Wilhelm I (Hessen-Kassel)

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Elector Wilhelm I of Hesse

Wilhelm I of Hessen-Kassel (born June 3, 1743 in Kassel ; † February 27, 1821 there ) from the House of Hesse was named Wilhelm IX. from 1760 Count von Hanau , from 1764 regent there and from 1785 ruling Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel . After his elevation to Elector in the course of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (1803), he called himself Wilhelm I.

Childhood and youth

Coat of arms of Wilhelm as regent of the secondary school in the county of Hanau

Wilhelm was born the son of the Hereditary Prince Friedrich II of Hessen-Kassel and Princess Maria , a daughter of King George II of Great Britain . He attended the University of Göttingen and spent years studying in Denmark .

After his father Friedrich converted to the Roman Catholic Confession , his father, Landgrave Wilhelm VIII , wanted to ensure that Friedrich II would have as little influence as possible after he took office. In addition, in the Hessian insurance file of 1754, among other things, the County of Hanau-Münzenberg , which after the death of the last count from the House of Hanau , Johann Reinhard III. , Fell to Hessen-Kassel in 1736, was separated from the Hessian ancestral lands and Prince Wilhelm was installed there as the grandson and direct heir of Wilhelm VIII, bypassing Frederick II. After the death of his grandfather in 1760, Wilhelm inherited the County of Hanau directly. For the prince, who was still underage at the time, his mother, Landgravine Maria, initially took charge of the guardianship; from 1764 he ruled himself, declared of age. The most impressive architectural testimony to his work there is the Wilhelmsbad spa complex .


Wilhelm as Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Kassel, painted by Carl Gustaf Pilo around 1770

Wilhelm was a sovereign who remained stuck to the standards of the princely " absolutism " of the ancien régime throughout his life - in his politics, in his " mistress economy " and in his controversial soldier trade , which was financially very profitable and was also operated by other princes. Wilhelm was considered one of the richest German princes of his time, and with the help of the Frankfurt banker Mayer Amschel Rothschild , he managed to save this fortune even after the Napoleonic period.

In 1803 Wilhelm succeeded in achieving his elevation to electoral prince . His territory, especially the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel, was subsequently mostly, if only unofficially, referred to as the " Electorate of Hesse ". The electoral dignity became meaningless as early as 1806 with the end of the Holy Roman Empire .

From 1803 Wilhelm paid his relative Carl Constantin von Hessen-Rheinfels-Rotenburg , who had served as a general in the French army, then in the revolutionary armies, but had been imprisoned several times during the turmoil of the French Revolution and finally banished, a pension to support him. since he had tried in vain for a pension from the French treasury.

Because Wilhelm did not join the Rhine Confederation and at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1806 partially mobilized his army and declared his country neutral, Napoleon occupied Electorate Hesse. On November 1, 1806, the French military marched into Kassel. The elector fled in time and went into exile , first to Holstein , where he resided in the Itzehoer Prinzesshof , and later to Prague . Major parts of the Hessian state treasure were brought to safety by Captain Wilhelm Mensing in 1806 from Napoleon's access. The ancestral lands of Hesse-Kassel were added to the Kingdom of Westphalia , newly created by Napoleon , while the southern parts of the country, i.e. the County of Hanau-Münzenberg , were initially under the French military government from 1806 and belonged to the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt from 1810 to 1813 .

Germany's restoration. The long-awaited return of the elector to the honest Hesse.

In 1813 Hessen-Kassel was restituted, and Wilhelm I moved back into his royal seat on November 21, 1813. At the Congress of Vienna he tried in vain to obtain the title of "King of Chattas ", named after the Germanic tribal name of the Hessians, by paying substantial bribes, but retained the title of "Elector" with the personal title "Royal Highness". Wilhelm I pursued a restorative course, reversed the reforms that had taken place during his exile (for example, powdered wigs were reintroduced in the military and court), and with this policy alienated the rising bourgeoisie.

In Kassel he had extensive extensions carried out in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe and the Löwenburg built. The construction of a monumental new castle, the so-called Chattenburg , which he began in 1817 on the site of the Landgrave's castle, which was destroyed by a major fire in 1811 and completely demolished on his instructions in 1816 , was discontinued after his death.

Wilhelm died in 1821 and was buried in a crypt under the castle chapel of the Löwenburg.


Wilhelm with his wife and children in front of the Weißenstein wing on Wilhelmshöhe, painted by Wilhelm Böttner in 1791


On September 1, 1764, Wilhelm married Princess Wilhelmine Karoline of Denmark (1747-1820) in Copenhagen . With her he had two sons and two daughters:

However, this marriage was soon broken.

Extramarital relationships and children

In addition to his marriage, Wilhelm had several mistresses and more than two dozen other children:

  1. Wilhelm, Freiherr von Heimrod (born July 16, 1775 in Rodheim vor der Höhe , † January 6, 1811 in Naples )
  2. Karl, Freiherr von Heimrod (* July 19, 1776 in Rodheim vor der Höhe; † May 13, 1827 in Paris ) ⚭ 1803 Charlotte, Freiin von Stockhausen (* July 15, 1781; † December 31, 1855)
  3. Friedrich (born August 9, 1777 in Kassel; † October 30, 1777 in Hailer near Meerholz)
  4. Friedrich, Freiherr von Heimrod (* 1778 in Hanau; † September 3, 1813 in Teplitz)
  • Rosa Dorothea Ritter , ennobled as Baroness von Lindenthal, eight children (legitimized on March 10, 1800 and elevated to barons of Haynau):
  1. Wilhelm Carl, Baron von Haynau (1779–1856), lieutenant general of the Electorate of Hesse
  2. Georg Wilhelm, Freiherr von Haynau (* February 27, 1781; † February 1813)
  3. Philipp Ludwig, Baron von Haynau (* May 18, 1782 - June 5, 1843), Real Privy Councilor from Baden
  4. Wilhelmine, Freiin von Haynau (* July 20, 1783; † May 27, 1866) ⚭ Carl Philipp Emil von Hanstein (1772–1861), later Minister
  5. Moritz, Baron von Haynau (* July 4, 1784 - September 9, 1812)
  6. Marie Sophie Agnes Philippine Auguste, Freiin von Haynau (born September 11, 1785; † April 21, 1865) ⚭ 1805 Wilhelm, Freiherr von Wintzingerode (1782–1819), later head forester
  7. Julius Heinrich Friedrich Ludwig, Baron von Haynau (1786–1853), Austrian general
  1. Wilhelm Friedrich (June 23, 1789 - April 26, 1790)
  2. Wilhelm Karl (born May 19, 1790; † March 22, 1867), Canon of Minden , Halberstadt and Cammin , Mecklenburg-Schwerin Real Privy Councilor, ⚭ Countess Angelika von der Osten-Sacken
  3. Ferdinand (19 May 1791 - 15 December 1794)
  4. Karoline Frederike Auguste (June 9, 1792 - August 21, 1797)
  5. Auguste Wilhelmine (born August 22, 1793 - † June 1, 1795)
  6. Louis Karl (born August 11, 1794; † November 17, 1857), Prussian chamberlain ⚭ Countess Auguste Wilhelmine von Pückler -Groditz
  7. Friederike Auguste (* October 16, 1795; † September 13, 1845) ⚭ Wilhelm von Steuber (* December 29, 1790; † July 6, 1845)
  8. Wilhelm Ludwig Georg (* July 28, 1800; † January 16, 1836), Chamberlain of the Electorate of Hesse; ⚭ 1. Luise von dem Bussche-Hünnefeld (* March 27, 1804, † May 21, 1829); ⚭ 2. Karoline Wolff von Gudenberg (born February 11, 1812; † August 20, 1836)
  9. Friedrich Ludwig (February 8, 1803 - September 8, 1805)
  10. Karoline (* February 16, 1804; † March 18, 1891) ⚭ Carl von Stenglin (* August 12, 1791; † March 15, 1871)
  11. NN
  12. NN
  13. Son NN (* 1807 in Itzehoe )


Karl Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1654–1730)
Wilhelm VIII. Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1682–1760)
Amalia of Courland (1653-1711)
Friedrich II. Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1720–1785)
Moritz Wilhelm of Saxony-Zeitz (1664–1718)
Dorothea Wilhelmine of Saxony-Zeitz (1691–1743)
Maria Amalia of Brandenburg-Schwedt (1670–1739)
Wilhelm I. Elector of Hesse-Kassel
George I King of Great Britain (1660-1727)
George II King of Great Britain (1683–1760)
Sophie Dorothea of ​​Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1666–1726)
Mary of Great Britain (1723–1772)
Johann Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1654–1686)
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1683–1737)
Eleanor of Saxony-Eisenach (1662–1696)


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm I. (Hessen-Kassel)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Wilhelm I. (Hessen-Kassel)  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Suchier, p. 38 f.
  2. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels , Adelslexikon Volume V, page 175, Volume 84 of the complete series, CA Starke Verlag, Limburg (Lahn) 1984
predecessor Office successor
William VIII Count of Hanau
1760–1806 and 1813–1821
Wilhelm II.
Friedrich II. Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel
1785–1806 and 1813–1821
Wilhelm II.
--- Elector of Hesse
1803–1806 and 1813–1821
Wilhelm II.