House Nassau

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Family coat of arms of the Counts of Nassau (Ottonian line)
Family coat of arms of the Counts of Nassau (Walramic line)

The house of Nassau was a widely ramified German noble family of European importance, whose beginnings go back to the 11th century . The house was divided into a northern and a southern main line in the 13th century and into numerous other lines since the late Middle Ages . The southern line was the result of the Roman-German King Adolf von Nassau, elected in 1292 .

William the Silent of Nassau-Dillenburg , Prince of Orange , from the northern main line, headed the Dutch independence movement in 1568. Since then, during the Eighty Years' War with Spain and thereafter, the Nassau-Orange have been the governors of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces , with some interruptions . One of them, Wilhelm III. of Orange , rose to the throne of England , Scotland and Ireland from 1689 to 1702 . After the older Nassau-Orange line died out with him in 1702, the Nassau-Dietz line, as the Younger House of Orange, provided the inheritance holders of the Netherlands from 1747 and the kings of the Netherlands from 1814/15 .

The Dutch Nassauer died out in the male line in 1890 and ruled in the female line until the abdication of Wilhelmina in 1948. The current Dutch royal house was then continued through further female lines of succession.

From 1806 the Nassau family from the Weilburg line made the ruling dukes of the German Duchy of Nassau , but lost it to Prussia in 1866. In 1890, however, they inherited the throne of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , which was previously linked to the Dutch throne in personal union, as there was no provision for female succession in Luxembourg . Subsequently, the Nassau-Weilburgers provided the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg until the death of Wilhelm IV of Luxembourg , with whom the Nassau mansion became extinct in 1912 , and with his daughters it ruled in a female line until 1964. After that it was also continued through descendants of the female line. However, the members of the Luxembourg house, like the members of the Dutch royal family, still have the Nassau prince title in their name.


Nassau County in 1645

Dudo von Laurenburg , named in 1093, is the presumed progenitor of the house. The castle Laurenburg , a few kilometers upriver from Nassau on the Lahn located, the rule based on sex, previously believed to be the place was Lipporn . In 1159 Nassau Castle became the seat of the family that has named themselves after this castle ever since.

The Counts of Laurenburg and Nassau expanded under the brothers Arnold I of Laurenburg (1123–1148) and Ruprecht I (1123–1154), his son Walram I (1154–1198) and Walram's son Heinrich II the Rich ( 1198–1247) steadily their property in the area between Taunus and Westerwald on the lower and middle Lahn . Before 1128 they received the Bailiwick from the Worms Monastery , which owned numerous rights in the area, via the Weilburg Walpurgis Monastery and thus created a connection between their inheritance on the lower Lahn and their property around Siegen . Around the middle of the 12th century, this connection was strengthened with the acquisition of the so-called Hessian-Thuringian imperial fiefs, namely the Herborner Mark , the Kalenberger Zent and the Heimau ( Löhnberg ) court. Closely connected with this was the " rule of the Westerwald ", which also came into Nassau possession at this time. At the end of the 12th century, the Reichshof Wiesbaden, an important base in the southwest, was acquired.

Heinrich II's sons Walram II and Otto I divided their land into two parts and their house into two lines, which are named after them Ottonian and Walramian lines . The boundary line was essentially the Lahn, with Otto receiving the northern part of the country with Siegen , Dillenburg , Herborn and Haiger and Walram, the part of the county south of the river with Weilburg and Idstein . The division contract is called Prima divisio . Both lines were divided many times over the next few centuries (see below).

Since there were no male ancestors, the royal heads of state of the Netherlands have been in the female line of the Ottonian line since 1890, the grand ducal heads of state of Luxembourg since 1912 in the female line of the Walram line. Both ruling houses are in the tradition of the House of Nassau, which legally provides the head of state in both states, and still use his name.

coat of arms

Coat of arms from Scheibler's coat of arms book

The coat of arms of the House of Nassau are derived from the coat of arms of the French region Franche-Comté .

Ancestral coat of arms of the Ottonian line

In the blue shield, sprinkled with gold shingles , a gold lion with red armor ; On the helmet with blue-gold covers a black flight , covered with an upturned silver sloping beam, which is covered with golden linden leaves, which hang down from gold wickerwork above the beam, through whose mesh the flight feathers are stuck. (From the 16th century, the wickerwork was no longer shown.)

Ancestral coat of arms of the Walram line

In the blue shield, sprinkled with gold shingles, a golden lion with red armor (since the 15th century also crowned red or gold); on the helmet with blue and gold covers two blue buffalo horns sprinkled with gold shingles, between which the golden, red armored and red crowned Palatinate lion has been sitting since 1353 .

On the occasion of the legacy conferences, including the Nassau Heritage Association, between the two main lines, it was decided in Bad Ems in the summer of 1783 that the Nassau lion should be reinforced in red and crowned red. Regardless of this, today, as in the large and medium-sized coat of arms of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau , or the later province of Nassau , it is crowned gold in the royal Dutch coat of arms as in the grand-ducal Luxembourg coat of arms .

The Ottonian Line (1255-1890)

After Count Otto's death in 1289, the Ottonian line was initially run jointly by his sons and divided into 1303

The older Dillenburger and the Bredaer, later the Orange Line

Nassau-Dillenburg acquired under Johann I (1362-1416) through the marriage of his eldest son Adolf in 1386 the county of Diez , 1403/1404 through the marriage of his younger son Engelbert I with Johanna von Polanen (1392-1445), numerous goods on Lower Rhine , especially Breda , de Lek , Oosterhout and Niervaart . The Nassau house became one of the largest landowners in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1417 Engelbert also inherited the county of Vianden from an aunt and Nassau-Dillenburg and half of the county of Diez from his brother Adolf in 1420. During the reign of his son John IV (1442–75) the focus of the rule shifted more and more to the Dutch possessions. These fell to his son Engelbert II (1475–1504), while brother Johann V (1475–1516) received Dillenburg. Since Engelbert left no heirs, his nephew, Johann V's son Heinrich III , followed him . (1504–38), who was able to considerably expand Nassau's influence in the Netherlands . By marrying Claudia von Chalon and Orange , he acquired the Principality of Orange in southern France; their son Renatus (1519–44) was the first Nassauer to carry the sovereign title of “Prince of Orange”.

Wilhelm I of Nassau (1545–1584) - founder of the Netherlands - statue in front of the market church in Wiesbaden

Heinrich's brother Wilhelm , called the Rich (1516–1559), inherited the Dillenburg region and introduced the Reformation there until 1536 . When the Breda line became extinct again, the oldest Dillenburg prince took over the inheritance there. This was Wilhelm's son Wilhelm I ( the silent one ) (1545–1584), the "Wilhelmus von Nassauen" of the folk song of the same name and the later Dutch national anthem. As governor of the Netherlands, he and his sons Philipp Wilhelm (1609–1618), Moritz (1618–1625) and Friedrich Heinrich (1625–1647) led them to independence during the War of Liberation from 1568 to 1648 and achieved independence with his great-grandson Wilhelm III. , the "last Orange", in 1688 the English crown. His Dutch legacy fell to the Nassau-Diez line (see below).

The younger brother of William of Orange, John VI. , called the elder von Dillenburg (1559–1606), was able to reunite the entire Ottonian ancestral lands in his hand after the older Beilstein line had expired in 1561. In 1584 he founded the Reformed High School in Herborn, which was important for a long time . After his death, however, the land was divided again and the lines were created

  • Nassau-Hadamar, younger line (1607–1711), Catholic 1629, prince in 1650, divided in 1711, entirely to Diez in 1743
  • Nassau-Siegen , (1607–1623), 1623 divided into
    • Nassau-Siegen, Reformed line (1623–1734), princes in 1664, falls to Siegen (Catholic)
    • Nassau-Siegen, Catholic line (1623–1743), prince 1652, 1743 to Diez
  • Nassau-Dillenburg (1607–1620), inherited from Beilstein
  • Nassau-Beilstein, younger line , from 1620 Nassau-Dillenburg, younger line (1607–1739), prince in 1652, to Diez in 1739, and
  • Nassau-Diez (1607-1890)
Coat of arms of the House of Orange ( Dutch royal family )

The Nassau-Diez line and the House of Orange

The Nassau-Diez line begins with Johanns VI. Son Ernst Casimir (1607–1632), who was governor of Friesland from 1620 and of Groningen and Drente from 1625 . He stayed almost exclusively in the Netherlands, as did his successors Wilhelm Friedrich (1632–1664), who was raised to the rank of imperial prince in 1655, Heinrich Casimir (1664–1696) and Johann Wilhelm Friso (1696–1711). The latter was in 1702 by Wilhelm III. appointed general heir of the Orange line by England ; from 1713 his descendants bore the title "Prince of Orange "; from 1747 they were inheritance holders of the United Provinces and from 1815 kings of the Netherlands , from 1815 to 1890 also grand dukes of Luxembourg .

In 1806 they lost control of their German lands when the united principalities of Diez, Dillenburg, Hadamar and Siegen fell to the Napoleonic Grand Duchy of Berg and in the Congress of Vienna to the Walram line of Nassau-Weilburg (see below). The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg received the Ottonian line as compensation. The line died in 1890 with King Wilhelm III. (1849-1890) in the male line, which led to the accession to the throne of the Weilburg line in Luxembourg, but the Dutch throne was inherited in the female line and the members of the Dutch royal family lead, in addition to the Dutch prince title, to this day also the title prince or princess of Orange-Nassau .

The Walram Lineage (1255-1912)

Small throne seal of King Adolf of Nassau from 1298

Walrams II. Son Adolf von Nassau (1277-1298), who was crowned German king in 1292, came from the Walram line . He was followed by his sons Ruprecht VI. (1298-1304) and Gerlach I. (1305-1361). In 1328 the rule of Merenberg fell to the house , and in 1353 the county of Saarbrücken was married.

In 1355 the line of Gerlach's sons Adolf I (1344-1370), Johann I (1344-1371) and Ruprecht VII (1361-1390) was divided into:

  • Nassau-Sonnenberg (1355–1405) fell in 1405 in equal parts to Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein and Nassau-Weilburg-Saarbrücken
  • Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein (1355–1480), again divided into 1480
    • Nassau-Idstein, older line (1480–1509), fell to Nassau-Wiesbaden in 1509
    • Nassau-Wiesbaden (1480–1605), inherits Idstein in 1509, fell to Nassau-Weilburg in 1605
  • Nassau-Weilburg-Saarbrücken (1355–1442), 1442 again divided into
    • Nassau-Saarbrücken, older line (1442–1574), divided 1547–1559, fell to Nassau-Weilburg in 1574
    • Nassau-Weilburg, older line (1442–1627)

Count Philip III. (1523–1559) introduced the Reformation in 1526 to his dominion. The Saarbrücker line fell back to Weilburg in 1574 and so Philip III. Grandson Ludwig II (1593–1627) in 1605, with the inheritance of the Wiesbaden-Idsteiner line, reunite all Walram lines in his hand. After his death, however, the land was divided again, and the lines were created:

  • Nassau-Idstein, younger line (1629-1721), fell to Nassau-Ottweiler in 1721
  • Nassau-Saarbrücken, younger line (1629–1640), 1640 divided into
    • Nassau-Saarbrücken (1640–1723), fell to Nassau-Ottweiler in 1723
    • Nassau-Ottweiler (1640–1728), inherited Nassau-Idstein in 1721, Nassau-Saarbrücken in 1723, fell to Nassau-Usingen in 1728
    • Nassau-Usingen , (1640–1816), prince in 1688, inherited Nassau-Idstein, Nassau-Ottweiler and Nassau-Saarbrücken in 1728, was again divided into 1735
      • Nassau-Usingen-Saarbrücken (1735–1797), fell to Nassau-Usingen in 1797
      • Nassau-Usingen (1735–1816), duchy in 1806, united with Nassau-Weilburg and inherited from this in 1816
  • Nassau-Weilburg , younger line (1629–1912)

The younger Weilburger line and the Duchy of Nassau

In 1688, under Johann Ernst (1675–1719), the line received the dignity of prince, which, however, was only accepted in 1739 by his son Karl August (1719–1753).

His grandson Friedrich Wilhelm von Nassau-Weilburg (1788-1816) united his country with Nassau-Usingen in 1806 to form a single state, which he ruled together with Friedrich August von Nassau-Usingen (1803-1816). In the same year the two states joined the Confederation of the Rhine , with Friedrich August receiving the ducal dignity as head of the house. His residence was moved from Usingen to Biebrich to his summer residence at Schloss Biebrich as early as 1744 . After the death of Friedrich Wilhelm, his son Wilhelm moved his residence from Schloss Weilburg to Biebrich. Until the completion of the city palace in Wiesbaden in 1841, it remained the main residence of the Nassau princes and dukes. After that it was again only used as a summer residence until 1866.

Coat of arms of the Duchy of Nassau

The Duchy of Nassau , established in 1806, was compensated considerably for the loss of the left bank of the Rhine (Saarbrücken) to France. In 1813 and finally in the Congress of Vienna , the principalities of Nassau-Diez , Nassau-Hadamar and Nassau-Dillenburg were added to the Orange Line, which meant that for the first time since 1255 all German Nassau countries - with the exception of Nassau-Siegens - were reunited in one hand. Heir to both of the remaining Walram lines - the Usinger and the Weilburger - was Wilhelm von Nassau-Weilburg, who became regent of the duchy as Wilhelm I (1816–1839). The seat of government was Wiesbaden, which had been the Usingische residence since 1734. Wilhelm's son Adolph (1839–1866), however, lost his country after the German War in 1866 through annexation to the Kingdom of Prussia , because he had sided with the (defeated) Austrian side during the war.

After the male line of the House of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands became extinct, Adolph, who was dethroned in Nassau, became Grand Duke of Luxembourg in 1890 on the basis of a contract of inheritance concluded in 1783 . In 1912, with the death of his son Wilhelm IV (1905–1912), the Walram line also went out in the male line of equal men, but the descendants of the Nassau-Weilburg line continue to rule over the female line of succession . Wilhelm had six daughters who were baptized Catholics by their mother, the Portuguese Infanta Maria Anna von Braganza, like most of the Luxembourg population. Grand Duchess Charlotte , daughter of William IV, married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma . Today the Luxembourg princely family is called "Luxembourg-Nassau from the House of Bourbon-Parma ". As a result of the global economic crisis , the grand ducal family also got into financial difficulties, which is why Charlotte was forced to sell the Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg and Berg Castle to the Luxembourg state in 1934, which in return granted her appropriate housing rights; Furthermore, in 1935 she sold the old Nassau residential castles in Weilburg and Biebrich to the Prussian state and most recently in 1953 the Bavarian Hohenburg Castle in Lenggries .

In September 2010, the succession to the throne of the Family Pact of 1783 was reorganized so that in future the firstborn will ascend the throne, regardless of whether it is a son or a daughter. Today's Grand Duke Henri bears the title “Duke of Nassau”, the children of his younger brother Jean , who renounced his right to heir to the throne in 1986, no longer carry the title of Prince of Luxembourg, according to a grand ducal decree of November 27, 2004, but only the titles and Name Prince / Princesse de Nassau with the salutation "Your Royal Highness".

A morganatic branch line of the ducal house of Nassau has been the Counts of Merenberg since 1868 , who in 1907 claimed the succession to the throne in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the inheritance claim to the private assets of the ducal house of Nassau.

See also


  • Pierre Even, Luxembourg-Nassau dynasty. From the Counts of Nassau to the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg . Luxembourg, 2000
  • Hellmuth Gensicke, Regional History of the Westerwald . Wiesbaden, 1999
  • Johann Heinrich Hennes, History of the Counts of Nassau: Until 1255 , Volume 1, 1842, digitized , digitized
  • Ernst Münch : History of the House of Nassau-Orange . 3 vols., Mayer, Aachen and Leipzig 1831–1833.
  • FW Theodor Schliephake , History of the Counts of Nassau: from the oldest times to the present, based on documented source research , 1867, Volume 1 Volume 2
  • Family tables on the history of European states , New Series. Frankfurt

Web links

Commons : Haus Nassau  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Bernhard Peter: The Isenburg Castle in Offenbach, Upper Gallery, Part 2 (6 coats of arms)
  2. ^ Hugo Gerard Ströhl , Deutsche Wappenrolle , reprint of the original edition Julius Hoffmann Verlag Stuttgart 1897, Komet Verlag Köln undated (around 2008), ISBN 3-89836-545-X , p. 22, or Otto Hupp , Munich calendar 1896
  3. A detailed description of the seal can be found on Wikisource in The Seal of the German Emperors and Kings , Seal of Otto I, No. 3
  4. ^ New arrangements for the succession to the throne ( Memento of January 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive )