen, and in particularBerthold von Zähringen of whom we heard earlier and who had died in 1078.
We shall now consider the direct history of the Burgthrough the centuries and following the years of occurrence. The first year of note then was:-
1250 1250 In the struggle of Rudolph von Habsburg with the Counts of Freiburgduring the Interregnum, and one, Egino von Freiburg in particular, CountRudolph possibly lost the Burg Zähringen.
1273 1273 King Rudolph’s election to the throne in 1273 put him in a very strongposition to regain his lost possessions and to acquire others. In the struggles that ensued Graf Egino vonFreiburg who was still also not on good terms with the King, and the citizensof Freiburg attacked and destroyed the Reichsburg Zähringen, above Freiburg.
1278 1278 King Rudolph soonbesieged Freiburg and conquered the City. One of the conditions of peace was that theGraf Egino and the Counts of Freiburg pay him an expiation fee of 800 SilverMark and the rebuilding of his destroyed Castle Zähringen together with theconstruction of a new castle(Burg Sponeck) on a site designated by King Rudolph. The other condition was that all the labourshould be done by the burgers of Freiburg. This treaty was dated 1278 although theconstruction on the new castle was not begun until 1281 and completed in 1285thus taking about five years to complete.
The election of Rudolph von Habsburg as king began one ofthe greatest sovereign dynasties of European history. The House of Habsburg, also know as the Houseof Austria, was to rule the Holy Roman Empire for the next six hundred years. The name ‘Habsburg’ is derived from theCastle of Habsburg or Habichtsburg (Hawks Castle) built in 1020 byWerner who was the bishop of Strasbourg and his brother-in-law, Count Radbot(of whom it is claimed was an ancestor of Rudolph I) in the Aargau over-lookingthe Aar River in what is now Switzerland. In 1282 King Rudolph I Habsburg bestowed Austriaand Styria on his two sons – Albert, the future King Albert I and Rudolph II ofAustria. With this date the age-long romance of theHabsburgs with Austriahad its beginning and the Habsburg tie-up with the ‘Burg’ and its people. Rudolph I had acquired these provinces byhaving allied himself with the Bavarian Princely House of Wittelbach and othersagainst his rival for their rulership – Otakar – who was defeated and slain in1278. The Duchies of Austria and Styria,which were overrun by Otakar also during the Interregnum, were declared vacantand conferred jointly on Rudolph’s sons. These acquisitions placed the Habsburg family in the first rank of theGerman territorial princes and lent impetus to a gradual shift in the politicalcentre of gravity from the Rhineland to Austriain the east of Germany. Rudolph died in 1291. A larger than life stone statue of him standsin the Cathedral of Ulm along with other early rulers.
Thus far we have traced some of the history of Germany fromearliest times so as to set the stage for what now constitutes the real historyof ‘Burg Sponeck’. We shall nowmove away from the fascinating history of Germany and apply ourselves fromhere on with the saga of the Burg through until modern times.
1281 1281 On the 23rd October 1281 the parchment records tell of thesigning of the Peace Treaty between Rudolph von Habsburg and Count Egino vonFreiburg and in that year the rebuilding of the Reichsburg Zähringen and thenew ‘Burg’ commenced.
1285 1285 As we have already discussed, the new little Reichsburg was dulycompleted in 1285 and handed over to Rudolph I. He, of course had no plan to live in thecastle. Burg Zähringen was his byinheritance, it had been lost to him during the Great Interregnum and now, by achange of fortune, had again been acquired with so much other on his electionto Emperor. It can well be assumed thatthe Knight Hildebrand Spenli was also one of the ministerialesand he was recorded as an important official of the emperor in the town of Breisach. He had been in some way of service to RudolphI and as a reward was now given the new Reichsburg and Gut, orEstate, that went with it to hold as its first Lehensträger (leaseholder) which he was to manage on behalf of its owner. As such, he would haveto generate his income as administrator of the Estate’s wine-lands and fishingrights. Also, the all-importantferry-crossing revenues would fall to him and out of his profits he would haveto pay his dues to the emperor’s treasury. Hildebrand Spenli’s licence to name the new castle gives us an indication of theliberty he had with it in that it was stated in the contract to the emperor’sdemesne that he could hold it and he was free “to do with it as hepleases”. The Knight Spenli thus namesthe new castle‘Reichsburg Spanecke’ and he also calls himself Hildebrand von Spanecke!We find recorded in the ‘General Archives of Karlsruhe’ dated 26thMay 1287 that the gut was expected to deliver a quantity of finest winesto the taverns. No doubt the castle wasan ample reward to Spenli from Rudolph I for some military service, which hewould have performed but unfortunately we are not told about it in thehistorical documents.
1300 1300 On the 26th January 1300 in an entry in the Breisach townrecords it is stated that the Knight Hildebrand Spenli was the occupant andcaretaker of the Burg called Burg Spanecke. Now we can understand throughthis history what it meant to him as far as his personal status was concernedto be able to call himself after the castle he held for the king. Shortly after1300 Hildebrand Spenli appears to have died and his son Johann von Spanegge(a further spelling later given in the official documents) came into theinheritance of the rights to ‘hold’ the Burg. He also lived in the Burg and managed all the estate on behalf of theroyal owner.
1305 1305 The son, Johann von Spanegge however found that it was not so simple toclaim his stake of the use of the Burg. We find that his claim was much disputed by the royals and often he hadto defend his rights through the courts. The main contenders for the Burg Sponeck at that time were thebrothers, Markgraf Heinrich III von Hachberg who was the Landgraf in theprovince of Breisgau and Markgraf Rudolf I von Hachberg of the city ofFreiburg. These brothers, on the 29thNovember 1305 officially lodged their claim to the Burg Sponeck through thelocal court on the grounds that it was supposed to revert to them after thedeath of Hildebrand Spenli. Johann, hisson, however was able to uphold his claim and kept the use of the Burg andEstate for a while longer. The courtruled that only on the passing of Johann Spenli could the Estate revert back tothe Hachbergs by virtue of the fact that it fell under the province of Breisgauwhich Emperor Rudolph I had inherited. As a Reichsburg it was denoted therefore also Emperor Rudolph’spossession with a number of other estates.
1309 1309 The case of the claim to the Burg again came to the courts as recordedon the 13th October 1309. Thechief magistrate ruled again that in the light of insufficient evidence theroyals had no claim until the death of Johann. After this time however the family Spenli’s name is no longer recordedin association of the Burg and it is not known for how long it was indeed inJohann’s care. The Burg also did notrevert to the Counts of Hochberg after 1318 because of strife once again betweenthe princes and by this time it was part of the captured lands of the Lordsof Alsace which lay on the west side of the Rhine. So the Burg Sponeck changed sides andimperial owners and is no more recorded in the German records until 1333.
1333 1333 On the 8th November 1333 we have a record in the general Landsarchivsof Karlsruhethat the Burg Sponeck was bought by the Knight Werner Gutemann vonHattstatt. He was a landvogt (districtbailiff) in Alsace. Of particular interest is the fact thatWerner von Hattstatt actually lived in the Castle and for a time called himself‘von Sponeck’ after his possession. TheKnight Werner von Hattstatt held the Burg for some time after 1333. This family shield of ‘arms’, which consistedof a gold shield with a red ‘X’, was brought onto the south-eastern side of thecastle. These very wealthy Hattstattsbought the Burg, in total it would seem, and again sold it at a later date to CountUlrich von Württemberg for one thousand two hundred Swiss Pounds. Therewith the Württemberg family entered intothe history of the Castle Sponeck. Itwas this von Württemberg family who would later marry into the early Knightlyfamily von Hedwiger, who were the forefathers of the present Spon(n)ecks. The Hattstatt family continued to stay in thecastle after 1333 as the Württembergs’ had no need of the residence of thecastle. The question can well be askedas to why the wealthy Knight Hattstatt would want to sell his Burg since he wasin no financial need. Count Ulrich wasmarried to Countess Stephania von Pfirt who was again related to the Hochbergsof Alsace, which brought him into the Dukedom of Mömpelgard. (French – Montbéliard in EasternFrance.) The main reasonwhy the Duke of Württemberg would have wanted to acquire the Burg could onlyhave been for its strategic position in giving to him a ‘private’ ferrycrossing of the Rhine between his Duchies of Württemberg on the east bank andMömpelgard on the west bank, the main crossing at Breisach still being in the handsof the Austrians who were yet unfriendly to Württemberg. It would appear that the Hattstatts hadoccupation until 1400. No doubt theprice paid by the duke and a contract of continued occupation had convinced theKnight Hattstatt to sell. There is littleinformation recorded with regard to the Burg for a further one hundred yearsbetween 1333 and 1433.
1401 1401 It is recorded that on the 1st October 1401, the last of theHattstatts – the nobleman Hannemann von Sponeck relinquished the Burg toHesso von Uesenberg. We can herelist all the main families who then played a part in the history of the BurgSponeck. So far we have seen that theownership of the Burg changed amongst the royals due to marriage arrangementsas well as trading off as a result of wars between them. The lower aristocracy changed ‘leasehold’ forfinancial reasons very often. The mainfamilies were then the Markgrafen von Baden – their cousins, the Markgrafenvon Hachberg, the Counts of Freiburg, the Counts of Mömpelgard, the Countsof Württemberg, and the lesser nobles von Hattstatt, von Schnewelin, von Ow andvon Burtheim. Furthermore we have theCounts of Pfirt, the Counts of Straßburg, the Counts of Staufen and the Counts ofThierstein with the nobleman von Uesenberg. Another important party was the Duke of Austria who made a claim on theBurg Sponeck at the death of his wife, Johanna of Mömpelgard. The Württembergs great interest in the Burgwas because of the RhineRiver crossing, onceagain showing its strategic position. In1343 the Breisach crossing just south of the Burg was in the control of theDuke of Austria who at this time was in conflict and in a state of war with theDukes of Württemberg.
1461 1461 Count Eberhard von Württemberg now gave his Burg Sponeck into the careof Bartholome Schnewelin, from a well-known Freiburg family, as a rewardfor his services to do with it as he pleased and to benefit from the winelands, salmon fishing and all else that went with the Burg. As long as he stayed in the Castle Sponeckand managed the estate and all that went with it for a livelihood he wasobliged to pay dues and to answer the call to serve and if he himself could notgo to war, he had to provide the service of a knight.
1462 1462 Just two years later Count Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard decidedthat he wanted another faithful subject, one Balthazar von Ow to have thebenefit of the Sponeck estate and castle. Whether Balthazar took it up at this time is doubtful. Von Ow was in fact related by marriage to thepreviously named holder, Schnewelin. Balthazar von Ow came from a noble Swabian family that owned lands andestates in Tübingen.
1477 1477 On the 16th August 1477, Count Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard confirmed his rewarding of Balthazar von Ow withthe Castle Sponeck and everything that went with it. This incorporated the fields, meadows, winegardens or vineyards plus the woods, salmon fisheries and fishing rights aswell as the Rhine ferry crossing.
1496 1496 Balthazar von Ow eventually took up employment with the Austrian Regimeand thus divided his loyalties between Württemberg and Austria.
1500 1500 By this time Balthazar von Ow was no longer alive and his son, Hans vonOw had the Burg and Estate as a ‘living right’. This was confirmed for Hans von Ow by the duke Ulrich von Württemberg,the son of Eberhard von Württemberg (Snr.) who had originally conferred it uponthe von Ow family. Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard died in the year 1496 at the age of fifty years.
On the 28th June 1502, Hans von Ow and his brothers and sisterssurrendered the Sponeck Estate back to Duke Ulrich von Württemberg for asettlement of 900 Gold Sovereigns. Shortly after this time war broke out between Austria and Württemberg and againBurg Sponeck was left without a caretaker. The Burkheim neighbours took the opportunity to possess the Rhine crossing during this time while the Sponeck gutor Estate was unattended. On the 10thJuly 1502 the old ‘holder’ of 1461, Batholomaus Schnewelin laid claim to theestate again and all its rights. Thecourt however did not uphold these legal rights this time.
1519 1519 In 1519 Duke Ulrich von Württemberg was included in the SwabianConfederation of States and the Austrian Habsburg Emperor, Charles VHabsburg (An important character in a later Sponneck Saga) took over thesefederated states into the Austrian Empire. Archduke Ferdinand of Austriarelieved Burg Sponeck from the town council of Burkheim’s usurpation. Charles Vthen gave the neighbouring estate and Burg ‘Burtheim’, later Burkheim to the Bishopvon Straßburg as holder of the Dorf Arzenheim. This grant also included the Sponeck Rhinepassage.
1522 1522 The Emperor, Charles V of Habsburg, who was looking after his Spanishpossessions and living in Spain,gave his brother, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria the rule of the SouthGerman Austrian Empire which included the southern German possessions of theHabsburg Empire and this also then gave him the rightful claim to the ReichsburgSponeck. In the following yearsthe castle and estate changed hands frequently. Recorded documents of the Freiburg City Archives dated 8thNovember 1525 state that the new owner, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria sold the profitable SponeckEstate to Dr. Casper Fabri who was at that time Bishop of Vienna. The bishop acquired the property with theusual legal rights and privileges for 300 Gold German Sovereigns.
1524-1525 1524-1525 During this time the farmers of the western provinces rose in revoltagainst the princes and counts. Thiswar, known as the Bauernkrieg, raged for two years and many of theKaiserstuhl castles and estates suffered much damage. Burg Sponeck did not escape unscathed. The rebelling farmers in Breisach cameagainst the Counts of Tübingen. One oftheir castles, called Lichteneck was situated near Kenzingens. These counts were the two young brothers,Georg and Konrad von Tübingen. Theirguardian was one, the Imperial Councillor Rudolph von Blumeneck. They had inherited at an early age after thedeath of their childless Uncle Konrad in 1506. One year later Konrad’s younger brother also died leaving the two boysto inherit all their estates. In theyear 1519 the Emperor Maximilian had died and his grandson, Charles came to thethrone as Charles V at the age of twenty years. The farmers in Breisgau joined forces with the farmers in Kaiserstuhland Alsaceand plundered and burned the castles and estates of their young feudallords. The total revolt was just asruthlessly put down by the Austrian rulers in taking the ringleaders intocustody and after torturing them, jailing them and summarily executing them byhanging.
1525 1525 After only a year, on the 1st October 1526, Dr Fabri gave theBurg to his brother, Councillor Johan Fabri who then in turn sold it toa friend for a considerable profit on the 15th October 1526 for 450Gold Sovereigns. The friend was one, JacobWasserhuhn who was a citizen of Breisach. The Duke of Austria however retained the profitable Rhinecrossing rights. In the town of Breisach council recordsof the 1st August 1524 we read of a mayor of Breisach being one,Claus Wasserhuhn who could have been a relative of Jacob Wasserhuhn. The next proud owner shortly thereafter was BalthazarMärklin, the Bishop of Constance who had his seat between 1529 and1531. He was also one time PrivyCouncillor and then Vice-Chancellor to the Emperor, Charles V and to hisbrother Ferdinand. He was afterwardappointed Bishop of Constance. Heappeared to own a number of estates in the Burg’s province of Kaiserstuhl. After his death his fellow bishops showed nointerest in the Burg Sponeck and so on the 11th March 1540 it wassold by public auction to Jacob von Bertheim for 680 GoldSovereigns. Once again the Burg Sponeckwas in the hands of a descendent of the Knight von Hattstatt. Jacob von Bertheim wanted to again make theEstates of Sponeck and Burkheim, which lay next to each other on the Rhine profitable. He also wished to repair the damage done to the castle during the Bauernkrieg. After only a few years however he grew tiredof the Gut and was glad to be able to surrender it for a profit.
1546 1546 On the 26th March 1546, after just six years the Castle againchanged hands for a considerable price to the priestly Count Konrad vonLübingen-Lichteneck. He was adescendent from the Württemberg family. The Castle Hecklingen and the Burkheim Estates were his ancestralpossessions. Herewith another nobleecclesiastical had possession of the Sponeck Estate. During this time the famous German andEuropean Reformation was well underway with its leader, Martin Luther. So great an influence was his message of “thejust shall live by faith” as apposed to penitence and payment of indulgences,that many noblemen, high aristocracy and royalty were converted by the Lutheranteaching. Martin Luther was a professorof theology at the WittenburgUniversity. He began calling for the reform of the RomanCatholic Church. Luther’s criticismfound widespread support among all classes in Germany and resulted in farreaching social changes. The ‘PeasantsWar’ caused the greatest upheaval. Citing Luther’s plea for “liberty of all Christian men” the peasantscalled for an elective priesthood and abolition of various oppressive feudaldues.
1546-1547 1546-1547 The Reformation led to great political upheaval and no other emperor wasever called upon to struggle with such division in his kingdom as Charles V,while he himself remained true to the Pope in Rome. Many other princes had however converted and so much friction resultedthat Charles V when to war against the many protestant princes, especially inthe south western provinces which also led to Burg Sponeck again suffering furtherdamage and neglect.
1548-1549 1548-1549 As a result of this war the citizens of Burkheim took advantage of thesituation to rob and plunder the Sponeck Gut. While there was nobody to control theproperty, they invaded the fields and the timber forests of the Burg, cut downthe trees, and sold off the timber for their own profit. Duke Ulrich von Württemberg was one of theseconverted dukes and during the war of 1546/1547 with Charles V, he too had beenchased out of his Duchy of Württemberg. Only after fifteen years was he allowed to return to his Duchy.
1551-1552 1551-1552 Duke Christoph von Württemberg and his cousin Count Georg vonWürttemberg received the Sponeck Gut back from the Emperor and thenunited their estates by contract with Mömpelgard, Horburg and Reichenweiler in Alsace.
1560 1560 On the 12th August 1560 Emperor Ferdinand I pledged toLazarus von Schwendi the castle, town and the rulership of Burkheim witheverything that accrued and belonged to it for 10,000 Golden Pfandschillingand 1,000 Golden Pf. for a building fund. Lazarus von Schwendi’s second wife was one,Eleonore Countess von Zimmern. One canstill find the double coat-of-arms of Schwendi and von Zimmern over the portalof the BurkheimCastle ruins so it is claimed. Schwendi died in 1584. He had often been in need of funds and it washe who had established a lucrative means of income by establishing a toll forships on the Rhine plying up and down theriver at the Burg site. Schwendi was aclose friend of the Austrian Emperor and in good standing with the House ofWürttemberg. The Württembergs’ now setabout to make improvements to their castle Sponeck, to re-establish the salmoncatch and build a new boat for the ferry.
A further‘caretaker’ of the Burg was Jörg Wickram. At this stage a great dispute had arisenbetween the holders of the Burg and the Council of Burkheim as to the boundaryof Burg Sponeck. This was nothing new asthese disputes had been going on since 1563 until the present time in theBurg’s history. Wickram was thereforenot able to establish much by way of income from the Gut and surrendered theBurg to his successor, one Gerson von Dieffenau, a Burgvogt ofthe Duke. He faired no better than hispredecessor in establishing an income from the estate.
At the end of the Sixteenth Century we fortunately find inthe General Provincial Archives of Karlsruhean authentic watercolour painting of the Burg Sponeck done in the year 1590 orat the latest, 1602. From this sketch wecan see that it was indeed not a big fortress by that time. The position of the Estate being on the hilland overseeing the Rhine crossing kept it in aposition of importance.
We come now to a most unfortunate and terrible time in thehistory of Europe and Germanycalled the THIRTY YEARS WAR. Continuingreligious struggles and rising nationalist movements throughout the empirebrought about the Thirty Years War. Between 1618 and 1648 Germanywas devastated and lost between one third and one half of its population andthe empires borders were greatly reduced. Bohemia sparked the rebellion when in1618 a civil war erupted in Pragueas Protestants, inflamed by Habsburg persecution, threw three imperialofficials from a royal castle window and established a rebel regime. Fortunately the three men were not seriouslyhurt, it is reported. The course of thewar went as follows: 1619 – ProtestantFrederick V was crowned King of Bohemia; two days later Ferdinand II, aCatholic, was elected the new Holy Roman Emperor. 1620 – Ferdinand’s Habsburg forces crushed Frederick in the Battleof White Mountains. 1625 Denmark joinedthe war. Denmark’s Christian IV rallied anarmy to the flagging Protestant cause. 1626 – The imperial forces destroyed half of the Danish army atLutter. 1629 – Christian IV agreed toabandon Protestants in the Treaty of Lübeck. The Edict of Restitution threatened Germany with Catholicdomination. Sweden picked up the torch. 1630 – Franceand Sweden were in allianceagainst Austria. Sweden entered the war in that sameyear. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden assumedmilitary command of the Protestants. 1631 – Gustavus’s disciplined forces checked the Habsburg threat to Europe in the Battle of Breitenfeld. 1632 – The Habsburg armies were defeated atLützen but King Gustavus was killed in a cavalry charge. 1634 – The Swedes were crushed at Nördlingenand forced to evacuate southern Germany. 1635 – The Peace of Prague marked the defeat of the majorProtestant princes by the Habsburgs. Catholic France allied with Protestant Sweden and Germany thendeclared war on the Habsburg Empire. 1636– Burg Sponeck was utterly destroyed in the conflict. Only part of the tower remained. 1638 – Francebribed Sweden back into theconflict and then attacked Germany,which reeled under the assault. 1648 –The Peace of Westphalia was concluded after four years of negotiation between France, Swedenand Austria. A war-torn Germany was left fragmented intothree hundred odd principalities. TheFrench held Alsace and Lorraine at the end of the war thus robbingWürttemberg of their principality of Mömpelgard. Under the terms of the Peaceof Westphalia in 1648 Germany’snumerous feudal princes gained virtually sovereign rights under the nominalsuzerainty of the emperor. The countriespresent for the signing of the Peace Accord were the agents for the Emperor,the German states, Sweden, France, Spainand Netherlands. The most embattled realms such as Württemberglost more than half their population, dead or dispersed. Elsewhere the loss was less severe. Most historians agree that an overallpopulation decline of 15%-20% from 20 million to 16 or 17 million peopleoccurred during the war and the ensuing epidemics. For Germany, over all, the war was atraumatic experience. As a time ofunmitigated disaster it is rivalled in the national consciousness only by the1939-1945 war. Other castles like thoseof Hochberg and Burkheim were likewise totally destroyed during the ThirtyYears War.
1634 1634 The Burg Sponeck by this time could no longer serve as a manor as it wasby now severely damaged and the Estate was calamitously run down because of theAustrian and French/Swedish exchange of fire during the Thirty Years War. A chronicle report states that in August 1634the Burg was occupied by the Austrian Markgraf’s troops who were securing the Rhine crossing at Burg Sponeck during this time ofhostilities. The strategic position andoccupation of the river-crossing site during war once again showed itsimportance. The broader fate of the BurgSponeck during the noise of the Thirty Years War is not known. By 1636 the little castle was totallydestroyed and we know that the estate had lost its use as a bridgehead due tothe fact that the Württemberg lands on the left and right side of the Rhine had been separated. After the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended thelong tiresome war in Central Europe and hadinvolved many foreign forces, the Burg was again found in the possession of theDukes of Württemberg and would remain so until 1806 at the collapse of theHabsburg Empire.
1695 1695 We now come to the part of the Burg Sponeck history that has a directrelationship to the history of the present families of Spon(n)eck. By this time the owner of Burg Sponeck wasDuke Leopold Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard. On the 1st June 1695 this youngtwenty-five year old duke in exile married the beautiful nineteen-year-old AnnaSabina von Hedwiger. She was descendedfrom an old noble knightly family from Silesia. The Austrian Emperor by imperial decreecreated her a Countess-of-the-Empire on the 2nd August 1701. This high and prestigious title she sharedwith her son and two daughters and her three brothers. Her husband, Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard was also known as the Reichsgraf von Sponeck. The von Hedwiger family from then on werealso called by the title name of von Sponeck. So they too shared in the fame of the Burg as their title name. The eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm vonHedwiger was at this time President of the government in Mömpelgard, which wasa principality of the Württembergs in Alsace, France. He also held the rank of Colonel andcommanded the Duke’s Mömpelgard Regiment. We shall of course hear more of this in a later chapter. Duke Leopold Eberhard von Württembergwas at this time the legal holder of the Burg Sponeck with its wine, fishingand ferry rights although the castle itself was still in ruins.
1714 1714 After nineteen years the Duke and Anna Sabina Reichsgräfin vonSponeck divorced and she was granted her claim to the Burg Sponeck as partof the divorce settlement in a contract dated 31st October1714. Her claim might have been good forthe fishing rights and the areas of the Rhine Ferry; however wars had beenraging once again between Franceand the GermanStates and for a time the Burg Sponeckand all that went with it had fallen into the French camp. Anna Sabina and her younger brother, JohannRudolph von Hedwiger Reichsgraf von Sponeck who was at this time the PrimeMinister of Mömpelgard and Chief Master of the Hunt had also come under Frenchcontrol being on the west side of the Rhine during the years of conflict inwhich the French King had pushed his borders beyond the Rhine.
1735 1735 Anna Sabina Reichsgräfin von Sponeck died at Hericourt in Alsace in thePrincipality of Mömpelgard. The SponeckEstate however stayed with her family until 1748 after which it wasreincorporated with Württemberg from Franceaccording to the contract of 1617 between Franceand the GermanProvince.
1781 1781 In an application dated 30th July 1781 one, Baron Ägid Joseph Karl von Fahnenberg requestedpermission from the Mömpelgard Council to be given the use of the Sponeck Estate. From this petition we understand that theproperty was completely destroyed after some thirty years neglect and that itwas of no value due to the fact that the chase after the RhineIslandwas also lost during the previous century wars. Ägid von Fahnenberg was the life holder of the Austrian Demesne and hadan interest in Sponeck because it was now under his Austrian Demesne ofBurkheim. Around the Burg ruin was abadly constructed house with a barn and stable. There was also a garden and a five and a half Morgan field with a hedgeround and a neglected field that once made up a vineyard. In 1778 the property was hired by GrossmannBeck of the town of Jechtingen,which he held for twelve years. Therequest therefore of Baron von Fahnenberg was never ceded although he madeseveral representations to get it into his demesne. Grossmann Beck leased the property from theCouncil in Mömpelgard for 41 pfund 13 Shilling and 4 Pfennig. With this he was allowed to do the necessaryrepairs and so left no grounds for the indictment of Baron von Fahnenberg tothe government in Stuttgartthat the Burggut was in sad neglect.
1789 1789 A new period began for the area of the Burg Sponeck with the time of theFrench Revolution. During this time allthe French feudal lords were either chased out of France(many fled to Denmarkand were taken up in the Danish Aristocracy) or were captured by the citizensand executed at the guillotine. Theirlands were confiscated and became the property of the State. The French Revolution transformed the BourbonKingdominto a constitutional state around intense excitement east of the Rhine. While theintellectuals welcomed the change hoping it would spread to central Europe as well, the princes on the other hand were from theoutset fearful of similar revolt against their rule also erupting. The result was growing hostility between thegovernment in Paris and the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire.
1790 1790 On the 9th March 1791 another lessee is recorded as havingtaken up the leasehold of the Sponeck property. He was Sebastian Sichler of Burkheim who was to lease the estatefor a sum of 150 French Livres per year. The estate was to stay in the Sichler family for close to a hundredyears until the end of the 19th century after which it was to becometheir property to hold and to own by title deed. On the 11th November 1801Sebastian Sichler became the Mayor of Burkheim. In that same year the government gave to Sebastian Sichler the Burggutand all that went with it for a settlement sum of 500 Gold Sovereigns as aninheritable ‘life holding’.
1792-1797 1792-1797 The wars with Napoleon next influenced the politics of the Burgarea. The immediate occasion of theconflict in the War of the First Coalition was a quarrel over the rights ofGerman Princes with holdings in Franceand over the propagandistic atrocities of French émigrés in Germany. But the real cause was the clash of twoincompatible forms of Government divided by profound differences regarding thenature of political and social justice. The course of hostilities soon revealed that the civic ideas andmilitary tactics of the French Revolution were more than a match for thedecrepit Holy Roman Empire. After 1793 the left bank of the Rhineremained under the control of Franceand so for the next twenty years its inhabitants were governed from Paris. There was no evidence however of thedissatisfaction of the Germans who seemed to accept the change as easily as achange in dynasty or a new succession to the throne. Although the Austrians held out two yearslonger, the brilliant successes of the young Napoleon forced them to accept theloss of the left bank of the Rhine in the Treaty of Campo Formio on October 17,1797.
1798-1802 1798-1802 The War of the Second Coalition. Thepeace proved short-lived for at the end of 1798 a new coalition directedagainst Francewas formed. Austria played the same leadingrole with the same unfortunate result. The French victories at Marengo on the 14th June 1800 andHohenlinden on the 3rd December 1800 forced Emperor Frances II toagree to the Treaty of Lunéville on the 9th February 1801 whichconfirmed the cession of the Rhineland to France. The chief victims of the Final Recess werethe free cities and the ecclesiastical territories. Bavaria,Württemberg, Baden, Hess-Darmstadt and Nassauwere the big winners in the competition for booty that had been the main objectof the negotiations. Napoleon could notkeep Austria and Prussia frommaking some gains. He was especiallysolicitous for the welfare of those German rulers mostly in the south who werestrong enough to be valuable vassals, but not strong enough to be potentialthreats. Napoleon had cleverly pittedthe princes against the emperor to enhance the role that Pariscould play in the affairs of Central Europe.
1803 1803 Baron Fahnenberg continued to lodge claim to the Sponeck property and atthis time it is recorded that a certain Major General Count von Sponeck, adescendant from the von Hedwiger family, also lodged a claim of ownership ofthe Sponeck Estate. As to exactly whichbranch of the family this ‘major general’ belonged has been difficult toascertain and the author is of the opinion that he might have been from thelater extinct French line. The DuchyGovernment however ruled that since sixty years had elapsed since the Sponeckfamily had held the estate the general’s claim was unfounded. Fahnenberg also, who no longer lived inWürttemberg gave up on his claims. Onthe 11th May 1803 the Mayor Sichler was given the noble title of Burgvogt(advocate) with the Burggut Sponeck for 50 Gold Sovereignsyearly. Sichler from then on nevermanaged the estate himself but subleased the property at a profit for 66 GoldSovereigns yearly. This was not beneficialbecause the lessee then established a ‘public house’ or tavern in the ruins,which was described as an undesirable situation for the neighbouring countryfolk. In the meantime the NapoleonicWars had been raging.
1805-1807 1805-1807 The War of the Third Coalition broke out in 1805 when Austria joined the third coalition of greatpowers determined to reduce the preponderance of France. The outcome was even more disastrous. Napoleon forced the main Habsburg army in Germany to surrender at Ulm on October 17, 1805. He then descended on Vienna,occupied the capital and finally inflicted a crushing defeat on the combinedRussian and Austrian armies at Austerlitz in Moravia on December 2,1805. Before the year ended, Frances IIhad been forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26th,which signified the end of the dominant role of his dynasty in Central Europe. Hehad to surrender his possessions in western Germanyto Württemberg and Baden. The rulers of the secondary states in thesouth supported Napoleon in the war against Austria and were richlyrewarded. They shared in the bootyseized from the Habsburgs and were permitted to absorb the remaining freecities, petty principalities and ecclesiastical territories.
1806 1806 In the summer of 1806 the secondary states, encouraged and prodded by Paris, announced that they were going to form a separateassociation to be known as the Confederation of the Rhine. On the 1st August they proclaimedtheir secession from the Empire and a week later on August 6thFrances II announced that he was laying down the Imperial Crown. The Holy Roman Empirethus came officially to an end after a history of a thousand years. All the Habsburg possessions were dividedbetween those states and provinces that helped Napoleon, as did Baden and Württemberg. The reprieve of the Napoleonic Wars had seen the Sponeckgut passfrom the Kingdom of Württemberg to Badenaccording to a contract of 17th October 1806. Never again did Württemberg have a claim tothe Burggut Sponeck. Itwas finally incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Baden. For Sichler this was a source of contention,as the ‘Life Holder’ contract with Württemberg of 1803 was not yetfinalised. The Baden Government tookover the total ownership of the Sponeck Estate and released Sichler from thelease. This caused a contention that wasto rage through the law courts for twenty years and on the death of the oldmayor Sichler on the 20th March 1823. His nephew, the postmaster, Anton Sichler whowas Sebastian’s only heir was to further the legal wrangle.
1826 1826 On the 2nd August 1826 the case of Anton Sichler came to thecourt in Freiburg and it was ruled that theWürttemberg Contract of 1803 should be upheld between Württemberg and theSichler family.
1828 1828 A new contract was drawn up on the 18th June 1828 giving thepostmaster, Anton Sichler the continued ‘living rights’ to the Burg Sponeck
1829 1829 The struggle was to go on with regard to the borders of the Estate. The Citizen Council of Jechtingen had claimedthe land on the Rhine bank. Sichlercontended that the Rhine should be the Burg’swestern border. The Rhinehad also however been diverted some time before. Anton Sichler never personally managed theproperty, but gave it out to others to manage on his behalf.
1830 1830 On the 24th September 1830 the aged Anton Sichler entered acontract with his twenty year old nephew, Sebastian Sichler II, the sonof his brother Theodor Sichler that he should take over the ‘living right’ ofthe Burg and continue the fight for full possession. Sebastian Sichler was the last member of theSichler family to have an interest in the Burg. At first, Sebastian lived on the estate and managed it himself. After the death of his Uncle Anton, the final‘life holders’ contract was issued to Sebastian on the 17th May1839. Sebastian however was notsatisfied with the fact that the property stayed in ownership of the BadenGovernment and his struggle continued for total transfer of ownership tohimself as a private holding.
1853 1853 On the 12th February 1853 the Domain Chamber of the Archduchyof Baden in Karlsruhefelt that the Sponeck Castle Ruins and Estate should stay with the State forhistorical reasons. They sent anofficial from the ‘Land and Building Council’ – a Building Inspector Fischer todo a survey of the property. His reportdated 12th April 1853 stated that the Burg ruins had noarchitectural value. He reported on thecondition of the ruins and stated that the only part of the building that wasof interest was one stone on which the coat-of-arms of the Württembergs wasreflected. He also felt that the ruinshad no historical value and therefore no sentimental value. In effect, he reported that it was an eyesoreto the surrounding beauty of the area and to restore it would cost the statefar too much for the value it would have to the county. Sebastian Sichler then submitted that theruins and estate had indeed sentimental and real value to him and his family,having been associated with it for so long and by granting him the ‘titledeeds’ he would restore it at his own expense and improve the property ingeneral. Once again the town council ofJechtingen put in their claim to the Rhine Bank in front of Sponeck and afterthree years of deliberations a final decision was reached.
1856 1856 Sebastian Sichler was at last successful in his claim of the Sponeckgutand on the 23rd July 1856 the final contract and ‘title deed’were drawn up and he was given the Estate of five and a half Morgan for a fulland final purchase settlement figure of 1,101 Floren 12 Shilling. This ruling by the Government of Badenbrought about the last time that the Sponeck Castle Ruin and Estate was in thehold of the Emperor or a Duchy as a property of that dignitary or State. It finally passed into private hands with thefull free legal hold and ownership as real estate to be held by titledeed. Ever since this date then theSponeck Estate has been in private ownership and cannot be ‘claimed’ unless bypurchase agreement from the present owners.
1859 1859 In the year 1859 Sebastian Sichler began the building of themansion on top of the old burg site to its near present state. All that remained of the old Burg at thistime was one sidewall of the tower and the foundations on which it had stood.
1860 1860 Sebastian Sichler and his wife, Caroline, born Bercher, bequeathed theSponeck Estate to their daughter, Emma Helger. She was married to Xavier Helger who helpedher with the management of the Estate. They lived together in the Herrnhaus that her father had built onthe site all her life.
1889 1889 On the 8th March 1889 the property became the inheritance oftheir son, Franz Xaver Helger. Franz however had no interest in the property and let it deteriorateover the years.
1905 1905 In the year 1905 Franz sold the Burggut to Karl Bohny fromJechtingen. He had been made an offerfor 34,000 Reichs Mark for the property, which even at that time was possiblyan extravagant amount of money. Afteronly five years Karl Bohny found himself being forced to sell the property for9,000 Reich Mark as these were bad times and many properties were mortgagedoff.
1910 1910 The next owner, Anton Gerhart of Jechtingen and his wifeTheresia, born Ehrlacher managed the Sponeckgut for the next sevenyears.
1917 1917 On the 12th July 1917, while the First World War was ragingon the other side of the Rhine, a director of the Arts Academy in Karlsruhe, HansAdolph Bühler and his wife, Johanna (born Jockerst) ‘fell in love’ with andpurchased the Sponeck Estate for 25,000 Reich Mark. His dream was to restorethe Burg to something of its original style.
1924 1924 Burg Sponeck at this time had a very famous visitor in the person of Dr.Albert Schweitzer of African Missionary fame who came to have his portraitpainted by Professor Bühler who was a well-known artist in Germany. Dr. Schweitzer then presented ProfessorBühler with an African wooden mask artefact, which he kept in his studio formany years.
1930 1930 In the year 1930 Hans Bühler and his friend, building contractorHeinrich Brenzinger from Freiburg started onthe reconstruction of the tower to the form that we see it today. Professor Bühler then set up a studio in thetop of the tower where he painted numerous pictures showing the Rhine Plain, Alsace and the VosgesMountains. On the 19th May 1938 the Burg andtown of Jechtingen had another visitor in the person of the German Führerand Reichskanzler, Adolph Hitler together with his retinue and GauleiterRobert Wagner and Minister of Culture Wacker. Professor Bühler and his wife invited him to lunch after which he wishedto see the lay of the land from the tower and the blockhouses of the Maginotline on the opposite bank. This was not the only reason however, as he alsowished to see the paintings of the Professor. He had no doubt heard ofProfessor Bühler through Minister Wacker and Gauleiter Wagner, who were bothacquaintances of the Artist.
1939 1939 The Second World War broke out on the 1st September1939. Once more war came near BurgSponeck as the German forces massed all along the Rhine for the invasion of France on the15th June 1940.
1940 1940 The attack on Francethat was to be called the Blitzkrieg brought troops along the wholeWestern Border with the southern most army attack to cross the Rhine at the Burg Sponeck area. The armies crossed at Breisach, along the Rhine, and at the old Sponeck Rhine crossing. During this time the tower was badly damagedbut by 1941 it had already been repaired. The 7th Army was to be the southernmost invasion force into France. The month before Major General Hans GrafSponeck had been busy with the northern airborne attack into Holland. Two newly established and trained airborne divisions were to beused. He was to command one and followthe other under the command of Lieutenant General Student who was to lead intothe attack. Also involved at this timewas Colonel Theodor Graf Sponeck who was in command of an armoureddivision. We shall hear more of thishowever in a later chapter dealing with these Sponecks’ famous war campaigns.
1945 In the last weeks of the SecondWorld War Burg Sponeck was once again to find itself in the midst ofconflict. In a war journal of the PriestBrutscher we have a very vivid description of the last days of the war in theJechtingen area. He reported that on the1st February 1945 at 9.00 hrs the ground shook and the houses quakedunder the bombardment of the Allied Forces bombers as they cress crossed overthe town and bombed the Rhine woods in preparation for the crossing intoGermany, whilst the German forces unleashed the ‘flak’ (Anti-aircraftfire). The Sponeck ferry was bombed andhit while pontoons were set across the river and the allied soldiers pouredover the Rhine at this spot on their south-eastern push into Germany. We have a report from the book ‘Jechtingenand Burg Sponeck’ that the lower barn house was destroyed that served asProfessor Bühler’s studio with the outbuildings. With that, many of his art works andpaintings with his inventories went up in flames. Professor Hans Adolph Bühler died at hisbeloved Burg on the 19th October 1951 and was buried on the edge ofthe woods on the border of the Sponeck Estate. His grave can be seen from the tower at the edge of the garden. Hans Bühler left Burg Sponeck in his lastwill and testament to his son, Dr Engelhardt Bühler (Snr.) who inturn made a considerable contribution both technically and financially in theuncovering and restoration of the Roman fortress foundations.
1989 1989 Once again, a third generation inherited the Burg Sponeck. These were the grandchildren of Hans AdolphBühler, Dr Engelhardt Bühler (Jnr.) and his three sisters, one of whichis Lady-Doctor Almuth Bühler-Morgenstern. She is today the medical doctor ofJechtingen. Her husband is Professor Reinhard Morgenstern. The children allhave apartments in the Herrnhaus that was built by Sebastian Sichler in1859. Dr Engelhardt Bühler also practices medicine inVogtsburg-Oberrotweil. One can easilysense the pride and joy of the present owners as they guide you through theirBurg Sponeck and explain some of its history and the restoration of the tower. Burg Sponeck is yet again in the possessionof a single family for nearly one hundred years, but one gets the distinctfeeling that it is in good loving hands of people who care deeply for it andits history.
1993 1993 The author and his daughter, Beverley Shannon von Sponneck visited Burg Sponecktogether for the first time on the 12th June 1993. Having been in touch with Ottmar von Sponeckof Friedrichsdorf near Frankfurt-am-Main they were given a letter ofintroduction to Dr Almuth Bühler-Morgenstern who very kindly included them in atour she was scheduled to make at four o’clock that afternoon. After spending nearly two hours touring theBurg and soaking up the beautiful view from the top of the ‘Tower’ and learningsomething about the present family and experiencing the thrill of such apilgrimage, had sadly to take their departure after a heart warming meal at thecosy little restaurant adjacent to the Burg.
1998 1998 The author together with Ottmar Sponeck undertook a further trip to the Burgand this time your author had the pleasure of meeting with Dr Engelhardt Bühlerin person. Once again they toured thegrounds and the ‘tower’ and enjoyed the indescribably beautiful view of thesurrounding area. During this tripcontact was made with the remainder of the German Sponeck family and the ideadiscussed of a Centenary Celebration to commemorate the 300thAnniversary of the Spon(n)eck family elevation to the rank and title ofCount-of-the-Empire. It was decided that this should be scheduled to be heldduring the week of the 2nd August 2001 at the village of Jechtingen near Burg Sponeck.
Today, Burg Sponeck stands in the midst ofrich green heavily wooded acres and under beautiful blue skies one can onlystand and wonder at the former glory and beauty of this place and ask oneselfwhat the new century will bring to this special acre of ‘real estate’ and whatwill be written in its future as history of the ‘Burg’. But what of the history of its people thatshare its name today? In the next fewchapters we shall meet the souls who were the forefathers of the currentSpon(n)eck families and find out who and where the Spon(n)ecks of today are!
THE WÜRTTEMBERG FAMILY
It is necessary, in our study of the Spon(n)eck family historyat this time to stop and look into the family Württemberg. We shall need to see the relationship of thisfamily to the ancestors of Spon(n)eck. We shall investigate here the relationships between Anna Sabina vonHedwiger and her brothers with Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard. Here too weshall come to understand how the Württemberg-Mömpelgard line ended in hisgrandchildren and who the three women in the Duke’s life were.
Earlier we investigated the development and course ofGerman history and the history of the different kingdoms, principalities andduchies and how the early German aristocracy came to power. The Duchy of Württemberg had as their rulersthe Dukes of Württemberg from 1245. TheDuchy of Württemberg was in the central and eastern areas of the present-dayBaden-Württemberg. For the last periodof its separate existence, Württemberg was bounded northeast and east by Bavaria, southeast by Bavariaand LakeConstance,and southwest, west and northwest by Baden, except where they enclaved Hohenzollernand across the frontier in the south. The city of Stuttgartserved as the Capital of Württemberg. Except for the Rhine plain, Württemberg is a mountainous and hillyregion that includes the Swabian Jura Mountains and the Black Forest, which isdrained by the NeckarRiver.
In the earlier Middle Ages Württemberg was part of theregion known as Swabia. The House of Württemberg was a local dynastyof counts established by the late 11th century who began from themiddle of the 12th century to extend their control over largesections of Swabia. By the time Württemberg was made a duchy in1495, their estates had come to play an important role in its government. Duke Ulrich von Württemberg became a vassalof the House of Habsburg in 1534. assuch he submitted Württemberg to the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor andcame under its protection as a state of the Empire, which he ruled on behalf ofthe Emperor. He later, during theReformation introduced Lutheranism into the duchy and confiscated the CatholicChurch lands. His son, Duke Christopherreigned from 1550 to 1568, set up a centralised state church and became theleader of German Protestantism. Hisjudicial and civil reforms, which included recognition of the Estates controlover finances, endured for two centuries. Duke Frederick (1593-1608) secured the duchy’s release from Habsburg overlordshipand was a pillar of the Evangelical Union of Lutheran and Calvinist Princes(1608). As we have already heard,Württemberg was devastated in the Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648 andfell prey to French invasions from 1688 until 1693 during the War of the GrandAlliance. Yet the duchy enjoyedprogressive government. They introducedcompulsory education in 1649. DukeEberhard Louis reigned from 1693-1733 and he was responsible for improving theduchy’s defences and schools. He builtthe celebrated LudwigsburgPalace and admittedWaldensian refugees from France, who introduced the textile and otherindustries into the duchy.
Mömpelgardwas a small town and principality in Eastern France. The town lay between the Vosges and the JuraMountains and but 17 kilometres from the Swiss frontier and four hundredkilometres southeast of Paris. In a highly industrialised area at theconfluence of the Allaine and LuzineRivers, it lies north of the Canal du Rhône au Rhinand at a loop in the DoubsRiver in the presentDepartment of Doubs. The town is knownto have been in existence in the 8th century. The Lordship of Montbéliard became aPrincipality in the 12th century, after which Montbéliard came intothe possession of the Dukes of Württemberg (1397) by the marriage of Count Eberhard III von Württemberg (+1417)called ‘Eberhard the Mild’ to Countess Henriette von Montfaucon, the heiress ofthe county of Montbéliard and they administered it for some 400 years from theend of the 14th century until the French Revolution at the end ofthe 18th century. Montbéliards industry today consists primarily of automobilemanufacture, the Peugeot Company employing more than two-thirds of theeconomically active. The Château of the Counts of Württemberg-Montbéliard, ona rocky promontory dominating the town, has two towers dating from the 15thand 16th centuries: it today houses a museum of natural history andin an 18th century extension, an art museum. The town also boasts a ‘Hotel de Sponeck’,which is reputedly the one time home of the Grafen von Sponeck as governors ofMontbéliard. The edifice now serves as amuseum and cultural conference centre.
Duke Leopold Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard was bornon the 17th May 1670 in the Château of Mömpelgard in Alsace, the youngestchild of Duke Georg von Württemberg-Mömpelgard (1626-1695) and Anna deChatillon (1624-1680). Anna de Chatillonwas the daughter of Duke Gaspard de Chatillon, Graf von Cologne and Anne deBolignac. Leopold Eberhard’s earlychildhood was spent in the Principality of Montbéliardbetween the French Monarchy possessions. At the age of seven, the Court of Mömpelgard was forced to flee acrossthe Rhine to the far eastern part of Germanywhile the French King Louis XIV was waging war with Leopold I of Austria,in anticipation of the Spanish throne succession. While in exile the young Duke LeopoldEberhard in 1695 married Anna Sabina von Hedwiger and she bore him fourchildren of which two were sons and two daughters. The eldest son who was named after the Dukeand the youngest daughter, named Charlotte Leopoldine, both died inchildhood. At his death, the youngLeopold was but fourteen years of age and his sister at her death only threeyears of age. At this time the familywere still in exile and resident in the court of the Duke of Württemberg-Oels.
Duke Eberhard Louis von Württemberg, who was the currentruler of the Duchy of Württemberg, gave his uncle, Duke Georg von Württembergthe rule of the Württemberg possessions west of the Rhine. The Principality of Montbéliard thus becamehis domain and was given the title Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. The daughter of Duke Georg and sister ofLeopold Eberhard had married her cousin twice removed who was the Duke ofWürttemberg-Oels. This was likewise acity and principality in the east of Germany which was also part of theWürttemberg possessions. The Sun King,Louis XIV of France had hiscourt in the noted Palace of Versailles in Paris. It was during the years 1685-1998 that LouisXIV was still involved with these wars against the Holy Roman Emperor LeopoldI, for some of the Spanish possessions in Hollandand had pushed to make the Rhine his borderswith the Austrian Holy Roman Empire. During this time of war Duke Georg and his family and the Court ofMömpelgard had fled from Alsace and tookrefuge with Duke Georg’s daughter in Württemberg-Oels to the east in Silesia. The young Duke Leopold Eberhard married thenineteen-year-old Anna Sabina von Hedwiger in the Silesian town of Jawicz. As she was from a noble knightly familywithout title the marriage was considered to be morganatic and as such theirchildren would not inherit the ducal title. Three years later the Court of Mömpelgard could return to Mömpelgard in Alsace. King Louis XIV had signed a Peace Accord callthe ‘Peace of Rijwijk’ in which he had to cede to the Austrian Empire some ofhis captured possessions. Thus the Principality of Mömpelgard was returned to theDukes of Württemberg. The young DukeLeopold Eberhard had inherited his father’s possessions and thus the rule ofthe Alsace Estates. Duke Leopold Eberhard had appointed as his Prime Ministerthe eldest of the von Hedwiger brothers (the ancestor of the Danish lineSponeck) one, Georg Wilhelm who had in the meantime married a Polish Princess It is evident that a very close friendshipexisted between the von Hedwiger sons’ and Duke Leopold Eberhard. The youngest brother, Johann Rudolph (theancestor of the German Sponeck line) was at this time seconded to the DanishAuxiliary troops in Hollandas second lieutenant. He resigned hiscommission in 1703 in order to take up the appointment by Duke Leopold Eberhardvon Württemberg as Prime Minister of the government of Mömpelgard when hisbrother, Georg Wilhelm resigned his services in the Mömpelgard government inorder to take up command, with the rank of Colonel, the Danish auxiliary troopsin Holland during the War of the Spanish Succession. The marriage of the Duke was to prove verystormy and as a result Anna Sabina had remained in Württemberg-Oels as lady-in-Waiting to her now sister-in-law, theduchess of Württemberg-Oels. In late1698 Anna Sabina with her then three children and her widowed mother, AnnaRosina relocated to Mömpelgard in order to be with her brother and to take careof the Duke’s household. By the year1700 the duke and Anna Sabina had agreed to separate. Duke Leopold Eberhard had by this time foundanother favourite in a Baroness von L’Espérance, so created in 1700 by theFrench King. She was the divorced wife of Johann Ludwig von Sandersleben.Although she already had three children in 1702 she bore the Duke anotherchild. The first of five she was to bearhim up to her death in 1707. DukeLeopold Eberhard appears to have constantly endeavoured to have these childrenlegitimised and the three earlier children of her legally adopted. While the French King Louis XV had grantedthis adoption in 1718, the Austrian emperor, Charles VI had refused theapplication as late as 1721. In 1718Duke Leopold Eberhard married the sister of his deceased mistress, ElisabethCharlotte Curie, baroness von L’Espérance after she too had borne him fivechildren between 1711 and 1717.
It is interesting that the children of the Duke by AnnaSabina had been given the title and name of Reichsgrafenvon Sponeck before the creation of the title for the von Hedwiger ‘four’. According to the 1916 edition of the DanishAdels Aarbog the Duke was known by this lesser title also. It was not uncommon for royalty to havemultiple titles. For example, Duke ofMarlborough was given the title of Fürst(Prince) by Leopold I and in Englandhe had the titles of an earldom and a barony. As owner of the Reichsburg Sponeckthe duke would have also been known as Reichsgraf von Sponeck. This title was conferred then upon hismorganatically born children who did not qualify for his ducal title. The duke was out of favour with Anna Sabinaby the time of her creation and elevation to the noble title of Reichsgräfin in 1701. Her son, Prinz Georg Leopold Reichsgraf von Sponeck was born in 1697 atthe Court of Oels. His title of prinz came as a result of his mothersmorganaticmarriage and he therefore as a prinzwas higher than a nobleman but of necessity just lower than a duke. Had his mother been from a royal house hewould have automatically been a duke and inheritor of his father’s titles andpossessions. He was to move toMömpelgard with his mother, siblings and grandmother in 1698. The marriage between the duke andReichsgräfin Anna Sabina was to formally end in 1714 with the ownership of Burgsonic staying with her as part of the settlement agreement. A document was signed by Duke LeopoldEberhard and witnessed by his ex-brother-in-law, Reichsgraf Georg Wilhelm vonSponeck and the estranged husband of the Duke’s mistress, Henriette Hedwig vonSandersleben with regard to the Duke declaring that, firstly, he had beeninvolved in an illegitimate relationship during his marriage to AnnaSabina. Secondly, that he would notmarry his present mistress and thirdly that the first three children of vonSandersleben were in fact also his children.
The Prinz, Georg Leopold Reichsgraf von Sponeck (AnnaSabina’s twin son) born in 1697, married Eleonore Charlotte von Sanderleben inthe year 1719 and she bore him five children. This wife was the supposed daughter of Johann Ludwig and HenrietteHedwig von Sandersleben – the Dukes first mistress! This legitimate son of the duke had in his turnhad three sons and two daughters. Theonly son to survive was also called Geog Leopold. This grandson of the duke was born mentallyretarded and so with him ended the heirs of the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard. His granddaughter,Charlotte Eleonore, Gräfin von Sponeck (the sister of the retarded Georg) wenton to become a nun in the convent in Bosseroy. The surviving daughter of Anna Sabina Leopoldine Eberhardine Gräfin vonSponeck (twin born 1697) married the supposed son of the same Johann Ludwig andHenriette Hedwig von Sandersleben named Karl Leopold (born 1698) in the sameyear, 1719, that her brother, the Prince had married. They too had three sons, Leopold Ulrich, KarlFerdinand and Friedrich Eugene de Sandersleben, Counts of Cologne. Leopold Ulrich lived to thirty years of ageand died at Mantes-sur-Seine on the 2nd June 1751 and left noheirs. The other two sons were destinedto both die before ten years of age. Thetwo daughters were Eleanor Charlotte and Anna Elisabeth Hedwig de Sandersleben,Countesses of Cologne. Tragically,Leopoldine Eberhardine who was born in 1697, who was their mother and thedaughter of Anna Sabina went insane in 1724 at the age of twenty-seven yearsand was institutionalised in the convent of Lonsonnier in France. We can mention that the said two daughters ofthe insane Leopoldine Eberhardine wet on to marry into the French higharistocracy as did the two daughters of Prinz Georg Leopold de Sponeck,Charlotte Eleonore and Franziska Salome de Sponeck the Reichsgräfinen vonSponeck. The three sons of Prinz GeorgLeopold de Sponeck were Leopold Christian who died at two years of age. Ludwig,died at nine years of age and the retarded Georg Leopold, died at sixty-eightyears of age who bore his fathers name! Here then ended the Reichsgrafen vonSponeck line of Anna Sabina von Hedwiger, Reichsgräfin von Sponeck.
We now consider the eight children of the mistress of theDuke, Hennriette Hedwig Curie, later Baroness von L’Espérance. The eldest son was named Karl Leopold vonSandersleben. He was born in 1698 and in1719 married Leopoldine Eberhardine von Sponeck, daughter of Anna Sabina. He died in 1759 at the age of 61 years afterfive children.
We now look at these five children as the grandchildren ofthe duke. The first daughter was born tothe couple in 1720 and she was called Eleonore Charlotte von Sandersleben(1720-1760) who married one, Joseph Louis Christopher Marquis de Lucinge(1731-1781). The first son, LeopoldUlrich von Sandersleben was born in 1721. No more is known about thisgrandson. The third grandchild was adaughter, Anna Elisabeth Hedwig von Sandersleben. She was born in 1722 and passed away atseventy-one years of age after a marriage to Thomas, Marquis de Coligne-Pillot(1720-1777). Two more grandsons werepresented to the duke but neither survived childhood. They were Karl Ferdinand von Sandersleben(1723-1725) and Friedrich Eugene von Sadersleben (1724-1730).
The second son of the duke was one, Ferdinand Eberhard vonSanderleben born 1699. He marriedFranziska Benigna Waldner von Freundstein. Ferdinand died at sixty years of age after losing his wife in 1750 atthe age thirty-four years. The third wasa daughter, Eleonore Charlotte von Sandersleben, born 1700. This was the daughter who had married GeorgLeopold von Sponeck, born 1697, the son of Anna Sabina! By this time the dukewas in open relationship with this mistress, Henriette Hedwig Curie. Her following five children were born afterher divorce and out of her open relationship with the duke. These five were Elizabeth born 1702 who died ayear later. Eberhardine, born 1703 who also did not survive, and the first sonby the Duke also called Leopold Eberhard, and he too did not survive the firstyear. Leopoldine Eberhardine born 1705did survive to the age of twenty-five and actually married another vonSponeck. He was named Leopold Eberhard vonSponeck, was born in 1705, and was the son of the then Prime Minister ofMömpelgard, Johann Rudolph Reichsgraf von Sponeck by a first marriage. Unfortunately, because of the early death ofhis spouse, Leopoldine Eberhardine, no further Sponeck heirs were born of thismarriage. This son however did marry into the French nobility and from him wewill take up the French family von Sponeck in a later chapter. The last child born to Henriette was born in1707 and was named Henrica Hedwig. Thissame year Henriette Hedwig, the mistress of the duke and the mother of theseeight children died. Whether this was atthe birth of this last child or of a broken heart at the early loss of so manychildren we are not told. This lastchild however also only survived for two years of life. These last five children were all given thetitle name of de L’Espérance, created Barons by the French King, as was theirmother in 1700.
The three sons and two daughters of the third favourite ofDuke Leopold Eberhard, Elisabeth Charlotte whom the Duke married only in 1718and was the sister of the first mistress, Henriette Hedwig, were HenrietteHedwig Curie, born in 1711 and died in 1728 at the age of seventeen years. The second was Leopold Eberhard Curie, born1712 and died in 1730 at only eighteen years of age. Then came Georg Curie, born in 1714 and diedat less than one year. The fourth wasanother son, Karl Leopold Curie, von L’Espérance, born in 1716 and died in 1793at the ripe old age of seventy-seven years. He married three times and his marriage to Marie Josephe de Fuentes deToledo de Castella produced one son and two daughters.
These grandchildren of the duke were a son, AntoineFrancois Leopold de L’Espérance (1743-1758) who died at age fifteen years, afirst daughter, named Frederique Adelaide de L’Espérance (1746-1765). She did marry one, Gilles Gervais dePechpeyrou (1740-1776). Her death at agenineteen assured no more descendants. The second granddaughter was born in 1748 and as there is no record of aname for this child it can be assumed she died at birth or infancy.
The fifth child of the Duke and Elisabeth was a son, GeorgFriedrich von L’Espérance born 1722 and who died early at thirty-seven years in1760. Georg Friedrich married Theresevon Hartig who survived him by thirty-seven years. So we see the end of the descendant line ofthe duke in spite of three relationships and possibly eighteen children. It is noteworthy to reflect by the number ofoffspring that bore the names of the Duke in the names male and female forms,how highly his rank, position and personage was esteemed to the women in hislife and to those who served him! Also, all of his children carried the namesand titles of their mothers, the relationship being illegitimate ormorganatic. Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg–Mömpelgard died in the year 1723 at Mömpelgard at the age offifty-three years.
Württemberg was an ally of France from 1802 to 1813 and wasrewarded by Napoleon with free imperial cities and ecclesiasticalterritories. Those additions doubled Württemberg’ssize by 1810 and the Duchy was successively raised to the status of an electoratein 1803 and a kingdom in 1806, ending the long rule of the Dukes ofWürttemberg. At the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire and after the downfall of Napoleon it remaineda kingdom. King William I ruledWürttemberg from 1816 to 1864. heestablished a bicameral legislature after political unrest in Württemberg from1815 until 1818. The next king, Charlesruled from 1864 to 1891. He sided with Austria in theSeven Weeks War of 1866 and was forced to pay an indemnity by the victoriousPrussians. Württemberg sided with Prussiain the Franco-German War of 1870-1871 and then joined the new German Empire.
In hindsight, we can understand the reason for the Emperorof Austria, ruling from Vienna,not to consider the duke’s constant endeavour for the legitimisation of his children. This was because of the duke’smisdemeanours. By virtue of hisrelationship with these other two women and by fathering all their children hehad in fact caused the marriage between the de Sponecks and the deSanderslebens to be marriages between half brother and halfsister!
The significance of the fact that none of the duke’schildren bore the title of ‘Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard’ was because of hisrelationships with ladies of non-royal houses. The strict rules from the ruling classes (Fürstin) demanded that he legitimately marry only members fromequal or higher royal status than he, in order for his descendants to carry theroyal title of Duke (Herzog). In failing to do so he would have also failedto leave any heir to inherit the titles and Principality of Montbéliard for theHouse of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. Inspite of this, his son by Anna Sabina, Prinz Georg Leopold, and Reichsgraf vonSponeck did try to inherit his father’s title, lands and estates after hisdeath! The Habsburg Emperor had refutedthe claim and the matter had been taken up by the French King but had beendropped after France came toterms with Vienna. He did manage some of the lands for his profithowever. The House of Württemberg hadalso constantly sided with Franceand with the reformed princes against Austria, which had caused Leopold Iso much trouble in his reign.
In the following chapter we take a peek at the history ofthe first recorded members of the von Hedwiger family being the first fivegenerations and we see for whom the creation of the title Reichgrafen von Sponeck was ultimately made.
THE VON HEDWIGER FAMILY
In our searchfor the roots of the family Sponeck / Sponneck we find ourselves confrontedwith a family from Silesiacalled ‘von Hedwiger’. We have recordedfor us the history of five generations of this family that was to thereaftertake the name of the RhineCastle ‘Sponeck’. It is the quest of every genealogist to getback as far as humanly possible to the very earliest of his or herancestors. This task is however madedifficult and then even impossible earlier than the 17th and 16thcenturies because either no records or very scanty records were ever madebefore that time. Family names were notenforced either and the ordinary citizens had no reason to have such records asthey were considered vassals of their rulers and therefore of no socialstanding.
The royalty and those of noble and high aristocracyhowever deemed it a measure of social status and importance to have a long lineof proven ancestors. Along with thedevelopment of the feudal system from the 11th century in Europe such families began to keep their ‘family tree’registers. Before that time only theimportant royalty and their feats of valour and the history of their countrywere recorded for posterity.
During the last thousand years of European history thefeudal system and the creation of kings and kingdoms led to the necessity forroyalty to promote or create ‘titles’ and give ‘possessions of land’ to theirhonoured and favoured officials and military families. As soon as a nobleman was created with one ofthe five ranks of aristocracy they would of course begin to keep a carefulrecord of their ‘pedigree’ as a social necessity thus these families have theprivilege of having these records available to them today as a reference. For the ordinary family however, the task ismade a little more difficult. With theaid of the institution of registration of births, deaths, and marriages andalso church registers of baptisms and marriages, it becomes possible andexciting to be able to trace back about ten generations to the earlyseventeenth century.
The earliest recorded history of the Spoon(n)eke familytakes us back fourteen generations today. Before that we have an indication through early records that theancestral family of Spon(n)eck were in fact noble knights from the 12thcentury named ‘von Hedewiger’ (later von Hedwiger) emanating fromSilesia (German Schlesien) which was the south-eastern side of theGerman states and which is today part of modern Poland. While we have no written record of who theywere, we do have the benefit of the von Hedewiger family ‘coat-of-arms’, whichindeed reveals something to us of this family. One can now begin to appreciate the benefit of heraldry, a chapter ofwhich has been included in this work, to speak to us for this silent time of nofamily records. In the von Hedewigercoat-of-arms one has the ‘barrel helmet’ that has been dated to the 12thcentury by heraldic historians. As wehave a closer look at the ‘arms’ we also see the ‘tilted shield’ with the ‘lionrampant’, which was the form common to that era. The nobility of this family would beillustrated in the ‘crowned’ lion crest on top of the helmet. The lion, the most commonly used animal inheraldry was most certainly chosen by knights as a symbol of bravery andstrength. The von Hedewiger family colourswere ‘red’ and ‘gold’ as we can see from the ‘surcoat of the arms’ and arestill the colours of the Spon(n)eck family today. This von Hedewiger family had the recordeddistinction of being referred to as of Schlesischer Uradel, whichtranslates to ‘Silesian old nobility’ dating to the 12thcentury. It must be remembered that onecould be ‘noble’ i.e. a gentleman or knight, normally addressed as ‘Sir’ yet bewithout a title. One therefore couldeither belong to the social standing of a ‘nobleman’ or be of the highernobility called the ‘aristocracy’. Thiswould be one of the five ranks of title that would be created by king oremperor, who alone had the right to create such title, for a family orindividual serving as a faithful subject.
We have no record of the origin of the name – Hedewiger orHedwiger. The name Hedwig however was awidely used surname. A famous botanistby the name of Johann Hedwig was born in 1730 in Leipzig. Hedwig glass is also famous from the 11th and 12thcentury. Only twelve known examples ofthis Egyptian made glass still exist. These glasses are among the last cut glass produced in the East. Their designs of stylised lions and griffinsamongst palm leaves are cut in high relief, which was a technique derived fromrock-crystal cutting. These glasses werecarried to Europe by returning crusaders andoften became the property of western churches. Their name derives from St. Hedwig (died 1243), patron saint of Silesia, who allegedlyperformed a wine miracle (turning water into wine as did Jesus) in one of theseglasses. Another of these glasses belongingto St. Elizabeth was later given to Martin Luther. It was said to give strength to women inlabour when they drank from it. It isinteresting that the name Hedwig is associated both times with Silesia. Hedwig is also a reputed Christian female name.
Of the old family von Hedewiger it is stated in the DanishAdels Aarbog, edition 1916 that the members of this family participated inthe actual ‘Battle of Liegnitz’ on April 9th 1241 against theMongols in which battle Henry II was killed. Duke Henry II of Lower Silesia and hisarmy of Polish and German Knights endeavoured to halt an invasion of Mongolswho had ravaged the country. At Liegnitzthe Mongols won their third victory in a row over a European army with only adiversionary force of 20,000 warriors. The invaders from the east had already attacked Lublin and sacked Sandomir. Henry’s army was the last left to oppose theTartars in Poland. The battle did not go well for the Europeansand the Mongols used many tricks. Smoke drifted across the battlefield betweenthe infantry and the knights, who had charged ahead in one assault, so the footsoldiers and horsemen could not see each other as the Mongols fell upon theknights and virtually annihilated them. Duke Henry tried to gallop off the field, but was run down by Mongolswho killed him, cut off his head and paraded it about Liegnitz on top of aspear as a trophy. That the Mongols didnot follow up on their victories in Eastern Europe was only because theirleader, the great khan, Ogadei had died in Asia. Upon learning of his death, his offspring hadto return to Mongoliato take part in the election of the new Khakan. Recalling all their forces the Mongolsstarted back to their Mongolian capital of Karakorum,postponing their invasion of central Europe for another time – a time thatfortunately for Europe, would never come! Liegnitz (Polish Legnica)lies in southwestern Polandalong the CaczawaRiver in the western lowlands of Silesia (Polish – Slask). It was a 12th century Silesianstronghold and became the capital of an autonomous principality in 1248. Legnicareceived municipal rights in 1252 and soon became an important trade centre andwas ruled by the Piastow family (Piasts), a Polish dynasty until 1675. The town passed to the Habsburgs in 1675 andto the Prussians in 1741.
The first recorded and famous member of the von Hedwigerfamily was one, Balthazar von Hedwiger. It is recorded in the ‘Herold fir Geschlechter Wappen und Siegelkunde’and the Danmarks Adels Aarbog that he was a Knight who foughtwith Charles V in his campaign against the Turks. The Emperor Maximilian II laterrewarded him for his bravery in swimming across the Danubein order to spy on the Turks. This storyis dealt with more fully in the chapter on heraldry. This reward was an addition to the longexisting von Hedwiger coat-of-arms by royal decree. This addition was only fully carried out inits entirety four generations later although the quartered shield may have beenimplemented at that time. We have no evidenceof this however until the final coat- Maximilian II of-arms wasinaugurated on the 2nd August 1701 by Imperial Decree in thedocuments still in existence in the Historical Archives of Vienna.
It would then appear from the Danish references that theknightly family von Hedwiger was first recorded as coming from Liegnitz andcontinued their history there as citizens of Liegnitz, Silesiathrough the 14th and 15th centuries.
Balthazar von Hedwiger was born in Silesia in 1510. He served as a Knight of the Emperor and roseto be an Imperial Captain before leaving the military. He married Ursula von Mohrenstein (*15/5/1518- +12/7/1557). Through little more isrecorded for us we have in this man the ‘Patriarch’ of the whole family vonHedwiger-Spon(n)eck. Following his linewill take us directly down to the fourteenth generation to the newestSponneck/Sponeck arrivals to date. As anImperial Knight, Balthazar held an estate as a tenant-in-chief of the Emperor,Ferdinand I and Maximilian II. In theeast of Germanythe knight was very affluent. Theknights estate was large and produced profitable surplus for export. As a Knight, Balthazar would have sat in theAssembly of Estates. Even the princeshad to have their consent with regard to taxation. They were thus very well entrenched againstthe encroachments of princely power. This gives us an indication to the power of the untitled nobility aslandowners. At this time history recordsthere was also the provincial nobility as landowners who were feeling thesuzerainty of the princes while they had lost direct contact with the Crown.
The most historical event in the life and times of Balthazarvon Hedwiger was the spiritual awakening during the Reformation. As such he was a contemporary of MartinLuther. A significant reason for thisreformation is given in recorded history as a subtle change that had beenoccurring in peoples religious needs and expectations of the time, leading todemands for a more personal experience of the Divine. When Martin Luther wrote his ‘Ninety-fiveTheses’ against indulgences in October 1517 he was an Augustinian friar; a preacherin Wittenbergand a theology professor at the university founded there in 1502. His order was a strict reform congregationdedicated to prayer, study and the ascetic life. Deeply troubled by the question of justification– of how a human being as a sinner may be justified and saved in Gods sight –Luther found no comfort in Monastic routine and so turned to an exploration ofthe Bible books of the Apostle Paul. Hegained his doctorate in 1512 and commenced his teaching of the Bible that sameyear. According to his own testimony andaccount, it was during his close reading of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans that hediscovered what struck him as the solution to the problem between human sin andDivine Grace. He realized thatjustification was not earned as a reward for human effort through good works,but that sinners were justified, without any merit of their own. It is by Gods freely given grace, throughfaith in His finished atonement, which is a gift of God. This meaning he found in Romans 1:17 thatstates: “For the righteousness of God is revealed through faith, as it iswritten (quote from the Old Testament); ‘He whom through faith is righteousshall live’”. With this message beganthe upheavals and changes that later left Germany divided in half betweenReformist and Catholic.
The next exciting event was the threat of the Turks underSüleyman I the Magnificent. By 1529 theTurks were moving toward Buda and Vienna. In 1529 when Balthazar was about 19 years ofage the Emperor Charles V was able to successfully defeat the Turks for awhile. In 1535 and 1545 Charles V wasagain up against the Turks, in other areas, amongst other struggles withEuropean powers. With the Peace of Crépyhe was able to conclude an armistice with the Ottoman Turkish Empire. It could have been during the recordedcampaign of 1532 while the Turks were assailing Vienna that Balthazar hadperformed his heroic deed of swimming the river Danube, near Vienna, to spy onthem. He would have been a younglieutenant or captain, about twenty-two years of age.
The final great event of the life and times of Balthazarvon Hedwiger was Charles V war against the Reformed Princes in 1545. The ensuing war fell into two phases, thefirst which saw the Emperor victorious in the Battle of Muhlberg in 1547. The next was called the ‘Princes War’ whichwas a brief affair between 1552 and 1553 and which was inconclusive. In 1555 the Peace of Augsburg was signedbetween the Catholic Emperor and the Lutheran Princes. The end of a great career of the EmperorCharles V came with his abdication in frustration and his retirement to amonastery in Spain in orderto contemplate the next life, leaving his son, Philip and brother, Ferdinand onthe thrones of Spain and Austriarespectively.
Balthazar von Hedwiger died in 1570 in Silesia at the age of sixty years. He left one son who was to be the nextgeneration in the von Hedwiger saga.
Carl von Hedwiger. Carl was born in Liegnitz,Silesia on the 5thOctober 1550. What we do have recorded is that Carl von Hedwiger was the son ofBalthazar and a Privy Councillor to the Court of Liegnitz. The Privy Council is descended from the CuraRegis, which was made up of the king’s tenants-in-chief (holders of hislands and estates), household officials and anyone else the king chose. This group performed all the functions ofgovernment in either small groups, which became the king’s council, or a largegroup, which grew into the great council or Parliament. With the development of democratic governmentin Europe the Privy Council lost its power,but continued to advise kings and meet to transact the king’s private businessas they do still to this day. Carl vonHedwiger died on the 9th March 1594 at the age of forty-fouryears. Carl married Catharina Hallmannwho was born on the 4th May 1555. She died on the 28th November 1588, a few months after thebirth of their only recorded son, Christoph von Hedwiger, the third generationof this family.
Christoph von Hedwiger was born on the 5thMarch 1588 in Liegnitz. He was himselfalso a privy councillor and landed gentleman like his father to Duke JohanChristian von Liegnitz. His wife wasSabine Walter, born 25th November 1595. Sabine passed away on the5th March 1635 atthe age of forty years. Christoph diedin Liegnitz at the age of forty-two years on the 1st January1630. Their son was to be the fourthgeneration of the authenticated tree in Johann Georg von Hedwiger. (*20/9/1620-+18/10/1681).
Johann Georg von Hedwiger. Born in Goltzdorf (Presently Görlitz); hisearly years were spent in the Emperor’s service in the ‘General von ThimischenRegiment’. This career in the militaryended with his death in action with the rank of captain. We are told in the letter of his son, GeorgWilhelm to the Emperor Leopold I that his father, Johann Georg had died in theservice of the Emperor. Johann Georg wastwice married, firstly to Catharina Close in 1649 and who had borne him threechildren. His second wife was one, AnnaRosina von Pogrell (*29/11/1641-+5/10/1700) who was the mother of Anna Sabina who movedwith her to Mömpelgard in 1698 only to die there two years later. Anna Rosina was also the matriarch of thepresent Spon(n)eck descendants. Ofcourse her children were therefore the ‘famous four’ who were the ancestors ofall the living Sponecks / Sponnecks today!
We shall now first look at the three children of Johann’sfirst wife – Catharina Close. Two ofthese were sons – Johann Heinrich and Christoph Gottlieb von Hedwiger. These two sons, whose descendants were toleave no heirs two generations later, were excluded from the elevation to Reichsgrafenof their half-brothers and half-sister of the second wife – Anna Rosina vonPogrell.
The first son of Johann George and Catharina Close wasJohann Heinrich (called Hans) von Hedwiger. Hans was born about 1645. He wasa Knight with Baron Zandts Kyrasser Regiment and then an Adjutant-General tothe Emperor. Hans died in 1700 and wasunmarried. The second child was adaughter, Sybilla Catarina von Hedwiger who was born about 1650. She married one, Christian FerdinandKitzinger. The third child and youngerbrother of Johann (Hans) Heinrich was born in 1655 in Nitschendorf and he wascalled Christoph Gottlieb von Hedwiger. Christoph Gottlieb died on the 26th April 1720. His wife, Susanne Magdalene von Aleman passedaway on 24th February 1724. He and his wife were both buried in Würben. This couple had two sons – Heinrich Gottliebborn 18th April 1689 in Bogendorf in Silesia and Hans Carl von Hedwiger. Heinrich Gottlieb was married with onedaughter whose name is not recorded. Possibly this was due to her early demise. Hans Carl however, had two sons and onedaughter born to him and his wife. Thesetwo sons were then also the great-grandsons of Johann Georg von Hedwiger. Neither boys had a chance to marry as bothappear to have died young and in military actions. This was to end the line of the noble Knightsvon Hedwiger. We may note that thesebrothers were named Emanuel and Johann (called Carl) Wilhelm. Emanuel von Hedwiger was born in the year1724 in Krems in Austria. He was in Count Ballayras Regiment serving inhis Uncle Heinrich Gottlieb’s Company. He was killed on the 11th October 1750 at Vaade at the age oftwenty-six years. His sibling, Johann(Carl) Wilhelm was born in 1733 in Linz,Austria. In 1754, Johann Carl Wilhelm von Hedwiger wassent on a mission to Russiawith General Bretlach possibly as an aide-de-camp to the General. He was a lieutenant and an adjutant. On the 30th June 1758 he fell atthe Battle of Olmütz in MahrenProvince, north of Vienna at the age of twenty-five years. Thus ended the von Hedwiger line of JohannGeorg who could have been the von Hedwiger cousins of today, had they survived!
We know look at the second family of Johann Georg vonHedwiger of Görlitz. It was this familywhich the Emperor, Leopold I, created ‘counts-of-the-empire’ and of whom weshall learn more in the next chapter.
THE REICHSGRAFEN VON SPONECK
The chapter weare now about to deal with has to do, in particular, with the ‘famous four’members of the von Hedwiger family. These four siblings, as we will recall from the previous chapter, werethe three sons and one daughter of Johann Georg von Hedwiger by his secondwife, Anna von Pogrell. At this point inthe development of the family these brothers and one sister each started theirown line in the historical tree of the current Spon(n)eck families. We shall see further splits later that leadto the existing members of this famous family. Of these four children, we shall see how that the oldest and theyoungest sons were to become the forefathers of the only two main familybranches that continue in existence until today.
The daughter Anna Sabina, who we met in a previouschapter, did in effect begin a new line of the Duke that was also known as vonSponeck. This family however were tobecome extinct in the third generation after her death. The middle son, Johann Christoph diedunmarried at the age of thirty-eight years and so he too left no heirs, but weshall hear of his story also in this family history. Johan Rudolph was the youngest of thechildren and was born in the same year that his father died! Johann Rudolph was the forefather of theextinct French line and of the present German line, most of who are stillliving in Germanytoday. The eldest son, Georg Wilhelm vonHedwiger was born in 1672 in the Silesian town of Liegnitz, where his father’s ancestors hadlived since the 13th century. He was the eldest son of the second marriage of his father, Johann Georgvon Hedwiger and he became the patriarch of the Danish line. Much will be related here of the life andtimes of this man as, although he only lived to age sixty-eight, he enjoyed anillustrious and fulfilled life of service to the Danish royal family.
Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf (Danish – Rigsgreve)von Sponeck entered the world on the 17th April 1672 at theancestral home in Silesia. He was raised to be a military man, havingbeen sent to military school from his earliest years. His earliest recorded military campaign wasas a lieutenant with the Emperor, Leopold I. He served in the regiments ‘General Schlick’ and ‘Mömpelgard’, whichwere once again campaigning against the Turks at this time. At the signing of the ‘Peace of Carlowitz’ in1699 between the Turks and the Emperor he was twenty-seven years of age. The Turks had once again laid siege to theCapital, Vienna,appearing before the gates of the city in 1683. Emperor Leopold I had left the Capital with his court to await theoutcome at Passau. He summonsed the Imperial Army, calling onall his dukes and noblemen to come to the rescue of the besieged city. The Turks were gradually forced into thedefensive, especially after the military genius of Prince Eugene of Savoy, who appeared onthe scene in 1696. In the treaty ofCarlowitz almost the whole of Hungry was freed from Turkish rule when onJanuary 26th the Ottoman Empire signed peace treaties with Austria, Polandand Venice. It would appear that in these early yearsCaptain Georg Wilhelm was involved in the military regimes of the Dukes’ ofWürttemberg with this relationship to the Mömpelgard Regiment and later in 1703we find him as an officer with the rank of Major in Duke Württemberg-OelsRegiment. It must be borne in mind thathis sister, Anna Sabina had by this time married the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard and was Lady-in-Waiting to the Duke’s sister, theDuchess of Württemberg-Oels.
In 1698, as a young officer of twenty-six years he marriedPrincess Anna Sophie von Bojanowsky, from the Polish Royal Family. She was born in the town of Bojanowain Poland. On the 2nd August 1701, thetwenty-nine year old Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, his twenty-five year oldsister, Anna Sabina and his two brothers, Johann Christoph who was twenty-threeyears of age and the twenty year old Johann Rudolph appeared before the agedEmperor, Leopold I in Vienna. For the faithful service of the siblings tothe Holy Roman Empire and His Imperial Majesty – Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I,and that of their father and forefathers before them and for having provedtheir status as Uradel,had at the reading of the Emperors honours roll, been created ‘Reichsgrafen’. From the noble rank of Knight,which this family had enjoyed for centuries, to one of the higher titles underroyalty was no mean feat for these siblings, although this family had servedthe Emperor, the dukes and royal houses of the Holy Roman Empire forgenerations. The reason for this greathonour that the seldom-created title was endowed was the Emperor’s response toGeorg Wilhelm’s personal submission of his family ‘pedigree’. The study and research of the documents ofthe title grant of 1701 reveal that Georg Wilhelm had presented his familycredentials to the Emperor. He confirmedthe civil and military careers of his father, and great-great-grandfatherBalthazar, so many years before against the Turks. He extolled the civil careers of hisgrandfather and great-grandfather to the Dukes of Liegnitz. His document also told of his own militarycareer to date and himself presently in the service of the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard, who no doubt also had made a recommendation. The title was granted, and when the titlename was sought, the Reichsburg Sponeck presented itself as an obviousoption. After all, the family had a lotto do with the then present holders of the Emperor’s castle and indeed, AnnaSabina’s son also carried the same title. The Duke had apparently also given the burg to Anna Sabina as agift. From that day on then the familywere granted the use of the title name von Sponeck. With this creation also came confirmationof the grant to the present ‘coat-of-arms’ of this family, which we shall dealwith more fully in a later chapter.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica relates that in Germany, within the HolyRoman Empire, there developed a distinction between ordinaryCounts (Grafen) and Counts-of-the-Empire (Reichsgrafen), whobecame members of the college of counts (Grafenkollegium), a componentof the Diet of the Empire. After thedissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806,the Counts-of-the-Empire were mediatized – i.e., made subject to the sovereignsof the various German states instead of being ‘immediate’ subjects of theemperor alone. Their title of Reichsgraffell away and the title of Graf was conferred upon all families of theprevious title of Reichsgrafen. The Federal Diet of 1829 however, recognised their right to the specialstyle of greeting of Erlaucht (Illustrious Highness). The highest was the dukes with the style ofgreeting of Durchlaucht (Royal Highness) and below them the ordinarycounts styled as Hoheit (Your Highness). The title of Baron had the German form of Freiherr of which thereis no real English equivalent. The lowernobility like the German Ritter (Knight) and other untitled nobilitywould be called Herr (Sir).
The first problem confronting the newly createdReichsgrafen von Sponeck was ‘The War of the Spanish Succession’ that had alsobeen brewing for quite some time. TheWar of the Spanish Succession (1701 –1714) arose out of the disputed successionto the throne of Spainfollowing the death of the childless Charles II, the last of the SpanishHabsburgs’. In an effort to regulate theimpending succession, to which there were three principal claimants – England,the Dutch Republic and France, these countries had in October 1698 signed theFirst Treaty of Partition. They hadagreed that on the death of Charles II, Prince Joseph Ferdinand, son of theElector of Bavaria should inherit Spain, Spanish Netherlands and thecolonies. In 1699 however JosephFerdinand too died. A second treatysigned on 11th June 1699 by Englandand France and in March 1700by the DutchRepublicawarded Spain to ArchdukeCharles, second son of Leopold I, and Naples, Sicily and the other Spanish territories in Italy to France. Leopold refused to sign, demanding thatCharles receive all the territories intact. Charles II was persuaded howeverthat only the French House of Bourbon had the power to keep the Spanishpossessions intact and in the autumn of 1700 he made a will bequeathing them toPhilip, Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France. Charles II died on November 1st,and on November 24th Louis XIV proclaimed his grandson King ofSpain, as Philip V, and then invaded the Spanish Netherlands. An anti-French alliance was formed and GeorgWilhelm von Hedwiger was to continue to play a part in this war as well. It would appear at this time that CaptainGeorg Wilhelm was yet associated with the Württemberg-Oels regiment up to 1698at the age of twenty-six years. On thesuccession of Duke Leopold Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard to the rulershipof Mömpelgard, on the death of his father after his return to their westernpossession of the Principality of Mömpelgard, the young Duke invited GeorgWilhelm to resign his commission and to take up the Governorship ofMömpelgard. This Georg Wilhelm acceptedand served as governor of the Principality for the following five years. During 1703 we read in the Danish recordsthat Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger Reichsgraf von Sponeck and his wife and familythen took up residence in Denmark. For some undisclosed reason, whether by callup of the Emperor or volunteering his services, with the rank of Major, he tookcommand of the Danish auxiliary troops stationed in Holland seconded to the alliance by Danishforeign policy of King Friedrich IV. After the successful conclusion of the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 JohnSpencer, Duke of Marlborough arrived in Holland for the firstDutch Campaign of the war. Major GeorgWilhelm von Sponeck then came under his command.
On September 7th, 1701, England, the DutchRepublic and the DanishKingdomtogether with Emperor Leopold I formed an anti-French alliance. In 1702, John Churchill, Duke of Marlboroughplayed a leading role in the British Queen Ann’s government and on thebattlefields of Europe until 1711. He ably seconded his friend, the ImperialGeneral, Prince Eugene of Savoy,on the battlefield. The markedlysuperior generalship of Marlborough and Prince Eugene brought them a series ofvictories over Francefrom 1704 to 1709. A Franco-Bavarianoffensive in Germanywas smashed at Blenheim in 1704. TheFrench were then driven out of the Low Countriesat the Battles of Ramillies in 1706 and Oudenaarde in 1708.
The Battle of Ramillies took place on May 23rd,1706. The next military campaign we aretold about in which Major Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeckparticipated in charge of the Danish auxiliary troops was this Battle ofRamillies. Anglo-Danish and Dutch forcesled by the Duke of Marlborough won a victory over the French at thiscampaign. The victory led to the alliedcapture of the whole north and east of the Spanish Netherlands. The battle was fought at the village ofRamillies, thirteen miles north of Namur (in modern Belgium) between a 62,000man allied army under Marlborough and a 60,000 man French army under Françoisde Neufville, duc de Villeroi. Underorders from Louis XIV to seek battle, the French reached the plain of Ramilliesahead of the Allies but deployed unwisely along the entire length of a 6.5kilometre ridge. The centre was at thevillages of Ramillies and Offus. Astrong allied attack on the French left forced Villeroi to shift reinforcementsfrom the centre. Marlborough, however, called of this attackbecause of marshy ground that would not permit cavalry support. Half of the battalions from this wing thenmarched undetected to the centre to support the final concentrated alliedassault. This smashed the overextendedFrench army. The French lost about 17,000 killed, wounded or captured and bythe next morning were thoroughly dispersed. Allied losses numbered about 5,000 killed and wounded.
The Battle of Oudenaarde was fought on July 11th,1708. The Duke of Marlborough and PrinceEugene of Savoyagain won victory over the French during this campaign in the War of theSpanish Succession. This battleeventually led to the allied (Anglo-Dutch, Danish and Austrian) recapture of Ghent and Bruges,which had been captured by the French on July 4th and 5th. The battle was fought north of the town ofOudenaarde between an allied army of 80,000 men under Marlborough and Eugeneand a French Army of 85,000 men under the Marshal Louis-Joseph, duc de Vendômeand Louis, duc de Bourgogne. The Frenchwere preparing to besiege Oudenaarde and were caught off guard. The allied army, which had marched 80kilometres in 65 hours, crossed the ScheldtRiver on July 11thand immediately attacked before the French could deploy properly. The French command had been divided: Bourgognehad wanted to retreat and only at the last moment consented to Vendôme’s pleasto stand and fight. All afternoon abitter and confused battle raged. Unnoticed by the French, Marlboroughsent a Dutch force on a long detour to the west. It struck the French right flank while Eugene pressed againstthe French left. By the time darknessforced a halt to the battle, the French had lost 6,000 killed or wounded andanother 9,000 captured. The alliessuffered about 4,000 casualties. Thenext day Vendôme rallied the defeated army and repulsed the allies at Ghent. Marlboroughrecaptured Ghent and Bruges in January 1709 and the Frenchwithdrew to their own border. We are nottold exactly what part the different officers played in the battle of course,but the records show that because of the important part that Lieutenant ColonelReichsgraf Georg Wilhelm von Sponneck played, performing with distinction inthis campaign at Oudenaarde, he was promoted to full Colonel of Prince Carl’sRegiment.
Colonel Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf vonSponneck next took part in the famous Battle of Malplaquet on September11th, 1709. This was the Dukeof Marlborough’s last great battle in the War of the Spanish Succession. It was fought near the villageof Malplaquet (now on the French sideof the French-Belgian border) about 16 kilometres south of Mons. The battle was between an Anglo-Dutch, Danish and Austrian army of100,000 men under the dual generalship of the Duke of Marlborough and PrinceEugene of Savoy, and a French army of 90,000 men under the MarshalClaude-Louis-Hector, duc de Villars and the Marshal Louis-François, duc deBoufflers. The allies began a siege ofthe fortress of Monson September 4th, and the French tried to break this siege byconcentrating and entrenching nearby, at Malplaquet. The allies were forced to attack to removethis threat to the siege operation. Marlborough and Eugene planned infantry attacks against the Frenchflanks to force them to weaken their centre, which would then be charged andbroken by the 30,000 man allied cavalry. The plan was finally successful but only at the cost of very heavylosses. Desperate tree-to-tree infantryfighting, deadly French artillery fire and repeated French cavalrycounterattacks caused the allies to suffer 22,000 killed and wounded to the12,000 losses suffered by the French. Georg Wilhelm von Sponneck was here the commander of the Danish FuenenBattalion which he led himself with distinctions. He was severely wounded at this battle andretreated to Denmarkto recover after the siege. The Frenchwithdrew in good order and the allies continued the siege of Mons, which they captured on October 26thof that year.
By the year 1710, Georg Wilhelm was settled in Denmark andmade commander of the Danish Queens Guard with the rank of Colonel. In 1711 he was promoted to Brigadier-Generalin the Danish Army. The following year, 1712 Brigadier Georg Wilhelm vonHedwiger, Rigsgreve von Sponeck was sent by the Danish King to take command ofthe Danish forces in Rostock– an important part in Danish held Schleswig-Holstein. From here the Danish forces in the same year,while peace treaties were being drawn up to end the Spanish Succession Wars,Denmark was pushing south to enlarge her north German held territories. This was important in order for Denmark to keepthe Baltic seaways open for her trade. As a Brigadier General and commander of Danish forces he participated,again with major distinctions, in the Battle of Gadebusch. He is mentioned in despatches that he withfour battalions covered the right flank and defended the position held byDanish forces until evening. In 1715 heparticipated in the siege of Stralsund, whichwas the most northerly sea town of Mecklenburgin anticipation of the invasion of the northern Islandof Rügen in the BalticSea. During this campaignhe was again severely wounded and returned to Denmark, whereupon in 1716 he waspromoted to the rank of Major General at the age of forty-three years.
In 1716 Georg Wilhelm von Sponeck was stationed in Norway with therank now of Lieutenant General and was also given the honour of serving KingFriedrich IV as a personal chamberlain. Traditionally this meant being an advisor and the treasurer of theking’s own finances and financial affairs. During this time Denmarkheld Schleswig-Holstein since 1648 and also the southern tip of Sweden called Skåne and all Norway and was at that time called the Kingdom of Denmarkand Norway.
In the year 1717 Rigsgreve Georg Wilhelm was made a ‘WhiteKnight’ of the Order of the Grand Cross of Dannebrog, which was the name of theDanish Flag. The year 1719 saw him asSecond-in-Command to General Barthold Heinrich von Lützow of theDanish/Norwegian Army and in 1720 he was back in Copenhagen as Commander of the DanishArmy. In 1731 he was promoted to theposition of ‘Privy Councillor’ to King Christian VI of Denmark whoreigned between 1730 and 1746. The year1734 saw him promoted to full General of the Danish Infantry and in 1739 he wasmade a ‘Blue Knight’. This is still thehighest Order in Denmarkcalled ‘Knight of the Order of the Elephant’. It is called the Blue Knight and its recipients wear the pale blue sash,ribbons and star of the Order. In the Castle of Frederiksborg these Knights shields hangin several rows above one another, those of the Knights of the Order of theElephant at the end of the Chapel and those of the Knights of the Grand Crossof the Dannebrog along the sides. Amongst these shields will be found one pertaining to Georg Wilhelm vonHedwiger, Rigsgreve von Sponeck who received the order from King Christian VIin 1739 in recognition of thirty years loyal service to the Crown.
After an illustrious career and fathering eleven childrenGeorg Wilhelm von Sponneck died in Copenhagenat the age of sixty-eight years. Thatwas in the year 1740. Of his elevenchildren, we shall take up the line of Andreas Eberhard (*1713-+1766) who wasto continue his line as the ancestor of the Danish family Sponneck. General Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, Rigsgrevevon Sponneck and his wife were both afforded the privilege of being buried inthe Garrison Church in Copenhagen.
We now have a look again at the life and time of AnnaSabina von Hedwiger. She was the onlysister of the ‘Famous Four’ born in 1676 in Liegnitz, Silesia. Her marriage to the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard, who she met while he and his father and the Mömpelgardcourt were in exile in the east part of the empire, was to be short andtroublesome ending in separation in 1700 and final divorce in 1714. At the time of her elevation and creation to‘Reichsgräfin’ in 1701, the twenty-five year old Anna Sabina was in Mömpelgardadministrating the Dukes household. Herfour children were born between 1695 and 1700 of which only two survived tomarry their unsupposed half siblings, which led to much distress and final endto the line of the Dukes’ of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. Anna Sabina was elevated to the title ofReichsgräfin with the same title being given to her son and daughter. This title was in addition to her son, GeorgLeopold’s being called Prinz, by virtue of his fathers title of ‘duke’and his mothers lower birth status. After her elevation, Anna Sabina continued to live in Mömpelgard andinterestingly she was also given ‘Burg Sponeck’ as part of her divorcesettlement in 1714. These lands andproperties enabled her to no doubt be self-sufficient and of independent meansfor the life style she was to lead as a highly titled aristocratic lady. She never remarried and died at the age offifty-nine years in the year 1735 in the town of Hericourt, where she had residence, north ofMömpelgard. Her son, Prinz Georg Leopold,Reichsgraf von Sponeck had moved to Parisand was recorded in the French documents as Comte de Sponeck. Unfortunately, the Prinz’s only son, Georg deSponeck was mentally incapacitated which resulted in the end of this familylineage. The two granddaughters of AnnaSabina were to marry high in the French aristocracy in Paris. One can only wonder what effect the French Revolution of 1789 was tohave on these families!
The third member of this family and the second son ofJohann Georg was Johann Christoph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck. Johann Christoph was born on 10thJune 1678 in Silesia. We are told that he was an Imperial Captainin the Emperor, Charles VI’sDragoon Regiment, Bayreuth,later called the Ballayra and Porporatti Regiment. He was twenty-three years old when on the 2ndAugust 1701 he was, together with his brothers’ and sister, created a‘Count-of-the-Empire’ at the VienneseCourt at Schloß Hofburg of Leopold I, Holy RomanEmperor. On the 5th August1716 Johann Christoph was involved in the Battle of Peterwardein. Peterwardein is a town on the right bank ofthe DanubeRiverin Hungary. During July 1716 and without a ‘declarationof war’ the Turks had launched a fleet to sail up the DanubeRiverinvolving some 200,000 troops under the command of Grand Vizier Damad Ali. Their target was Peterwardein, the‘Gibraltar’ of the Danube where the Imperialtroops were garrisoned. A few kilometresfrom the FortressCity, Damad Alidisembarked his troops and set up his stronghold to siege the city. Prince Eugene of Savoy commanded merely 60,000 men. The Turks were in the advantaged position andat the sight of the superior forces the courage of the Generals’ failed. Eugene’scommanders wanted a general retreat. Prince Eugene however, who was not in the habit of sharing his commandin Councils-of-War decided on and ordered a breakout attack on the 5thAugust 1716. In spite of the fanaticalbravery of the Turks, Eugene, once again in the front row of his troops wasable to spur them on so that his armoured men in the front were able to rollback the Turkish warriors. Withbrilliant leadership and brave soldiers they continued to attack theTurks. In the fray the Grand Vizier wasfelled by a musket shot and the leaderless hordes of his sad army fled acrossthe SaveRiver. In this one of three decisive battles of Prince Eugene of Savoy, against the Turks in Hungary, Captain Johann Christophvon Sponeck, at the age of thirty-eight years, was fatally wounded inaction. On the 11th August1716 Captain Johann Christoph Reichsgraf von Sponeck succumbed to hiswounds. He died seemingly unmarried andwithout heirs. Prince Eugene however,followed up this victory by marching immediately up the Danube bank againstTemesvar, which was after Belgrade,the strongest Turkish fortress. On the12th October 1716, after a short siege, the Turkish Commander,Pascha raised the white flag. PrinceEugene of Savoy and his brave troops had wonfor the Emperor the entire area of Banat. The way now lay open for Prince Eugene andafter rearming and reinforcing his army he marched on Belgrade. The strategic and unorthodox methods used for the capture of Belgrade were to enhancehis fame forever. In order to take thecity, he had deployed his forces in a position that was both daring anddangerous. It was to no avail that hisgenerals implored him again and again to withdraw the troops in order not togive the Turkish army the advantage and chance to defeat them. The Turks were intent on raising the siege byreinforcement and had surrounded Eugene’sforces four to one. Although thePrince’s troops were being decimated by disease he remained in position and, ina terrible battle that began in the thick of a fog and in the dead of night,annihilated the relief army of the Turks once the fog had lifted at firstdaylight. Capturing innumerableprisoners and the entire Turkish encampment, Eugene took the city shortly afterwards. On the 22nd April the Turkscapitulated the Fortress of Belgrade and the rejoicing in the whole of Europe was great. On the 21st July 1718 the signing of the Treaty ofPassarowitz took place between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires. The Habsburgs’ then added Banat with thenorthern districts of Serbiato their Empire.
The youngest brother, Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger,Reichsgraf von Sponeck, who we now turn our attention to, was born on the 10thJune 1681, just four months before the death of his sixty-one year old father,Johann Georg von Hedwiger. His motherwas the then forty-year-old Anna Rosina. In Johann Rudolph we have the forefather of the present day Germanfamily von Sponeck. He too was born inthe ancestral hometown of Liegnitz,Silesia. At the age of just twenty years he stoodbefore Leopold I, Emperor of the Austrian Empire to be likewise created aCount-of-the-Empire or Reichsgraf alongside his two brothers andsister. In 1702, Johann Rudolph had beenconscripted into the same regiment as his eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm, namelythe Duke of Württemberg-Oels Infantry Regiment and the auxiliary Danish troopsin the Netherlands. He was at this time a second lieutenant. At this time it would appear that GeorgWilhelm held the rank of Major and from 1702 he was associated with the Danish‘Ljælpekorps’ in Flanders. While his brother by 1703 had become solidlyinvolved with the Danish army and their troops associated with the alliance ofthe Austrian interests in the Spanish Succession, Johann Rudolph resigned hiscommission. He was to become ‘ChiefMaster of the Hunt’ of the Duke of Württemberg and soon after, President of theGovernment of the Principality of Mömpelgard where his sister’s husband, DukeLeopold Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard was the ruler. Johann Rudolph ‘s first marriage inMömpelgard in November 1704 to Leopoldine Eleonora Gueldrich von Sigmarshausenwas to end in 1717 when she passed away at forty years of age. She had borne him five children of which onlythe first son had survived. This son wasnamed Leopold Eberhard and was born on the 11th January 1706. The choice of this son’s name reflects theyoung counts relationship with the Duke of Württemberg in whose honour he wasobviously named. Dr. Oluf Müller, in hisnotes points out that from his son evolved another French line, de Sponeck thatlater became extinct. The Reichsgrafthen married the sixteen-year-old Wilhelmine Louis Baroness von Hoff. He was at this time forty years of age beingfour years younger than his previous wife. We shall deal with this line in a chapter relating to the Germanfamily. Johann Rudolph von Sponeck andhis second wife were to have a son and a daughter. The son, Friedrich Ludwig was to continue thethin German line that was to remain thin even to this day. Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeckdied on the 6th March 1740 at the age of fifty-nine years inMömpelgard – Alsace,just seven months before the death of his eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm vonSponeck.
So ended the lives of the ‘Famous Four’ and in thefollowing chapters we shall learn about the descendents of the Danish andGerman family lines up to the present time.
THE VIENNA FILES
n the Vienna Historical Archives today is to be found thepreserved file on the title grant of 2nd August 1701 to the four vonHedwiger siblings who were created ‘Counts-of-the-Empire’ by the Holy RomanEmperor, Leopold I on the presentation of the family credentials by the eldestsibling, Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger. Atthis time Georg Wilhelm was the Chief Marshal of the Court in Mömpelgard of Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard.
We have in this file three documents to do with the favourof Leopold I shown to the siblings von Hedwiger. The first is the letter of motivation, whichwas written by Georg Wilhelm to his Supreme Royal Highness, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I. This document was written in order tomotivate to the Emperor the just causes why the noble Ritter, but yetuntitled family were worthy of being created ‘Counts-of-the-Empire’. This document written by the very hand ofGeorg Wilhelm and signed by him lists the reasons and dispositions of thefamily. It clearly indicates the oldnobility of the Hedwiger family as belonging to the old nobility called Uradelfrom the State of Silesia. This family is recorded as having taken part,as knights, in the Battle of Liegnitz in 1241 against the Mongols. It reiterates the story of theirgreat-great-grandfather, Balthazar von Hedwiger and his having performed thebrave deed of spying on the Turks for Charles V in one of his battles againstthem during the 16th century. This was to be later rewarded by the Emperor, Maximilian II’s favour inallowing the family coat-of-arms to be expanded with the Turkish icons of‘star’ and ‘moon’ with a ‘fish in a silver stream’. Georg Wilhelm then proceeded to show in hisletter how that his great-grandfather and own grandfather were landed nobility(holding lands in the name of the king) in the civil service of the Dukes ofSilesia. The von Hedwigers’ were membersof their privy councils who were in turn under the reign of the Holy RomanEmperor. He tells also of his own fatherwho fought bravely and died in the service of the Emperor. Finally, he mentions that he has the favourof the Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard and that he was serving as his ‘governor’in Mömpelgard.
The second document is the actual enactment document drawnup by the Emperors legal council and one, Attorney Meyer, in which the fullstory is retold and title of ‘Reichsgrafen’ conferred upon the family and theirdescendants forever. The title isconferred upon both the male line and female line of Anna Sabina for herchildren as the children of the Duke of Württemberg. This is done no doubt as a result of themorganatic marriage of the Duke and Anna Sabina. This implies that as Anna Sabina may havebeen noble, but not of royal descent, the Duke’s children could not in factinherit his title of Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. They therefore became the Reichsgrafen vonSponeck as well by this Imperial Decree.
The third document dated the 7th July 1702 isan imperial order or notification to the Bishops of Mainz and Trier to acceptGeorg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph and Johann Rudolph and their sister, AnnaSabina von Spoñeck as high and noble born counts with the given title name ‘vonSpoñeck’ together with her three descendants created on the 2ndAugust 1701 with property and to therefore at their chancellery to effect anduphold this fitting imperial decree and command of exaltation for the favouredCounts’ and Countess von Sponneck and all their natural descendentsforever. Of interest is the fact thatone has twice mentioned in this third document the first indication of the name‘Sponeck’ spelt with the line above the letter ‘n’ which in German indicatesthe double ‘n’ and again once more the name spelt out in full as von‘Sponneck’. As this particular documentwas drafted about a year later, one wonders if this were due to a spelling erroror by intention! That the family laterwere aware of this spelling is obvious in that some time later the Danishbranch adopted this spelling as did the French line and this has been recordedsubsequently in the listings of noble names with both the single and the double‘n’ being cross referenced ever since. Our reference to the Danish family using the double ‘n’ appears in the1916 edition of the Danmarks Adels Aarbog which gives the date of thefirst member of the family listed as using Sponneck as 1784. At this time the ‘von’ or Danish ‘af’ wasstill in use up to 1889 when the Danish family dropped the preposition ‘von’and ‘af’.
The transcription and translation of these letters anddocuments into English for the benefit of the English speaking family todaywould be very difficult and therefore a copy of the transcribed Germandocuments will be found in the appendix!
The most important document other than the actual TitleDeed was the letter of Ritter Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger to his mostexcellent royal majesty, Emperor Leopold I in which he presents the credentialsfor a title grant early in 1701. Exactlywhat motivated him and who encouraged him is not known. It could well have been his relationship withthe Duke Leopold Eberhard as the governor of the Principality of Mömpelgardthat he was encouraged or ‘recommended’ for such a title grant. Whatever his motivation, his letter ofcommendation was approved by the emperor and followed with the title grant forhim, his siblings and sister and their descendants forever! In this letter,Georg Wilhelm sets out the history for us of his great-great grandfather,Balthazar von Hedwiger who was a knight in the army of the Habsburg Emperor,Charles V and who some time in his military career, very bravely swam acrossthe Danube River in order to spy on the Turks and thus helping in the Austrianarmy to prevent the Turks from taking Vienna. For this the Knight von Hedwiger was granted to add to his existent 13thcentury ‘coat-of-arms’ a quartering of the shield with the addition of theTurkish icons of ‘star’ and ‘moon’ with a silver ‘fish’ in a stream asexpounded in the chapter on the family coat-of-arms. He goes on to tell of his great-grandfather,Carl von Hedwiger who was privy councillor to the Duke of Görlitz as was hisgrandfather after Christoph von Hedwiger. His own father, Johann Georg served as a Captain in the Imperial Armyand somehow lost his life at an early age in the Emperors service. He then relates how that he too was able to‘kill’ a Turk as a young officer in the Imperial Army in a fray with the enemyand that he had then presently held the favour of the Duke of WürttembergMömpelgard who had deemed him worthy enough to serve as governor of hisprincipality. He then further requeststhat the title extend also to his two brothers and his sister who were all intheir early 20’s at this time. This information was enough for the Emperor todeem the ‘von Hedwiger siblings’ to qualify and the title deed is a vast legaldocument reiterating all of these feats of bravery and service and theendowment of the grand title of ‘Reichsgraf’ (Count-of-the-Empire) to beconferred upon them all. It issignificant that at this time, they had half-brothers and sisters through thefirst marriage of their father, however, this grant never extended tothem! In typical legal and imperialiststyle the document goes on and on admonishing all and sundry and the heads ofstates and counties and bishops to receive them as fellows and members of thehigh aristocracy. It also pretends towarn anyone who would do them bodily harm or who would revile them, that thesewould be liable to penalties and fines. Part of the documentation also incorporates the actual explanation ofthe full coat-of-arms granted and confirmed for them as originally granted backin the early 16th century and now carried out in great style andredesigned according to that original grant. One wonders why it took so long for this new phase in the family vonHedwiger to execute the beautiful ‘arms’ grant? The author has the privilege of having been gifted by Ottmar Sponeck acopy of the old 13th century achievement of arms. As can be seen in the ‘arms’ chapter, much ofthe original design is retained in the more luxurious new version.
One also does not know if the family travelled to Vienna in order toreceive the honours or if it was granted in abstention. One likes however to imagine that the youngsiblings in fact did stand grandly before the Emperor to be in personal receiptof the honours and privileges of the title deed in the grand setting of thePalace of Shönbrunn or the Vienna Palace of Burghof.
The fact that the title name of ‘Sponeck’ was alsoconferred is of much significance. Theold ruined Burg Sponeck belonged at that time to the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard. Its history canbe found in the relative chapter. No doubt, the favour of the Duke ofWürttemberg- Mömpelgard allowed them the privilege of the use of the Burgname. At this time, the Duke was alreadyestranged from their sister, Anna Sabina, although the divorce was onlyfinalised in 1714. The closerelationship and respect for dignitaries however which bonded them to the DukeLeopold Eberhard was obvious in the way the attendants named their childrenafter him, whether they were male or female that one has an abundance ofLeopold Eberhards’ and Leopoldine Eberhardines’ in the families. The young DukeLeopold Eberhard had inherited his father’s principality of Mömpelgard in 1699.As a result of his close friendship and relationship to Georg Wilhelm as hisbrother-in-law and friend, the young duke had invited him to be his primaryofficial of his principality. Up to 1703 our Georg Wilhelm was the principalgovernor under the duke. The warshowever of the time were probably too strong a lure and as he was primarily asoldier and officer of the Imperial Army he was drawn back to the military by1703 when he took up a post in the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy against theFrench. He then became Colonel in chargeof the Danish expeditionary forces. Atthis time, the youngest brother, Johann Rudolph who was about twenty-four yearsof age resigned his commission to take up his eldest brothers posts in theMömpelgard government. The family stillhad the favour and honour of the Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. The middle brother, Johann Christoph howeverstayed with the military and rose to the rank of captain when he was killed inaction against the Turks in the Battle of Peterwardein on the Danube.
Within a generation the family had discarded the vonHedwiger name and took to calling themselves von Sponeck. They were the first family to hereditary doso. This is what makes this family sounique! It was a new family creationonly of some three hundred years now and on a number of occasions has facedextinction, only to come back by whatever means and with vigour. The history of this family can be followed inthe chapters relating to the different branches.
The third document of the Vienna Files is a letter ofintroduction and instruction to the Bishops of Mainz and Trier dated the 7th July 1702 toreceive the members of the newly titled family as peers and to afford them allthe rights and privileges, which the Emperor had bestowed upon them. In this document we have a very curiousoccurrence when in that year later, the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I promotesthe family as being of the name ‘Sponneck’! Whether this was by cryptic spelling error or by reason of fact isunknown and may never be known. It doeshowever give an answer to the eternal question the family have had as to whythe Danish branch are Sponneck and the German branch Sponeck! It however took two generations before theDanish branch took to calling themselves von Sponneck and still later to dropthe ‘von’ in the year 1889 to be just Sponneck. The French branch too has been recorded in the ‘Gotha’ as having been called deSponneck. The German family alone havehowever always held to the ‘von Sponeck’ version.
A copy of these documents can be viewed in its transcribedform in the appendix to this book. Asthis is an English version it would not be prudent to print the German text aspart of this ambit. It will be seen thatit is impossible for anyone today, German or otherwise, unless schooled in theart of ancient script to interpret these pages. As has been mentioned however, we have been privileged again in havingMrs Ehlert do the transcribing for us into more readable German, which willalso, in appreciation to her hard work on our behalf, also be published in anappendix. And so with gratitude to herwe are now made aware and understand the contents of these documents and thispart of the family history.
THE DANISH LINE – SPONNECK
he history of the so called Danish line began with thearrival in Denmark of Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger Reichsgraf von Sponeck and hisspouse, Princess Anna Sophie (born Bojanowa vonBojanowsky) Reichsgräfin von Sponeck and with thefirst two or maybe three of their eleven children to be born to them. Georg Wilhelm had been in command of theDanish Auxiliary Troops in Hollandduring the ‘War of the Spanish Succession’. Soon after being wounded in battle, he had for his brave leadership ofthe Danish forces been invited to Denmark to come and to receive hishonours by the Danish king, Friedrich IV who ruled from 26th August1699 to 12th October 1730. His visit to Copenhagen was to impresshim very much and soon after he made up his mind to settle in Denmark andestablish his family there. In the year1703 he took up the Danish military rank of second lieutenant colonel in theDanish army. He was to enjoy a long andsuccessful career in the Danish Royal Service until his death in Copenhagen in 1740. This illustrious career can be read about inthe previous chapter. We now turn ourattention to the eleven children and trace the line through the eighth childand the only one of this family to continue the male line to the present time.
1. LeopoldWilhelm Ludvig Sponeck was born on the 10th July 1700. At the age of sixteen he was a cadet officerand at eighteen was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant in the ReichweinsInfantry Regiment, in which he served for five years. In 1734 he was promoted to premierløitnant(full lieutenant) and one year later again to captain in an infantryregiment. From 1739 until he retired in1755 at the age of fifty-five, he held the rank of major. He died unmarried in the year 1769.
2. SophieCharlotte Sponeck, the eldest daughter of Georg Wilhelm was born in Breslau, Germanyon the 10th January 1702. Ofsome significance was the fact that Sophie was to become at the age oftwenty-seven the chief lady-in-waiting to Princess Charlotte Amalie vonEppingen of Norwaywhose daughter later married her nephew – Georg Wilhelm IV Sponeck. Together this couple were to be the directancestors of the present Sponneck family. It was this Royal House that the family genealogist, Dr Oluf Müller wasto do the etymology for by tracing Princess Charlotte Amalie and her familytree back to 1,500 BC. For this he obtainedhis doctorate. No doubt Sophie was to introduce the young princess to hernephew.
3. GeorgWilhelm II Sponeck was born on the 15th April 1703 butunfortunately did not survive. Conditions in those days, even for the highest and most prestigious musthave been at best primitive.
4. MarieSabine Wilhelmine Sponeck, born 28th August 1704 in Shaffhausenreached the age of fifty-nine years before passing away on the 22ndOctober 1763 in Copenhagen,Denmark. She lies buried in St.PetersChurch in Copenhagen.
5. Thenext son of General Georg Wilhelm was Carl Christian Sponeck. Born on the 13th November 1706, heled a military life like his father and brother before him and reached the ripeold age of seventy years. His earlyyears were spent in the army. He enteredthe military school as a cadet at the age of fourteen in the year 1720. Eight years later, at the age of twenty-twohe was promoted to second lieutenant in Søetaten. His promotions then came rapidly beingpromoted to premierløitnant in 1733, captainløintnant in 1736 andfull captain in 1740. He was nowthirty-four years old. We hear no moreof his military career after that date. Carl Christian married Baroness Magdalene Helene Augusta von Proeckat the age of forty-one on the 24th March 1747 in BrønshøiChurch. They had two children, neither of whomsurvived the parents. SophieCharlotte Sponeck was baptized on the 20th January 1748 in Copenhagen. She died a few days later and was buried in the family crypt in the GarnisonsChurch. Her brother, Georg Wilhelm III Sponeck was baptized on the 20thJune 1750 in Copenhagen. He too passed away after only eighteen monthsof life. He was buried on the 15thNovember from GarnisonsChurch.
6. Thesixth child of the ‘General’ was another son, Frederick Julius Sponeckwho was born in 1710, on the 24th January. Another military career was in the offeringwith Frederickbecoming a national cadet at the age of thirteen years. At the age of eighteen he was promoted tosecond lieutenant in an infantry regiment. Frederickhad the distinction of being the youngest company officer to be the RegimentalStandard Bearer. This entailed that hewas the young officer to carry the regimental colours in parades and intobattle. In 1737 he moved up to the rankof premierløintnant until his retirement from the army at agethirty-four after being promoted to ‘captain of the horse’ in the kingsstables. A prestigious position when oneconsiders the importance of horses in those years. He died unmarried and without heirs in Constance in 1755. He was just forty-five years of age.
7. Anotherdaughter arrived on the 5th September 1711. She was baptized Frederikke Louise Sponeck. Her marriage to Colonel Ernst Christophvon Drechsel took place in the GarnisonsChurch on the 28thMay 1737. She passed away a few monthsafter her husband. She died on the 22ndOctober 1768 in Copenhagenat the age of fifty-seven years. TheColonel had passed away on the 12th December 1767.
8. AndreasEberhard Sponeck was born on the 12th May 1713. In Andreas Eberhard we have the next directancestor in the male line of the present Sponneck family. He represents the sixth generation fromBalthazar von Hedwiger and was the sixth child of General Georg Wilhelm vonSponeck. Andreas too was a soldier attwenty-one with the rank of kornet in the 2nd JutlandicCavalry Regiment. At age twenty-six hewas a second lieutenant. He retiredearly however from the army (in 1747) at the age of thirty-four years. On the 31st October 1740 hemarried Hedevig Elisabeth Helene von Donop in St.MichaelsChurch,Slagelse. They were both twenty-sevenyears of age. Hedewig was recorded ashaving been baptized on the 17th December 1713 in Slagelse. After the time of his death in 1766 inAunsøgaard, Andreas Eberhard was just fifty-three years of age. Hedwig had passed away before Andreas on the25th May 1750 at the age of forty-seven years.
We must now break away from the rest of the children ofthe ‘General’ for the time being to follow the descendants of Andreas Eberharddown the next eight generations to the present SPONNECK family. Of the six children of Andreas Eberhard –only two continued the line to the date of writing. We shall see how that the elder line leavesonly one daughter, while the younger line saved the family with the birth offour sons and one daughter in the early 20th century! We shall then return to follow the other foursub-lines to their extinction.
A. Georg Wilhelm IV Reichsgraf (Rigsgreve) afSponeck, the eldest son, was to be the next direct ancestor of thecurrent SPONNECK family. Georg was bornon the 11th January 1741 in Skjelskør,Denmark. Much like his namesake – Georg Wilhelm I,this Georg was to have an illustrious military career. At seventeen he had entered the army with aninfantry regiment and as the most junior officer, and like his uncle FrederickJulius before him, he became the standard bearer or the one that carried thecompany flag. At age twenty-one he waspromoted to second lieutenant and at twenty-eight promoted to what the Danescall a premierløitnant. In 1774he moved up to the rank of staff captain in the Jutlandic Rifles InfantryRegiment. The year 1781 saw him as acompany commander in the Oldenburgs Rifles Infantry Regiment. In 1785 he was summonsed to the ZealandRifles Infantry Regiment. By the timeGeorg Wilhelm IV was fifty years old he had moved up through the ranks ofthird, second and premier major. Eightyears later, in 1799 his promotion to lieutenant colonel was approved. At the age of forty-two Georg Wilhelm had metand married the Norwegian Princess Charlotte Amalie Hilleborg vonEppingen who was then twenty-five years of age. The family ‘von Eppingen’ took their namefrom a town called Eppingen in the State of Württemberg. Eppingen is halfway between the towns of Heilbronnand Bruchsal, north-west of Stuttgart. The marriage took place on the 12thMarch 1783. The records show thePrincess had been baptized on the 25th August 1758 in Aunemo, Norway. As we have already heard, the mother ofPrincess Hilleborg (her call name) who was Princess Charlotte Amalie vonEppingen, had employed the two aunts of our Georg Wilhelm Count von Sponeck asher ladies-in-waiting. It would be morethan likely that in this way the forty-two year old infantry officer would havemet the fair princess at court. Afteronly eighteen years of marriage Georg Wilhelm died on the 18thJanuary 1801 in Copenhagenwhere the couple had settled. PrincessHilleborg passed away some twenty-one years later at sixty-four years of age onthe 23rd October 1822 in Copenhagenand lies buried with the Sponneck family in the GarnisonsChurch, Copenhagen. Their marriage in turn produced six heirs:
a) Thefirstborn daughter was also to be given the name of her mother and grandmotherand to have the title of her father as Charlotte Amalie Countess von Sponeck. She was born in Copenhagenon the 11th July 1783 and was baptized on the 22nd Julyin the GarnisonsChurch. Her marriage to the royal chief clerk Ole Christian Winther tookplace in the same church on the 4th October 1813 when she was thirtyyears of age. Ole Winther died inSeptember 1837 and she some years later on the 14th April 1859 atthe full age of seventy-six years.
b) EberhardReinhard Heinrich Sponneck was the first son to have the family name speltwith the double ‘n’ in the 1916 issue of the Danmarks Adels Aarbog. It is possible then that at about this timethe Danish line name change came into use. Eberhard was also to have a short life of only twelve years. He was born on the 26th December1784, baptized on the 5th January 1785 and passed away either the 19thMarch or possibly the 11th April 1796 in the Danish capital.
c) Thenext direct ancestor of the present family Sponneck was the second son, MariusSabinus Wilhelm Rigsgreve von Sponneck. Marius arrived in the world on the 22nd May 1787. Born in Copenhagen,he was baptized on the 19th June in the GarnisonsChurch. Marius Sabinus graduated from Borgerdydskolen(High School) in Copenhagen. This man had a very noteworthy career firstlybeing commissioned in the Danish army then entering law and lastly into theDanish Royal Family Civil Service. In1804 Marius registered with the university as a student, studying law for thenext four years. During this time (1807)he left off his studies to sign up with the Danish Horse Regiment in thedefence of Copenhagen in the war against England. English forces had invaded the Island of Zealandin September 1807 and the English fleet then bombarded the City of Copenhagen, as she was afraid of Denmark joining forces with France andother European powers against her during the Napoleonic Wars. On the 20th October 1807 theBritish commander captured and made off with the entire Danish fleet so that itcould not be used against Britain. In 1808 Marius Sabinus was promoted to fulllieutenant. He served military time fora further four years and at the age of twenty-five he took up his lawexamination again and qualified with a degree with distinction. At the age of twenty-seven years he was inthe service of the Danish King Friedrich VI as his city bailiff inRingkøbing. The office of ‘bailiff’ wasthe same ‘office’ as the German ‘vogt’ of which we have heard about in previouschapters. In 1820 he was made ‘districtbailiff’ (landvogt) in Bølling, Nørre and then in UlvborghindDistrict. The position of ‘bailiff’meant that he was the kings official representative being a kind of ‘mayor’ ofa city or ‘sheriff’ of a district for which he was appointed. In 1826 Marius was promoted to AdministrativeOfficer in SkanderborgCounty and then was transferred to the City of Ribe as ‘Prefect’ of thatdiocese and as administrative officer of Ribe until 1852. In 1829 Marius was honoured by being made aKnight of the ‘Order of the Dannebrog’ by King Friedrich VI. Marius Sabinus won the trust and affection ofthe people due to his fair and unpretentious handling of their affairs. His government and king also recognised andappreciated his energy and competence as an official of the Kingdom. During this time of service, Marius drew theattention of the Realm to the fact that there had been a lot of destruction tothe forests of Jutland, the main peninsulaof Denmark. The local people had desecrated the forestsin spite of the fact that there had been a law against it since 1805. As a result of his efforts, the Realm set upa ‘National Forest Inspectorate’ and was able to save the remaining forests of Jutland from total destruction. The year 1836 brought Marius an appointmentby King Friedrich VI to the Assembly of the Estates of the Realm where he wasvery active in participating in negotiations. He was also kept very busy with the many customs and excise cases. Marius Sabinus had a great interest also inthe local poor law authorities and the burger education programme. In 1840 he became Chamberlain to KingChristian VIII. In 1841 he received thehonour of being awarded with the ‘Medal of Endurance’ of the ‘Order of the Dannebrog’. In 1847 Marius was to receive the ‘GrandCross’ of the same Order from King Christian VIII. In 1848 however, with the rebellion againstthe incorporation of SchleswigCounty into Denmark,Marius sided with the German General, Baron Wrangel and was duly arrested athis residence in Ribe by the Danish authorities and imprisoned in Kolding. During his brief stay in prison he againproved himself as a great humanitarian. The Danish Government acknowledged his great effort and talent duringhis services in different kinds of honoury offices that he was offered. After the rebellion of 1848 he was togetherwith C.I. Kirstein sent to the Schleswig Government and was later offered aposition as a Danish member of the government commission, but he declined. Marius was appointed a member of the Councilof Flensburg in 1851. Flensburgis a city on the south-eastern side of Jutland in Schleswig. Due to his slight blindness he requestedpermission to retire which he did at age sixty-five in 1852 with King FriedrichVII’s explicit appreciation for his long and important career in the Danish Court andGovernment. The wedding between thetwenty-seven year old Marius Sabinus and the twenty-three year old SusanneChristine Trojel took place on the 30th April 1814 in Roskilde. Susanne wasborn 22nd October 1791 in Anneberggaard. She was the daughter of Franz Wilhelm Trojelwho held a bachelor of divinity degree and served as a royal land agent andChristine Margrethe (née Hansen). Susanne died at age eighty-nine on the 15th September 1880 inCopenhagenwhile Marius died on the 31st July 1874. He was eighty-seven years old. The portraits of Marius Sabinus WilhelmSponneck, his great-grandfather General Georg Wilhelm and great-grandmotherhave hung in FrederiksborgCastle in Denmark. Two sons were born to Marius andSusanne. Each of these two sons was tocontinue the descendent lines to the present time.
A. Wilhelm Carl Eppingen Sponneck wasborn on the 16th February 1815 in Ringkjobing. He was probably the most famous of all theDanish Sponneck family members. WilhelmCarl Eppingen Sponneck too had a very illustrious career in the DanishGovernment and Royal Service. As aDanish politician, he has a biography published and is also mentioned in theEncyclopaedia Britannica as an advisor to the young King of Greece. We shall here list this illustriousgentleman’s achievements chronologically. In 1832 at the age of seventeen he entered the SorøAcademy. In 1836 he was a candidate lawyer and in theyear 1837 youth chamberlain to King Friedrich VI. In the summer of 1838 he qualified with aBachelor of Law Degree and was appointed Foreign Affairs Consultant andtravelled to France and Iceland. In 1840 he was Chamber Secretary to ChristianVIII. During this year he published abook about the Danish Customs Service. In 1841 he was appointed a committee member of the customs service. He modernised the customs service andintroduced taxes on coffee, schnapps and sugar. He advanced the customs system extensively. By 1843 he was deputy chief of the PrivyCouncil and awarded the Knighthood of ‘The Order of the Dannebrog’ by KingChristian VIII. Financial freedom wasfar more important to him than political freedom and Wilhelm was more fearedthan popular. At thirty-one years of agehe was Chamberlain to Christian VIII, the then King of Denmark. He was one of the men behind the Customs Lawof 1846. In the year 1848 a major changein Danish politics took place when the nation went from a sovereign kingdom ruledby the king alone to a fully democratic government. This form of Government was called‘Constitutional Monarchy’. This was drafted by the ‘Constituent Assembly of1848’ of which Wilhelm was a member. Theking, following other kings and kingdoms about this time, had renounced hisabsolute power. This Assembly passed theConstitution Act, which King Friedrich VII signed into being, on the 5thJune 1849. Constatin Hansen completedthe wall painting of the Assembly in 1864, which he had been commissioned to doin 1860 by a National Liberal politician, A. Hage. This painting, as a wall Mural, is still tobe seen in FrederiksborgCastleMuseum,outside Copenhagen. This mural shows the entire Assembly with themajor figures in the forefront and behind a table in the middle of the picturewith his arms folded stood the young Wilhelm Carl Eppingen Sponneck who was inthat same year, 1848, appointed Minister of Finance. A position he held for some seven years until1854. During his term in office heintroduced ‘income tax’ and ‘wealth tax’ laws. He was also responsible for implementing a pension fund for governmentofficials. He introduced the use ofpostage stamps and the first telegram service. In 1850 Wilhelm received the ‘Dannebrog Order Hæderstegn medal’from King Friedrich VII. Between 1850and 1853 he served in the National Assembly. In 1851 he was sent as Envoy to Viennaand Berlin. On the 31st July 1853 Wilhelm wasa signatory together with Counts Moltke and Scheel and seven others, to thedocument setting out the ‘Royal Ordinance of the Succession to the Crown onPrince Christian of Glücksburg’. Hereceived the ‘Grand Cross’ of the ‘Order of the Dannebrog’ in 1854 from thesame king. His influence declinedsuddenly however due to his unpopular opinions about the foreign politicalissues, especially with regard to Germany. In 1855 he became General CustomsDirector. 1860 saw him a representativeof the Government to the National Bank. From 1863 to 1865 he was on the Privy Council of the young Danish PrinceWilliam who had been elected King of Greece as King George I. In September 1863 he left for Greece with theeighteen-year-old prince. He was theyoung king’s political advisor but because of personal differences soonterminated his services. It is as a mostharsh and unpopular advisor of the young king that he was mentioned in theEncyclopaedia Britannica and so after two years returned to Denmark. From 1866 to 1871 Wilhelm was a member and in1871 became chairman of the Control Committee of the Zealand Railway. Between 1866 and 1869 he also served again inthe National Assembly. In 1868, Wilhelmbecame director of the Danish National Bank. He was also one of the founder members of the new Handelsbankenin 1873 and also one of their directors. Today it is called Den Danske Bank and is the largest bank in Denmark. He served as director on various boards ofcompanies. Wilhelm served as chairman ofthe parish council and as the Patron of St. Peters Church, Gentofte. Through his life he received no less than six other ‘orders’ and‘medals’ for his services, including the ‘Greek Order First Class’. At the age of twenty-six years he married thetwenty-three year old Antoinette Siegfriede von Lowzow in Copenhagen. She was of noble birth, and was born on the 4thJune 1818. At the age of sixty-five shepassed away in Hesselgaard,Denmark. Wilhelm Carl Eppingen followed six yearslater on the 29th February 1888 at the age of seventy-threeyears. He died in Gentofte,Denmark and a street in Gentofte is named in hishonour.
Born to Wilhelm Carl Eppingen and Antoinette were threechildren. They were two sons and adaughter. This was the continuation ofthe elder Danish line of the Sponneck family. They were Frederik Wilhelm Sponneck, born on the 23rd March1842; George Leopold Sponneck, born 22nd July 1843 and the onlydaughter, Elisabeth Susanne Sophie Sponneck, born on the 24th July1846.
(1 Frederik Wilhelm Sponneck was born in Copenhagen. At nineteen years of age he was a student oflaw and in 1869 graduated law school like his father. At the age of twenty-eight, in the year 1870,he was commissioned a captain in the army. At that time Francewas at war against Iceland. A year later in 1871 he was an Attaché withthe Peace Commission in Paris. He served then as assistant in the StateMinistry in 1872. At the coronation ofKing Oscar in Stockholm,Frederik Wilhelm was the Danish representative. He served as Legation Secretary in Parisand London. During the year 1882 he was summonsed to KingChristian IX awards parade to be knighted with the ‘Order of the White Knightof the Order of the Dannebrog’. In 1884he was appointed Legation Secretary in Petrograd,Russia. The king favoured him with the honoury titleof ‘Chief Master of the Hunt’. In theyear of his father’s death, 1888, he was appointed Minister-President forForeign Affairs in North America and thus became the first of this branch ofSponneck in the UnitedStates. In 1889 he was appointed Consular-General in America. It was on the 11th July 1889 thatKing Christian IX conferred the Danish title ‘Rigsgreverne’ upon the Sponneckfamily. Previous to this they hadmaintained their German title of ‘Reichsgrafen’ in Denmark. In 1890 he became Ambassadorial Minister in WashingtonD.C. On his return home in 1892 he was honouredwith ministerial positions and in 1897 became chamberlain to King ChristianIX. In 1906 during the reign of KingFriedrich VIII (ruled 29.1.1906 – 14-5-1912) he was awarded the DannebrogordenensHæderstegn (Star of Honour of the Order of the Dannebrog), and in 1912he was appointed as a member of the Danish Privy Council to the Danish KingsFriedrich VIII and Christian X (ruled 14-5-1912 - 20-4-1947). He received some nine other Orders and Medalsamong them the ‘Order of Greece3rd Class’. Married to thetwenty-seven year old Anna Sophie Margrete Imanuella ComtesseBrockenhuus-Schack, of good Danish aristocratic stock, on the 30thApril 1886 at the age of forty-four years, they produced two further childrenin a son and a daughter, Antoinette Sophie Sponneck and Wilhelm Sponneck:
(a) Antoinette Sophie Sponneck, born on the 15thMarch 1887 in Giesegaard, Denmark, she married Count Christian FrederikKnuth on the 11th May 1910 in Copenhagen. Count Knuth was Chief Master of the Hunt and was born on the 28thMarch 1886 in Østergaard.
(b) Wilhelm Sponneck was the first member of theSponneck family to be born in the United Statesof America on the 14th July 1888 at Haines Falls, NewYork State. Hewas baptized on 30th September 1888 in the DanishChurch in Brooklyn. In 1907, Wilhelm graduated school and in 1908went to OfficerTrainingSchool in Denmark. In 1910 he became a second lieutenant withthe 3rd Dragoon Regiment. Promoted to premier-lieutenant in 1912 he then transferred to theGardehusar Regiment. Wilhelm was therecipient of a Swedish Order. On the 24thJune1922, Wilhelm married Eva Friderichsen, born on the 25thNovember 1894. Wilhelm passed away onthe 13th March 1966 at the age of seventy-eight years.
The only child of WilhelmSponneck was to be a son he called Lennart Iver Sofus Wilhelm Sponneck. He was born in Denmark on the 26thOctober 1926 and died at the age of fifty-four years on the 6th July1980. He married Dorrit Rée Schou(*2.3.1937) on the 22nd November 1960. Lennart was forty years of age. This marriage produced one daughter, HelenMargrete Schou Sponneck. Helen cameinto the world as the last of her line on the 7th April 1963 in Gentofte, Vallø,Denmark. Helen and her mother, Dorrit now reside in Copenhagen. Helen married into the family Dufour and shehas two children. They are CasperSponneck Dufour born on the 28th August 1996 and a daughter, CamillaMaria Sponneck Dufour who was born on the 20th November 1997. On the 9th December 1972 Lennartmarried Hilda Johanne Kristensen after a failed marriage to one previous,Danielle Louise Sporon who he had married on the 14th December1968. With the passing of Lennart in1980 the elder line of the Sponneck family came to extinction.
We now return to the second son of Wilhelm CarlEppingen and his wife, Antoinette.
(2 Georg Leopold Sponneck wasborn on the 22nd July 1843 in Copenhagen. Leopold started with a military careerbecoming a second lieutenant at eighteen in 1861 in the Infantry Reserve thenas an adjutant with the 18th Regiment in the 1stBattalion. In 1864 he was promoted tofull lieutenant, taking part in the Danish-German war he was wounded in actionand taken prisoner by the German troops. In 1866 received the Knighthood of the ‘Order of the Dannebrog’. In a portrait of Leopold of about this timehe wears the ‘Cross of the Order for Chivalry’. King Christian IX would have presented this to him. In 1867 he was promoted to premierlieutenant. At the age of twenty-sevenin the year 1870, Leopold retired from military service and took up a post as apostal official and in 1876 became postmaster in Nykøbing. His promotion to captain in the Reserve Corpscame through in 1886 and between 1891 and 1909 he moved the family to Østerbro,Copenhagen andserved as librarian at the Garnisons Military Library. Leopold received another medal in 1891 fromKing Christian IX being the Dannebrogordenens Hæderstegn. Leopold married Countess CamillaDorothea Wilhelmine Grüner on the 2nd May 1871 in Copenhagen. She was born on the 24th February1844 in St.Thomas and passed away at age seventy-nine in the year 1923. This marriage produced two daughters – CarmenSponneck, who never married, was born on the 28th January 1872in Copenhagenand died 1946, and Olga Sponneck born on the 14th November1875. Olga remained single all her lifeand passed away on the 24th December 1964 at the age of eighty-nineyears. Both of these daughters served atthe court of the royal family as ladies-in-waiting to the queen in Copenhagen. In 1928, the fifty-three year old Olga, whileriding her bicycle past the ancient ruins of Ørslev Convent, decided that hermission in life was to one day purchase it and have it restored! At her father’s death in 1933 she came into asmall fortune, and bought the property at the age of fifty-nine years. While having it restored, she moved in andmade it her home from 1934 until her death in 1964. What was left of her estate was bequeathed tothe exhibition of the property. TheØrslev Convent was started in about the year 1200. It was phased out as a convent from 1536 andin 1584 it became private property. During the 18th century it was rebuilt in the baroque styleas an agricultural farm holding. The 19thcentury saw the land sold and the buildings decline and fall into decay. By the beginning of the 20thcentury it was a total ruin. In thisstate Olga Sponneck found the property and since its restoration and her deathit now serves as a Danish folk high school called San Cataldo.
(3 The lastmember, to whom we will refer of this elder family, is the sister of FrederikWilhelm and Georg Leopold in the person of Elisabeth Susanne Sophie Sponneck. Born on the 24th July 1846 in Copenhagen where she grewup and married the schoolteacher, Professor Jean Frédéric Guillaume EmilePio on the 23rd December 1866 at the age of twenty years. Professor Jean Pio was born on the 1stJuly 1833. He was a very importantperson in education and was highly commended by the authorities for the bookshe had written and the work he had done for education in Denmark. He died on the 12th January 1884in Copenhagen. Elisabeth died in Odense on the 12th September1905.
B) Carl Valdemar Sponneck, the youngerbrother of Wilhelm Carl Eppingen Sponneck was to continue the line from here tothe present time! Carl Valdemar,possibly called ‘Jens’ was born in the town of Ringkjobing, Denmarkon the 7th October 1821. Unfortunately not much is recorded of the life of Carl Valdemar I otherthan that he also spent his life in the Danish military service. He entered the army as a cadet in 1842, atthe age of twenty-one years. Four yearslater he was promoted to second lieutenant in the Danish Infantry ReserveBattalion. In the year 1849 he wasposted to the 3rd Reserve Battalion, which was part of the famous GardehusarRegiment. From 1852 until 1862 he servedas a premier lieutenant and retired from the army at the age of forty-one yearsin 1862 as a result of ill health. In1863 he was awarded the Danish Knighthood of ‘The Order of the Dannebrog’possibly by King Friedrich VII who ruled until November of that year. King Friedrich VII was then succeeded by KingChristian IX. It was this King who onthe 11th July 1889 conferred the full equivalent Danish titleof Rigsgreverne in place of the German title Reichsgrafen(Counts-of-the-Empire) upon the Danish Sponneck family. They had come to Denmarkwith this German title of the Holy Roman Empirein 1703 in the person of Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger Reichsgraf vonSponeck. At the time of the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 at the hand of NapoleonBonaparte the German Reichsgrafen had been marginalized, as there was no more aReich, or Empire, and the families with this title had to change it to that of Grafen. It is therefore correct today to speak of theGrafen von Sponeck, as with all the other old Reichsgrafen families in Germany. Carl Valdemar I died on the 26thAugust 1900 in Copenhagen. Carl had married into an old Danish noblefamily of Nyholm on the 24th May 1855. He was then thirty-four years of age and hemarried the nineteen-year-old Nikoline Mathilde Nyholm who was born onthe 23rd March 1836. Herdeath came at age fifty-eight years on the 5th April 1894 inHumleore, which was the home that Carl had built for his family. Humleore was a manor house built on a hopsfarm. The hops were used in themanufacture of beer. Another generationwould be born in this home before the property was lost to the family. Carl and Mathilde were very unfortunate intheir family life. Although they hadbrought three sons into the world, only one was to survive and he alone was tosave the SPONNECK family from total extinction!
1) The story of this family continues with the birthof the first son, Carl Wilhelm Nicolai Nyholm Sponneck. He was born on the 27th October1856 but passed away on the 16th January 1864 in Slot Aggershvile. As we can see, he was only eight years old.
2) The second son was Theodor Sponneck born onthe 5th July 1866, two years after the death of his elderbrother. Theodor was to grow up and inthe year 1887 join the postal service as a postal assistant and in 1889 becamea postal official in Copenhagen. On the 13th October 1889, at theage of only twenty-three years, the story is told of his having been involvedin a horse riding accident, which led to his early demise.
3) The third son of Carl Valdemar and Mathilde was Carl ValdemarSponneck born on the 19th October 1870. Valdemar was nineteen years of age when helost his elder brother, Theodor Sponneck. He then became the sole survivor of this little family and the keyfigure in the survival of the SPONNECK name. Had it not been for Carl Valdemar, the Danish Sponneck family would haveended here in extinction. Carl Valdemar,who found himself alone in the world but for his cousins, after the death ofhis brothers’, mother and father was left to fend for himself in theworld. At the early age of twenty, thestory is told; he had met a very beautiful young barmaid with whom he had arelationship. It was a very brief affairand the couple had soon parted. Adaughter was born, possibly unbeknown to him, who her mother, Angelica MarieAnna Pierri named Pigen Kaja Stella Philippa Pierri. She was called Stella. Angelica, who took to calling herself Angie, appeared to attract richand famous men for she soon after met and married a wealthy industrialistcalled Arndt Burchardt and the couple moved to Johannesburg, South Africa. Here she was divorced and soon after met andmarried a multimillionaire, a Hollander by the name of Adolph Goertz who was adiamond magnet from Kimberley. He however was not in a good state of healthand the couple soon left for Londonagain where she collected her child and he could get better treatment. Adolph Goertz died soon after, and left hisvast estate to ‘Angie’ who now inherited many millions. After purchasing the Castle Aldershvile in Bagsværd, Denmarkshe set out to find her previous ‘friend’ who she knew was indeed titled. At this time, Carl Valdemar was serving inthe British secret service at Scotland Yard in London. This same Carl Valdemar Sponneck had by this time met Astrid Vogelius Stephensen, aninnkeeper’s daughter! In spite of this,Angelica had got Carl Valdemar to contract to marry her for a settlement ofquite a large fortune. Permission tomarry, as was the practice for the aristocracy, was granted to the couple bythe Danish King Christian IX. For thenext few months they lived their separate lives, Algelica living it up in highsociety and Carl Valdemar living in his own unobtrusive way withtwelve-year-old Stella. Carl Valdemarstayed in touch with Astrid and indeed after eighteen months he returned tolive with her in London. The ‘divorce’ in 1903 was a messy affair withmuch intrigue and the involvement of the Danish King so that in a most unusualmove, Angelica was actually permitted to keep the title of ‘countess’ after thedivorce, should she marry again! Shethen became known as the Countess of Bagsværd. Carl Valdemar was again made another financial settlement. Angelica then married a wealthy art dealercalled Gustavus Mayer in Londonin September 1905. After divorcingGustavus Mayer she was to be involved with a Lord Evans, who she marriedalthough some ten years her junior. Angelica’s untimely death by suicide in 1914 came with herimpoverishment following, in 1909, the total destruction of her Danish castleby fire. Carl Valdemar was again abenefactor with a number of others in her last and vastly diminishedestate. Carl’s later legal wife, Astrid Vogelius Stephensenwas born in Aalborg, Denmark, on the 4thSeptember 1877. She was the daughter ofOlivier Emil Stephensen and Jacobine Johanne Ambrosia with the family name ofVogelius. At the turn of the century,Valdemar had relocated himself to Londonand was in the employ of the Secret Service of Scotland Yard. During early 1901 he had been sent to the United States of Americaon Scotland Yard business. In London he had metAstrid. Photographs taken in London in 1900 and 1901 have been preserved of thisbeautiful young lady and they depict her in fashion and are endorsed by herwith the message: “To my darling Papafrom your lillekone”. Possibly they were sent to Papa while he was in Denmark duringthe second half of 1901! Astrid was tobe the wife of ‘Papa’ Valdemar Sponneck forty-four long years and to have foursons and one daughter by him. From thispatriarchal couple then descends the Sponneck family of today!
We shall now stop off for a while with the history of the life and timesof ‘Papa’ Carl Valdemar Sponneck. Of his early life we know little! We do know that in about 1890 he had met Angelica Pierri for the firsttime. He reputedly had a brief affairwith her from which it is alleged her daughter, named Stella was born. It is possible that at this time CarlValdemar did not know of this child until his next meeting with thiswoman. He had moved to London where the first of his five childrenwith Astrid were to be born. These foursons and one daughter would be the eleventh generation from the patriarch,Balthazar von Hedwiger. Mama and Papa,as they became known, were resident in Londonfor the birth of their first son Carl William (Bill) Sponneck on the 25thMay 1901 in Walthamstow, London. In 1904, on the 24th October thesecond son was born in Londonwho was named Cai George Sponneck. By 1908 Papa Sponneck had moved his family back to the family home atHumleore in Denmark. In the year 1910 on the 10thAugust, a third son arrived to this family in the person of John EppingenSponneck. Family pictures show thefamily still in Humleore in 1911 and Vedbæk in July 1912. During this time Papa Sponneck left for atrip to Australiaand soon after his whole family followed by ship. Soon the war clouds of the First World Warwere to gather over Europe. In June of 1914, on the 29th thefirst and only daughter was born to the family. She was Alice Mathilde Sponneck born in Melbourne, Australia. The last son to arrive came with the arrivalof Harry Sponneck on the 29th April 1916 in Melbourne. In Australia thefamily managed a Danish bakery business and Papa was reputedly responsible forthe establishment of the Danish Club in Melbourne. Papa was also high up in the Royal Lodge andhe entertained Edward, Prince of Wales at the Freemason Lodge during his royalvisit to Melbourne. In 1924 Papa and Mama decided to return to London. This they did in that same year and here theylived until the death of Papa Carl Valdemar Sponneck on the 19thAugust 1944. Carl Valdemar was laterwithout formal occupation, now being wealthy, other than owning a business ortwo during his life in Londonand abroad. These were run by his wife, Astrid Vogelius. He had received a very large dowry from hisimmensely wealthy ‘wife’ and a small legacy again when she had died in 1914 andhe would no
doubtalso have inherited from his father in 1900, being the only surviving son ofthe younger Danish line. During his lifehe was involved with a number of Lodges and occupied high positions inthem. Carl Valdemar also investedin property, one of which was held at Selsey, Portsmouth, which he called ‘Villa Sonja’after his first granddaughter, born to daughter Alice and husband, Dr. OlufMüller. During 1944 Papa Carl Valdemarfell ill and was admitted for abdominal surgery from which he never fullyrecovered and he died on the 19th August 1944 in the PrincessBeatriceHospital, London.
The Sponneck familyarrived back in the United Kingdomfrom Australiain November 1924. Carl (Bill) Williamwas then twenty-three years of age!
These were idyllic dayswith the children growing up and taking apprenticeships in differenttrades. The boys were keen motorcyclistsand many a story was later related to their children about their escapadesduring these very happy earlier years in London.
In London, Carl William (Bill) Sponneck, nowthirty-seven years of age, married Lilli Anna Harder at a double weddingwith his sister, Alice Mathilde and Oluf Bruhn Müller on the 15thJanuary 1938. The war years were spentin London where Bill served as a Life Brigademember and as such fought the fires in Londoncaused by the Nazi bombings. Lilli wasborn in Aalborg, Denmark on the 22nd July1915. During the London blitz it is told that on one occasionLilli was preserved from death by having to take her baby, John William, to thekitchen while minutes later the rest of the house suffered a direct hit! Bill and Lilli had two sons, both born in London. They were JohnWilliam Sponneck, born 15th January 1944 and Paul EppingenSponneck born on the 1st May 1947. These two sons accompaniedBill and Lilli from London to South Africa bysea voyage in 1948. Lilli was the firstof the family to make a commitment of her life to the Saviour, The Lord JesusChrist, and as a result of that the rest of the Sponneck family in Port Elizabeth came toknow Him as their Lord and Saviour. As adirect result of this your author too studied for the ministry and spent hisfirst ten working years in dedicated service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lilli died in Port Elizabeth on the 21stFebruary 1976 at the age of sixty-one years caused by a brain haemorrhage. She was survived by Bill who passed away in Port Elizabeth on the 22ndOctober 1990 at the age of eighty-nine years, thus being one of the longestliving members of the Spon(n)eck family! It was four years after Papa Sponneck’s death the family in London opted to move to South Africa. The first was the youngest unmarried brother,Harry Sponneck followed soon after by his mother, Astrid Vogelius and lastly byBill and his wife, Lilli and their two sons. Astrid, who did not fancy another sea voyage, came out in a convertedbomber – the beginning of international air travel soon after the war! Thus the larger part of the family had nowrelocated to South Africaand was to continue the saga from there.
John William Sponneck is acivil engineer with the Port Elizabethmunicipality. He and his wife and three children reside in Port Elizabeth. John William married Jeanette Elizabethvan der Berg (*20/1/1946) on the 20th April 1968. Their first-born was Craig Sven Sponneck,born on the 15th September 1970 in Port Elizabeth. Craig, on his completion of high schoolentered the South African Defence Force and obtained his commission to fulllieutenant. After travelling extensivelyabroad he returned to Port Elizabethand took up a post again with the South African army as lieutenant with hiscommission ratified by the signature of President Nelson Mandela. From a relationship with Carmen Davidson ason was born to Craig and Carmen on the 23rd April 1995 who wasnamed Joshua Davidson Sponneck. Onthe 4th April 2009 Craig married Claire Caroline Bradfield in PortAlfred, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Claire was born on the 30th August1974. The only daughter to John andJeanette, Lise Inge Sponneck was born on the 23rd August1974. Lise undergoes training inInterior Decorating. The late arrival, CarlBjorn Sponneck, has the distinction of being born on the same date as hisbrother, on the 15th September but in the year 1983. Carl Bjorn studied at the renowned GreyHigh School,writing his matric examinations in 2001 and studied at the University of PortElizabeth. He graduated in 2009 with degree in Law.
Paul Eppingen Sponneck married LornaPatricia Smith in Port Elizabethon the 21st October 1967. From this marriage a son was born, namely Wayne Roland Sponneckin Port Elizabethon the 18th April 1968. Wayne became branch manager of a large tiling firm beforerelocating to Londonin 1999 where he continued in the tiling business. Early in 2001 Waynewas relocated Amsterdam, Holland to pioneer a new branch for his firmthere. On the 28th December2002 Wayne married Diana Aldana of Bogota, Columbia where they weremarried. On the 28th January 2008 a son was born to them. His wasnamed Daniel Carl Sponneck and wasborn in Johannesburg, South Africa. Paul’s marriage ended on the 21st October 1968 whilePaul was furthering his education while working for a shipping company.
On the 26th May1973 he married Prudence Shirley Tero (*27/9/1951) of Port Elizabeth. ‘Pru’, as she is called, presented Paul withthree more sons: Shaun WilliamSponneck was born on the 18th April 1975 in Cape Town. He too like his father is involved in the shipping industry. Shaun married Karin Lessing of Durbanon the 12th April 2003. Theyhave two children. Riley Sponneck was born onthe 20th May 2006 in Durban and theirfirst son, Liam Paul Sponneck whowas born in Durbanon the 21st July 2007.
Mark Frank Sponneckwho was also born in Cape Townarrived on the 25th November 1976. Mark moved to London in 1999 and wasemployed by a Londonshipping company. On the 28th September 2002 he married AnneliNygard who was born in Uppsala, Sweden on the 10th August, 1977 in Tierp, Sweden.Born to this couple were two children, their first, a son, Lukas William Sponneck, born on the 15th November 2006and a daughter, Sienna Olivia Sponneck, bornon the 15th January 2010.
Ryan Paul Sponneckentered the world on the 5th January 1982 in Sandton, Johannesburg. Recently Paul Eppingen was ‘Natal OperationsExecutive’ for Renfreight Circle(Pty) Ltd. The firm was taken over earlyin 2002 by Safcor Panalpina and Paul now serves with them as CommercialManager. The family reside in Kloof, Durban.
Thesecond son of Carl Valdemar and Astrid Sponneck was Cai George Sponneck. George, on his return to Londonfrom Melbournewas some twenty-one years of age. On the4th June 1927 he married the nineteen-year-old Winifred May Taylorin Coventry, England. Winifred was born on the 8thAugust 1908. Winifred was at firstreluctant to leave Britain for Australia but after the rest of the family hadmoved to South Africa and a bit of gentle persuasion agreed to emigrate toAustralia in 1951. They lived the rest of their lives out in Baxter near Melbourne and she passedaway there on the 16th October 1970. Twelve years later, her widower, Cai George passed away on the 23rdSeptember 1982 at the age of seventy-eight years. The only child, a son, born to this couplewas Carl William Sponneck born in St. Marylebone, London on the 10th September1935. In Australia the young Carl Williamhad joined the navy and been involved in repatriating the Australian troops whohad taken part in the Korean War. InShanghai Carl William met and married Aley Wong on the 14thApril 1962. Aley was born on the 2ndFebruary 1930 in Shanghai. She passed away in Australia on the 16thDecember 1992. No children were born tothis couple and Widower Carl William lives today still in the family home in Baxter, Australia. His great passion, like the previousgeneration, is motorcycling.
The third son, JohnEppingen Sponneck, the only child born in Denmarkof the family was some fourteen years of age on the family’s return to London from Australiawhere he had schooled at ChristianBrothersCollege. During his early twenties John met VioletNellie Frances Wychmans from the district of Hendon in the County of Middlesex. From this relationship a son, John AnthonySponneck was born. John Eppingen’saddress in London was given as 20 Lonsdale Road, Bedford
Park and Violet at 125 Park Lane,SouthHarrow
She was the daughter of Olga and FrankWychmans.
Frank was a confectioner’spastry cook.
Shortly after the marriageanother son was born to the couple, named Edmond Francois Sponneck
This marriage however was to end inseparation with John Eppingen leaving London
His son, John Anthony was bornin London
JohnAnthony’s interest was in flying which led to his qualifying as an aeronauticalengineer and later obtaining employment with British Airways with which heserved a number of years in Germany
In later years he became a psychologist withthe British Prisons Department and was involved in the counselling of manyinfamous and notorious criminals and murderers.
John still resides in London
On the 23rd
December 1961 hemarried Anne Marie Crabbe
Annewas born on the 27th
October 1941 in London
and from this marriage were two sons, CarlJohn Sponneck
, born on the 30th
September 1965 and KristianAnthony Sponneck
, born 9th
These two sons now each have one son, who areamongst the first of the fourteenth generation of the Sponneck family from thePatriarch Balthazar Hedwiger.
Born to Carl John and NatashaHills was a son they named ZacharySponneck on the 17th October 1995. On the 1st March 1997 Carl Johnmarried Lee Michelle Maddox and thecouple continue to live in the UnitedKingdom. Born to Carl and Lee, a daughternamed Christiana Lee Sponneck, born on the 26th December 2004 in London.
To Kristian Anthony and FionaSerfaty was born a son on the 6th June 1995, named JohannKristian Anthony Sponneck. A secondchild, a daughter, Charlotte Joan Sponneck was born on the 11thFebruary 2000 to Kristian and Sasha Anette Lunn who was born 31stOctober 1979 in London. A third child,another daughter, Melanie Grace Sponneckwas born at Hillingdon on 25th January 2009 to Kristian andStephanie March. Stephanie was born 20thMay 1976 in Barnsley, South Yourkshire.
The second son of JohnEppingen Sponneck was Edmond Francois, born on the 9th April 1938 inLondon. Edmond marriedMadeleine Anne Jones in Londonon the 27th May 1963 and from this marriage two daughters wereborn. They are Nicola Jane Sponneck, bornon the 11th April 1965 and Emma Louise Sponneck who arrivedin the world on the16th December 1967. Nicola studied Commerce at college and worked as a secretary and lateras a personal assistant to a director of Newsweek International Magazine. On the 4th August 1990 Nicolamarried policeman, Duncan Guest (*Windsor9/5/1963) in Maidenhead, United Kingdom on the 4thAugust 1990. From this marriage twochildren were born. Ellen Jane Guest wasborn on the 13th February 1994 and Dominic Russel Guest arrived onthe 3rd November 1995. Thesecond daughter, Emma Louise, married Gregory Spurgeon in 1991 from which a sonand daughter were born. They areBenjamin Gregory Spurgeon, born on the 10th January 1994 and KatieAnnabella Spurgeon born on the 12th September 1995. Emma studied Graphic Design at college andgained a Batchelor of Arts with Honours. Degree. After this, she promptly became a Stewardessfor British Airways for a number of years. She presently applies her talents asa Graphic Designer for a London Magazine. Edmond Francois was managing his own business and lived in the United Kingdom.
On the 28thMarch 2008, Edmond Francois married KeQingAnnie Li in DongguanCity. She was born on the 13th November1964 and the couple live in DongguanCity, China.
The second family of JohnEppingen Sponneck was established on his arrival in South Africa. He arrived in Cape Townon board the UnionCastle ship, the LlanstephanCastlein October of 1937. Here we have thefirst of the Danish line to place their feet on African soil. Not the first Sponeck however as a GermanSponeck had arrived in South West Africa withthe German forces prior to the First World War. We shallread more about this in the history of the German family Sponeck. On arriving in Cape Town,John Eppingen had encountered problems with the immigration authorities inconnection with his staying in South Africaand after a short communiqué with his father back in London that problem was quicklyresolved. After a short while in Cape Town he found himself somewhat alone and in 1938decided to explore and to travel to Port Elizabeth,some seven hundred kilometres to the east of Cape Town along the southern coast.
Here he called on a few ofthe friends he had made during the three- week sea journey from the United Kingdom to South Africa. On his arrival in Port Elizabeth he immediately called on thesefamilies and in particular the Hodges family with their son, Bunny Hodges whohe had befriended on board ship. It washere that John Eppingen decided to settle and soon after found employment withthe firm Welfit Oddy (Pty) Ltd. He hadbeen offered boarding with Mrs Hodges and so set to work at his trade as aqualified motor designing draughtsman with this firm. He stayed with this firm throughout hisworking life and retired at sixty-five years of age in 1975. During these early years he met the beautifulyoung daughter of electrician Harry James Spencer and Alida Magdalena (bornBooysen) in the person of Winifred Bennetta Jane Spencer of 3 Caithness Road,Walmer. She was the second youngestchild of four children. Her elderbrother, Harry Joseph (Joey) Spencer had gone to NorthAfrica during the Second World War to fight with the South Africanforces against the Afrika Corps. He hadreturned to South Africawith tuberculosis and died soon after. Winnie was born on the 5th September 1922 in Port Elizabeth. John Eppingen married Winnie in 1941 and theybought the family property at 3Gerald Street, Newton
Park – an address that was to be synonymous with the South African Sponneckfamily for many years until it was sold in 1987 just prior to the coupleleaving for Sydney Australia.
They hadhopes of settling there for his remaining years with son, John Errol Sponneckwho had obtained Australian citizenship on his father’s Australiannationalization papers from the earliest years.
The couple soon returned to South African however and John EppingenSponneck passed away suddenly of a heart attack in Port Elizabeth on the 2nd
August 1989 – a few days before his seventy-ninth birthday!
This marriage produced afurther four children for John Eppingen. The two daughters born to them were the only two daughters to be born inthis line and in this generation. SonjaMatilda Sponneck was born on the 6th November 1941 and marriedpharmacist Elmer Noel Roberts (*20/6/1939) on the 16thSeptember 1961 in Port Elizabeth. Sonja and Noel have three children, AnthonyJohn Roberts who married Petrie Ferreira, Carl Wayne, who married TraceyJackson and Lee-Anne Roberts, married to Craig van Niekerk. The very first male member of the family tobe born in South Africawas Godfrey Harry Sponneck who saw the light of day on the 16thNovember 1945 at Elizabeth House, ParkDrive, Port Elizabeth
From formal schooling at Grey Junior andPearson High, Godfrey Harry went on to study for the ministry at BereaTheologicalCollege
where he obtained a Diploma inDivinity in 1969. Thereafter he entered the ministry for a period of ten yearsand pastored three churches.
He thenentered the Life Assurance Industry in 1980 as a representative due tofinancial strains.
In 1983 he waspromoted to District Manager in Randfontein, Transvaal
with ‘The South African Life Assurance Society’ referred to as ‘OldMutual’.
In January 1989 Godfrey Harryresigned his managers position to become an independent consultant of his ownbrokerage firm.
He currently residesback home in Port Elizabeth
On the 5th
December 1970 he married Denise Dinah Pellatt
She was the daughter of mining engineerFrederick Pellatt and Dinah, née Höll.
Denise was born on the 21st
September 1951 into the miningcommunity of Venterspost near Randfontein.
Two daughters were born to them. BeverleyShannon Sponneck
arrived on the 7th
February 1973 while herfather was pastor of the Queenstown Full Gospel Church of God and NicoleRenée Sponneck
, born on the 18th
August 1978 in Port Elizabeth
During this time her father was the pastor ofthe Lorraine Full Gospel Assembly.
Beverley is a high school teacher having enjoyed four years formaltraining at Johannesburg College of Education.
She qualified in 1997 with a Diploma in Education with Honours.
During 1998 and 1999 she taught mathematics,accounting and bookkeeping at high schools in London
She returned to South Africa
to take up her first South African teaching post at Krugersdorp High School, Gauteng
On the 13th
May 2000she was formally engaged to Donovan Blake
The couple married in the gardens chapel,Toadbury Hall, Johannesburg
,before her father, as officiating minister, on the 24th
Nicole Renée completed her fourthyear at the Johannesburg College of Education for her Diploma in Education in2000 and furthered her studies to qualify for a degree in remedial educationwith honours in 2001.
She studied forpre-primary and primary school education.
Her first teaching post in January 2002 was at the SaxonwoldPrimary School
The third child of JohnEppingen and Winnie Spencer was a daughter, Lynette Anne Sponneck, bornon the 27th October 1950. Shemarried the best friend of her brother, Godfrey Harry, who was a German fellowtheological student, Klaus-Peter Grage (*25/3/1944). Peter had also found the Lord Jesus Christ ashis Lord and Saviour in Durban,South Africa. Lynette and Peter moved back to Germany where Klaus-Peter pastored a church inSereetz, North Germany for many years. They had four children born to them. Vanessa Yvonne Grage, Benjamin Ludwig Grage,Pierre Philipp Grage and Lynn Charmaine Grage who married Julian Rettig in early2000. The last of this fold and sixthchild of John Eppingen was John Errol Sponneck born on the 16thJanuary 1953. Errol graduated with aDiploma in Pharmacy and served in the South African Defence Force inthe medical corps as a full lieutenant on the Angolan Border (during the waragainst the ANC). After spending some timeabroad in London he immigrated to Australia and settled in Sydney. Here he had various businesses, which he directed with muchsuccess. He currently resides in Melbourne where hepurchased property and has semi-retired!
HarrySponneck, the baby of Papa and Mama Sponneck, arrived in South Africa very early in 1948 when it wasknown that the family in London were consideringjoining brother John Eppingen in South Africa, after the death ofPapa Sponneck. During the war Harry hadfought with the British Expeditionary Forces and had been one of the lucky onesto have been repatriated during the now famous ‘Dunkirk’ evacuations. He was amongst the last to leave and thestory is told that as he and a friend were scrambling to climb on board a smallboat he was told that there was no more room!
He thenhad to wade over to another small ship. This saved his life, as moments later, the first craft was struck by abomb and exploded killing all on board. He was then sent to North Africa aspart of the British Army fighting the Axis forces in the desert. On both occasions, Harry would haveconfronted the forces of the German General Theodor von Sponeck! During the Battlefor Dunkirk,our German general, Theo von Sponeck, was in command of a tank battalion, andin the desert, commander of the 90th Light Division. In South Africa Harry married DaisyFredaline Rieder (*26/5/1910) on the 15th December 1948 in PortElizabeth and of this union one son, Carl Waldemar Sponneck III was bornon the 23rd January 1952. Harry and Daisy then moved their family to Australiain 1960 to join his eldest brother, Cai George who had opted to move directlyback to Australia from London with his wife,Winifred and son, Carl William in 1951. Harry passed away on the 4th December 1994 at the age ofseventy-eight years in Melbourne. Daisy lived in Mooloolaba on the SunshineCoast, Australia in the close proximity of her son Carl Waldemar andfamily. During early 2001 she moved backto Melbourne inthe close proximity of her daughter, Gail Watkins. In 2002 Daisy celebrated her ninety-secondbirthday! Carl Waldemar married Genevieve Mary Murphett in Melbourne on the 24thJune 1972. The marriage was childlessand the couple divorced on the 13th September 1986. Carl Waldemar Sponneck then married JulieAnne Jarvie (*13/9/1959) in Melbourne. Carl, like his father, Harry qualified in theupholstery business and he still runs the family business in Brisbane. Carl and Julie have two children, a daughter was born to them on the 16thJuly 1988 and she was named Shannon Lee Mathilda Sponneck followed by ason, Andrew Carl Sponneck, born on the 13th October1990. Both of these children were bornin Brisbane.
The last of this clan andthe only daughter born to Carl and Astrid was Alice Mathilde Sponneck. On the 15th January 1938 in ajoint wedding ceremony with her eldest brother she married the Danish Rector DrOluf Bruhn Müller of Randers,Denmark. Oluf was born on the 21st May1912. He will be honoured as the earlygenealogist of the Sponneck family and it is to him that we owe a debt ofgratitude for so much information on this family and also for keeping the DanmarksAdels Aarbog up to date all the years while he was alive. In 1971 King Frederik IV of Denmarkpresented Dr. Oluf Müller with the Danish Cross of the Order of Chivalryfor twenty-five years loyal service. Hewas an educationalist and to this family three children were born. They were Sonja Müller who married propertymanager, Henrik Heineke with their two sons, Lars and Ulrik Heineke, AxelMüller and Niels Waldemar Müller.
Alice still lives in Odense,at the time of writing, near her dentist son, Niels and his wife Joy LagahitPatalinghug and their two children, Annie and Jan Müller. Oluf Müller died in 1980 in Odense, Denmark.It is interesting to take note of the generations of Carl ValdemarSponneck. They were from the firstgeneration, one daughter Alice and four sons, Bill, George, John and Harry;from the second generation came two granddaughters, Sonja and Lynette and eightgrandsons, John, Paul, John Anthony, Edmond, Godfrey, Errol, Carl William andCarl Waldemar. The third generation hasproduced six great-granddaughters, Emma, Nicola, Beverley, Nicole, Lise and Shannonand nine great-grandsons, Carl John, Kristian, Craig, Carl Bjorn, Wayne, Shaun, Mark, Ryanand Andrew. Presently the family hasproduced a fourth generation, so far, of three great great grandsons, Joshua,Zachary and Johann Kristian. Thesegrandsons represent the fourteenth generation from Balthazar von Hedwiger(*1510).
We shall now continue thethird line of the Danish family Sponneck that, in 1980 became extinct, but forone granddaughter!
3) GeorgWilhelm Sponneck IV born 18th December 1789 in Copenhagen was another brother of Marius SabinusWilhelm Sponneck with whom we had stopped off for a while. Georg Wilhelm IV too, was to follow amilitary career. At the age of twelve heentered military school as a cadet. Atthe age of nineteen he joined the Danish Cavalry Horse Regiment as a secondlieutenant and was the standard-bearer for this regiment. Four years later he was promoted to fulllieutenant. In the year 1813 he left thearmy for a while to work as a surveyor. In 1814 he was official Game Keeper and Chief Youth Huntsman, a titlefor young aristocrats taking care of the kings forests and hunting rights, andin 1817, at the young age of twenty-eight, he was made a chamber youth in KingFriedrich VI’s Court. The year 1818 wasto see Georg made a senior land surveyor of the Danish government. In 1820 he made himself available again tohis commanding officer for army service. In the year 1823 he was promoted to platoon commander and in 1824 seniorcaptain. At thirty-seven years of age hewas appointed a staff officer and in 1834, at the age of forty-five, Georg wasgiven the appointment of company commander. At the age of fifty-one, in the year 1840, he was made senior staffmajor and he finally retired from the army at the age of fifty-three in 1842with the rank of major. The marriagebetween Georg Wilhelm and Marie Christine Lund took place in Copenhagen on the 29thMay 1824. Georg was thirty-five andChristine was twenty-eight years old. She was born on the 10th November 1796 and died on the 6thDecember 1864 at the age of sixty-eight years. Georg died on the 8th April 1854 at age sixty-fiveyears. The union of Georg Wilhelm andChristine produced one child. A son wasborn to the couple on the 4th March 1827. He was Georg Laurentius Julius Sponneck. Although the author knows nothing of hiscareer, we do know he married Caroline Sophie Rehder (*28/4/1833) andthe marriage produced five children. Hedied in Copenhagenat the age of seventy-five while his wife, Caroline passed away on the 29thMay 1900 in Nøddebo. She was sixty-sevenyears old. The family of Julius andChristine consisted of three daughters and two sons. The firstborn was a son, Frederik WilhelmLaurentius Sponneck who was born on the 22nd July 1859 inBrøndbyøster. In 1884 Frederik wasassistant forester and gamekeeper in Jægerspris. In 1887, he was a forester in charge ofgovernment and royal forests and in 1895 at thirty-four years of age a rangerand goods-inspector in Frederik VII’s Almshouse Foundation in Jægersprins. He married Salome Georgine ElisabethWellendorff on the 29th June 1895. His wife, called Elisabeth was born on the 20thMarch 1859 in Jægersprins. Wilhelm andElisabeth had two children. A daughtercalled Gerda Sponneck was born on the 27th September1896. Her brother, Carl WilhelmSponneck arrived in the world on the 26th September 1900 inJægersprins. Carl was stated as being alieutenant in the Gardehusar Regiment in Charlottenlund. He died in 1972 having never married and thusended in extinction the third line of the Danish Sponneck family. This was the line from the brother of MariusSabinus Sponneck in the person of George Wilhelm Sponneck (1789-1864). The second child of Julius and Caroline was adaughter, Emma Laura Caroline Sponneck, born on the 22nd July1862 in Lyngby. The third child wasanother son, Adolf Julius William Johannes Sponneck. Born on the 27th November 1865 inLyngby. Adolf was to pursue a career inthe postal service of Denmarkbeing apprenticed in Slagelse in 1887 at the age of twenty-two. By 1890 he was a postal official and anassistant in the General Directorate of the Danish Postal Service. In 1891, Adolf became the postal official inSlagelse. He was postmaster in Askeby in1913. Adolf married PetrolineKirstine Jensen on the 10th November 1893. Kirstine was born on the 24th June1867. This marriage produced twodaughters. On the 22ndOctober 1894, (a) Else Emilie Magdalene Sponneck was born inSlagelse. Her sister, (b) IngerSophie Kirstine Astrid Sponneck arrived eight years later on the 25thApril 1902. The last two children of thefive born to Julius and Caroline were a further two daughters, namely MariaLaura Sophie Christine Sponneck, born 3rd June 1869 in Lyngbyand Elisabeth Magdalena Julie Sponneck born on the 17thDecember 1871 in Nøddebo.
4) Wenow return to the children of Georg Wilhelm and Princess Charlotte AmalieHilleborg von Eppingen. Carl LeopoldFabian Sponneck was born to the couple in Copenhagen on the 17th April1792. He was baptized in the GarnisonsChurch on the 11th May ofthat year. Like his brothers, he was tobecome a cadet at the age of nine years. At eighteen years of age in the year 1809 he was a reserve senior secondlieutenant. In the year 1810, Carlbecame second lieutenant in Prince Christian Frederick’s Regiment. The year 1813 saw him promoted at the age oftwenty-one to premier lieutenant and 1825, at thirty-three years of age as astaff captain. A non-commissionedofficer named ‘Hoff’ fatally shot Fabian at the Solvgadens Barracks on the 7thAugust 1831. He was forty-one years ofage. For this dastardly deed theculprit, after a court-martial, was executed by decapitation. Fabian was buried with the family in theGarnisons Kirkegaard.
5) WincenzSteensen Sponneck, born 4th January 1800 in Copenhagenwas baptized in the GarnisonsChurch on the 3rdMarch 1800. In the year 1814 Wincenzentered the military service as a cadet officer. In 1819 he was promoted to second lieutenantin the Rocket Corps. In 1820 he was withthe 1st Jutlandic Regiment. Wincenz held the position of premier lieutenant in 1830 and in that sameyear he retired from his military career and joined the Customs and Excise astreasurer in Ribe. In 1831, Wincenz waschosen as youth chamberlain. The year1846 found him customs treasurer in Veile. By 1853 he was chamberlain to King Friedrich VII. In the year 1858 he became customs treasurerin Aalborg. In 1861 Wincenz retired with the honour of being knighted with the‘Order of the Dannebrog’ by King Friedrich VII. Wincenz died in Copenhagenon the 26th June 1864 at the age of sixty-four. He had married Marie Hedvig Møller onthe 8th September 1830. Hedvig was nine years his junior. The couple were childless. Hiswife, called Hedvig, was born on the 14th May 1809 and died at theage of eighty-three on the 11th January 1892 in Copenhagen.
We now return to pick up the line of Andreas Eberhard(1713-1766) and his remaining five of their six children. These were the brothers and sisters of GeorgeWilhelm II and his bride, the Norwegian Princess Charlotte Amalie Hilleborg vonEppingen.
b. Anna Sophie Wilhelmine Sponeck was born inSkjelskør on the 28th December 1741. She passed away on the 1st May 1810 in Næstved at the age offifty-one years.
c. Christoph Moritz Sponeck was born and died onthe same day, the 15th January 1743 in Skjelskør.
d. Helene Charlotte Louise Sponeck lived to the ageof sixty-six years. She too was born inSkjelskør on the 23rd March 1744. She passed away in Næstved on the 12th May 1810.
e. Carl Leopold Sponeck was born inSkjelskør on the 9th October 1746. Atthe age of twelve he became a national cadet. In 1764, at age eighteen he was a warrantofficer with Holstein Rifle Infantry Regiment. In 1765 he was promoted to second lieutenant and in 1782 he held the positionof senior lieutenant and reported to the Oldenborgs Infantry Regiment foractive service. In 1785, he was postedto the Zealand Rifle Infantry Regiment and in the same year as seniorlieutenant with the 2nd Frederikshavn’s Battalion. In 1789 Carl became staff captain. He took his retirement from the army in 1790at the age of forty-four. He died in1823 on the 28th February in Ringkjøbing at the age of seventy-sevenyears. It would appear from the recordsthat he never married, as he left no descendants or heirs.
f. Christiane Malene Sponeck saw the lightof day for a few weeks from the 27th March to the 4th May1740 after which she died in infancy in Skjelskør.
The last three characters in the Danish Sponneck Saga werethe ninth, tenth and eleventh child of General Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger, Rigsgreveaf Sponeck and his wife, Princess Anna Sophie vonBojanowsky. Their brief history is toldas follows:
9. EleonoreAmalie Sponeck, born 15th April 1703 and died at thirteen yearsof age in 1716.
10. Christiane AmalieSponeck entered the world on the 19th April 1718, two yearsafter the death of her previous sister. She too carried the name ‘Amalie’ which was the name from the NorwegianRoyal Family, namely Princess Charlotte Amalie von Eppingen – mother ofPrincess Hilleborg von Eppingen to whom her nephew was married. Christiane became a young lady-in-waiting tothe Court of Norway during 1734-1739 at the age of sixteen years until hertwenty-first year and again between 1752-1772 between the ages of thirty-fourand fifty-four years of age. In 1772 shewas honoured by being made personal lady-in-waiting to Princess CharlotteAmalie von Eppingen. It was no doubtthrough this relationship that her nephew, Georg Wilhelm II at the age offorty-two met and married the young Princess Hilleborg von Eppingen in 1783when she was but twenty-five years of age.
11. Johan Georg SponeckII. The last child of General GeorgWilhelm von Hedwiger, Rigsgreve von Sponeck was Johan Georg II Sponeck. He arrived in the world on the 5thAugust 1720. The General was at thistime forty-eight years of age and he no doubt named his child after his ownfather – Captain Johann Georg von Hedwiger who had died in the ImperialService. The young Johan Georg howeverwas not to survive and died in infancy. The eldest child was twenty years of age at the birth of the General’seleventh offspring!
So the history unfolds and as has been indicated, thisDanish family at the time of writing has no less than nine great-grandsons ofthe Patriarch, Carl Valdemar Sponneck to continue this line. As we enter the new millennium, a new chapterin the history of this family will be written and be added to this work. These great-grandsons are now spread between Australia, SouthAfrica and the United Kingdom and will no doubtcontinue the ‘Saga of the Sponneck Family!’
THE FRENCH LINE – DESPONECK
n understanding the French family, one must understandthat two French lines emanated from the ‘famous four’ children of Johann Georgvon Hedwiger. The son of Anna Sabina andthe Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard, Prinz Georg de Sponeck andhis two sisters were known as Reichsgrafen von Sponeck. The second French line which became extinctin 1861 were the descendants of Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf vonSponeck and his first wife, Leopoldine Eleonore Geldrich vonSigmarshausen (Sigmarshofen). Hissecond marriage after the death of Eleonore, to Wilhelmine Louise von Hoffwas to bring into being the German family whose descendants are still with ustoday. It is interesting to note thatthe Gotha of1867 states that the French line was naturalised French in the year 1719. Also in this same issue of the Gotha the French line aregiven the prefix ‘von’ and the title name is spelt as ‘Sponneck’.
We begin by taking up the line of Johann Rudolph vonHedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck and his first wife, Eleonore vonSigmarshofen (Sigmarshausen). Bornto the couple were two sons, but only one of the sons in the person of LeopoldEberhard Comte de Sponeck was to continue the line. He was born on the 11th January1706 in Mömpelgard, Alsace. Known by his second name, Eberhard, it is clear that he was named afterhis uncle, the Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard, thus showing what a greatinfluence this man had on the lives of the von Hedwiger family. Later, he became known as Leopold EberhardComte de Allanjoie and Boudeval after he had acquired these possessions andcounties. Eberhard’s first wife was LeopoldineEberhardine de Lespérance, Countess of Coligny, France. They marriedon the 16th February 1729. She however passed away nineteen months later in 1730. The second wife after Leopoldine’s death was AlexandrineCatherine de la Chaume de Odelans. The name would clearly indicate that she came from a very good nobleFrench family. They married on the 29thJanuary 1736 in Montbéliard,France. From this marriage four children wereconceived. They were three sons and adaughter. The first son, FerdinandAlexandre de Sponeck was born 24th March 1738. Of him, we arenot told anything further. The Second son was named Charles FredericGuillaume de Sponeck and he was born on the 24th July 1740 inMontbéliard. Surviving only a few months, he passed away on the 20thSeptember 1740. The third child was AnnaEleonore Elizabeth de Sponeck. Shewas born on the 31st March 1744 in Montbéliard and is recorded ashaving died on the 19th December 1817 at the age of seventy-twoyears. Anna married one, Karl LudwigFerdinand Forstner Baron von Damdenon, youth chamberlain and captain in theservice of the Dukes of Württemberg on the 10th June 1784. Their only daughter, Elizabeth LouisaAlexandrine von Damdenon (*1785 - +1864) married her first cousin, Karl AugustFerdinand Louis de Sponeck (*1785 - +1844). Eberhard Louis de Sponeckwas the third son, born the 19th February 1748. He was a Chamberlain to the Princes ofMontbéliard. On the 15th June1784 he married Leopoldine Frances Goguel (+1814). He died inMontbéliard on the 2nd May 1804. He was alone to have further descendants. Two sons and a daughter were born to thiscouple. Leopold Clement AlexandreLouis de Sponeck was born in Montbéliard on the 7th August1784. His wife was ElizabethAlexandrine de Forstner who he married on the 2nd August 1810 inMontbéliard. From this couple came thelast three children of the French de Sponeck line. They were: a daughter, Hortense Louise deSponeck, born in Montbéliard on the 15th December 1810, who isrecorded to have married Adam Thomas de Pawlowski on 8th May1869 in Montbéliard. She died in 1889 atthe age of seventy-nine years. NapoleonFrancois Louis Hippolyte de Sponeck born 27th January 1812. Hippolyte de Sponeck is recorded as havingbeen a squadron commander in the French army. He died unmarried and without heirs at the age of forty-nine years onthe 18th June 1861 and this ended the French line of Sponecktogether with his younger brother Charles Auguste de Sponeck (*14/4/1813 - +8/8/1813) who died in infancy.
We now go back to the brother of Leopold Clement AlexandreLouis who was Karl August Ferdinand Louis de Sponeck born 6thJuly1785 and who married first cousin Elizabeth Louisa Alexandrine Baronessvon Damdenon in about 1812. He died1844 without heirs.
His Sister, Franziska Friederikke Eleonore de Sponeck,was born on the 14th November 1793 and on 22nd February1814 she married Colonel Graf von Koenigssegg (*28/1/1786 - +7/3/1863)of Strasbourg. She died on the 22ndNovember 1870 at seventy-seven years of age in the castle of her husband, knownas Schloss Saverne.
The second son of Johann Rudolph and Eleonore vonSigmarshofen was one, Georg Leopold de Sponeck who was born some nineyears later in 1715 when his mother was already thirty-nine years of age. He unfortunatelydied in his youth, in about 1735.
So ends the French line of French patriarch, JohannRudolph von Sponeck by his first wife, Eleonore Geldrich von Sigmarshofen.
The second French line – de Sponeck – that we shall handlehere were the children of Anna Sabina von Hedwiger and the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard. We shall have tounfortunately maybe repeat some information here for continuity from thechapter on the Württemberg family. Itshall however here be expanded. As wehave seen, of their four children only one son and one daughter survived tomarry and have progeny. The first sonwas, like his father, also named Leopold Eberhard Reichsgraf de Sponeck. He was born in Rejowitz, Polandon the 30th March 1695. Hisparents were married there soon after on the 1st June 1695. Leopold Eberhard however died at the earlyage of fourteen years in Mömpelgard on the 7th March 1709. His brother, Prinz Georg LeopoldReichsgraf de Sponeck was born in Oels, Poland during 1697 followed laterin the same year by sibling Leopoldine Eberhardine de Sponeck (*1697 /+1786) born in Rejowitz, Poland as was their other brother. Duke Georg von Württemberg-Mömpelgard haddied in 1684 and his son, the young Leopold Eberhard inherited his domains. In 1698 Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard and his family moved back to Mömpelgard in order toreclaim their principality from Franceafter the peace accord. The fourth child and second daughter was CharlotteLeopoldine de Sponeck. She was bornin 1700 in Mömpelgard, Alsacein Franceonly to die at the age of three years on the 3rd February 1703,still in Mömpelgard.
Prinz Georg Leopold de Sponeck married EleonoreCharlotte de Sandersleben, Countess of Coligny, who had beenlady-in-waiting to the Queen of Poland, on the 22nd May 1719 in Paris. As only surviving son of the Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard, Prinz Georg Leopold Comte de Sponeck demandedthe right to inherit his fathers lands and possessions, but lost his case onthe 8th April 1723 and again his appeal on the 18thSeptember 1739 before the Reichshof in Viennadue to his mothers morganatic marriage to Duke Leopold Eberhard vonWürttemberg-Mömpelgard. He did getsupport from the French Court who had ‘land rights’ to some of the disputed lands, but peacebetween the Holy Roman Emperor and the French King in 1738 and the treaty withthe Duke of Stuttgart in 1748 led to France giving up on his claim. After having been driven out of Mömpelgard hesettled in Parisbut continued to call himself Comte de Montbéliard and Prinz vonMömpelgard. He died in an accident onthe 14th February 1749 when his carriage overturned on the road fromParis to theRoyal Palace of Versailles. With hismentally handicapped son and two daughters this branch of the family becameextinct in Francein 1790.
The five children of Prinz Georg and Eleonore deSandersleben were: Charlotte Eleanore de Sponeck, born on the 25thDecember 1719 in Paris. Leopold Christian de Sponeck was bornon the 4th February 1721, but died two years later in 1723. The last surviving son in this line was thementally handicapped Georg Leopold de Sponeck who was born on the 15thJanuary 1722 in Pariswhere he died at the full age of sixty-eight years in 1790. The fourth child was another daughter, FranziskaSalome de Sponeck born 30th June 1724 and the last son was one, Ludwigde Sponeck. He was born on the 15thDecember 1725 and also in Paris. His death is given as on the 24thAugust 1734 in Parisat the age of only nine years.
We now look at the remaining daughter of Duke LeopoldEberhard and Anna Sabina. She was LeopoldineEberhardine de Sponeck. On the 31stAugust 1719 she married Carl Leopold de Sandersleben in Mömpelgard. She was born in Rejowitz, Polandin 1697. Her death came in 1786 ateighty-nine years of age. It is sad thatshe is reputed to have gone insane after the birth of her fifth child in 1724and was committed to the Convent of Lonsonnier for safekeeping. The five children of the couple were:Eleonore Charlotte de Sandersleben, born 5th June 1720 who marriedChevalier de Pillot, de Chenecey on the 4th April 1752 inMontbéliard. He was the Marquis deColigny and Seigneur de Chenecey. Thesetitles he held from his inherited lands. Leopold Ulrich de Sandersleben was born on the 18th May 1721and died on the 2nd June 1751 at Mantes sur Seine. The third child was a daughter, AnnaElisabeth Hedwig de Sandersleben born on the 3rd September1722. She died in 1793. Anna Elisabeth married Joseph LouisChristophe de Lucinge on the 11th November 1747. He too was a Marquis and in high standing atthe Court of Versailles. His titles wereMarquis de Lucinge, Seigneur de la Mothe-Lucinge. The last two sons were Karl Ferdinand deSandersleben, born on the 1st November 1723 and Friedrich Eugen deSandersleben who was born in 1724.
We thus come to the end of the known and recorded membersof the families who bore the name ‘Sponeck’ in France. In the next chapter we shall look at thesecond family of Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck, who wasbrother-in-law and governor in Mömpelgard to the last Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard.
THE GERMAN FAMILY – VON SPONECK
he youngest member of the ‘famous four’ and the patriarchof the present German family was one, Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger,Reichsgraf von Sponeck. HansRudolph, as he was called, was born on the 10th June 1681, the sameyear that his father, Captain Johann Georg von Hedwiger died in service of theImperial Army. Hans Rudolph’s earlieryears were no doubt spent in Silesia,northeast Germany which isnow part of Poland. These three brothers had all entered thearmy, as had their father before them. Their grandfather, Christoph von Hedwiger had been Privy-Councillor tothe Duke of Görlitz, as had his father before him.
Hans Rudolph had no doubt been in a military school and ongraduation in about 1698 entered the Imperial Army. In about this time the War of the SpanishSuccession was brewing and Hans had been commissioned and held the rank ofsecond lieutenant, seconded to the Danish Expeditionary Forces. He was still in the Danish Army when on the 2ndAugust 1701 at the age of just twenty years he was created‘Count-of-the-Empire’ along with his two elder brothers and sister, Anna Sabina,who was now the estranged wife of the Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgard. His eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm, thepatriarch of the present Danish family Sponneck was from 1699 invited by thetwenty-eight year old Duke Leopold Eberhard to be his Privy-Councillor andGovernor of his land and estate in Mömpelgard. The French king, Louis XIV had been fighting against the AustrianEmpire, called the Holy Roman Empire, and had in effect evicted the Dukes ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard from their possessions in Alsace on the west bank of theRhine. Later, Louis XIV had been forcedto sign a peace agreement and in this the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, hadagain granted the Dukes of Württemberg-Mömpelgard their former lands andpossessions west of the Rhine. Duke Georg von Württemberg-Mömpelgard haddied sometime before the family returned from exile in the east of Germany withhis daughter and son-in-law, the Duke of Württemberg-Oels, ruler of the easternpossessions of Württemberg. The young Duke Leopold Eberhard then inherited hisfather’s possessions west of the Rhine. During the time in exile in the east, theyoung duke had in 1695 married Anna Sabina von Hedwiger. She had been one of the youngladies-in-waiting to the Duchess of Württemberg-Oels. Anna Sabina was indeed from a ‘noble’ butuntitled family. This meant by the rulesof aristocracy that Anna Sabina could not by virtue of marrying a Duke qualifyto be a ‘Duchess’ in her own right. Thistype of marriage is called ‘morganatic’ and means that, even though she wasconsidered noble, she was not of ‘royal’ or ‘ducal’ descent and thus not ableto be created a ‘duchess’. On accedingto his father’s titles and possessions in Mömpelgard, the young duke had invitedhis wife’s brother, Georg Wilhelm who was now twenty-seven years of age, totake up the position of governor of his Mömpelgard Duchy. Georg Wilhelm had up to this time in 1699been serving as captain in the Mömpelgard Regiment. Georg Wilhelm thus moved with Duke LeopoldEberhard’s family, his sister and widowed mother back to theWürttemberg-Mömpelgard Duchy in Alsace, acrossthe Rhine into east France. The two younger brothers von Hedwiger hadcontinued in the Imperial Army and indeed, the middle brother, Johann Christophwas to be killed at the age of thirty-eight fighting the Turks at the Battle ofPeterwardein in 1716. As JohannChristoph was unmarried he left no heirs.
Shortly after the title grant in 1701 the War of theSpanish Succession broke out and Georg Wilhelm was summonsed to serve theemperor as a knight with the rank of major. In 1702 he was placed in charge of the Danish Auxiliary Forces in Holland in which hisyoungest brother, Johann (Hans) Rudolph was serving as a junior officer. After much research there can be no doubtthat a strong bond of friendship existed between the young Duke LeopoldEberhard and the von Hedwiger siblings. With the resignation of Georg Wilhelm to re-enter military service,where his heart obviously lay, Duke Leopold Eberhard immediately requested thetwenty-one year old Hans Rudolph to come to Mömpelgard. At this the young Hans Rudolph resigned hiscommission. In 1703 he left the Danishforces to take up his eldest brothers posts in Mömpelgard as Privy Councillor,Chief Master-of-the-Hunt and Governor from the age of twenty-two. He served the Duke of Württemberg-Mömpelgardand the government of Mömpelgard for most of his life and enjoyed a long andgood career in the Mömpelgard government.
Johann (Hans) Rudolph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeckmarried Leopoldine Eleonore Geldreich von Sigmarshausen on the 9th November1704. He was twenty-three years ofage. This marriage produced one son whothey named Leopold Eberhard von Sponeck who was born on the 11thJanuary 1706. They no doubt named him inhonour of Duke Leopold Eberhard von Württemberg thus showing us something ofthe prestige and friendship they enjoyed with the Duke. The couple had four more children, none ofwho survived infancy. LeopoldineEleonore then herself died on the 29th September 1717 at the age offorty years at the birth of her last child. She was four years older than Hans Rudolph. Four years later, on the 31stJanuary 1721 Hans Rudolph married Baroness Wilhelmine von Hoff inMömpelgard. He was now forty years ofage. His bride was sixteen yearsold. His young bride bore him threechildren of whom one was a son and two were daughters. The firstborn was to be a daughter, who theynamed Eberhardine Henriette von Sponeck, born on the 24thApril 1724, followed soon after by their only son who they called FriedrichLudwig von Sponeck. He was born onthe 16th October 1725. Thenext child arrived some five years later in the person of MaximillianeChristiane von Sponeck. Through herdescendents the Sponeck family were to be linked to the Scandinavian RoyalFamilies. She was born in Stuttgart on the 14thMay 1730. This is significant in that itwould appear that the family were now in the WürttembergCapitalCity and possibly withthe Württemberg government. Hans Rudolphhowever returned to Mömpelgard where he passed away on the 6th March1740, at the age of fifty-nine years. Hedied just a few months before his eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm passed away inSeptember of 1740 in Copenhagen.
Friedrich Ludwig was an official in the service of theDuke of Württemberg as his Grandmaitre, or Chamberlain, and Minister ofForestry in Ludwigsburg. At the age of thirty-six he married thetwenty-seven year old Christiana Dorothea Pfister in the town of Hopfigheim on the 26thOctober 1761. She was the daughter ofJohann Sebastian Pfister, the village pastor of Pleidelsheim and SusannaMargarethe. Christiana Dorothea was bornin Pleidelsheim on the 20th January 1734. She died one year before Friedrich Ludwig onthe 30th December 1791 at fifty-seven years of age. Friedrich Ludwig died on the 9thSeptember 1792 at the age of sixty-seven years. The couple’s first son was born in 1762 and was named Carl FriedrichChristian Wilhelm von Sponeck. It would appear that this son had no heirs, but he was an educationalistand head forester and hunter in Blaubeuren, Baden. Carl Friedrich obtained his Doctorate inPhilosophy and went on to be Minister of Forestry of the Baden Government andlater Professor of Forestry at the HeidelbergUniversity. He is listed as having authored a number ofbooks on the subject of forestry. He died in 1827 at the age of seventy-sevenyears. The only other recorded child wasa son who they named Carl Wilhelm von Sponeck, born on the 3rdOctober 1772 in Karlsruhe. In 1810 Carl Wilhelm married RosinaSchmidt of Karlsruhe. Carl Wilhelm entered the military service andwas a Prussian Colonel and later Major General in Baden. He also served as Chief of the RoyalStables. In a day when horses playedsuch a major role as means of transport and in war, to be entrusted with theroyal horses was indeed an honour and privilege. It was possibly Carl Wilhelm who in 1802 hadattempted to claim the Burg Sponeck in Jechtingen through the Baden Court but wasunsuccessful. This is revealed in thebook on the Castle Sponeck published in 1938. Carl Wilhelm and Rosina had five children of whom three were sons andtwo were daughters. Only the eldest soncontinued the German descent line. Hewas:
(1) Wilhelm von Sponeck, born on the 18thOctober 1813 in Karlsruhe. Wilhelm served as Chamberlain to the GrandDuke of Baden and to Prince Maximilian of Baden. He was twice married. His first wife, Sophie von Harling andhe, were married on the 22nd June 1843 in Ludwigsburg. After only two years of marriage she died leaving him and a newborn babyson.
(A) Karl Wilhelm Franz von Sponeck, born in Karlsruhe on the 30thJuly 1845. Karl Wilhelm Franz went on tobecome a major general and Oberstallmeister in Baden before he passedaway at sixty-eight years of age in Karlsruheon the 14th March 1913. KarlWilhelm Franz married Fanny von Lersner from Karlsruhe on the 4th May1871. The couple had three children ofwhom two were sons and one a daughter. The children were:
(i) WilhelmAnton Franz Albrecht August von Sponeck, born on the 31stJanuary 1872 in Hanover. He was however killed in action at the age offorty-two years as an officer in the First World War on the 30thSeptember 1914 at the Battle of Argonne on the Western Front. He was a professional soldier who nevermarried and left no heirs.
(ii) KurtEmil Friedrich von Sponeck was born on the 17th February 1873 inBruchsal. He was a great horseman and anOberstallmeister in Prussiaand later in charge of the breeding stables at Schlenderhan. Between 1922 and 1927 he was Colonel andcurator in charge of the famous stables at Altefelde. Kurt Emil Friedrich married Marissa vonOettingen on the 12th June 1902 in Trakehnen. Marissa von Oettingen came from anotherfamous horse breeding family. Marissaalso authored a book on the famous Trakehnen horses. Kurt and Marissa had only one son called EberhardHeinrich Colmar von Sponeck who was born on the 13th January1910 in Gudwallen. We hear nothing moreof him after the 1911 edition of the German Gotha so we can assume he passedaway early in his life. Kurt died on the3rd November 1955 in Köln with one possibly deceased son and soended this line of the family.
Colonel Kurt von Sponeck bred another famous ‘Sponeck’ here inTrakehnen. He was the black stallionwhose progeny and lineage is called ‘Graf Sponeck’ and the horse is today knownaround the world from Australiato America. It was firstly used in breeding and then racing and show jumping and hisoffspring has excelled marvellously in all fields of the horse sport.
(iii)ElizabethFranziska Anna von Sponeck was the only daughter of Karl Wilhelm Franz andFanny von Lersner. She was born on the 5thMarch 1877 in Trier. She married Lieutenant-Colonel Wernervon Bresler on the 5th February 1898 in Berlin.
Wilhelm von Sponeck (*1813), the new patriarch of theGerman line, then married his second wife, BaronessElizabeth von Reischach on the 11thFebruary 1847. He was then thirty-fouryears and his new spouse, twenty-eight years old. She bore him two more sons and twodaughters. These two brothers then eachbecame patriarchs of the two current lines of Sponeck. The Four were:
(a) AntonFranz Heinrich von Sponeck, born in Rastatt on the 29thSeptember 1848.
(b) AugustJoseph Anton von Sponeck, born in Gernsbach on the 15thSeptember 1850.
(c) MariaAnna von Sponeck born on the 18th September 1852, and
(d) ErnestineAntonie Auguste von Sponeck, born on the 5th September 1856.
We will nowfirst take a look at the remaining four siblings of Karl Wilhelm vonSponeck. Significantly, they were allonly given one first name! The secondchild was: (2) Carl von Sponeck,born on the 26th August 1816. This gentleman, as the second son of a nobleman, entered military servicewhere he excelled to the ranks of major general and then ended his career aslieutenant general. Carl is recorded ashaving been a member of the Society of Noble Genealogy in Baden. Carl von Sponeck married Maria Kraft on the 11th July1840. They had one daughter, MarieWilhelmine Caroline von Sponeck who was born to them on the 15thApril 1841. She married one, Clemensvon Boigts-Rhetz on the 8th April 1865.
(3)The thirdchild was also a son, August von Sponeck. August lived till fifty years of age. He was born on the 6th July1817. He married twice and had twochildren by his first wife. She was MarieWilhelmine Alexandrine Baroness von Berlichingen-Hengstfeld, who hemarried on the 12th November 1845. The two children were Pauline von Sponeck, born on the 11thNovember 1846 and Wilhelm von Sponeck, born the 17th August1848. Marie Wilhelmine passed away onthe 12th January 1860 after fifteen years of marriage. August von Sponeck then married Bertha vonTruchsess-Wesshausen on the 28th August 1862. After a marriage of only five years, Augustpassed away on the 22nd January 1867.
(4)Pauline von Sponeck was born on the 12thJuly 1820. She married ProcopiusKramer on the 12th October 1850.
(5)Augusta von Sponeck was born on the 30thMay 1823. This daughter married Alfredvon Degenfeld zu Neuhaus on the 4th May 1844.
We will now have to do with the two patriarchs of thepresent Sponeck family. Of the twosisters, Maria Anna and Ernestine Antonie we read nothing more. Anton Franz Heinrich was unfortunate in thathis first wife died just short of one year after their marriage in 1873. She was Maria Pfetsch, who he married on the20th October 1872 in Karlsruhe. He then married Therese von Cornberg, ofnoble descent, on the 7th May 1876 in Richelsdorf. Anton and Theresa had seven children. The second son died shortly after birth andis not named in the records. Antonserved as a Prussian premier lieutenant in the 4th Baden InfantryRegiment No. 112 and ended his military career as a major and divisioncommander. He then retired from the armyas he suffered from a heart ailment. Hedied unexpectedly of a heart attack on the 15th June 1905 whilehunting in the woods of Neckarelz near his home.
We shall now look at the German line of Anton FranzHeinrich von Sponeck to the present time and his present descendants. We shall then return and look at the secondline of the German family through Emil August Joseph Anton von Sponeckand to the present generation of his line.
Anton and Theresa had six children of who four were sonsand two, daughters. The eldest child, ason was (i) Joseph Wilhelm Maximilian von Sponeck, born in Hüningen in Alsace on the 19thMarch 1877. The family called him‘Max’. Between 1912 and 1914, as acaptain, he served as adjutant to Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia androse to the rank of major during the First World War. He was seriously wounded on the Western Frontduring the early part of 1914. Duringthe war Maximilian married his first wife on the 30th October 1915in Lutzow. She was Gisela vonBassewitz. The couple separated andin 1919 the marriage was annulled. Shedied in Stockholmin 1946. Max married Maria-Sylvia vonTeichman und Logischen on the 30th September 1919 in Dombrowkain Silesiashortly after the Armistice. In 1931 Maxpurchased an estate and castle in Görlitz called Nieder-Heidersdorf in Lauban, Silesia. The property was lost to the family with theinvasion and occupation of eastern Germany by the Russians andcommunists in 1945. Max died of a heartattack while away in Berlin with his servant during this time in order to getgrain and seed to plant on his estate. He died in Dippoldiswalde on the 19th May 1945. His wife and sons, who had returned home fromthe battlefield, left everything they possessed and fled to the west before theoccupying Russian forces.
Max and Maria-Sylvia had a family of two sons. They were Hans Olaf Oculi Friedrich-WilhelmMaximilian Walther von Sponeck and Gottfried Friedrich HeinrichEgg-Ottmar von Sponeck.
Hans-Olaf Oculi Friedrich Wilhelm Maximilian Walthervon Sponeck was born on the 19th March 1922 in Dombrowka, Silesia. Hans Olaf served in the German Army duringthe Second World War, which broke out when he was seventeen years of age. He married Maria-Luise von Tümpling onthe 14th January 1950 in Bad Homburg von der Höhe. The marriage produced two daughters and endedwith a divorce in 1971. The firstdaughter was Beatrix Maria Sylvia von Sponeck, born in Bad Homburg on the 26th January1952. Beatrix married EduardoFoncillas Casaus on the 24th September 1983 in Kronberg, Taunusin Germany. His second daughter, Karin Isabell MariaSylvia von Sponeck too was born in BadHomburg on the 23rd August 1955. On the 27th December 1977 shemarried Hans Jürgen Weiss in Kronberg. On the 18th November 1972, Hans-Olaf married his second wife,Karin von Rieck-Eggebert in Hamburg. A few months later, on the 26thFebruary 1973 Hans-Olaf was found deceased in Bad Homburg von der Höhe.
Gottfried Friedrich Heinrich Egg-Ottmar von Sponeck entered theworld on the 8th October 1928 in Dombrowka. Towards the end of the Second World War, as asixteen year old, Ottmar was conscripted while doing his Arbeitsdienst to a reserve regiment in Wittenberg an der Elbe. After a short training the regiment was sent“to liberate Berlinfrom the Russians!” They were preparedto attack when they came under massive artillery and Mortar fire. The battalion hit the trenches and for morethan three days the German lines were heavily fired upon and suffered manycasualties and losses. Under heavy firethe order came to withdraw and within an hour they arrived, disarrayed at the ElbeRiver. The Germans had just blown up the steelbridge to prevent the Russians from using it to cross the river. The young troops were in chaos and simplydisappeared. Ottmar made for the destroyed bridge and was able to grab hold ofthe iron girders of the bridge. He thenworked his way along to the middle of the river and dropped into the water. He was dealt a blow to the head by floatingdebris and rendered unconscious. When herevived, Ottmar found himself on the western bank and so he was able to escapeRussian captivity. Soon after, he met upwith his brother and mother at their home. His brother, Hans-Olaf insisted that they flee to the American sector,which they duly did, leaving everything behind including their father who hadgone to Berlinwith a servant in order to obtain seed for planting on the farm. They never saw him again! In recent times Ottmar has been successful inhis claims to his fathers old estate in Görlitz. Reconstruction and building on the siteprogresses even at the time of writing. The beautiful old palace was destroyed by fire while in the possessionof the communist Poles. On the 7thSeptember 1968 Ottmar married Christine Malm in Frankfurt-am-Main. The marriage produced one son, OlofFriedrich Karl Maximilian von Sponeck. Olof was born on the 6th February 1969 inFrankfurt-am-Main. He served hismilitary service in the army and attained the rank of lieutenant. Olof married Stefanie von Kuster onthe 10th May 1997 in Wiesbaden. Stefanie and her family came from Görlitz, Silesiawhere they too have property. Born toOlof and Stefanie on the 22nd November 1998 was a daughter, ConstanzeAntonea von Sponeck in Wiesbaden. Constanze is the first of the thirteenthgeneration of the German line from the patriarch, Balthazar von Hedwiger since1510 and also the first of the ninth generation of the ‘von Sponeck’ name. On the 28th January 2001 the first‘son’ of the thirteenth generation arrived, born to Olof and Stefanie in Wiesbaden, in the personof Hans Ferdinand Maximilian Olof von Sponeck. He was also the first Sponeck born truly inthe 21st century! On the 6th July 2002 their second son, RichardLeopold Karl August von Sponeck was born in Wiesbaden, Germany.
The second child of Anton and Theresa was a son called(ii) Wilhelm von Sponeck who was born on the 7th September1878 in Mulhausen (Hüningen) in Alsace. Willy, as he was called, was not listed in the 1911 issue of the ‘Gotha’, probably due tothe fact that he had died shortly before that date. He is however mentioned in his brother,Lieutenant General Theo’s Memoirs. Willydied of a heart attack after contacting a lung infection in about 1902 in Karlsruhe. (iii) The first daughter to be born to Antonand Theresa was Maria Theresa Karola Josephine von Sponeck. Maria was educated at the Convent of Namur inBelgiumwhich was a boarding school run by the nuns of the F.C.J. which was at that time a very famousplace for girls to get the final touch before marriage. When she finished at this school and camehome she declared her wish to dedicate her life to God and to enter the Convent. Her father, a religious protestant was mostupset. He entered an agreement with herthat she should first enter the Court of the Markgraf von Baden and to takepart at every social event for two years. She would then be Lady-in-Waiting to the wife of the Markgraf. If, by then she still wanted to remain withher decision – he would give her his blessing and permission. After these two years of entertainment andhaving fallen in love with a first cousin on her mother’s side (which wasfrowned upon by the family) she went back to her father and got hisblessing. She became a nun and a veryhighly regarded teacher at the InternationalBoarding School atWare/Hertfordshire England. She wasfamous for her Botanical Garden, which she created with seedlings from all overthe world. She was a very joyful andhumorous person with an enormous understanding for all the problems ofyouth. After the war she was able tosend ‘care-parcels’ to the family back in Germany who were understandablygoing through hard times. Maria was agenerous and broad-minded thinker. Shedied on the 25th July 1970 in Hertford,England. She was deep into her eighties. She died two years after her very first triphome to Germany to meet heryoungest brother, Lieutenant General Theodor von Sponeck after a lifetime spentin England. The next child (iv) Emil Theodor Hans von Sponeck who was born inMulhausen on the 21st July 1884 was the very first ‘Sponeck’ to havereportedly placed his feet on African soil. Emil von Sponeck had been sent to German South-West-Africa with a GermanInfantry Regiment in 1900. He stayedthere for four years and spent his holidays in Cape Town. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he returnedhome to Germanyon furlough. He found that mobilisationwas taking place and so he volunteered for the Mounted Horse Brigade. Emil loved nothing better than riding hishorse and to enter the war on a horse was nearest his heart. He had in the meantime bought himself thehorse and had joined a cavalry regiment. The request however was not granted but this was unbeknown to him. He had in the meantime entered the front andtaken part in one of the first offensives of the war on the German Frenchborder. Emil died in the happiest statehe would have wanted: during a cavalry charge! The younger daughter, (v) Ernestine Mathilde Josephine LuiseMargarete von Sponeck was born in Offenburg,Baden on the 18th April 1894. Called Margarete and ‘Gretl’ by the immediatefamily, she was a very pretty lady with golden heart and a nearly unbearablefate. Her story of human tragedy and illfate is indeed a heartbreaking saga. Herstory however, also bears witness to the purpose of a life of faith and trustin the living God. During the 1914-1918War, Margarete married a tall thin infantry officer and company chief with therank of captain called Ernst Freiherr von Beust on the 4thAugust 1914 in the town of Villingen. Like her brother, Emil, Ernst was killed soonafter the beginning of the war at Mülhausen in Alsace on the 9th August1914. Her second husband was to be thethirty-eight year old Ludwig von Berg who she married in Neckarelz onthe 23rd April 1919. Themarriage produced four children of which three were sons. Ludwig and his family lived in a lovely placenear Bad Oldesloe with Margarete’s widowed mother. He commanded a stable depot where the horseswere bred, selected and trained for military purposes. At the outbreak of the Second World War,Ludwig held the rank of Colonel. Threedays after the war commenced, their eldest son, nineteen-year-old Hans-BerkoAnton von Berg was killed at a place called Graudenz. On the 30th December 1941 as partof the 11th Army in the south of Russia, Ernst, her husband waskilled in action at Dnjepropetrowsk. This would have been in similar actions that Lieutenant General HansSponeck was occupied with at that time. The news then came that on the 12th July 1943, her youngerson, Klaus-Berko Maximilian von Berg had also been killed in action atKotschetowka near Bjelgorod in Russia. He was twenty-two years of age at thistime. A deep loving daughter, MariaMariegret Rosa Theresia Emma von Berg, who was ever at her mother’s side,provided Margarete’s human comfort. Ifthis were not enough, the final blow came with the news that the youngest son,Eberhard-Berko Otto von Berg was missing in action, presumed dead on the 13thSeptember 1944 at Genua, Ofahnr zu See at the tender age of nineteenyears. Margarete von Bezold relates thatonly her Aunt Margarete’s deep faith in God sustained her through these timesand the care of her remaining daughter Mariegret, called Mausi by thefamily. She seemed to be always cheerfuland strong. This was witnessed by herniece, Margarete von Bezold who stayed together with them till the end of thewar. Her daughter, Mausi then marriedand they moved together to the new household. Gretl von Sponeck-von Berg passed away on the 12th March 1963in Aalen,Württemberg at the age of sixty-nine years. The youngest child of Anton and Theresa was (vi) Karl Anton Theodorvon Sponeck. Born to the family onthe 24th January 1896 in Offenburg, Baden, Theo was to have a very adventurous life goingthrough two world wars and fighting on six fronts. An entire chapter of this work is dedicatedto his biography. Theo ended hismilitary career in an American prisoner-of-war camp having the rank oflieutenant general after the surrender of his forces to Lieutenant GeneralFreyberg of New Zealand. The story of Theo von Sponeck is indeedfascinating and either the faith of a praying mother or a guardian angel, orboth, are to be seriously believed in after these accounts are told. It is the author’s belief that this wasindeed the reason why ‘Uncle Theo’ began to write his biography (which has neverbeen published) after being spared so many times and being blessed to live afull life till his death at the age of eighty-six years. He himself time and again relates his ‘luck’and ‘preservation’ as the work of a guardian angel and his mother’s faithfulprayers as a committed Christian. Hisage was only bettered by his first cousin’s son, Hans-Curt von Sponeck (of whomwe shall hear later) who passed away in November 1999 at the age ofeighty-eight years of age. Theo vonSponeck married Agnes Freiin von Sußkind-Schwendi in Bachingen an derBrenz on the 6th April 1927. Agnes and Theo were blessed with three children. They were Ilse Therese von Sponeck whowas born in Ulm on the 3rd August1928, Margarete Hildegard von Sponeck born in Berlin-Tempelhof on the 28thNovember 1930 and Hans-Henning Anton Richard von Sponeck who too wasborn in Berlinon the 5th July 1937.
At the end of the battle for Africa, Lieutenant GeneralTheo von Sponeck surrendered his famous 90th Light Division and theGerman forces to the New Zealand Lieutenant General Freyberg at Tunisia. He was taken prisoner with other high-rankingofficers and finally interned in the United States of America. While he was in the United States his marriage disintegrated and thefinal divorce order was issued on the 4th September 1947 in Heidelberg. On his return from the States he stayed forsome time in the castle of his mother-in-law where he rented some rooms. Here he would entertain his children and takecare of the daily matters of getting back onto their feet after the war. On the 2nd February 1962 hemarried Barbara von Payr zu Enn und Caldiff in Bächingen on the Brenz.
In an interview by the author with Theo’s daughter,Margarete von Sponeck-von Bezold in October 1998 she had the following to sayof her father: “He was a wonderfulfather! Always interested in the thingswe did, eager to help in every situation and his optimism was contagious! When we were alone with him before his secondmarriage, a year after mine, we used to sit in the evenings with a good bottleof wine and discuss our problems and those of the world. He was a fantastic narrator. We could listen for hours when he related hisexperiences. His spirit, humour and hisway of putting things across were as fascinating as was his life!” Theo passed away peacefully on the 13thJuly 1982 at the full age of eighty-six years in Heidenheim on the Brenz.
The first of the three children of Theo and Agnes was adaughter, Ilse Theresa von Sponeck born on the 3rd August 1928 in Ulm. She married Richard Meynell on the 20thSeptember 1950 in Bächingen,Germany. Presently the couple live in the United Kingdom.
The second child was also to be a daughter, MargareteHildergard von Sponeck who was born on the 28th November 1930 inBerlin-Tempelhof. Margarete married Dr. Götz-DietrichHelmuth Hermann Karl-Friedrich von Bezold in Munich on the 2nd May 1960. Dieter (Dietrich) obtained his doctorate inlaw and practiced as a ‘patent’ attorney and he is presently retired. The family live in Gauting, Munich and have four daughters. The daughters are: (a) Mechthild ElisabethCharlotte Juliane von Bezold born in Munichon the 12th April 1961. Shemarried Sándor Peter Mohácsi on the 29th September 1996. Mechthild holds a Masters Degree inArts. (b) Alice Verena Dorothee vonBezold was born in Munichon the 17th December 1962 and is a qualified attorney. (c) Felicitas Else Agnes Anna-Maria vonBezold arrived in the world on the 17th February 1964. She married Baron (Freiherr) Thomasvon Waldenfels in Unterbrunn on the 8th June 1991. The von Waldenfels family have threechildren. (d) Beatrix Alexandra Sophievon Bezold was born in Munichon the 10th August 1967. Beatrix is an architect with a Diploma in Engineering.
The third and last child of Theo and Agnes is Hans-HenningAnton Richard von Sponeck. Henning sawthe light of day on the 5th July 1937 while his father was based in Berlin. He married Eva Lenz on the 25thJanuary 1969 in Lübeck, North Germany. Hans-Henning is a qualified attorney andworked as a corporate attorney for the firm, BASF in Heidelberg. He has since retired. Henning and Eva have two children. The eldest is a daughter, Marion JuliaKatharina von Sponeck, born on the 5th September 1971 in Heidelberg. Julia is a qualified Architect. Their second child was a son who they called MaxRichard Wilhelm von Sponeck. Max wasborn on the 2nd March 1978 in Hamburg. He is presently a student and a keenmusician.
We now take a look at the second line of the GermanSponeck branch that still have heirs apparent today! This is the line of Emil August Joseph Antonvon Sponeck who is the ninth generation from Balthazar von Hedwiger and thefifth Count of Sponeck.
Emil August Joseph Anton von Sponeck was born on the 15thSeptember 1850 in Gernsbach. He too wasa military man having entered the army service early in his life after hisschooling as a cadet. Emil was a smallwiry cavalry officer of the 2nd Baden Dragoon Regiment No 21 withthe rank of full lieutenant or premier lieutenant. By the time he was thirty-eight years old hewas serving as a Knight and a squadron commander in the famous ‘WestfälischenUlanen’ Regiment. The twenty-seven yearold Emil August married Maria Courtin on the 5th April 1877in Freiburg. She was twenty-one years old. Thefamily lived between Bruchsal and Freiburg and then eventually in Dusseldorf. The couple lived happily together for onlyeleven years after which Emil August died in Munich at the age of thirty-eight years onthe 2nd October 1888. Barelyeight months after the birth of his last son, Hans Emil Otto who was to be themost commemorated Sponeck of all! Marialived to seventy-one years and died in Freiburgon the 18th March 1927. Theirfirst child was born in Bruchsal on the 4th November 1878 and shewas named (i) Margarethe von Sponeck. Margarethe is not mentioned in the ‘Gotha’ after 1883 so the author would assumeshe possibly died in her childhood. Twoyears later (ii) Maria Auguste Franziska Theresa von Sponeck was born onthe 1st July 1880 also in Bruchsal. She married Hans von Entress-Fursteneck on the 30thJune 1923 in Freiburg. This couple lived in Freiburgwhere Maria Auguste died at the age of seventy-seven years in 1957. The third daughter was born to the couple in1882 on September 3rd and she was called (iii) Hedwig KarolaAntonia von Sponeck. Known to thefamily as Hede, she married Moritz Herrmann on the 16th July1903 in Freiburg. Hede passed away in Manchester, Englandon the 8th November 1967 at the age of eighty-four years. The last child of Emil August and Maria wasfinally a son, which must have brought much joy to this very unfortunate fatherwho was to pass away only months later. The cause of his death is however, not known to the author! This son was named (iv) Hans Emil Otto vonSponeck, born on the 12th February 1888 in Dusseldorf. Hans, who was raised by his mother and sisters, was to grow up in Freiburg. HansEmil, like his younger cousin, Theo, was to attend the renowned Lichterfelde CadetCorpsSchool in Berlin where he quickly proved himself andbecame the head cadet. The two cousinslived through some of the worst times in Germany’s history and both foughtas front line officers in both world wars. Hans married Anneliese Honrichs in Berlin at the age of twenty-two in1910. She was the daughter of well-to-dobusinessman and engineer Ludwig Honrichs of Berlin. The marriage produced two sons.
(a) Hans-Curt Carl von Sponeck was born inPieverstorf on the 23rd July 1911. Hans-Curt was a young man of twenty-two when the Second World War brokeout. He joined the Luftwaffe andin 1941 he was a captain commanding a training unit called 10th EJG3 based at Esbjerg in Denmark. His unit was equipped with fifteen 109Eplanes. On the 29th December1941 his unit was ordered to transfer to Bodø. They started the long journey via Kjevik and Herdla. At both places they lost planes due to badlandings and they did not reach Bodø until the 11th January1942. Here they were redesignated 7thJG 5. By March 1942, Captain Hans-Curtvon Sponeck was the Staffelführer of 7th JG 5 operating from Norway and Finlandagainst North Russia. Hans-Curt survived the war with the rank ofcolonel. On the 20th December1945, in Gettorf bei Kiel, Hans-Curt married Eva-MariaMajewski who was born in Berlinon the 23rd April 1920. Shewas the daughter of dentist Gustav Adolf Majewski and Johanna MariaJohannsen. On the 25thNovember 1999, Hans-curt Carl passed away at the age of eighty-eighty years in Munich. The couple had one daughter, ChristianeHuberta von Sponeck, born in Freiburg onthe 3rd November 1948. Christiane (called Jàne) served for some time as an airhostess withLufthansa. She also did modelling andappeared in a Lufthansa advertisement. She travelled extensively in these earlier years and spent time based inSydney Australia. She later married abanker, Jürgen Krumnow of Frankfurt-am-Main where they live at present.
(b) Hans Wilhelm Otto von Sponeck was the second sonof Hans and Anneliese and he was born on the 21st February 1913 in Spandau. Thetwenty-nine year old cavalry officer fought his last battle on the EasternFront in Russiaon the 5th July 1942 where he went missing, presumed ‘killed inaction’.
During the First World War Hans Emil Otto von Sponeck waswounded no less than three times as a lieutenant and captain commanding variousregimental companies. In 1918 he wasawarded the ‘Iron Cross with Oak Leaves’ for bravery in the face of the enemy. Between the wars Hans stayed a professionalsoldier and continued his career into the Hitler Regime. His marriage to Anneliese Honrichs ended indivorce in 1937. During his term ofservice in the General Staff in Berlinhe met and married Gertrud Könitzer on the 7th April1938. On the 20th August 1939she presented the General with another baby son. Hans’ promotions then came rapidly with therank of major general before the outbreak of the Second World War. Like his father, Hans Emil Otto was a shortguy, with a strong will and gentle personality. He was a strict infantry officer who believed in having the best-trainedtroops for his regiments. Hans Emilenjoyed flying planes and qualified for his ‘wings’ at about fifty years ofage. He spent a short time in the Luftwaffewhere he trained his 22nd Infantry Division in the art of beingglider troops. During the Hitler Regimehe was known in his own circles as being an anti-Nazi who never gave the Nazisalute or greeting once in his career. He however planned the airborne attack on Holland in 1940 and insisted in accompanyinghis troops in the gliders in the attack. During the attack on the ground he was severely wounded and safelyrepatriated to Germanywhere he was highly decorated and acclaimed for his part in the whole HollandCampaign. Later, he led his 22ndInfantry Division as part of the 11th Army in the south of Russia under Generals von Bock and von Mansteinand is renowned for his part in the ‘Battle ofthe KerchPeninsula’on the CrimeaPeninsula. Hans’ death came rather tragically at thehand of the Nazi Regime in 1944. More ofthis brave man’s story can be found in the chapter in this book dealing withhis life. Today, an Army Base is named after him and in his honour inthe town of Liepheim. He also has a street and ‘Kaserne’ bearinghis name in Germersheim near Speyerwhere he was held as a prisoner of the Nazi Regime. Hans’ new wife, Gertrud, stuck with himthroughout the war and through his trying time during his incarceration tillthe end of his life! She and her youngfive-year-old son then had to set about restoring their own lives. Later, Gertrud Könitzer remarried. She married Albert Michels, who was a doctorof law. A daughter was born of thismarriage. This brave and courageouswoman, of whom General Hans had nothing but good to speak, passed awaypeacefully in 1972 at the age of sixty-five years.
(c) Hans-Christofvon Sponeck was born to Hans Emil Otto and Gertrud on the 20thAugust 1939 in Bremen. Barely one month before his fifth birthday,Hans-Christof was to loose his father to the Nazi Regime execution squads. Hans-Christof grew up with his mother,step-father and step-sister and was highly educated. He has enjoyed a long and rewarding career inthe service of the United Nations Organisation serving as an UN diplomat andassistant secretary-general. He lives inGeneva, Switzerland near hisHeadquarters. He has worked tirelesslyfor the United Nations Development Programme and at the time of writing hadbeen serving his appointment by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as head of the Iraq ‘Food forOil’ project. He retired in 2001 andcontinues to live in Geneva. Hans-Christof and Nelda Frances Austin(*9/4/44 in Bremerton, USA) were married on the 30thJuly 1965 in Badenweiler. Nelda and Hansmet in the United Stateswhile he was based there and all of their three children were born in Bremerton, Washington. They are the first Sponecks’ of the Germanline to be born in America. Only one other is known who was born in the United States of America. This was Wilhelm Sponneck of the Danish linein July of 1888 while his father Frederik Wilhelm Sponneck was DanishConsul-General to the UnitedStates of America. The children of Hans and Nelda are:-
(i) Hans-Alexander von Sponeck, born on the 7thOctober 1970. Hans-Alexander graduatedschool and spend a short time at the famous Schloß Schule in Salem/ Baden, which is also the residence of theMarkgrafen von Baden, where his father and grandfather had been inattendance. Hans-Alexander graduateduniversity with a degree in law and practiced with the firm of attorneys –‘White and Case’ of New York. He was appointed to Istanbuloffice where he spent a few years and was stationed back in New York as from January 2000. He has recently resigned from this firm andis presently a corporate attorney for an English bank in London. Hans-Alexander married Marie Pisante in Paris on 30th June 2001. She was born in France of French parents onthe 7th May 1968.
(ii) Hans-Mark von Sponeck arrived in the world onthe 5th May 1972 and graduated high school and university in the United Statesfrom where he also has a degree. Presently, Mark is busy with an educational organisation of his ownfounding called Global Nomads Group and isbased in Dallas, Texas.
(iii) Anna-Christina von Sponeck was born to Hans andNelda on the 18th October 1980 also in Bremerton,WashingtonDC. She finished school in Switzerlandand plans to further her studies at a university in the United Kingdom.
So ends the generations of the Sponeck and Sponneckfamilies up to the end of the 20th century! In the next chapters we shall study the livesof two great Sponeck army generals of the 20th century and also theheraldry of this family who will celebrate the 300th anniversary oftheir name in Jechtingen at the Burg Sponeck during the week of the 2ndAugust 2001!
THE HERALDRY OF THE SPONNECK /SPONECK FAMILY
o fully appreciate the colourful ‘Coat-of-Arms’ of theSpon(n)eck family we shall have to indulge a bit into the history of heraldryoverall, and in particular, the history and development of this work of artwhich is the Spon(n)eck ‘Achievement-of-Arms’.
Early History of Armoury
The origin of ‘armoury’ has been debated and contested overmany years and while a few ancient civilised cultures had what can be construedas armoury and a form of heraldry, it might be more correct to accept that ourmodern use of heraldry, or ‘armoury’ as it is more correctly referred to,developed amongst the Europeans with the use of the defensive shield inbattle. It is most likely that this‘shield’ became painted and decorated and the helmets adorned with all sorts ofornamentation. Human ‘vanity’ wouldnaturally lead to personal decoration and adornment and because of the age-oldpractise of seeing character in certain animals, such as the lion for itsboldness, this would cause a man to be nicknamed after some such animal. We know that the use of the shield came intopractice during the end of the eleventh century and at the beginning of thetwelfth. In those days every man was awarrior and his weapons were his most cherished personal possessions. The sword and shield of a man’s father andthe banner his father followed would naturally be amongst the articles a sonwould most eagerly cherish and possess. Here then are the rudiments of the idea of heraldry. The science of ‘armoury’ as we know it slowlybegan to evolve from this point for the son would naturally take pride inupholding the fame which had clustered round the pictured signs, and theemblems under which his father had warred.
Another factor then appears which exercised a greatinfluence on the development of arms and armoury; Europerang from end to end with the call to the Crusades. We can but try to appreciate the fanaticismthat gripped the whole of the Christian world and sent it out to fight theSaracens. The result was the collectingtogether of all that was best and noblest amongst the human race at thattime. The spirit of emulation causednation to vie with nation and knight with knight in the performance ofillustrious feats of honour. War waslifted to the dignity of a sacred duty and the implements of warfare rose inestimation. Here then we can see theglory attached to arms and from this development ‘armour’ became a fact. It was due to the Crusades that the origin ofarmoury, as we know it, slowly developed. The fact that all ‘armoury’ throughout Europeis based on the same rules and terms of heraldry show a unity and cohesion inits development.
The next factor that influenced the development of armourywas the introduction in the early part of the thirteenth century of the closedhelmet. This hid the identity of thewearer from his followers and so some means of identification became necessaryso that in the heat of battle they could identify their leader and what betterway than by some decoration on his shield and the adornment of his helmet andby the coat which he wore over his coat-of-mail. This coat, called a surcoat, afforded yetanother opportunity of decoration and it was decorated with the same patternsthat the wearer had painted on his shield, hence the term ‘coat-of-arms’. This textile coat was also a product of theCrusades. The knights went in theirmetal armour from the cooler atmosphere of Europeto the blazing heat of the East. Thesurcoat protected the metal armour and helmet from the heat of the sun and theresultant discomfort to the wearer. Thecoat was then also a very effective preventive of rust resulting from the rainupon the metal armour. By the time thatthe closed helmet of the knight had developed and the necessity to be distinctand identifiable by the pictured signs he wore and carried practicallycompleted the evolution of heraldry in Europe. From the second quarter of the twelfthcentury in Western Europe heraldic designs arefound in general application.
The Importance to Status and the Purpose of aCoat-of-Arms
We do not know the exact date and place of origin of theheraldic system in Europe in the twelfthcentury. At the time of the FirstCrusade (1095 – 1099) there was yet no evidence that heraldry was in use. A generation later after the First Crusade wehave unmistakable evidence of heraldic design in an enamel showing Geoffrey,Count of Anjou bearing a shield Azure (blue) with four Rampantgolden possibly lions. From 1136heraldic devices appear on seals. It ispossible then that the insignia were first used on seals and then later warriorshields. Once they transferred symbolsto the shield, it led to what is controversially accepted as heraldry. This practice then spread across Europe in less than thirty years. Within these few years’ heraldry was foundthroughout all of western Christendom. The first English king to bear arms was the Crusader, Richard I (called‘The Lion-Heart’ 1157-1199) being the ‘three gold leopards or lions’ of theRoyal Arms of England and it has been used by every royal dynasty since histime. Of particular interest is that inthe Frederiksborg Slot (Fredericksburg Castle) at Hillerød, Denmark, maybe seen the shields of the Knights of the Order of the Elephant and in which wecan read the history of heraldry over several centuries. One of these knights was none other than theDanish patriarch of the Sponneck family – Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger,Reichsgraf von Sponneck. His portraitand shield with the Sponneck coat-of-arms are on display as well for any wouldbe pilgrim of the family to view.
The other importance of heraldry stems from thedevelopment of the feudal system in Europe. The feudal system can be described as thepartition of the land amongst the barons, counts and others in return forwhich, according to the land they held, they accepted a liability of militaryservice for themselves and so many of their followers. These barons and counts in their turn subletthe land on terms advantageous to themselves, but requiring from those to whomthey sublet, the same military service which the king had exacted fromthemselves, proportionate with the extent of the sublet lands. This feudal system as a result also led tothe hereditary nature of heraldry. Ifservice in war was the rent, by which land was held, the right of inheritanceby the natural heir was an understood condition of feudal tenure. At the time when the right to lead or theduty to follow in battle was inherited, the coat-of-arms was likely also tobecome hereditary. In this way heraldicdevices became a system of the landowners identity and a mark of hisstatus. Knights needed to bedistinguished by shields and coats-of-arms, so arms thus became a mark ofknightly status and noble rank. Theservice due from a military tenant in this feudal system was well defined. He held his land by service of two knights,one knight or a division of a knight in the twelfth and thirteenth century aswe have seen in a previous chapter. Further to this it seems also likely that the depiction of arms on ashield was a subjective demonstration by individual warriors, a form ofindividual ‘vanity’ and display, rather than a practical military device. The social and military order of the twelfthcentury was such that, once invented, they found a ready market as militarystatus symbols and were popularised by the tournament rather than in real warfare. The tournament was supposed to have beeninvented in the mid-eleventh century in France by Godfrey de Preuilly andit developed as a popular form of regular training in the handling of weaponsand horses. The growing importance ofmilitary pageantry and its association with the tournament would have excludedthose of insufficient social standing who were unable to meet the expense andthis would have helped to restrict the use of ‘arms’ to the knightly class. Thus arms came to be seen as a mark of noblestatus and were granted by the European kings and the Holy Roman Emperors as acorollary to ennoblement.
The Class Distinction of Heraldry.
So we see that every man who held land held it under theseconditions of service to the ruling monarch. Holding land without such service was impossible and was of the upperclass. He was nobilis or knownand a rank distinct and apart from the ordinary population. This wide distinction between the upper andlower classes, which existed right through Europe,was the very root and foundation of armoury. To all intents and purposes there was no middle class. The upper classeswere those who held the land, who had military obligations and were noble or‘gentlemen’. Because they held land,they had to lead their servants and followers into battle. They were responsible for so many followersto make an appearance when the king summonsed them to war. As we have seen, arms became necessary to theleader that his followers might distinguish him in battle. Consequently all who held land and had tolead in battle found the necessity to use arms. The possession of arms therefore is a matter of hereditary privilege. Arms have never possessed any greater valuethan that of the matter of privilege. Gentility or nobility is merely hereditary rank therefore, emanatingfrom the Crown who is, and always has been, the sole fountain of suchhonour. The use of arms is theadvertising of ones claim to that honour of gentility. We shall see how that the coronet, supportersand helmet can indicate ones place in the scale of precedence.
Arms on the Continent and England.
On the Continent, unlike the BritishIsles, every member of a noble family is noble. In the United Kingdom only the RoyalFamily are noble. The continentalroyalty tended to marry however only with other royal families. As a result both royal and noble familiesformed a class apart from the bulk of the people. Continental heraldic insignia, from theirorigins until the late eighteenth century, provided symbols to indicate ahigher caste and in fact were therefore signs of nobility. Strangely however, in several countriesheraldry was in wide general use as a means of identification serving in thesame way as a surname. In France forexample, it is abundantly clear that from the thirteenth century not only thebourgeoisie of the towns, but also the peasants bore heraldic arms. The usage had peculated down from the nobleclass. In other European lands such as Hungary and the Low Countries, burger arms werealso found, but neither in these lands nor in France were the bearers considerednoble. The French government showeditself very broadly minded on the possession of arms. A decree of Louis XIV in 1696, designed toraise money, ordered all persons who bore arms to register them. Even those who were then not part of thearmour-bearing population were forced to buy arms. Later in 1780 the government revoked thesearms after the common folk had used them for 400 years. However, later, during the French revolutionarms were suppressed altogether as signs of feudalism. The view of arms held in England was andis quite different. No such thing as anoble caste has ever existed. Only thereigning peer and his wife are regarded as noble; the rest of the royal familyare commoners and only a few of them carry what is called courtesy titles. The Germans, as might be expected, were morethorough in the marshalling of arms than any other European nation. The most striking characteristic of Germanheraldry is the design and treatment of crests. These often reflect the shield by repeating the charges(pictures and patterns on the shield) and tinctures (colours). Many of the ancient nobility called Uradel–whose arms dating from the thirteenth century comprise of simple designs of a bend(band across the shield) or fess (band from left top to right bottom ofshield) on a shield and repeat the same on their crest. Sometimes the charges (picture orpattern on shield) are repeated in the crest. The von Hedwiger coat-of-arms is a goodexample. Another German difference isthe use of more than one crest above the shield, which isvirtually unknown in British heraldry. This multiple crest came into use later and is seen on theSpon(n)eck coat-of-arms in the double helmet and two crests.
Burger Arms or Arms of the Ordinary Families
We need now to deal more fully with ordinary ‘burger’ armsat this stage. These burger arms came tobe treated as a different species and were differenced from ‘noble’ arms by theuse of a closed tilting helmet to support the crest. Noble arms by contrast, sported open helmetswith bars in front of the eyes. Inpresent-day Belgiumarms of burger descent are differenced from noble arms by the absence ofhelmets altogether. Noble arms arefurther distinguished by a ‘gold medallion’ on a chain round the neck of thehelmet as is depicted in the Spon(n)eck achievement. No country in Europe possesses a richer andmore colourful heraldic heritage than the Germans with their splendid mosaic ofelectorates, kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies and principalities, as we havealready seen, to say nothing of the Holy Roman Empirethat presided over the whole Christian world for a thousand years. All over Germany coats-of-arms are to beseen, many of them dating from the very early days of heraldry. The arms of noble families are easilydistinguished from those of German burgers by a barred helmet, which becameexclusive to the nobility in the 1550’s. Heraldic coronets were introduced for the nobility about one hundredyears later. The best sources for Germangenealogy and heraldry are the famous Amanach de Gotha and its successor, the GenealogishesHandbuch des Adels published by C.A. Starke since 1951 which has regularlypublished separate volumes covering the royal and princely families, counts,barons and untitled nobility. Withinthis publication the von Sponeck family is listed.
The untitled noble families of Denmark tend to have very simplearms while the arms of the titled nobility are usually complicated by a numberof quarterings of the shield, plural helmets and by supporters. The Danmarks Adels Aarbog is theannual publication by Joul Kristensen Grafisk Virksomhe, Copenhagen and givesup-to-date genealogies and arms of the Danish noble families. Since we are dealing with the Sponneckfamily, we can mention here that they too have updated their genealogies inthis publication. We can admire a superbdisplay of arms in the Chapel of the ‘Order of the Elephant’ and the ‘Dannebrog’(Order of the Danish Flag) in FrederiksborgCastle where they displaythe arms of the Danish Knights.
To summarise then we see that from 1150 to 1500 the use ofHeraldry in the west was utilitarian: on armour in warfare and on seals inpeace. In the latter part of that periodit was used in peaceful ways and had much artistic value. Also, because from the beginning the use ofarms had been associated with the higher feudal castes, heraldry acquired inlater medieval times identification with the concept of gentility that hadpersisted to date. To bear arms was amark of a gentleman; therefore to possess the desirable quality of gentility aman needed to have armorial bearings. Aslong as the possession of arms confers any social distinction, arms will besought after and used. At no previoustime has there been so widespread an employment of heraldic devices as at thepresent.
The Coat-of-Arms of the Von Hedwiger Family
We now look at the study of heraldry regarding theoriginal and then new Coat-of-Arms of the Sponeck / Sponneck family. While this is not intended to be an exegesison heraldry, we will deal with the study as it pertains to this familyCoat-of-Arms. Many good books abound onthe study of heraldry and the author encourages the reader to further readingon the subject. We now study theoriginal Sponeck coat-of-arms in the light of the science of armoury. The von Hedwiger family was rated asbelonging to the very old Uradel (Noble Knightly German family). Their coat-of-arms as depicted here dateswith others of similar design back to the thirteenth century from the eastern province of Silesia. Little is known about the history of the family but the von Hedwigercoat-of-arms tell us the story as was stated by a famous author of heraldry –Nisbet – that “coats-of-arms represent the heroic achievements of our ancestorsand perpetuate their memory”. We nowanalyse the von Hedwiger early armoury. TheShield: The first and most importantpiece of heraldic design is the shield. As the word suggests, it is the piece of armour that protected theknight against sword and spear. In thearmour it is the essential part and without it there could be no heraldicdevice. Every other object in heraldicachievement is dependent upon the shield. We see that the von Hedwiger shield has Gules (red) as its basecolour. The charge on the shieldis a Lion Rampant, Or (colour gold) queueforché (splittailed). In this case one tail springsfrom the base, which is divided or forked in the centre. While the ‘lion’ features here it can bestated that no figure plays such an important part in armoury as the ‘lion’ inone or other of its various positions. The Lion Rampant however was for a long time the oldest and onlyway the lion was depicted. The oldartists endeavoured to fill as large a proportion of the space available aspossible and so when only one lion was to be depicted upon the shield they drewthe animal in an upright position, being the most convenient and adaptable forthe purpose. Another interesting fact isthat the von Hedwiger lion is crowned apparently with the Blätterkrone(leaf crown) of the Uradel. Weshall hear more of this later in this chapter. The colours of the shield set the family colours as Gules and Orbeing red and gold respectively. TheHelmet: On top of the shieldis placed the helmet upon which the wreath ties in the crest. This barrel-shaped helmet emanates from thethirteenth century. The eyepiece was awide slit or otherwise two slits on either side of the helmet. The former was however sometimes divided intotwo by an ornamental bar or buckle placed across the eyepiece. It was afterwards pointed at the top andslightly varied in shape but its general form appears to have been the sameuntil the end of the fourteenth century. The Mantling: From thehelmet hung the mantling or lambrequin. This was of linen or other material and it performed the useful functionof shielding the wearer from the rays of the sun and also served to catch ordeflect sword cuts. The mantling ispainted with the principal colour of the shield (in this case, red) while thelining is of the principal metal (colour gold). The Torse or Wreath: On the top of the helmet is the torse, which seats the crestas in the case of the Von Hedwiger armoury. It was again of the family colours twined. The torse was to fit closely to thecrest, its object being to hide the joining of crest and helmet. There can be little doubt that its twistedshape was an evolution from the plain to the twisted as suggested by the turbanof the east. Once again the principalcolours of the shield are the two colours of the torse – one metal, Or(gold) and one, a colour, Gules (red) – as was traditional. The Crest: Finally we have the von Hedwiger crest. The crest is the object placed on top of thehelmet and bound onto it by the ‘wreath of the colours’, which showed the twomain colours of the shield. The crest ofthis family is a repeat of the lion rampant but here displayed as a Demi-Lionas it is joined to the helmet at the midriff. Notice that this lion is missing its tail! It is supposed by writers of heraldry thatthe crests were at first borne in tournaments. While one could have a coat-of-arms without the crest, it is notpossible to have a crest on its own for armoury. Should a simple crest be used it is termed a‘badge’ in heraldic terms. The veryearliest form of the crest recorded and depicted in history is the lion uponthe headdress of Geoffrey Plantaganet, Count of Anjou. The development of the crest is also littleknown about but its development was a combination of decoration andvanity. Another clue as to the rank ofthe von Hedwiger family is that many writers on heraldry has asserted that noone below the rank of a knight had the right to use a crest and that only thosewho were of tournament rank might assume the distinction. Herein lies another confirmation that crestshad a closer relationship to the tournament than to the battlefield. In German heraldry the crest reproduced the arms. So we see the Demi-Lion crownedas the crest of the Hedwiger coat-of-arms.
The Heroic Story in the Sponeck / Sponneck Coat-of-Arms
Perhaps one can here relate the only story brought intothe shield of the arms regarding the history of a heroic deed. The account relates that the patriarch ofthis family, one, Balthazar von Hedwiger, who was born in about 1510, wasserving with the future Emperor, Charles V (Habsburg) in his campaigns againstthe Turks when he was called upon for a very special operation. Balthazar would have been possibly in hismid-twenties at the time of these campaigns. He would as a nobleman have had a commission and perhaps the rank ofcaptain or of some such senior officer rank. He was however summonsed and ordered to swim across the DanubeRiverpossibly in command of a recce squad to spy on the Turkish encampment and bringback valuable information, which would assist the Emperor in his planning ofhis next strategy for an attack. We knowthat Charles V had much success with these campaigns so we can assume that vonHedwiger successfully carried out the orders and the subsequent information wasof considerable value to the army chief. This command which demanded so much bravery and courage to executeimpressed the Emperor Maximilian II enough to later summon Balthazar and as areward for his heroism gave to him the privilege of adding on to his familycoat-of-arms. The Imperial grant gavethe soldier the privilege of adding to the family armoury a star and moonas the icons of the Turkish Empire and the fish in a silverstream as representative of the Danube, which the officer and hiscompany had to transverse. There is agood indication in recorded history of the emperors’ successful campaignsagainst the Turkish threats between 1526 and 1576 and this incident ofBalthazar Hedwiger is also a well-recorded fact. From this early-recorded history we have come to know of Balthazar asfar back as 1500. We also know howeverthat making such a change to a family coat-of-arms could only be carried out byimperial decree, and so this story is vindicated.
The New Reichsgrafen Von Sponeck Achievement of Arms.
With the understanding now of the elevation of thebrothers’ and sister of the second family of Johann Georg von Hedwiger to therank and title of Reichsgrafen von Sponeck on the 2nd August 1701the grant of the new coat-of-arms fitting to this station was also confirmed bythe Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I. Thegrant of arms is reflected in the ‘title deed’ now preserved in the HistoricalArchives in Vienna. It can be seen in the new art that the artistwent to work to incorporate the old von Hedwiger armoury into the new armswhich was to become the Arms of the Reichsgrafen von Sponeck. We shall now continue to elaborate on thisbeautiful and colourful ‘achievement’ using as a guide, to better understandit, the rules and practices of heraldry once again. As to whom the artist was, we have no idea orindication, but it can be accepted that there were many qualified professionalpeople who were commissioned to do the work according to the application of theparty concerned and the grant of the Crown. The history of the Knight Balthazar von Hedwiger was well known to thisfamily for in the division of the shield into what is called quarteringwas brought the piece of historic heroism as was later grated by CharlesV. It can be said that the most naturalcolour choice to the family as a second colour was the very popular Azure(blue). Red (Gules) andblue (Azure) were the most used colours in popular heraldry. The Shield: In our research of the von Spon(n)eck armourywe again begin with the shield. As canbe immediately recognised, it is the von Hedwiger Lion in Or (gold),still double tailed (queue-forché) and rampant, in the 1stand 4th quarters Gules (red) of the shield. Should you wish to depict the colours with ablack and white illustration you would show vertical lines for the colourred. In the 2nd and 3rdquartering are a ‘natural coloured fish’ in an Argent (silver) stream. According to the rules of heraldry one wouldnot put a silver (which is a metal) fish against a silver (metal) streamtherefore the natural coloured fish would have a blue outline in a silverstream. The law of heraldry permitsonly a metal on a colour or visa versa in the shield. Some modern colour copying machines changesilver to a blue hue, which is not the true colouring in some of therenderings. The fish is displayedswimming upstream; i.e. its head is at the top of the quartering. In the top section of the quartering is a starcalled a mullet of six points and in the bottom section, a moonstated as decrescent. Othervariations of a moon are crescent – when open at the top – or increscent– when open towards the left as opposed to the decrescent when, as it isin the Spon(n)eck arms, it opens towards the right. A black and white illustration would show thebase colour of the 2nd and 3rd quartering of the shield,being Azure (blue) illustrated by horizontal lines.
The Seeadler Inescutcheon. The following very interesting item of thenewly created Counts-of-Sponeck coat-of-arms is the Sable (black) crownedimperial eagle in an Or (gold) shield,called an inescutcheon. Aninescutcheon is the smaller shield in the middle of the main shield and, as byrule, of the same shape as the main shield. This is the Eagle of Empire and that it should be placed within the mainshield is also not by private choice. Ifthe quartering was by Imperial Decree, we can assuredly take it that this toowas a ‘grant’ of privilege for the family. The author is of the opinion that this ‘eagle’ relates to the fact ofthe title, and the castle from where the title comes, having been imperial. That is to say from the fact that the title Reichsgraffrom the Reichsburg concerns imperialism and as such it would be fittingfor the Reichsadler, or Eagle of the Empire, to be gracing the shield ofthe Counts-of-the-Empire! As such theywould fall under the direct supremacy of the emperor and not be at the commandof any of the dukes, archdukes or minor kings of the realm. To show that this creation of a title‘Count-of-the-Empire’ was in effect so, the Emperor, Leopold I would have givenby decree the right and privilege of adding this little inescutcheon tothe shield of von Spon(n)eck. As to thetitle of Reichsgraf, it denoted that the title belonged to the Holy Roman Empire and was given by the Emperor himselfand not by other kings and rulers. Itstands equal to the various forms given the present day title – Graf. The same title however belonged to the Dukeof Württemberg-Mömpelgard’s offspring by Anna Sabina, who were also known asthe Reichsgrafen von Sponeck possibly because of the tenureship of the BurgSponeck. Leopold I created this titlefor the Duke’s wife and children and also the duke’s brothers-in-law.
We now deal with the second item in the achievement ofarms of the Spon(n)eck family, being the ‘helmet’. As we have already heard in Germany therewas the practice of multiple helmets. With two ‘displays’ in the shield it now required a second helmet for asecond crest. We see a distinct changein the old helmet of the von Hedwiger family and the new helmet of the 1701grant to the von Sponecks. The vonHedwiger helmet is the ‘barrel helmet’ that was dated 13thcentury. One fundamental law of theachievement is that the helmet, by its shape and position, is indicative ofrank. In the rules of heraldry the royalhelmet was of gold, with grilles and affronté (facing forward),that of the peer must be of silver, guarded by grilles and placed inprofile; the helmet of the knight and baronet was to be open and affronté;the esquires helmet was of steel, and was placed in profile with thevisor closed. In France and Germany therule was much the same in the ‘gold’ helmet for the sovereign, ‘silver’ forprinces and great nobles, ‘steel’ for the remainder. In Great Britain the helmet of thesovereign and the royal princes shall be of gold placed in an affrontéposition and shall have grilles. Thehelmet of the British peer shall be of silver and shall be placed in profileand shall have golden grilles, frequently stated to be five in number. The helmet of a knight or baron shall be ofsteel placed full-faced and shall be open whilst the helmet of an esquire orgentleman shall be of steel and in profile with the visor closed. The rule of the helmet is therefore alsouniform throughout Europe. It can be seen then that a silver helmet withgrilles, as the new Sponeck depicts, was reserved for peers. The Crest: In Germany, the land of many crests,there has been from the earliest times a fixed practice of never dissociating acrest from a helmet, which supported it and consequently one helmet for everycrest has long been the procedure. Whentwo helmets are used, it has been customary, still following the German rule,to turn them to face each other. In England allcorporate coats-of-arms have been granted the ordinary closed profile helmet ofan esquire or gentleman. The von Sponeckhelmet therefore is silver with five grilles each lined with gold and havingaround the neck the ‘gold medallion of peerage’ on a chain. The Crest Coronet: We now move to the coronet as used instead ofthe wreath. The crest coronet was astandard coronet used on top of the helmet in order to seat the crest. In English heraldry it is known as the ‘ducalcoronet’ and was only granted as a privilege in an achievement of arms. In German heraldry it is called the Laubkroneor Heimkrone. It was jewelled andconsists of three pearled ‘strawberry leaves’ with two ‘pearls’ betweenthem. This German coronet is similar tothe Blätterkrone of the lower nobility usually for north Germany fromthe very earliest times, called Uradel. In both British and European usage the ‘ducal coronet’ or ‘Laubkrone’was used, when granted, for all nobility regardless of rank. Coronets of Peerage: We now move to the Coronets of Peerage. These too are the emblems of the rank of thebearer. Coronets (small crowns implyingdignity inferior to that of the sovereign) are emblems of rank that were wornat the sovereign’s crown wearing gatherings on his rounds through hisempire. There are different coronets forthe ranks of baron, viscount, earl, marquis and duke. On the European Continent a much wider use ofcoronets has prevailed. As for thesecoronets the British Isles has the strictestrules so we shall examine these first. In talking of coronets we refer to the distinguishing decoration asbeing ‘strawberry leaves’ and ‘pearls’. Now we can run through the five various ranks of British peerage. The coronet of a duke is shown to have fivesuch ‘strawberry leaves’. That of amarquis, which is the closets to the German Markgraf, shows two ‘pearls’and three ‘strawberry leaves’. Thecoronet of an earl (or continental count) shows five ‘pearls’ raised on tallspikes alternating with four such ‘strawberry leaves’. The coronet of a viscount shows nine ’pearls’all set closely together directly upon the circlet, and the coronet of a baronshows four ‘pearls’ upon the circlet. Intruth however, the German ranks of nobility are somewhat unique and cannottherefore be fully compared to their British counterparts. We shall deal with this matter and itsrelationship to the von Hedwiger and von Sponeck title a little later. The Crest: The new crests of the Sponeck armoury nowcomes under consideration. Here some newinteresting facts also come to light. Aswe have seen, the old von Hedwiger ‘Lion’ still forms the one Dexter crestwith the addition of the ‘double tail’. The newly designed old grant of the 2nd quartering howevertakes on interesting proportions. Onceagain in true German tradition the shield is repeated in the second Sinistercrest. The ‘star’ and ‘moon’with the ‘fish’ and ‘silver stream’ are brought into the fairlyunique display of ‘an eagles wing’ which is interestingly enough reputedas reserved for only the highest nobility in use of a crest.
The Mantling: The mantling of this set of ‘arms’ now incorporates both colours of thenew achievement being Azure and Gules. In order to simplify the recreation of thiscoat-of-arms the mantling can be left off the achievement without taking awayanything of significance from it. Thearms are often depicted without the mantling as on signet rings and basicdesigns for letterheads. Supportersand Compartment: Two extra featuresappear on the new achievement of the Counts of Spon(n)eck. That is the new supporters and thecompartment. The supporters arethe figures on either side of the shield of arms and are borne by peers and byother bearers of orders of the highest ranking. Most times supporters were not always a natural part of an achievementof arms but were a particular grant in the general grant of arms. Thus it was also an additional privilegegranted to members of the higher Nobility. The compartment refers to the ground or foundation on which thesupporters stand and cannot sensibly be left off. Any arms with supporters will have acompartment. These compartments howevervary with some quite interesting items. Supportersin Germany. It was not until about the middle of the 17thcentury that supporters were granted or became hereditary there. According to the rules of heraldry supportersshould have a footing on which they can stand in a natural manner whether it isgrass, a pedestal, a tree or some other line of ornament. The compartment is thus anything depictedbelow the shield as a foothold or resting-place for the supporters or for theshield itself. The von Spon(n)eckarmoury has as supporters, according to the Blazon-of-Arms, (description ofarms, usually in French) ‘Two Leopards Rampant Guardant’ in ‘natural’colour. This would be standing up withthe face turned towards the viewer. Oneleopard stands on each side of the shield and rests on a plain pedestal for acompartment. These supporters were bydecree of Leopold I in his original grant of arms to the Counts-of-the-Empirevon Sponeck.
There are some others who have the right due to honours ofthe Holy Roman Empire to bear similartitle. Amongst these may be mentionedone, Lord Methuen who bears the ‘Eagle’ by Royal warrant dated 4thApril 1775. Sir Thomas Arundel, whoserved in the Imperial army of Hungary, having in an engagement with the Turksnear Strignum taken their standard (flag) with his own hands, was by Rudolph IIcreated ‘Count-of-the-Empire’ to hold for him and the heirs of his body foreverdated in Prague on the 14th December 1595. This patent too meant that every one of hisdescendants in the male line has the rank of a Count-of-the-Empire and thatevery daughter of any such male descendant is a Countess-of-the-Empire, butthis does not confer the rank of count or countess upon the descendants of thedaughters. So we have here recorded thecreation of the same title as Sponeck with the same privileges for all naturaldescendants. Another such grant, orcreation, was to the Russian Count Bobrinskoy. He was created a Count-of-the-Empire in Russia by his half brother, EmperorPaul I. Shown here is the coat-of-armsof the said count depicting a similar inescutcheon as the Spon(n)eck butwith the Imperial Russian Eagle.
Up to this point our study has revolved around the Englishranks of title and nobility. Since theHoly Roman Emperor gave the Sponeck title, we shall have to stop a while andexamine the unique German arrangement of noble, royal and imperial titles.These do differ somewhat from the English titles’ as do the coronets ascribedto each rank. We shall here list the‘hierarchy’ of the German aristocracy. The first rank under the Emperor was the Imperial Prince or Fürst. The ‘Fürst’ is a uniquely German titlethat is best translated to ‘Prince’ as in British Royalty and should beregarded as superior to a German Prinz. It designates the head (the ‘first’) of a princely house. The Electors of the HolyRoman Empire were termed Kürfurst (male) and Kürfurstin(female). They were the‘Council of Eight’ rulers of different states whose task it was to elect thenext in line Holy Roman Emperor when required to do so. We next have the Großherzog or ‘GrandDuke’. The idea that a duke is a royaltitle is strong in Germany,perhaps stronger than it ever was in Britain. In Germany, all the children of thehead of some ruling houses are automatically a Herzog and Herzogin,much as imperial offspring were archdukes and archduchesses. A duchy or grand duchy is the territory ruledby a duke or the lands specifically attached to the ducal title. These all belonged to the royalhousehold. The German ‘Prinz’does not have the very royal cachet it does in English, and sometimes may beclassed as a lesser title than ‘Herzog’. Hence, the son of Duke Leopold Eberhard of Württemberg-Mömpelgard wascalled Prinz Georg Reichsgraf von Sponeck. A Prinz is sometimes something morethan a mere noble, but not necessarily royal and it is this distinction thatmakes comparing it with the British system so difficult. We then have the Markgraf. This is a ruling title. As a title, it is etymologically equivalentto a Marquis. These were essentiallywarlords with broad powers, ruling as mighty sovereigns, heading their ownstates on the frontiers of the Empire. Following down the ladder is the Landgraf. This rank is closest to Earl, Count or Graf,but would be more influential, owning a larger area of territory. A Landgraf title is neither equivalentto either marquis or viscount. A Landgrafwas lower than Herzog or Markgraf, but definitely above a Grafin the noble order. The German title Grafand the Danish title Greve seem etymologically related to the English‘reeve’ which comes from the old English ‘gerefa’. A ‘reeve’ is defined as a “chief magistrateof a town or district; president of a village or town council”: an importantappointed royal official, as with the ‘shire reeve’, i.e. the ‘sheriff’ as suchit has a broader meaning than the English ‘Earl’. The title of Graf then should not beunderstood as being perfectly equal to ‘earl’ or ‘marquis’, but also, as containingthe idea of ‘reeve’, or ‘important official’ of the sovereign. The Sponeck / Sponneck history will bear thisout in that it will show here that many of their members did indeed hold suchpositions and royal appointments rather than being ruling and land-owninghigher nobility. In German lands,offices normally thought of as being appointive in other countries, could behereditary and noble. One therefore hashereditary titles for various official appointments as Grafen such as Altgraf,Rheingraf, Wildgraf and the imperial appointment as Reichsgrafalthough these were mostly paper titles or titles granted by Royal or ImperialDecree but without being ‘landed’ or ruling states. The British Baron is not a title used much inGermanywhere the word Freiherr and Freivrou is preferred. The daughter of a Freiherr would be a Freiin. The German ‘Ritter’ was a hereditaryknighthood viewed differently from a knighthood earned. The British Baronet would compare favourablywith the German ‘Ritter’. Whenthese German titles appear with the prefix ‘Reichs’ in front, it simply depictsthat their origin was from the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ that was finally conqueredby Napoleon in 1806. A knighted personwithout a title would in the English ranks be called ‘Sir’ and in Germanywould be know as ‘Herr’ or ‘Reichsherr’.
German Coronets of Rank
We now take up the matter of the Continental Coronets andtheir significance in the von Hedwiger and von Sponeck Coats-of-Arms. One should understand here that in Germany in particular there was not only oneroyal ruler as in Englandand other continental countries. Germanywas somewhat fragmented between many ruling ‘kings’ and ‘counts’ many of whomcame under the authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg Emperors. The German nobility can then be divided intofour basic categories. They are Standesherrliche,Grafliche, Freiherrliche and Klienen Adels.
A Standesherr was a member of a family, which isequal in rank to a ruling family, i.e. a member of such a family could marryinto the family of a ruling king without jeopardising the rank of theoffspring. In other words, they wereequal in rank and status to the royal houses of Germany. They would be the various ranks of ducalhouses (Herzog) free to marry into the royal houses (König orKing) without the marriage being considered morganatic. They were addressed as ‘durchlaucht’!
Grafen refers to the different ranks ofcounts such as Markgraf, Landgraf and Reichsgraf.
Freiherren would be the German equivalent of baronand Kleinen Adels, the untitled German nobility.
With regard to the coronets of rank we find here aconsiderable difference from the United Kingdom. The higher ranks equal to that of king andruling houses had for themselves full crowns, jewelled, with five ‘strawberryleaves’ and ‘pearls’. Their childrenwere granted crowns of the same.
Grafen or Counts had right to a crown, jewelled,with nine ‘towers’ with ‘pearls’ and later the new form of a jewelled coronetwith nine ‘towers’ each ‘pearled’. Thiswas the nobility entitled to be addressed as ‘erlaucht’.
In contrast, the Barone or Freiherrn used ajewelled coronet with seven ‘towers pearled’.
The untitled nobility, mainly in SouthGermany, as with the Knight and those titled as ‘Herrn’were granted the coronet of five ‘towers’ with five ‘pearls’.
The last very interesting ‘coronet’ was the Blätterkroneor Leafed Crown of the lower nobility of north Germany who stemmed from the veryold Uradel (old nobility). Thiswas in the shape of a coronet, possibly jewel-based with three ‘strawberryleaves’ and no ‘pearls’. Of muchinterest in our study is that this is the very crown that bedecked the head ofthe von Hedwiger crest ‘Lion’ in their original coat-of-arms and which stillbedecks the head of the Dexter crest Lion of the ‘new’coat-of-arms of the Grafen von Spon(n)eck. It is repeated as the two crest coronets atopof the helmets in the achievement of arms of the Reichsgrafen von Spon(n)eck. It appears now as the leafed crown, jewelled,with three ‘strawberry leaves’ and two ‘pearls’. This is the only explanation of these coronets in the 1701 grant of armsas it is now in its present form.
Thus we find the Sponeck / Sponneck family have right toplace a ‘nine towered and pearled coronet’ above their initials and ornatedecoration on possessions or above their ‘shield of arms’ as they choose.
The hereditary and legal privileges of the nobility endedin Germany in August 1919when the Constitution of the WeimarRepublic came intoforce. For the previous one thousandyears all children of a nobleman were noble.
German nobles, especially the Uradel, have aparticular class-consciousness and consider themselves interrelated andcousins, even if they don’t exactly know how. Often in the case of the ancient families this is correct due tocenturies of intermarriage. The Uradeltend to look down on the Briefadel as parvenus, even when the Briefadelmay have been noble for centuries.
Uradel – Consisting of the lower nobility (niedrigerAdel) and the high nobility (hoher Adel). All members of the Uradel areconsidered by themselves to be of the same status. The particular title of a person is far lessimportant among the nobility than the age and standing of the family. This oldest level of the nobility is made upof those houses, which by no later than 1400 were members of the knightlyclass, or patricians of a free imperial city. Most often these houses are counted as noble since ‘time immemorial’ asat their first appearance in written records they were already noble. The families that make up this segment of thenobility usually descend from the knights or most important warriors of asovereign that were the basis of his fighting force, or more rarely from asenior civil official of the time. Thereare far fewer Uradel families still in existence than Briefadeldue to the fact that families die out over the centuries and no Uradelhas been created in almost six hundred years. It was Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger who in 1701 made claim that his familybelonged to this order of Uradel amongst other claims to centuries ofservice in military and civil offices that led to the creation of the nobletitle for the family von Hedwiger.
Briefadel – Literally this means nobility byletter-cachet, but also including other groups. The Briefadel are all lower nobility or niedriger Adel. This level of the nobility is made up ofthose houses, which were ennobled since the beginning of the 15thcentury through to the end of the German or Austrian Empires in 1918. There were widely differing prerequisites forthis level of the nobility, though most often military or civil service to thesovereign were the qualities most valued. The Briefadel included houses ennobled or recognized as noble bythe Emperor or one of the sovereigns of the high nobility. To this order belongs the noble house of the Grafenvon Sponeck. Also included arepatricians of the free imperial cities and non-German noble houses thatimmigrated over the centuries.
Reichsstandshaft – the high nobility is madeup of those families that had Reichsstandshaft, or had a seat in theparliament of the Holy Roman Empire. These seats were reserved for sovereignhouses. These families were also Reichsunmittelbar,or in a feudal sense, holding their lands directly from the Holy RomanEmperor. Up to the early 19thcentury, there were some baronial and untitled families that held landsdirectly of the emperor, so essentially being their own rulers, but had no seatin parliament, this being members of the lower nobility.
The Use of the ‘von’. The basic designation of the nobility is thepredicate ‘von’, which the vast majority of German nobles use. There are a small number of noble houses,almost exclusively of the Uradel, which have never used the ‘von’ or anyother noble predicate, but are nevertheless of fully equal standing with thosewho do. In northern and eastern Germanythere are a substantial number of families that use the ‘von’ as designationsof the towns or places where they come from (as in the case with most oldernoble families) but have never been noble and make no pretence to be so. A few noble houses use ‘von und zu’ meaningthey are not only from the place mentioned but still retain it. Another Uradel house is named ‘ausdem’ instead of ‘von dem’ but having the same meaning. Other noble predicates sometimes seen are‘von dem’, ‘von der’ or ‘vom’. As a wayof differentiating themselves from non-nobles, the aristocracy of northern Germanyin most cases uses the abbreviation ‘v.’ instead of writing out the ‘von’ whilestill pronouncing the whole word. Thesouthern German aristocracy most often write out the ‘von’. It is always spelled with a small ‘v’ unlessit would be grammatically incorrect, such as in the beginning of a sentence orin a heading.
Noble Books of Denmarkand Germany – called in Denmark, the DanmarksAdels Aarbog and published by Dansk Adelsforbund, it records all theDanish titled and untitled nobility. In Germany the book of nobles is known as the Gotha for itspredecessor, the Almanach de Gotha (in German, GothaischesHofkalendar). The Genealogischeshandbuch des Adels (Genealogical handbook of the Nobility), published byC.A. Starke in Limburg/Lahn, attempts a comprehensive listing of all Germannoble houses currently or recently in existence. It comes out in several volumes on a yearly basis, listing all livingmembers of a family and all those deceased since the last edition. Not every German noble family is included, asmost often the family concerned must contribute financially to its inclusion,or the family may be too small, poor, or unwilling to warrant repeatedupdating. The current series of bookshas been published since 1951, and is available at a number of larger libraries.
The Achievement-of-Arms of the Sponeck / Sponneck familyhas remained unchanged for the past three hundred years till the presenttime. All the natural descendants of theGerman and Danish lines are eligible to carry the title, use the nine-toweredcoronet and to bear the arms fully as given in the Brazen of Arms of thisAchievement. It is interesting to notethat the female descendants, unlike their British counterparts, are alsoentitled to bear the full arms and marriage does not cancel the privilege oftitle or the bearing of the arms. In the‘Everymans Encyclopaedia’ we read: “Peeresses in their own right who marrycommoners retain their titles, but peeresses by marriage lose their titles byremarriage”. British unmarried orwidowed female heirs bear their arms in a Lozenge without the helmet. Normally if the peeresses are married, andtheir husbands are ‘arms bearing’ they quarter their arms with that of theirhusbands. On marriage the females of theSponeck / Sponneck title may double-barrel their title name with that of theirhusbands and maintain the use of the family title until their deaths. The German practice is for the female todisplay her family coat-of-arms alongside that of her ‘arms bearing’husband’s. The ladies however do not passon their title to their progeny. Theirprogeny would of course carry on the title of their own fathers, should they benoble. It has been practice that shoulda peeress marry a gentleman of a lesser rank than herself she preserves her ownfamily title. However if the husband isof a higher rank than her, she is entitled to his rank and status. It can be mentioned here that the children ofAnna Sabina von Hedwiger, Reichsgräfin von Sponeck were also createdReichsgrafen von Sponeck because her husband, the last Duke ofWürttemberg-Mömpelgard married outside of the Fürsten or royalcircles. This made the marriage‘morganatic’, which meant that her children were denied the privilege ofbearing the ‘ducal’ title. They werethus, together with the von Hedwiger siblings, given the title ofReichsgrafen. Being the son however of amember of the higher houses, he was entitled to call himself a Prinz ofMömpelgard which is more fully dealt with in the chapter relating to the Dukesof Württemberg-Mömpelgard.
Registration of the Arms
This Coat-of-Arms of the Counts of Sponeck / Sponneck isregistered in Germany and Denmark toavoid it being used by unlawful persons. It should however also be registered with the Registrar of Arms of thevarious countries where the Spon(n)eck families are presently resident toprevent the usurpation of the name and arms by any other, who is not a naturaldescendent of the von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck family, should such acountry do so.
Use of the Arms
Family heraldry has in the past been used as signet rings,as decorative art on stationery, crockery and porcelain, silverware, woodcarving, linen cushioning and as a framed wall picture to adorn the homes ofthe arms bearing families. In earliertimes, as wealth and prestige permitted, it was also reproduced on the carriagedoors of the nobility and upon their livery. Today, with the advance of technology, a family coat-of-arms couldeasily be once again reproduced in so many ways. One would like to see it again done, howeverin moderation and tastefully and so to bring back to life this beautiful art inthe homes of the historical families who have the privilege and right of such ahistorical and imperial grant of arms.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL THEODOR VONSPONECK
hile the Spon(n)eck family hasfor generations produced soldiers and heroes, not one was ever called upon tofight on six fronts during two world wars in one lifetime and then stillsurvive to tell the tale. Such howeveris the story of one of the greatest military men our family has everproduced. That the turbulent 20thcentury should have produced, not one but two lieutenant generals in the vonSponeck family, is in itself quite significant and intriguing. That they were first cousins who fought intwo world wars and rose to the ranks of leadership as high as they did; bothobtaining recognition for bravery and courage by being awarded the highestmilitary honours Germany could offer, surely gives us material for a familysaga we can be proud of and tell to our children and grandchildren forgenerations to come.
Karl Anton Theodor von Sponeck,called Theo by the family, was born on the 24th January 1896 in Offenburg, Baden. The sixth surviving and last child of AntonFranz Heinrich von Sponeck and Therese (née Baroness von Cornberg), he was bornnineteen years after his eldest brother, Joseph Wilhelm Maximilian, called Max,who was then a lieutenant in Emperor Alexander Garde Grenadier Regiment No. 1in Berlin. Max was not impressed with anewborn baby brother when he was already nineteen years of age. Max admitted some time later, to hisembarrassment that on his return home for leave he had seriously considered,while holding little Theo during the baptizing ceremony, to let the little soulfall. He was however a good heartedperson and resisted the temptation.
Theo’s earliest years were spentin Neckarelz in a large old house that his father rented after being boardedfrom the army on ill health grounds. Theo remembers his childhood as very happy with very happily marriedparents. His father was an Evangelicaland mother strict Catholic. Thedaughters were raised Catholic and the sons Evangelical, much to their mother’sdistress. From his earliest years Theowas aware of the fact that he must have had a guardian angel watching over himfor him to have survived his young dangerous lifestyle. The last family reunion was on his parent’s25th wedding anniversary in 1901. Shortly after, his brother, called ‘Willie’, died of a heart attackafter contracting pneumonia at the tender age of about twenty-four. Theo’s best school holidays were spent inStraßburg and Freiburg.
On the 15th June 1905when Theo was just eight years old his father passed away suddenly atfifty-seven years of age of a heart attack. He had gone hunting in the woods and when he did not return, his anxiouswife sent the servants to look for him. They found him already dead. Although it was a good way for a soldier and hunter to die, Theothought, it was a bitter blow to his mother and the family. Theo states in his memoirs that it was onlyhis mother’s strong faith in God that gave her the strength to bear till theend of her days. Life changed radicallyfor the family after his father’s death and many luxuries vanished, as did theextra servants. His mother was dependenton her widow’s pension. His father hadmade an investment in a neighbouring cement factory, which no longer paiddividends, and this money had to be considered lost to the family as well. They lived sparingly, but well, as his motherknew how to budget and so the family were looked after and still educated. She was an excellent cook and housewife andthey continued to live as happily as possible.
Religion in the Sponeck householdwas divided, with Theo’s father and brothers being Evangelical Lutherans andhis mother and sisters staunch Catholic. To him in those days however it was of little consequence what thedifference was between the two ‘religions’. However, later, due to the influence of the Catholic priest over hismother, it was her wish that he be catechised and so after some instructionfrom the priest, who became his avowed enemy, Theo was confirmed Catholic. This meant immediate changes to his life,like having to get up an hour before normal for church service beforeschool. This was of course not very muchappreciated by him especially in the cold of winter.
The manner in which Theo learnedto swim was even more dangerous than the games he used to play as a youngerboy. He was astonished at his mother’sfaith in the guardian angel, which surely helped him here too. In the summer the NeckarRiverwas in full flood and one could walk in halfway then the strong stream wouldgrab you and wash you downstream. Oneday little Theo entered the water in order to learn to swim while lowerdownstream an older boy was in position to grab him as he rushed past, beingcarried by the stream, and so fished him out. In this way he learned to swim. Soon he was a powerful swimmer.
When Theo was thirteen years ofage, he and a friend were playing with a firearm. His friend accidentally shot him. When his friend saw that Theo was still alivehe fled. Theo went home with bloodstreaming from his head. His motherscreamed and put him to bed while the doctor was called. The doctor could not find the bullet so hewas sent to the hospital in Heidelberg. The next morning both his eyes were swollenclosed. He got such a shock when hecould not see. His mother prayed at hisbedside and for the first time in his life he confessed he found real comfortin her prayers. The thought of beingblind for the rest of his life was unbearable and he appreciated anything andeverything that could prevent that! Onceagain his guardian angel had surely been on duty.
Soon after, Theo found himself asa cadet in Lichterfelde. At fourteenyears of age his days in Neckarelz had come to an end. His elder brothers had decided that he shouldattend a cadet corps and so with a heavy heart his poor mother had agreed tolet her baby son go, as lonely as she was with her daughter Gretel now in London. The cadet corpsin Lichterfelde, Berlin was a military school housing aboutone thousand cadets and was run on strict military lines. Sport had a big part to play also in thisschool and in this Theo excelled. Thecadet corps was established in the 17th century. As the eldest son of the nobility normallyinherited his father’s lands, the younger sons, if they did not go into theEcclesiastic service, entered the army as an elite professional officercorps. The Lichterfelde Cadet Corps wasfounded by Friedrich Wilhelm I. In 1717a company of one hundred and ten cadets between the age of twelve and eighteenyears was formed. The king named himselfthe colonel of the corps with a staff officer as commandant and two captainsand a sergeant as corps trainers. Anengineer trained the boys in technical school while there was also a regularschoolmaster and a chaplain appointed. The corps chief was the crown prince himself, who later became KingFriedrich the Great.
Theo relates in his memoirs thatlife at the corps was Spartan and every minute was programmed that one did nothave much time to think about the conditions. At soccer however he delighted himself. Polo was also engaged in, which he enjoyed greatly. Hockey also made up part of the list ofsporting activities of the corps. As theyears passed Theo found the corps got easier and easier to endure. Once, on his annual leave, his report showedhe was second in the class. His mothercould not believe that a ‘Sponeck’ could be second in the class. She said that nobody in the family had everachieved that and therefore it had to be a mistake or the report must have beenfalsified! His mother wrote back to thecompany chief who must have wondered what bad experience this countess of notemust have had with her son. The chief’sjoy must have been complete to know he had had a part in the conversion of this‘Saul’ into a ‘Paul’! Most of the cadetsof this group would bleed and die on the battlefields of Europe. The older cadets were proud of this. They were proud of their elite ‘caste’ and tobelong to it with its concept of honour and service.
With the assassination of theCrown Prince of Austria in Sarajewo there was much tension in the land with thepossibility of war a reality. The FirstWorld War broke out on the 31st July 1914 with all the church bellsin the land tolling. Theo and hisbrother Max had been walking through the woods where their father used to huntclose to their home. At midday thevillage church bells began to toll, which was most unusual. This had to be the call to mobilise forwar. On arriving home their telegramswere already waiting for them summonsing them back to Berlin and Lichterfelde. The farewell with their mother, who mightnever see them again, was very painful for her as well as for them. The boys’ mother again sought comfort andstrength in the village church on her knees in prayer together with herdaughter Gretel who had by this time married a certain officer called ‘vonBeust’. Even now a painful mourningexperience awaited her. Gretel was toloose her husband and three sons in war.
Back in Lichterfelde themobilisation was in full swing. War hadbeen declared and the hive of activity ensued, which united the nation inpreparation for war. Theo Sponeck, as asenior, was posted over a group of boys armed and between fifteen and seventeenyears of age, to guard a section of railway in the area of Schlachtensee. Day and night he reviewed his section as aproud leader. Day and night the trooptrains rolled past his sector. Some dayslater the cadets were relieved and divided up into the different regiments. At this time Theo Sponeck was anon-commissioned officer. His hope wasrealised when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant with the same EmperorAlexander Garde Grenadier Regiment No. 1 as his brother, Max, in Berlin. His joy and pride were indescribable. Other comrades of his were not so lucky andwere sent straight to the front in regiments they had no connection with andhad to be content. As a new lieutenanthe reported to the elderly commander of a reserve battalion to take up the postof paymaster. Theo found himself welloff eventually as his pay and allowances went up considerably and also, hisfather had the foresight to take out a policy for him, which would pay him outon his promotion to lieutenant. For thefirst time he had money for the things he never had before. He returned to pay a courtesy call atLichterfelde and say farewell to his younger friends. Some seven hundred of these cadets wouldbleed before the enemy. For many it wasa final farewell. Theo’s Berlin dream lasted forfour weeks then he was off to the front. They heard of the terrible losses of life and limb but this was to beexpected. In the still hours of thenight he often thought about what it was like to die! Dying for Fatherland and Emperor had a romanticmood about it.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914-1918
On the Western Front - Withpride, and in spite of his youth and lack of experience, this eighteen year oldled his three hundred and fifty men into battle. Their positions were in the area of Reims. He tookpart in the Battle of Marne, a decisive battle. A month of fighting on the front aged the young men years ahead of theirnew reinforcements. They were strangersuntil the first engagement with the enemy that moulded them all intocomrades. After a forced march toBapaume came the order to attack! Thebattle raged on and under constant rifle fire and artillery barrage Sponeck ledhis men forward. When the forwardmovement eventually came to a halt, the ‘Battleof the Trenches’ began. When the cost inlives was counted, the losses had been very high, especially among the youngofficers. So Theo found himself thebattalion’s adjutant fourteen days after the Battle of Arras. The new regimental chief recommended TheoSponeck, to his joy and surprise, for the ‘Iron Cross’ for bravery in leadinghis men in the face of the enemy and taking their objectives.
The Eastern Front – Earlyin 1915 his regiment was sent to the Eastern Front. Lieutenant Theo Sponeck was in charge of areserve battalion. A breakthroughbetween Tarnowand Corlieze made it possible to attempt a breakthrough of the Russianinstallations at Tuchla. From six to teno’clock in the morning the attack commenced when the bombardment of the enemylines took place. Thereafter two battalionsstormed the enemy positions. Infantryand machine gun fire forced them to ground. The next wave forged up and over the top and was shot to pieces and themen lay bleeding and dying where they fell. New waves stormed ahead to obey the order without question and sank tothe ground. Theo Sponeck relates that hehad never experienced a more bloody and terribly tiring attack. In a short while the battlefield between theenemy and their lines were covered in the dead and dying of the once proudregiments. It became clear after an hourthat only with the heaviest losses would the enemy positions be taken. Theo Sponeck’s battalion was still inreserve. Another artillery barrage wasenvisaged and this time the fire was laid down in such a way that in a shortwhile all resistance had crumbled. Withthe storming of Theo Sponeck’s reserves along with the others, the enemyretreated.
The second day, in the evening,the German forces stormed the Russian positions at LipierHeights. Again, first the artillery laid down abarrage and then Theo Sponeck’s Garde Corps stormed. This time they broke through and came toclose fighting using bayonets until the enemy position was in their hands. Again and again, day after day and week afterweek they pushed forward storming with artillery and attacking the Russianpositions. Eventually, at the WislokaRiver they set up their base camp.
Once, in the middle of a battle,Theo Sponeck’s horse bolted with him still on. He was eventually ditched kilometres from his position. When Sponeck was challenged he was relievedto find he was still in friendly territory. Luckily the horse had dumped him off in a ditch next to a Rittmeistervon Schlotheim’s knights’ regiment. Shortly after, Theo Sponeck was seriously wounded and taken to a fieldhospital. His friend, named Stutterheim,visited him and arranged for him to be taken to a better hospital where hecould get proper treatment in order to recover. Stutterheim was a national hero of the First World War only to be killedin the Second World War. Theo felt thathis friend’s arrangement had in effect saved his life, as he would surely havedied of his wounds had he been left where he was. After Theo recovered he was transferred to areserve battalion in Berlin. Here he enjoyed a long convalescenceleave. Theo Sponeck was one of the veryfew officers who were from the outbreak of the war until April 1918 still in anactive regiment in the front lines. Hefelt he must have had a very special guardian angel – or was it a motherscommitted fervent prayer of faith? Afterrecovering sufficiently he was sent off back to the Western Front. The attack on the Sommeat Chemin de Dame was the worst for him. Often, one wondered how you were still alive, he said. A fellow cadet corps friend told him –“Mensch Sponeck, this is pure hell! Whenthe English come we will be finished off! Hopefully you will be relieved shortly.” Six days later they were relieved on the front. The next day it was reported that the wholerelief ‘staff’ had been wiped out.
Back to the Eastern Front – In1917 Sponeck’s regiment was again sent to Russia. His division was to camp along the DanubeRiversouth of Rigain order to take the town. The next dayit was taken by the crossing of the river. Many German nationals lived here and their reception was good during thetime they were billeted there.
Return to the Western Front – Towardsthe end of 1917, his battalion was sent back to France and thrown into theconflicts again around Chemin de Dames. These experiences can be red about in Ernst Jüngers book ‘InStahlgewittern’. In 1918 TheoSponeck’s division came for a period of rest in the Alsace region in Gaudach where they had apeaceful time. On returning to theWestern Front a very big operation was being planned. The British were however being reinforceddaily by the American army and arms. Theo explains that at times he was so tired he could not stay on hishorse without two men holding each leg to make sure he did not fall off. Early in the morning of the 4thApril 1918 he was awakened with the orders to move into position for theattack. Trapped in a village betweencolumns of moving artillery Theo became aware of a sound of artillery shellsthat were about to fall nearby. Fouryears of shelling had taught him to know the sound of shells that were wide orthat were about to fall onto his positions. He was knocked insensitive as if an unheard or unseen fist had hithim. Through dust and smoke he sawhorses planted like little trees and the fear of death gave him strength for awhile to crawl away and jump under a church staircase where he realised that hehad in fact been wounded. A dull painthrobbed in his left hip. He felt for itand withdrew his hand to see it covered in blood. He realised that he had been injured in thestomach and he felt like he would die there, cold and miserable. He again lost consciousness and on cominground found the unending columns of men and guns flowing through the streetbelow. The cold was indescribable. Suddenly he felt a warm hand on hishead. Beside him stood his faithful batman,Heinrich Pfeffermann who had been with him from the beginning of the war. The passing troops had taken his high bootsand warm-coat thinking that a dead man would have no need of these items. Again he collapsed through weakness and lossof blood. He awoke again in a farm barn,which was serving as a dressing station. He had been bandaged and lay on a feather-mattress bed that sagged inthe middle. Heinrich slept in a chairnear him. Theo was deathlymiserable. He was eventually evacuatedto a field hospital in Caix and operated on. He had had a grenade splinter removed from his lower abdomen. Very fortunately it never damaged his bladderor intestines but the wound was infected and for fourteen days he could not bemoved. In the meanwhile more and morewounded kept arriving. The poor peoplecould only be given first aid. Thewounded were laid on straw in big tents. All around the people lay groaning, hallucinating and dying. The doctors worked until they collapsed. What they did in those field hospitals, TheoSponeck commented, was superhuman! Hiswound pained with no narcosis available. But something else helped more than drugs. At midday, the British planes flew overheadand were heavily fired upon by the German guns. They dropped a few bombs then disappeared but as long as the hum of theaeroplanes could be heard the pain disappeared and so he looked forward totheir daily coming.
Then the transport arrived. They were transported to Guben in Silesia in the extreme east of Germany by train. All the other hospitals throughout thecountry were overfilled. On the platformTheo again collapsed. The physical andmental strain of the trip had been just too much for him. The fact that Theo survived at all, he putdown to his physical resilience, luck and that he ended up in the care of afirst class doctor. His wounds turned toperitonitis from which a person had a ten per sent chance of survival. Dr. von Ayrer, realising that Theo’s chanceswere slim, contacted his mother who arrived one day at his bedside with hissister, Gretel. The battle for his lifecontinued for some time. His motherprayed often and Gretel was very loving and helpful to him. This he felt saved his life. He had an absolute will to survive and foughtlike a tiger. In the meantime his motherhad returned to Neckarelz and left him with his sister, who was of much comfortto him. With surprisingly fast stridesTheo’s healing began to take place. Hehad made a decision to stop taking the morphine pills he secretly carried(which had helped many a wounded soldier) and that decision strengthened hiswill power. It was as hard to resist themorphine, as it was to bear the pain. However, it worked. He wishedshortly to get up off the bed and after that to go into the town in acceptanceof invitations he had received from Dr. von Ayrer and neighbouringestates. Then came the long recuperationleave, which was happily spent with his sister and her friends in Munich.
In September 1918, the twenty-twoyear old Theo Sponeck was posted to another reserve battalion in Berlin. However, at this time, thanks to the Americanand new English and French reinforcements, the front had ground to a halt andthe favour was in the hands of the allied forces. Austria sued for peace. The war was lost!
BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
The Revolution of 1918 hadbegun. These were very troublesome timesin Berlin andeventually Theo and his brother Max returned home to their mother and sister inNeckarelz. During this time various joboffers were made to Theo but the invitation back to Berlin to join up again appealed more tohim. His service was in the line ofsecurity policing during these times in Berlin. Once, Theo had to break up a meeting of thecommunist party. There were over onethousand people in one of the largest halls in Berlin. With his men, the young twenty-three year old lieutenant went infearlessly and ordered the meeting of the communist party illegal andclosed. Only after he and his men were completelysurrounded did he wink to the sergeant at the door as a sign to call in thereserves and so save the day for them. They called the next meeting off from the back door! The meetings dispersed but the next day TheoSponeck was in all the newspapers: “Reactionary youth - arrogant former GardeOfficer breaks up meeting…” etc read the papers. He felt famous for a day. It was soon forgotten however. There were more important things for themedia to report.
Tübingen 1920-1924 After the revolt of the communists’ hadbeen put down the army battalions were returned to their towns of origin. That meant the town of Tübingen for Theo. This was the first real garrison forhim. To break the boredom of a smallsouth German university village they were called for duty to Berlin and as he knew the city well he waschosen for a position as a company leader. Theo Sponeck was then sent to Constance on LakeConstance. Here between duties they had plenty of timefor sailing, horse riding and motorcycling. These were idyllic days with the war forgotten and plenty of interestingyoung female company. His next postingwas to Wünsdorf and to the Gymnasium for sport near Berlin. It was to encourage the young officers to develop in sport. Theo Sponeck was on the staff and being akeen sportsman enjoyed the ‘sports’ school. One day at the boxing ring he was sparring with a partner who was asstrong as an ox with an iron fist and who was from East Prussia. Sponeck was knocked down and knocked his headso hard that he was unconscious. He wokeup in a hospital and given three weeks leave. This he took in order to go home to his mother and sister Gretel. Nobody dreamed he would attempt to travel allthe way to the south of Germanyon a motorcycle especially with the roads so bad this time of the year. Theo again states that his first classguardian angel was still on duty for which he thanked the Almighty. Travelling around the area he then met abeautiful seventeen-year-old girl whom he married shortly after. She went to live with him in Wünsdorf afterwhich they returned to Constance and set uphome there. At this time Theo Sponeck’scommander entered him for examinations. When passed, the young officers would be taken up in the ‘GeneralStaff’. These were the offices of theGenerals’ in the administration and planning of the army. As a field officer, he did not take it veryseriously and was surprised when his commanding officer phoned him up tocongratulate him on his having passed. He was himself not too pleased, as now he had to give up his flat inConstance and move with his wife and newly born baby daughter, Ilse, to WehrkreiskommandoNo. 7 near Munich. His wife however was happy there as she hadfamily and friends in Munich. Theo too, had many officer friends there whohad by now also married.
In 1928 the world depression hit Germany. They were very bad times and the weakgovernment seemed unable to do anything about it. The Jewish question came up again, as did theCommunist party rallying to their own cause. The Nazi party was still an unknown party, but Hitler was preachingagainst the government’s uselessness to do anything about the situation. Theo Sponeck and his friends attendedHitler’s rallies in Munich. They used to discuss Hitler and while one ortwo felt he was not a good omen, most agreed with what Hitler said, as didTheo, he reported.
During these times Theo Sponeckand his wife would go on ski tours and once rented a house at Obersalzberg,which was next door to Rudolph Hess. They would often go skiing together with him. Theo describes Hess as a fundamentally honestperson, somewhat dream-like. Later on,Hess became Hitler’s right hand man and this was unbelievable to Theo that sucha good man would come so under the influence of Hitler. Hess flew to England during the war to try andorganise a peace settlement. It is stillunknown today whether this was with or without Hitler’s knowledge. Hess was duly interned and so ‘put on ice’ bythe allies till he was jailed for life after the war in the Spandauprison where he lingered until his death.
Theo recalled that on oneoccasion while on a short ski trip, they were having such a wonderful time thathe eventually returned to headquarters without sufficient time to complete anassignment that was allotted to him. Hewas able to ‘borrow’ the completed assignment of a friend, which he duly andhastily copied. First thing the nextmorning he handed in the assignment with a very guilty conscience. Expecting the worst, on the return of theassignment, he found it endorsed from top to bottom with the trainer’s commentsof ‘well done’ and ‘well thought out’ – ‘clever’ and ‘very practicalwork!’ His friend, Rohrbach however,whose work he had borrowed, was not so pleased and his normally red head turnedpurple on getting his work back. Onevery corner it read – ‘See Sponeck!’ The lecturer was of the opinion that Rohrbach had lent too heavily onTheo Sponeck’s work. Theo rectified thesituation immediately and the lecturer simply said: “Sponeck, you are a marvelat copying – where did you learn to do that so well?” - to which Theo simplyreplied: “In the Cadet Corps…!” Thematter was dropped then and there.
On an occasion on holiday atObersalzberg there arose a situation, which could also have lead to a tragicconclusion. Theo Sponeck and his wifejoined a ski group of students together with a guide. While under way to a nearby lodge the weatherworsened and soon they were enveloped in mist, snow and cold. Theo became uneasy but expected to see thelodge loom up ahead any moment. This didnot happen and the guide kept calling for a rest while he assessed theposition. This mist thickened and theguide became more and more unsure of the situation. It was freezing cold and ones breathfroze. Theo’s wife and the group wereexhausted. Out of the mist appeared alittle hut and the guide then felt that their destination was not farahead. At this Theo became very angryand refused to go any further. He statedcategorically that it was very dangerous and irresponsible to go on any furtherin this weather. He advised the studentgroup to stay on in the hut rather than to go further. With this the guide came to his senses andalso stayed to ride out the storm. Theonly way they could get into the hut was through the roof as it was totallysnowed in up to the gables. Inside thehut it was even colder than outside. They attempted to make a fire in the stove and soon the hut was so fullof smoke they had to extinguish it. Theyhad no more than a slab of chocolate, a smoked herring and three cigarettesbetween them. Such a cold night, Theodeclares, he had never before experienced in his life. At dawn they climbed out of the hut. Frozen and cold, it was torture to tryputting on the skis. Theo’s wife wastotally exhausted but soon after the sun came out and with each supported stepshe regained her strength. The light ofday revealed that they were not far from their own hotel and Theo was sure thathad the others of the group not listened to him they would have got lost andperished in the snow.
After two years training, thethird year had to be completed back in Berlin. The training was very intense and as a staffofficer the final test was a project for the total mobilization of a fulldivision. The exams were passed and TheoSponeck was posted to a regiment in Celle. At the end of November 1930 their seconddaughter, Margarete was born in Berlin.
As Company Chief in the AAMotorized 3rd Wünsdorf – Here Theo obtained a comfortable villafor married officers. Lieutenant ColonelPaulus was his chief. Theo Sponeck’scompany were supplied with BMW Motor Bikes. His passion for motorbikes now came in handy. Up to this time he had owned no less thaneight bikes. These motorbikes weremarvellous and could carry with sidecar, three fully equipped men with amachine gun and ammunition. Two mountedthe bike and the third sat in the sidecar. They were very fast and proved successful replacements for the old horse‘cavalry’. The only problem was theclothing they wore. One needed acombination of uniforms, as the waterproof coats were so hot that they wereuseless for fighting in. To changeclothes would take up too much time so when the soldiers discarded them and hadto ride again, they froze. Once, when asenior officer, General Guderian visited the division, Theo Sponeck mentionedthis to him and he asked if he had a solution to which Theo was able to answerin the affirmative. Guderian requestedthat von Sponeck place some ideas before him as soon as possible. A tailor assisted Theo Sponeck to invent arubber mantle that was worn like a shawl but was buttoned onto the uniform thatit could be shed quickly and easily. Itwas practical and smart. The troopsenjoyed the exercises, against the stopwatch, to strip it while in motion andbe battle ready in the nick of time. Thetest model was accepted and used not only for the motorized divisions, but alsoin the infantry and artillery! Theo feltthat if he could have invented the mantle as a civilian and obtained only one Reichsmarkfor every one that was made, he would have been a very rich man.
First General Staff Officer –3rd Armoured Division – Berlin(1934-1937) - The commander of the 3rd Armoured Division was aMajor General Fessman. The divisionconsisted of the staff, an information division, a defence brigade, armouredbrigade, an artillery regiment, a reconnaissance division and a pioneerbattalion. The defence brigade consistedof a motorized regiment and an armoured motorcycle battalion; the armoureddivision consisted of two tank regiments. As the first staff officer, and a promotion to ‘captain’, his dutieswere as the first helper to the divisional commander. He was in charge of organization, training,transport and units in action. Hisassistants were the second and third general staff officers.
In early 1936, the commanderwished to view the troops in field exercises. The 3rd officer and Theo accompanied him in Theo Sponeck’svehicle as the commander’s vehicle was in the workshop for repairs. They started out early in the morning as theexercises were taking place in the Freienwalde and the Eberswaldesome distance from Berlin. Theo Sponeck relates that he woke up as ifout of a bad dream with his wife bending over him and then again he sank intonothingness. Only the next day did herealize what had happened, although he had no remembrance of theoccurrence. The vehicle had veered off astraight stretch of road and bounded vertically into a huge strong tree. The third officer had been killed outright inthe front of the vehicle; the driver had been knocked unconscious and had lostan eye. The commander in the rear withCaptain Theo Sponeck had suffered a fractured scull and thigh and was alsorendered unconscious. Theo Sponneck toohad suffered heavy concussion. He hadcollapsed only when taken to hospital after having set the whole rescueoperation in motion in that condition. During the time of sick leave the German troops had advanced into the Sudetenland without opposition. Back in service, Theo Sponeck had a problemworking. His concentration flagged. Everything seemed to proceed slowly andlaboriously. With Colonel Paulus who wasat that time Chief of the General Staff, while on a trip with him, Theo Sponeckfound that he was not able to answer the simplest questions. Paulus, understanding his accident, sent himto a sanatorium in Obersdorf for a five-week rest, after which he was his oldself again. During this time the Naziregime were busy with their expansion adventures invading the surroundingcountries.
General Staff Officer inGeneral Commando Jena and Promotion to Chief of General Staff.
At this time Theo’s promotioncame through. It now fell on LieutenantColonel Graf Sponeck to plan the layout for the invasion of Czechoslovakia and then Poland.
Last Weeks Before the War
An uncanny tension hung over thebeautiful summer days of 1939. ThePropaganda Minister Göbbels broadcast more regular than ever of the atrocitiesof the Polish people against the German minority living in Poland. More and more Theo Sponeck and his comradeshoped that it was all a gigantic bluff but a heavy pessimism fell over him thathe had never experienced before. He hadno desire for work and very little was done. He spent more time with his family than usual. His daughters were real up-streamers. Ilse (called ‘Pussy’) had found good friendsand also in school had made good connections. Margarete (who was called ‘Schwesti’) served enthusiastically as amember of the Youth Movement. Hans-Henningwas a beautiful young chap that was spoiled by them all. His wife too realized that those timesrequired her to be the centre-pin of the family.
In August the first hint came ofthe Polish attack. It came as a reliefafter the built up tensions over the preceding months. Shortly, the decision of ‘war’ or ‘peace’would be made. Theo Sponeck states thathe clung to the hope, as did many of his comrades that Hitler wasbluffing. It was with much difficultythis time for Theo to have to again say farewell to his family. With tears in his eyes he stood and looked athis still sleeping children, he said goodbye to his wife and then climbed intohis waiting BMW that had been sent to fetch him under orders. At Jenaheadquarters not much happened as they waited for the orders to comethrough. The waiting was the worstpart. On the 24th August 1939the order came to move into attack areas. During the 26th and 27th this order to moveforward was carried out. They went intothe attack positions at first dawn on the following day. Even now he lightly hoped that they would becalled back through some diplomatic settlement without war. On the 1st September 1939 at 4.45a.m. the horizon was lit up with the cannon fire of the attacking divisionswhich left no doubt that a war had been started which would change their livesforever, if they survived at all.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939-1945
War on the European Continent – TheEastern Front
The Polish Attack – LieutenantColonel Theo Sponeck and his troops werewell on their way towards Kielce on the 3rdSeptember 1939 when Englandand France officiallydeclared war against Germany. Now there was a two-fronted war. Surely they would clean up Poland and thenhave a free hand to face the west he thought. Within twenty-one days the Polish resistance had been broken. Now Lieutenant Colonel von Sponeckexperienced war on a higher plain. Notas a front line officer, but behind in the beehive of activity of the commandstaff of the field headquarters. Withthe help of radio this time, the issuing of orders and the receiving of reportswas vastly different than during the First World War. Lieutenant Colonel Theo Sponeck’s job was toreceive the orders from the high command, to lay them before the chief of the generalstaff and then relay the commander’s orders to the commanders in the field fromwhom they were then distributed to the troops in line. At Lieutenant Colonel von Sponeck’s disposalwas a light plane called a ‘Storch’ that he used in his free hours toobserve the frontlines. Usually this wasonly for high-ranking commanders but as his chief hated to fly, it was at TheoSponeck’s disposal. These flights andthe hours he spent in the air were the only time that Theo says he had to restup for a while. He recounts that at onetime they flew over the lines and over a wood that was held by Polish infantryand were immediately fired upon by the enemy without incident. Theo Sponeck had commandeered a new caravanthat was taken with them onto the field and he used it for work and rest. He loved his little caravan dearly. He was to have one later too in anothertheatre of war.
At the final push to Warsaw, Theo Sponeck waspresent with the capitulation of the city and was billeted in the chalet on theoutskirts of the town. Soon after thePolish campaign they were recalled to Jenaheadquarters. Poland was conquered and so theGerman forces could now concentrate on the war in the west. It was still hoped by the German soldier thatthe war would go no further. After all, England and Francehad stayed out while Polandwas overrun, Theo thought. Soon thebrief reprieve in Silesiawas over. The next billet of theheadquarters was to be Köln. A villa wasrented near the Rhine. Later an industrialist nearby billetedLieutenant Colonel Theo Sponeck comfortably. Weeks went by with orders and counter-orders with regard to any furtheroperations. Christmas came and a verycold winter set in. This enabled Theo tovisit his family as often as he wished as the cold prevented any likeliness ofa military operation. On one such returntrip to headquarters Theo Sponeck and his No 3 officer, a Rittmeister Müller,were travelling on the icy roads when the BMW went into a slide and out ofcontrol into a fence on the side of the road. They managed to get it back on the way again only to encounter anothersuch adventure. The little BMB slippedand shod along the icy roads. Around acorner and down a slight incline lay a railway line with a level-crossingboom. The little car heeded neithersteering nor brakes and broke through the boom barrier with a crash andsplintering glass and crunched hood and with the screams of the railwayguardsman – “the express train is coming!” ringing in their ears. Never before had they got out of a car sofast! They managed, with the adrenalinpumping, to push the little car off the lines as quick as a wink, before theexpress train rushed passed. As Theo Sponeckwiped the sweat of fear from his brow he saw that the car could at least stillbe driven. Without windscreen and withthe crunched roof they still managed to travel the last twelve kilometres toheadquarters in bitter cold. The laststretch was just too dangerous so they did this on foot. Müller got away with a light bruise, butSponeck went down with influenza and a light attack of pneumonia so that he hadto spend Old Years Eve in bed. The badwinter forged ahead and millions of soldiers on both sides had the feeling offear for what lay ahead when the winter broke. The nation too prayed that the war would be stopped.
Back in Köln, Theo Sponecklearned of his promotion to regimental commander of the 9th ArmouredDivision. With this promotion, his staffpost, which he enjoyed very much, had to be given up for a field post onceagain. He was promoted to full coloneland became the commander of the Cavalry Defence Regiment No. 11 of the 9thArmoured Division. Colonel GrafSponeck’s division commander was General von Hebitzky. In March the division moved into positionaround Mörs near the Rhine. Here the commanders were to hear how the warwould progress further.
The Western Front
Operation Holland – the order of attack cameshortly. Early in the morning on the 10thMay 1940 the forces moved forward. The 9thArmoured Division was ordered over the Maas to push through to the WalchernIsland. At this time Colonel Graf Sponeck was to push his forces through Eindhoven, Tilburg and Breda. General von Hubitsky divided the divisioninto two forces. A Colonel von Apell wasin charge of one and Colonel Graf Sponeck in command of the other. This tactic to divide a division was seldomdone. Theo appreciated the freedom thatwas given to commanders in the German army to operate as the battle andcircumstances dictated. The overallArmoured Divisions were under the command of their originator, GeneralGuderian, and were very successfully proved in battle. The Dutch defences were weak but the blownbridges and the waterways hindered the German advance. Nevertheless, they succeeded in reachingtheir goals.
At the beginning of the attackparatroopers of the Luftlande Divisions were used. Colonel Theo Sponeck’s cousin, Major GeneralHans Graf Sponeck was in command of one such division – the 22ndDivision. Both sides of the great bridgesat Moerdijk were taken and the bridges secured by Lieutenant GeneralStudent. Thereafter Major General HansSponeck’s Luftlande troops were landed. However, every available force of the Dutch was thrown into the conflictagainst the German invaders and the situation became critical. At this time, Colonel Theo Sponeck’scommanding officer, General Küchler summonsed him urgently and said to him:“Sponeck, go help your cousin Sponeck at Moerdijk, he needs it urgently!” Theo charged off, he states, to the bridgesconcerned with his division and pressed through thus making sure that the Dutchforces were not able to gain a victory against the Luftlande Division ofHans Sponeck. Theo Sponeck however didnot find his cousin as Hans had been seriously wounded and had already departedfor Berlinunder orders of his commander-in-chief. With the salvation of the situation at the Moerdijk bridges the bravedefence of Rotterdamcollapsed and the city capitulated. Itwas however too late to recall the bomber attack on the city and they stoodhelpless on the southern side of the Maas andwatched as the old city centre went up in flames. With this Holland surrendered.
The French Campaign – aftera short rest, Colonel Theo Sponeck’s division pushed over Den Haag and beyondthe front at Artois in the direction of Arras and Boulogne. As the troops pushed through France Theo wasreminded of all the battles and trench warfare that he had unforgettablyexperienced those years before in World War I. Familiar names and places rolled by again in wreck and ruin. As they advanced close by the town of Arras, Theo was remindedof the place where he had so nearly lost his life through a shell splinter in1918. Here, he and his driver and batmanleft the regiment and did a quick reconnoitre of the area but nothing was thesame as it had been during those days. Only many, many graves of the fallen comrades that were now again beenadded to. In the town Colonel TheoSponeck stopped and bought up a good stock of the areas wines and cognacs,which seemed quite cheap for him. Hisdriver and ordinance officer had a time loading it all into the car.
Somewhat further Colonel Sponecksaw a châteaux that he recalled and thought to call on its occupants. On nearer inspection he found it bombed andin ruins behind the front façade that still stood. In the ruins he came upon quite atreasure! Half buried in the dust anddirt he found a mass of wines and spirits, the names of which he had seen onmenus in restaurants but had never tasted. It turned up bottles and bottles of names that he had never heard ofbefore. They then proceeded to unloadwhat they had bought in Arrasand loaded up as much as they could carry back in the car. When they arrived back at the convoy, theregiment had halted to await further orders. Colonel Sponeck’s staff headquarters were to be an old abbey that wasnot damaged and indeed still occupied. The colonel ordered a truck back to the châteaux with his ordinanceofficer and it returned soon after loaded to the hilt with the treasure. That evening the alarm came through withorders to push through west of Boulogne to Dunkirk to cut off theEnglish and French forces. By middaythey were in position and had stopped for further orders. During the break Colonel Sponeck thoughtabout his wine loot that was on its way and he intended to invite hisadjutants, Lieutenant Colonel Hurnhaus, the battalion commanders and somecompany chiefs to a glass of wine that evening. Not one of them knew of his find! He later found out however why the bounty never turned up! The truck with the ‘useless’ staff tent hadreturned and loaded up the treasure. However, when the alarm came the brave man dutifully unloaded the winesat the abbey for safekeeping with the monks, then loaded up the staff tent, asthere was no room for both, and had ridden off with the marching troops. Colonel Sponeck was in a state of shock! He immediately ordered another vehicle tofetch the wines! The vehicle came backafter a two hundred and forty kilometre trip – empty! The monks of the abbey claimed they knewnothing of the wines! Theo Sponeck wasconvinced they had removed the bounty that his driver had so naively left intheir care. He could not imagine thatthey would use it for Mass, as then he could have forgiven them. When not, and to have used their own wineinstead, every Mass would have had to be a sacrilege! The driver responsible was banished to thebaggage car. Never did the colonel wantto see that driver or his ‘command tent’ again. In his latest days it was a source of anger to Theo to even think abouthow much pleasure, joy and wine tasting that “dutiful Austrian bureaucratdriver” had robbed him of!
The wine tasting however wouldnever have happened as the order had come that same morning for the regiment tomove forward at midday to block off the allied forces from reachingDunkirk. The armoured divisions werehowever held back while the dive-bombers and the torpedo boats were left to sowcarnage amongst the allied troops on the beaches and the little boats and shipsoff Dunkirk. It is interesting to note here that aSponneck was at this time with the expeditionary forces, which were beingevacuated. He was the twenty-five yearold Harry Sponneck, the son of Carl Waldemar II who was at this time living in London with hisfamily. Harry’s brothers, George andWilliam (Bill) were fire-fighters in the Home Guard at this time and brotherJohn Eppingen was in the South African Army serving as a surveyor based in Cape Town. Harry Sponneck was lucky enough also tosurvive the ordeal and to return to Britain in the little ships. Colonel Theo Sponeck and his forces had tostand and watch as the German effort failed hopelessly to prevent the 340,000British troops, of which 120,000 were French, from escaping the Nazi net. On the 4th June Dunkirk fell and the Germans took fortythousand remaining French troops into captivity. Theo Sponeck states that this could have beena turning point in the war, however the German forces lost a considerableadvantage by being restrained. To thisday it is not known why the armoured divisions, which could have easily roundedup the fleeing British and French troops, were in fact held back by higherorders. Was it because of HermannGöring’s boasting that the air force could prevent the evacuation, and Hitlergave him the opportunity for the glory, or was it that Hitler had hoped that ifhe treated the enemy troops with magnanimity, Englandwould change her mind and side with him against Russia? Whichever reason, the world will never know,but that he made this vital error of judgement augmented well against his evilregime. In this also a Sponeck wasprevented from fighting against a Sponneck, on opposite sides, so that bothsurvived the war to live out their natural lives in peace.
Theo Sponeck was able to salvagea British armoured vehicle, which was used by his battalion for a long timethrough the war. Colonel Sponeck foughtthrough to the end of the French campaign and once France had surrendered he tookleave. There was no rest however for his9th Armoured Division, which was ordered east. He caught up with it again in Poland. In Viennahe was billeted in the royal suite in the Hotel Imperial but had to give thisup when Hitler arrived for a visit. Thehope of peace again faded after each month. Theo could not believe the rumours that they were planning an attack on Russia.
The Eastern Front
In January 1941 the 9thArmoured Division was ordered to Romania. After a happy stay here for a month and beingwell received by the locals and after hunting in the woods, they were orderedon to Bulgaria. The Danubewas crossed by pontoon bridges and they were billeted in Nova Zamora. Next they were ordered to the Balkans whereColonel Theo Sponeck’s forces helped Italyin the conquest of Greece. This was also a quick conquest for the Germanforces and after the battles they enjoyed an illegal swim in the AegisSea.
In June 1941 the order came for areturn to prepare for the Great Russian campaign. On the 22nd June Colonel Sponeck’sdivision reached the German Polish border. Shortly after, the order came for ‘Operation Barbarossa’ against Russia. Theo Sponeck relates how that he was overcomeby a bad feeling about this until he was wounded on the Russian front on the 1stNovember 1941 in the attack at Kerch. Colonel Sponeck was awarded the Knights Crossfor his part in the attack and was still commander of the 9thArmoured Division. When they were inaction the feeling would leave him but came back whenever they rested. In Russia they experienced war in itshardest form. The hardness,steadfastness as well as the discipline of the Russian troops wasconsiderable. They fought through in thearea of Tarnopol. Their division formedpart of the Panzergruppe Kleist who in turn fell under the HeeresgruppeRundstedt in the south of the gigantic Russian front that would pushthrough to the south of Moscow. At this time, against the advice of hisgenerals’, Hitler decided to split the forces and to push also in the southeastin the Ukraineand the Donez industrial area. This wasanother fatal mistake, which was to weaken the frontal attack against Moscow. Their route was over Tomaiszow, Tarnopol,north of Uman, Kirowgrad, Krivoi, Rog, and Dnjepopetrowsk Zaborzie on the lowerend of the DnjeprRiver. Here they stood at the banks ofthe forceful river where shortly before the Russians had blown up thebridges. A forced march along the riverto Kremencug was ordered so that they could cross at another bridge. Before they could achieve this objective theweather changed. Heavy rain fell andturned the fields into a quagmire and a marsh in which the vehicles sank up tothe axels. Only the vehicles with chaintracks were able to move and pull them out. However, in this morass, all movement came to an immediate halt. His regiment was stretched over thirtykilometres in small groups along the trail of the forced march and unable tomove. Sponeck’s men had moved some 2,000kilometres from the Polish border and down south-eastwards. The orders came fast and furiously. Their losses had been considerable in men andmachinery. Questions came from above andhis commanding general, Kempf came personally in a chain track vehicle to findout what was wrong! Colonel Sponeckreported his situation and insisted that they could not continue with theattack, as did all the other officers. They were simply reminded of the Russian winter that was not far off forwhich they were neither prepared nor equipped. Now the new Russian T34 tank made its appearance against which theGermans had no answer but for a direct hit by the 88mm flak guns and theartillery. According to Theo it wasimpossible to be over pessimistic of the situation. All the suggestions meant nothing. As soon as the ground allowed the order wasgiven for attack toward Kursk-Fatez. Just another small effort was needed to finish the Russians off, thegenerals’ told them. The attack against Kerch suffered from thebeginning as a result of the weather. Afine rain turned the ground into a morass. Again Colonel Sponeck informed his commander of his situation in theH.Q. in a small farm stall. Here,however, ended Theo Sponeck’s Russian Campaign! It might have been a snipers bullet or a stray infantry shot, but itcaught him in the knee and sank him to the ground. Under morphine and tetanus injections, heundertook the endless journey over shell-cratered roads to Smolensk. Fortunately, the Russian operation called for the Chief of the General Staffwho arrived and so also the pilot who was an old friend of Theo Sponeck’s andwith whom he was able to fly out to a field hospital in Prussia. Theo Sponeck related how he would neverforget this flight, lying on his fur coat on the bottom of the aeroplane, whichwas as cold as a refrigerator. In Prussia he wasexcellently treated. His knee wasoperated on and found that a nerve was damaged. Theo was told that it would take a long time to heal, but he had nothingagainst that!
Back in Jena, where he received long outpatienttreatment, Theo Sponeck was able to learn the heart of the Nazi movement. One day, the wife of an army friend, MrsMaria von Lüttwitz came to see him to complain that she was having a problemwith the ‘Party’. She had been accusedof helping some Jewish folk by selling them some items for a good price whenthey wanted to emigrate. Theo Sponeckwent to see the official and it was told to him that the official concerned wastoo busy! Theo threatened to see hissuperior in the army whereupon the official became quickly available. Theo was very angry and asked him if he hadany idea how the husbands’ were facing death daily for the Fatherland and herehe was molesting their wives! Theo’sbehaviour and his Knights Iron Cross did the trick. The official felt very small and he wassurely not often spoken to in that manner. While Colonel Theo Sponeck was recuperating a friend asked him if he didnot want to write a book about his war experiences, which he called “Mitschnellen Truppen an sechs Fronten” published by Hase and Köhler in Jena which followed soonafter. As his knee injury would takemany months to heal, Theo Sponeck felt this would give him something to do andso he set to writing the book readily.
Theo had promised himself afterthe First World War never again to fight in the front lines in any futurewar. He considered now a staff post in Paris, Rome or Prague. However, he knew he would never feel happy inany such post except where the action was. When the army officials asked him if he would like a division in the 6thArmy under Paulus or in the Afrika Korps under Rommel, he said after ashort consideration, he would take up a post and promotion under Rommel in Africa. And thuscame Major General Theo Graf Sponeck to the African theatre of the war!
THE NORTH AFRICAN THEATRE OF WAR
The Two Battles of el-Alamein (Juneto July – October to 6th November 1942)
These were the two decisiveengagements between the allied and the axis forces in Egypt duringthe Second World War. After the Britishhad inflicted severe defeats on the Italian forces in North Africa in February1941, the German general Erwin Rommel was chosen commander of the Axis forcesin Libya and in January 1942started a new drive eastward along the North African coast to seize the Suez Canal. Afterlosing Banghazi in January, the British held the Germans in check untilMay. Then the German and Italian forceswere able to destroy most of the British tank force, take Tobruk, and moveeastward into Egypt,reaching el-Alamein on June 30th 1942. By mid-July Rommel was still there, blocked,and had even been thrown on the defensive, thus ending the firstengagement. General Harold Alexandertook command of the British troops in this theatre in August, and GeneralBernard L. Montgomery was named as his field commander. On the 23rd October 1942 theBritish Eighth Army started a devastating attack from el-Alamein. Rommel’s forces – vastly outnumbered, withfewer than 80,000 against the 230,000 allied – were routed. By November the 6th the Britishhad wound up the second battle and driven the Germans westward from Egypt back into Libya.
At the end of September, MajorGeneral Theo Sponeck had to again say farewell to his family. He then took the train to Romeand from there he flew to Tobruk over Athens. Theo Sponeck wrote many of his memoirs ofthis time from his own letters written from the front that he later found athome. From these he was able to againrecall the difficult and yet wonderful times on the front that he shared withhis family. Through the generosity ofRommel and the braveness of all his troops of his division, he was able to leadhis men in personal responsibility and full freedom of decision thus beingable, he believed, to spare much blood. On his arrival in Tobruk the airfield displayed the results of thebattles. Although no longer used as acamp, the smoke, fire and destruction was clear. It was unbearably hot and humid. With a certain Oberlieutnant Hoffman, oneof the ordnance officers of the General Staff they travelled in a motorizedvehicle which was blackened out, travelling eastwards, till deep into anothernight and sleeping in a little tent, to arrive the next afternoon at the Staffheadquarters of the division. This gavehim an idea of the vastness of this new battlefield. The division was in reserve at the back ofthe left wing of the army after heavy fighting and were now refitting andlaying landmine fields. When TheoSponeck reported to Rommel he immediately got the impression of how Spartan thelifestyle of the Command Staff was. Thecomforts of the field marshal were no greater than of the company chiefs. Rommel’s command car served as his sleeping,working and eating-place. Theo Sponeckhad known Rommel when he was still a company chief in the Württemberg InfantryDivision No. 13 in Ludwigsburg. Rommel then already commanded specialattention, as he was one of the very few officers who had been awarded thehighest decoration for bravery with the ‘pour le merit’. He had earned this at the storming of theMonte Matajour on the Italian Front during World War I. Theo relates that the field marshal receivedhim briefly, not unfriendly, however very impersonally! Theo had the impression that Rommel could bea very difficult superior officer to have. The chief of the army staff was a Colonel Gause who Theo Sponeck hadbeen comrade to at the general staff course in Berlinand the first general staff officer was the old 2nd staff officer inJena in theperson of Lieutenant Colonel Beyerlein. General Thoma soon had Theo Sponeck in a lengthy discussion and he was asworn anti-Nazi, which although a dangerous stance to take, here in the desertsurrounded by comrades to whom bravery and courage were more important, he wassafe. Thoma was in charge of the threemotorized divisions, the 15th Tank Division, the 21stTank Division and Major General von Sponeck’s 90th LightDivision. Rommel always kept a divisionunder his direct command and most of the time that was von Sponeck’s 90thLight Division. General Thoma left MajorGeneral von Sponeck in peace right up to the Battle of el-Alamein but here differences ofopinion broke out between them and von Sponeck reported to Rommel that he wouldhave to report sick if he had to continue under Thoma’s command. Rommel immediately reorganized the command sothat Theo Sponeck stayed under him. Soonafter however, Thoma went into captivity to the English deep behind theirlines. Theo Sponeck seldom came intocontact with the other commanders as they were constantly far in the southbehind the desert Front. They were allmagnificent and splendid soldiers and comrades Theo relates in hisautobiography.
In the front of Sponeck’s 90thLight Division was the 164th Division recently flown in andspecially adapted for the desert war. The commander was General von Lungershausen. Major General Sponeck saw him oftenenough. With regard to the Italianallies, Theo spoke much higher of them as brave fighters than most othercommanders. Given the bad weapons andequipment, which was no match for the opposition, they had little option but toappear heartless, he said. When he usedthem to reinforce his own men they fought bravely and well. The German forces too had theirproblems. Reinforcements were beingswallowed up in the Russian Campaign and while the British were beingreinforced daily by the Americans with men and machinery, they were also dailygaining the superiority of the Mediterranean Sea. Air superiority was already a long time in theAllies hands. Rommel could only rely onthe faith and courage of his men to resist! Theo Sponeck’s division was heavily involved in the mining and wiring ofdefence systems against the British as they were forced to retreat. At the beginning of the so-called ‘six-dayrun’ Rommel took leave. General Stummerelieved him. Stumme however had a shortcommand as he fell at the beginning of the 2ndBattle of el-Alamein. Rommel, on hearing of his death cut his leaveshort and returned to the Africa Front. The second Battleof el-Alamein ended on the 6th November 1942. The Afrika Korps was in retreat actiontowards Libya.
Once, Theo Sponeck had the orderto disengage the enemy and to retreat with his command to about thirtykilometres behind the front to establish a defence position. This division had for days fought therearguard action and needed rest. MajorGeneral Sponeck received an appeal for help from Colonel Menton’s regiment thathad been covering his retreat. Menton’sregiment was in need of reinforcements and Sponeck had heard this fight goingon for the past three hours. The orderwas clear; to retreat with his 90th Light Division. However, a comrade was in trouble! Major General Sponeck then took the decisionto stop his retreat and go to the aid of Colonel Menton. Soon, his own men were requiringassistance! Theo Sponeck then took theprecaution to order the retreat march along the coastal road right where theenemy were situated in the dark. Thisblessing enabled him to surprise the British and so to rescue his own men andColonel Menton’s regiment with few losses. It was again a day in Theo’s favour! Later, when the matter was discussed, Rommel mentioned that he hadthought of dismissing Sponeck for disobedience, but as it had worked out well,it would no longer serve any purpose. Theo was of the opinion that had he not had the fortune to encounter theEnglish, and so surprise them, his lot would have been very much different andhe would have been sent home in disrepute.
Good fortune, or his guardianangel’s care seemed to stay with Theo throughout his life. Another particular incident occurred duringthe night of the withdrawal after the second Battle of el-Alamein. The division was called to rest for a fewhours. The night sky was full of theEnglish light bombers. His men had dug atrench next to his command caravan. Theowas however just to tired and weakened with a bout of jaundice that had come duringthe battle and so had fallen asleep in the caravan on the bunk. An enormous explosion lifted himupwards. He was breathing dust andexplosive gas, felt a sharp pain in his lower back, and discovered that he waslying under the naked sky. The roof ofthe caravan had been completely blown off and the sides blown two metres away. Theo limped out of the caravan to find that adirect hit in the trenches around the caravan had caused the explosion to goupwards and so take off the sides and roof of the caravan saving his life. The target had obviously been hiscaravan! But for a few bruises and bluemarks, he was relatively unscathed, save for the indignity of having to appearlike a buffoon without his trousers!
Shortly after this, Theo relatesthat his guardian angel was again at work for him. Late one evening, on Rommel’s orders, Theohad to withdraw a division who was posted out in HalfayaPass. He sent an ordnance officer, LieutenantEisenkeil who spoke fluent Italian. Bymidnight Theo had heard nothing from him and so he sent a second officer stillwithout any success. Four hours later hestill had not yet heard a single word from either officer. Theo then decided to go himself to find outwhat was going on. It was then that TheoSponeck saw the likes of English tanks through his field-glasses. In a surprise attack Major General Sponeckwas able to recapture his captured troops and also bag the front two jeeps ofthe English column. The third jeep hadgotten away. In the front two jeeps, tohis joy and surprise, were all the things one needed in the desert that he hadlost in the attack against his caravan. It later emerged that had he been more patient, Major General TheoSponeck may have captured Field Marshal Montgomery in person who had been inthe third jeep that had gotten away. InMonty’s own biography, on page 162 he tells of the deep dangerous situation hehad been in at that time. Monty had beeninformed that the Germans had been cleared out the area and so had walked intoTheo Sponeck’s investigation manoeuvre and been very nearly captured byhim. One can only wonder on the outcomeof the affair had Monty indeed been captured by Major General Graf Sponeck!
At the beginning of November, theAmericans and English landed in Moroccoand Algeriaunder the command of General Eisenhower. Now Rommel too had a second-front war to fight. In the New Year as the divisions ofEisenhower came near to Tunisiafrom the west the fighting spirit of the Italians collapsed. Rommel was called back from Africa. Colonel General von Arnim took over fromRommel. Theo Sponeck also weighed upwhich of his officers to send home and which to keep with him. He had decided to stay with his troops. It did not seem right to him to disappear atthe last minute. So he committed himselfto his fate. It was surely on therecommendation of Rommel that Theo Sponeck’s next promotion came through. Lieutenant General Theo Graf Sponeck was nowin charge of the German forces left to face the allied forces at Enfidaville!
The Last Stand of the Afrika Korps
On the 6th April 1943,at Wadi Akarit, the 15th Panzer and 90th Light Divisions,“fighting perhaps the best battle of their distinguished careers” said GeneralAlexander, temporarily staved off disaster but could not prevent the action ofthe 1st and 8th British Armies. On the 29th April they and the 21stPanzer Division “continued to show an excellent spirit” in spite of heavylosses. On April 30th theBritish 1st Army was to be reinforced by the best formations of the8th Army. General Montgomeryselected 7th Armoured Division, 4th Indian Division and201st Guards Brigade. The twodivisions were those, which had won the first British victory in Africa under General Wavell. On May 7th the 11thHussars of the 7th Armoured Division, the original and authenticEnglish ‘Desert Rats’ entered Tunis. On May 12th, after a last battlein the hills above Enfidaville, Lieutenant General Graf Sponeck surrendered his90th Light Division to his old enemy, General Freyberg and his NewZealander troops. The last of the AfrikaKorps went into captivity- without its leader, Rommel.
A unit from the 4thIndian Division captured General von Arnim. The commander of the famous 90th Light Division, LieutenantGeneral von Sponeck, was taken into captivity by his old enemies the NewZealanders. The following day thetitular head of the Axis Forces in North Africa,the Italian Field Marshal Giovanni Messe, also surrendered to the famous NewZealander, Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg V.C. It was claimed at the time that 250,000German and Italian soldiers gave themselves up to the Anglo-American armies inNorth Africa, only a few attempted to escape to Sicily and, for those,seventy-seven were scooped out of the sea by the Royal Navy and over a hundredwere later found marooned on one of the offshore islands. Those who surrendered in the north to theAmericans or the 1st Army were subjected to a certain amount ofridicule and mockery by the comparative newcomers to the war, but those in thesouth – especially the Germans of the 90th Light and the 15thor 21st Panzer Divisions, who had been among the first of Rommel’stroops – were watched in sympathetic silence by the men of the 8thArmy who had fought them across nearly 2,000 miles of hills and deserts, andshared too many experiences with them to feel hatred or indeed muchtriumph. That evening General Alexandersent a cable to Churchill which read; “Sir: It is my duty to report that theTunisian Campaign is over. All enemyresistance has ceased. We are masters ofthe North African shores”. The DesertWar was over. For Lieutenant GeneralTheo Graf Sponeck the war too was over!
On the 13th May 1943Lieutenant General Theo Graf Sponeck went into captivity. A polite young officer, who spoke perfectGerman, took him to General Freyberg in order to surrender his troops. It was coincidental that Theo Sponeck had tosurrender to a man with the family name of a family he knew well in Germany – he was convinced that sometime in theearlier years a member of this family must have immigrated to New Zealand. Of the captured generals’ Lieutenant GeneralGraf Sponeck came next in seniority after General von Arnim and the ItalianMarshal Messe. The next morning TheoSponeck found himself in a primitive tent compound with his otherofficers. Some days later they wereloaded into a truck and transported to Algiers. Next, they were flown to Gibraltar. From there, a few days later they flew northtowards the English coast. In England they spent fourteen months in Trent Parkoutside Londonwhere Theo occupied himself with drawing, painting and moulding. During this time Theo Sponeck experienced theV-1 and V-2 rocket attacks over Londonand on two occasions had them land on their estate without serious damage. Thereafter Theo and the others were taken toShannon in Ireland and thenfurther by plane to the UnitedStates of America.
In the United States Theo Sponeckfound himself in a prisoner-of-war camp called ‘Clinton’in the State of Mississippi. It was a colossal camp with many youngerGerman officers. Some of them served thegenerals’ as orderlies. One of hiscompanions was a certain Prince von Salm who was one of Theo Sponeck’s faithfulofficers in the 90th Light Division. The next camp that Theo Sponeck was sent to was called ‘Dermott’. After the war ended in early 1945 theprisoners were sent to New York to take aliberty ship back to Europe. They landed at Le Havreand then went on to a camp called Bolbeck, before being transported to atransit camp in Ulm back in Germany. For three quarters of a year, Theo had heardnothing of his family! The next camp wasDachau and then Garmisch-Partenkirchen from where they wereallowed to see family. For the firsttime in four years Theo again saw his wife and children who had by now grownup.
On his final release and thedeath of his ninety-three year old father-in-law, Theo went to live in theCastle Bächingen near Heidenheim, which belonged to his family-in-law. So it was that at the age of fifty years, Theohad to pick up the pieces of their lives again and though a soldier by career,now found himself a civilian of a country, which also had to pick up the piecesand build a future for itself again! Unfortunately, Theo’s, wife had in his absence found another love and soin 1947 divorced him. Theo lived withhis mother-in-law and children in the old castle. On the 2nd February 1962, Theomarried once more and lived very happily till the age of eighty-five when hepassed away in a clinic in Heidenheim on the 13th July 1982 in thecompany of his loving second wife after a long heart illness.
A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade - Onthe Death of Theodor Graf Sponeck
“A nobleman in every sense of theword closed his eyes forever on the 13th July 1982. The survivors of his old brave ‘90th’will long hold his memory in honour!”
90th PANZER GRENADIER(formerly Light Division)
Home Station – Wehrkries III
This division was formed in Libya in late1941 as the Afrika Division ‘for special purposes’ but it was soonredesignated 90th Light Division. It initially included the 155th, 200th and the 361stMotorized Infantry (later Panzer Grenadier) Regiments, which were not fullymotorized until the spring of 1942. The190th Motorized Artillery Regiment, the 580th PanzerReconnaissance Battalion and the 900th Motorized Engineers Battalionwere also part of its table of organization. The 90th Light took part in the Siege of Tobruk (1941), whereit helped stabilize Italian infantry units and fought well against both theTobruk garrison and elements of the British 8th Army, which finallysucceeded in relieving Tobruk after three weeks of bitter fighting during‘Operation Crusader’ in November and December of 1941. The division was involved in the retreat fromCyreniaca, the recapture of Benghazi in January 1942, the three-week Battle ofthe Gazala Line (May-June 1942), the storming of Tobruk (June 1942), the driveinto Egypt, the Battle of Mersa Matruh (June 26th and 27th 1942)and the Battles of el-Alamein. By June27th it had only sixteen hundred men left, nevertheless, except fora brief moment of panic in the First Battle of el-Alamein, it fought extremelywell throughout the Desert War and was as feared and respected as the AfrikaKorps, of which it was not a part. After Panzer Armee Afrika was crushed in the Second Battle ofel-Alamein (October 23rd – November 4th 1942), the 90thLight formed Rommel’s rearguard and retreated through Egypt, Libyaand Tunisia, where it wasfinally destroyed in May 1943, when the German Front in NorthAfrica finally collapsed.
The commanders of the 90thLight/Panzer Grenadier included Major General Summermann (1941), Major GeneralRichard Veith (1942) Colonel Werner Marcks (1942), Major General Ulrich Kleeman(1942), Lieutenant General Count Theodor von Sponeck (1942-43), LieutenantGeneral Count Gerhard von Schwerin (1944), and Lieutenant General Ernst Baade(1944-1945). The 361stMotorized Infantry Regiment of the 90th Light Division contained ahigh portion of veterans of the French Foreign Legion. Major General Summermann was killed in theCyrenaican retreat on December 15th 1941, near Gazala. Major General Veith was wounded in the Battle of the Gazala Linein May 1942. He later became a specialdisciplinary officer with Army Group North in Russia. Marcks was an acting divisional commander atTobruk. Kleeman was wounded near AlmaHalfa Ridge in September 1942. Later heled Assault Division Rhodes (1942-September 1944) in the Balkans and IV PanzerCorps (1945) on the Eastern Front. Hehad commanded the 3rd Motorized Infantry Brigade and the 3rdPanzer Division prior to taking over the 90th Light. Count von Sponeck performed brilliantly inthe retreat from Egypt and Libya (1942-43), and was captured when Tunisia fell inMay 1943. General Count von Schwerincommanded the 116th Panzer Grenadier Division on the Western Frontin 1944. General Baade, a veteran of theAfrika Korps, distinguished himself while directing the ferryingoperations across the Straits of Messina during the German evacuation of Sicily. He was killed in an Allied bombing raid onthe last day of the war!
LIEUTENANT GENERAL HANS VON SPONECK
ne may well be tempted to ask thequestion, “Why a chapter on a particular person when there were so manymilitary and civil heroes in this family? Why was this book dedicated to the memory of this one German generalwhile he was in fact fighting for the Nazis?” The answer to this question will be found in the rest of thischapter. It is the author’s hope thatthe story of this man’s life will indeed challenge the reader, by his exampleof physical, mental, moral and spiritual strength of character, so to emulatehim, in true nobility and honour.
Hans Emil Otto von Sponeck wasborn on the 12th February 1888 in Dusseldorf, Germany. He was the only son to be born to Emil AugustJoseph Anton Graf Sponeck and Maria (née Courtin). Hans’ father, Emil Sponeck, served as aPremier Lieutenant in the 2nd Baden Dragoon Regiment No. 21 and alsoas a knight and squadron commander in the Imperial Prussian Ulanen Regiment No5.
Hans was the youngest of fourchildren and the last hope for a son, born only months before his father’suntimely death at thirty-eight years of age. His early years were spent with his mother in Freiburg, Breisgau in theState of Baden,not far from the ‘Burg Sponeck’. In1898, at the tender age of ten he entered the cadet corps in Karlsruhe. At seventeen years of age he became the ‘head cadet’ of the corps at thefamous and very prestigious military academyof Lichterfelde in Berlin.
Hans Sponeck received hiscommission in 1908 at the age of twenty with the rank of lieutenant in theGarde Grenadier Regiment No. 5. He was avery highly rated young soldier by his superiors. Hans was an excellent gymnast and a passionatesoccer player. His biographer, ColonelBaron Eberhard Einbeck has stated Hans’ comrades as saying of him that he waswell disciplined, well balanced in character and modest, always expecting moreof himself than from his subordinates. He was always the one to set the pace. Hans never lacked in backbone and this gave a sense of authority even inhis earlier years.
Later, in the summer of 1908 hewas transferred to the 8th Company, Spandau-Berlin as company chiefwith the next higher rank of captain. Onthe 29th September 1910, Hans married for the first time, AnnelieseHonricks, daughter of a well-to-do banker in Berlin. From this marriage two sons were born. Hans-Curt was born in 1911 and Hans Wilhelm Otto followed in 1913. Six years after his promotion to captain, atthe age of twenty-six years, the First World War broke out and Hans Sponeckserved as a front line officer and as battalion adjutant of the sameregiment. During the Great War, as itwas called, he was wounded no less than three times. The first was in October 1914, the secondtime, in February 1915 and then again in January 1917. In 1915, Hans was serving as regimentadjutant of the 262nd Infantry Regiment and then as company chief ofthe same regiment. In 1916 he wascommandeered to the ‘staff’ of the Garde Corps and after his third wounding,was called to serve on the overall ‘general staff’ with the rank of lieutenantcolonel. At the end of hostilities in1918, Lieutenant Colonel Hans Graf Sponeck was awarded both orders of the ‘IronCross’ and the ‘Iron Cross with Leaves’, the highest military awards inGermany.
Between 1917 and 1922, still withthe rank of lieutenant colonel, he served as company chief of the 4thInfantry Regiment in Kolsberg and of the 9th Infantry Regiment in Potsdam, Berlin. For the next number of years between 1924 and1934 and between the ages of thirty-six and forty-six years of age Hans Sponeckserved on the Generals’ Staff at headquarters. On the 1st October 1934 his promotion to full colonelcame through and with this promotion, his first full command of an entireregiment. For the following three years,between thirty-four and thirty-seven years, he commanded the 48thInfantry Regiment stationed at Neustrelitz. At the end of 1937 he gave up his regiment in order to enter the GermanAir Forcein order to establish the new Air Commando Units. They were the Luftgaukommandos III in Berlin and thereafter the Luftgaukommandos VII in Munich. After a short stay with these units he againentered the generals’ staff service and at the same time qualified for hispilots licence thus earning his ‘wings’ in the German air force. He was thenforty-nine years of age.
On the 1st March 1938,Hans Emil Otto Graf Sponeck was promoted to the rank of major general. During this time, between January and March1938, an event took place that was to influence the future of his life in nouncertain terms. This was called the‘Fritsch Crisis’. Previously, HansSponeck’s boss, while he was working on the General Staff, a GeneralBaronWerner von Fritsch was commander-in-chief of the German Armed Forces. Hans had got to know his chief well. He was also a nobleman and a gentleman andHans had come to respect this Prussian senior officer greatly. However, during these times of the Naziregime ominous forces were at play in order to gain the top positions in theparty, and dirty tricks were certainly not ruled out-of-order for them. Colonel General von Fritsch, as commandingofficer of the German military forces, had overseen Hitler’s massive secretincreasing of the military during these years. The man however held too many ‘old fashioned’ ideas as far as the‘party’ was concerned and his post was not totally unattractive to Hitler’shenchman, Herman Göring. The only waythat Colonel General Baron von Fritsch could be removed from his post was ifthey could defame him before his officers’. The officer class was a tight knit tradition and community. They were therefore firmly behind their topgeneral. The Nazis’ could not afford tohave the army in revolt. Behind thescenes a plot was brewing. It had cometo the attention of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s chief of the SSthat an officer with a similar sounding surname had been reported as havingcommitted an indecent act with a young male prostitute who was now prepared totestify against that officer. Seeing anopportunity, because of the similarity of the names, this accusation was placedat the feet of General von Fritsch and he was duly arrested and to his absolutedisgust and horror charged as having been the officer involved. He was required to defend his case and Hitlerordered a court-martial. On the 17thMarch 1938, the second hearing took place. As soon as Major General von Sponeck heard of the arrest, bravely andfearlessly, he immediately and spontaneously made himself available as acharacter witness in the defence of his accused chief. Hans Sponeck had just a month or twopreviously left the command of the Infantry Regiment No. 48 in Döberitz inorder to transfer to the Luftwaffe, which was under the command ofGöring. At the court hearing, in thepassageway, while they waited for a hearing, the public prosecutor, Goltz,overheard Hans Sponeck in a heated exchange with Bodenschatz, who was Göring’sadjutant, say through his teeth: “It is unheard of to handle such a man in thisway!” The case was to be tried under thechairmanship of none other than Göring personally, who was the next highest officialin the Reich under Hitler. Kanter,who has given us the only eyewitness account of the incident, met Hans Sponeckfor the first time before the opening of proceedings on March 17thwhen he entered the anti-chamber of the courtroom. General Hans von Sponeck was grimly paradingup and down with a face set in anger. Sack, the Keeper of Protocol introduced them and a conversationdeveloped among the three in which Hans Sponeck revealed what he intended to doas a witness. He began by saying he knewwell that after he had testified he would no longer be welcome in the Luftwaffe,but that this would not deter him. MajorGeneral Sponeck was enraged that General Fritsch had been dismissed from hispost on a mere presentation of charges and a groundless case carried on againsthim. He followed with an expression ofhatred and contempt for National Socialism as lacking in respect for alltraditional morality and values. WhatHans Sponeck proposed to do was breathtaking in its scope and daring. It was nothing less than to ‘tear the maskoff the face of the prevailing regime’. He intended to strike out immediately with a denunciation of ‘powersthat set themselves above the State’. These he would charge had conspired to arrange the fall of GeneralFritsch and the defamation and emasculation of the army. He had in mind Göring, Himmler, the Gestapoand such other persons and forces in the NaziStatethat sought power and advantage in defiance of established law and concepts ofright and justice. In this way he hopedto shift the entire proceedings onto another plane and reverse the position ofattacked and attackers. Though thejudges, Sack and Kanter agreed wholeheartedly with Hans Sponeck’s analysis,they argued vehemently against the course that he wished to take. They felt it tactically inadvisable for himto begin with charges that were not subject to immediate proof. The inquiry about those behind the affairought not to be initiated by him; it could have dire personal consequences andmight actually prove disadvantageous for General Fritsch. Instead, he should first confine himself tothose questions they would put to him that would enable him to point a fingerat those responsible. Unfortunately,neither of the service chiefs’ would agree to expose themselves to the enmityof the very forces Hans Sponeck was eager to challenge. They may also have thought about the manbehind these forces – Adolf Hitler! Kanter believes that Hans Sponeck, after learning of their refusal fromSack, felt left to his own devices, and went back to the game as he had firstplanned it. But he had not reckonedsufficiently with the ruthlessness and presence of mind of Herman Göring. Hardly had he begun with his allusion to‘forces that set themselves above the state’ than he was cut short and in loudsharp tones ‘called to order’. Hisremarks were labelled irrelevant and he was told that it was not the businessof a general to intervene with irresponsible political conceptions. Hans Sponeck was not permitted to resume theforbidden topic but was directed to answer concisely a few rudely putquestions. Göring then ungraciously andabruptly dismissed him. Clearly, MajorGeneral von Sponeck had bravely attempted to show up the injustice of theregime and had no doubt ‘ruffled the feathers’ of his new chief, Göring. Hans Sponeck later resigned the Luftwaffeafter disagreements, and that he was not dismissed and thrown back into thearmy was probably due both to the need to deal carefully with army feelingsjust then and to the wish of Göring, glowing with self-satisfaction about hisperformance in the case, to appear magnanimous towards Major General vonSponeck and the army. It can be said inconclusion of this trial that General Fritsch had the charges and accusations eventuallydropped when the ‘blunder’ of the mix up of names was ultimately revealed. He was however retired from the army byHitler on ‘ill health’ grounds and so the ground was cleared for Hitler himselfto eventually take over full command of the armed forces. The post that Göring no doubt wished forhimself thus eluded him.
Shortly after the Fritsch affair,on the 7th April 1938, Hans married for the second time. She was the thirty-one year old Berliner,Gertrud Konitzer. From this marriage ason was born. He was Hans-ChristofSponeck, born in August 1939. After onlya few months service on the staff of the Wehrkreiskommandos VI inMünster, Hans Sponeck took up the command of the 22nd InfantryDivision on the 10th October 1938. This division was in training as an airborne infantry division togetherwith the 42nd Army Corps. This was new ground to the army and the paratrooper regiments’ suitedHans’ interest in flying while being back with the infantry. He was a strict and severe commander whoalways held his finger on the pulse of his men. He treated all his men equally, no matter what their rank. His first interest and concern was for thewelfare of his men and therefore he would make sure that he had well-trainedand disciplined troops. His watchwordwas: “The enemy rewards carelessness with death!” He would sometimes move among them in theevenings with his rank badges covered by his greatcoat and listen to theirconversations in order to get the feeling of his men firsthand. For him too the men had a non-toocomplementary nickname of ‘Raisin Sh..’. Major General von Sponeck was reputed to bethe shortest general in the German army at that time. He was rough and tough, as small as he was,in his training methods. It was saidthat he was more feared than loved by his officers and men. His main watchword was: ‘All for one and onefor all!’
War in the West
At the outbreak of the SecondWorld War the airborne infantry divisions had their first acid test in theGerman attack on the western front in the invasion of the LowCountries known as ‘Operation Holland’. Major General von Sponeck presented the plansof the airborne assault before Hitler in the presence of Göring and Generals’Kesselring and Student. Originally aninfantry division, the 22nd was created by expansion of the 16thInfantry Division of the old army. Thedivision was then converted into an air landing force, which meant that theywould follow paratrooper and glider units into action in transport planes assoon as workable airfields could be secured. The German airborne assault on the Low Countrieswas launched at dawn on the 10th May 1940. It was aimed at the key sectors of the Dutchfront, at the AlbertCanal bridges and at FortEben-Emaël. Because of their sensationalnature, these airborne attacks helped to prolong allied illusions as to wherethe main weight of the German offensive really lay, though they also achievedimportant results in themselves. Theattack was made by 7th Airborne Division commanded by LieutenantGeneral Student, a Luftwaffe unit and by 22nd InfantryDivision under the command of Major General Graf Sponeck. These were army airborne divisions withtroops and equipment suited to their varying missions. The two divisions had the all important airsupport of Kesselring’s Luftflotte II. The 22nd Division had to take The Hague and if possible obtain thesubmission and co-operation of the Dutch Crown. As he was expecting to have to request an audience with QueenWilhelmina, in order to secure her co-operation with her government to theGerman cause, Major General Graf Sponeck set out in full-dress uniform,however, she had already fled with her government to hold government-in-exilein England. The divisions’ plan was totake the airfields at Valkenburg, Ypenburg and Ockenburg – to the north, eastand south of The Haguerespectively – and close in on the capital from there. But the Dutch 1st Corps facing theNorth Sea had been alerted in time. A furious battle ensued, in which 22ndDivision lost the airfields which had been surprised and taken by theparatroopers: Major General von Sponeckwas severely wounded and by late evening 1,000 of his troops were being shippedoff as prisoners-of-war to Englandfrom the North Sea portof Ijmuiden. The 7th Airborne Division underLieutenant General Student had much better luck. His troops occupied part of the RotterdamWaalhavenAirportand held their positions in the face of Dutch counter-attacks, thanks to theclose support of the aircraft of Luftflotte II. At Dordrechtthe German forces held both banks of the Maas,although some troops had been dropped in the wrong places. Above all they had taken the Moerdijk bridgesacross the Maas Estuary and so prevented their destruction. The 7th Airborne Division hadtherefore cleared a corridor, which gave the German 18th Army accessto the heart of the Dutch Festung Holland. Major General Hans Sponeck’s cousin, ColonelTheodor Sponeck had been informed of the bad position Hans Sponeck was in andhad been ordered to go in with his division of tanks and help, but MajorGeneral von Sponeck had by the bravery and daring of the remnant of hisdivision already escaped and returned to Germany.
On the 14th May 1940,Major General von Sponeck, amidst much heroic publicity in the local tabloidswas awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross from Hitler’s hand for his partin ‘Operation Holland’. It was no wonderthen, that four days later, on the 18th May he received hispromotion by Hitler to ‘Lieutenant General’ von Sponeck. During August 1939 and June 1940, the poet,Manfred Hausmann served on the divisional staff of General Hans Sponeck. He declared that his common interest inglider flying brought him into close contact with the General. Hausmann stated of Lieutenant General vonSponeck that in all the time he knew him he never once heard the Nazi greetingof “Heil Hitler” from him or saw him give the Nazi salute. He would always say “Guten Abend, meineHerren” or “auf Wiedersehen, meine Herren”. On the 24th December 1940, ratherthan the Nazi ‘Celebration of Lights’ – Lieutenant General von Sponeck’sdivisional headquarters celebrated a traditional ‘Christmas Eve’. It was clear to everyone that the commanderwas no Nazi sympathiser. This was cleartoo in his personal discussions. It wasclear to all that this little man could look danger fearlessly in the eye. He was a brave soldier as far as Hausmann wasconcerned. He stated that LieutenantGeneral von Sponeck always stood up for his convictions. Never would he shift the blame onto others orseek a scapegoat. When it was necessary,he could be very hard on an individual, or all his men, but normally he was awarm person. The poet stated he borepersonal testimony to both characteristics. Strictness, in the concept of service was to the lieutenant generalall-important. In his dealing with afellow he could also be magnanimous. What especially fascinated Manfred Hausmann was Lieutenant General Hans’contagious laughter. His laugh revealedthe bright side of his personality. Sadly,Manfred felt, this free and liberating laugh would more and more be lost as thewar progressed. These were propheticwords indeed by one who knew the general well.
Between May 1940 and thebeginning of the Russian Campaign in June 1941 known as ‘Operation Barbarossa’Lieutenant General von Sponeck spent time recovering from his wounds and in thetraining and administration of his 22nd Infantry Division.
Another illustration ofLieutenant General Hans Sponeck’s magnanimous relationship with his individualsoldiers is shown in a German newspaper report of recent, of one, Carl HeinzSchulz of Hamburg. A conscientious objector to military service,he had joined with many others in refusing to join up. This eighteen year old had in 1938 forconscientious reasons chosen rather to do service in the Arbeitsdienstbut in November of that year found himself forced to join the army. His regiment was involved in the attack on Holland. Shultz survived the bitter fighting and wasawarded the ‘Iron Cross 2nd Class’ for bravery in the face of theenemy on the recommendation of his commanding officer, Major General vonSponeck. In May 1941 he heard about theinvasion of Russiaand realising that this was no ‘Fatherland’ battle but a war of attrition, hedecided to desert. It was on the 8thMay 1941 that he decided to commandeer a military motorcycle and travel over Austria to neutral Switzerland. His flight ended four days later in the townof Kronstadt. A farmer had betrayed him to theGestapo. For four days and nights he wasquestioned without food and sleep. Hewas then sent back to his regiment, the 22nd Infantry Regiment inCimpina and in this regiment he was up before a court-martial and condemned todeath for desertion. A very luckyco-incidence for him was that this was still Hans Sponeck’s regiment. Hans Sponeck had recommended the same Schultzfor the Iron Cross during the invasion of Holland. On hearing of the court-martial and sentenceof one of his infantrymen, Lieutenant General von Sponeck immediately sent afull report on Schultz to Berlinrequesting for a reprieve of the death sentence. The result was that two months later Hitlerrevised the sentence to fifteen years hard labour and for fifteen years, lossof his military honour, being his medals! Schultz survived the terrible conditions of the concentration camp andwas pulled out in 1944 to fight against the Russians in Austria. Before he could be pardoned for fightingvaliantly he was captured and interned into a Russian prisoner-of-war camp fromwhich he also survived to this day to tell the tale.
The Eastern Campaign
Before dawn on the 22ndJune 1941 at 03.15 hrs, Hitler launched the offensive against the Soviet Union with 153 divisions, 600,000 motorisedvehicles, 3,580 tanks, 7,184 artillery pieces and 2,740 aeroplanes. It was the mightiest military forceconcentrated on a single theatre of war in history.
At the beginning of July,Lieutenant General Sponeck moved his division out of Romaniato form part of the 11th Army in the south through Arabia and thesouth Ukraine to take partin the initial attack and further battles up to the DnjeprRiver. At Berislaw on the 30th August1941, his division forced their way across the river and established abridgehead in spite of very heavy opposition from the enemy. From here the 11th Army couldattack in the direction of the Crimea. At this time Lieutenant General Sponeck’shealth was not good. An old sciaticacomplaint returned with a problem in regard to his colon. Added to this was the taxation on his nervesat and after the Dnjepr crossing which cost the division dearly incasualties. He was then encouraged bywell meaning friends of the staff office to take some sick leave. In the middle of September, Hans Sponeck tookleave after the conquest of the Crimea inorder to get treatment for his ailment and so return fit to further thecampaign. This sick leave he spent in Bremen, northwest Germany, with his wife andtwo-year-old son, Hans-Christof. On the17th November he returned to take up his command again at thefront. On reaching Bucharest on the return journey he hadcontacted blood poisoning and so was held up between 17th Novemberand the 4th December 1941 while receiving treatment there. On his return, Lieutenant General Sponeckfound his old regiment, the 22nd Infantry, preparing for an attackon the seaport fortress of Sevastopol, which hadnot yet been taken by the Germans and so left the Soviets with a pocket in thesouthern tip of the CrimeaPeninsula. At this time the new commander of the 11thArmy, General von Manstein gave Lieutenant General von Sponeck the 42ndArmy Corps, which had taken the KerchPeninsula in the extreme east of the CrimeaPeninsula. On the 8th December 1941,Lieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeck took up the command of the victoriousGerman forces of the KerchPeninsula in order tosecure and hold it.
Hitler’s Stand-Fast Order
As the fighting on the north,middle and east fronts in Russiaintensified and the Red Army gained some advantages, technical withdrawals hadbecome necessary. However, Hitler had nostomach for these ‘retreats’ and so as newly self-appointed commander-in-chiefof the Eastern Front he gave the ‘stand fast’ order. This was to prevent any retreat or withdrawalwhatever. The armies were to stand andfight to the last man. If they wereovertaken, they were expected to form pockets and continue fighting until the Luftwaffecould fly in reinforcements and supplies. No commander had the right after this order to decide on any technicalretreat or otherwise. This order wasgiven on the 15th December for the middle army and on the 26thDecember for the whole of the Eastern Front. Against this form of command one has to here understand that the fieldcommanders’ had been taught another law. The Prussian general, while he obeyed orders emphatically, was allowedto take into consideration the circumstances of the actual battle-frontposition and take the initiative to counter those orders should he with a goodconscience and with full responsibility for the outcome decide that counterorders, to those of higher authority, were warranted on the field ofbattle. So Hitler’s total command andorders ran contrary to his commanders’ years of training and their mindsetafter years of military indoctrination. It was inconceivable to them as the commanding generals’ that they didnot have autonomy in the actual battle situations of the day, according to thedictating circumstances. This is veryimportant to the understanding of what transpired during the next campaign withLieutenant General Hans Sponeck in the so-called Kerch crisis.
The Kerch crisis was precipitated by counterattacks at Rostov-on-Don. The defendersof Sevastopol simultaneously dealt a counterblow to the Germans, which helped the Russians defending the capital, Moscow by keeping theGerman forces busy in the south. Lieutenant General Kozlov, commander of the Soviet TranscauscasianFront, was ordered to prepare for the recovery of the CrimeaPeninsula. It was now clear that the Russian forceswanted to go over from defence to attack. Their plan was to land troops in the proximity of Kerchand MountOpuk and still a further landing inFeodosia. Two armies were to execute theoperation. The three landings totalled 41,930troops who were to be landed by approximately 200 fighting ships, launches andover 300 fishing schooners, barges and even rowing boats. At this time the fortress of Sevastopol remained a thorn in the side ofthe German Southern Army. Time and againthe Russians had resisted and valiantly defended their fortress. The southern German 11th Army hadby now pushed through to the gates of Stalingrad. While the Soviet landings were taking placeon the KerchPeninsula,Sevastopol wasbeing re-enforced by them and supplied by sea. On the 17th December the fortress city of Sevastopol came under bombardment by theGerman 11th Army as they prepared to launch a new offensive in thesouth. In spite of poor weather, theirlimited supply situation and having been stripped of their reserves for thedefence of Rostov in south Russia, the 11th Army threw nearlyevery unit it had into the Sevastopolattack. Only Lieutenant GeneralSponeck’s 42nd Corps, which was stripped to a single divisionstrength, the 46th Division, and two Romanian brigades were withheldfrom the offensive in order to safeguard the eastern position of the Crimea from a possible Russian counterattack. On the 19th December the Russianssailed reinforcements again into the beleaguered garrison, landing 3,500 moretroops from the 79th Naval Infantry brigade at the embattled port of Sevastopol. On 21st December Russian ships ofthe Black Sea Fleet stood offshore near Sevastopoland began a weeklong bombardment of the German positions.
By December 25th,Hitler relieved Guderian of his command over a series of unauthorisedwithdrawals as the Soviet Winter Offensive pushed the Germans back from Moscow. He was to be joined by some thirty othersenior officers before the year was out!
On the 26th December,Army Group South, with their 11th Army still fighting the stubborndefenders of Sevastopol,had then a new threat develop behind them. Russian troops were landing at the three points on the KerchPeninsulaat the extreme eastern end of the Crimea, where the Sea of Azov meets the BlackSea, across from the oil rich Caucasus.Lieutenant General Hans Sponeck asked permission to withdraw to Parpach toestablish a line of defence against the combined Soviet landing forces and wasinstead ordered to attack the two Russian divisions landing on both sides ofthe Kerch withhis 42nd Corps then consisting only of a single division, namely the46th Division.
On December 28th thebattles in the eastern Crimea had developed infavour of the Germans. Lieutenant GeneralSponeck’s troops had eliminated one of the two Soviet beach-heads around thetown of Kerch, but Hans Sponeck again requested permission to withdraw toParpach while at the opposite end of the Crimea, General Manstein’s 54thCorps began its final lunge at Sevastopol, in the west.
On December 29th afterthe Russians successfully landed additional forces on the Crimean southerncoast of Feodosia, well behind even Parpach, Lieutenant General Sponeck wasforced within a half hour to decide whether to sacrifice his men or withdrawthem. Manstein in the meantime hadordered the Romanians to eliminate the Feodosia beachhead and thencountermanded Hans Sponeck’s withdrawal orders. Neither occurred. The attack on Sevastopol was brought to a halt too late for the Germanforces to form up a defence against the Russians that threatened to cut off theeastern part of the Crimea. The Kerch-Feodosia operation is known inSoviet history as the largest landing operation by Soviet armed forces everexecuted during World War II. Althoughthere was little time for its preparation it was brilliantly planned andexecuted.
At 07.30 hrs on December 29th,Lieutenant General Sponeck heard for the first time of the Feodosia landings,which were well to the rear of his command. Within half an hour he had to make up his mind whether to tacticallyretreat from the extreme east end of the Peninsula in order to save his 10,000soldiers from being cut off and destroyed or to lead them to form up a newdefensive line behind Feodosia. In sodoing join with the rest of the Romanian Corps which was even then fighting atFeodosia. This decision was not easilymade and it was reported that the lieutenant general was white in the face whenhe announce his intentions to his commanders. He stated that for a general to give orders to retreat was never easybut after consideration of the facts felt it was fully necessary andjustified. He was not prepared to wastea moment more. At 08.00 hrs he gave theorder to pull the 46th Infantry Division back. Hans Sponeck’s biographer recorded that fullyaware of the implications of the risk he was taking in disobeying hissuperiors’ orders; he deemed it necessary to place a rational decision above aformal order. The consequences of thedecision were not weighed up when the only logical view of operative necessityand the duty to obey an order were in conflict. His order was given to withdraw from the battle at the town of Kerch and to fast-march to the neck of the Crimea at Parpach in order to “engage the enemy atFeodosia and cast them back into the sea!” Whatever the operative and tactical considerations of Lieutenant GeneralHans Sponeck were, they were sensible, necessary and courageous. There was not the slightest shadow ofcowardice, indecision or bad conscience with him. Various members of his entourage alsotestified to this of that time. In 30degrees minus, in a howling snowstorm and icy winds the battalions’ of the 46thInfantry Division marched towards the west end of the Crimean Peninsula. The column was some 120 kilometres long. In as best an orderly manner as possible themen of the 46th marched for forty-six hours. A rest was given now and again for fifteenminutes for hot coffee to be brewed. Many suffered frozen fingers, teeth and noses. Most of the horses were starved and withoutwinter covers. They lay wasted fromexhaustion. Many guns remained behind onthe frozen road.
The March Westwards and Battle of Feodosia
While Lieutenant General vonSponeck’s 46th Infantry Division were on the rushed march westwards,General Manstein still hammered away at Sevastopol with the intention of takingthe Sevastopol Fortress and then coming to the aid of the Romanian troops buthe was without success. After bitterfighting and many casualties, General Manstein came to the decision to leaveoff the battle for Sevastopoland not risk the danger at Feodosia any longer. It was Old Years Eve of 1941. Itwould take another five and a half months to finally conquer Sevastopol!
On December 31st atmidday the first battalions of Hans Sponeck’s 46th Infantry Divisionarrived at the Parpach neck. Before themlay the front lines of the Russian forces infantry rifles regiments who alreadyheld Wladislawowka, north of Feodosia. It seemed that the whole breakaway manoeuvre of the 46thDivision was in vain. “Attack, breakthrough, Wladislawowka to be taken” were Lieutenant General Sponeck’s orders toMajor General Himer of the 46th Infantry Division. In icy conditions with stormy ice winds thatblew right through marrow and bone the thinly clad soldiers fought their wayforward for seven kilometres before the exhausted regiments collapsed as themen simply fell over. In the middle ofthe night the battalions were pushed into lines of defence.
On January 1st 1942 atmidday the Russians again attacked and were held back. An attack with tanks followed which wasbeaten off thanks to the active fire of the German ‘Lion Brigade’ and the gunsof a rail-mounted unit which finished off sixteen Russian T26 tanks leavingthem burning and others without tracks. So the tank brigade of the 44th Soviet Army was destroyed andthe danger of a Russian breakthrough to the hinterland from Feodosia washalted. One can well ask what would havehappened if Lieutenant General von Sponeck had not arrived? The 11th Army were then not yet ina position to have engaged the enemy. One could therefore say that Lieutenant General von Sponeck’s action wasindeed justified. General Manstein howeverin his memoirs would not cede a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’! Field Marshal Reichenau proceeded to stripthe 46th Infantry Division of all honours as a token of his deemingthe withdrawal as a sign of cowardice in the face of the enemy. How could this be when the regiment weremerely carrying out orders? FieldMarshal von Bock, who took over shortly after, due to the death of Reichenau asa result of a heart attack, reinstated the regiment’s honour soon after.
The Arrest and Trial of LieutenantGeneral Hans Sponeck
It is argued that Hitler’s ‘standfast order’ came into effect only on the 30th December for the ArmyGroup South and hence Lieutenant General Sponeck, having ordered the withdrawalthe day before could not be implicated as having disobeyed that particularorder. However, that he had disobeyed anorder of his local commanding officer was not disputed, and Hitler, wanting tomake an example of his rule, immediately, on the 31st December,ordered a court-martial for Hans Sponeck. Lieutenant General Graf Sponeck, on hearing of his relief of his commandand orders to report to Field Marshal von Reichenau requested a court-martialhimself, as he felt his fellow officers would justify his decision to retreatunder the circumstances. On January 1st1942, Lieutenant General Hans Sponeck reported to Army Field Headquarters andgave a full report on the circumstances of the last few days. From there he was ordered to Berlin.
The putting together of the courtwas no easy matter as all the officers who were available, and in Berlin atthat time for various reasons, wished to be excused from sitting in judgementover their fellow officer. General Haasein particular, when his request was refused gave conditions, which implied thata death sentence should be commuted to imprisonment before he would serve asprosecutor. On the 11th andthe 14th of January the preliminary hearings were held andLieutenant General Sponeck gave his full report of the circumstances of thewithdrawal before Haase and Dr Kraell who was to serve as defence lawyer at thetrial in Berlin.
On the 23rd January1942 the court-martial took place with Göring in full ‘Reichsmarschall’uniform, in a small hall of the new AirforceMinistryBuilding. Lieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeck was infull dress uniform. At 10.00 hrs thejudges were sworn in with Göring as ‘court president’ being the highest-rankingofficer of the military in the Reich. Göring then proceeded to ask Hans Sponeck if he had not met himbefore? (No doubt however, he rememberedHans very well from the Fritsch affair). Hans Sponeck answered in the affirmative and then referred to theFritsch case, to which Göring answered that he remembered! He then proceeded in small talk to enquire asto the welfare of Hans Sponeck’s two sons who were both serving in the military. Then the formal proceedings began with HansSponeck being tried for ‘disobedience’ of a superior officer’s order. Hans Sponeck then proceeded to describe tothe court the situation in detail that led to his requesting a short tacticalretreat after the landings at Kerchand which was twice denied. Then thefurther landings at Feodosia later, that left him no reasonable alternative butto order the retreat after having destroyed one of the Kerch landings. He explained how he intended to take upformation beyond Feodosia and so prevent his division from being cut off andlost while it could still be used to attack the further landings and preventthe Russians moving into the mainland via the Crimeaneck. Also, how this was accomplishedwhen his forces were formed up before the Russian landing forces.
The prosecutor, General Haase,after proceedings, called for the death sentence, which was the appropriatejudgement according to military law for disobedience on the field. Dr Kraell then gave the judicial ground for aplea-bargain. Dr Neubert gave a verywell and documented defence of the accusation in his summing up statementsusing citations and arguments, which were very well presented. He also presented the case that the Führer’s‘stand fast’ order of 26th December 1941 could not be held againstthe accused as he was still unaware of this order on the 29thDecember, being under fire on the front. Also, the charge of ‘disobedience to a superior officer’ should be alsopardoned as the results of the actions of the accused clearly showed that hisdecision worked for the good of all concerned and also advanced the objects anddirectives of his superiors during that campaign. Such a man could therefore not be withouthonour and unworthy of the military and so he called for the withdrawal of allcharges and the verdict of ‘not guilty’ for the accused. The last word was Lieutenant GeneralSponeck’s when Göring asked him if he were ever in the same position again,what he would do, to which Hans Sponeck could only reply that he would doexactly the same again! Just the replyGöring knew Hans Sponeck was obliged to give. Göring said no more. By this HansSponeck had sealed his fate. It washowever a question that Göring knew to which Hans Sponeck would only answer inthe affirmative. He would therefore nothave to consider letting him off through a negative reply. Indeed, the negative reply would haveincriminated Lieutenant General von Sponeck that he did not act correctly inthe first instant. In this way Göringput him on the spot to secure his own fate, although the verdict was a foregoneconclusion. Lieutenant General GrafSponeck was the only one of the generals’ permitted a court-martial, whereasafter that all disobedient commanders were summarily axed and often shotwithout trial. So Lieutenant GeneralHans Sponeck served as the ‘great example’ to all who would disobey Hitler’s‘stand fast’ order!
Thereupon, the Court adjourned toconsider its forgone verdict. Adiscussion that the accused violated Hitler’s orders would make a reprieve orpardon questionable. It was to be adecision of the court of ‘disobedience by negligence’! This would be judged by the Military Law aslaid down in ‘Military Court Rules and Judgements’ for when such an actionleads to the detriment or endangering of the security or fighting ability ofthe troops. Also, ‘negligentdisobedience’ could, when it was to the detriment of the forces, lead to thesentence of death. The withdrawal from KerchPeninsulaand the opportunity it gave the Russians to establish a bridgehead, loss ofmaterial and loss of many heavy weapons and guns weighed heavily against theaccused in the opinion of the judges. Not only did Lieutenant General von Sponeck disobey orders, but also intheir opinion, he could not show any immediate just cause for his withdrawal,to justify his disobedience of the standing order of his superior. Now the death penalty came under discussionof the tribunal. The death penalty wasassured unless the accused had a one hundred per cent vote for the pardon orreprieve. The judges felt that thepersonality of the accused justified that they go on to a lessening andpardoning rights of the Court. Göringdutifully accepted this view and said that he now wanted to discuss this casewith Hitler the next day in order to effect the possible pardon for the deathsentence. The judges put this in writingand added that the pending death sentence be commuted to imprisonment with theview of later review and reinstatement of rank and benefits. After the judges decision the Courtreconvened with Göring pronouncing the sentence on the accused. It went “death for reckless disregard of ordersin the field of battle”. At five o’clockthe Court concluded the proceedings.
The written judgement was laidbefore Hitler who discussed the case in full with Göring and, as promised toHaase, accepted the change of sentence from death to imprisonment. On the 20th February 1942, nearlya month later, Hitler’s written sentence was passed, sighed by him and GeneralKeitel. Hans Sponeck, immediately afterthe trial, requested to see Hitler in order to present his case to him inperson but this request was denied in a written letter by Major GeneralSchmundt, Hitler’s chief adjutant of the army, dated the same date as Hitler’sjudgement orders!
Straight after the sentencingHans Sponeck was taken by a staff officer to the Reich’s WarMinistryBuilding where he waskept for a few days. He wascoincidentally taken into the very office that his former boss, GeneralFreiherr von Fritsch had used as Chief of the Army. Two staff officers kept him under guard dayand night. Once Hans Sponeck had changedinto his civilian clothes he was taken to the Army Interrogation Prison at Berlin – Moabit, 61 Lehrter Street,to await the final decision of Hitler. Asoldier on duty is recorded as saying of Hans Sponeck that he had at all timesrevealed an absolute self-assured attitude unlike most of the prisoners heldthere. After the final orders came fromHitler, three weeks later, Colonel Hoffmann took Hans Sponeck in an armouredcar from Berlin to Germersheim Fortress nearthe town of Speyer.
From here numbers of letters werewritten to officer friends and also by Hans Sponeck’s wife appealing for helpand for intercession on behalf of her husband without any result fromHitler. Many did not know even theoutcome of the court-martial as Hitler had placed a ‘state secret’ code on theaffair and no one was allowed to discuss the matter any further. In a letter to General Haag, dated 25thFebruary 1942 from Berlin,where he was brought for Göring to see him again, Hans Sponeck reveals hisinnermost feelings and aspirations of the affair. A translation of the letter printed in hisbiography follows:
“My dear Haag,
My hearty thanks for yourfriendly letter of the 15th January, with your good wishes on mybirthday! I was very pleased to receiveyour good wishes. Good wishes out of theheart of a caring friend can only be well received by a person in my presentposition. I do not know how well you areinformed about my present situation. Iwill give you some dates for your information. On the 7th January, I was in Berlin, on the 8th January,interrogation took place by General Haase and ReichskriegsanwaltDr Kraell, both of whom were representative for my defence. After the first questioning on the 11th,I was of the opinion that the course of the matter would go well for me. This impression changed very suddenly whenthe second interrogation took place on the 14th January, after thetwo gentlemen had been to see Göring! Onthe 23rd January 1942 the main court-martial proceedings tookplace. It lasted seven hours duringwhich they left me to stand the entire time. During the procedure it became very clear to me what I couldexpect. They wanted to ‘institute anexample’ and so it was! I was judged fordisobedience according to Article 92 of the Militarstrafgesetzbuch. Of the actual ‘judgement’ I am not at libertyto inform you as it has been sworn to secrecy,anyway, it was more than hard. I had towait for more than four weeks before finally the decision of Hitler was made onthe 20th February. On the 21stFebruary, at midday, the final judgement was made known to me. It read:- ‘Six years imprisonment’; in addition it was decided that I amdischarged from all army positions, I loose my military rank, my servicemedals, the right to wear the uniform, the ‘order’ (Iron Cross) and honoursbadges and the claim of support and my military pension. In a footnote it was stated ‘the condemnedand his family will be provided for in financial need’. To give comment on this is superfluous. The penalty speaks for itself. The penalty has a note and composure thatdoes not sound right from the Military Law. Also, it seems to me that my military worth is not taken from me. They said to me that this would be refined intime. It is intended in the foreseeablefuture to restore my rank, service record etc. to me! With this, one could not restore what hasbeen done to my name, my family or to me! I still maintain my innocence; I did something, which I had to do in anextremely difficult position. And I didnot infringe the honour code. I mustalso state, to my regret, that there were no witnesses present. In the whole court I was the only one whoknow anything about the conditions of the Crimea.
I have come from the Fortress ofGermersheim at Speyer. Apparently the Reichsmarschall Göringwishes to speak to me, but when I don’t know! They dragged me here urgently to hold furtherproceedings where the mood is openly hostile. I can see this and just wait for the next meeting. I have now in the meantime learned towait. My wife has been an example ofbravery and is still. She has been atremendous support to me through my difficult time…from so many different sidesI see evidence of the sympathy and the unity of comradeship; it does and willdo me good in my present position. Donot believe I have lost my hope and courage. A great peace fills me. I amconvinced that for my family and I better times come and the day will come forme when, righteousness will prevail. God’s mills grind slowly but surely!
Please greet the General for meand share the contents of this letter with him. I would have written to him myself but time does not allow me here. I will write to him shortly. I would like to ask the general to pleasemake this judgement known to the commanders in whatever form suites him and ashe thinks best. Health-wise, apart frommy sciatica, so far I am well … please make the gentlemen of the staff aware ofthe contents of my letter … my thoughts are often with my old brave division inspite of everything … the relatively high casualty rate as it continues isreally regrettable. The more the troopswith the passing of time come to ground the less the losses will be.
My sincere wishes are with thedivision and their indulgences. Hopefully, you have good news from home… my youngster, Lance CorporalKarl-August Oetken, I have sent on holiday since 31st March, so thathe can help his father in the nursery. In his family the relationships are understandably hard and sad. Lance Corporal Oetken is the only son! I believe placing him on the ‘indispensable’list was in the interest of the family.
Please greet all the comrades forme. I hope they nevertheless know theverdict of the court and that their old commander has not injured theregimental honour. My heart felt wishesare directed to you all. To youpersonally, again, my heartfelt thanks for your faithful greetings and wishesin sincere alliance,
The effect of the judgement onHans Sponeck can be illustrated with two incidents of how it influenced thejunior and senior staff. At the end ofApril 1942, a Colonel Hitzfeld, who was reported to have been the one toprevent the Russian breakout from the Feodosia landings was ordered to Berlin to be awarded theKnights Cross with Oak Leaves. Given anopportunity to speak with Major General Schmundt, and explain the Crimea situation, he used the opportunity to tell him –“you looked for and needed a guilty party and believed you found one inLieutenant General Sponeck!”
At the beginning of March,another officer who was the adjutant of the corps during the Kerch retreat, a Lieutenant Colonel vonWoedtke, who reported to command headquarters, in his report on the progress ofthe battle said in the presence of Major General Warlimont – “in the case ofLieutenant General von Sponeck you have clearly committed a politicalmurder!” This lead, no doubt to the‘silence order’ of Hitler in this regard. The fact was that Hitler wanted an ‘example’ to force the senior officersto obedience of his ‘stand fast’ order and no matter Hans Sponeck’s guilt orinnocence, it would have made no difference. The fact that Hitler changed the sentence of death to imprisonment initself spoke of Hans Sponeck’s innocence of the charge. Further, it was realised that the situationat Feodosia had so developed that without the 46th InfantryDivision’s help it would not have been possible to hold and beat off theFeodosia landings. His realisation thatthe main landing would be Feodosia and not Kerchfully justified Lieutenant General von Sponeck’s retreat to take up newpossession and to fight off the Feodosia landings instead of staying at Kerch in the extreme east of the Crimea, which would havesacrificed his men and the entire Crimeacampaign. The Kerchlandings proved really to be a Russian ploy to keep the German army from theirtrue intention in the west of the Crimea. It must be clearly understood that laterdevelopments with regard to Hans Sponeck had really no bearing on the Crimea case.
On the 6th March 1942Hans Sponeck arrived at Germersheim accompanied by Colonel Hoffmann. Germersheim was an old imperial town on theRhine south of Speyer. It is a historical town. In 1815 King Ludwig I had a fort built forthe protection of the Rhine crossing. After 1918 it housed a strong BayernGarrison. Hans Sponeck was given tworooms in the fort, which he could furnish simply but comfortably. He was permitted a ‘batman’ to assisthim. He was allowed to continue with hiscorrespondence unhindered. He waspermitted to have a radio and also to receive visitors. A library was put at his disposal. He also had limited freedom in the areaoutside of the fortress so that he could have friendly contact with the citizenfamilies in the town and visit with them. His wife and son were allowed to visit with him for five days everymonth. With him were a few Germanofficers’, a Dutch general, and three Norwegian officers. One of the officers testified how that HansSponeck, by his attitude and camaraderie, caring and handling, helped him inhis time in Germersheim. The generalhelped him in no uncertain terms to overcome his sinking into bitterness duringthat time, he reported. Another letterto his poet friend, Manfred Hausmann read as follows: -
“Now I have settled my conscienceof the events of that time. I see everythingin a quieter and clearer light, and therefore also more objectively. With it comes an inner peace over me, which Ican credit to my conviction of my innocence and my clear conscience. This is so important and conclusive and atthe end of life, the main thing! Whenone is convinced in your own mind that everything lies in the Hand of theAlmighty, then you find the inner strength to bear the worst. I hope that also for me one day will dawnwhen righteousness and justice will prevail and it must. Until then, one must rest the nerves andexercise patience…”.
To practice patience was a verydifficult test for Hans Sponeck. However, during the two years and four months that he was held atGermersheim he never ceased to advocate his innocence before Hitler, and otherstoo were often on his case in order to get him reinstated into freedom andsociety. Von Manstein himself used theconquering of Sevastopolduring the 4th July 1942 as a plea-bargain with Hitler for hisreinvestment, but without success. VonManstein did manage to get his military pension paid to Hans Sponeck’s wife,thanks to the small clause at the foot of Hitler’s final judgement that statedthey would be cared for in financial need.
Lieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeck’s Last Days (20th – 23rdJuly 1944)
Here follows a chronologicalsummary so that the reader can get an idea of the occurrences of the last fewdays!
20th July 1944. This evening there is a radioannouncement. Hitler has had anassassination attempt on his life. Abomb planted by Count von Stauffenberg has destroyed his command bunker. Hitler appoints Heinrich Himmler as Chief forthe Defence of the Reich. Heads willroll, Field Marshal Rommel and eight other generals with thirteen officers werearrested shortly after the end of July. The witch-hunt would go on till April 1945 during which time suspectedcollaborators and their whole families would be wiped out in the most gruesomeways. With this appointment of Himmler, the prison service of Germersheim comesunder his command. This night, HansSponeck writes a letter to his wife in Bardenweil in which he expresses hisconcern about the suspicion on Hitler’s attendants in this failed attempt onhis life. In this letter he states thathe has had absolutely nothing to do with the plot against Hitler.
21st July 1944. At 14.00 hrs, four Gestapo (Nazi police)arrive at the gate and require the relinquishing of the prisoner, von Sponeck,from Colonel Merten. He is to be thevery first victim of Himmler and Göring. Their orders are he is to be taken away! The commandant categorically refuses on thegrounds that he alone carries the responsibility for Sponeck in accordance withhis military obligations and superiors’ orders. Only from them will he accept orders. At the same time he contacts Keitel to find out what he should do. Keitel answers that he has nothing to do withthe internment of Sponeck! Hans Sponeck,in the meantime finds himself at 14.00 hrs with a friendly family in thetown. His orderly creeps away and rushesto warn Hans Sponeck of the arrival of the Gestapo. Hans is surprised and asks, “What! Are they there already?” That evening in his diary he writes: “Bigtrouble coming!”
22nd July 1944. Midday today, Hans Sponeck phones hiswife. He is depressed, but says nothingof the previous day’s activities to her.
12.30 hrs – He requests anaudience with the evangelical deacon, Herrn Krück whom he met with andestablished a friendship through the family he was friends with in thetown. After Hans Sponeck tells DeaconKrück about the failed request to take him away, the day before, he againassures him that he had nothing to do with the conspiracy of the 20thJuly against Hitler! Deacon Krück thenengages Hans in a real soul-caring discussion. No doubt this was very meaningful to HansSponeck under the circumstances as can be seen from his confession of his faithin the later letter to his wife. Thelast entry in his diary reads – “Visit with Deacon Krück!”
22nd / 23rdJuly 1944. In the night a telex arrivesat Keitel’s headquarters in Wiesbaden. It reads: “Lieutenant General Hans Graf vonSponeck is to be shot at 07.00 hrs on the 23rd July 1944. The execution of this order is to be promptlyreported back to me! Signed: HeinrichHimmler”.
23rd July 1944. At 03.00 hrs Colonel Merten receives thismessage telephonically from Wiesbaden. At 04.00 hrs, Hans Sponeck receives a visitfrom Lieutenant General van der Lippe, in Germersheim who is horrified anddistraught at the order and he informs Hans Sponeck of the matter. General van der Lippe then visits with HansSponeck and has a personal discussion with him for quite a while. Again Hans Sponeck assures Lieutenant Generalvan der Lippe that he had nothing to do with the conspiracy and as far as the KerchPeninsulacase was concerned he would do the same again, given the samecircumstances. This he also reiteratesin his last letter to his wife written in the early hours of the morning of the23rd July 1944. HansSponeck’s wife showed this letter to his biographer, Colonel Baron Einbeckin a later interview with her. In this personal letter Hans Sponeck writes: -
“… What they have against me, I have noidea! I have never ever undertakenanything against the Führer or against the State that I was to beashamed of or that was detrimental. I amin every way innocent! I am, with all myheart and soul a soldier, and I have always as such served my Fatherland andPeople to the best of my ability and conscience. When I, according to my conclusions,retreated from the Peninsula Kerch and was harshly judged by the court-martialfor it, I do not and cannot accept this verdict and sentence they have passeddown to me! I had to handle ascommanding officer of the 42nd Army Corps on the grounds of thetotal situation as it dictated to me. Ihandled it according to the best of my ability and conscience. I can only hope and trust that they will in alater time come to accept that I handled the situation correctly and that myhonour as a soldier is unblemished…I die with firm faith in my Redeemer…God bemerciful to my soul…!”
Just after Hans Sponeck has ‘Holycommunion’ from the priest the army convoy arrives outside in the yard. With firm steps Hans Graf Sponeck walks aheadof the platoon. When they want toblindfold him and bind him to an execution pole he declines both beingblindfolded and tied. His last words tothe soldiers of the firing squad are: “For forty years long I have served myFatherland that I have loved with all my heart as a soldier and anofficer! Today when I lay down my life,I die in the hope of a better Germany!”
23rd July 1944 at07.13 hrs Himmler’s orders are carried out! So died the Conqueror of Holland! The German ‘Hero of Holland’, as hewas heralded in the newspapers of the time: the brave commander of the BremerDivision by the bullets of comrades’ rifles. And we may say today that he fell no less honourably than the millionsof other German soldiers who gave their lives for Germany!
The commander of Germersheim, accordingto orders given him then ordered the soldiers at the fortress to absolutesilence on the execution. Hans Sponeck’sexecution was to be another Schweigegebot of the Third Reich. The completely devastated Lieutenant Generalvan der Lippe brought the tragic news to Badenweiler to the Countess Sponeck,not officially, but of his own account.
24th July 1944. Hans Emil Otto Graf Sponeck was then buriedat Germersheim. No citations or speecheswere permitted at his grave,however, they did allow ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ to be said.
After the war, Hans Sponeck’smortal remains were exhumed and his ‘last resting place’ was the ‘SoldiersCemetery’at Dahn in the PfälzerForest.
The commandant’s report of theexecution of Lieutenant General Hans von Sponeck, on Heinrich Himmler’s orders,was sent to the chief of the war court and to Göring as the courtchairman. It was signed and endorsed byGöring: “Notice taken!” without further comment.
The last word can be left to theformer chief of Lieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeck. Field Marshal von Manstein in his book –‘Lost Battles’ who wrote of Sponeck: - “His memory, as a soldier of honour anda commander of integral responsibility, shall be held in honour by all thosewho knew him!”
Last Requiem – 23rd July1999
On the 23rd July 1999a contingency of the remaining family of Lieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeckgathered in Germersheim and then also at the grave of the ‘General’ for a lastrequiem. This included his son,Hans-Christof Sponeck, his wife Nelda, the general’s granddaughter, ChristianeSponeck-Krumnow and her husband Jürgen Krumnow, their cousin, Ottmar Sponeckwith Cousin Hans-Henning Sponeck and his wife, Eva and son Max Sponeck. They arrived in the morning at the 3rdGerman Air force Training Regiment headquarters at Germersheim, which was underthe command of Colonel Spranger. Theygathered in the officers’ mess from where they proceeded to the ‘oath-takingceremony’ for new recruits into the German Air force. This was followed by areception in the town hall of the small community of Hatzenbuehl not far fromGermersheim. In the early afternoon asmall convoy of military vehicles left with all the family members aboard forthe City of Dahn,some forty kilometres away. The Germanarmy had despatched a music corps and a military honour guard to be atLieutenant General Hans Graf Sponeck’s last resting place. A short commemoration took place, at whichnot only members of the family and the army, but also a few Germersheimcitizens were present who had known Lieutenant General Hans Sponeck. The ceremony included the laying of a wreathby the air force contingent, reflections by the commander of the 3rdAir force Regiment and Hans-Christof Sponeck and the moving sound of the ‘lastpost’. So ended a very meaningful and memorable day for the family.
Speech of Hans Christof Graf Sponeckat the Graveside 23rd July 1999
“On behalf of my family, I wish tothank you for this memorial service for my father!
Fifty-five years is a long time,more than two generations, and still the pain of the loss is felt! How can the son forget that on this 23rdJuly 1944 his father had his life brutally taken from him? That his father would no longer be receivingthe monthly visits of his family behind the green portals of the FortressGermersheim! I was however too young tounderstand these terrible happenings!
Through a memorial service likethis by the 3rd Airforce Training Regiment a bridge is spanned withthe past to a time when soldierly honour was in bad order, when sincere andhonourable soldiers like my father who served with his heart and soul thehighest good, were robbed of life.
This commemoration celebrationabout my father makes a historical statement for which we in our family areespecially thankful. You are proofthereof, that you, Lieutenant Colonel Spranger, and your regiment sets abridgehead for the value of timeless fundamentals like freedom of conscience,faith and moral and ethical steadfastness!
In our present time, to followone’s conscience in lasting values and in courage, and constantly aware of thehighway robbers of pragmatism which dangerously waylay, the mediation of suchfundamental values are, especially for our youth and our soldiers, of realgreat importance!
When in this sense the life anddeath of my father stays an example in Germany then this is satisfactionenough for my family and confirmation that my father through his death servedsome purpose in life. In a democracylike ours everyone has the privilege of his own point of view! However, the ‘example’ will be for nothing ifit is forgotten!”
Hans-Christof Count Sponeck
“Precious in the sight ofthe Lord is the death of His saints”
E P I L O G U E
o ends the Saga of the Spon(n)eck Family at the end of the20th century! Still a verysmall number of members exist to perpetuate the name and history of thisfamily. That past generations have madea mark in history is without a doubt and that future generations will continueto do so is highly likely. Sponecks /Sponnecks are resilient and resourceful people to whom career and family mean agreat deal. If we were to invent somekind of a ‘motto’ for this family, it should surely be: “Wir Dienen!” Translated, “We Serve!” Their members have served kings and princes,nations and organizations, firms and clients for centuries. Indeed, it would appear that their historywould indicate that a very high regard and much emphasis had been placed ontheir duty and service to their fellowmen. No matter in how high a capacity they served, it was always with thebest interests of their subordinates and subjects at heart and for the goodwill of the poor and lowly, as well as for the high and mighty in whose servicethey stood.
The past five hundred years of history has been steeped inturmoil and war on the one hand and prosperity and rapid development on theother. Through it all Spon(n)ecks havealways rallied to the call, mustered their courage and applied their efforts tobring about change for the better in their environment. This past time has seen mighty wars and muchsuffering of the people with great spiritual revivals and also scientific,agricultural and industrial revolutions. These have all played a part in the development of the human being andof society as a whole. If history is toprove anything, it is this, that man cannot master himself or by himself bringabout a just and righteous government. Hence, this life will always be a struggle and a battle through all life’sdays. If the past six thousand years ofrecorded human history proves anything it is that man needs to depend on aHigher Being. He has a need for a faithand a goal for this life and after these few short years, a faith and a goalfor eternal life hereafter. Withoutfaith for eternity, this life becomes most drab and meaningless and all ourexperiences, struggles and efforts are in vain. Indeed, the Apostle Paul put it in an even better way – “If we asChristians have no faith for an eternal life, then we are of all men mostmiserable!” Fortunately, we as Christians havesuch a hope! Of all the world’sspiritual and other leaders, only Jesus Christ ever declared that He was God inthe flesh and had come to redeem man from the earth to live eternally with Himin His eternal Kingdom, which was not on this earth! He declared: “In my Fathers house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place foryou, and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come back again and receiveyou to myself, that where I am there you shall be also!” This same Jesus Christ also declared some two thousand years ago that: “Iam the Door, no man comes to the Heavenly Father, but by me, if any man comesin any other way, he is a thief and a robber, and him my Father will notreceive!” Wow! Powerful words! And either the truth or He was the world’sbiggest liar! If what he said was thetruth, then we need to take heed of all His sayings and teachings and strivealso to be His disciples and follow close to Him and not far away in theshadows. Jesus Christ said: “Come tome and learn of me and I will give you rest!” He said” “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to theFather but by me!” “If you believe in me, you will never die!” These are either the words of a derangedhuman, or the Truth, and the Words of the greatest man who has ever lived. I thank God that Jesus Christ is my Lord andSaviour, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and soon returning King to take overthe government of the world in righteousness and true justice. A word of caution here however, before Hereturns, another world leader will appear who will claim to be the Christ, butwho will in fact be the anti-christ who will set up his rule, claiming to bethe messiah, but his rule will be short lived and then our King, Jesus ofNazareth will return, conquer him, and rule for a further one thousand yearsfrom the new world capital of Jerusalem in truth and righteousness. Then all our hopes and dreams of righteousnessand justice in the world will be fulfilled!
Today, it is easy to believe all this because the worldfast prepares for the end time saga of the ages! Everybody knows that something will have tobe done soon to save the earth and what a mighty return to the Bible is takingplace at the moment! Written by overforty ‘Holy Spirit inspired’ writers over a period of some one thousand fivehundred years, it is our history book and our prophecy book of the history ofthe world from the beginning of recorded time to the end of the age. It is a miraculous book that starts in theGarden of Eden and ends in the Gardenof Paradise and thecontents and knowledge of this book has influenced mankind of every racethrough all ages of time. It has alwaysbeen the world’s bestseller and that, more so today than ever before. No man and no book have so influenced mankindin all history as has the man Jesus, and the Bible. It was He who was responsible for the verychange of time from BC (before Christ) to AD (Anno Domini or afterChrist)! And it is good to know thatmany Spon(n)ecks were involved with Him also in their history.
It is good to know that it is personal faith in andknowledge of Jesus Christ that is our salvation. A truth that the vast majority of mankind havemissed, but many hundreds of thousands have discovered. True Christianity is not a system ofreligion, but a ‘spiritual revelation’ of the Divine One to the soul of asinner. Not organised religion, but aliving Person, Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and is alive today and livesby His Spirit in the hearts and lives of so many people and in many of theSpon(n)ecks lives as well!
The greatest example of this personal faith in JesusChrist that has been given to us as a family in history is the story of GeneralHans Emil Otto von Sponeck. As has beenmentioned already, the dire and desperate situation worked for the good of thisman and all of us because through his trial and tribulation he was able to reachout of himself and his time and space and reach out to the eternal truthsexpressed through an evangelist of the Good News Gospel and find in JesusChrist his eternal hope and life. HansEmil Otto von Sponeck’s now immortal words penned to his wife on the evening ofhis pending execution at the hands of an unrighteous regime were: “I diewith firm faith in my Redeemer!” Thestory of Lieutenant General Hans von Sponeck, as tragic as the end was, givesto the family and to all that read it, a message of courage, hope andfaith. His biographer titled thebiography ‘The Example – Count Sponeck’. This may well have been the case as he was firstly Hitler’s ‘example’ tohis generals’ of what would happen if they disobeyed his orders never toretreat! They had to stand and fight tothe last man! Secondly, he was the‘example’ of how to stand for your convictions against all odds and evengovernments if necessary. Hisuprightness and concern always for the welfare of his men individually andcollectively as shown in his story gives to all in authority a fine example ofhow to lead. To us however, HansSponeck’s greatest ‘example’ was his spiritual strength, faith and convictionof his Redeemer, which gave him peace and hope for himself in this worldand the world hereafter. The only ‘Redeemer’ever, has been the Lord Jesus Christ! His faith in Him is what gave Hans Sponeck that peace, so that a witnessat his execution testified that he had never seen a man die with such peace andcomposure before or since. Here wassurely his greatest example to the family, friends and all that read thisstory. Lieutenant General Graf Sponeckwas indeed a great leader and a man of moral courage, high standards andstrength of character, already a great example in this alone. However, it was his spiritual understandingof the ‘message of forgiveness’ presented by a friend, deacon Krück, who hecalled for in his last hour, and the acceptance of the Person of the Lord JesusChrist as Hans’ Redeemer, Lord and Saviour, so that he wasable to face the firing squad, and death, squarely in the eye, unbound andwithout a blindfold, knowing that he had made his peace with his God. If it was not below Hans Sponeck to acceptthe Redeemer, how much more should we not take this ‘example’ toourselves and make our peace with Him, whom to know is Life, Peace and Joyforever more!
Herefollows the ‘transcription’ of the Original Title Deed and Papers of the ViennaArchives Files. It is not a translation,but a transcription from old German manner of handwriting to more readableGerman in the exact same text as it appears in the Original Articles. One canunderstand therefore that the German spelling and manner of writing wassomewhat different from today and therefore also difficult still to understand. This transcription was done and given to us,as best as she was able, by dear Mrs Ehlert of the Lutheran Church Archives,Neustadt, without cost and with her compliments for which we thank her mostgraciously!
GRAFENSTAND – SPONECK / SPONNECK
G r a f e n s t a n d
für dasReich und die Erbleute mit Auslassung
seinesbisher geführten Namens Hedwiger
und danachVerleihung des Titels Hoch- und Wohlgeboren.
Wien, 2. August 1701
Graf vonSponeckh Georg Wilhelm,
HerzöglichWürttemberg Mömpelgardscher Oberhofmarschall
cum JohannChristoph, Johann Rudolph und Anna Sabine – Geschwister.
Motivations Brief von Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger anLeopold I
Allerdurchleuchtigster großmächtigster undunüberwindlichster römischer Kaiser, auch zu Hungarn und Böhmen König pp. Allergnädigster Kaiser und Herr Herr!
Ihrer Kaiserlichen Majestät erkühne ich mich hierdurchaller untertänig vorzutragen, wes gestalten ich von dem in Ihro HerzothumSchlesien seßhaft gewesen Ehre alten adeligen Geschlechts Landherrenstand von Hedewigergenannt, welche in adeligen Sitten erzogen.
Auch zu ritterlichen Exercistien von ihrer Jugend aufangeführt worden sind und ihr Leben sowohl zu Führerherrn Civil- alsMilitärischendiensten, rühmlich zugebracht und beschlossen haben herstamme.
Wir, der weiland Balthasarvon Hedwiger, von Kaiser Maximilian II alleweil dessen Gedächtnis wegenseiner ritterlichen Tugenden und zu Hungarn wie die Türkschen, inKriegsdiensten erwiesen, Tapferkeit mit absonderlichen kaiserlichen Gnadengewürdigt und vornehmlichen da er mit größter Gefahr durch den Donaufluß, umden Feind zu recongnoscieren, geschwimmet und damit effectuiert das Nachgehens,dem Feind großer Abbruch geschehen mit einem halben mond und einem in Flußschwimmenden Fisch zum ewigen Zeichen seiner Tapferkeit und geleistetenDiensten in seinem Wappen zu führen, begnädiget worden.
Mein Abavus Carlvon Hedwiger ist bei weiland Herzog Heinrich Wenzeln geheimer Rat gewesen,desgleichen auch mein Großvater Christophvon Hedwiger, auf Kaisers Walden und Praunsdorf, bei dem Herzog JohannChristian zu Liegnitz als geheimer Rat gedient hat, nicht weniger hat meinseeliger Vater Johann Georg von Hedwigerauf Kaisers Waldens und Praunsdorf sich in Euer Kaiserlich KöniglichKriegsdiensten ebenmäßig wohl meritiert gemacht und sein Leben als Hauptmannbei dem löblichen Grafen Thinnischen Regiment ganz frühzeitig geendiget. Dieses meines Vorfahrens, rühmliche Exempelnun habe ich auch für meine Wenigkeit emitiret und Euer Kaiserliche Majestätwider den Erbfeind, anfänglich bei dem Grafen Schutzherrn Dragoner Regiment alsvoluntair, hernach, als ich das Glück gehabt und einen Bassa (TürkischerSoldat) totgeschossen, als heimlich folgend als Leutnant und letzten alsHauptmann unter dem löblichen Mömpelgard Regiment gedient, und wie mir die hoheGeneralität Attestieren wird, in allen Occasionen meine devoiriadziet, wieeinem tapferen Soldaten gebühret, ehrlich und treulich erwiesen, also: Daß,nach dem Euer Kaiserliche Majestät, allergnädigst beliebet, das erst ersagte löblichefürstiche Mömpelgard Regiment neben anderen Regimentern mehr zu reduzieren,Ihre Durchlaucht, der jetzt regierende Herr Herzog zu Württemberg-Mömpelgardmich zu Ihro Obristen Hofmarschallen gnädigst verordnet haben. Wenn nun Eure Kaiserliche Majestät zu Ihrerunsterblich Ruhm, zugleich alle Stiefmässige Geschlechter und in Besonderheitdiejenigen, welche Gott mit solchen gesegnet, daß sie sich Ihrem Stande gemäßaufführen und erhalten können aus angeborener Kaiserlicher Milde mit höheremStande zu begnädigen pflegen.
Und ……..“ wie gemalt, von dem sehr alten adeligenHedwiger-Geschlecht und Herrenstand herstammen und von meiner Jugend her,erzählten adelige charges vertreten habe, und noch würde der Herr Verwaltersondern auch solche Güter besitze, daß ich zu dem Grafenstand ratione prosa piapersone et bonorum genug samt qualifiziert zu sein erachte.
Also gelanget hiermit zu Eurer Kaiserlicher Majestätmein allergnädigstestes Bitten, dieselbe geruhen wir die allerhöchstekaiserliche Gnade zu erweisen und auch habende Kaiserliche Majestät undVollkommenheit mich samt mienerDescendenten in des heiligen röm. Reiches, Grafenstand.
Cum indultu omnium ad hunc Socri Romani Imperi ComitisStatum pertinentium Privilegiorum et beneficiorum allergütigst zu erheben undmit dem Prädikat Hoch- und Wohlgeboren, auch Titel Graf von Sponeck zu begnädigen, sodann auch solche erhoffen dieBegnädigung auf meine Brüder und Schwester mit Namen: Johann Christoph und JohannRudolph und Annam Sabinam vonHedwiger allergnädigst zu extendieren und selbigen sämtliche dem diplomatimit einverleiben zu lassen, für welch erhoffend allergnädigste
ich in treuester Devotion, in Ihro Zeit ich leben undsterben werde, als
Euer Kaiserliche Majestät -
Georg Wilhelmvon Hedwiger
Obere Rotfeder rubinfarbig in deren undern zumfortschein einwärts, und im oberen auswärts ein gekrönter gelb odergoldfarbiger Löwe mit aufgerissenen Rachen rot verschlagender Zunge vorder vorsich werfenden Pranken und aufgehobenen doppelten schwarzen … erscheint vorder-, under und der hinterepbere Teil blau wasserfarben mit einem durchfließenden Bach vom vorderen undermit obere hintere Ecke, durchschnitten, in welchen ein …warts aber aufwärts schwimmend, rechter Seite desFlusses erscheint ein sechsfacher goldener Stern herseits aber ein Halbmond inder Mitte deiser Schild ist auf desselben Herzchild ein gekrönter einfacherSeeadler mit stehenden Flügeln vor sich schützend werfen und rot ausschlagend Zeug auf dem Schild stehen zweigegeneinander inwärts gekehrte freie offen adliger rotgefütterte Tournierhelme,deren linkier mit gelb und blau, rechter aber mit gold und rotem herabhängendenHelmdecken dann jeder mit einem anhabenden Kleinod und über sich einer güldenenKron gezieret ist aus deren … Cron gekehrte hintereinander mit blaue AdlersFlügel auf welichen der in dem Schildt beschreiben Bach, Fisch, Stern und Mondabzukennen ist, daß dem Werk aber entspringt bis auf die des Leibes des im Schildbeschriebenen einwärtsgekehrter Löwe, alsdan solch confirmiert und verliehenesWappen in Mitte dies Unseres Libell weiß geschreibenen Briefs mit farbeneigentlich entworfen ist.
Für das Reich und die Erbleute mit Auslassung seinesbisher geführten Namens Hedwiger und danach
Des Titels Hoch- undWohlgeboren.
Wien, 2. August 1701
Graf von Sponeckh Georg Wilhelm
Erhebung in den Kaiserl. Reichsgrafenstand cumprädicato Hoch- und Wohlgeboren für Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph, JohannRudolph und Anna Sabina, Geschwister von Hedwicher, nunmehro Sponeck genannt.
Hedwicher v. Sponeck
Leopold I, Majestätbekennen für uns und unseren Nachkommen am Reich und unseren Nachkommen amReich auch unserem Erbkönigreich Fürstentum und Landen Öffentlich mit diesemBrief und thun kundt allermänniglich, wiewohl die Höhe der Röm. Kaiserl.Würdigkeit, derin uns der Allmächtige nach seiner väterlichen Fürsehunggesetzet hat, durch macht ihres erleuchten Throns mit vielen herrlichen, Edlengeschlechtern und Untherthanen gezieret ist, jedoch weil solche Kaiserl.Hoheit, ja mehr uralte edle Geschlechter ihren adligen fürtrefflichen Tugendenund Verdienen, nach mit Ehren, Würden und Wohltaten begabet werden, jaherrlicher der Thron Kaiserl. Majestätl. Glänzet und scheinbarlicher gemachtwird, auch die unterthanen durch Erkenntnis Kaiserl. Mildigkeit zu desto mehrschuldiger gehorsamben Verhältnis ritterl. redliche Taten sich getrauen, stetenund beständigen Diensten bewegt und verursacht werden, und wir dann aus jetztberührter Kaiserl. Hoheit angeborener Güte und Milde in Gnaden …….
Grafenstand für das Reich und die Erbländer
mit Auslassung seines leibeigenen Namens
Hedwicher und anhier des nebenstehende Prädicat
dann Verleihung des Titels Hoch- und Wohlgeboren
Wien, 2. August 1701
Graf von Sponeck
Johann Christoph,Johann Rudolph
Anna Sabina, Geschwister
und Sponeck anjetzo genannt.
Hedwiger, drei gebrüder und
Grafenstand cum Prädicato
Hoch- und Wohlgeboren.
SIEGEL UND UNTERSCHREIBEN : LEOPOLD YE!
Derist geneigt seiend, aller und jeglicher unserer und des heil. Römischen Reichsauch unserer Erbkönigreich/Fürstentum und Landen Untertannen und getreuenEhrwürdige auf ersinnen und Wohlstand zu betrachten und zu befördern, so seiendwir doch mehrer und begierlicher gewogen deren Namen und stammen in höherer Ehrund würde zu erheben und zu setzen, deren Voreltern und sie von gutem uraltadlichen Stand herkommen und geboren, auch sich in unsern und des Heil. Röm.Reichs sowohl als auch unserer Erbkönigrieich/Fürstentum und Landen wichtigenObliegenheiten und Geschäften mit getreuen gehorsamen Diensten standhaftigerzogen und sich durch adlige Tugenden für andern Herfürsttum.
Von wir nun gnädiglichangesehen, wahrgenommen und betrachtet weßgestalten Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph, Johann Rudolph sämtliche Gebrüder und dero Schwester Anna Sabina von Hedwicher von dem vorvielen saeculis in unserem Herzogthum Schlesien seßhaft gewesen uralt adeligesGeschlecht und Herrenstand derer von Hedwicher posterieren und herstammenwelche jederzeit in adlichen Tugenden und auferzogen und zu RitterlichenExercitien von Ihrer Jugend auf angeführet worden seyend auch ihr Leben sowohlin fürnemben Civil als Militär Bedingungen rühmlich zugebracht und und zu desgemeinen charsens besten Teils mit ungepartem Gut und Blut, Theils mit gutemRat und That sacricifiret und auf fest habe, wie den Balthasar von Hedwicher, von weiland unserem Vorfahren, der Heil.Römischer Majestät Maximilian den Zweiten, mildesten, wegen seiner ritterlichenTaten und in Hungarn wider den Erbfeind Christlicen Namens den Türkschen imKriegsdienst begierig und unerschrocken Heldenmut mit absonderlicherKaiserlicher Gnade angesehen und vornemblich da er mit größter Gefahr durch denDonaufluß um die Feinde zu recongnoscieren geschwimmet und damit effectuiertdaß nachgehends dem Feind großer Abbruch geschehen mit einem halben Mond undeinem in Fluß schwimmt, Fisch zum Zeichen seiner Tapferkeit und und geleistetentreuen Diensten in seinem Wappen zu führen begnädiget worden in gleichem hatderen Abavus Carl von Hedwiger beiweiland Herzogen Heinrich wie auch Herr Großvater, Christoph von Hedwiger bein dem Herzogen Johann Christian zuLiegnitz die geheimbe Ratsstelle bis in ihre Gruben p.v. löblich alsrühmlich vertreten nicht weniger hat deren Vater Johann Georg von Hedwiger auf Kaiser Walden und Praunsdorfsich in unseren Kaiserlichen Diensten ebenmäßig Wohl meritiert gemacht und seinLeben als Hauptmann bei dem löblichen Graf Thinischen Regiment ganzfrühzeitig geendiget, dieser seiner Ur-, Vor- und Eltern rühmlich gemachtenExempel ist erwählter Georg Wilhelm vonHedwicher, nachgefolget und unswieder den Erbfeind anfänglich bei unserem Graf Schliep Dragoner Regimenttags als Freiwilliger, hernach als er durch des Glücks und seineGeschicklichkeit, einen Bassa (Türkischer Soldat) erschossen als Fähnrichfolgends als Leutnant und letzstand als Hauptmann under dem MömpelgardschenRegiment gedient und in allen occasionen seine allerundt Schuldigkeitohnaussetzlich wie einen tapferen, ehrliebenden Soldaten gebühret mitohnwandelbarer Treue und Beständigkeit erwiesen, also, daß wir nachdem wirnebst auch unsern Kaiserl. Regiment erstbesagtes fürstlichesMömpelgardliches Regiment reduziert, das jetzigen Regierenden Herzogen zuWürttemberg-Mömpelgard adlig ihn zu dero Hofmarschallen auf undangenehmen, bei welcher function er sich noch würdig befindet. und darbei nichtminder als bei obigen Kriegsbedingungen in seiner jederziet tragenden allerthänigstendevotion bishero von Haus setzlich verharret und fürderhin in allenBegebenheiten unsern und des Reiches auch unseres Erzhauses Österreich Dienstezu befördern auch oberwohlgeboren seine Leud zu Leistung und treuen Dienstenanzuheisehen des aller-und Ehrerbietens ist, wie er den bei jetzt obhabendenHofmarschall Amt wohltun kann mag und soll. Als haben wir hernach in gnädigsterErlaubnis obengezogener meriten Treu geleisten und noch leistender Dienstenauch Qualitäten und Zugang mit wohlbedauchtem Muth gutem Rath und rechtemWissen obbesagtem Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph, Johann Rudolph und AnnaSabina von Hedwiger dieses besondere Kaiserl. Gnade getan und hier fremdallen ihren ehelichen Leibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben beiderlei Geschlechtsabsteigender Linie für und für in ewige Zeit in den Stand Ehr und Würde unserenund des Heiligen Reichs, auch unserer Erbkönigreich- Fürstentums und LandenGrafen und Gräfinnen ererbt, gewürdiget gesetzt und vollkommentlich einverleibtallermaßen und Gestalt, als ob sie von ihren vier Ahnen väterl. und Mütterl.Geschlechts beiderseits recht alt geborene Grafen und Gräfinnen waren; tun das,ordenen, würdig erheben und setzen obbesagten von Hedwicher deren ehelicheLeibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben Manns- und Frauenspersonen absteigenderLinie, wie obgehört in den Stand, Her und Würde unserer und des Heil. ReichsGrafen und Gräfinnen zufügen geleiten und gesellen sie auch zu der selbenSchaar, Gesell- und Gemeinschaft erteilen und gebieten ihnen samt und nebenihren zu vor habens Ehren-Titeln, mit Auslassung deren Kriegsnamens, den Namenund ersten der Grafen und Gräfinnen vonSponeck, und erlauben Ihnen, sich also zu nennen und zu schreiben Mein…setzen und wollen auch des … Cammerherren C. Georg Wilhelm, JohannChristoph, Johann Rudolph und Anna Sabina (Grafen von Sponeck) vonHedwiger deren eheliche Leibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben für und fürin Ewigkeit unserer und des Heil. Reichs auch unserer Erbkönigreich, Fürstentumund Landen Grafen und Gräfinnen sei, sich also nennen und schreiben von uns undunseren Nachkommen am Heil. Reich Röm. Kaisern und Königen auch unserenErtzhaus Österreich und dann ferner allen unseren und ihren Canzleien und sonstjedermänniglich hoch und niederen Stands dafür erkannt, geehrt genannt undgeschrieben worden, auch soll und jegliche Gnad, Freiheit, Ehrwürde, Vorteil,präeminenz, Fürstand, Recht und Gerechtigkeit in Versammlung, Ritterspielen,mit beneficien auf hohe und niedere Hombstetten (?) Geist- und weltliche Lehenund Ämter zu empfangen und zu tragen, auch sonst alle andren Sachen haben,deren teilhaftig und empfänglich sein, und sich des alle Frauen gebrauchen undgenießen sollen und mögen in Maßen sie anderen unserer und des Heilig. Reichesauch unserer Erbkönigreich Fürstentum und Ländern rechtige borene Grafen undGräfinnen von Zucht und Gewohnheit wegen Frauen genießen und gebrauchen vonallermänniglich unter sind.
Seither haben Wir Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph, JohannRudolph und Anna Sabinam von Hedwicher/Sponeckihr anererbt, uralt adlig Ritterliches Wappengnade ist confirmiert auchwie hernach folget hinführ ewiglich zu führen und zu gebrauchen, gnädigstzugelassen und verliehen, als mit Namen einen in vier gleiche Teile Obererotfeder rubinfarbig in deren undern zum fortschein einwärts, und im oberenauswärts ein gekrönter gelb oder goldfarbiger Löwe mit aufgerissenen Rachen rotverschlagender Zunge vorder vor sich werfgenden Pranken und aufgehobenendoppelten schwarzen … erscheint vorder-, under und der hintere pbere Teil blauwasserfarben mit einem durchfließenden Bach von vorderen under mit oberehintere Ecke, durchschnitten, in welchen ein …warts aber aufwärts schwimmend,rechter Seite des Flusses erscheint ein sechsfacher goldener Stern herseitsaber ein Halbmond in der mitte dieser Schild ist auf desselben Herzschild eingekrönter einfacher Seeadler mit stehenden Flügeln vor sich schützend werfenund rot ausschlagen Zeug auf dem Schild stehen zwei gegeneinander inwärtsgekehrte freie offen adlige rotgefütterte tornierhelme, deren linker mit gelbund blau, rechter aber mit gold und rotem herabhängenden Helmdecken dann jedermit einem anhabenden kleinod und über sich einer güldenen Kron gezieret ist ausderen …Cron Gekehrte hintereinander mit blaue Adlers Flügel auf welchen der indem schildt beschrieben Bach, Fisch, Stern und Mond abzukennen ist, daß demWerk aber entspringt bis auf die desLeibes des im Schild beschriebenen einwärtsgekehrter Löwe, alsdann solchconfirmiert und verliehenes Wappen in Mitte dies Unseres Libell weißgeschriebenen Briefs mit farben eigentlich entworfen ist. Ferner und damit oberwählt Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph, JohannRudolph und Anna Sabina vonSponeck/Hedwicher noch mehr unser Kaiserl. Gnad mit welcher wir Ihnenwohlgewogen verführen mögem haben wir mit wohlbedachtem Muth, gutem Rath undVerstand, Wissen denselben als ehelichen Leibeserben und Nachkommen Mann undund Frauenspersonen absteigender Linie, diese besondere Gnade und Freiheitgegeben, tun und geben Ihenen die auch von Röm. Kaiserl. Macht vollkommenheitwissentlich in Kraft des Briefes also und der Gestalt das nun hierführ wir undunser Nachkommen am Heil. Reich auch unseren Erb-Königreich fürstentum undLanden besagten Grafen und Gräfin vonSponeck/Hedwicher deren eheliche Leibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben undNachkommen aus allen unseren und Ihren Canzleien in unseren und ihren Reden,offenen und beschlossenen Schriften befehlen, auch mit Ernst und Fleiß daranseyn und dieses halten, daß hierführ mihr GeorgWilhelm, Johann Christoph, Johann Rudolph und Anna Sabina Grafen und Gräfin von Sponeck/Hedwiger darvon ehelichenLeibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben absteigender Linie für und fürewiglichen unter unserem und unserer Nachkommen Titel und nochhin den Hoch- undWohlgeborenen geschrieben werde; undgebieten zugleich ferner allen und jeden churfürsten, Fürsten ad congum insReich und Erblande ernst und mit diesem Brief und wollen, daß Sie mehrberührtenGrafen von Sponeck/Hedwiger desseneheliche Leibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben beiderlei Geschlecht für undfür als unseren und des Heiligen Reiches auch Ungarn auch unsere Erbkönigreichund Fürstenthum und Landen altgeborene Grafen und Gräfin erkennen und Briefen, so von uns und unseren Nachkommen anSie oder sonst, darinnen Sie bedient nennt und bestimmt werden, ausgesehenwurden, den Titel und Prädikat Hoch- und Wohlgeboren geben, schreiben undfolgen lassen sollen und wollen das solches zu geschehen bei unseren Cantzleienallbereit verordnet und befohlen haben gebiethen und befehlen demnach hiermitdeine Hochwürdige Durchlaucht Hochgeborene unsern lieben Vettern und Neffendenen Erzbishofen zu Mainz, Trier und Köln, als unseren und des heil. Röm.Reichs Churfürsten und Ertzkanzlern durch Germanien, Gallien, des KönigreichsArelat und Italien und allen anderen unseren Cantzlern, Cantzley-Verwaltern undSecretarius gegenwärtig und künftig ernst und festiglich mit diesem Brief undwollen, daß sie ferneren Befehl und Ordnung in unsern und unseren NachkommenCantzleyen geben, schaffen und Sie also darfür rechten wüdigen, ehren, halten,nennen und schreiben, darzu auch aller und jeder hierin specificierter Gnade,freiheiten, ehren würden, praedicat, Vorteil, Recht und Gerechtigkeitgerusiglich Frauen gebrauchen und genießen lassen, darum nicht hindern, nochirren sondern Sie bei dem allen wie oben erzählt und geschrieben steht, vonunser und des heiligen Reichs wegen handhaben, schützen, schirmen und gänzlichdabei bleiben lassen, auch hierwieder nichts tun noch nichts des jemandsanderen zu tun gestatten in keiner Weise noch wann als hierbinnen und jeden seiunsern und des Reichsherrn Ungnad und Straf und dazu ein poen nämlich 200Reichsmark lötsigen Goldes zu vermeiden, die ein jeder so oft er freventlichhier wieder thäte, außerhalb in unser und des Reiches Cammer und den aus halbenTeil vielgem. Großer und Großkindern, vonHedwicher/von Sponeck, der eheliche Leibeserben und derselben Erbens Erben.So hierwieder beleidiget wurden unerläßlich zu bezahlen verfallen sein solle.Jedoch aus dem heiligen röm. Reich und Unserem Erbkönigreich-Fürstenthum undLanden an unseren und sonst männiglich an seinen rechten und Gerechtigkeitenunvergreifen und unschädlich.
Mit Urkunde p.
Wien, den 2. August 1701
Notifikation,Schreiben an Chur Maintz, und Chur Trier als Cammerrichter für Georg Wilhelm,Johann Christoph, Johann Rudolph gebrüder und dero Schwester Anna Sabina vonSpoñeck.
Wirden 4.Juni 1702
wir mögen ewiglich löblich und nämlich Freundgnädiglich und nicht verbergen, weßgestalten wir in gnädigster Betrachtung deruns dem Heiligen Röm. Reich und Ungarn löblich Ertzhaus Österreich geleisterund noch leistand civil- und militärdiensten Georg Wilhelm, Johann Christoph,Johann Rudolph sämbtlich Gebrüder und dero Schwester Anna Sabina von Hedwichermit Hinzulegung des Prädicats Hoch- und Wohlgeboren und denomination von Spoñeck in den Stand, Ehr und Würdeunserer und des heil. Röm. Reiches auch unserem Erbkönigreich, Fürstentum undLanden, Grafen samt drei ehelich descendenz 2.Aug. 1701 guds erhoben haben;Besuchs demnach ewiglich löblich ………gnädiglich.
und jetzt bei ihrerCantzlei die gehörige Verordnung zu tun, daß von demselben gnädigen Grafen und Gräfin von Sponneck und derenDescendenz diese Standeserhöhung und prädikat gebührlich angedeyen möge.
Gegeben, den 4. Juli 1702
Bei unserem Kaiserlichen
(i) The small numberbehind the name denotes the ‘generation number’. The latest generation is number 14. The names in brackets are the directancestors of each member back to Balthazar, born 1510.
(ii) The number beforethe child denotes the reference number where that child’s descendants can befound. Follow the numbers to trace thedirect descendant tree to latest members or extinction.
(iii) The membersrecorded in dark text are the direct ancestors of the present Sponeck/Sponneck family to theeleventh generation. This should make iteasier for the present members to draw up their personal family tree!
Descendantsof Balthazar Von Hedwiger
1. KNIGHT-CAPTAIN BALTHAZAR1 VON HEDWIGER was born 1510 in Kaiserswaldau - Golsdorf - Silesia - Germany,and died 1570 in Golsdorf - Silesia - Germany. He married URSULA VON MORENSTEIN Abt.1548 in Silesia - Germany. She was born 15 May 1518 in Silesia- Germany, and died 12 July1557 in Silesia - Germany.
Child of BALTHAZAR VON HEDWIGER and URSULA VON MORENSTEIN is:
2. i. PRIVY-COUNCILLOR CARL2 VON HEDWIGER, b. 05October 1550, Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany; d. 09 March 1594, Silesia- Germany.
2. PRIVY-COUNCILLOR CARL2 VON HEDWIGER (BALTHAZAR1) was born 05 October 1550 in Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany,and died 09 March 1594 in Silesia - Germany. He married CATHARINA HALLMANN Abt. 1585in Silesia - Germany. She was born 04 May 1555 in Silesia- Germany, and died 28November 1588 in Liegnitz (possibily) - Silesia- Germany.
Child of CARL VON HEDWIGER and CATHARINA HALLMANN is:
3. i. PRIVY-COUNCILLOR CHRISTOPH3 VON HEDWIGER, b. 05March 1588, Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany; d. 01 January 1630, Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany.
3. PRIVY-COUNCILLOR CHRISTOPH3 VON HEDWIGER (CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 05March 1588 in Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany, and died 01 January 1630 in Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany. He married SABINE WALTER Abt. 1619 inSilesia - Germany. She was born 25 November 1595, and died 05March 1635.
Child of CHRISTOPH VON HEDWIGER and SABINE WALTER is:
4. i. CAPTAIN JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, b. 20September 1620, Goltzdorf (modern Gorlitz) - Germany; d. 18 October 1681, Liegnitz - Silesia- Germany.
4. CAPTAIN JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER (CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 20 September 1620 in Goltzdorf - Germany (Modern Gorlitz), and died 18 October1681 in Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany. He married (1) CATHARINA CLOSE 02 November1649 in Silesia - Germany. She was born Abt. 1625 in Silesia- Germany, and died Abt.1665 in Silesia - Germany. He married (2) ANNE ROSINE VON POGRELL 1669 in Silesia - Germany. She was born 29 November 1641 in Bersdorf - Silesia - Germany(Oct.), and died 05 October 1700 in Castle Mömpelgard - Alsace- France.
Children of JOHANN VON HEDWIGER and CATHARINA CLOSE are:
i. JOHAN HEINRICH5 VON HEDWIGER, b. Abt.1650; d. 1700, Unmarried..
ii. SYBILLA CATARINA VON HEDWIGER, b. Abt. 1652; d. Abt. 1730; m. CHRISTIAN FERDINAND KITZINGER; b. Abt.1645; d. Abt. 1700.
5. iii. CHRISTOPH GOTTLIEB VON HEDWIGER, b. Abt. 1655; d. 26 April 1720, Buried in Wurben.
Children of JOHANN VON HEDWIGER and ANNE VON POGRELL are:
6. iv. GENERAL GEORG WILHELM VON HEDWIGER RIGSGREVE AF5 SPONNECK, b. 17April 1672, Silesia - Germany; d. 03 September 1740, Copenhagen- Denmark.
7. v. ANNA SABINA HEDWIGER REICHSGRÄFIN VON SPONECK, b. 20 April 1676, Liegnitz - Silesia- Germany; d. 09 November1735, Hericourt - Alsace - France (alsogiven as 23rd Nov - DAA).
vi. CAPTAIN JOHANN CHRISTOPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF VON SPONECK, b. 06 July 1678, Silesia- Germany;d. 11 August 1716, mortally wounded in the ‘Battle of Peterwardein’ (5/8/ 1716).
8. vii. GOVERNOR JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF VON SPONECK, b. 10 June 1681, Silesia- Germany;d. 06 March 1740, Montbeliard.
5. CHRISTOPH GOTTLIEB5 VON HEDWIGER (JOHANN GEORG4, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was bornAbt. 1655, and died 26 April 1720, buried in Wurben. He married SUSANNE MAGDALENE VON ALEMAN. She was born Abt. 1664, and died 24 February1724 also buried in Wurben.
Children of CHRISTOPH VON HEDWIGER and SUSANNE VON ALEMAN are:
i. HEINRICH GOTTLIEB6 VON HEDWIGER, b. 18April 1689, Borgendorf -Silesia - Germany;d. August 1757, Leiren.
9. ii. HANS CARL VON HEDWIGER, b. Abt. 1691; d. 1749, Raab.
6. GENERAL GEORG WILHELM VON HEDWIGER RIGSGREVE AF5 SPONNECK (JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 17April 1672 in Silesia - Germany, and died 03 September 1740 in Copenhagen - Denmark. He married PRINCESS ANNA SOPHIE BOJANOWA VON BOJANOWSKY 1698 in Silesia - Germany. She was born Abt. 1675 most possibly in Poland, and died 29 April 1733 in Copenhagen - Denmark.
Children of GEORG SPONNECK and ANNA VON BOJANOWSKY are:
i. LEOPOLD WILHELM LUDVIG6 SPONNECK, b. 10July 1700, Silesia - Germany; d. 1769, Copenhagen- Denmark.
ii. SOPHIE CHARLOTTE SPONNECK, b. 10 January 1702, Breslau,Germany; d. 23 March 1770, Copenhagen - Denmark.
iii. ELEONORE AMALIE SPONNECK, b. 15 April 1703; d. 1716.
iv. GEORG WILHELM SPONNECK, b. 15 April 1703; d. 15 April 1703.
v. MARIE SABINE WILHELMINE SPONNECK, b. 28 August 1704, Schaffhausen - North Switzerland;d. 22 October 1763, Copenhagen - Denmark.
10. vi. CARL CHRISTIAN SPONNECK, b. 13 November 1706, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 26 May 1776,Ordrup - Denmark.
vii. FREDERIK JULIUS SPONNECK, b. 24 January 1710, Denmark; d. 1755, Constanz.
viii. FREDERIKKE LOUISE SPONNECK, b. 05 September 1711, Denmark; d. 22 October 1768,Copenhagen - Denmark; m. OBERST ERNST CHRISTOPH VON DRECHSEL, 28 May 1737, buried in Garnisons Church - Copenhagen;b. Abt. 1705, Denmark; d. 12 December 1767, Denmark.
11. ix. LIEUTENANT ANDREAS EBERHARD SPONNECK, b. 12 May 1713, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 1766, Copenhagen - Denmark (exact date unknown).
x. CHRISTIANE AMALIE SPONNECK, b. 19 April 1718, Rendsborg - Holstein (then Denmark); d. 13 March 1780, Copenhagen- Denmark.
xi. JOHAN GEORG SPONNECK, b. 05 August 1720, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 05 August1720, Copenhagen - Denmark.
7. ANNA SABINA HEDWIGER REICHSGRÄFIN5 VON SPONECK (JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 20April 1676 in Liegnitz - Silesia - Germany, and died 09 November 1735 inHericourt - Alsace - France (also 23rd Nov - DAA). She married DUKE LEOPOLD EBERHARD VON WÜRTTEMBERG-MÖMPELGARD 01 June1695 in Rejowitz - Poland,son of GEORG VON WÜRTTEMBERG-MÖMPELGARD and ANNA DE COLIGNY. He was born 21May 1670 in Castle Mömpelgard - Alsace - France, anddied 25 March 1723 in Mömpelgard.
Children of ANNA VON SPONECK and LEOPOLD VON WÜRTTEMBERG-MÖMPELGARD are:
i. LEOPOLD EBERHARD6 DE SPONECK, b. 30March 1695, Rejowitz - Poland;d. 07 March 1709, Montbéliard - Alsace.
12. ii. PRINCEOF MONTBÉLIARD GEORG LEOPOLD DE SPONECK, b. 1697, Oels - EastGermany; d. 14 February 1749, Paris- France.
13. iii. LEOPOLDINE EBERHARDINE DE SPONECK, b. 1697, Rejowitz - Poland; d. 1786.
iv. CHARLOTTE LEOPOLDINE DE SPONECK, b. 1700, Montbéliard, France; d. 03 February 1703, Montbéliard, France.
8. GOVERNOR JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5 VON SPONECK (JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 10June 1681 in Silesia - Germany, anddied 06 March 1740 in Montbéliard. Hemarried (1) BARONESS LEOPOLDINE ELEONORE GELDREICH VON SIGMARSHOFEN 09 November 1704 in Montbéliard. She was born 09 February 1677 in Germany,and died 29 September 1717 in Montbéliard (Date also given as possible 8th Sept). He married (2) BARONESS WILHELMINE LOUISE VON HOFF 31 January 1721 in Mömpelgard. She was born 07 December 1705, and died 11December 1780 in Mömpelgard.
Children of JOHANN VON SPONECK and LEOPOLDINE VON SIGMARSHOFEN are:
14. i. LEOPOLD EBERHARD COMTE6 DE SPONECK, b. 11January 1706, Montbéliard, France; d. 05 June 1778,Montbéliard.
ii. GEORG LEOPOLD DE SPONECK, b. 1715, Montbéliard,France; d. Abt.1725, Montbéliard.
Children of JOHANN VON SPONECK and WILHELMINE VON HOFF are:
iii. EBERHARDINE HENRIETTE6 VON SPONECK, b. 24April 1724, Alsace, France; d. 15 February 1745, Alsace; m. BARON LUDWIG CHRISTOF FORSTNER VON DAMBENOY, 24 April1744, Alsace; b. 22 October 1721, Alsace, France; d. 26 January 1804, Alsace.
15. iv. FRIEDRICH LUDWIG VON SPONECK, b. 16October 1725; d. 09 September 1792, Ludwigsburg.
16. v. MAXIMILLIANE CHRISTIANE VON SPONECK, b. 14 May 1730, Stuttgart;d. 01 February 1804, Karlsruhe. (Sponeck ancestor of the Scandinavian Royalfamilies)
9. HANS CARL6 VON HEDWIGER (CHRISTOPH GOTTLIEB5, JOHANN GEORG4, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born Abt. 1691, and died 1749 in Raab. His wife is unknown and married Abt.1722.
Children of HANS VON HEDWIGER and wifeare:
i. DAUGHTER7 VON HEDWIGER, b. Abt.1722; d. Abt. 1785.
ii. EMANUEL VON HEDWIGER, b. 1724, Krems - Lower Austria;d. 11 October 1750, Killed in action at Vaade.
iii. JOHAN WILHELM VON HEDWIGER, b. 1733, Linz, Germany; d. 30 June 1758, Fell at Olmutz duringthe struggle for Silesia between Austria and Prussia.
10. CARL CHRISTIAN6 SPONNECK (GEORG WILHELM VON HEDWIGER RIGSGREVE AF5, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 13 November 1706 in Copenhagen- Denmark, and died 26 May1776 in Ordrup - Denmark. He married RIGSFREIINDE MAGDALENE HELENE AUGUSTA VON PROECK 24 March1747 in BronshoiChurch. She was born Abt. 1710, and died Abt. 1780.
Children of CARL SPONNECK and MAGDALENE VON PROECK are:
i. SOPHIE CHARLOTTE7 SPONNECK, b. 20January 1748, Baptized in Copenhagen; d. Abt.1748, Copenhagen - Denmark.
ii. GEORG WILHELM SPONNECK, b. 20 January 1750, Baptized in Copenhagen;d. 15 November 1751, Buried in Copenhagen - Denmark.
11. LIEUTENANT ANDREAS EBERHARD6 SPONNECK (GEORG WILHELM VON HEDWIGER RIGSGREVE AF5, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 12 May 1713 in Copenhagen - Denmark, and died1766 in Copenhagen - Denmark (exact dateunknown). He married HEDEVIG ELISABETH HELENE VON DONOP 31 October1740 in Slagelse - Denmark. She was born 17 December 1713 in Slagelse - Denmark (Baptized), and died 25 May 1750 inSkaelskor.
Children of ANDREAS SPONNECK and HEDEVIG VON DONOP are:
17. i. LT.COLONEL GEORG WILHELM7 SPONNECK, b. 11January 1741, Skjelskor, Denmark; d. 18 January 1801, Copenhagen- Denmark.
ii. ANNA SOPHIE WILHELMINE SPONNECK, b. 28 December 1741, Skjelskor, Denmark;d. 01 May 1810, Naestved.
iii. CHRISTOPH MORITZ SPONNECK, b. 15 January 1743, Skjelskor, Denmark;d. 15 January 1743, Skjelskor.
iv. HELENE CHARLOTTE LOUISE SPONNECK, b. 23 March 1744, Skjelskor - Denmark; d. 12 May 1810, Naestved - Denmark.
v. CARL LEOPOLD SPONNECK, b. 09 October 1746, Skjelskor - Denmark; d. 23 February 1823,Ringkjobing.
vi. CHRISTIANE MALENE SPONNECK, b. 27 March 1749, Skjelskor, Denmark;d. 04 May 1749, Skjelskor.
12. PRINCE OF MONTBELIARD GEORG LEOPOLD6 DE SPONECK (ANNA SABINA HEDWIGER REICHSGRÄFIN5 VON SPONECK, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 1697 in Oels - EastGermany, and died 14 February 1749 in Paris - France. He married COUNTESS DE COLIGNY ELEONORE CHARLOTTE DE SANDERSLEBEN 22 May1719 in Paris - France. She was born 18 September 1699 in Montbéliard- Alsace - France,and died 01 June 1752 in Paris.
Children of GEORG DE SPONECK and ELEONORE DE SANDERSLEBEN are:
i. CHARLOTTE ELEANORE7 DE SPONECK, b. 25December 1719, Paris;d. Abt. 1797.
ii. LEOPOLD CHRISTIAN DE SPONECK, b. 04 February 1721; d. 1723.
iii. GEORG LEOPOLD DE SPONECK, b. 15 January 1722, Paris;d. 04 July 1790, Paris.
iv. FRANZISKA SALOME DE SPONECK, b. 30 June 1724; d. Abt. 1770.
v. LUDWIG DE SPONECK, b. 15 December 1725, Paris;d. 24 August 1734, Paris.
13. LEOPOLDINE EBERHARDINE6 DE SPONECK (ANNA SABINA HEDWIGER REICHSGRÄFIN5 VON SPONECK, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 1697 in Rejowitz - Poland, and died 1786. She married CARL LEOPOLD DE SANDERSLEBEN 31 August1719 in Mömpelgard. He was born 1698,and died Aft. 1759.
Children of LEOPOLDINE DE SPONECK and CARL DE SANDERSLEBEN are:
i. COMTEDE COLIGNY LEOPOLD ULRICH7 DE SANDERSLEBEN, b. 18May 1721; d. 02 June 1751, Mantes sur Seine.
ii. COUNTESS ELEONORE CHARLOTTE DE SANDERSLEBEN, b. 05 June 1720; d. Abt. 1785; m. MARQUIS DE COLIGNY THOMAS CHEVALIER D'PILLOT D'CHENECEY DE COLIGNY, 04 April1752, Montbéliard; b. Abt. 1720; d. 25 January 1777.
iii. ANNA ELISABETH HEDWIG DE SANDERSLEBEN, b. 03 September 1722; d. 1793; m. MARQUIS DE LUCINGE JOSEPH LOUIS CHRISTOPHE DE LUCINGE, 11November 1747; b. 04 August 1731; d. 1781, Coligny.
iv. KARL FERDINAND DE SANDERSLEBEN, b. 01 November 1723; d. Abt. 1730.
v. FRIEDRICH EUGEN DE SANDERSLEBEN, b. 1724; d. Abt. 1725.
14. LEOPOLD EBERHARD COMTE6 DE SPONECK (JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5 VON SPONECK, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 11 January 1706 in Montbéliard, France,and died 05 June 1778 in Montbéliard. Hemarried (1) LEOPOLDINE EBERHARDINE DE LESPERANCE 16 February 1729. She was born 15 September 1705, and died 17 November 1730. He married (2) ALEXANDRINE CATHERINE DE LA CHAUME DE ODELANS 29 January1736 in Montbéliard. She was born 18August 1706 in Montbéliard - France, and died 25 November 1766 in Montbéliard.
Children of LEOPOLD DE SPONECK and ALEXANDRINE DE ODELANS are:
i. FERDINAND ALEXANDRE7 DE SPONECK, b. 24March 1738, Montbéliard, France.
ii. CHARLES FREDERIC GUILLAUME DE SPONECK, b. 24 July 1740, Montbéliard, France;d. 20 September 1740, Montbéliard.
18. iii. ANNE ELEONORE ELIZABETH DE SPONECK, b. 31 March 1744, Montbéliard - France; d. 19 December 1817,Montbéliard.
19. iv. EBERHARD LOUIS DE SPONECK, b. 19 February 1748, Montbéliard, France;d. 02 May 1801, Montbéliard.
15. FRIEDRICH LUDWIG6 VON SPONECK (JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 16 October 1725, and died 09 September 1792in Ludwigsburg. He married CHRISTINE DOROTHEA PFISTER 26 October1761 in Hopfigheim. She was born 20January 1734 in Pleidelsheim, Germany, and died 30 December 1791 in Ludwigsburg.
Children of FRIEDRICH VON SPONECK and CHRISTINE PFISTER are:
i. CARL FRIEDRICH CHRISTIAN WILHELM7 VON SPONECK, b. 1762, Hopfigheim, Germany;d. 1827, Heidelberg.
20. ii. MAJOR-GENERAL CARL WILHELM VON SPONECK, b. 03 October 1772, Karlsruhe, Germany;d. 30 March 1830.
16. MAXIMILLIANE CHRISTIANE6 VON SPONECK (JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 14 May 1730 in Stuttgart,and died 01 February 1804 in Karlsruhe. She married BARON LUDWIG HEINRICH PHILIPP GEYER V GEYERSBERG 02September 1756 in Mömpelgaard. He wasbaptized 23 January 1729 in Urach - Germany,he died 19 January 1772 in Karlsruhe.
Children of MAXIMILLIANE VON SPONECK and LUDWIG GEYERSBERG are:
i. BARONESS LOUISE CHARLOTTE7 VON GEYERSBERG, b. 26May 1768, Karlsruhe, Germany; d. 23 July 1820, Karlsruhe; m. MARKGRAF KARL FRIENDRICH VON BADEN, 24 November1787, Karlsruhe Baden; b. 22 November 1728, Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany; d. 10June 1811, Karlsruhe Baden. (From him descended the Scandinavian Royal Line)
ii. FREIHERR KARL HEINRICH WILHELM GEYER VON GEYERSBERG, b. 17 June 1757; d. Abt. 1817.
17. LT.COLONEL GEORG WILHELM7 SPONNECK (ANDREAS EBERHARD6, GEORG WILHELM VON HEDWIGER RIGSGREVE AF5, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 11January 1741 in Skjelskor, Denmark, and died 18 January 1801 in Copenhagen - Denmark. He married PRINCESS CHARLOTTE AMALIE HILLEBORG VON EPPINGEN 12 March1783 in the GarnisonsChurch - Copenhagen. She was baptized 25 August 1758 in Aunemo, Norway,and died 23 October 1822 in Copenhagen - Denmark.
Children of GEORG SPONNECK and CHARLOTTE VON EPPINGEN are:
i. CHARLOTTE AMALIE8 SPONNECK, b. 11July 1783, Copenhagen - Denmark; d. 14 April 1859, Copenhagen - Denmark; m. OLE CHRISTIAN WINTHER, 04 October1813, Garnisons Church - Copenhagen; b. Abt. 1780; d. September 1837, (Exactdate and place not recorded).
ii. EBERHARD REINHARD HEINRICH SPONNECK, b. 26 December 1784, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 19 March 1796,Copenhagen - Denmark (Alternative 11 April).
21. iii. COUNTY BAILIFF MARIUS SABINUS WILHELM SPONNECK, b. 22 May 1787, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 31 July 1874, Copenhagen - Denmark.
22. iv. MAJOR GEORG WILHELM SPONNECK, b. 18 December 1789, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 08 April 1854,Copenhagen - Denmark.
v. CARL LEOPOLD FABIAN SPONNECK, b. 17 April 1792, Copenhagen- Denmark; d. 07 August1831, Copenhagen- Buried in the Garnisons Kirkegaard.
vi. WINCENZ STEENSEN SPONNECK, b. 04 January 1800, Copenhagen - Denmark; d. 26 June1864, Copenhagen - Denmark; m. MARIE HEDVIG MOLLER, 08 September 1830; b. 14 May 1809; d. 11 January1892, Copenhagen - Denmark.
18. ANNE ELEONORE ELIZABETH7 DE SPONECK (LEOPOLD EBERHARD COMTE6, JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5 VON SPONECK, JOHANN GEORG4 VON HEDWIGER, CHRISTOPH3, CARL2, BALTHAZAR1) was born 31March 1744 in Montbéliard - France, and died 19 December 1817 inMontbéliard. She married KARL LUDWIG FERDINAND FORSTNER VON DAMDENON Abt.1780. He was born Abt. 1747, and died 04March 1827.
Child of ANNE DE SPONECK and KARL VON DAMDENON is:
i. BARONESS ELIZABETH LOUISA ALEXANDRINE8 VON DAMDENON, b. 10March 1785, France; d. 13January 1864, France; m. KARL AUGUST FERDINAND LOUIS DE SPONECK, Abt. 1800,France; b. 06 July 1785,Montbéliard - France; d.1844, Montbéliard - France.
19. EBERHARD LOUIS7 DE SPONECK (LEOPOLD EBERHARD COMTE6, JOHANN RUDOLPH HEDWIGER REICHSGRAF5 V