Friedrich Wilhelm I (Hessen-Kassel)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel

Friedrich Wilhelm I (born  August 20, 1802 in Philippsruhe Palace near Hanau , †  January 6, 1875 in Prague ) was the last elector and sovereign of Hesse-Kassel from the House of Hesse .


Friedrich Wilhelm I was the son of Landgrave and Elector Wilhelm II (1777–1847) and Princess Auguste of Prussia (1780–1841), daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm II. This marriage had come about politically, from the start by violent ones Conflicts marked and soon shattered. After the birth of the youngest daughter in 1806, the spouses lived separately, which was sealed in 1815 by an - initially secret - separation contract. The Elector lived with his lover and later second wife, Countess Emilie von Reichenbach-Lessonitz , and the Electress moved into Schönfeld Palace near Kassel . A circle of opposition to the Elector formed around the Electress , named after the Electress's residence as the “ Schönfelder Kreis ”, to which, in addition to the Electress and Elector Prince, the later leading Minister Ludwig Hassenpflug , the Brothers Grimm and other intellectuals belonged. The relationship between Friedrich Wilhelm and his father was disturbed for so long. This also contributed to the fact that the electoral prince did not enter into a proper marriage, which was probably prevented in part by the argument between the parents. Only shortly before the revolution of 1830 did father and son get closer to each other again.


The elector's family relations were not the best by the standards of the 19th century. During his studies in Bonn he met Gertrude Lehmann, who was married to a Prussian lieutenant , obtained a divorce from her husband and married her in August 1831. She was bourgeois and therefore not befitting and, as a divorcee, unacceptable as the wife of an heir to the throne. After taking office, he made her Countess of Schaumburg and later Princess of Hanau.

From this morganatic marriage emerged (see also Prince of Hanau ):

  1. Augusta (1829-1887)
  2. Alexandrine (1830–1871)
  3. Friedrich Wilhelm (1832-1889)
  4. Moritz , 1st Prince of Hanau (1834–1889)
  5. Wilhelm , 2nd Prince of Hanau (1836–1902)
  6. Maria (1839-1917); she later received the title of Princess of Ardeck
  7. Karl , 3rd Prince of Hanau (1840–1905)
  8. Heinrich , 4th Prince of Hanau (1842–1917)
  9. Philipp (1844-1914)

According to the Hessian house law, the children were not eligible for succession for entails , but were entitled to inherit private assets. Friedrich Wilhelm's endeavors were therefore directed towards increasing this private fortune at any price, even at the expense of public money or his duties as sovereign. So it came about B. 1852 to a government crisis because the elector expected a bribe of 100,000 thalers from the Hanauer Bank Bernus du Fay, which was financing the expansion of the Frankfurt – Hanau railway line of the Frankfurt-Hanau Railway Company in the direction of Kahl and Aschaffenburg , before he received the signed the relevant concession. The leading minister, Ludwig Hassenpflug, then offered to resign, but the elector refused to resign. Even well-meaning biographers have hardly any positive things to say about Friedrich Wilhelm. Contemporaries also describe him as a hesitant, egocentric autocrat. The welfare of the country or that of its subjects were not factors influencing his actions.


Friedrich Wilhelm I, Elector of Hesse, 1862

Friedrich Wilhelm I tended to be arrogant and overconfident, was unconditionally convinced of his divine right and the monarchical principle and, despite all the contradicting events of his reign, was not intellectually capable of critical reflection either. He showed no interest in the duties of a sovereign, but all the more in his princely status and the privileges associated with this position.


In the course of the revolution of 1830, popular anger focused, among other things, on the lover of Elector Wilhelm II, who was said to have had a bad influence on the regent. In the prudish 19th century, this liaison violated the moral standards of the bourgeoisie, the bearers of the revolution, now leading in these questions. In the end, Wilhelm II was faced with the choice of leaving his lover or abdicating. He chose the last alternative, albeit somewhat concealed, by appointing Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm as co-regent on September 30, 1831, but in fact no longer exercising any government business and went to neighboring Frankfurt am Main , i.e. de facto into exile .

Friedrich Wilhelm ruled as Prince Regent from 1831 to 1847 and only after the death of his father in 1847 as Elector until the Prussian occupation of Electorate of Hesse in 1866.

His marriage, which was improper by the standards of the 19th century, weakened his support abroad from the start, and his reactionary political stance weakened support in his own country.

Since the beginning of the reign he tried to remove the Hessian constitution of 1831, which was very liberal by the standards of the time . As regent, however, he did not dare to encroach on the constitution, but instead pursued an anti-liberal, monarchical-legitimist policy that ran counter to the spirit of the constitution.


The second Kurhessian constitution of April 13, 1852
1 thaler from 1855

As ruling sovereign, Friedrich Wilhelm I carried the title: Elector, Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel, Grand Duke of Fulda , Prince of Hanau , Prince of Hersfeld , Prince of Fritzlar , Prince of Isenburg , Count of Katzenelnbogen , Count of Nidda , Count of Diez , Count of Ziegenhain , Count of Schaumburg , etc., etc.

Now, as elector, he also took aggressive action against the constitution of 1831. He appointed the reactionary Ludwig Hassenpflug as leading minister. This let the conflict with the estates - especially with regard to the approval of taxes - escalate to such an extent that the government was unable to act. When the governance of emergency decrees failed because they were unconstitutional and were not recognized by the administration, the courts, and even not even the military , he prompted the German Confederation to intervene : Bavarian and Austrian troops ( called `` penal Bavaria '' by the population ) occupied it land and forced about quartering the obedience of administration and courts. The measures culminated in the fact that Kurhessen was imposed by the German Confederation in 1851 a new, much less liberal constitution. It was not until 1862 that the old constitution came into force again due to external pressure. This attitude made the elector hateful among his own people. For example, the following mocking verse is rumored:

Vivat high the republic!
We have our elector fat.
Because he's
behaving so badly, we want to chase him to hell.

Friedrich Wilhelm was captured in his residence during the Prussian occupation of Kassel during the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and brought to Stettin as a state prisoner on June 23 . In Kurhessen he had a “divorce salute” posted on the same day in which he asked his officials to serve the new masters from now on. After the Peace of Prague and the definitive annexation of Electorate Hesse by Prussia, a treaty was concluded between the latter and the Elector on September 17, 1866 in Stettin, in which Friedrich Wilhelm, without, however, definitely renouncing his sovereign rights, gave his subjects a financial settlement Gave birth to duties to him. The Austrian-oriented politics of the elector and his extreme unpopularity with his subjects meant that the annexation of the electorate by Prussia was generally welcomed in Hesse and the former sovereign, who had disappeared into Bohemian- Austrian exile, was hardly missed.

Exile and death

Seat in exile: Hořovice Castle , Bohemia
Grave of Friedrich Wilhelm I in the old town cemetery (Kassel)

Friedrich Wilhelm lived on his Bohemian estates, Castle Hořovice and his city palace in Prague until his death . In exile he wrote a memorandum on the events of 1866. It begins with the words:

"Two years have passed since a bloody catastrophe brought about the upheaval in German conditions, which, evenly stepping beyond the rights of crowns and peoples, tore the common fatherland apart in the service of dynastic selfishness, cut off the organic drives of a thousand-year development and added structures to theirs Place whose viability and conformity with the wishes and interests of the nation will probably least of all want to be asserted by their own creators. The future still lies behind a dark veil, and every thinker is only aware of this, that unspeakable misery, still hopeless confusion, Germany, indeed all of Europe, lies ahead before the seeds of 1866 are removed, or before what God would forbid, blossom and fruit will be."

Friedrich Wilhelm died in Prague on January 6, 1875. He was buried in his former residence city of Kassel on the hereditary burial site of the House of Hesse next to the Luther Church.

Fideikommiss and the right to the throne fell to the Hessen-Rumpenheim branch line , as the children of Friedrich Wilhelm were not befitting their rank and therefore not entitled to successors under the house law.


Pedigree of Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Hesse-Kassel
Great grandparents

Landgrave Friedrich II. (1720–1785)

Princess Maria of Great Britain (1723–1772)

King Frederick V of Denmark and Norway (1723–1766)

Queen Louise of Denmark and Norway (1724–1751)

Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia (1722–1758)

Princess Luise Amalie of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1722–1780)

Landgrave Ludwig IX. von Hessen-Darmstadt (1719–1790)

Countess Palatine Henriette Karoline von Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1721–1774)


Elector Wilhelm I (1743–1821)

Princess Wilhelmine Karoline of Denmark and Norway (1747–1820)

King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (1744–1797)

Queen Friederike of Prussia (1751–1805)


Elector Wilhelm II. (1777–1847)

Princess Auguste of Prussia (1780–1841)

Friedrich Wilhelm I.

See also


  • Gerd Fenner, Ewald Grothe, Marianne Heinz, Heidrun Helwig: Electress Auguste von Hessen (1789–1841) in her time. Brothers Grimm Society V. Kassel 1995.
  • Ewald Grothe : Electress Auguste of Hessen-Kassel and the Schönfelder Kreis. In: Bernd Heidenreich (Ed.): Fürstenhof and learned republic. Hessian résumés of the 18th century. Hessian State Center for Political Education, Wiesbaden 1997, pp. 53–60.
  • Ewald Grothe: Friedrich Wilhelm I. In: Kassel-Lexikon. Edited by the city of Kassel. Vol. 1. euregio Verlag, Kassel 2009, p. 193 f.
  • Rüdiger Ham: Federal intervention and constitutional revision. The German Confederation and the Hessian constitutional question 1850/52. Self-published by the Hessian Historical Commission Darmstadt and the Historical Commission for Hesse. Darmstadt / Marburg 2004, ISBN 3-88443-092-0 (= sources and research on Hessian history , 138).
  • Walter HeinemeyerFriedrich Wilhelm. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 5, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1961, ISBN 3-428-00186-9 , p. 509 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Friedrich Wilhelm von Hessen: Memorandum of Sr. Royal Highness of the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I von Hessen, concerning the dissolution of the German Confederation and the usurpation of the Electorate by the Crown of Prussia. Prague 1868, ( google book search ).
  • Michel Huberty: L'Allemagne dynastique. Les 15 familles qui ont fait l'empire. Vol. 1: Hesse – Reuss – Saxe. Le Perreux-sur-Marne 1976, ISBN 2-901138-01-2 .
  • Philipp Losch : The last German elector. Friedrich Wilhelm I of Hesse. Marburg 1937.
  • Karl WippermannFriedrich Wilhelm . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 7, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1877, pp. 528-535.
  • The last of his tribe . In: Die Gartenlaube , 1866, Issue 44, pp. 692-696.
  • Two "philosophers" in their solitude . In: The Gazebo . Issue 21, 1867, pp. 335–336 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Frederick William, Elector of Hesse  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ham, p. 435 f.
  2. Robert Nöll von der Nahmer: Bismarck's Reptilienfonds. Mainz 1968, p. 39.
  3. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm von Hessen, memorandum .
predecessor Office successor
Wilhelm II. Elector of Hesse
Kingdom of Prussia