History Files

European Kingdoms

Central Europe


AD 1627 - 1655

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-Eschwege was created for a younger son of Landgrave Maurice of Hessen-Kassel. Maurice had lost much of Hessen-Kassel's territory to the Imperial army and Hessen-Darmstadt during the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War and the family found itself in financial straits. Disgraced by his fall, Maurice abdicated in favour of his son who succeeded him as William V, while Hessen-Eschwege, Hessen-Rheinfels, and Hessen-Rotenburg were created (or recreated) for some of the other six or more sons. Hessen-Eschwege went to the ten year-old Frederick. However, he had failed to produce an heir by the time of his death in battle, so his holdings were passed to Ernst, landgrave of Hessen-Rheinfels.

(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.)

1627 - 1655


Younger son of Maurice of Hessen-Kassel. Killed in battle.

1627 - 1632

Having lost much of Hessen-Kassel's territory to the Imperial army and Hessen-Darmstadt during the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War, Landgrave Maurice has stepped down and retired to Eschwege. William V now governs Hessen-Kassel while the ten year-old Frederick is mostly likely growing up with his parents in Eschwege. Maurice dies there in 1632, by which time Frederick is fifteen.

Landgrave Ernst of Hessen-Rheinfels-Rotenberg-Wanfried
The landgraviate of Hessen-Rheinfels, the title having fallen vacant in 1583, was recreated in 1627 and handed to Ernst (seen here), to be enlarged with the addition of Hessen-Eschwege in 1655, and united with Hessen-Rotenberg upon the death of his brother in 1658 - only to be divided again at his own death


William V has not been able to stem the flow of territorial and financial loss during the war. His death after just ten years as landgrave leaves Hessen-Kassel in a precarious position. His infant son inherits the title, with the boy's mother, Amalie Elizabeth von Hanau acting as regent. She provides sterling service for William VI and Kassel, regaining large areas of the lost territory through alliances and battle. France and Sweden both provide support and assistance, and parts of the small duchy of Westphalia are also held by Kassel.

1644 - 1648

The Marburger Succession Conflict between Kassel and Darmstadt is a result of Kassel claiming back both Rheinfels and Marburg (the latter in 1604) and attempting to impose Calvinism there against the rules of inheritance. 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), along with a portion of Upper Hesse, the former Benedictine territory of Hersfeld, and part of Hessen-Marburg.


Frederick is killed in battle at Kosten on 24 September without having produced a surviving male heir. As a result, Eschwege is added to the territories held by Ernst, landgrave of Hessen-Rheinfels.