Electorate of Hesse

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Electorate of Hesse
Federal state of the
German Confederation
coat of arms flag
Hessian coat of arms 1815–1866 Flag of Kurhessen
State capital kassel
Form of government monarchy
Head of state Elector (from 1803)
dynasty House of Hessen
Consist 1814 - 1866
surface 9,370 km²
Residents 754.100 (1865) [1]
Population density 81 inhabitants / km² (1865)
Arose from Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel / Kingdom of Westphalia
Incorporated into Prussian Province of Hessen-Nassau
Kurhessen with the regions of Schmalkalden and Schaumburg 1815–1866

Electorate of Hesse , also Kurhessen for short , was the name in common use from 1815 for the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel , whose sovereign was raised to the rank of elector (titular elector ) in 1803 . In a broader sense, the Electorate of Hesse or the Electorate of Hesse referred to the entirety of the territories ruled by the Elector, which were then only placed under a uniform administration with the administrative reform of 1821. Dissolved by Napoleon in 1807, most of the area became part of the Kingdom of Westphalia , the electorate was restituted by the resolutions of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 and was then a member of the German Confederation until the annexation by Prussia in 1866 . In historical studies it is often called Hessen-Kassel to distinguish it from Hessen-Darmstadt .


Electorate Hesse around 1803


The Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel was created in 1567 through an inheritance division of the Landgraviate of Hesse after the death of Landgrave Philip I of Hesse , the magnanimous . Philip's eldest son, Wilhelm IV , received about half of the territory including the capital Kassel with Hessen- Kassel . The legacy of the fraternal lines of Hessen-Marburg and Hessen-Rheinfels fell within a generation to Hessen-Kassel and the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt after they died out .

Last years in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

Coat of arms of the Electorate of Hesse 1803–1806

Simultaneously with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss completed in 1803 and the secularization of the clergy, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, Wilhelm IX. , raised to the rank of Elector (Wilhelm I) of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . From this personal rank increase the term managed Electorate of Hesse or Kurhessen for the entities it controls areas from which were brought but not until 1821 under a single management. The imperial principality, to whose ruler the electoral dignity was tied, was still the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel, and if the line Hessen-Kassel expired, the electoral dignity would pass to the Darmstadt branch of the House of Hesse . However, there was nothing left for the new elector to vote: the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation dissolved three years later.

The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss also brought the new elector territorial gain. These included the Electoral Mainz enclaves Amöneburg , Neustadt , Fritzlar and Naumburg in Upper and Lower Hesse ( Marburg and Kassel area ) as well as the Katzenberg court on the northern edge of the Vogelsberg , which were united in the so-called Principality of Fritzlar and came to Hesse-Kassel, as well as the former Fulda offices of Salmünster , Ulmbach , Herolz and Romsthal and the Electoral Mainz villages of Großkrotzenburg and Großauheim . The formally still existing pledge of the empire over the imperial city Gelnhausen was given up in favor of the elector. The landgrave had actually owned the city since the Hanau inheritance in 1736. In 1806 the Counts of Degenfeld put the Ramholz court under the sovereignty of the elector.

Elector Wilhelm I did not join the Rhine Confederation , which was dominated by Napoléon , and tried to remain neutral . Before the beginning of the Fourth Coalition War , he negotiated an alliance with Prussia without result, but after the French attack on Prussia declared the neutrality of the Electorate of Hesse in complete misunderstanding of his situation. Napoléon then occupied the country and, after the Peace of Tilsit in 1807, almost completely added it to the newly formed Kingdom of Westphalia of his brother Jérôme by decree of August 18, 1807 .

Electoral Hesse as a state of the German Confederation

After the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, Kurhessen was restituted. Elector Wilhelm I tried in vain at the Congress of Vienna to obtain the title of "King of Chatti ", named after the Germanic tribal name of the original Hessians . He kept the title “Elector”, but was now allowed to be called “Royal Highness”. In addition to the Landgraviate of Hesse and the former County of Ziegenhain, the principalities of Fritzlar , Hanau and Hersfeld belonged to the state of Kurhessen as a whole . Furthermore, several exclaves belonged to the territory of Kurhessen, such as the Grafschaft Schaumburg (around Rinteln ) on the Weser (since 1640) and the rule Schmalkalden (since 1360/1583) in today's Thuringia .

In 1816 the territory of the former prince-bishopric of Fulda came under the sovereignty of the elector as the Grand Duchy of Fulda and about half of the part of the principality of Isenburg north of the Main and from 1822 became part of the state of Hesse . The title of the ruling prince was now: Elector and sovereign Landgrave of Hesse, Grand Duke of Fulda, Prince of Hersfeld, Prince of Hanau, Prince of Fritzlar and Prince of Isenburg, Count of Katzenelnbogen , Count of Dietz , Count of Ziegenhain, Count of Nidda , Graf zu Schaumburg etc. The Principality of Isenburg, ceded by Austria to the Grand Duchy of Hesse in mid-1816, was divided between the two Hessian sovereigns on the day of the handover on the basis of a territorial compensation agreement. Kurhessen gained about half of the area of ​​the north of the Main part of the (imperial) principality of Isenburg (Isenburg-Birstein), which existed until 1806, namely the courts of Langenselbold and Reichenbach (Birstein), and the Ysenburg counties ( Ysenburg-Büdingen-Meerholz) , the courts of Gründau and Meerholz , as well as of Ysenburg-Büdingen-Wächtersbach the courts of Wächtersbach and the place Wolferborn ).

Domestic politics

The Estates building in Kassel was the meeting place for the Estates from 1836

Elector Wilhelm I pursued a policy of revision aimed at undoing much of what had been introduced during the Napoleonic era. An external formal sign of this was that the wig with braid was reintroduced in the military and at court.

Both Wilhelm I, but above all his two successors, Wilhelm II and Friedrich Wilhelm , repeatedly came into conflict with the economically strengthened bourgeoisie . There were violent revolutionary outbreaks in both 1830 and 1848 - and in the course of the July Revolution of 1830 - with the leading participation of Marburg constitutional lawyer Sylvester Jordan - the Electoral Hesse constitution of 1831 : one of the most progressive constitutional constitutions in Europe. A key point was the creation of the Hessian Estates Assembly . Both times, after the revolution had subsided, the electors and the conservative governments they appointed struck back with reactionary policies. The most famous head of government was Ludwig Hassenpflug , who was twice (1832–1837, 1850–1855) Minister of the Interior and Justice . The constitution has been broken and repealed.

In 1850 the constitutional conflict of the Electorate of Hessen broke out . The elector Friedrich Wilhelm succeeded in repealing the liberal constitution, but only at the cost of the intervention of foreign troops, the so-called " penal Bavarians ", as the own military refused to follow suit. In addition, by taking this step, he completely lost the trust of the bourgeoisie. In addition, the Hessian electors had a “maitressenwirtschaft” that was unsustainable for the conditions of bourgeois morality and sharp generational conflicts that damaged the reputation of the monarchy . Wilhelm I had numerous children with at least three maitresses . Wilhelm II had left his wife, the Prussian princess Auguste , and lived with the commoner Emilie Ortlöpp (who later raised him to Countess von Reichenbach-Lessonitz). Friedrich Wilhelm had married Gertrude Lehmann, who had divorced an officer because of him; she later became Countess von Schaumburg and Princess Hanau von und zu Hořowitz.


The economy of the spa state was dominated by agriculture. The only area that experienced an early industrialization was the southernmost part of the country, the principality of Hanau , since 1821 the province of Hanau with the two cities of Bockenheim (from 1886 part of the urban district of Frankfurt am Main) and Hanau . The different economic dynamics, the different orientation, more towards Frankfurt am Main and southern Germany, meant that there were pronounced oppositional tendencies in each of the numerous crises in the electoral state. A role here was played by the fact that in 1841 the north German thaler currency was finally extended to the entire Kurhessian area and the southern state border became the currency border opposite the gulden area. Then there was the failed structural policy of the government in Kassel. So took place z. For example, the development of the railway system is much too late and hesitant. In addition, the government decided to favor the first north-south connection of the railroad from Kassel to Frankfurt via the Grand-Ducal Hessian province of Upper Hesse , the Main-Weser Railway , instead of opting for the route via Fulda and Hanau (later Frankfurt -Bebra Railway ). Fulda remained without a railway connection until the time of the Prussian annexation.

Annexation by Prussia

Kurhessen was on the Austrian side in the German War and was thus one of the losers. It was occupied and annexed by Prussia in 1866. Even before the conclusion of the Peace of Prague on August 23, 1866 and two days before the creation of the North German Confederation, the Prussian King Wilhelm announced on August 16, 1866 to both houses of the Prussian state parliament the intention of Hanover, Hessen-Kassel, Nassau and the city of Frankfurt Main to unite forever with the Prussian monarchy. Both houses were asked to give their constitutional approval. The corresponding bill stipulated that the Prussian constitution should come into force on October 1, 1867 in the aforementioned territories. The law adopted by both houses of the Prussian state parliament was signed by the king on September 20, 1866 and then published in the collection of laws.

The population of Kurhesse did not offer any resistance worth mentioning to the annexation. In the run-up there had already been efforts and contacts on the part of the Hessian bourgeoisie in order to operate this process, to support it and to get rid of the unloved elector. This went into exile in Bohemia . Prussia annexed the electoral state, the Duchy of Nassau , the Hesse-Darmstadt district of Biedenkopf ( Hessian hinterland ) and the Free City of Frankfurt . After minor adjustments to the border with the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt (both also on the losing side of the war) , it united them in 1868 to form the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau , in which the former Electorate of Hesse was merged into the Kassel administrative region, which was formed in 1867 . In 1944 , the province of Kurhessen was formed from this, but without the districts of Schmalkalden , Hanau , Schlüchtern and Gelnhausen .

State of Hesse

On September 19, 1945, the former province of Hessen-Nassau merged into the newly founded state of Greater Hessen , which changed its name to Hessen in 1946 .

Administrative division

On August 21, 1821, Kurhessen was divided into four provinces and 22 districts for administrative purposes . The two provinces of Lower Hesse (capital: Kassel ) and Upper Hesse ( Marburg ) were located in the north-west of the country. In the south-east was the province of Fulda , which emerged from the prince-bishopric of Fulda , with the exclave formerly belonging to the county of Henneberg , the district of Herrschaft Schmalkalden , and to the south of this , the province of Hanau, formed from the former principality of Hanau . The counties of the four provinces were:

The counties Grafschaft Schaumburg and Schmalkalden were located as exclaves outside the main territory on what is now Lower Saxony and Thuringia .

Linked to this administrative reorganization was the separation of the judiciary from the administration . For the now independent courts, see the list of courts in the Electorate of Hesse .

On October 31, 1848, the Hessian provinces and districts were abolished. They were replaced by nine districts and 21 administrative offices (based on the now only 21 districts):

  • Eschwege (administrative offices Eschwege and Witzenhausen)
  • Fritzlar (Fritzlar, Homberg and Ziegenhain)
  • Fulda (Hünfeld and Fulda)
  • Hanau (Gelnhausen, Hanau and Schlüchtern)
  • Hersfeld (Hersfeld, Melsungen and Rotenburg)
  • Kassel (Hofgeismar, Kassel and Wolfhagen)
  • Marburg (Frankenberg, Kirchhain and Marburg)
  • Rinteln (Rinteln, i.e. Schaumburg)
  • Schmalkalden (Schmalkalden)

On September 15, 1851, this reform was reversed and the administrative structure from 1821 was restored. This district division was retained even after the annexation by Prussia. Most of the districts created in 1821 existed until the regional reform in Hesse in the 1970s (from 1945 in Greater Hesse and later in Hesse as districts).

The Hessian electors

Reign Elector  comment
1785-1821 Wilhelm IX./I. Ruled in the county of Hanau since 1760 , until 1764 through his mother, Landgrave Maria, as guardian; 1803 received the title of Elector with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss and became Elector Wilhelm I .; had to give way to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia from 1806 to 1813; had since the Congress of Vienna - like all other sovereigns in the German Confederation - the personal title "Royal Highness".
1821-1847 Wilhelm II. Fled from Kassel in 1831 and left the business of government to his son (formally as a "co-regent").
1847-1866 Friedrich Wilhelm Ruled (in fact alone, but also formally) for his father from 1831 and went into exile after the Prussian annexation in 1866; died there in 1875 without leaving an heir entitled to the throne.

coat of arms

The great coat of arms of the Electorate of Hesse

Blazon: The large coat of arms of the Electorate of Hesse shows a shield that is split twice and split twice, the second and eighth field of which is again divided across. The fields contain the following coats of arms:

1. Grand Duchy of Fulda (received from Prussia in 1815): a faceted black cross in silver

2a. Above - Principality of Hanau (preserved in 1736 after the Counts of Hanau died out): the field is square and covered with a central sign. The middle shield, divided by red and gold, is the coat of arms of the Munzenberg rule . The first and fourth quarters show the coat of arms of the County of Hanau: three red rafters in gold on top of each other. The second and third quarters show the coat of arms of the County of Rieneck : eight-fold red and gold stripes.

2 B. below - County Katzenelnbogen (1479 to Hessen): in gold a red lion crowned in blue.

3. Principality of Hersfeld (former abbey, 1648 in Hessen): a red patriarchal cross in silver .

4. Grafschaft Ziegenhain (1450 to Hessen): divided by black over gold, above a six-pointed, faceted silver star.

5. Landgraviate of Hesse: in blue a crowned, gold-armored lion, tenfold cross-striped in silver and red.

6. Grafschaft Nidda (1450 to Hessen): divided by black over gold, two eight-pointed, faceted silver stars on top.

7. Principality of Fritzlar (formerly Kurmainzische enclaves, 1803 to Hessen-Kassel): in blue a floating golden high cross.

8a. above - Grafschaft Diez (1479 to Hessen): two golden leopards in red on top of each other.

8b. Below - Grafschaft Schaumburg (1648 to Hesse): In red, a small label divided by silver over red, surrounded by a silver jagged edge ( nettle leaf ).

9. Principality of Isenburg (1816 to Kurhessen): two black crossbars in silver.

A royal crown (since 1815, as Elector Wilhelm I) rests on the shield held by two forward-looking, single-tailed, golden lions crowned by a king. Under the coat of arms are the Hessian Military Order of Merit (Pour la vertu militaire) , the House Order of the Golden Lion and the Order of the Iron Helmet .

Continuation of the name Kurhessen

The term "Kurhessen" is still used today as a regional name, for example in the name Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck , which roughly encompasses the old territory of Kurhessen including the Schmalkalden exclave and Waldeck . The old name can also be found in the Kurhessen-Therme or the Kurhessenbahn .

See also


  • Otto Bähr : The earlier Kurhessen - A history picture . Brunnemann, Kassel 1895.
  • Karl Ernst Demandt : History of the State of Hesse . Bärenreiter, Kassel 1972, ISBN 3-7618-0404-0 .
  • Ewald Grothe : Electorate . In: Kassel Lexicon . Edited by der Stadt Kassel, vol. 1. euregio, Kassel 2009, ISBN 978-3-933617-39-2 , pp. 360–362.
  • Harald Höffner: Kurhessens Ministerialvorstand the constitutional period 1831-1866 . Dissertation. Giessen 1981.
  • Philipp Losch : History of the Electorate of Hesse. 1803-1866. Elwert, Marburg 1922; Reprint: Hamecher, Kassel 1972, ISBN 978-3-920307-07-7 .
  • Gregory W. Pedlow : The landed elite of Hesse-Cassell in the nineteenth century . In: Ralph Gibson, Martin Blinkhorn (Eds.): Landownership and Power in Modern Europe . HarperCollins Academic, London a. a. 1991, ISBN 0-04-940091-6 , p. 111 ff.
  • Carl Renouard: The Kurhessen in the campaign of 1814. A contribution to the Hessian war history . Hugo Scheube, Gotha 1857.
  • Christian Starck : The Hessian constitution of 1831 within the framework of German constitutionalism . kassel university press, Kassel 2007, ISBN 978-3-89958-255-0 . Full text (PDF; 7.4 MB)
  • Karl-Hermann Wegner: Kurhessen's contribution for today's Hesse (= Hesse. Unity from diversity. 5), Wiesbaden 1999.
  • Georg Horn: From the last days of Kurhessen , in Die Gartenlaube , Heft 22, S. 364-366

Web links

Commons : Kurfürstentum Hessen  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Puchert: The Hessian Spessart. (= Series of publications by the Bieber Forest Culture History Museum. 3 = Notices from the Hessian Forest Administration. 23). Frankfurt a. M. 1991, p. 35.
  2. ^ Karl Ernst Demandt : History of the State of Hesse. Kassel 1972, p. 545
  3. ^ Johann Ludwig Klüber (ed.): Imperial Austrian patent due to the transfer of sovereignty over various princely and countly Isenburg courts to Kurhessen; also the sovereignty over the other parts of the territory that were united under the name Fürstenthum Isenburg, over the Count's Schönborn rule Heusenstamm , the baronial-grandiose rule Eppertshausen , the Count-Ingelheim town Obererlenbach and the count-Solmese half of the town Niederursel, Hesse, to the Grand Duke of Offenbach , July 9, 1816, No. XXXVII., In: Johann Ludwig Klüber State Archives of the German Confederation . Volume 1. (JJ Palm and Ernst Enke), Erlangen 1816, pp. 419-421 books.google.de
  4. ^ Excerpt from the secret advice protocol, because of the inclusion of the title of Prince of Isenburg in the electoral title of December 31, 1816 . In: Collection of laws etc. for the Kurhessischen states. Year 1816. - No. XXI. - December. kurhess GS 1816, p. 179
  5. ^ Convention Territorial entre le Grand Duc de Hesse et Electeur de Hesse . - Signèe à Francfort sur Mein, le 29 Juin, 1816. British and Foreign State Papers 1815-1816, Volume 3, Compiled by the Librarian and Keeper of the Papers, Foreign Office, James Ridgway and Sons, Piccadilly, London 1838, pp. 812-819; (mostly in German) books.google.de ; also printed in Grindaha, issue 26, Geschichtsverein Gründau e. V., Gründau 2016 ISSN  2194-8631 pp. 4–12 with comments by Norbert Breunig
  6. ^ The paper money of the Electorate of Hesse. Methods of Government Borrowing in the 19th Century. Inaugural dissertation to obtain the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the Department of History and Cultural Studies at the Philipps University of Marburg, presented by Andreas Kaiser, Marburg 2003 , page 15f
  7. Hellmut Seier : Hanau and Kurhessen in the mirror of Vormärz and its historical awareness. For the 150th anniversary of the Hanau History Association . In: Hessisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte. 45, 1985, pp. 129-162.
  8. ^ Provincial correspondence of September 12, 1866: The expansion of the Prussian state territory quoted from: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Amtspresse Preussens.
  9. ^ Law on the unification of the Kingdom of Hanover, the Electorate of Hesse, the Duchy of Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt with the Prussian Monarchy of September 20, 1866 ( Prussian GS) 1866, p. 555 ff.