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European Kingdoms

Central Europe


Hessen-Butzbach (Hesse)
AD 1596 - 1643

The process of dividing and sub-dividing the German territorial duchies in Europe and electorates was one which 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).

FeatureThe Hessian 'Landgraviate' had been elevated to the 'Duchy of Hesse' in 1500, after which it had been heavily involved in the Protestant Reformation and its various conflicts (see feature link). The death of the commanding figure of Philip 'the Magnanimous' in 1567 had splintered the duchy into four. Subsequent generations would only increase that splintering.

Landgrave Ludwig III set a local precedence by dividing part of his lands for his younger brother, Henry. In this case, Henry's domain of Hessen-Marburg would be a short-lived splinter state which was returned to central control in 1500, but this splintering would be repeated time and time again, successively weakening Hesse.

The most minor of the splinter titles really were little more than that - a title, perhaps with a bit of land which 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 which 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 in 1643 his holdings were reintegrated back into Hessen-Darmstadt.

Burg Frankenstein

(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.

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

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.


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.

Burg Frankenstein
Burg Frankenstein (better known in English as Frankenstein Castle) sits on a high hill in the Odenwald, overlooking the city of Darmstadt, possibly serving as the inspiration for Mary Shelley's Gothic novel of the same name


Philip III dies in Bad Ems at the age of sixty-one. At the time he is undertaking a sweat cure which has been 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.

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