The Liechtenstein ruling house is an old Austrian family. The principality was created in 1719 by uniting the county of Vaduz with the barony of Schellenburg. The princes, vassals of the Holy Roman emperors, also owned huge estates (many times larger than their principality) in Austria and adjacent territories; they rarely visited their country but were active in the service of the Hapsburg monarchy. Liechtenstein became independent in 1866, after having been a member of the German Confederation from 1815 to 1866.

The principality escaped the major upheavals of the 19th and 20th cent. Prince Hans Adam II succeeded to the throne in 1989 after the death of his father, Francis Joseph II, and has had a number of conflicts with the parliament due to his attempts to have a significant role in running the government, particularly its economic policy. In 2003 voters approved a number of constitutional amendments that the prince had demanded, including giving him the right to dismiss the government and approve judicial nominees; his power to veto legislation and referendum results was preserved then and also by a 2012 referendum. In 2004 Prince Alois became regent for his father and assumed responsibility for the everyday affairs of state.

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