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European Kingdoms

Central Europe


Hessen-Homburg (Hesse)
AD 1622 - 1866

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.

Duke Philip 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. 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.

Afterwards, Hesse was divided into the regions of Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels, and Hessen-Darmstadt. This division was to ensure all four Ydulfing sons had lands of their own but all it did in reality was weaken his once-powerful duchy.

The landgraviate of Hessen-Homburg was a cadet, or junior, branch of the duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt. It was created by Duke Ludwig V for his younger brother Frederick in 1622. Like the rulers of the other cadet branches, the Hessen-Homburger rulers held the title of landgrave, but they were junior members of the House of Hesse with no real power outside their own lands.

Hessen-Homburg consisted of the district of Homburg on the right bank of the Rhine and the district of Meisenheim, which was added in 1815, on the left bank. Overall the territory amounted to little more than the city of Homburg and its environs.

Burg Frankenstein

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Das frühere Kurhessen - Ein Geschichtsbild, Otto Bähr, from Geschichte des Landes Hessen, Karl Ernst Demandt, from Kurfürstentum (Kassel Lexikon), Ewald Grothe, from Kurhessens Ministerialvorstände der Verfassungszeit 1831-1866, Harald Höffner, from Die Kurhessen im Feldzuge von 1814: Ein Beitrag zur hessischen Kriegsgeschichte, Carl Renouard, and from Die Kurhessische Verfassung von 1831 im Rahmen des deutschen Konstitutionalismus, Christian Starck.)

1622 - 1638

Frederick I

Brother of Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt.


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

Bad Homburg Castle
The official residence of the landgraves of Hessen-Homburg was Bad Homburg Castle, originally constructed from the twelfth century but largely pulled down and rebuilt under the direction of Landgrave Frederick II in the 1670s-1680s

1638 - 1648

Margaret Elisabeth of Leiningen

Wife and regent following Frederick's death. Died 1667.

1648 - 1681

William Christopher

Son. Landgrave of Bingenheim. Sold Homburg.


Already a tiny territory, Homburg is sub-divided into Hessen-Homburg and Hessen-Homburg-Bingenheim by Frederick's eldest son, William Christop[er]. He is already landgrave of Bingenheim (the preferred name for the landgraviate during his lifetime), but he sells Homburg to the second-eldest son - his brother - George Christian.

1669 - 1671

George Christian

Brother. Landgrave of Homburg. Died 1677. No heir.

1671 - 1673

George Christian, a confirmed adventurer if ever there was one, sells Homburg to two of his biggest creditors, Johann Christian von Boyneburg and a banker by the name of Johann Ochs from Frankfurt.

Wanting to realise the value of their newfound asset they sell Homburg to Landgrave Ludwig VI of Hessen-Darmstadt in 1673. Homburg is later redeemed by George's brother, Frederick, 'Prince of Homburg', who takes up residence there.

The Wetterau formed an important part in the creation of early Hesse, although it lay to the north, immediately beyond Frankfurt and outside the core Hessian lands

1673? - 1681

Frederick the 'Prince of Homburg'

Brother. Landgrave of Homburg. Succeeded William in 1681.


The territories of Homburg and Bingenheim are reunited along with their titles by Frederick II. Upon his accession he becomes the landgrave of a Hessen-Homburg which now has no sub-divisions. Unfortunately he soon has to sell Bingenheim to Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt in exchange for monetary compensation.

1681 - 1708

Frederick II the 'Prince of Homburg'

Former landgrave of Homburg. Reunited Hessen-Homburg.

1708 - 1746

Frederick III Jacob

Son. Outlived all of his own sons, with no heir remaining.

1711 - 1737

Ferdinand Kettler resides in Danzig and is therefore declared ineligible to become the next duke of Courland, ending the rule of the House of Ketteler there. The duchy is left without a ruling duke, although a large number of potential candidates put themselves forward to replace the Kettlers, including the future Landgrave Frederick IV of Hessen-Homburg.

Anna Ivanova is widely acknowledged as the regent of Courland following the death in 1711 of her husband, the former Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Courland. Upon her accession to the Russian throne, she places her own candidate in Courland.

Bauskas Castle in Courland
The former Bauskas Castle, a stronghold which had been built by the once-dominant Livonian Knights, had a Mannerism style residence built into the forepart in 1596 by the duke of Courland, Friedrich Kettler


Hessen-Homburg's minimal finances remain perilous, and the landgraviate's debt has continued to grow. Frederick III is forced by an imperial debit commission to return to the service of the Dutch in 1738, during the Second Stadhouderless Era. He is made governor of the city of Liege in that year, being promoted to Breda in 1741.

1746 - 1751

Frederick IV

Son of Kasimir Wilhem (died in 1726). Nephew of Frederick III.


Landgrave Ludwig VIII of Hessen-Darmstadt has decided to reclaim Hessen-Homburg for himself. His troops march in and Ludwig claims to be Frederick's legal guardian, despite the latter already being twenty-three years of age. Frederick is an adult in the eyes of the law and is also married by now.

The Holy Roman emperor and the Aulic Council review the case, although Frederick IV dies of a 'chest disease' in the meantime. His three year-old son succeeds him as Frederick V. The emperor confirms his mother as his regent, despite Ludwig's protestations (Ludwig is ordered out of the landgraviate in 1756).

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

1751 - 1806

Frederick V Louis William

Son. Acceded aged 3. Exiled (1806-1814).

1751 - 1766

Ulrike Louise of Solms-Braunfels

Mother and regent. Died 1792.


The French Directory is established on 3 November 1795, headed by Paul Barras. France's Revolutionary Wars against the monarchies of Europe begins to carve out a new empire for the country, both at home and abroad.

The Netherlands is invaded and the puppet Batavian Republic set up. Hessen-Homburg falls under near-constant French military occupation, having to pay contributions to the French war effort. Subsequently a further peace agreement is sealed with Prussia and Spain.


Having already been ejected from Bad Homburg Castle and from Hessen-Homburg itself, Landgrave Frederick V refuses to accept membership of the French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine. Never one to put up with dissention, Napoleon annexes the territory to Hessen-Darmstadt. Landgrave Ludwig X of Hessen-Darmstadt is elevated by Napoleon to the status of grand duke.

1814 - 1815

In 1814 the Congress of Vienna makes changes to Hessen-Darmstadt's borders. Grand Duke Ludwig I becomes Grossherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein ('Grand Duke of Hesse on the Rhine'). He exchanges Westfalen with Prussia for Isenberg-Birstein, Worms, Alzey, and Bingen.

Map of Confederation of German States AD 1815
Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte 1814, the Congress of Vienna took on board much of his vital restructuring of the German principalities, with the result that a map of the new Confederation of German States in 1815-1817 looked very different to maps of the previous century (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The landgraviate of Hessen-Homburg is re-established in 1815, with the Grand Bailiwick of Meisenheim on the west bank of the Rhine being added to it and its independence being recognised by Hessen-Darmstadt (under duress). The latter is recognised as a member of the German Confederation in 1817, while Hessen-Homburg is its smallest sovereign state.

1815 - 1820

Frederick V Louis William



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, so their terms in the office are relatively brief as a result. All are the offspring of Frederick and his wife, Caroline of Hessen-Darmstadt, daughter of Ludwig IX.

1820 - 1829

Frederick VI Joseph

Son. m the aged Princess Elizabeth of Britain.

1829 - 1839

Ludwig Wilhelm / Louis William



Following his attempt to restore the Ancien Régime in full, the July Revolution overthrows King Charles X of France, and he abdicates in favour of his ten year-old grandson, Henri, duke of Bordeaux.

The revolution also results in some instability in Belgium, Hessen-Homburg, and Saxony. Hessen-Homburg sees the army mutiny and a youth element participating in the Frankfurter Wachensturm (otherwise known as the charge of the Frankfurt guard house) on 3 April 1833, a failed attempt to trigger revolution in German lands.

July Revolution of 1830
The July Revolution of 1830 in France fed on long-held and growing resentments and inequalities, while also sparking several smaller but similar revolts across Europe

1839 - 1846


Brother. Proffered as a candidate for Greek throne in 1829.

1846 - 1848



1848 - 1866


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


Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in Central Europe.

Prussia gains the newly-created kingdom of Italy as an ally in the south and several minor German states in the north. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant.

Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, the kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hessen-Kassel, and the duchy of Nassau-Weilburg, along with the free city of Frankfurt.

Prussia also subsumes Schleswig and Holstein, although the former has technically been Prussian since 1864, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876). Many of these gains ensure that Prussian territories in the east and west are now connected through the Rhineland and Westphalia.

Austro-Prussian War 1866
Austria's slow-moving forces were outpaced by Prussia's fully modern army during the Austro-Prussian War, which decided the power balance in Central Europe, as shown in this oil by Georg Bleibtreu

The new, Prussian-dominated North German Confederation gains members in Anhalt-Dessau, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lippe-Detmold, Lübeck, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz Neustrelitz, Oldenburg, Reuss, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the kingdom of Saxony.

Also included are Schaumburg-Lippe Bückeburg, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen Sondershausen, and Waldeck-Pyrmont Arolsen. Furthermore, Prince Karl Eitel Frederick of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is invited to rule the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

With Landgrave Ferdinand of Hessen-Homburg having died only a few months before the start of the war, his territory has already passed back to Hessen-Darmstadt. Despite being a supporter of the defeated of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, the grand duchy only loses some territory, but this includes Hessen-Homburg and the northern urban district of Biedenkopf, on the River Lahn.

Franc-Prussian War 1870-1871
The impending Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 swept away any surviving myth of the greatness of France's military capabilities when the highly modernised Prussian forces drove them back to the gates of Paris

Despite this loss, Hessen-Darmstadt survives as the sole remaining Hessian state of note whilst Hessen-Homburg is joined to Hessen-Kassel as part of the expanded Prussian sub-state of Hessen-Nassau.

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