Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Short History of Fuggers

Many people think the word 'Fugger' and its derivatives are generic terms and do not realize the word is an actual family name - a family whose descendants exist to this day, though greatly dispersed and diluted.

The Fugger family originated somewhere near Augsburg, in Swabia (southern Germany). Their first mention is in 1357 when Hans Fugger was listed on the tax register in Augsburg. His eldest son Andreas became a successful merchant and bought up land and properties. He became so rich people referred to him as 'that damned rich Fugger'.

Andreas' son Lucas came along and hung out with Emperor Frederick III who granted a coat of arms with a golden deer on it. Naturally, folks then began calling him 'that silly damned deer Fugger'. Unfortunately, Lucas was more of the playboy type and went bankrupt, thereby becoming 'that broke damned Fugger'.

Hans' younger son Jakob was more successful, and chose a lily for his coat of arms, becoming 'a Fugger of the lilies'. Jakob became very, very rich, loaning money to Roman Emperor Maximilian I and later bribing the electors to install Charles V as Emperor. Charles repaid the favor by granting the family nobility and sovereign rights over their lands, and the right to coin their own money. They became known as 'those damned money-printing Fuggers' at that point.
The successors of this branch remain to this day, primarily now operating mints for the US government I believe.

In 1514, Jakob bought up part of the city of Augsburg, and founded the famous 'Fuggerei' - almshouses for the needy which are still in existence to this day. Rent was, and still is only one Rheinischer Gulden per year (.88 Euros) plus three daily prayers for the owners: the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary and the Niciene Creed. To qualify for residence in the Fuggerei, a person must be Catholic, indigent but without debt, and have lived in Augsburg for the two previous years.

However, visitors to the the Fuggerei today must pay two euros - more than twice the residents' annual rent. It's just the way those Fuggers have always done business.

Jakob's descendants married well, some into the wealthy and royal Hapsburg banking family of Austria & Hungary - and became 'those damned banking Fuggers'. They were so rich they financed wars for kings, countries and empires. A few people who did not always appreciate the way they did business sometimes called them 'those Goddamned banking Fuggers', or often, simply just 'those Goddamned Fuggers'.

Fuggers survive to this day. Indeed, many non-Fuggers are so awed by Fuggers they will do almost anything to become Fuggers themselves. And, even though they may be named something else like 'Richard B. Cheney' or 'George H. W. Bush', they are nonetheless certifiable, and real, total Fuggers. Thus you will find manifestations of Fuggers in many, many descriptions today, including, but not limited to:

Lawyer Fuggers
Banking Fuggers

Republican Fuggers

Democratic Fuggers

Corporate Fuggers

Greedy Fuggers

Religious Fuggers

Rich Fuggers

Stupid Fuggers

Silly Fuggers

Dirty Fuggers

Mother Fuggers

Other Fuggers

And, this is the literal truth, so help me God!