History Files


European Kingdoms

Central Europe




AD 1458 - 1500 / AD 1567 - 1604

Marburg was one of Hesse's key cities, and had usually served as the capital before Kassel superseded it. The landgraviate of Hesse was a single, unified and enlargened state from 1458, following a division of territory within the Holy Roman empire. The landgraviate was now centred on the city of Kassel and the new ruler, Ludwig III (IV), created a sub-landgraviate for his younger brother, Henry. This was based around Marburg, capital of the Oberhessen half of the state (Upper Hesse), which had now been relegated in importance. Ludwig remained the senior landgrave in Hesse.

The landgraviate of Hessen-Marburg was re-created anew 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.

Duke Philip the Magnanimous or Generous was the single most influential figure in the history of all of the various Hessian territories. One of the political leaders of the Reformation, it was during his reign that Hesse played a role of great importance in the Reich, meaning 'empire' - in this case the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire which covered most of Central Europe. Hesse's city of Frankfurt-am-Main was for a long time a free imperial city, serving as the location in which German emperors were crowned.

Following Philip's death, Hesse was divided into the regions of Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt, one each for Philip's four sons. The rulers of Hessen-Darmstadt continued to hold the title of landgraf ('landgrave' in English), although they formed 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.

(Additional information from External Links: Euratlas, and Historical Atlas of Germany.)

1458 - 1483

Henry III the Rich

Brother of Ludwig III (IV). Landgrave of Oberhessen (Marburg).

Ludwig III

Son. Predeceased his father (in 1478).

1483 - 1500

William III the Younger

Brother. Landgrave of Oberhessen (Marburg).

1500 - 1567

William dies without having produced a male heir. Landgrave William II of Hesse therefore reunifies Hesse's divided territories to form a single, elevated duchy of Hesse. Following Philip's death in 1567, Hesse is divided into the regions of Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt, one each for Philip's four sons.

1567 - 1604

Ludwig / Louis IV

Second son of Philip I of Hesse. No heir.


Ludwig of the House of Ydulfing and landgrave of Hessen-Marburg dies without producing a successor. Landgrave Maurice of Hessen-Kassel claims back the land and attempts to impose Calvinism upon its subjects, contrary to the rules of inheritance. This causes disagreements between him and Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt which evolve into armed conflict between the two in the Thirty Years' War from 1618 and are not resolved until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Part of Hessen-Marburg is ceded to Darmstadt in order to end the quarrel.