History Files

European Kingdoms

Central Europe


AD 1596 - 1643

The process of dividing and sub-dividing the German territorial duchies and electorates was one that eventually served to weaken all of the Holy Roman empire's states, save Austria. Some of these divisions were never undone by succeeding generations. In fact, there could sometimes be as many landgraves or dukes as there were heirs. The complicated divisions and swapping of territory and names are sometimes tricky to cover in detail, with much of the more intricate details rarely being covered by English language publications. Each of the rulers of these divisions usually continued to hold the title of landgraf ('landgrave' in English).

Landgrave Ludwig III of early Hesse set a local precedence in this particular territory by dividing part of his lands so that his younger brother, Henry, would have something to govern. In this case, Henry's domain of Hessen-Marburg would be a short-lived splinter state that was returned to central control in 1500, but this splintering would be repeated time and time again, successively weakening Hesse (and many other German states which followed the same practice). The most minor of the splinter titles really were little more than that - a title, perhaps with a bit of land that held a castle or an estate. Many lasted for a single generation or so, effectively being not much more than a life appointment before reverting to their 'parent' body.

The title of Hessen-Butzbach was founded for a Hessian cadet line that was formed by Philipp, the younger brother of Landgrave Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt. Reignal numbering was continued from that of Hessen-Rheinfels which already had a Philip II. Butzbach is a modest-sized town which lies approximately sixteen kilometres to the south of Giessen (Gießen), and the landgraviate initially consisted of that and little else. The 'Landgrafenschloss' ('landgraf's castle') which provided Philipp III with his seat and main residence still stands today, providing a home for the city council following a period of use up until 1990 as a US Army base. However, Philipp failed to produce an heir so, upon his death in 1643, the landgraviate's holdings were reintegrated back into Hessen-Darmstadt.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Coercion, Capital, and European States, Charles Tilly, 1992, from Historisches Lexikon der deutschen Länder (Historical Dictionary of German States), Gerhard Köbler, 1995, from Medieval Lands: Thuringia, Charles Cawley, from Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol 11 (1880, in German), and from External Links: Euratlas, and Historical Atlas of Germany, and Genealogy.eu, and Hessen-Butzbach (Wikiwand).)

1596 - 1643

Philipp III

Brother of Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt.


The Ydulfings of Hessen-Marburg die without producing a successor, the only ruler for this branch being Ludwig's uncle, Ludwig IV. Maurice of Hessen-Kassel claims back the title and attempts to impose Calvinism upon its subjects, contrary to the rules of inheritance. This causes disagreements between him and his cousin, Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt, because Ludwig also inherits a portion of Hessen-Marburg's lands. The disagreements evolve into armed conflict between the two in the Thirty Years' War from 1618 (which would naturally involve the resources of Hessen-Butzbach being utilised by Hessen-Darmstadt). These issues are not resolved until the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

St Elizabeth's Church, Marburg
St Elizabeth's Church in Marburg became the traditional location for internments of the rulers of Hesse from the thirteenth century onwards


Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt gains his title - 'the faithful' - from his attachment to the Holy Roman emperor. Darmstadt is sub-divided so that the minor principality of Hessen-Homburg can be created for Ludwig's youngest brother (and Philipp's younger brother), Frederick.


Upon the death of Ludwig V, Hessen-Darmstadt is again sub-divided. His eldest son becomes George II, landgrave of the main portion of Hessen-Darmstadt. George's younger brother, Johann, becomes head of the short-lived cadet branch of Hessen-Braubach.


Philip III dies in Bad Ems at the age of sixty-one. At the time he is undertaking a sweat cure prescribed by his physician, Johann Schröder. During one of these sweat cures, alcohol ignites due to the carelessness of the body barber. A jet flame inflicts severe burns on the sick landgrave, from which he dies a little later. As a result of his not having produced an heir, his newfound line of Hessen-Butzbach ends with him. His holdings, including the Landgrafenschloss in Butzbach itself, are reintegrated back into Hessen-Darmstadt.