European Royalty: German States--Hesse


Figure 1.--Grand Duke (Grossherzog) Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse onthe Rhine acceded to the throne in 1892. He married twice and had four children. His first wife was Grand Duchess Victoria Melita of Edinburg, a grand daughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II. The children wore tunics and sailor suits. He, like the other German royals, was forced to abdicate on November 9, 1918 in the aftermath of World War I.

Hesse is a region of southwestern Germany and was one of the most prominate German states. Philip the Magnamimous played a leading role in the Protestant Revolution. He split Hesse among his four sons upon his death in 1567. Two of the resuting states survived into the 19th century, Hesse Darmstadt and Hesse Kassel. In the 17th and 18th century, Hesse was primarily the langraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. Hesse became a grand duchy in 1806 and entered the German Empire with that status in 1871. Hesse was best known within Germany as a tolerant state where the arts were promoted. Hesse is familiar to many Americans as the source of mercinary soldiers. It was Hessian mercinary soldiers that George III hired during the Ameican Revolution to fight the colonists. It was a Hessian unit that George Washington surprised at Trenton, a victory that surely saved the Revolution. Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine abdicated on November 9, 1918.

Hesse

Hesse is English for Hessen, which was in the 19th century a region of Germany with fluctuating boundaries, situated somewhat west of mid-central southwestern Germany.

Name

Hesse is the name of a former ruling family of landgraves. It was derived from Hessi, a Frankish tribe of antiquity.

Dynastic History

Hesse begins to figure in German history during the 12th century when the region was part of the landgraviat of Thuringia. Hesse was estanlished as a separate landraviate in 1247 by Duchess Sophia. In the 17th and 18th century, Hesse was the langraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. Hesse became a grand duchy in 1806 and entered the German Empire with that status in 1871. It is now a German state.

Background

Hesse played a major role in the Protestant Revolution in the 16th century. Hesse despite its small size, is more familiar to Americans than most of the small German states. Britain had a very small army and no conscription law. Thus it needed troops to supress the Reolution. It was very expensive to maintain a standing army, but several Germsan sttes did this. (The Prussians in psarticular did this.) The Grand Duke of Hesse saw an opportunity to generate a little income from his army. So the British contracted with him. It was Hessian mercinary soldiers that George III hired during the Ameican Revolution to fight the colonists. It was a Hessian unit that George Washington surprised at Trenton, a victory that probably saved the Revolution. Trenton was the first, but not the last, defining clash between American and German armies. The Hessians soldiers had no say in figghting with the British. They were ordered to so by the Grand Duke. Other Germans fought with the Continental Army. They were German immigrants, mostly from Pennsylvania, who volunteered to fight the British. Ironically, many of the captured Hessians decuded to remain in America after the Revolutionary War. It was part of the very substantial German migration to America.

Historical Era

Hesse was estanlished as a separate landgraviate in 1247 by Duchess Sophia, niece of the Thuringian ruler, Henry Raspe. [A landgrave was a German count having jurisdiction over a certain territory.] Henry the Child, son of Duchess Sophia became the first male Landgrave of Hesse. In the year 1529 Philip the First of Hesse drew up the protest which created the Protestant religion. Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous founded Marburg University in 1567, an important Protestant institution. Phillip played an important part in the Protestant Revolution. He decided to partition Hesse among his four sons when he died in 1567. Two of these lines became extinct and were adsorbed by the surviving lines: Hesse-Daarmstadt and Hesse-Cassel which survived into the 19th and 20th century.

Hesse-Kassel

The Landgraviate was established by William IV, son of Philip the Magnanimous in 1567. It was constituted an electorate in 1803 and retained this status, except for a brief period during the Napoleonic Wars, until 1866 when it was adsorbed by Prussia just before the formation of the German Empire. The Langraves included Maurice, William V, William VI, William VII, Charles I, Redeerick I (who was also king of Sweden 1720-51), and Frederick II (the landgrave who provided George III hessians soldiers to fight in the Recolutionary War). The electors included William II and Frederick William (who was deposed by the Prussians) after he supported the Austrians in the Austro-Prussian War. The Prussians annexed Hesse-Kassel and made it part of the province of Hesse-Nassau. Frederick Charles von Hessen, Landgrave of Hesse in 1893 married Princess Margrethe, Kaiser Wilhem II's younger sister. Their son Prince Max was killed early in World War I during service with the Prussian 1st Life Hussars. After World War I, the Hesse-Kassel family became deeply involved with the NAZIs. They were used in elections during the 1920s and 30s to help gain votes for the NAZIs. Support from prominently families help to establish the NAZIs as a legitiamte political party. Prince Philip of Hesse-Kassel was especially active. He was introduced to the NAZIs by Prince August Wilhelm, the Kaiser's fourth son. [Vickers, p. 271.] Prince Christopher of Hesse-Cassel married the younger sister of Prince Philip (Duke of Edunburgh)--Princess Sophie of Hanover. Prince Christopher was an SS Colonel attached to Heinrich Himmler's personal staff. He was appointed to head the Forschungsamt. This was a security service Hermann Göring controlled which attempted to feret out anti-NAZIs. Sophie and Christopher named their eldest son Karl Adolf after Hitler. Another brother, Prince Philip of Hesse-Cassel, joined the NAZI Party even before Huitler seized powe. Hitler appointed him Gauleiter (governor) of Hesse when he seized power (1933). Hitler subsequently used him as a liason with Mussolini in Italy.

Hesse-Darmstadt

The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt (Hesse und bei Rhein) was established by George I, son of Philip the Magnanimous in 1567. It became a Grand Duchy in 1806. Although Hesse-Darmstadt also supported Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), unlike Hesse-Kassel, it managed to maintain its independence when the Prussians proved victorious. Hesse-Darmstadt entered the German Empire in 1871. The capital Darmstadt is south of Frankfurt, a few miles from the Rhinr River. The family mairred into the British, Prussian, and Russian royal family and was given the Bulgarian Crown--although the prince receiving it was forced abdicate because he objected to democratic constitutions. Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig (Ernst-Louis) of Hesse and by Rhine abdicated on November 9, 1918. The best known modern descendent is probably Lord Mountbatten.

Sources

Vickers, Hugo. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece (St. Martin's Press: New York, 2000), 477p.






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Created: August 2, 2001
Last updated: 6:25 PM 10/28/2009