Through the centuries, the dynasty acquired vast swathes of land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria, though in all cases, these territories were held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, to whom several Liechtenstein princes served as close advisors. Thus, and without any territory held directly under the Imperial throne, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet, the Reichstag.
The family yearned greatly for the added power which a seat in the Imperial government would garner, and therefore, searched for lands to acquire which would be unmittelbar (non-intermediate), held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor himself having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and countship of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz possessed exactly the political status required, no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.
Thereby, on 23 January 1719, after purchase had been duly made, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed Vaduz and Schellenberg were united, and raised to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It is on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. Ironically, but as testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases, the Princes of Liechtenstein did not permanently live in their new principality for over 200 years, moving only in 1938 into the Alpine territory.
The Prince of Liechtenstein has broad powers, which include the appointment of judges, the dismissal of ministers/government, veto power and the calling of referenda; a national referendum to adopt Hans-Adam's revision of the constitution to expand his powers passed in 2003. The changes also included a republican option, whereby the Prince was henceforth formally barred from vetoing any bill to establish a republic, but the Prince can veto any other law. In addition, the right to secede of the parishes that make up the Principality was recognised. Prince Hans-Adam had threatened that he and his family would move to Austria if the referendum had failed. Despite opposition from Mario Frick, a former Prime Minister, the Prince's referendum motion was carried by the electorate. Opponents accused Hans-Adam of engaging in emotional blackmail to achieve his goal and constitutional experts from the Council of Europe branded the event as a retrograde move. In 2012, a proposal to revoke the Prince's veto powers was rejected by 76% of voters in a referendum.
On 15 August 2004 Prince Hans-Adam II formally turned the power of making day-to-day governmental decisions over to his son Prince Alois, as a way of transitioning to a new generation. Formally, Hans-Adam remains Head of State.