Wildegg Castle was originally built by the Habsburgs but belonged to the Effinger family for eleven generations. At the beginning of the 20th century the castle and estate passed to the Swiss Confederation and since 2011 the complex has belonged to the canton of Aargau.
Wildegg Castle was originally constructed some time after 1200; it changed owners several times and passed into the hands of the Effinger family towards the end of the 15th century. After the family died out in 1912, the castle and estate were taken over by the Swiss Confederation. Since 2011, Wildegg Castle Estate has belonged to the foundation that bears its name.
Under Habsburg rule
Wildegg Castle was built in the first half of the 13th century by order of the Habsburgs. Perched on a ledge with a striking main tower and residential annex, the castle was first mentioned in 1242. It was the seat of a branch of the Habsburg family that belonged to the lower gentry, the stewards of Habsburg and Wildegg. Before 1348 the castle was granted to the Lords of Hallwyl as a fief by the Habsburgs. Thüring I of Hallwyl had the complex elaborately modernised in 1372.
Under Bernese rule
When Aargau was conquered in 1415, Wildegg Castle also fell to the Bernese. The Hallwyls sold the castle in 1437. After various changes of owner it was purchased by the City of Bern. In 1483 it was then sold along with all its lands and rights to Kaspar Effinger, a member of the Aargau gentry.
The Effinger family
Wildegg remained in the possession of the Effinger family for eleven generations until 1912. The Effingers belonged to the lower nobility and appeared in the town of Brugg in the 14th century where several of them were mayors. When they purchased Wildegg, the Effingers also acquired Bernese citizenship rights and were among the ruling families of Bern from 1680.
The castle virtually burned to the ground in 1552 after being struck by lightning. It was then reconstructed in the Late Gothic style. In around 1700 Bernhard Effinger had the castle converted into a Baroque manor house, with extended gardens replacing the demolished fortification structures.
In the 17th century and again in the 19th century the Effingers also owned nearby Wildenstein Castle in Veltheim. However, the last owners in the 19th century preferred to reside in the more comfortable Erlachhaus and at the country house in Wildegg.
Under the ownership of the Swiss Confederation
In 1912 the last in the family line, Julie von Effinger, bequeathed Wildegg and most of its furnishings and lands to the Swiss Confederation. Zurich National Museum turned the castle into a residential museum which has been open to the public since 1917. The castle underwent extensive renovation in 1938 and then again from 2007.
Under the ownership of the canton of Aargau
Since January 1st 2011 the castle and its estate have belonged to the Wildegg Castle Estate Foundation established by the canton of Aargau. Museum Aargau is responsible for running the museum.