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The Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel ( ) or Hesse-Cassel was a reichsfreie principality of the Holy Roman Empire that came into existence when the Landgraviate of Hesse was divided in 1567 upon the death of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. His eldest son William IV inherited the northern half and the capital of Kasselmarker. The other sons received the Landgraviate of Hesse-Marburg, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Rheinfels and the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadtmarker.

The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel was elevated to the Electorate of Hesse (Kurfürstentum Hessen, or Kurhessen) in 1803. During the Napoleonic wars it was occupied by French troops and became part of the Kingdom of Westphaliamarker, which was a French satellite state. The Electorate of Hesse was reestablished in 1815 and became a member state of the German Confederationmarker. It was then annexed by the Kingdom of Prussiamarker in 1866 after the Austro-Prussian Warmarker and subsequently became the Province of Hesse-Nassau.

17th and 18th centuries

Since the early years of the Reformation the House of Hesse was clearly Protestant, with only a few exceptions. Landgraves Philip I, William V, and Maurice married descendants of King George of Bohemia. From William VI onwards, mothers of the heads of Hesse-Kassel were always descended from William the Silent, the leader of the Dutch to independence on basis of Calvinism.

The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel expanded in 1604 when Maurice, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, inherited the Landgraviate of Hesse-Marburg from his childless uncle, Louis IV, Landgrave of Hesse-Marburg (1537–1604).

During the Thirty Years' War, Calvinist Hesse-Kassel proved to be Swedenmarker's most loyal German ally. Landgrave William V and, after his death in 1637, his widow Amelia of Hanau, a granddaughter of William the Silent, as regent supported the Protestant cause and the Frenchmarker and Swedes throughout the war and maintained an army, garrisoning many strongholds, while Hesse-Kassel itself was occupied by Imperial troops.

William V was succeeded by Landgraves William VI and William VII. Under King Frederick I of Sweden the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel was in personal union with Sweden from 1730–51. But in fact the King's younger brother, William VIII, reigned in Kassel until 1760.

Although it was a fairly widespread practice at the time to rent out troops to other princes, it was the Landgraves of Hesse-Kassel who became infamous for hiring out contingents of their army as mercenaries during the 17th and 18th centuries. Frederick II, notably, hired out so many troops to his nephew King George III of the United Kingdom for use in the American Revolution, that "Hessian" has become an American slang term for all German soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Frederick used the revenue to finance his opulent lifestyle. One of these regiments that saw service in America was the Musketeer Regiment Prinz Carl.

During the 17th century, the landgraviate was internally divided for dynastic purposes, without allodial rights, into:

These were reunited with the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel when each particular branch died out without issue.

Hesse-Kassel maintained 7% of its entire population under arms throughout the eighteenth century. This force served as a source of mercenaries for other European states.

19th century

Following the reorganization of the German states during the German mediatisation of 1803, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel was raised to the Electorate of Hesse and Landgrave William IX was elevated to Imperial Elector, taking the title William I, Elector of Hesse. The principality thus became known as Kurhessen, although still usually referred to as Hesse-Kassel.

In 1806, William I was dispossessed by Napoleon Bonaparte for his support of the Kingdom of Prussiamarker, and Kassel became the capital of a new Kingdom of Westphaliamarker under Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte as king. The elector was restored following Napoleon's defeat in 1813, and although the Holy Roman Empire was now defunct, William retained his title of Elector, as it gave him pre-eminence over his cousin, the Grand Duke of Hessemarker. From 1813 onwards, the Electorate of Hesse was an independent country and, after 1815, a member of the German Confederationmarker.

William's grandson, Elector Frederick William, sided with the Austrian Empiremarker in the Austro-Prussian Warmarker, and after the Prussian victory his lands were annexed by Prussia in 1866. Along with the annexed Duchy of Nassau and Free City of Frankfurtmarker, Hesse-Kassel became part of the new Province of Hesse-Nassau of the Kingdom of Prussia.

20th century

In 1918, Hesse-Nassau became part of the Free State of Prussiamarker until 1944. From 1944–45 as part of Nazi Germany, it was divided into the Prussian provinces of Kurhessen and Nassau. From 1945–46, it was renamed Greater Hesse (Großhessen) and was part of the US occupation zone in Germany. From 1946 onwards, it was reorganised into the state of Hessemarker (Bundesland Hesse), in the Federal Republic of Germanymarker'.

In 1918, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, younger brother of the head of the house and a brother-in-law of Emperor William II, was elected by the pro-German Finnishmarker government to be King of Finland, but he never reigned.

In 1968, the head of the House of Hesse-Kassel became the head of the entire House of Hesse due to the extinction of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt.

Other uses

The village of Hessen Cassel, Indianamarker near Fort Waynemarker, founded by German immigrants, is named for the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel.

See also


  1. Tilly, Charles "Coercion, Capital, and European States."

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