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Prince loses appeal over castles

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BERLIN — At least there's still his in-laws' palace in Monaco.

Prince Ernst August of Hanover, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, lost an appeal Monday before a Berlin court in which he sought to get back land taken by Soviet occupiers at the end of World War II.

The approximately 40 square miles in Germany's eastern Harz mountains includes woods, farm fields, a manor, several castles and a crumbling Cistercian monastery from the 12th century. All of it became state property in communist East Germany.

The case hinged on whether the prince's grandfather — Ernst-August, Duke of Braunschweig-Lueneburg — was a German or British citizen at the time his land was seized. Under a postwar Allied agreement, property owned by foreigners in Germany was protected from seizure.

The prince's lawyers argued that his grandfather, who had dual citizenship, gave up German citizenship when he abdicated his title in 1918 along with Kaiser Wilhelm II and other German nobility after defeat in World War I.

But his claim was rejected by officials in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, who pointed to a questionnaire the duke filled out in 1946 for Allied authorities, in which he said he still possessed German citizenship.

He also wrote that he had voted in 1932 and 1933 for a local party that advocated restoring him to his throne.

Local officials in Magdeburg rejected the prince's claim and a court there upheld the decision in March, saying no claim could be made because the expropriation occurred in the late 1940s under the authority of the Soviet occupiers after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

The Federal Administrative Court in Berlin ruled Monday that the special protection granted by the Allies to foreign-held property applied only to owners who did not hold German citizenship as well.

No further appeal is possible.

A secretary at the prince's office in Nordstemmen, near Hanover, said there would be no comment on the ruling.

State officials welcomed the decision, saying it would finally allow them to proceed with restoration work that had been tied up by the legal wrangling.