“Of course we knew that the intelligence services of the Eastern Bloc were monitoring us in some way. That was a basic premise. But it didn’t bother us. We assumed that all our conversations were being recorded and tapped, that the phones were bugged. That’s just how it was. I first visited Czechoslovakia when I was engaged to my future wife. Then it was Prague Spring. We came as well. We looked around, saw how things were here. My wife met some old employees, and she was overjoyed that some of the family also came; we brought presents. Back then they behaved very cordially to us at the borders, they were very friendly to us. We always worked on the assumption that Communism would collapse one day - peacefully, we hoped. That these countries would regain their freedom. The question was when and how.”
“My family had a very close relation to Bohemia and Moravia. But for me and my siblings, it was something like history. The older generation spoke of it, of course. My father talked about how, when Communism would fall, we would get our property back and would have to rebuild it again. He tasked me with preparing for it. But it was something very distant to us, and we were not worried about it at all. The bigger question for us was how the Soviet empire would be dissolved. That was at the fore.”
“I was of the opinion that I could study something else. Then my parents, and not just them, but the prime minister at the time, told me I have to study economy and law so I could rebuild our fortune. As the head of state, I would have to concern myself with legal matters. Then I did an internship at the American Senate in spring 1963 under a senator who was in the Foreign Relation Committee - he was a friend of Kennedy, and I was also allowed to visit Kennedy at the White House. After secondary school, I thought that if I really had to study economics and finance, I would rather do so in America than in Europe under my parents’ supervision, whether in Vienna or elsewhere.”
“Of course, my father always hoped and believed that we would get our old property back from Czechoslovakia - and he also sent me there. I went to see what would have to be invested for us to move things to such an extent as to make the companies profitable again, what would have to be invested into historical buildings. I already had some experience, and I knew how much things cost. I saw agricultural and forest enterprises, I spoke with experts, but nothing became of it. But in the end I tell myself that it all went down peacefully, which is more important than if we should get something back, which we would have to invest a lot of money and time into. So I had the time and the means to invest into a banking empire all over the world.”
“And then I informed myself of what it would be like at Harvard and Princeton. I passed both German and Swiss final exams at the Swiss boarding school, and then there was also an English finals because it was an international school. Both at Harvard and at Princeton I was told that my completed education made me overqualified. They advised me to first earn a degree in Europe and then enroll in a postgraduate course at Princeton or Harvard. At both schools they told me that if I wanted to study law and economics, the best place to do so was Sankt Gallen. I reckoned: ‘Goodness, that’s on the other side of the Rhein, under my parents’ noses! I wanted to go out into the world, and there I was, being sent to Sankt Gallen!’ It was a terrible disappointment, but I never regretted it.”
“We were in the salon, awaiting the guests, when the door opened and they came in, and my future ‘everything’ entered. The moment I saw her I knew she would be my wife. She is five years older, she had a lot of admirers; she was glorious. Her siblings called my ‘the baby with a dummy’. I was still at grammar school, I hadn’t even started to grow a beard, and I didn’t even need to shave. But I said I would marry her, and I didn’t yield from that. I succeeded in the end. To convince both her and her and my parents. Then we married and created a happy marriage. I am very happy that in the end, after great effort, she acquiesced.”
We spoke German, but we never felt to be Germans. We are Liechtensteins
The reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans Adam II, was born on 14 February 1945 in Zurich. He is the son of Liechtenstein Prince Franz Joseph II and his wife, Countess Georgina von Wilczek. His godfather was Pope Pius XII. He grew up with a traditional Catholic upbringing with his parents, two brothers, and sister in the royal palace in Vaduz. As the first-born son, he was predestined to succeed to the throne of Liechtenstein. His father also expected him to save the crumbling family fortune and to renew negotiations with Czechoslovakia, where a significant part of the family’s property was lost through confiscations after 1945. Hans Adam II attended primary school in Vaduz, and in 1956 he enrolled at the Schottengymnasium in Vienna. In 1960 he switched to a grammar school in Zuoz, Switzerland, where he graduated with both Swiss and German final exams. After an internship at a London bank, he studied corporate and public economics at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland from 1965. He earned his degree in 1969. In 1967 he married Countess Marie Kinská of Vchynice and Tetov. They have four children. In the second half of the 1960s he and his wife visited Czechoslovakia for the first time. Even before completing his studies, he began to revitalise the family enterprises and banks in Liechtenstein and Austria, in which his hard negotiations with relatives were successful. He made the Liechtensteins the richest family in Europe. After the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc, unresolved disputes over property led the Czech Republic and Liechtenstein to mutually refuse to acknowledge their independence in 1993. Diplomatic ties were renewed in 2009, although the Czech Republic continues to refuse the property claims of the Liechtensteins.