Prince Carl of Leiningen, cofounder and first president of the Adelsverein, son of Prince Emich Carl II and Marie Luise Victoria (née Princess of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld and Duchess of Saxony), was born on the royal family estate in Amorbach, between Mannheim and Würzburg, Germany, on September 12, 1804. After receiving his basic education from private tutors he attended a private school in Bern, Switzerland. From 1821 to 1823 he studied law at the University of Göttingen. During these years he spent his summer vacations in England with his mother, by then the Duchess of Kent, and with his younger half sister, Princess Victoria, the future queen of Great Britain. From 1823, when he assumed the hereditary reign over the small territory of Amorbach, until 1840, Prince Carl was not politically active. He devoted himself chiefly to the administration and development of his domains, to the construction of Waldleiningen, a new residence, and to his young family.
On April 20, 1842, he was among the twenty-one noblemen who, at Biebrich on the Rhine, near Mainz, formed an association for the purpose of purchasing land in Texas and directing German emigration there, the so-called Adelsverein. At this meeting he was elected president of the organization. The prince did not personally play an active role in the affairs of the society, however, for by 1844, when the group had been reorganized into a stock company, he had already accepted the presidency of the Bavarian Imperial Council. He held this post until 1848, dividing his time chiefly between Amorbach and Munich. During this time, in 1847, a small settlement of German immigrants was being established in Texas on the north bank of the Llano River; it was named Leiningen in honor of the president of the society. By 1848, because of the reforms he had worked to achieve as president of the Bavarian Imperial Council and because of his political essays, Prince Carl had gained in Germany the reputation of a liberal and progressive thinker. Among the reforms he had advocated for Germany were the introduction of the parliamentary system of government and the abolition of aristocratic privilege. As a result, on August 5, 1848, while the National Assembly was meeting in Frankfurt am Main, he was offered the presidency of the first Ministry of the Reich. He resigned this post after only a month, however, when Prussia demonstrated its disregard for the federal authority in Frankfurt by unilaterally concluding an armistice with Denmark. Leiningen's resignation marked also the end of his active participation in politics, for he became convinced that his efforts for the unification of Germany were futile. In February 1851 he resigned also as president of the Adelsverein. His successor, Prince Herman of Wied, was elected by the membership on May 12, 1851. On November 13, 1856, Leiningen died of a stroke at Waldleiningen, near Amorbach. Leiningen, a rural Lutheran community in Llano County, Texas, still bears his name.