Karl (Hessen-Kassel)

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Landgrave Karl of Hessen-Kassel

Karl von Hessen (born August 3, 1654 in Kassel ; † March 23, 1730 ibid) was from 1670 to 1677 under the tutelage of his mother and then ruling Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel until his death . He came from the House of Hesse and was one of the most important princes of the Baroque period. In his long reign from 1677 to 1730 the ruler succeeded in giving the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel a respected position in the Holy Roman Empire .

Its historical importance can be traced back to four areas: First, Charles was one of the first German princes to invite Protestant religious refugees from the Kingdom of France , so-called Huguenots , to settle. Second, in the spirit of mercantilism, it promoted manufacturers and trades, supported the processing of local mineral resources and restricted the importation of competing products. Third, Charles created a standing army and participated in the military defense of the Holy Roman Empire in the War of the Spanish Succession against the France of Louis XIV and in the Great Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire . Fourth, structural highlights in the royal seat of Kassel, such as Hercules , the marble bath and the orangery, marked Karl's reign. Charles 'measures contributed to the fact that the landgraviate could recover relatively quickly from the consequences of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).

Life until the assumption of power

Karl came from an important dynasty: the landgrave family was related to the most influential Protestant princely families in Northern and Central Europe because of their marriage policy . There were close ties in particular to the electorates of Brandenburg and Saxony , but also to the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden. The highlights of the dynastic rise were the marriage of Charlotte Amalie , a sister of Charles, to the later Danish King Christian V in 1667 , and in 1720 the acquisition of the Swedish royal dignity by Hereditary Prince Friedrich , a son of Charles. Karl was born on August 3, 1654 in Kassel.

As the second of four sons of Landgrave Wilhelm VI. von Hessen-Kassel and his wife Hedwig Sophie von Brandenburg (1623–1683), a sister of the Great Elector , Karl was initially not intended for the succession to the throne. Hereditary Prince was Karl's older brother Wilhelm VII. After the death of Wilhelm VI. In 1663 Hedwig Sophie von Brandenburg took over the reign of the heir to the throne Wilhelm VII. However, when he died in 1670 before he took over the government, the Landgrave, supported by advisors, led the guardianship of her second son Karl until 1677.

Karl as the ruling landgrave

Since he took over the affairs of state himself in 1677 at the age of 23, the obligatory Grand Tour was not required for him . This trip was usually used to establish contacts with the royal courts of Europe, to impart court manners and diplomatic knowledge, to learn foreign languages ​​such as French and to get to know the art, architecture and culture of other countries. Perhaps the concerns of the mother Hedwig Sophie von Brandenburg , who had lost her son Wilhelm VII on such a trip, had contributed to this.



The Catholic King of France, Louis XIV (reign: 1643–1715), strived not only for political unity but also for religious unity of the state. A gradual disenfranchisement of the French Protestants, the so-called Huguenots , followed from 1679 open persecution. Dragoons of the French king occupied the houses of the Huguenots in order to convert them to Catholicism by force. On October 18, 1685, Louis XIV proclaimed the Edict of Fontainebleau . In twelve short paragraphs, the edict resolved the destruction of Protestant churches, the prohibition of private worship and the galley penalty for men and imprisonment for women who refused to change their faith. Faced with the loss of their civil rights, many Huguenots tried to flee.


Several German imperial princes , including Landgrave Karl, offered the religious refugees admission in their own countries out of religious solidarity and economic policy considerations. After all, the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel had lost up to two thirds of its inhabitants in some regions during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). In order to facilitate the settlement of the refugees, Karl assured them benefits and support. Even before the Edict of Fontainebleau , on April 18, 1685, he issued the "Freedom Concession". In it, Charles promised the Huguenots not only limited tax and guild exemption, but also free religious practice with pastors of their choice. French was allowed to be spoken in churches and schools.

Former Huguenot settlement : Sieburg (renamed Karlshafen in 1717 )

From 1685 the Landgraviate accepted the second most refugees after Brandenburg-Prussia with around 3800 Huguenots . However, many of the immigrants were penniless farmers or artisans, some of whom had to be settled in 17 newly established villages with the support of government aid measures. Successfully producing Huguenot specialty trades, especially in the textile sector, emerged mainly in some cities. However, the hoped-for increase in the country's economic power largely failed to materialize. This can also be seen in the development of the city of Karlshafen , founded in 1699 , which was only able to partially fulfill its intended function as a factory, trading and port city. The Landgrave planned a canal between Karlshafen and Kassel for duty-free movement of goods . He wanted to circumvent the Hanoverian customs and stacking law in Hannoversch Münden . The canal silted up during Karl's lifetime and was shut down after a few kilometers. In addition, the start-up lacked financial and technical resources. After the Landgrave's death, the Karlshafen city project finally stalled.

From 1688 the Landgrave founded Oberneustadt, which is adjacent to the city of Kassel to the southwest . He advertised with far-reaching privileges : all building materials such as wood, stone, lime and sand were to be delivered free of charge. Anyone who built a plot of land should enjoy 10 years tax exemption. Eternal tax exemption was promised to those who procured materials at their own expense and used 8,000 to 10,000 thalers to build their houses. The privileges also contained regulations for the external design of the Oberneustadt, e.g. B. for the plastering and painting of the facades, the sewer system and the clean paving of the streets.


With a state-controlled economic policy, so-called mercantilism , the princes of the 17th and 18th centuries tried to increase the productivity of their countries. The measures included the export of domestic products and the limitation of the importation of foreign goods, e.g. B. through tariffs. According to contemporary ideas, the money would remain in the country's economic area and increase the purchasing power of the population. The development of so-called manufactories went hand in hand with mercantilism . In contrast to the crafts that had hitherto been organized mainly in guilds , different professional groups were brought together in order to produce certain finished products in one place and in larger quantities.

The landgrave's glassworks Altmünden

In the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel, with its rich deposits of jasper, and the Altmünden glassworks , gem processing and glass production were the main options for founding manufactories . Karl called the Swiss glass crystal cutter Christoph Labhart and glassmaker Franz Gondelach to his court for glass production . With the establishment of a grindstone mill in the castle moat, glass grinding reached a heyday in Kassel from the beginning of the 1680s. Karl's recruitment of specialized craftsmen and artists also improved the processing techniques in the Altmünden glassworks. Iron dies and models were used to cast and press the glass, which enabled the glass to be preformed in series and saved material. High-quality luxury goods such as glass and gemstone testified to the capabilities of the territory and thus contributed to the sovereign's political reputation.

In 1680 the landgrave founded the fourth German faience factory . Faience was reddish ceramic with mostly blue-white glaze that was supposed to imitate Chinese porcelain. It was made for courtly personal use or as a gift for other princes. In the long run the manufactory proved to be unprofitable and was dependent on the financial support of the landgraves.

On behalf of the Landgrave, the Messinghof was built in 1679 , one of the first metalworking companies in Hesse. Between 1714 and 1717 the goldsmith Johann Jacob Anthoni made the twenty-two copper plates for the statue of Hercules in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe here .

Foreign Policy and Military Development

Ruins of the Rheinfels fortress

Charles's scope for action in foreign policy was limited by Reich law. Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, imperial princes were allowed to enter into alliances for their own protection, but these were not allowed to be directed against the Holy Roman Emperor and the Holy Roman Empire . Another reason for Karl's foreign policy loyal to the emperor was that he hoped that Emperor Joseph I would raise his rank to elector . This upgrading would have given him greater foreign policy sovereignty. Since the electors chose the emperor, they were able to make important political demands in advance. As an imperial prince , Karl did not have this valuable opportunity . With the military support of the emperor, the landgrave believed that he could induce the emperor to grant him the electoral dignity.

A more powerful army also seemed suitable to save the country from an occupation like in the Thirty Years War . For these two reasons, Karl built up a standing army from the beginning of his reign . In 1688, during the War of the Palatinate Succession (1688–1697), he was able to provide around 9,000 well-trained soldiers of the Imperial Army . The background to the conflict was that the French King Louis XIV , citing alleged inheritance claims of his sister-in-law Liselotte of the Palatinate, made an advance against the Holy Roman Empire . For years, Karl personally led parts of his army in the fight against the French troops. He was also involved in the military success of the defense of the Rheinfels fortress against the French siege in 1693. He later had this event glorified on numerous medals.

In order to be able to offset the financial burdens in times of peace, he, like other princes of his time, lent soldiers for high subsidies to warring powers, for example in 1687 to the Republic of Venice for use against the Ottomans . Without this option, Karl would only have been able to raise his army in times of war, but even then he had to ask the allied warring powers, the Netherlands and England, to bear part of the army costs. The soldier trade improved the landgrave's finances, but did not increase the prosperity of the population, which on the contrary was affected by the recruitment .

In the War of the Spanish Succession and in the campaigns against the Ottoman Empire , Hessian troops fought partly under the leadership of Karl's sons, three of whom died in the war. The landgrave himself did not take part in the campaigns. Another event served as a model for Karl: In 1692, the Emperor elevated Ernst August , Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg , to electoral prince of Hanover. In 1707, in the middle of the War of the Spanish Succession, Karl took the first concrete steps to obtain the electoral dignity. His envoys tried to use bribes to wrest the so-called Privilegium de non appellando from the emperor . Such a privilege would have meant that subjects in the territory of the Landgraviate-Hessen-Kassel could no longer appeal to a judicial authority of the empire that was still above the court of the landgrave. Thus, for example, the Reichshofrat in Vienna could no longer interfere in the internal affairs of the Landgraviate. The Reich Vice Chancellor, Friedrich Karl von Schönborn , advised the Emperor not to allow the Reich justice system to be restricted any further. Charles's attempt to become elector finally failed. The electoral dignity for the sovereigns of the Landgraviate Hessen-Kassel could only Wilhelm IX. reach in 1803.

In 1685 Karl left the former Vogtei Kreuzberg with the Kreuzberg monastery, which was abolished after the Reformation , to his younger brother Philipp as Paragium . This small dominion was called the Landgraviate of Hessen-Philippsthal after the Philippsthal Palace, which was then built on the basis of the former monastery of Philipp in Kreuzberg (today: Philippsthal ) .

Culture and science

Architecture in Kassel

As an absolutist ruling monarch, Karl had to demonstrate his claim to rule over foreign princes, embassies and his subjects with a magnificent baroque architecture. He decided not to build a new palace, although there were certainly plans for this and the existing city ​​palace of Kassel was partially refurbished. Rather, however, Karl's new building projects were located at the gates of the royal seat of Kassel.

From 1696 the landgrave began work on a huge baroque park above the old hunting lodge Weißenstein , which was to compete with Versailles , the residence of the French Sun King, Louis XIV . The park on Karlsberg, which later became the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe am Habichtswald in the west of Kassel , was intended to testify to the political and economic importance of the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel .

Karl began a four-month trip to Italy in order to get ideas for the fountains he was planning on the Karlsberg. Since he had not yet undertaken a grand tour , contrary to the usual practice at the European royal courts, the landgrave wanted to finally satisfy his great interest in antiquity with a trip to Italy in December 1699 . The landgrave visited churches, art collections, palaces and gardens. On February 1, 1700, Charles saw the life-size sculpture Hercules Farnese in the Roman Palazzo Farnese . The figure was to serve as a template for the Kassel Hercules 14 years later . The mythological figure of Heracles has embodied the virtues of a just, wise and strong ruler since the Renaissance . By creating a line of sight between Hercules and the Weißenstein hunting lodge, Karl identified himself symbolically with the Greek demigod Hercules, with which he wanted to emphasize his special qualities as a ruler. Such a princely staging was typical of the Baroque period . At the same time, the water flowing down the mountain via the cascades was intended to demonstrate Karl's rule over nature: As an absolutist prince, he imposed his monarchical order on even wild and unpredictable nature. In 1701 Karl called the Italian architect Giovanni Francesco Guerniero from Rome to Kassel. Guerniero designed caves and cascades that should have reached today's Wilhelmshöhe Palace . In its place, the landgrave planned a castle in the Italian style. For financial reasons, Karl was never able to realize the planned castle. Only the upper third of the water features went into operation in 1714. The fountains with Hercules and Octagon have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013 .

Cascades below the Hercules in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
The marble bathroom

Under Karl's rule, the Moritzaue near the city was extensively expanded into the Karlsaue , which still exists today , and the orangery was built. In 1718 Karl commissioned the marble bath . The sculptures required for this were to be made by the French sculptor Pierre-Étienne Monnot , who was called to Kassel from Rome as early as 1714 . The landgrave got an impression of Monnot's artistic abilities by asking him to present him with wax models of the planned marble reliefs. Only after completion and his personal appraisal of the work in 1722 did Karl approve the costly transfer of sculptures by the sculptor from Rome to Kassel, which Karl had only seen as sketches. The representation room of the marble bath was never used for bathing, but testified to Charles's taste in art and high level of education in ancient mythology . Like Hercules and the trick fountains, it served only Charles's self-expression. In 1729 Karl led the English King and Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Hanover) Georg II into the marble bath.

Landgrave Karl's living quarters in the Kassel City Palace, which burned down in 1811 , consisted of the baroque sequence of rooms, which included an anteroom, bedroom, cloakroom and cabinet. In the context of courtly ceremonies, they were assigned a graduated meaning. The further the ambassador or prince was admitted, the higher his rank. The anteroom was the most public, the cabinet the most exclusive.

science and education

In order to be able to run his state centrally , the landgrave was dependent on a well-qualified civil service. For this purpose, Karl introduced compulsory schooling in the Landgraviate by decree on February 1, 1726 . Reading, writing, praying, and singing should be taught. Even if the state was only able to fully enforce compulsory schooling around 100 years later, the lessons were already so popular that neither teachers nor classrooms could cope with the rush.

At the instigation of the historically interested landgrave, the first archaeological excavations began in 1709 on the Mader Heide .


As a devout Calvinist, Karl wanted his subjects to attend church services on Sundays or take part in other religious ceremonies. For this reason, on February 28, 1672, Karl issued the so-called Sabbath Order, a general ban on sales on Sundays, which was valid for all squares and streets in Kassel. However, later ordinances with the same content show that the residents did not put up with the decreed interventions of the landgrave in their everyday life. Already on May 21, 1683, Karl issued the "Order against the desecration of prayer, festival, celebration, Sabbath and Sunday".


Moritz Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1572–1632)
Wilhelm V Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1602–1637)
Agnes zu Solms-Laubach (1578–1602)
William VI. Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1629–1663)
Philipp Ludwig II of Hanau-Münzenberg (1576–1612)
Amalie Elisabeth von Hanau-Münzenberg (1602–1651)
Katharina Belgica of Orange-Nassau (1578–1648)
Karl Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel
Johann Sigismund Elector of Brandenburg , (1572–1620)
Georg Wilhelm Elector of Brandenburg (1595–1640)
Anna of Prussia (1576–1625)
Hedwig Sophie of Brandenburg (1623–1683)
Friedrich IV. Elector of the Palatinate (1574–1610)
Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (1597–1660)
Luise Juliana of Orange-Nassau (1576–1644)


Karl was married to Amalia von Kurland (1653–1711), daughter of Duke Jakob Kettler von Kurland, and had the following children with her:

  • Wilhelm (1674–1676)
  • Karl (1675–1677)
  • Friedrich (1676–1751), Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, King of Sweden
⚭ 1. 1700 Luise of Brandenburg (1680–1705)
⚭ 2. 1715 Queen Ulrike Eleonore of Sweden (1688–1741)
⚭ 1704 Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1675–1713)
⚭ 1717 Dorothea Wilhelmine of Saxony-Zeitz (1691–1743)
⚭ 1709 Prince Johann Wilhelm Friso von Nassau-Dietz (1687–1711)
⚭ 1720 Friederike Charlotte of Hessen-Darmstadt (1698–1777)

Secondary relationships

After the death of his wife in 1713 he had a secondary relationship with Jeanne Marguerite de Frere, Marquise de Langallerie , from whom a son emerged, Charles Frederic Philippe de Gentil, Marquis de Langallerie, who died early; In the same context, Karl secured the financial existence of the children that the mistress brought with her.

Mistress and confidante after the Marquise de Langallerie was Barbara Christine von Bernhold (1690–1756), who rose to Grand Courtmaster under Karl's son Wilhelm VIII and in 1742 was raised to Imperial Countess by Emperor Karl VII .


  • Ilgen:  Karl . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 15, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1882, pp. 292-296.
  • Hans Philippi: Landgrave Karl of Hessen-Kassel. A German Prince of the Baroque Era (Publications of the Historical Commission for Hesse, 34), Marburg, 1976
  • Hans Philippi:  Karl. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 11, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-428-00192-3 , pp. 227-229 ( digitized version ).
  • Pauline Puppel: The regent. Guardianship in Hesse 1500–1700, Frankfurt / Main, 2004 (pp. 236–277)

Web links

Commons : Karl von Hessen-Kassel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Wolfgang Eichelmann: Hessian coins and medals: Thoughts and reflections on coins and medals of the House of Brabant. ISBN 978-3-86991-060-4 , pp. 134 .
  2. ^ Barbara Dölemeyer: The Huguenots . 2006, ISBN 978-3-17-018841-9 , pp. 101 .
  3. ^ Hessian coins and medals: Thoughts and reflections on coins and medals of the House of Brabant . ISBN 978-3-86991-060-4 , pp. 150 .
  4. Franziska Franke: World Heritage Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe the Hercules . Ed .: mhk. S. 25 .
  5. a b Ulrich Niggemann: Huguenots . ISBN 978-3-8252-3437-9 , pp. 29 .
  6. ^ Huguenots and German territorial states. Immigration policy and . ISBN 978-3-486-58181-2 , pp. 71 .
  7. Carsten Vorwig: peasants, men, prefabricated houses: House Research as social history . ISBN 978-3-8309-3157-7 , pp. 95 .
  8. Volker Press: Urbanism and Mercantilism in Central Europe . Böhlau-Verlag GmbH, ISBN 978-3-412-00382-1 , p. 161 .
  9. ^ Hans Philippi: Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel, 1654-1730 . ISBN 978-3-87822-079-4 , pp. 16 .
  10. ^ Wolfgang Adam: Handbook of cultural centers of the early modern period: Cities and residences in the old German-speaking area . ISBN 978-3-11-029559-7 , pp. 1053 .
  11. Dietmar Hoos: 111 places in Kassel that you have to see: travel guide . Emons Verlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3-95451-854-8 .
  12. ^ Daniel Fischer: 1618–1648 - Fateful Years of Europe: Thirty Years War and Peace of Westphalia . S. 33 .
  13. ^ A b Ludolf Pelizaeus: The long and stony path from Hessen-Kassel to the highest imperial dignity. VHG-Verein für Hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde eV Kassel, May 25, 2017, accessed on May 25, 2017 .
  14. ^ A b Hans Philippi: Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel, 1654–1730 . 1980, ISBN 978-3-87822-079-4 , pp. 12 .
  15. Jürgen Hotz: The Brockhaus Atlas on History: Epochs, Territories, Events . Brockhaus, 2005, p. 195 .
  16. ^ Hans Philippi: Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel, 1654-1730 . S. 30 .
  17. Helmut Sander: The Hercules Building in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe: a contribution to the history of monument preservation and the change in its methods and goals . Verlag Thiele & Schwarz, January 1, 1981, p. 169 .
  18. Franziska Franke: World Heritage Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe the Hercules . S. 26 .
  19. a b Martin Grassnick: The architecture of the modern age . ISBN 978-3-528-08683-1 , pp. 70 .
  20. ^ Karlheinz Kopanski: The marble bath in the Kassel Karlsaue: a late Baroque total work of art with important sculptures and reliefs by Pierre Etienne Monnot . ISBN 978-3-7954-1582-2 , pp. 6 .
  21. ^ Wolf von Both: Landgrave Wilhelm VIII .: von Hessen-Kassel, a prince of the Rococo period . 1964, p. 86 .
  22. Manfred Lasch: Studies on the population and economy of the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and the city of Kassel: from the 30 Years War to the death of Landgrave Karl in 1730: a contribution to the history of German mercantilism . S. 202 .
predecessor Office successor
William VII Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel
Friedrich I.