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European Kingdoms

Central Europe


Hessen-Kassel (Hesse)
AD 1567 - 1803

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 would splinter the duchy into four. Subsequent generations would only increase that splintering.

The west German duchy was a single, unified, and enlargened state from 1500. The main body of its territory was comprised of various regions to the east of Nassau, and between the River Lippe to the north and just below the Maine in the south. Formerly the Chatti tribe of the first century AD, the Hessians formed a semi-independent territory out of the collapse of the much larger stem duchy of Franconia. They gained a landgraviate in the thirteenth century and a duchy in 1500.

From 1509, Duke Philip 'the Magnanimous' was the single most influential figure in the history of all of the various Hessian territories. One of the political leaders of the Protestant 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.

Following Philip's death in 1567, Hesse was divided into the regions of Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt, one each for Philip's four sons. The landgraviate of Kassel was the largest and most senior of these. It was also the dominant partner, and owner of approximately half the former duchy's lands. It inherited the region of northern Hesse (Lower Hesse) which had originally belonged to Werner I, count of Lower Hesse around AD 1000, the most powerful of Hesse's early nobles during its medieval emergence from dark age obscurity.

From the capital at Kassel (which is often shown as 'Cassel', its more usual pre-twentieth century spelling), the rulers of northern Hesse continued to hold the title of landgrave. They built up strong connections with the Netherlands and, through them, with England. Troops were provided to England on numerous occasions, not least during the American War of Independence.

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.)

1567 - 1592

William IV 'the Wise'

Eldest son of Philip 'the Magnanimous' of the duchy of Hesse.


The central area on the Weser (formerly part of Angria) had in the thirteenth century become the nucleus of the county of Hoya. This is part of the Holy Roman empire (in today's German state of Lower Saxony).

Now the county is partitioned after the death of the last, childless, count of Hoya, Otto VIII. The majority of his territory goes to the principality of Calenberg, with the rest passing to the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg and the landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel.

Burg Rheinfels
Burg Rheinfels (Rheinfels Castle) was the seat of the landgraves of Hessen-Rheinfels, as shown in this painting of 1607 by Renier Roidkin, and was built in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen


All of the properties which belong to Hessen-Rheinfels are claimed back following the death of the childless Philip, one of William's younger brothers. The title itself is not included in that reclamation and remains vacant.

1592 - 1627

Maurice 'the Learned'

Son. Became Calvinist in 1605. Abdicated in favour of his son.


The Ydulfings of Hessen-Marburg die out without producing a successor, the only ruler being Maurice's uncle, Ludwig IV. Hessen-Kassel claims back the title and Maurice attempts to impose Calvinism upon its subjects, contrary to the rules of inheritance.

This causes disagreements between Maurice 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 and are not resolved until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.



Son and hereditary prince. Predeceased his father aged 22.


Ludwig V of Hessen-Darmstadt gains his title 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, Frederick.

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


Maurice has lost much of Kassel's territory to the Imperial army and Hessen-Darmstadt during the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War and the family are in financial straits. He steps down in favour of his son, William V, and Hessen-Eschwege is created for one of Maurice's younger sons (out of a total of at least six sons).

Hessen-Rheinfels is recreated along with Hessen-Rotenburg as cadet branches for two further sons, while William succeeds to the landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and retains overlordship rights over his younger (half-) brothers. Maurice dies in Eschwege in 1632.

1627 - 1637

William V

Brother. Died.


William 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 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.

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

1637 - 1663

William VI

Son. Came of age in 1650.

1637 - 1650

Amalie Elizabeth von Hanau

Mother & landgravine, acted as regent who regained Kassel.

1640 - 1643

When Count Otto V of Holstein-Schaumburg dies in 1640 without having produced an heir, the county of Schaumburg is divided (in 1643) between Brunswick-Lüneburg, Hessen-Kassel, and Lippe. Count Philip I of Lippe-Alverdissen (who is married to Sophie, daughter of the late Landgrave Maurice of Hessen-Kassel) is able to found the Schaumburg-Lippe line of the House of Lippe to incorporate the expanded territory which comes to him.

Hessen-Kassel holds the lion's share, including the county of Schaumburg itself, minus various territories, and retains some feudal rights over Schaumburg-Lippe at first, along with control of many institutions which Schaumburg-Lippe has to share.

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). An ally of Sweden during the Thirty Years' War, Hessen-Kassel fights some of its bitterest battles in the final four years of the war against Hessen-Darmstadt. Part of Hessen-Marburg is ceded to Darmstadt to end the quarrel over land.

Castle Philippsthal
Castle Philippsthal in the modern town of the same name (formerly known as Kreuzberg) provided a landgraviate seat for Philip


The cadet line of Hessen-Philippsthal is created for one of William VI's younger sons, Philip. The act largely involves a minor transfer of territory, but no real power. It suggests that Hessen-Kassel is on the road to recovery.

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

1663 - 1670

William VII

Son of William VI. Acceded as an infant, died young.

1663 - 1677

Hedwig Sophie von Brandenburg

Mother and regent.


William VII contracts a fever while in Paris and the subsequent treatment probably does more to kill him than the fever itself. His brother Charles succeeds him, but he is still a minor so his mother continues her role as regent until 1677. The late William's fiancée, Maria Amalia of Courland (daughter of Jacob Kettler), marries Charles instead.

1670 - 1730

Charles / Karl (I)

Brother of William VII. First to hire troops to foreign powers.


Charles' son, Frederick, is married to Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden. Having renounced the rights of absolute monarchy in return for being confirmed as queen, she now abdicates in favour of her husband.

She had preferred the idea of a co-monarchy in the style of England under Mary II and William III, but this has not been allowed in Sweden since the fifteenth century. Parliamentary rule is reinstated in Sweden with the monarchy greatly limited in power.

Mary II and William of Orange
Mary II and William of Orange were invited to Britain from their home in the Netherlands, where William was the official head of state, to rescue the country from the divisive Catholic rule of James II

1730 - 1751

Frederick I

Son. Also king of Sweden (1720-1751) by marriage.

1735 - 1736

Having already acquired Rheinfels from Constantine of Hessen-Rotenberg in 1735, Frederick I has also joined Hessen-Kassel to Sweden in personal union for his lifetime. In addition, he now gains Hanau-Münzenberg following the death of the last of the counts of Hanau.

However, the bulk of the last count's lands pass to Hessen-Darmstadt in the form of Hanau-Lichtenberg, because Ernst Ludwig's son is the count's grandson.

1745 - 1746

In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands at Eriskay in the Hebrides, Scotland, to lay claim to the British throne. He is backed by the French, who are at present heavily embroiled in the Austrian War of Succession against Britain.

Fighting in his still-living father's name, he raises his standard at Glenfinnan, Scotland on 19 August, igniting the Second Jacobite Rebellion. On 21 September, his Jacobite forces defeat English forces at the Battle of Prestonpans but in December Landgrave Frederick's nephew, the future Landgrave Frederick II, lands on the Scottish coast with 6,000 troops to support his father-in-law, George II.

The Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden saw the destruction of the clans in Scotland at the hands of Britain's modern army, with England being reinforced by troops from Hessen-Kassel

The following year, in the last battle fought on British soil, the Jacobites are routed by the duke of Cumberland at Culloden. The Jacobite cause effective dies, but Charles Edward's claim is passed on, first through his brother, Henry, in 1788, and then the Savoyard kings of Sardinia from 1807.


One of the things for which Count William of Schaumburg-Lippe is noted during his reign is the comparatively large standing army which he maintains.

A thousand men for such a small territory is quite unusual, but he is prompted by security fears in relation to his share of the productive Bückeberg mines and the possibility (however remote) that the dominating force in the county of Schaumburg, Hessen-Kassel, might attempt to seize total control of them.


Frederick dies without having produced an heir. In Hessen-Kassel he is succeeded by his brother, William VIII, who has already governed the landgraviate during Frederick's absences in Sweden. Sweden itself elects as king Adolphus Frederick, son of Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp and Margravine Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession at the beginning of the century was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1751 - 1760

William VIII

Brother. Represented Frederick in Kassel during his rule.

1756 - 1763

The Seven Years' War - the first truly 'global' conflict - erupts as Britain declares war on France. Troops of Hessen-Kassel serve under British command, led by William VIII. As part of the eventual peace settlement, Britain gains New France from the French, renaming it the province of Quebec as part of their colonies in the Americas.

1760 - 1785

Frederick II



Frederick II had reverted to the Catholic Church in 1749. When this becomes known (probably around the time of his accession to the title), his father, the Hessian estates, Prussia, and Hanover all demand that he neither appoint any Catholics to public positions nor permit Catholic worship.

Frederick is forced to agree, but his reign is not always shown in Hessian lists, his father's reign being extended to 1785 in his place.

1776 - 1783

With Frederick II being the son-in-law of King George II of Britain (thanks to his marriage to Princess Mary), he leases troops to the British to fight in the American War of Independence. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Hessians or Hessian-led mercenaries are supplied and turn out to be some of the hardest-fighting troops in the war.

British forces surrender at Saratoga
The Second Battle of Saratoga on 7 October saw the mixed British forces of about five thousand British, Brunswickers, Canadians, and Indians surrender to around 14,000 American militia and regular troops during the American War of Independence

1785 - 1803

William IX

Son. Elevated to Kurfürst William I in 1803.

1793 - 1795

Hessen-Kassel takes part in the fight against revolutionary France by supplying troops to the English crown. Peace between Kassel and France is declared at Basle in the same year that the French Directory is established and peace is also agreed with Prussia and Spain.

However, the turbulent history of Rheinfels Castle has already come to an end in 1794, when it had been handed over - without a struggle - to the French. In 1796 or 1797 the exterior walls and the castle are blown up. Today what remained of it after that demolition work survives as a ruin.


The state is enlarged by a sharing out of previously imperial free towns and church states to compensate for land lost to France (including Rheinfels). The landgraviate is elevated by Napoleon Bonaparte, with William securing the coveted title of Kurfürst (prince elector of the Holy Roman empire).

Kurfürsts of Hessen-Kassel (zu Rumpenheim) / Kingdom of Westphalia (Hesse)
AD 1803 - 1866

Following the death of Phillip 'the Magnanimous' of Hesse, his holdings were divided in four for his sons: Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels and Hessen-Darmstadt. The most senior of those was Hessen-Kassel, and this was elevated to the status of an electorate by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1803.

The title was never resigned, even after the dissolution of the empire in 1806. Unfortunately for Hessen-Kassel, its own statehood was dissolved by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807. Following this, its territory was held by a new creation, the kingdom of Westphalia, until Napoleon's expulsion from German lands in 1813. Official reconstitution of Hessen-Kassel was effected by the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815.

A minor district of Hessen-Kassel was Rumpenheim, situated near Offenbach, in Rheinland-Pfalz (in 1802, and probably gained during the sharing out of territory in 1803). Rumpenheim Castle in Kassel was named after it, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the rulers of Hessen-Kassel attached this name to their title, without their being any apparent division of the territory between cadet branches. Rumpenheim remained part of Hessen-Kassel after its absorption by Prussia in 1866. It continued to be claimed at least until 1880.

The kingdom of Westphalia was a new entity which was created by Napoleon Bonaparte out of his conquest of German territories in 1805-1806. Some of the German states refused to accept the fact that the French empire now dominated Germany rather than the dismantled Holy Roman empire and they continued to resist.

In late 1806 and early 1807, following the conclusive destruction of the Prussian army, Napoleon deposed several German princes and merged their territories into a new state - Westphalia - which he gave to his youngest brother, Jerome. Situated in the north of Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine, it lasted for as long as Napoleon held power and then was swept away, the previous states being restored. Subsequent Bonaparte family heads held no claim over the lost title.

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.)

1803 - 1806

William / Wilhelm I

Formerly William IX of Hessen-Kassel. First kurfürst.

1806 - 1807

Wilhelm partially mobilises his army while France's Napoleon Bonaparte is destroying the Prussian army in October. The following month Bonaparte takes his revenge by occupying the state and, in 1807, dissolving it and incorporating its territory into his younger brother's newly created kingdom of Westphalia.

Alongside the dissolution of Hessen-Kassel, the lands of Hessen-Philippsthal suffer the same fate. Kassel becomes the capital of the new kingdom.

Cavalry of Landgrave Frederick II of Hessen-Kassel
Like many of the German states, Kurfürst William I of Hessen-Kassel inherited his father's eighteenth century military forces and they remained largely unchanged by 1806, far from ready to be able to resist the new and overwhelmingly efficient military tactics being employed by the French empire

Apart from Hessen-Kassel, the new kingdom includes the duchy of Magdeburg (on the western side of the Elbe), and the Brunswick-Lüneburg territories of Hanover and Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. William I's palace at Kassel, Wilhelmshöhe, is renamed Napoleonshöhe for the duration of the new kingdom's existence.

1807 - 1813

Jerome Bonaparte

King of Westphalia / Westfalia.

1813 - 1815

MapNapoleon loses control of Germany. Westphalia is dismantled and Hessen-Kassel restored by the allied armies. The kurfürst gains the Nieder-Grafschaft of Katzenelnbogen, and the prince-bishopric (grand duchy) of Fulda, which connects his Hessian lands with those in Hanau.

At the Congress of Vienna, William's request to be recognised as king of the Chatti is refused. Hessen-Kassel remains an electorate despite the lack of an empire because being known as the 'Electorate of Hesse' differentiates it from the grand duchy of Hessen- Darmstadt, the junior of the two states which is now technically superior in rank thanks to its title.

Hessen-Kassel, along with a great many of its peers, joins the newly-formed German Confederation of the Rhine and survives despite its reduced status in the pecking order of German states.

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)

1813 - 1821

William I

Restored. Refused to accept progressive values. Died 27 Feb.


Once all the changes have been implemented at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, William possesses a large number of titles (in common with many of his German peers).

He is now elector and sovereign landgrave of Hessen-Kassel, grand duke of Fulda (first mentioned in connection with the early Hessians in 772), prince of Hersfeld (a holding which has belonged to the senior branch of the House of Hesse in various forms since 1137), and prince of Hanau (first connected through the marriage of Landgrave William V and Amalie Elizabeth von Hanau in the early 1600s).

He is also prince of Fritzlar (possibly the very heart of the original territory of the Chatti), and Isenburg (seat of the family of Princess Sophie von Isenburg, mother of the current heir to the Hohenzollern throne of Germany).

In addition he is graf of Katzenelnbogen (Hessian since 1479), Nidda (a town in the Wetterau in Hesse which has played an active part in Hessian politics since at least 876), and Schaumburg (Hessian since 1643), plus count of Dietz (inherited from Nassau) and Ziegenhain (inherited in 1450), along with lesser titles.

The town of Fritzlar lay at the heart of the original territory of the Chatti, a Roman empire-era tribe whose territory evolved into the early Hessian states

1821 - 1847

William II

Son. A profligate ruler. Retired in 1831. Died 20 Nov.

1830 - 1831

Following the July Revolution in Paris, a similar uprising occurs in Kassel, which has endured fifteen years of having the clock turned back to the late eighteenth century. William II is compelled to give the land a constitution which ensures every man complete liberty of conscience and freedom to practice his religion.

William retires to Hanau, appoints his son as regent and takes no further part in public affairs. A new constitution is drawn up in 1831 to try and address some of the complaints of the revolutionaries.

It ends up being one of the most democratic constitutions in Europe, and results in the formation of the Hessian estates assembly. Unfortunately these changes are soon tarnished by interference and back-pedalling by Frederick William.

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

1831 - 1847

Frederick William

Son and regent. Succeeded to the throne in 1847.

1847 - 1866

Frederick William I

Regent until 1847. A tyrant. Deposed by Prussia.

1850 - 1851

The lack of democracy in the state following the reversal of the 1830 revolution's successes brings matters to a head. As his control over the state is weakened, Frederick William is persuaded to leave Kassel along with the head of his administration.

Austrian and Bavarian troops march into the electorate and remain there into 1851, in a direct challenge to Prussian supremacy in the area. Although Frederick William returns, Hessen-Kassel is governed by the reconstituted federal diet.


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.

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

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.

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.

It also gains 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.

Franc-Prussian War 1870-1871
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 would sweep 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

In Hessen-Kassel, Frederick William is made a prisoner in Stettin. The electors continue to hold their title as 'Hereditary Heirs', but have no real power. Hessen-Darmstadt is the only surviving major Hessian state from this point forwards, although it also loses its northern urban district of Biedenkopf, on the River Lahn.

Hessen-Kassel is combined with Hessen-Homburg and renamed Hessen-Nassau. Both territories remain part of Prussia until the divided Germanies are formed at the close of the Second World War.

Hereditary Heirs of Hessen-Kassel / Hessen (and the Rhine) (Hesse)
AD 1866 - Present Day

The duchy of Hesse had been divided in 1567 into Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels, and Hessen-Darmstadt. In 1803 Hessen-Kassel's ruler was raised to the rank of Kurfürst, but Napoleonic occupation in 1806 temporarily eclipsed the state. Worse was to come in 1866 when the kingdom of Prussia seized the electorate of Hessen-Kassel as part of its victory over Austria.

Although the electorate's original heartland was occupied by and absorbed into Prussia in 1866-1867, it continued to live on as an administrative district. In 1871, following its humiliating defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, Prussia announced the founding of the German empire. Hessen-Kassel remained part of its direct holdings rather than being ranked alongside the various federated sub-kingdoms and states (which included Hessen-Darmstadt and Saxony).

The junior title of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld survived, and with marginally increased land holdings at Hessen-Kassel's expense. Unfortunately for the sub-kingdoms, they were dismantled following German submission at the end of the First World War. Their princes retained their titles, but they held no power.

Following the German defeat at the end of the Second World War, the modern 'Federal German State' of Hesse was formed, divided into three federal administrative districts. These are the southern district of Hessen-Darmstadt, the middle district of Hessen-Giessen (for most of its history part of Hessen-Darmstadt), and the northern district of Hessen-Kassel (old Casl and Cassel).

To this day the nineteenth century title for Hessen-Kassel - Kurhessen - is still used as a regional name, not least by the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck (the continued use of the now-extinct county of Middlesex by the Post Office and eponymous cricket club in England is very similar).

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, from Die Kurhessische Verfassung von 1831 im Rahmen des deutschen Konstitutionalismus, Christian Starck, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Link: Prince Philip Funeral (The Guardian).)

1866 - 1875

Landgrave Frederick William I

Retained title but lost the landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel.


Thanks to the morganatic marriage between Landgrave Frederick William I and Gertrude Falkenstein (who had been born in Bonn on 18 May 1803 to one Johann Gottfried Falkenstein), his offspring are excluded from the succession. Instead, Frederick William George Adolphus of Hesse-Kassel is selected. He becomes head of the House of Hessen-Kassel as Frederick William II.

Landgraf Frederick William I of Hessen-Kassel
Landgrave Frederick William I (in German, Landgraf Friedrich Wilhelm) assumed the title in 1847 as the head of the western German principality, had it taken away from him by the Prussians in 1866, and saw out the next nine years as the head of his now-powerless house

1875 - 1884

Landgrave Frederick William II

Son of William I.

1884 - 1888

Landgrave Frederick William III

Son. Never married. Died after falling overboard at sea.

1888 - 1925

Landgrave Alexander Frederick

Brother. Renounced title. Died 28 May 1940, in Kassel.


Alexander, son of Ludwig II of Hessen-Darmstadt, had concluded a morganatic marriage with Julia Hauke, thereafter know as Princess Julia of Battenberg. For this act he had effectively been barred from acceding to Darmstadt's title.

As the daughter of John Maurice Hauke, a high ranking officer of German origin in the army of Congress Poland, Julia had not been considered worthy of the lineage of Hesse, so this special title has been created for her and her descendants. It is now that her son, Prince Louis Alexander, succeeds his father and becomes the first male head of the House of Hessen-Battenberg.


The German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I).

At the start it is successful against the Russian invasion of Prussia, routing their army at the Battle of Tannenberg, and in the west its armies reach the northern outskirts of Paris (occupying Luxembourg along the way) before they are stopped by the armies of Britain and France, together with the small Belgian army.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia and the German empire inspects his troops on the eve of war in 1914, a war which none of the tributary German principalities had any chance of escaping


Following the resolution of its own pro-Czarist civil war, the parliament of Finland contemplates creating a monarchy for the country. A crown is offered to Frederick Charles, brother of the visually-impaired Landgrave Alexander.

However, although he is recorded as being the country's King Vaino between 7 October to 4 December 1918, he declines the offer. Instead, in 1925, he succeeds his brother to the title of landgrave of Hessen-Kassel.


Germany adopts the democratic 'Weimar constitution' following the abolition of the German empire. This new Germany consists of the former German kingdoms and duchies, all of which have now been abolished, including Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, Lippe, Saxony and Württemberg.

1925 - 1940

Landgrave Frederick Charles

Brother. m Margarethe, younger sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

1933 - 1945

The Third Reich ('third empire' of Germany, which claims the first (Holy Roman) and second (German) empires as its forebears in order to attain a level of legitimacy) is established under Adolf Hitler's dictatorial Nazi rule, sweeping away the Weimar republic.

The Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Great Britain pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September.

Hitler subsequently commits suicide in his bunker on 30 April 1945 as Soviet Union forces overrun Berlin. Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally on 7 May to the Allies at General Eisenhower's HQ at Rheims in France.

Spartacist Uprising of 1919
The Spartacist Uprising of radical socialists in 1919 was a general strike which began on 4 January and lasted for nine days as the last act of the German Revolution

1940 - 1980

Landgrave Philipp

Son. Ducal houses of Kassel & Darmstadt merged in 1968.

1943 - 1945

Having joined the Nazi Party in 1930, Philipp had been governor of Hessen-Nassau between 1933-1943. However, having subsequently fallen out with the Nazis, he is now arrested and placed in a concentration camp, not to be rescued until he and his fellow survivors are liberated by US forces in 1945.


The occupying US forces combine Prussian Hessen-Nassau and the republic of Hesse to form the federal state of Hesse. In the process, some of the Hessian regions are to be relinquished, but this - in spite of the 'foreign' influence involved - more or less resembles the mergers of the nineteenth century, making Hesse a consistent geographical, cultural and historic unit since the thirteenth century.


The ducal house of Hessen-Darmstadt comes to an end with the death of Grand Duke Ludwig (V). Ludwig had already adopted his distant cousin, Moritz, son of Landgrave Philipp of Hessen-Kassel (in 1960), and by a family pact (made in 1902) Moritz's still-living father now becomes inheritor of the ducal title of Hesse and the Rhine.

1980 - 2013

Landgrave Moritz

Son. Prince and landgrave of Hesse. Died 23 May.

1989 - 1990

With the weakening of the Soviet Union and increased calls for reform, the Berlin Wall is pulled down by the people of both halves of the divided city, the border guards taking no action to stop them. The following year, the two Germanies are reunited on 3 October.

Fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a popular move which was generally people-driven and spontaneous, following the general collapse of the Soviet empire which backed East Germany's police state

2013 - Present

Landgrave Heinrich / Henry Donatus

Son. Born 17 Oct 1966.


The passing of Landgrave Moritz means that his son, Heinrich Donatus Philipp Umberto Prinz und Landgraf von Hessen, commonly known as Donatus, landgrave of Hesse, succeeds him as the head of the house.

In the same year, the marriage between George Frederick, current Hohenzollern heir to the Prussian kingdom, and Sophie von Isenburg produces George's own promised heir, plus a spare in the form of his twin. Carl Friedrich Franz Alexander is the elder by a few minutes and becomes next in line to inherit the titles which belong to this lost northern German throne.


With the death of Philip, duke of Edinburgh, son of the late Prince Andrew of Greece and closely related to the hereditary heirs of Hessen through his Mountbatten mother, Alice of Hessen-Battenberg, the current representatives of the House of Hessen are of course involved in his funeral.

The head of the house, Henry Donatus, will represent the German side of the family while the Mountbattens will attend from the English side.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip about to join the Royal barge
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they were being ferried across to the royal barge, Spirit of Chartwell, for the river pageant as part of the queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2012

Invitations are limited due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain also invites Philip's carriage-driving companion - one of his closest confidantes - Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the sixty-seven year-old wife of Norton Knatchbull, Earl Mountbatten, grandson of Philip's beloved late uncle, Louis Mountbatten.

Prince Moritz

Son and hereditary landgrave. Born 26 Mar 2007.

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