When Hereditary Prince Ernst August of Hanover appeared at Schloss Marienburg on December 12, he looked relieved as he joined others in front of the castle's Christmas tree.
The 35-year-old prince was about to make his last appearance as the owner of Schloss Marienburg, once the summer home of his ancestors. The castle was for Ernst August's great-great-great-grandmother, Queen Marie, the consort of King Georg V, the last king of Hanover.
Schloss Marienburg has been a cultural albatross around Ernst August's neck. He and his wife, Ekaterina and their daughter Elisabeth, do not have live at the castle and live in Hanover. The Hereditary Princess expects a second child in the spring.
In the front of the Christmas tree in the Knights' Hall, Prince Ernst August told his guests "Today is very important for my family. We have found a good solution to keep the castle and its inventory permanently for the public --that has always been a matter of the heart."
The prince had agreed to see Schloss Marienburg to the State Ministry of Science and Culture for Lower Saxony for the nominal sum of one Euro.
The agreement would also allow the state museum in Hannover to purchase furniture and artwork for two million euros, allowing for the art and furniture to remain at the schloss.
Prince Ernst August said he would set up a charitable foundation that would include furniture and artwork worth 6 million euros.
The cost of maintaining the castle has been a financial burden for Prince Ernst August, as the castle suffers from dry rot. The State Ministry announced it would invest more than 27 million euros in rehabilitation and maintenance.
Prince Ernst August's grandfather, Prince Ernst August, the eldest son of Prince Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, opened Schloss Marienburg to the public. Ernst August's father, Ernst August, inherited the schloss and other family properties following his father's death in 1987.
These properties were passed to the young prince in 2004 largely due to tax and financial reasons.
Although there were questions about the financial investment from the political opposition, the sale of the castle and the other financial obligations from the state government appeared to be final, a deal that pleased both sides.
Only a few days after the announcement, a patrimonial spanner was thrown into the deal. Papa decided that the deal was not legitimate and claimed that his elder son had acted with "gross indignation" in his negotiations with the Kosterklammer. He declared the deal invalid, claiming that his son had negotiated without his knowledge.
The decision in 2004 to turn over the family properties to his then 22-year-old son led to the young Ernst August taking on a large debt. He made the decision to sell off 44 million euros worth of family treasures to pay off the debts and restore Schloss Marienburg.
Although Papa tried to withdraw his gift to his son in 2017, the younger Prince is the listed in the land register as the official owner of the properties.
The day after the announcement of the sale, Papa sent a letter to Lower Saxony, which decided to put the sale on hold.
Prince Ernst August, jr., believes that he will win this battle. He told one newspaper that a "comprehensive inheritance review came to a clear conclusion. There is no doubt that I am in every way entitled to conclude the proposed contracts in all matters relating to the real estate and its inventory. There is no reason for speculation to the contrary. Only I am listed in the land register. There have been no changes. The legal situation is crystal clear. I am allowed to sell the Schloss. The deadlines for my father to recover the property have long since expired."
The putative sale remains on hold for now.
"I am happy to dispel any misunderstandings and unreasonable concerns. I am in direct contact with the state government."