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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
coat of arms
Blason Nassau-Dillenbourg.svg
Blaeu 1645 - Nassovia Comitatus.jpg
Nassau around 1645 in the north the sub-counties Siegen and Dillenburg

Arose from Nassau county
Ruler / government Count , Prince

Parliament a virile vote in the Imperial Council (since 1654)
Reichskreis Lower Rhine-Westphalian
Capitals / residences Siegen , Dillenburg
Dynasties House Nassau
Denomination / Religions Catholic until 1520 , Protestant
after 1520 , Calvinist from 1579 , acquisition of Catholic territories in 1717

Language / n German
surface 240 km² (18th century)
Residents around 50,000 (early 17th century)
Incorporated into risen in Nassau-Diez (1739)

Nassau-Dillenburg was a territory in the Holy Roman Empire and a line of the House of Nassau . The history of the territory is marked by numerous divisions and changes of ownership. Their regents were imperial counts . Since 1654 they belonged to the imperial princes .


After 1255, the county of Nassau split into the so-called Walramsche and Ottonian lines. Otto I was the founder of the Ottonian line . Dillenburg was one of the latter. This area was of economic importance because of its iron ore deposits.

When King Adolf von Nassau pledged the Ratzenscheid mine near Wilnsdorf in Siegerland and the other mines in their area, in which silver could be extracted, to his cousins Heinrich , Emich , Johann and Otto on February 26, 1298, the Counts of the Ottonian line had already acquired the very lucrative Bergregal in their domain.

In 1303 the Ottonian line split into the Nassau-Hadamar , Nassau-Siegen and Nassau-Dillenburg lines.

Rise in the late Middle Ages

Johann , the youngest son of Otto I, received Dillenburg , Herborn , the Herborn Mark and the Kalenberger Zent (around Beilstein). He fell in the course of the Dernbach feud in 1328 in the Battle of Wetzlar , and his territory Nassau-Dillenburg came by inheritance to Nassau-Siegen under Heinrich III. Dillenburg remained a residence and the county continued to be called Nassau-Dillenburg. Henry III. succeeded in regaining influence over the city of Siegen against the Archbishopric of Cologne . At the end of the 14th century, the city returned to Nassau. He also pushed back the influence of the nobility strongly; this happened partly with violence (Dernbacher feud). He was also able to win the previously destroyed Dillenburg back for Nassau, and this replaced Siegen as a residence in the future.

In 1343 it was separated from Nassau-Beilstein (older line until 1561). Under Johann I the rise of Nassau-Dillenburg continued. With the marriage of his son Adolf to Jutta von Diez, the county of Diez fell to Nassau-Dillenburg in 1386. However, only half of the County of Diez could be maintained and one had to accept the feudal sovereignty of the Bishop of Trier for them . In 1394 Nassau-Hadamar also fell to Nassau-Dillenburg.

In the long term, it was of great importance that Johann I married his son Engelbert to Johanna von Polanen, the heiress of the Count's House of Polanen. As a result, important possessions in the area of ​​today's Netherlands were added in 1403/04 ; this included the dominions of Polanen, Leck, Breda and other areas. In 1420 the County of Vianden in what is now Luxembourg and other possessions came to Nassau-Dillenburg.

Country structure in the 16th century

The cities of Siegen and Dillenburg served as residences.

The nobility were able to retain some privileges, but hardly played a role politically.

Administrative structure

Before the middle of the 16th century, the country was divided into the offices of Siegen and Dillenburg. These in turn were divided into various courts, each of which was headed by a mayor appointed by the sovereign. The Dillenburg , Herborn , Haiger , Ebersbach and Tringenstein courts belonged to the Dillenburg office . The Siegen office included: City of Siegen , Haingericht (= court of Siegen), Netphen , Freudenberg , Ferndorf - Krombach and Hilchenbach . At times, the county also included the offices in Driedorf, Ellar , Hadamar and Mengerskirchen.

Since the middle of the 15th century, the two offices have had their own financial administration.

The city of Siegen was a special case in a way. Although there was a sovereign appointed mayor, the city council had pushed back the influence of the sovereigns since the 14th century. In the course of the Reformation, these exerted considerable pressure on the city and forced it to submit to the sovereign in 1537/38.

Before 1806 there were the districts of Dillenburg, Haiger, Herborn, Ebersbach, Tringenstein (the Tringenstein office was provided by the official in Ebersbach), Burbach and Driedorf.

Population numbers and economic structure

For the early period, population numbers can hardly be made out. The population of the entire county is estimated to be no more than 50,000 for the beginning of the 17th century, that is, including the territorial increases. The main population was in the offices of Siegen and Dillenburg.

The agricultural sector was the main source of income. But apart from that, the exploitation of natural raw materials and industrial production were of great importance. Iron ore mining and iron production were particularly well developed. In the city of Siegen, both were the main livelihoods in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, this massaging was localized. In addition to agriculture, wool production and textile manufacture also played a role in rural areas.

Acquisition of Orange and feud over Katzenelnbogen

There were again divisions in the following centuries. The original lands around Dillenburg and Siegen on the one hand and the possessions in what is now Luxembourg and what is now the Netherlands drifted apart. The Dutch side continued to make significant gains. Among them was the marriage to the heiress of Chalon in 1515 and the Principality of Orange in 1515, the succession followed in 1530. The line on the left bank of the Rhine was then called Prince of Orange-Nassau .

The Dillenburg line could not show such successes. The attempt to gain possession of the County of Katzenelnbogen led to the Katzenelnbogen succession dispute in 1500, which only ended in 1557. As a result of the dispute, most of the County of Katzenelnbogen came to the House of Hesse . The Counts of Nassau-Dillenburg were only able to receive some areas previously pledged to Katzenelnbogen and payments of 450,000 guilders. Furthermore, the Counts of Nassau-Dillenburg were allowed to use the title of Counts of Katzenelnbogen.

Between 1451 and 1472 and between 1504 and 1516 the lines on the left and right of the Rhine were reunited. Around this time the Reformation was introduced in Nassau-Dillenburg. At first this followed the Lutheran direction. However, they switched to Calvinism in the 16th century . With the acquisition of a third of the Principality of Nassau-Hadamar in 1717, Catholic areas fell to the Principality of Nassau-Dillenburg.

Peak of political importance

Johann VI. from Nassau-Dillenburg

In 1559 there was a division between Nassau-Dillenburg and Nassau-Orange. The Dillenburgers retained the area on the right bank of the Rhine, while Oranien-Nassau received the holdings on the left bank of the Rhine. William of Orange received the Dutch possession. His brother Johann VI. , called the elder , received the German ancestral lands. In 1561 Nassau-Beilstein also fell to Nassau-Dillenburg.

The reign of Johann was the height of the political importance of Nassau-Dillenburg. Johann supported his brother during the Eighty Years' War that began in 1566 for the independence of the Netherlands from Spain with considerable financial resources. The consequence was high national debt in Nassau-Dillenburg. Johann managed, however, to limit the associated burdens through good administration. Between 1578 and 1580 Johann was governor of the province of Gelderland , and in 1579 he played a decisive role in the creation of the Union of Utrecht . He played a leading role within the Wetterau Empire Counts College . In 1579 he converted to Calvinism .

Loss of meaning

After Johann's death, the county was divided into the five counties Nassau-Dillenburg, Nassau-Hadamar ( Younger Line ), Nassau-Beilstein, Nassau-Siegen and Nassau-Diez in 1601 and 1607 respectively .

Nassau-Dillenburg (with Dillenburg, Haiger and Herborn ) came by inheritance to Nassau-Beilstein in 1620, which from then on was called Nassau-Dillenburg.

Nassau-Dillenburg belonged to the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire . The counts were briefly members of the Niederrheinisch-Westfälische Reichsgrafenkollegium before they were raised to the rank of imperial prince in 1654. The territory was about 450 km² in the 18th century. It included Dillenburg, Haiger, Herborn, Driedorf , Mengerskirchen , Ellar , Burbach , Tringenstein and Ebersbach .

Boundary stone 113 of the border between Orange-Nassau and Nassau-Weilburg from 1772

In 1739 Nassau-Dillenburg fell to Nassau-Diez. This united since 1742 all territories of the Ottonian line of the House of Nassau. The regents called themselves Prince of Orange-Nassau since 1702 . They were hereditary governors of the Netherlands from 1747 . Since then, the entire property has been ruled from The Hague . In Dillenburg, a German cabinet was in office for the home countries of Nassau.

Nassau-Orange lost all possessions on the left bank of the Rhine by 1801 and, in 1806, also all areas on the right bank of the Rhine. In the course of the Wars of Liberation , the Prince of Orange-Nassau took possession of his lands again on December 20, 1813. After the Prince of Nassau-Orange became King of the Netherlands on May 31, 1815 , he ceded the German territories, including the county of Dillenburg, to Prussia . Prussia then ceded significant areas in exchange to the Duchy of Nassau .


Reign Surname born died Remarks
1606-1620 Wilhelm Ludwig March 13, 1560 May 31, 1620
1620-1623 George September 1, 1562 August 9, 1623 Brother of Wilhelm Ludwig
1623-1662 Ludwig Heinrich May 9, 1594 July 12, 1662
1662-1676 Adolf January 23, 1629 December 19, 1676 Son of Ludwig Heinrich
1676-1701 Heinrich August 28, 1641 April 18, 1701 Son of Georg Ludwig (1618–1656), an older brother of Adolf
1701-1724 Wilhelm August 28, 1670 September 21, 1724 Son of Heinrich
1724-1739 Christian August 12, 1688 August 28, 1739 Brother Wilhelm


  • Alfred Bruns: Nassau. In: Gerhard Taddey (Hrsg.): Lexicon of German history . People, events, institutions. From the turn of the times to the end of the 2nd World War. 2nd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-520-80002-0 , p. 861.
  • Gerhard Köbler : Nassau. In: Historical Lexicon of the German States. The German territories from the Middle Ages to the present. 4th, completely revised edition. C. H. Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35865-9 , p. 401 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Regeste from February 26, 1298
  2. ^ Hellmuth Gensicke : Landesgeschichte des Westerwaldes . 3. Edition. Historical Commission for Nassau, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-922244-80-7 .
  3. Sebastian Schmidt: Faith - Rule - Discipline. Confessionalization and everyday culture in the offices of Siegen and Dillenburg (1538–1683). Paderborn, 2005 p. 24
  4. Schmidt, Glaube-Herrschaft-Discipline, p. 24
  5. Wilhelm von der Nahmer: Handbuch des Rheinischen Particular-Rechts: Development of the territorial and constitutional relations of the German states on both banks of the Rhine: from the first beginning of the French Revolution up to the most recent times . tape 3 . Sauerländer, Frankfurt am Main 1832, OCLC 165696316 , p. 99 ( online at google books ).
  6. Schmidt, Glaube-Herrschaft-Discipline, p. 24 f.
  7. Schmidt, Glaube-Herrschaft-Discipline, p. 25 f.