In the 10th century a first unconfirmed naming of the Counts of Sayn can be found. Assumedly they were minor Counts to the Pfaltzgraves (Counts Palatine) in the Auelgau. The naming of the brothers Count Eberhard and Count Heinrich of Sayn back in 1139 is the first confirmed naming of ancestors of the Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein.Shortly after they widen their sphere of influence from the Mittelrhein (Koblenz / Westerwald area) to the regions around Bonn and Cologne. The biggest increment of the county comes early in the 13th century when Count Heinrich III., the Great, marries Mechtild of Meissen-Landsberg, who brings territories on the Rhine from the landgravian-Thuringian holdings of her mother into the mariage. 1205 Bruno of Sayn becomes Archbishop of Cologne.
The Counts of Sayn from the House of Sponheim
The county was inherited, on the childless death of Heinrich III., in 1247, by his sister Adelheid, married to Count Gottfried III. of Sponheim, a descendant of Count Stephan of Sponheim, first mentioned in 1052. In 1294 the new counts of Sayn from the House of Sponheim split the county amongst the brothers Johann, who receives Sayn, and Engelbert, who inherits Marienburg Castle in Vallendar. The older line reigns in Sayn, Hachenburg and Altenkirchen until in 1606 when Count Heinrich IV. of Sayn-Sayn as the last male descendant dies.
The Counts of Sayn and Wittgenstein
Salentin of Sayn-Vallendar from the younger line marries in 1345 Adelheid, the heiress of the Wittgenstein County . Their descendants, the Counts of Sayn and Wittgenstein split the territory in 1605 amongst the sons of Ludwig the Elder into the Berleburg County (since 1792 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg), the Sayn County (Counts zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, extinct in 1846) and the Wittgenstein County (since 1801 Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein).
The Counties Sayn-Hachenburg and Sayn-Altenkirchen
A claim of the line Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn on Sayn originates from the marriage of Count Wilhelm of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn with Anna Elisabeth of Sayn-Sayn, niece of Heinrich IV and heiress of the Sayn County. After a long quarrel within this line the Sayn County fell during the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to the granddaughters Ernestine and Johanette of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who founded two separate counties with respective residences in Hachenburg and Altenkirchen. Through female succession Sayn-Hachenburg at first fell to Manderscheid-Blankenheim, then to Kirchberg and eventually to Nassau-Weilburg. Whereas Sayn-Altenkirchen fell to Sachsen-Eisenach, later to Brandenburg-Ansbach and finally to Prussia. Bendorf is split amongst the two counties, whilst, in 1606, the ancestral seat in Sayn already becomes annexed by the Archbishop of Trier.
The Princes zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn
Count Christian from the Ludwigsburg side-line of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg line joins the Russian military service in the mid 18th century. His son Count Ludwig Adolph Peter, the later imperial Russian field-marshal, is celebrated as the saviour of St. Petersburg, due to his military achievements and victories during the liberation war of 1812-1813 against Napoleon. In 1834 he is awarded the title of Prince of (Fürst von) Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg by the King of Prussia with acknowledgement of the Russian Tsar. Count Christian from the Ludwigsburg side-line of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg line joins the Russian military service in the mid 18th century. His son Count Ludwig Adolph Peter, the later imperial Russian field-marshal, is celebrated as the saviour of St. Petersburg, due to his military achievements and victories during the liberation war of 1812-1813 against Napoleon.
In 1834 he is awarded the title of Prince of (Fürst von) Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg by the King of Prussia with acknowledgement of the Russian Tsar . The oldest son Ludwig Adolf Friedrich first marries Princess Stephanie Radziwil who brings into the marriage Fürst Ludwig with 1.2 million hectares the biggest privately owned estate in Europe. On her early death she leaves one son, Peter (without issue), and a daughter Marie, wife of Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Chancellor of the German Empire. In 1848 Prince Ludwig leaves Russia together with his second wife Leonilla, daughter of Field-Marshal Prince Ivan Bariatinsky. He receives as a present from King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. of Prussia the former family seat Sayn Castle, destroyed in the 30-year war. With the purchase of a former knights manor in Sayn he gains the title of Prince (Fürst) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.
Ludwig and Leonilla have the former baroque manor of the Counts of Boos-Waldeck below Sayn Castle reconstructed into a princely residence in neogothic stile. Their youngest son Alexander marries Yvonne, the daughter of the French Duke of Blacas and inherits Sayn after morganatic marriages of his older brothers Peter, Friedrich and Ludwig. After his wife’s early death he remarries and spends his life as Count of Hachenburg in the former family residences in Hachenburg and Friedewald in the Westerwald. Princess Leonilla dies 1918 at the age of 102 in Switzerland. Her oldest grandson Stanislaus first marries Maya Countess of Schönborn-Wiesentheid and after her death Donna Elena Ruffo della Scaletta. Both marriages stay without issue. So the Sayn property falls to his nephew Ludwig, son of the diplomat Prince Gustav Alexander and Baroness Walburga of Friesen. In 1942 Prince Ludwig marries Baroness Marianne of Mayr-Melnhof.
In 1945 the Sayn Palace gets destroyed by German troops. When in 1962 Ludwig dies in an accident at the age of 46 years, he leaves 5 children behind: Yvonne of Bolzano, Alexander, Elisabeth Baroness of Senden, Teresa Countess of Kageneck and Prince Peter, married with the actress Sunnyi Melles. Princess Marianne returns to her homeland Austria and becomes a celebrated photographer. The photobook “Mamarazza” was published with great success in both Germany and the United States. Her pictures have been shown in a large number of exhibitions.