History Files


European Kingdoms

Central Europe




MapChatti (Hessians) (Germans)

Hesse's earliest recorded ancestors were the Chatten or Chatti, a Germanic folk who were in existence by the first century BC. They, along with the Cherusci, were the masters of Germania following the expulsion or absorption of the Celtic tribes and before Roman domination. They originated from Germanic migrants who had settled along the upper banks of the River Visurgis (Weser), the Moenus river valley (the modern Main), and the wooded Taunus highlands in between. This roughly covers areas of the modern German states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate.

With the Latin suffix of '-i' removed, the Chatti or 'Chat' name is really 'Khat'. The 'kh' corresponds to the modern German and Scottish 'ch' sound, as in 'ich' and 'loch' respectively. The word means 'anger' or 'hate'. So the tribe would have been 'the haters' or 'the angry'. Vladimir Orel has *xataz ~ *xatez sb.m./n., which filters through as the Goth 'hatis', meaning ‘hatred, anger’, and many similar examples including the Old English 'hatr', all meaning hate or anger, with a relation to destruction. (The 'x' is the voiceless velar fricative.) The tribe may have been involved in some sort of feud or revolt against oppressors, perhaps, to have gained such a name. The Chattuarii may have been a branch of the Chatti (along with the Mattiaci). Their name breaks down into 'chatti' plus 'uari', which is the Gaulish word 'wiros' for 'man', the plural being 'wiri' which was adopted by German tribes. So Chattuari means 'Chatti men'. 'Chatti' gradually became 'Hessi', from which originates the modern state's name. The 't' to 'ss' shift occurs often enough in German, and can also be seen in the Boiocasses tribal name.

By the first century BC, a division of the Chatti had formed following an internal squabble (according to Tacitus). This splinter group became known as the Batavi, and it migrated to settle around the mouth of the Rhine, in the northernmost reaches of Celtic Belgae territory (in the modern Netherlands). Also noted both by Julius Caesar, they supplied several units to the Roman army. The Chatti themselves were not mentioned by Caesar by name, simply being lumped into the general Suevi collective. That collective became much stronger after Caesar's time, going on to become one of the most powerful opponents of the Romans during the first century AD. They defeated the powerful Cherusci and the other neighbouring tribes. In the second century AD, they were located close to the east bank of the Rhine, which became their traditional homeland. They were generally bordered to the east by the Hermunduri, and to the south by various other elements of the Suevi. Together with these groups they formed the Herminones, one of the five original groups of Germanics.

The capital of the Chatti was named by Roman writers as Mattium. It lay beyond the River Adrana (the modern Eder) and was destroyed by Germanicus in his campaigns of 12-9 BC. Despite being described by Tacitus its location was lost to history. General opinion believes it to have been located around modern Fritzlar, in the Schwalm-Eder district of northern Hesse, to the north of the Eder, but there are several potential sites in the region.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from A Handbook of Germanic Etymology, Vladimir Orel.)

1st century BC?

Tacitus mentions the Batavi as a constituent part of the Chatti who are divided from them following an internal dispute. They migrate westwards before the first century AD, settling in what becomes the central Netherlands.

12 - 9 BC

Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, stepson of Emperor Augustus, is appointed governor of the Rhine region of Gaul. He launches the first major Roman campaigns across the Rhine and begins the conquest of Germania. He starts with a successful campaign that subjugates the Sicambri. Later in the same year he leads a naval expedition along the North Sea coast, conquering the Batavi and the Frisii, and defeating the Chauci near the mouth of the Weser. In 11 BC, he conquers the Bructeri, Usipetes and Marsi, extending Roman control into the Upper Weser. In 10 BC, he launches a campaign against the Chatti and the resurgent Sicambri, subjugating both. The following year he conquers the Mattiaci, while also defeating the Marcomanni and Cherusci, the latter being taken care of near the Elbe. He is killed in a fall from his horse during his fourth campaign, and his death deprives Rome of one its best generals.

Teutoberger wald
The decimation of three legions in the Teutoberger wald was a massive humiliation for the Roman empire and caused the abandonment of plans to conquer Germania Magna

fl AD 9 - 19


King of the Chatti.

AD 9

Adgandestrius is part of the coalition of tribes which is led by Arminius of the Germanic Cherusci and which decimates three legions under Roman Governor Publius Quinctilius Varus. The disaster is a tremendous blow to Roman plans for expansion into Germania Magna, something from which they never entirely recover.


The Marsi role in resisting the Romans is short-lived. They are massacred by General Germanicus at the start of his invasion of northern Germany and an area of fifty Roman miles of Marsi territory is laid waste. Much of this land is later occupied by the Chatti and their Hessian descendants.


Adgandestrius asks for poison from Rome so that he might kill the Cherusci leader, Arminius. The request is refused on the grounds that it would be unsportsmanlike, although Rome is quite capable of being unsportsmanlike whenever it suits its own ends.


Strabo mentions the little-known Chattuarii as neighbours of the Chatti, placing them immediately to the east of the lower Rhine for the subsequent four centuries. The tribe's origins are unknown, and they seem not to be particularly migratory.


As recorded by Tacitus, the Hermunduri and Chatti fight a great battle. Each of them is vying for control of the rich salt-producing river which flows between them. Besides their passion for settling everything by force, Tacitus says, they hold a religious conviction that this region is close to heaven so that men's prayers receive ready access. In the battle, the Chatti are defeated with a disastrous result. In the event of victory, both sides have vowed their enemies to the gods Tiu (Tyr) and Wotan (Wodan). The vow implies the sacrifice of the entire defeated side with their horses and all their possessions. Similar German post-battle rituals have been discovered in first century AD Jutland.

69 - 70

Gaius Julius Civilis leads a Batavian insurrection against a Rome which is distracted by the events of the Year of the Four Emperors. He is supported by the Bructeri, Canninefates, Chauci, Cugerni, and Tencteri, while the Sinuci are also mentioned as a people who live in the region (although their involvement in the revolt is uncertain). The tribes send reinforcements and Civilis is initially successful. Castra Vetera is captured and two Roman legions are lost, while two others fall into the hands of the rebels. In AD 70 the Chatti, Mattiaci, and Usipetes join in, besieging the legionary fortress at Mogontiacum (modern Mainz).

Eventual Roman pressure, with aid from the Mediomatrici, Sequani, and Tungri, forces Civilis to retreat to the Batavian island where he agrees peace terms with General Quintus Petilius Cerialis. His subsequent fate is unknown, but the Batavi are treated with great consideration by Emperor Vespasian. During the revolt, the Roman fortress ceases to be used (for obvious reasons) and the Oppidum Batavorum is razed.

The Gaulish and Germanic Batavian revolt of AD 69-70 was a major contributor to the instability experienced in the Roman empire during the 'Year of Four Emperors'


Around this year, Rome establishes two provinces on the border territory between Gaul and Germania Magna, calling them Germania Superior and Germania Inferior. The latter has contained Roman settlements for over a century, and had previously formed part of Gallica Belgica. Cities such as Aachen, Cologne, Mainz, Speyer, Trier, and Worms are all founded within these provinces by Rome and all of them become important medieval cities. Domitian also antagonises the Germanic tribes by driving back the Chatti from these new provinces at the River Taunus. All this appears to do is stir up the tribe to provide further opposition to the Romans on their western flank.


Two legions of Domitian's armies in Germania Superior at Mogontiacum (Mainz) revolt under L Antoninus Saturninus, for reasons that are largely lost to history (thanks to the later destruction of Saturninus' personal documents). The revolt is supported by the Chatti tribe. It is quite plausible that the officers involved rebel against Domitian's rather strict moral policies. Whatever goal Saturninus has is completely unknown and there seems to be little indication of a plan. The Roman governor of Germania Inferior puts down the revolt, seemingly before it even begins.


The Roman writer Tacitus mentions a large number of tribes in Greater Germania, which includes the Chatti. He states that their settlements begin at the Hercynian Forest (known to the Greeks as Orcynia - the modern Black Forest forms its western part), where the country is not so open and marshy as in the other cantons into which Germany stretches.

Hercynian Forest
The Riesengebirge was part of the once-vast Hercynian Forest which spread eastwards from southern Germany and which proved a serious impediment to Roman expansion

The Chatti are to be are found on the edges of the forest, and are "noted for their hardy frames, close-knit limbs, fierce countenances, and a peculiarly vigorous courage. For Germans, they have much intelligence and sagacity; they promote their picked men to power, and obey those whom they promote; they keep their ranks, note their opportunities, check their impulses, portion out the day, entrench themselves by night, regard fortune as a doubtful, valour as an unfailing, resource; and what is most unusual, and only given to systematic discipline, they rely more on the general than on the army. Their whole strength is in their infantry which, in addition to its arms, is laden with iron tools and provisions. Other tribes you see going to battle, the Chatti to a campaign. Seldom do they engage in mere raids and casual encounters. It is indeed the peculiarity of a cavalry force quickly to win and as quickly to yield a victory. Fleetness and timidity go together; deliberateness is more akin to steady courage".

By this time, Cherusci numbers and fighting ability have been dented through unsuccessful warfare against the Chatti. This point signals their eclipse and eventual absorption by other tribes.

162 - 170

The Chatti continue to trouble the Romans, raiding Roman territory in 162 and 170.

3rd century

By now elements of the Ampsivarii, Batavi, Bructeri, Chamavi, Chatti, Chattuarii, Cherusci, Salii, Sicambri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes have formed the Franks, one of several West Germanic federations. They are largely to be found occupying territory on the Lower Rhine Valley, on the east bank, in what is now northern Belgium and the southern Netherlands), a region that has come to be known as Francia. The main body of Chatti remain located along the eastern bank of the Rhine, from where they mount yet another raid into Roman territory in 213.


In the late fourth century, Sulpicius Alexander writes a history of Germanic tribes that has since been lost but which has been quoted by Gregory of Tours. One of those quotes relates that Arbogast, the Frankish-born magister militum of the Western Roman empire, attacks the Franks across the Rhine, wreaking havoc amongst them. While there he sights on a distant hill a force containing Ampsivarii and Chatti under the control of Marcomer, king of the Salian Franks. The two forces do not engage.


FeatureThe formal partition of the Roman empire into the Eastern and Western sections is undertaken by Honorius and Arcadian. An official register of all the offices, other than municipal, which exist in the Roman empire at this time is compiled in the Notitia Dignitatum. A formation of Ampsivarii are mentioned as the Ampsiuarii unit of Palatine auxiliaries. This appears to be the last mention of the tribe in history before they appear to be subsumed by the Franks as a whole and by the Chatti in particular, probably with elements in both camps.


The main body of Chattuarii have probably remained to the east of the Rhine until this period. They are still neighboured to the east by the Chatti and to the south of the Bructeri. At this point they cross with the bulk of the Franks and settle between the Meuse and the west bank of the Rhine.

Citadel of Namur
The Meuse valley, shown here at the citadel of Namur, formed the western border for the Chattuarii following their crossing of the Rhine


The Germanic Chattuarii appear to be named in both of the Old English texts, Beowulf and the Widsith list, as the Hætwerum (Hetwaras). They are bordered on their eastern flank by the Chatti. This group has been largely anonymous to Roman writers since the late third century, prompting some speculation that they have merged with other groups to form the Alemanni. This is possible, of course, but the fact that the Chatti re-emerge later (as the Hessi) suggests that they retain their identity within any such groupings.


St Boniface, 'Apostle of the Germans', fells the sacred oak of the Thuringians at Gaesmere (modern Geismar) to symbolise the abolition of their paganism, and they are converted to Christianity en masse. The Chatti are included amongst this group of Germans to be so converted, perhaps better known by now as Hessi.


A letter is written by Pope Gregory III which is sent to 'Bonifatius', St Boniface. In the letter, the pope refers to the populous as Hassiorum, the 'folk of Hessen'.


The first recorded entry of a location within Hesse's territory dates from this year. The town mentioned is Eberstadt, called at the time Eberstadt im Rheingau, where a certain Walther, along with his wife, Williswinde, give their entire property to the Lorsch Convent. 'Rheingau' would mean the Rhine district, a 'gau' being an official term for the various districts within Germany at this time. Each gau is administered by a count ('graf').


The Chatti of the first century AD gradually became the Hessi of the Middle Ages (Medieval Latin 'Hassia'). The first recorded entry of a location within Hesse's territory dates from AD 782. The town mentioned was Eberstadt, then called Eberstadt im Rheingau, where a certain Walther, along with his wife, Williswinde, gave their entire property to the Lorsch Convent (Eberstadt has since been absorbed by the city of Darmstadt). The first mention of Kassel is from AD 913, where it was referred to as Cassala. The semi-independent Hessian territory was formed out of the collapse of the much larger stem duchy of Franconia.

The territory was divided during the period of the Frankish empire into several gaue (or districts, these being Saxon Hessengau, Frankish Hessengau, Buchonia, and Oberlahngau), and these were ruled over by counts (grafen). Under the weakened successors of Charlemagne the counts gradually become less responsible officials and more feudal lords. The church acquired much landed property in the region, and secular Hesse became parcelled up into numerous pockets of territory.

Most prominent amongst the Hessian nobility in the tenth and eleventh centuries were the Gisos, the counts of Gudensberg. The daughter of the fourth and last Giso married Count Louis I of Thuringia (1122). In 1130 he was raised to the rank of landgrave and recognised as overlord by the Hessians. So Hesse and Thuringia were united from 1130-1247. The male line of Thuringia became extinct with Henry Raspe (the brother-in-law of St Elizabeth of Thuringia) in 1247, so the Hessians selected Henry of Brabant (grandson of Elizabeth) as landgrave. Hesse was separated from Thuringia and after struggling against rival claimants, it was recognised as independent.

FeatureThe English form of the name is Hesse, the German, Hessen. For sake of clarity, the English 'Hesse' is used here to refer to the state in its singular form, while the divided states hold their German-form names.


The first count of Franconia appears, one Bogo. The new territory of Franconia is one of several stem duchies which forms out of the slow but inevitable collapse of the Carolingian empire.


The death of Louis the German results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something that he had already foreseen, and portions of territory had been appointed to each of them in 865. Now in a peaceful succession, Carloman inherits Bavaria and the Ostmark, Louis the Younger gains Franconia (which includes the Hessi territories), Saxony, and Thuringia, while Charles the Fat succeeds to Rhaetia and Swabia. As the oldest son, Carloman also retains de facto dominance over the Eastern Franks as a whole. This could be the point at which Saxon Hessengau passes to Franconia.

881 - 882

Charles the Fat succeeds as titular head of the Frankish empire, holding the position as Emperor Charles III. He is crowned by Pope John VIII. In the following year, 882, Louis the Younger dies and Charles, as the last remaining of the three brothers, inherits his territories of Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, thereby reuniting East Francia following its division in 876.


The first mention of Kassel dates to this year, where it is referred to as Cassala. A Hessian nobility is also beginning to emerge by this time, although it apparently plays no major role in the region's politics until the twelfth century.


Most prominent amongst the Hessian nobility in the tenth and eleventh centuries are the Gisos, the counts of Gudensberg. The daughter of the fourth and last Giso now marries the soon-to-be Count Louis III of Thuringia.


Count Louis III is raised to the rank of landgrave and his Thuringia is recognised as overlord by the Hessians. This unites Hesse and Thuringia from 1130-1247 (clearly to the detriment of Hesse's traditional link with Franconia).

1196 - 1247

Franconia gradually collapses, along with large swathes of other German stem duchies. It is broken up into several smaller states which include the semi-independent Hesse and Nassau, with the district administrators, the counts (grafs), assuming more and more regional responsibility and authority.

? - 1247

Henry Raspe

Brother-in-law of Elizabeth of Thuringia. No male heir.


The male line of Thuringia becomes extinct with Henry Raspe (the brother-in-law of St Elizabeth of Thuringia). Hesse is guided by his niece, Duchess Sophia, towards becoming a landgraviate and is separated from Thuringia.

1247 - 1263

Duchess Sophia

Niece of Henry Raspe. Established the landgraviate from 1247.

1247 - 1263

With the male line of Thuringia having become extinct with Henry Raspe in 1247 (the brother-in-law of St Elizabeth of Thuringia), Duchess Sophia, his niece, steers Hesse towards becoming a semi-independent landgraviate. The Hessians are able to select Henry of Brabant (grandson of Elizabeth and son of Sophia) as its first landgrave. Hesse is separated from Thuringia and is eventually recognised as independent.

Landgraves of Hesse
AD 1263 - 1500

Ruled by the Ydulfings, the capital was usually Marburg, with a co- or sub-ruler based in Kassel. This happened at a time when German knights were crusading not only on the Holy Land but also in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, as shown by the origins of the first two grand masters of the Livonian Knights.

1263 - 1298

Henry I the Child, Prince of the Empire

Son of Duchess Sophia. First head of the House of Ydulfing.


Henry gains the title 'Prince of the Empire' from Holy Roman Emperor Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg.

1298 - 1328

Otto the Elder

In Marburg. Brother.

1298 - 1311


In Kassel.

1328 - 1377

Henry II the Iron

In Marburg. Son of Otto.

1328 - 1343

Ludwig / Louis I (II)

In Grubenstein.

1328 - 1367

Herman I

In Nordeck.

1377 - 1413

Herman II the Learned

1413 - 1458

Ludwig / Louis II (III) the Peaceful



Hesse is greatly enlarged following a division of territory within the Holy Roman empire. It is centred on the city of Kassel. The new ruler, Ludwig, creates a sub-landgraviate for his younger brother, Henry, which is based around the previous capital at Hessen-Marburg.

1458 - 1471

Ludwig / Louis III (IV)

In Kassel. Son.

1471 - 1493

William I the Elder

In Kassel. Son of Ludwig III. d.1515.

1471 - 1500

William II the Intermediate

In Kassel. Brother. Elevated to duke.


Hesse is unified with remaining Hessen territories not already under its control (including Hessen-Marburg) to form a single, elevated duchy of Hesse.

Dukes of Hesse
AD 1500 - 1567

Hesse was a single, unified and enlargened state from 1500. The main body of its territory was comprised of various regions east of Nassau, and between the River Lippe to the north and just below the Maine in the south.

1500 - 1509


Formerly Landgrave William II. d.1515.

1509 - 1567

Philip I the Magnanimous / Generous

Son. State divided between his four sons.

1546 - 1547

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sees the tide of conversions to Protestant rites as a move by the many princes and lords of the empire to gain more autonomy from imperial governance. Many of them, organised by Elector John Frederick I of Saxony and Duke Philip I of Hesse, had formed the Schmalkaldic League when meeting at the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia in 1531. Now that Charles has returned from his war in Italy, the two sides concentrate their forces, with Charles intent on destroying the Protestant league. Elector John is distracted by his cousin, Duke Maurice of Saxe-Meissen, invading his lands in Ernestine Saxony, and ultimately the league is defeated. John is captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice.


Philip is one of the political leaders of the Reformation. This is the only time Hesse plays a role of great importance in the Reich (empire - in this case the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire which covers most of Central Europe. Hesse's city of Frankfurt-am-Main was for a long time a free imperial city and the place where German emperors were crowned).

Following Philip's death, Hesse is divided into the regions of Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt, one each for Philip's four sons.

Further sub-dividing of Kassel and Darmstadt eventually leads to splinter states such as Hessen-Homburg, Hessen-Rumpenheim, Hessen-Philippsthal, Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, Hessen-Eschwege, Hessen-Rheinfels, Hessen-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, Hessen-Rheinfels-Wanfried, Hessen-Butzbach, Hessen-Brubach, Hessen-Darmstadt-Itter, Hessen-Marburg, and Hessen-Hanau, and ultimately to political obscurity for all of Hesse by the eighteenth century. Like most of the moderate North German states, by the fifteenth century Hesse had switched to the Protestant faith, Kassel becoming Calvinist, Darmstadt Lutheran.

Landgraves of Hessen-Kassel
AD 1567 - 1803

Created from the division of the Duchy of Hesse, Kassel was the largest of the four new Hessen states, being the most senior and dominant, and owner of approximately half the former duchy's lands. From the capital at Kassel, the rulers of the northern half of Hesse continued to hold the title of landgrave. They built up strong connections with the Netherlands, and through them, with England. Troops were provided to England on numerous occasions, not least during the American War of Independence.

1567 - 1592

William IV

Eldest son of Philip I.


Hessen-Rheinfels is claimed back following the death of Philip, although the title itself is not reclaimed.

1592 - 1627

Maurice the Learned

Became Protestant in 1605. Abdicated in favour of his son.


The Ydulfings of Hessen-Marburg die without producing a successor, and Hessen-Kassel claims back the land. This causes quarrels between Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt which are not resolved until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.


Hessen-Eschwege is created for one of Maurice's younger sons (out of a total of at least six sons). Hessen-Rheinfels is recreated along with Hessen-Rotenburg for two further sons.

1627 - 1637

William V

Son. Forced to retire into exile during the Thirty Years War.

1637 - 1663

William VI

Came of age in 1650.

1637 - 1650

Amalie Elizabeth von Hanau

Mother & landgravine, acted as regent and regained Kassel.

1640 - 1643

When Count Otto V of Holstein-Schaumburg dies in 1640 without having produced an heir, the county of Schaumburg is divided (in 1643) between Brunswick-Lüneburg, Hessen-Kassel, and Lippe. Count Philip I of Lippe-Alverdissen is able to found the Schaumburg-Lippe line of the House of Lippe to incorporate the expanded territory that comes to him. Hessen-Kassel holds the lion's share, including the county of Schaumburg itself, minus various territories, and retains some feudal rights over Schaumburg-Lippe at first, along with control of many institutions that Schaumburg-Lippe has to share.

1644 - 1648

The Marburger Succession Conflict between Kassel and Darmstadt is a result of Kassel claiming back both Rheinfels and Marburg. An ally of Sweden during the Thirty Years War, Hessen-Kassel fights some of its bitterest battles in the final four years of the war against Hessen-Darmstadt. Part of Hessen-Marburg is ceded to Darmstadt to end the quarrel over land.


The cadet line of Hessen-Philippsthal is created for one of William VI's younger sons, Philip.

1663 - 1670

William VII

Son. Acceded as an infant, died young.

1663 - 1677

Hedwig Sophie von Brandenburg


1670 - 1730

Charles / Karl (I)

Brother. First to hire out troops to foreign powers.


Charles' son, Frederick, is married to Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden. Having renounced the rights of absolute monarchy in return for being confirmed as queen, she now abdicates in favour of her husband. She had preferred the idea of a co-monarchy in the style of England under Mary II and William III, but this has not been allowed in Sweden since the fifteenth century. Parliamentary rule is reinstated in Sweden with the monarchy greatly limited in power.

1730 - 1751

Frederick I

Son. Also king of Sweden (1720-1751) by marriage.


Hessen-Kassel gains Hanau-Munzenberg upon the end of the line of counts of Hanau.


One of the things for which Count William of Schaumburg-Lippe is noted during his reign is the comparatively large standing army that he maintains. A thousand men for such a small territory is quite unusual, but he is prompted by security fears in relation to his share of the productive Bückeberg mines and the possibility (however remote) that the dominating force in the county of Schaumburg, Hessen-Kassel, might attempt to seize total control of them.


Frederick dies without having produced an heir. In Hessen-Kassel he is succeeded by his brother, William VIII, who has already governed the landgraviate during Frederick's absences in Sweden. Sweden itself elects Adolphus Frederick, son of Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp and Margravine Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach.

1751 - 1760

William VIII

Brother. Represented Frederick in Kassel during his rule.

1760 - 1785

Frederick II



Frederick II reverted to the Catholic Church in 1749. When this became known (probably around the time of his accession to the title), his father, the Hessian estates, Prussia and Hanover all demand that he neither appoint any Catholics to public positions nor permit Catholic worship. Frederick is forced to agree, but his reign is not always shown in Hessian lists, his father's reign being extended to 1785 in his place.

1776 - 1783

Kassel supplies troops to England to fight in the American War of Independence. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Hessians or Hessian-led mercenaries are supplied.

1785 - 1803

William IX


1793 - 1795

Hessen-Kassel takes part in the fight against revolutionary France by supplying troops to the English crown. Peace between Kassel and France is declared at Basle.


The state is enlarged by a sharing out of previously imperial free towns and church states to compensate for land lost to France (including Hessen-Rheinfels). The landgraviate is elevated by France's Napoleon Bonaparte, William securing the coveted title of Kurfürst (prince elector of the HRE).

Kurfürsts of Hessen-Kassel (zu Rumpenheim)
AD 1803 - 1980

Elevated to elector status by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1803, the title was never resigned, even after the dissolution of the HRE in 1806.

A minor district of Hessen-Kassel was Rumpenheim, situated near Offenbach, in Rheinland-Pfalz (in 1802, and probably gained during the sharing out in 1803). Rumpenheim Castle in Kassel was named after it, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the rulers of Hessen-Kassel attach this name to their title, without their being any apparent division of the territory. Rumpenheim remained part of Hessen-Kassel after its absorption by Prussia in 1866. It continued to be claimed until at least 1880.

1803 - 1806

William / Wilhelm I

Formerly William IX. First Kurfürst of Hessen-Kassel.


Wilhelm partially mobilises his army while France's Napoleon Bonaparte is destroying the Prussian army in October. The following month Bonaparte takes his revenge by dissolving the state and incorporating its territory into his younger brother's newly created Kingdom of Westphalia. Kassel becomes the capital of the new kingdom.

1806 - 1813

Jerome Bonaparte

King of Westphalia / Westfalia.


MapNapoleon loses control of Germany. Westphalia is dismantled and Hessen-Kassel restored by the allied armies. The kurfürst gains the Nieder-Grafschaft of Katzenelnbogen, and the Prince-Bishopric (Grand Duchy) of Fulda, which connects his Hessian lands with those in Hanau. At the Congress of Vienna, William's request to be recognised as king of the Chatti is refused.

1813 - 1821

William I

Restored. Died 27 Feb.

1821 - 1847

William II

Son. A profligate ruler. Retired in 1831. Died 20 Nov.


Following the July Revolution in Paris, a similar uprising occurs in Kassel. William II is compelled to give the land a constitution which ensures every citizen complete liberty of conscience and freedom to practice his religion. William retires to Hanau, appoints his son as regent and takes no further part in public affairs.

1847 - 1866

Frederick William

Son. A tyrant. Deposed by Prussia.


As his control over the state is weakened, Frederick William is persuaded to leave Kassel along with the head of his administration. Austrian and Bavarian troops march into the electorate, in a direct challenge to Prussian supremacy in the area (1850-51). Although Frederick William returns, Hessen-Kassel is governed by the reconstituted federal diet.


Hessen-Kassel is annexed by an empire-building Prussia (20 September) following the defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War. Frederick William is made a prisoner in Stettin. The landgraves continue to hold their title but no real power. Hessen-Darmstadt is the only surviving Hessen state from this point. Hessen-Kassel is combined with Hessen-Homburg and renamed Hessen-Nassau and remains part of Prussia until the latter is unified within modern Germany at the close of the Second World War.

1866 - 1875

Landgrave Frederick William

Retained title but lost the landgraviate.

1875 - 1884

Landgrave Frederick William


1884 - 1925

Landgrave Alexander Frederick

Son. Renounced title. d.28 May 1940, Kassel.


The heir to the landgraviate, Frederick Charles, is offered the throne of Finland, but declines.

1925 - 1940

Landgrave Frederick Charles

Brother. m Margarethe, younger sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

1940 - 1980

Landgrave Philipp



Following the death of Prince Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt, Philipp becomes the new head of the House of Hesse (family pact signed in 1902).

Landgraves of Hessen-Marburg
AD 1458 - 1604

Initially, Marburg was one of Hesse's key cities, and was usually the capital before Kassel. Once the landgraviate had been enlargened in 1458, Ludwig was able to grant his younger brother the newly created (sub-)landgraviate of Hessen-Marburg.

The landgraviate was re-created from the division of the Duchy of Hesse in 1567. Because of its previous status, Marburg was the secondmost senior branch of this new division of land. Its share of the former duchy's territory amounted to fully a quarter, but its ruling line died out quickly. Marburg is situated in central Hesse, being located on the River Lahn.

1458 - 1483

Henry III

Brother of Ludwig III.

Ludwig III

Son. Predeceased his father (in 1478).

1483 - 1500

William III the Younger


1500 - 1567

William dies without issue, so Marburg is merged with the landgraviate of Hesse to form the Duchy of Hesse.

1567 - 1604

Ludwig / Louis IV

Second son of Philip I.


The Ydulfings of Hessen-Marburg die without producing a successor. Hessen-Kassel claims back the land. This causes quarrels between Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt which are not resolved until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Part of Hessen-Marburg is ceded to Darmstadt to end the quarrel.

Landgraves of Hessen-Rheinfels (-Rotenburg)
AD 1567 - 1869

Created from the division of the Duchy of Hesse in 1567, Rheinfels was the third Ydulfing family branch. Its share of the former duchy's territory amounted to an eighth, but its ruling line died out quickly. It was situated near the Rhine in the west of Hesse.

1567 - 1583

Philip II

Third son of Philip I.


The Ydulfing line of Hessen-Rheinfels dies without a successor. Hessen-Kassel claims back the land.


Upon the resignation of Maurice the Learned of Hessen-Kassel in favour of his son, William V, two younger brothers found the joint cadet lines of Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Rotenburg.

1627 - 1658


Hessen-Rotenberg. Son of Maurice. No heir.

1627 - 1693


Hessen-Rheinfels. Son of Maurice. United Rheinfels & Rotenberg.


The Rheinfels and Rotenbergs revert to Catholicism.


The Rotenberg title is united with that of Rheinfels.


Ernst's elder son, William, continues to govern the House of Rheinfels-Rotenbergs. His second son, Karl, is created Landgrave of Hessen-Rheinfels-Wanfried.

1693 - 1725



1725 - 1749



1749 - 1778




Rheinfels is removed from the family title, reducing it to Hessen-Rotenberg.

1778 - 1812

Karl Emanuel



The Rheinfels territory is lost to the revolutionary French.

1812 - 1834

Victor Amadeus

Map Son. Also Duke of Ratibor & Prince of Corvey.


Victor produces no legitimate offspring, so the Hessen-Rotenberg male line dies out.

1834 - 1869

Marie Adelheid



Marie had married Karl August, Prince of Hohenlohe-Bartenstein in 1811, so with her death, the title passes out of Hessian descent.

Landgraves of Hessen-Rheinfels-Wanfried
AD 1693 - 1731

This was a minor division of the already minor Hessen-Rheinfels-Rotenberg line.

1693 - 1711


Younger son of Ernst.

1711 - 1731




William dies without producing an heir.

Landgraves of Hessen-Eschwege
AD 1617 - 1655

A cadet line apparently created for a younger son of Landgrave Maurice of Hessen-Kassel.

1617? - 1655


Younger son of Maurice.


Frederick dies without producing a surviving male heir.

Landgraves of Hessen-Philippsthal
AD 1655 - 1925

A cadet line created for the younger son of Landgrave William VI of Hessen-Kassel.

1655 - 1736

Philip (III)

Third son of William VI.


The two sons of Philip divide the landgraviate into Hessen-Philippsthal and Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld.

1736 - 1770

Charles / Karl (II)


1770 - 1810



1810 - 1816


Map Son.

1816 - 1849

Ernst Constantine


1849 - 1868

Charles / Karl



The lines of Philippsthal and Philippsthal-Barchfeld gain certain castles and palaces from Kassel through Prussian management of the former landgraviate.

1868 - 1925


Son. No heir.


The line of Hessen-Philippsthal dies with Ernst. The title is merged with Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, which continues.

Landgraves of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld
AD 1736 - Present Day

Collateral line of Hessen-Philippsthal, which was divided upon the death of the former title-holder.

1736 - 1761


Brother of Charles of Hessen-Philippsthal.

1761 - 1777



1777 - 1803



1803 - 1854


Map Son.


The lines of Philippsthal and Philippsthal-Barchfeld gain certain castles and palaces from Kassel through Prussian management of the former landgraviate.

1854 - 1905



1905 - 1954


Nephew. Born 1876.


The line of Hessen- Philippsthal dies out with Ernst. The title is merged with Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, and becomes simply Hessen-Philippsthal.

1954 - Present


Grandson. His father, William, died in Russia in 1942.

Hereditary Prince William

Son. b.1963.

Landgraves of Hessen-Darmstadt
AD 1567 - 1806

Created from the division of the Duchy of Hesse in 1567, the rulers continued to hold the title Landgraf / Landgrave. Hessen-Darmstadt was the most junior of the four branches and, along with Rheinfels, the smallest of the four Hessen divisions, gaining just an eighth of the previous duchy's land. It is positioned in the south of Hesse.

Located in Hessen-Darmstadt are the cities of Frankfurt-am-Main and Darmstadt. The area to the south of Frankfurt is heavily forested, especially in the area of the Odenwald (Forest of Odes, south of Darmstadt), which leads to the famous Black Forest, and on to the Alps. Darmstadt is also very close to the ruins of Frankenstein Castle.

1567 - 1596

George I

Fourth son of Philip I.

1596 - 1626

Ludwig / Louis V the Faithful

Numbering continued from Hessen-Marburg.


Ludwig's younger brother, Philipp, forms the short-lived cadet branch of Hessen-Butzbach.


The Ydulfings of Hessen-Marburg die without producing a successor, and Hessen-Kassel claims back the land. This causes quarrels between Kassel and Darmstadt which are not resolved until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.


Ludwig V gains his title from his attachment to the emperor. Darmstadt is sub-divided so that the minor principality of Hessen-Homburg can be created for Ludwig's youngest brother.

1626 - 1661

George II


George's younger brother, Johann, forms the short-lived cadet branch of Hessen-Braubach.

1644 - 1648

The Marburger Succession Conflict between Kassel and Darmstadt is a result of Kassel claiming back both Rheinfels and Marburg. An enemy of Kassel during the Thirty Years War, Hessen-Darmstadt fights some of its bitterest battles against its neighbour. Darmstadt gains power after the war and the Peace of Westphalia (1648), a portion of Upper Hesse, the former Benedictine territory of Hersfeld, and part of Hessen-Marburg.

1661 - 1678

Ludwig VI


Upon Ludwig's accession, the cadet line of Hessen-Darmstadt-Itter is formed for his younger brother, George.


Ludwig VII

1678 - 1739

Ernst Ludwig

Son of Ludwig VI.


Hessen-Darmstadt gains Hanau-Lichtenberg upon the end of the line of counts of Hanau.

1739 - 1768

Ludwig VIII

1768 - 1790

Ludwig IX

1790 - 1806

Ludwig X

1793 - 1801

Hessen-Darmstadt fights against France as part of the Holy Roman empire. It is forced into neutrality in 1799. Along with a defeated Austria, Hessen-Darmstadt makes peace at Luneville in 1801.


State enlarged by a sharing out of previously imperial free towns and church states to compensate for land lost on the West Bank of the Rhine to France (a few districts in Baden and Nassau were also lost). It gained Kurmainz, Kurpfalz, and the Kurkolinsche Duchy of Westfalen (Westphalia) from the church.


Hessen-Darmstadt is made a member of Napoleon's French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbund). In return it receives all remaining imperial possessions within its borders (including the Grafschaft of Erbach) and Landgrave Ludwig X is elevated by Napoleon to the status of Grand Duke.

Map Grand Dukes of Hessen-Darmstadt (and the Rhine)
AD 1806 - 1918

Elevated by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806. Ruler held the title of grand duke (grossherzog).

1806 - 1830

Ludwig I

First Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt. Formerly Ludwig X.


Darmstadt gains three Hessian domains of the German Order, the Fulda domain of Herbstein, and the estates of the Order of Malta in Hesse.


The Congress of Vienna makes further changes to the state's borders. Ludwig becomes Grossherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein. He exchanges Westfalen with Prussia for Isenberg-Birstein, Worms, Alzey, and Bingen.

1830 - 1848

Ludwig II

Son. Second son founded Hessen-Battenberg branch.

1848 - 1877

Ludwig III

Son. No heir.


Hessen-Darmstadt, a supporter of the defeated of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, loses some territory (Hessen-Homburg, regained for a few months following the death of its last landgrave) but retains its independence. Hessen-Kassel has been absorbed into Prussia, so, as the sole remaining Hessian state of note, Hessen-Darmstadt is now usually known as the duchy of Hesse.


Hesse becomes a member state of Prussia's German empire.

1877 - 1892

Ludwig IV

Nephew. Grandson of Ludwig II. m Alice dau of Victoria.

1892 - 1918

Ernst Ludwig

Brother of Czarina. Ancestor of Lord Louis Mountbatten.

1919 - 1933

Hesse is proclaimed a republic after the fall of the German empire, and is recreated as a constituent part of the new federal Germany. The grand dukes maintain their status and title as hereditary dukes of Hesse but with no power or position in the new state.

1933 - 1945

Adolf Hitler suspends the constitution.


The occupying US forces combine Prussian Hessen-Nassau and the Republic of Hesse to form the federal state of Hesse. In the process, some of the Hesse regions are to be relinquished, but this - in spite of the 'foreign' influence involved - more or less resembles the mergers of the nineteenth century, making Hesse a consistent geographical, cultural and historic unit since the thirteenth century.

Landgraves of Hessen-Homburg
AD 1622 - 1866

A junior branch of Hessen-Darmstadt created by Ludwig V for his younger brother in 1622. The rulers held the title of landgrave, but were in effect junior rulers to Darmstadt's (to begin with). Hessen-Homburg consisted of the district of Homburg on the right side of the Rhine, and the district of Meisenheim, which was added in 1815, on the left side of the same river - little more than the city of Homburg and its environs.

1622 - 1638

Frederick I

Brother of Ludwig V.


Homburg is sub-divided into Hessen-Homburg and Hessen-Homburg-Bingenheim by Frederick's first two sons.

1650 - 1681

William Christopher

Son. Landgrave of Bingenheim (1648-1681).


Homburg becomes independent of Hessen-Darmstadt.

1669 - 1677

George Christian

Brother. No heir.


Homburg and Bingenheim are reunited into one title by Frederick II.

1681 - 1708

Frederick II

Third son of Frederick I.

1708 - 1746

Frederick III

1746 - 1751

Frederick IV

Son of Kasimir Wilhem (d.1726). Nephew of Frederick III.

1751 - 1806

Frederick V


The landgrave is driven out at the formation of the French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine, when Napoleon annexes the land to Hessen-Darmstadt.


Hessen-Homburg is reinstated by the Congress of Vienna, and is then recognised as a member of the German Confederation (1817).

1815 - 1820

Frederick V

Map Restored.


Following the death of Frederick V, five of his sons fill the title in succession. All are in their forties or fifties at the time.

1820 - 1829

Frederick VI Louis


1829 - 1839



1839 - 1846



1846 - 1848



1848 - 1866


Brother. Succeeded Gustav at the age of 65. Died 24 March.


The territory passes back to Hessen-Darmstadt. The Hessen-Homburg territory is taken by Prussia following Hessen-Darmstadt's defeat in the Austro-Prussian War.

Landgraves of Hessen-Butzbach
AD 1596 - 1643

A cadet line formed by the younger brother of Landgrave Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt.

1596 - 1643


Brother of Ludwig V.


Philipp has no offspring, so the line dies out.

Landgraves of Hessen-Braubach
AD 1626 - 1651

A cadet line formed by the younger brother of Landgrave George II of Hessen-Darmstadt.

1626 - 1651


Brother of George II.


Johann has no offspring, so the line dies out.

Landgraves of Hessen-Darmstadt-Itter
AD 1661 - 1676

A cadet line formed by the younger brother of Landgrave Ludwig VI of Hessen-Darmstadt.

1661 - 1676


Brother of Ludwig VI.


Although George had two daughters, neither apparently marries, so the line dies out.

House of Hessen-Battenberg
AD 1888 - 1917

A junior branch of the family with no political power. Alexander, son of Ludwig II of Hessen-Darmstadt, concluded a morganatic marriage with Julia Hauke, thereafter know as Princess Julia of Battenberg, and was effectively barred from acceding to Darmstadt's title. As the daughter of John Maurice Hauke, a high ranking officer of German origin in the army of Congress Poland, Julia was not considered worthy of the lineage of Hesse, so this special title was created for her and her descendants.

Alexander of Hesse

Son of Ludwig II. m Julia Hauke. Died 1888.

1888 - 1917

Prince Louis Alexander


Prince Alexander

Brother. Prince of Bulgaria (1879-1886). Died 1893.


At the request of George V of England, Louis Alexander alters the family name from Battenberg to the Anglicised Mountbatten, and the German title of Hessen-Battenberg is relinquished in favour of the English title of marquess of Milford Haven. Prince Louis also gains the titles earl of Medina and viscount Alderney.

Mountbatten Marquesses of Milford Haven
AD 1917 - Present Day

The First World War wrought great changes on German society as a whole, and also on the the Hessen-Battenbergs. The serving prince, Louis Alexander, was resident in England at the time. When in 1917 King George V severed all familial links with his Teutonic cousins, Louis had to do the same, changing the family name from Battenberg to Mountbatten. In place of his German title, he became the marquess of Milford Haven, while his younger brother, Louis Francis, later became Earl Mountbatten of Burma. With two major titles in the family, seniority remained with the marquesses of Milford Haven (shown normally below), while the earls of Burma are shown in green text, and other siblings are shown with a shaded background.

1917 - 1921

Louis Alexander Mountbatten

Altered Hessen-Battenberg to Mountbatten. First Sea Lord.


Hesse is proclaimed a republic.


Alice Mountbatten

Dau. m Andrew of Greece, brother of Constantine I (1913-1922).

1921 - 1938

George Mountbatten

Son of Louis Alexander. 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven.

1938 - 1970

David Mountbatten

Son. 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven.

1946 - 1979

Louis Francis Mountbatten

Brother of Louis. 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Viceroy of India.


Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark

Son of Alice. m Elizabeth II of England.

1970 - Present

George Ivar Louis Mountbatten

Son of David. 4th Marquess of Milford Haven.

1979 - Present

Countess Patricia Edwina Victoria

Dau of Louis Francis. 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Hereditary Heirs of Hesse (and the Rhine)
AD 1918 - Present Day

The modern Federal German State of Hesse is divided into three federal administrative districts. These are the southern district of Hessen-Darmstadt; the middle district of Hessen-Giessen (for most of its history a part of Hessen-Darmstadt); and the northern district of Hessen-Kassel (old Casl and Cassel).

1918 - 1937

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig


Germany adopts the democratic 'Weimar constitution' following the abolition of the German empire. This new Germany consists of the former German kingdoms and duchies, all of which have now been abolished, which include Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, Lippe, Saxony and Württemberg.


Grand Duke Georg Donatus

Son. Killed in plane crash with wife, two sons and mother.

1937 - 1968

Grand Duke Ludwig (V)



The Ducal House of Hessen-Darmstadt comes to an end with the death of Ludwig. In 1960, Ludwig had adopted his distant cousin, Moritz, son of Landgrave Philipp of Hessen-Kassel, and by a family pact (made in 1902) Moritz's still-living father becomes inheritor of the ducal title of Hesse and the Rhine.

1968 - 1980

Landgrave Philipp

Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel. Died in Rome.

1980 - Present

Landgrave Moritz

Son. Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel.

Hereditary Prince Henry