Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel

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Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel
coat of arms
Coat of arms of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel (1736–1804)
HK 1789.png
Alternative names Landgraviate of Hessen-Cassel, Hessen-Kassel
Arose from until 1567 Landgraviate of Hesse
Ruler / government Landgrave , from 1803 also elector
Today's region / s DE-HE , DE-RP , DE-NI , DE-TH
Parliament Reichsfürstenrat : 1 virile vote on the secular bank , from 1803 nominally electoral council
Reich register divided into Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt
Reichskreis Upper Rhine Reichskreis wg. Personal union with Grafschaft Schaumburg also includes the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire
Capitals / residences kassel
Dynasties Hesse
Denomination / Religions reformed and Lutheran
Language / n German
Residents 450,000
Incorporated into 1807 (de facto) incorporated into the Kingdom of Westphalia / 1813 (as a legal successor) Electorate of Hesse

The Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel (old spelling: Hessen-Cassel ) was a German imperial principality in the Holy Roman Empire , ruled by the older line of the House of Hesse .

The landgrave was made electoral prince in 1803 ; soon after, people began to withdrawal from the 1806 by Napoleon to the Grand Duchy of Hesse raised Hesse-Darmstadt , the names Electorate of Hesse or short Kurhessen to use for the ruled by the Elector country. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 sanctioned the new name. The country became part of the German Confederation .


Hessen-Kassel around 1720

Creation of the Landgraviate

The Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel was created in 1567 through an inheritance division of the Landgraviate of Hesse . In his will, Landgrave Philip I ordered Hesse to be divided among his four sons in the main marriage. He thus sacrificed the unity of the country to family considerations. Wilhelm IV , who as the eldest son of Philip I would have been the sole heir without a will of division, received about half of the territory including the capital Kassel with Hessen- Kassel . Hessen-Marburg , Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt emerged from the territories of his three brothers . Since the Hessen-Rheinfels line expired in male succession as early as 1583, the territory was divided between Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Darmstadt and Hessen-Marburg. In 1604 the Hessen-Marburg line also died out, so that only the two Landgraviates of Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt were to remain in existence for a longer period of time. The division of Hesse was not overcome until the state of Hesse was founded in 1945.

In the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel, agriculture and handicrafts formed the most important bases of life. Around 1580 there were around 250,000 people in the entire Landgraviate. The rulership and property relations were still based on the medieval feudal system . For secular or spiritual landlords , services and taxes had to be paid. The social position of the individual was determined by birth and family ownership. As the most important landlords, the landgraves increasingly expanded their political and economic power. The Landgraves intervened massively in many areas of life and the economy of the population through an emerging civil service , standing army and ordinances.

Age of denominational tension (1567-1648)

Before the country's division of 1567 was Landgraviate Hessen under Philip I , a Protestant supremacy in the Holy Roman Empire was. It was from here that decisive impulses for the Reformation, such as the Marburg Religious Discussion, emanated. With the division of the state of Hesse, the role of the Protestant leadership was filled by the electorates of Brandenburg , Saxony and the Palatinate . In order to protect himself against the Catholic emperors despite the weakened position, Landgrave Moritz I tried to find a powerful ally outside the empire: In 1602, Moritz visited the French King Henry IV in Paris. The landgrave maintained a close correspondence with the French monarch. His murder in 1610 changed the balance of power in Europe and once again weakened the position of the landgrave. In 1611 Moritz achieved a final diplomatic success before the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) by brokering a treaty between Brandenburg and Saxony .

Shortly before the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, the Landgraviate was marked domestically by a bureaucratisation that considerably strengthened the power of the Landgraves. With the first statistical recording of Hessian places in the land and village registers of the “Economic States”, Landgrave Wilhelm IV's officials and councilors succeeded in determining the state's income and expenditure between 1570 and 1585. As the center of the sovereign administration, the Renthof was expanded in the royal seat of Kassel. With the office building built between 1578 and 1580, Landgrave Wilhelm IV created his own premises for administrative and government purposes. A connection between the city ​​palace and the office building made it possible for the Landgrave to control the institutions directly. Under the successor of Wilhelm IV and second Landgrave of Hesse Kassel, Moritz , the court in Kassel rose to become one of the most important in the empire. Theater, music and alchemy flourished briefly. The Thirty Years War (1618–1648) brought this development to an abrupt end.

After the Thirty Years' War began with the lintel in Prague in 1618 , the initially regional conflict spread to the entire Holy Roman Empire . During the occupation of the imperial general Johann T'Serclaes von Tilly , the population of the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel suffered fighting, looting, rape and murder by soldiers.

Landgrave Moritz came under such military pressure that he also lost some political leeway. In 1604, after the Hesse-Marburg line had died out, he inherited the northern half of the country and introduced the Calvinist faith there against the will of the will of Landgrave Ludwig IV of Hesse-Marburg . This had led to an inheritance dispute between the two Landgraviates of Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt, which inherited the southern half of Hessen-Marburg. Both landgraves claimed the entire former landgraviate of Hessen-Marburg for themselves. Because of the military support of the emperor, Emperor Ferdinand II granted his war ally Ludwig V of Hesse-Darmstadt the entire Marburg region. Because of the occupation of Hessen-Kassel by imperial troops, Landgrave Moritz could not refuse to do so. Hessen-Darmstadt gained the entire Marburg area. In his distress, Landgrave Moritz was the first German prince to conclude an alliance with the Swedish King Gustav Adolf , who intervened on the Protestant side against the imperial troops. After Gustav Adolf's death in the Battle of Lützen in 1632, Hesse was again used as a parade area for imperial troops. Landgrave Wilhelm V (1602–1637) did not join the peace ( Prague Peace (1635) ) between the emperor and the imperial estates , but instead moved with his court to East Friesland .

Because of the poor hygienic conditions in the cities overcrowded by war refugees, the only fortified places, the plague spread throughout the country in 1636 . In Kassel alone, the plague claimed 1,400 victims. By the end of the war, some Hessian areas lost two thirds of their inhabitants. Wilhelm's widow, Landgravine Amalie Elisabeth , a born countess from the Calvinist house of Hanau-Munzenberg , continued his policy of independence. In 1643 she succeeded in concluding a contract of inheritance with Count Friedrich Casimir von Hanau stating that if the House of Hanau died out, the County of Hanau-Munzenberg should fall to Hesse-Kassel; 1736 died with Count Johann Reinhard III. von Hanau the last male representative of the House of Hanau, Hanau-Munzenberg then fell to Hessen-Kassel. In the so-called Hessian War of 1645–1648 , she was finally able to recapture the territories that had been lost to Hessen-Darmstadt in the final years of the war .

The Thirty Years War ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia . This provided that Hessen-Kassel received the area of ​​the Hersfeld Abbey and part of the former Grafschaft Schaumburg . The Calvinism , the Protestant denomination of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, was the Lutheran and Catholic Church equated now.

The contemporary Weidenbaumtaler express the devastating situation in Hessen-Kassel, this country devastated and divided by dynastic and religious turmoil, during the Thirty Years' War.

Consolidation (1648-1730)

Main article for the period 1677–1730 : Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel

Landgrave Karl's marriage policy reached a climax when Prince Friedrich was second to Ulrike Eleonore , sister of the Swedish King Karl XII. , married. When the Swedish monarch died childless on December 11, 1718, the succession to the throne was unclear. The Swedish imperial estates initially designated Ulrike Eleonore as Queen of Sweden. However, she abdicated in 1720 in favor of her husband Friedrich. With his election, Friedrich accepted a constitution that largely restricted his powers. In Sweden, power - unique in Europe at the time - lay with a state parliament, while the monarch assumed a representative function.

In Hesse-Kassel, on the other hand, Landgrave Karl ruled as an absolutist monarch. He succeeded in overcoming the consequences of the Thirty Years' War , especially depopulation, through the settlement of Huguenots and mercantilist economic development. With magnificent baroque buildings such as the Hercules , Octagon and Cascades, he created essential foundations for the later Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe . For financing he also used the income from subsidies ( soldier trade ), for example in 1687 with the loan of troops to the Republic of Venice for use against the Ottomans , which was continued by his successors.

Catholic landgrave

In 1749 the Hereditary Prince Friedrich secretly converted from the Reformed to the Roman Catholic faith in the Principality of Paderborn . This personal decision was fiercely opposed by his family. Friedrich's father Landgrave Wilhelm VIII , who ruled the country in a regency, committed his successor in an act of insurance in 1754 not to affect the Protestant faith in the country and to keep alliance obligations, especially towards Prussia. The county of Hessen-Hanau was separated from Hessen-Kassel and transferred to the son of Frederick II, the later Elector Wilhelm I , with his mother initially exercising the regency for him.

Seven Years War

In the Seven Years' War , Hessen-Kassel fought on the Allied side ( Kingdom of Great Britain , the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg , which is connected to it in personal union , the Kingdom of Prussia and other small German states). The Protestant Allies met the Catholic Landgrave when he took office in 1760 with the utmost suspicion, while the Hesse-Kassel soldiers, trained on the Prussian model, fought successfully against the Catholic French allies of Habsburg .

The Seven Years War brought great hardship to the Landgraviate. The multiple sieges of the state capital Kassel, the numerous skirmishes on the territory and, above all, the looting and foraging by French and Allied troops bled its inhabitants and the country's infrastructure.

American War of Independence

During the American War of Independence from 1776 to 1783, Hessen-Kassel had contractually agreed to hand over 15 regiments, four grenadier battalions, two hunter companies and artillery to Great Britain. It is estimated that Hessen-Kassel provided over 16,000 mercenaries (other sources: 12,000; 19,000) and lost 6,500 of them. The later General Adam Ludwig Ochs estimated that around 1,800 Hessian mercenaries were killed. Many others chose to stay in America after the war or simply defected. Quite a few were taken prisoner, around 1,300 German mercenaries were captured during the Battle of Yorktown alone . Since the overwhelming majority of the German auxiliary troops came from Hesse, the word "the Hesse" is often used synonymously in the USA for all German mercenaries in the War of Independence.

The associated income from the landgrave was largely used to finance the geo-strategically required large standing army and representative facilities and invested in the scientific and artistic development of the country. In this context, the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe , the Wilhelmshöhe Castle there , the Löwenburg and the art collections, which form the core of today's museum landscape in Hessen Kassel , should be mentioned. But the disabled soldiers and their families also received payments, and the Untereustädter Orphanage Foundation in Kassel was able to use the capital stock that had arisen from these payments until the inflation of the 1920s (→  soldier trade under Landgrave Friedrich II. ). For the failed annexation of the Grafschaft Schaumburg-Lippe in 1787 in the Bückeburg dispute, see the article on Wilhelm Graf zu Schaumburg-Lippe .

Electoral dignity

At the same time as the main conclusion of the Reichsdeputation in 1803 and the secularization of the clergy, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel was made elector of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . Therefore, the name Kurhessen or Electorate of Hessen later became common for the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and the other territories of the Landgrave. At the same time, it acquired the city ​​of Volkmarsen, which had previously been electoral Cologne, as well as the newly created principality of Fritzlar from the four electoral Mainz enclaves Fritzlar , Naumburg , Amöneburg and Neustadt .

Kingdom of Westphalia and restitution as Electorate of Hesse

Kurhessen did not join the Rhine Confederation , which was dominated by Napoleon, and tried to remain neutral . Thereupon Napoléon Bonaparte occupied the country and after the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 it was largely part of the newly formed Kingdom of Westphalia . His youngest brother Jérôme moved into residence in Kassel as his king. During the Napoleonic occupation, various revolts against the French government in occupied Kurhessen took place relatively early and repeatedly. The county of Hanau, on the other hand, came under French military administration first, and later became part of the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt . Jérôme fled in 1813, and on November 21 of that year, Elector Wilhelm I returned to Kassel to the cheers of the population:

"Hesse! I call you again by your name. You had lost it, like the name of the Germans; but not loyalty and loyalty to your prince. [...] "

The electoral dignity had already ceased to function in 1806. At the Congress of Vienna, Wilhelm I tried in vain to obtain the title of "King of Chattas " named after the Germanic tribal name of the original Hesse , but he only managed to keep the title of "Elector" and the title "Royal Highness" gain. Hessen-Kassel remained "Landgraviate".

From 1815 the territory of the former Reich Abbey of Fulda came to the Electoral Hesse state as the Grand Duchy of Fulda .

From 1815, Electorate Hesse belonged to the newly created German Confederation as the Electorate of Hesse . The Grand Duchy of Fulda, emerged from the Principality of Fulda, and the principalities of Fritzlar, Hersfeld and Hanau belonged to the state of Kurhessen as a whole. Furthermore, several exclaves were parts of the state of Hesse, in particular the Grafschaft Schaumburg (around Rinteln ) on the Weser (since 1640) and the rule Schmalkalden (since 1360/1583) in what is now Thuringia , but also the five small exclaves court Katzenberg (from 1802 / 03), Amt Dorheim (1736–1806 and again from 1816), Laubach (until 1836), Barchfeld (as part of the Schmalkalden rule) and Schöttlingen (as part of the Schaumburg county).

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 , and Graf zu Schaumburg, etc., etc.

Economy, society and administration


Kassel , city view from the Topographia Hassiae by Merian (1655)

With 4780 inhabitants, the royal seat of Kassel was the largest city within the Landgraviate in 1575, followed by Schmalkalden with 3940, Eschwege with 3300 and Hofgeismar with 2400 people. The cities had their own legal constitution and - unlike the villages - had wall and market rights . Citizenship was linked to running one's own household and was therefore not granted to all residents of a city. The possibility of political participation in the city council was dependent on the social position and the material wealth of the family. The urban autonomy was limited more and more by the landgraves. The princely town order of 1572 stipulated that all resolutions of the city council also had to be approved by the local mayor . The guilds , associations of urban craftsmen, also had to be approved by the sovereign. Guild letters regulated the economic and social coexistence of the craftsmen (working conditions, prices, financial support in the event of serious illness, etc.).


The villages, which were not surrounded by a stone wall, formed - like the cities - their own legal association with their own administration. The office of village chief, the so-called grebe , was usually held by the wealthiest farmer, while people without land or house ownership were not allowed to take part in community meetings. The houses of the poorer villagers combined stalls and living quarters under one roof. Up until the 19th century, farmers could only dispose of the land they cultivated to a limited extent, as it was the property of the respective landlord . Compulsory labor had to be done for these . In addition, contributions in kind (e.g. tithing to the church) and fees (e.g. rent, taxes) were the rule. Up until the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), rural building densified.


As a medium-sized German principality, Hessen-Kassel had its own army , which in the 18th century regularly exceeded a strength of more than 10,000 men.


Table of the Landgraves of Hessen-Kassel (from 1803 electors)
Reign Ruler comment
Landgrave Wilhelm IV , called the Wise
Wilhelm's youth was shaped by the religious conflicts between his father Philip I and Emperor Karl V. After Philip's capture in 1547, Wilhelm entered the government at the age of 15. Against the will of his father, he went to the field in the prince revolt of 1552 against the emperor and enforced the release of Philip. After the death of Philip I of Hesse , the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel was created by dividing the estate. The modernization of the administration goes back to Wilhelm IV . In order to record the state's income and expenditure, population censuses were carried out for the first time in cities and villages. The Landgrave ordered the introduction of the potato in Hesse. He even described their preparation and taste. He also went down in history as an important patron of astronomy. The instruments of his observatory, which are among the earliest of their kind, are now on display in the orangery .
Landgrave Moritz , called the scholar
Transferred a quarter ( Rotenburger Quart ) of the country to the sons of his second wife, who thereby established the Landgrave's subsidiary lines Hessen-Rotenburg , Hessen-Wanfried and Hessen-Rheinfels (younger line).
Landgrave Wilhelm V , called the permanent one
Died as an enemy of the empire, ostracized by the emperor and the empire.
Landgrave Wilhelm VI.
After the death of Wilhelm V, his widow Amalie Elisabeth took over the regency of her son Wilhelm VI. On September 25, 1650, the Landgravine handed over the office to the adult son.
1663-1670 William VII After the death of Wilhelm VI. his widow Hedwig Sophie ruled the country until their sons Wilhelm and Karl came of age . Wilhelm died before he took over government and was inherited by his brother Karl.
Landgrave Karl
Initially, his mother ruled as guardian for five years.
1730-1751 From 1720 King of Sweden ; de facto, therefore, his younger brother, Wilhelm VIII ruled.
1751-1760 Ruled from 1730 as governor of his brother.
Landgrave Friedrich II.
Converted secretly to the Catholic faith. Enlarged the army considerably and let England fight 12,000 men against the North American colonies for subsidy payments from 1776 to 1784.
Landgrave Wilhelm IX.
Ruled in the county of Hanau from 1760 , until 1764 through his mother, Landgrave Maria, as guardian. He received the title of Elector as Elector Wilhelm I in 1803 with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss . From 1807 to 1813 had to give way to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia .

coat of arms

  • Heart shield: in blue a gold crowned and armored lion divided ten times by silver and red. ( Landgraviate of Hesse )
  • Main shield: divided twice, split above and in the middle, split twice below
  1. Principality of Hersfeld (former abbey, 1648 to Hessen): a red patriarchal cross in silver.
  2. Grafschaft Ziegenhain (1450 to Hesse): divided by black over gold, above a six-pointed, silver star.
  3. County Katzenelnbogen : (1479 to Hessen): in gold a blue crowned, red lion.
  4. Grafschaft Diez : (1479 to Hessen): in red two striding golden leopards on top of each other.
  5. Grafschaft Nidda : (1450 to Hessen): divided by black over gold, above two eight-pointed silver stars.
  6. Principality of Hanau (preserved in 1736 after the Counts of Hanau died out): A square with a heart sign.
    1. The heart shield is divided from red to gold ( rule of Munzenberg ).
    2. Field 1 and 4: In gold three red rafters on top of each other (County Hanau),
    3. Field 2 and 3: Eight times divided by red and gold ( Grafschaft Rieneck ).
  7. Grafschaft Schaumburg (1648 to Hessen): In red, a small plate divided by silver over red, surrounded by a silver nettle leaf .

See also


Web links

Commons : Landgrafschaft Hessen-Kassel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Topographia Hassiae  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Hessen / Landgrafen / give with each other 50. to Roß / 260. on foot / or to Gelt 1640. fl. Of which in the Nuremberg repartition 1093. fl. 20 kroner of the Casselian; vnd 546th fl. 40th Kr. of the Darmstättischen Lini / been attributed. quoted according to directory / Deß Heyl: Roman Empire / Teutscher Nation / most laudable: high: and Wol-laudable estates / after the toe Reichs-Craissen /
  2. ^ Herbert Rosendorfer, Gert Heidenreich: German history - an attempt . Volume VIII: The Century of Prince Eugene . Herbig, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-7844-4190-0 , pp. 16 .
  3. a b Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger: The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation: From the end of the Middle Ages to 1806 . Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-53599-2 , pp. 18 .
  4. Hans Schneider: Philip the Magnanimous and the Reformation in Hesse: collected essays on the Hessian Reformation history (=  sources and representations on the history of Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous . Volume 7 ). Elwert, Marburg 1997, ISBN 3-7708-1092-9 , pp. 38 .
  5. Jutta Bäumel: Moritz the learned .: A renaissance prince in Europe. S. 127 .
  6. a b Evangelical clergy in the early modern period. Their share in the development of early modern statehood and society: illustrated using the example of the Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and the city of Braunschweig . In: Sources and research on the history of the Reformation . tape 62 . Kaiser, Gütersloh 1996, ISBN 3-579-01730-6 , pp. 47 .
  7. The fiancé of the later Landgravine Amalie Elisabeth von Hessen-Kassel , the Bohemian aristocrat Albrecht Jan Smiřický von Smiřice , who died prematurely in 1618, played a key role in the lintel .
  8. ^ Gerhard Petri: The military system of Hessen-Kassel in the time of Landgrave Wilhelm V and Landgravine Amalie Elisabeth 1627–1649 . Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn 1996, p. 128 .
  9. ^ Fritz Rudolf Künker: 300 rarities from Hessen, The Mercator Collection . 2012, p. 101 .
  10. Veit-Jakobus Dieterich: Martin Luther: His life and his time . dtv Verlagsgesellschaft, 2017, ISBN 978-3-423-43136-1 , p. 121 .
  11. ^ Tryntje Helfferich : The Iron Princess: Amalia Elisabeth and the Thirty Years War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2013
  12. Barbara Beck: The great rulers and regents: From the early Middle Ages to the present . Marix-Verl., Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-86539-978-6 , pp. 98 .
  13. ^ Hans Philippi: Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel, 1654-1730 . 1980, ISBN 978-3-87822-079-4 , pp. 12 .
  14. The mistrust of the Catholic Friedrich was also deep among the Allied commander-in-chief Ferdinand von Braunschweig: “I cannot […] withhold the fact that the Landgrave of Hesse has consistently protested against every siege, and I suspect that his ministry was underhanded deliberately prevented the complete completion of the fortress works [of Kassel ]. ”See letter to Robert d'Arcy, Erl of Holdernesse of August 1, 1760. In: Commemorative publication on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Warburg on July 31, 1760, P. 31.
  15. ^ Max von Eelking: The German Auxiliary Troops in the North American War of Liberation. Hanover 1863. (English translation from 1893: The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence, 1776–1783. In  the  text archive - Internet Archive ).
  16. See also blood dollars with a contemporary report on rented soldiers as well as money paid by the English crown to Friedrich II. Von Hessen-Kassel.
  17. Winfried Dotzauer: The German Imperial Circles (1383-1806) . Steiner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-515-07146-6 , pp. 330 ( ).
  18. Volker Knöppel: The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803 and the end of clerical rule in northern Hesse. In: Yearbook of the Hessian Church History Association , vol. 55 (2004), p. 129 ff.
  19. ^ Beginning of the proclamation of the Elector of November 5, 1813, quoted from: C. Renouard.
  20. ^ Günter Hollenberg: Kurhessen as revenant - The term Kurhessen since the end of the Kurstaats. In: Journal of the Association for Hessian History and Regional Studies , Volume 108, Kassel 2003, ISSN  0342-3107 , pp. 49–58.
  21. Manfred Lasch: Studies on the population and economy of the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and the city of Kassel: from the Thirty Years War to the death of Landgrave Karl in 1730: a contribution to the history of German mercantilism . S. 68 .