In a previous blog post I took an excerpt from the book Bohemia and the Čechs, the History, People, Institutions, and the Geography of the Kingdom, Together with Accounts of Moravia and Silesia, by Will Seymour Monroe that says that five families own nearly 8% of the land.
For my own perspective, I tried to find a size comparison to the United States. I found a table on Wikipedia that lists US states and territories by their area. According to this, the total area of the United States is 3,803,290.00 square miles (this number seems kind of round to me...but oh well).
On a whim, I guess-timated that Texas was about 8%. Turns out, I wasn't too far off. Texas is 268,580.82 square miles. Divide that by the total area of the United States and that is just about 7% of the total land mass.
Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island's total area is 36,607.15 square miles. (As a side note, even though I grew up in New England, I never really noticed that Maine's total area is equal to nearly half of the total area of New England, at 35,384.65 square miles!)
Texas, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island together comprise just over 8% of the United States. If you include Maine, it becomes just under 9%.
Either way, this comparison really helped me gain some perspective. Imagine if 5 families owned the ENTIRE state of Texas and most of New England!!!! Granted, the Czech Republic could easily fit inside the state of Maine, at 30,450 square miles. So it's not really a fair comparison.
According to Monroe, these five families were the Schwarzenbergs, the Lichtensteins, the Lobkovics, the Schönborns, and the Thuns. My curiosity was piqued; I wondered if any of these families were still around today.
The House of Schwarzenberg
This family's noble origins begin ~1172. Karl VII (in Czech, Karel Jan Nepomucký Josef Norbert Bedřich Antonín Vratislav Menas kníže ze Schwarzenberga) is the current prince of Schwarzenberg. He is active in politics and ran for President of the Czech Republic last year.
The Princely Family of Liechtenstein
This family's noble origins begin ~1140, and yes, the tiny, wealthy, land-locked European country is named after them. Yes, the current head of the government there is also the direct male descendant of this family, Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechstenstein.
I thought this man's story was the most interesting! He was born in 1961 and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. He went on to study European History at Harvard, and has spent his life reclaiming and restoring his family's castles, at significant expense. I think his life would make an excellent movie. I don't know exactly when this family's noble origins begin, but they do have a family brewery that was originally founded in 1466.
The House of Schönborn.
This family's noble origins begin in ~1373. They are still around today, though the direct male descendant Cristoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert Schönborn is not a prince but a cardinal of the Catholic church.
This family's noble origins begin ~1187 and they are also also still around. Róża Maria Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein is a European Parliament Member from Poland.
The takeaway: all of these families remain wealthy, influential, and important. Not bad for an average traceable family age of 745 years!!