Counts of Waldbott von Bassenheim resident in Buxheim:
1810-1830 Friedrich Karl Franz Rudolf Waldbott von Bassenheim (1779–1830)
Regency administration from 1830-41
1841-95 Hugo Philipp Waldbott von Bassenheim (1820-95)
1895-1904 Friedrich Ludwig Heinrich Hugo Waldbott von Bassenheim (1844-1910)
1904-26 Ludwig Maria Karl Friedrich Heinrich Philipp Waldbott von Bassenheim (1876-1926)
The Waldbott von Bassenheim family can trace its roots back to the twelfth century (1136). An early member of the family, Heinrich Walpot, was the first Grand Master (Hochmeister) of the Order of Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Orden) from 1198-1200. Originally named after their properties in Waldmannshausen, the Walpod (an office similar to sheriff) heirs acquired property in Bassenheim, near Koblenz, through the marriage of Siegfried Walpod (d. 1333) to Helena von Bachem, and soon the house began to call itself Waldpott von Bassenheim. The family coat of arms, also from the early fourteenth century, consists of a gyronny (radial division) of 12 shields, alternating silver and red, with a silver rising swan on the helm.
The male heirs were elevated to the status of imperial counts (Reichsgraf) in 1720, and in 1788 Johann Maria Rudolf Waldbott von Bassenheim (1731–1805), burgrave of Friedberg, was admitted to the College of Counts in Wesphalia, thereby promoting the family’s status to imperial nobility (Reichsstand). In 1801 Count Johann was stripped of his properties on the left bank of the Rhine and compensated by Napoleon with the Abbey Heggbach and an income from Buxheim, which was granted to the Count of Ostein in 1803 after the charterhouse’s dissolution.
Following Count Johann’s death in 1805, his eldest son, Friedrich Karl Franz Rudolf Waldbott von Bassenheim (1779–1830) was mediatized (loss of imperial privileges) and incorporated into the nobility of the new kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg. Upon the death of Count Johann Friedrich von Ostein in 1809, the former Charterhouse Buxheim came into the possession of the Waldbott von Bassenheim family. Although the charterhouse and village first passed to Count von Ostein’s sister, Countess Marie Charlotte von Hatzfeld, it was granted to Count Friedrich by virtue of his grandmother on his father’s side, Maria Antonia Franziska v. Ostein (1710-1788).
Representatives of Count Friedrich took possession of Buxheim and the charterhouse in 1810. The count moved quickly to replace the prior and install his own representative, Fr. Romualdus Geiger, as head of the monastery. By 1812, the 12 monks and 1 brother were disenfranchised, with the older monks allowed to stay in their cells, but the younger ones sent to university to prepare themselves as parish priests. The following year, 1813, saw Count Friedrich in military service during the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon as a major with the Spessart Volunteers. In the next few years, the monastery was converted into a residence, and the administrative offices of the Waldbott von Bassenheims transferred from various locations to Buxheim. Important for the history of the library, the Bassenheim library was moved from Friedberg to Buxheim in 1816, the archives two years later, and in 1820 Fr. Matthias Schiltegger, OCist. (d. 1826), was hired as the estate’s librarian. Count Friedrich died ten years later in Munich in 1830, having made Buxheim and its former charterhouse the central residence and administrative center of his family’s estates. He was laid to rest inside the monastery church, in front of the high altar. His ledger stone is still extant.
Count Friedrich’s only surviving son Hugo Philipp, whose older brother Karl died in 1829 at the age of 19, did not take over the estate until 1841. Due to his age, he was 10 years old when his father died, a wardship was established to administer the properties until he turned 21. Soon thereafter, in 1843 at the age of 23, he married Princess Caroline zu Oettingen-Wallerstein (1824–1889). Her portrait was painted that year by Joseph Karl Stieler as part of King Ludwig I of Bavaria’s “Gallery of Beauties.”
This early period under Count Hugo’s rule, starting in the 1840’s, was marked by a lavish lifestyle and the ever-increasing indebtedness of the estate. The wealth of the estate was squandered with risky speculations and gross mismanagement. Count Hugo once bought a horse in England that was reputed to be the most expensive in the world at the time. There were several auction sales of valuables from the Abbey Heggbach during the 1850’s, and the entire abbey complex was finally sold in 1875. Various properties in and around Buxheim were also sold, until by 1880 the threat of insolvency was imminent. With bankruptcy unavoidable, in 1883 Count Hugo took the drastic step of selling most of the monastic furnishings in Buxheim, to include the famous choir stalls, paintings, and other items. The entire library was sold as well at auction in Munich, with the bulk going to the antiquarian book dealer Ludwig Rosenthal. Upon Count Hugo’s death in 1895, little remained of the wealth that only a generation earlier had allowed the family to acquire additional properties.
Count Hugo’s only son, Friedrich Ludwig Heinrich Hugo Waldbott von Bassenheim (1844-1910), inherited both the title and impoverished estate at the age of 51 upon his father’s death in 1895 and was to govern what little was left of it for only the next 9 years. He and his wife, Rosa Schürch, had ten children together. In 1904, he retired upon the death of his wife in favor of his son.
That son, Count Ludwig Maria Karl Friedrich Heinrich Philipp Waldbott von Bassenheim (1876-1926), was the eldest of ten children. His 22 years at the head of the family was tragically cut short in 1926 when he died as the result of a hot air ballooning accident. He was 50 years old. As the last count of Bassenheim at Buxheim, he oversaw the final dismantling and sale of all the Buxheim property, first with the sale of the monastery buildings, the church, cloister, and library, to the state of Bavaria in 1916, and then lastly the sale of various chalices, vestments, and paintings to the Abbey of Ottobeuren in 1921 for 40,000 gold marks, financed by the $10,000 donation by an American Benedictine, Fr. Lucas. Even the family’s brewery business could not stave off final ruin. In 1921, the industrial buildings, including the brewery, were sold for demolition. The valuable monastic archive was added to the sale of the chalices and paintings to Ottobeuren in 1925 for 2,000 gold marks. Shortly before his death in 1926 he handed over the residential buildings in a completely dilapidated state to the Salesians Don Bosco for their use as a preparatory school.