George Gustav of Pfalz-Veldenz
07. January 2016 11:25
On February 4th, 2016, Künker Auction House, during its Berlin auction, will offer an extensive series of pre-1871 German rarities. Among them, there will be an extremely rare taler of the count of Veldenz.
Georg Gustav, 1592-1634. Reichstaler 1596, Weinburg.
But, Pfalz-Veldenz? Only specialized collectors will know where this territory can be found on a map of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations. In fact, it’s a small area on the Mosel river. In its center, Veldenz castle is located, a good 40 kilometers up the river of the city of Trier.
This is where the counts of Veldenz had their ancestral seat. Through a happy marriage in 1444, their territory came into the possession of a Wittelsbach Prince of Pfalz-Zweibrücken. About a hundred years later it was handed over to an uncle by one of the counts in order to reimburse him for his longtime guardianship. That’s how Ruprecht of Pfalz-Veldenz became the founder of the new minor dynasty of the house of Pfalz-Zweibrücken in 1543.
Veldenz Castle. Photo: Berthold Werner / Wikipedia.
Ruprecht died as early as in 1544. His son, George John I, was just a year old. His legal guardian, the former ward of his father, was raised protestant and gave this new faith to Ruprecht’s son. This would pay off, because Gustav Vasa, the Swedish King, was looking for allies in protestant Germany. He married all of his 5 daughters to German princes. His son in laws all came from northern German territories, like the count of East Frisia, the Prince of Mecklenburg and the Prince of Saxony-Lauenburg. But Gustav Vasa also thought of those Princes, who visited the Swedish court of the King. Christopher of Baden-Rodemacher, for example, served in the Swedish Army. And John George of Veldenz visited Stockholm as a young man as part of his Grand Tour, when Gustav Vasa took notice of him.
The bride brought 300,000 gulden as a dowry. That was an enormous amount. But George John was no spendthrift. He had expensive visions for the founding of a protestant refuge by the name of Pfalzburg. When he died, the county was bankrupt. George Gustav, the oldest son, did not only have to pay out his two younger brothers, but he also had to pay back a debt of 300,000 gulden, the same amount his mother brought into her marriage.
In 1596, four years after George Gustav assumed power, he produced the extremely rare taler in astonishing condition, which will go over the auction block at the Künker Berlin Auction on February 4th, 2016. The taler probably served more as a show piece, given the attention George Gustav paid to the precise production of the dies. The taler displays a late renaissance portrait of George Gustav of Pfalz-Veldenz: A seemingly simple man with short hair and a modern beard, draped and wearing a doily collar. In his right hand he is holding a staff of an army general. The legends reads: George Gustav of God’s grace Count of Rhine, Prince of Bavaria and Count of Veldenz.
The reverse displays three coat of arms. A lion stands for Veldenz and the Pfalz, and a white and blue diamond-shaped shield points to the Wittelsbach dynasty. The inscription is very telling, because the language itself represents George Gustav as a true and faithful follower of the Reformation: using German instead of Latin. And this is why we read in German: Honor to God alone A(nno) 1596.
George Gustav stayed a Protestant. He, too, tried to establish a refuge for fleeing Protestants in Lixheim, but failed just as his father. Shortly before his death, in flight from the Spanish, he had to leave his county.
And he didn’t come back. In 1634 he died with only a nine-year old son as heir. Leopold Ludwig grew up with his uncle and only came back to Veldenz after the Peace of Westphalia. But still he was forced to leave his county again and again because of war. He died on April 8th, 1692 with no children and by testament gave his county to King Charles XI of Sweden. It was only in 1733, after years of legal battles, that Veldenz came back under the rule of the main dynasty of Pfalz-Zweibrücken.