History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 84

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Central Europe


Hessen-Philippsthal / Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld (Hesse)
AD 1655 - Present Day

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.

Created in 1655, Hessen-Philippsthal (or Philippstal) was a cadet line which was formed from Hessen-Kassel. Landgrave William VI of Hessen-Kassel came of age in 1650 during the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War. His father and grandfather had both lost territory to Hessen-Darmstadt and the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire during the war.

The landgraviate was in a sickly financial state. William's mother, while acting as his regent, managed to claw back a good deal of the lost land but the situation was still far from stable. Despite this, just five years after assuming full control of Kassel, William decided to create the cadet branch of Hessen-Philippsthal for one of his younger sons, Philip. The act largely involved a transfer of some landholdings and no real power, so it could have been done as a statement of confidence in Hessen-Kassel's revival.

Despite not holding any noticeable power, as with each of the title-holders of the various cadet branches Philip assumed the title of landgraf ('landgrave' in English). This essentially ranked him as a 'prince' (although his position was not quite so elevated) amongst his peers in the nobility and put him on an equal footing with his siblings and various Ydulfing cousins.

In turn, Philip saw to it that his lands were sub-divided upon his death. His eldest son, Charles, retained Hessen-Philippsthal whilst the younger son, William, became landgraf of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld. The naming format alone shows that it was a junior branch of Hessen-Philippsthal which itself remained a junior branch of Hessen-Kassel.

The family's main base was Castle Philippsthal, which was built from 1685 onwards in Kreuzberg (now known as Philippsthal) by Philip I on land which had previously belonged to Hersfeld Monastery and the Benedictine monastery of Kreuzberg which had been abolished in 1568. Both of the Philippsthal titles survived alongside each other until 1925 when one lapsed and was merged with the other.

To differentiate between the two branches, Philippsthal's incumbents are shown below on the left, while those of Barchfeld are shown on the right and in green text until the 1925 reunification of the two titles.

Burg Frankenstein

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The House of Hesse, Eckhart G Franz (Kohlhammer, 2005), from Philippsthal (Meyer's Conversation Lexicon, 4th Edition, Vol 12, Verlag der Bibliographisches Institut 1885-1892), from The house of Hessen-Philippsthal (Meyer's Conversation Lexicon, 4th Edition, Vol 8, Verlag der Bibliographisches Institut 1885-1892), 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, and from External Links: Euratlas, and Historical Atlas of Germany, and Almanach de Saxe Gotha.)

1655 - 1736

Philip (III)

Third son of William VI of Hessen-Kassel. First landgrave.


Although Charles is Philip's eldest son, there is no attempt to keep Philippsthal's lands together to ensure its strength. Instead Charles and his younger brother William divide the landgraviate between them into Hessen-Philippsthal and Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld. Title holders of the latter cadet branch are shown in the right-hand column.

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




1736 - 1770

Charles / Karl I (II)

Son. Retained bulk of Hessen-Philippsthal.

1736 - 1761


Brother. First landgrave of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld.

1761 - 1777


Son. In Barchfeld.

1770 - 1810


Son of Charles I. Lost lands to Westphalia in 1806.

1777 - 1803


Brother of Frederick. In Barchfeld.


During the regency of Princess Juliane of Hessen-Philippsthal, daughter of William of Hessen-Philippsthal and mother of the infant Prince George William of Schaumburg-Lippe, the counts of Lippe-Detmold are raised to the rank of 'Prince of the Empire', the title for the head of noble families rather than the offspring of monarchs.

Despite already being the senior line of descent for the House of Lippe, it is clearly now superior to the other branches of the family, and so the designation of Detmold is dropped from the title.

This engraving by Matthäus Merian shows the town of Detmold in 1647, but which time it had been Lippe's capital for almost two hundred years

1803 - 1854


Daughter of Henry. Queen of Fr Navarre. Son of Adolf.


Kurfürst Wilhelm I of Hessen-Kassel 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.

Kassel becomes the capital of the new kingdom. William of Hessen-Philippsthal also loses his lands as part of the same process, and dies before they can be regained (by his son, Ludwig).

1810 - 1816


Son of William of Philippsthal. Regained lands in 1813.


MapNapoleon Bonaparte loses control of Germany. Westphalia is dismantled and Hessen-Kassel restored by the allied armies.

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.

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

1816 - 1849

Ernst Constantine

Brother of Ludwig.

1849 - 1868

Charles / Karl II


1854 - 1905


Son of Karl. In Barchfeld.


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. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks.

Prussia 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. 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.


The cadet lines of Philippsthal and Philippsthal-Barchfeld gain certain castles and palaces from Hessen-Kassel through Prussian management of the former landgraviate. In practical terms, though, inheritance of the landgraviate of Hessen-Philippsthal itself is titular only, with Prussia controlling the land.

1868 - 1925


Son of Charles II of Philippsthal. No heir.


Thanks to the morganatic marriage between Landgrave Frederick William I of Hessen-Kassel 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


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.

1905 - 1954


Daughter of Henry. Queen of Fr Navarre. Nephew of Alexis.

1914 - 1919

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).

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

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.

Following the armistice of 1918, the German empire is abolished and Germany adopts the democratic 'Weimar constitution' instead. 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.


The line of Hessen-Philippsthal dies with Ernst after he fails to produce an heir. Chlodwig of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld is the rightful heir so the twin Philippsthal titles are merged back into one under his name. The 'Barchfeld' appendage is retained so that Chlodwig continues to be the titular landgrave of Hessen-Philippsthal-Barchfeld.

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

1925 - 1954


Sole titular landgrave of Hessen-Philippsthal from 1925.

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 forces overrun Berlin. Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally on 7 May to the Allies at General Eisenhower's HQ at Rheims in France.

German troops enter Poland on 1 September 1939
Nazi-led German troops are shown here progressing in good order through a Polish town on the first day of the invasion, 1 September 1939



Son and heir. German SS officer. Died in Russia in 1942.

1954 - Present


Son. Born 14 Aug 1933.


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.

Prince William

Son and heir. Born 1 Jan 1963.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.