Owen, The county of Esslingen
Height: Circa 773 Meter
At the latest in the 11th century, a large castle was built on a high and elongated ridge in front of the Swabian Alps, which served as a residence to the nobility – perhaps to the Counts of the Neckargau. In the High Middle Ages, it belonged to the Dukes of Teck, a part of the Zähringer family and whose name eventually was associated with the English royal family. Since the 19th century it has been a tourist destination.
The castle was first mentioned in 1152 in a contract between King Frederick Barbarossa and Duke Berthold IV of Zähringen, but it is likely to be at least one century older.
The Counts of Nellenburg, who ruled Kirchheim around 1050, may have built the castle or significantly expanded it. Only when the Nellenburg inheritance was given to the Zähringer family around 1100 could the castle be passed on to the Dukes of Teck in the last third of the 12th century. With that, the Teck became an important residence and between the 1180s and the 1290s, it became the main abode of the dukes and their center of power, with a correspondingly large court. The most important representative of the family was Duke Konrad of Teck, who was considered to be given the royal throne after the death of Rudolf of Habsburg. His sudden death in 1292 shortly before the election thwarted the candidacy. Due to financial problems, Duke Hermann II of Teck sold half of the Teck to the Habsburg family in 1303, which pledged it to the Counts of Württemberg in 1326. In 1381, Württemberg finally took over the castle and the Dukes of Teck, who also owned estates on the upper Neckar and in eastern Swabia, built themselves a new center of power in Mindelheim. Many continued to hold high offices at the royal court and in the church until 1439, when there were no more male descendants.
For Württemberg, the castle primarily was of symbolic importance, because it was linked to the title of a duke. The coat of arms of the Dukes of Teck, the black hash within a golden shield, was therefore included in the Württemberg coat of arms as early as the 14th century and when Württemberg became a duchy in 1495, the Württemberg title was extended to include the title of the Duke of Teck.
The castle was captured in 1519 during the war of the Swabian League against Duke Ulrich of Württemberg. In 1525, it was handed to the rebellious peasants, then burned down and destroyed. As a result of the destruction, the castle lost its military function and lost its former significance. However, the Württemberg rulers continued to use the surrounding countryside for cattle breeding. It was not until 1736 when Duke Karl Alexander, who was a successful general in the Turkish wars, attempted to expand the Teck into a modern fortress. He died a year later, which is why the construction work, which also caused large parts of the inner castle such as the chapel to be removed, was put to a halt.
Descendants of Duke Louis of Württemberg, who were not direct relatives of the original Württemberg family, received the additional name of Teck as well as the title of “Prince” from King William of Württemberg in 1863. A grandson of Louis, Prince Franz of Teck, married the English Princess Mary Adelaide in 1866 and was made Duke of Teck by King Karl of Württemberg in 1871. Mary Victoria (Mary of Teck), the daughter of Franz and Mary Adelaide, married Duke George of York in 1893, who was a grandson of Queen Victoria and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II and who became King George V of England in 1910. As a result of the First World War, the royal family gave up all their German titles, and instead of Teck, Mary Adelaide’s children bore the name Cambridge from then on.
In the 19th century, the Teck became popular as a tourist destination and vantage point. The Verschönerungsverein Kirchheim acquired the ruins in 1864 and in 1889 replaced an existing shelter with the first stone lookout tower and the Mörikehalle. In 1941, the Schwäbischer Albverein came into possession of the castle’s ruins and from 1953 to 1955 rebuilt the tower and a hostel. Altogether, this is the reason why today’s buildings have no similarity whatsoever to those of the Middle Ages.