I'm writing a short story based on Snow White. My research tells me the story took place during the late 16th century. The timeline of my story coincides with the Protestant Reformation. I am wondering if the proper setting of my story should be in a castle. The father of my main character's title is only Prince since in the timeline the Emperor/King is still Charles V like in our history. Based on this would a castle be the proper setting for this story?

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    You can definitely rationalise a castle for many (but the title "castle" gets applied to a lot of buildings many not necessarily with military qualities...) Note that by prince, do you just mean a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire? That encompasses a very wide range of statuses from dukes to bishops to even nobles without a fief.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 9:12
  • Based on the high number of castles in Germany, I'm guessing it would be plausible to have a castle as a setting. The fictional father would most likely be a high ranking noble with the title of Prince and yes a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. I believe my main character would be on the Lutheran side of the Schmalkaldic war though. The only issue is that when the war takes place the father of my main character will be dead and his new wife will have rule over his land, is that is possible?
    – Nolan
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 16:12
  • @Semaphore No one could be a prince without a principality in the family. He was either the prince or furst - generic term including many different ranks - of the principality or else he was a prinz, a member of a princely dynasty. It is true than by 1600 emperors began granting a purely titular title of prince to people who didn't rule principalities in the Empire, but they usually had fiefs of lower rank, immediate or mediate, in the Empire or in other countries.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 20:03
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    @MAGolding: That is incorrect in the Holy Roman Empire. All nobles holding their fief directly from the Emperor were Princes of the Empire - denoting their sovereignty over foreign affairs and in particular war - in addition to their heritable family title(s). Just as all English peers may properly be addressed as M'Lord, all German Princes of the Empire may be addressed as Prince. For instance the Bishop of Liege was addressed as Prince Bishop. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 1:29
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    @MAGolding: Further, many Princes of the Empire not only didn't have multiples castles, they didn't even own a whole castle - having to share one with related Princes such as at Elz Castle where the accommodations have been shared three ways since the 12th century. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


Definitely yes - provided your story is set prior to the widespread destruction of the castles that began about the time of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).

However, note some important differences between German feudalism and our English language conceptions:

Although it is clearly not an historical reference, in many ways Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter books functions as a Ganerbenburg Castle split amongst the four school houses.

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    The Duden is still pretty authoritative regarding German spelling. It doesn't know "Herzhog" nor "Margrave". Check it yourself: duden.de
    – Roland
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 10:31
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    The literal translation of duke is "Herzog". If you see other spelling variants, they predate standardization of spelling or several spelling reforms.
    – Roland
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 11:04
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    No, you are still misspelling Herzog.
    – Roland
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 11:11
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    @Roland: Got it! Thank you again. I thought you were talking about the leading "h", and my eye refused to see the internal "h" until your insistence that I had it wrong. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 11:13
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    While we are on the topic of spelling: It's Ganerbenburg, not Ganerburg. The word is composed of Gan (together), Erben (to inherit, or the heirs), and Burg (castle).
    – Hackworth
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 12:42

A story about a German prince can take place in a castle if the fictional time elapsed in the story is short enough for the prince and his court to stay at one place.

Remember that the King of England had a main palace, Westminster Palace, in the suburbs of his capital city London. Westminster Palace was used by the court from 1049 to 1512, when the royal living areas burned down. King Henry VIII acquired York Place nearby in 1534 and turned it into the main royal Palace of Whitehall. The king also had a residence, fortress, and prison in the city itself, The Tower of London.




And the King owned many other palaces, manors, castles, and country estates near London and father away in the kingdom, Windsor Castle is the most famous, and the king and his court traveled a lot from place to place. Part of the reason why the court moved around so much was they tended to use up a lot of food, grass, wood, water, and other resources and so had to move whenever the resources in one area were temporarily exhausted.


For many centuries the main french royal palace was the Palais de la Cite in Paris, but King Charles V decided in 1364 to make the main royal residence farther from the city center, and for centuries the main royal court in Paris moved between places like the Hotel Saint-Pol, the Louvre, the Hotel des Tournelles, etc., and eventually to the Tuileries Palace built beginning in 1564.






During the 16th century time frame of your story the French royal court spent a lot of time in various royal chateaux in the Loire Valley, including the Chateau d'Amboise, the Chateau de Blois, and the Chateau de Chambord.




And since the high nobles and princes in Germany lived like kings of little kingdoms, they and their courts would often move from one manor, castle, or palace to another one.

So if your story takes place over a few days, setting it in a castle of a prince is fine, so long as nobody states that it is the only castle of the prince. But if your story takes place over months, years, or decades, the idea that the prince's court is permanently located in one single castle becomes much less probable.

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    What may be true for Kings of major nations is definitely not the case for minor Princes of the Empire. Many of the latter had to share a single castle (a Ganerburg with relatives as with Elz Castle (shared three ways) and Salzburg Castle. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 0:20
  • The Elz family who jointly occupied Elz castle as a ganerburg were mere Imperial knights, barons, and counts, ranking far below princes of the Empire except when clergymen of the family were elected as prince-bishops or prince-archbishops. Salzburg Castle belonged in a minor noble family - Hohensalzburg Fortresss was the vast castle that belonged to the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. Prince of the Empire were far richer than minor nobles who had to share in a Ganerburg.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 19:44

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