QAnon-inspired coup attempt in Germany was led by a prince, officials say. Who is he?

Boris Roessler/AP

Dozens of individuals across Germany were arrested on Wednesday, Dec. 7, in connection with an alleged attempt to overthrow the government, officials said.

Among those detained were a paratrooper, a former judge and an obscure descendant of German nobility, Heinrich XIII, who German prosecutors said sought to install himself as the head of state of a new government, according to the Associated Press.

The assorted group of plotters was connected by a shared association with far-right factions and ideologies, including the Reich Citizens movement, which opposes the post-war government, and QAnon, a global conspiracy theory with origins in the United States, according to the AP.

Prosecutors said the revolutionists were led by Heinrich, 71, who is thought to have financed parts of the group, according to Zeit Online, a German newspaper. On multiple occasions over the past few months, the collaborators reportedly convened in his castle.

A representative for Heinrich could not immediately be reached for comment by McClatchy News.

Who is Heinrich XIII?

The septuagenarian is the scion of the House of Reuss, a noble family that ruled over parts of Thuringia, a state in central Germany, according to Zeit Online. Royal families have served no official purpose in Germany for over a hundred years.

In the wake of the German Empire’s defeat in World War I and following growing civil unrest, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the throne and a democratic republic was formed, according to Foreign Policy, bringing an end to the European nation’s long line of ruling royals. Some descendants, however, have clung to the trappings, traditions and titles of the past.

“I consider the continued use of titles of nobility after the German revolution of 1918-1919 to be absurd,” Alison Frank Johnson, a professor of history at Harvard University, told McClatchy News in an email, adding that Heinrich is a “pretender to aristocratic relevance.”

Though he held on to his title, Heinrich appeared to live a law-abiding life of affluence for many years, Zeit Online reported. Married to a model and an avid Formula 1 racing fan, he was an avowed democrat, not a revolutionary monarchist.

It was the German reunification in 1990, during which he was expropriated of some real estate, which may have soured his views on democracy, the outlet reported.

In a 2019 speech to the World Web Forum, which was infused with antisemitic conspiracies, he advocated for reviving the monarchy, according to Reuters.

“If things didn’t work well, you just went to the prince,” Heinrich said, according to the outlet. “Who are you supposed to turn to today? Your parliamentarian, the local, federal or EU level? Good luck!”

“He represents the right fringe of German politics that wants to reclaim not just his former state but the German empire in general,” Konrad Jarausch, a German history professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, told McClatchy News in an email.

“The whole affair is ridiculous since these populists are even further on the fringe than the AFD party and they have hardly any support in the population.”

Earlier this year, the head of the descendants of the House of Reuss attempted to distance himself from Heinrich on account of his conspiratorial beliefs, Zeit Online reported.

Before his Dec. 7 arrest, Heinrich purportedly made contact with the Russian government to ask for assistance in the supposed government takeover, Reuters reported. But “the Kremlin said there could be no question of any Russian involvement in the alleged plot,” according to the outlet.

Though the alleged plot failed, it remains a matter of concern for government officials, who take seriously any potential right-wing threats, according to the AP. Roughly 100 years ago, Adolf Hitler led a failed coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch, a precursor to the rise of the Nazi government.

Sara Nanni, a lawmaker with Germany’s Green party, tweeted on Dec. 7 that overthrowing the governement was never attainable for the group but that their attempt was still damaging.

Heinrich was escorted out of his home in Frankfurt in handcuffs on Dec. 7 and another property he owns was searched, according to the AP. It’s not clear what charges have been brought against him.

“I can only assume he is as pathetic and delusional as his disdain for democracy and his naive belief in childish conspiracy theories would suggest,” Frank Johnson said.

Google Translate was used to translate stories from Zeit Online and tweets from Sara Nanni.

‘Astonishing’ jewelry found in grave of ‘most significant’ medieval woman in the UK

Unknown body found outside house fire that killed 2 firefighters, Pennsylvania cops say

Bar worker finds police officer urinating on ice machine, Florida cops say