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The Kingdom of Westphalia was a historical state that existed from 1807-1813 in parts of present-day Germanymarker. While formally independent, it was a vassal state of the First French Empire, ruled by Napoléon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte. It was named after Westphalia, but had little territory in common with that area.

Coat of arms

The arms reflect the incorporated territories. The first quarter shows the silver horse of Westphalia, the second the lion of Hesse over the counties of Diez, Nidda and Katzenelnbogenmarker, the third was newly designed for non specified territories around Magdeburg and the fourth combined Brunswick, Diepholz, Lüneburg and Lauterburg. Around the shield are the Order of the Crown of Westphalia and the French ‘Grand Aigle’. Above is Napoleons star. Typical for Napoleonic heraldry are the crossed sceptres.


The Kingdom of Westphalia was created in 1807 by merging territories ceded by the Kingdom of Prussiamarker in the Peace of Tilsit, among them the Duchy of Magdeburg, the Brunswick-Luneburgian former Electorate of Hanover, the Brunswick-Lunenburgian Principality of Wolfenbüttel, and the Electorate of Hesse. The latter's capital Kasselmarker then fulfilled the same function for Westphalia, and the king kept court at the palace of Wilhelmshöhemarker, re-named Napoleonshöhe. The state was a member of the Confederation of the Rhinemarker.

Intended as a Napoleonic "model state", a constitution was written and enacted by King Jérôme on 7 December 1807, the day after he had arrived in Kassel, making Westphalia the first monarchy in Germany with a modern-style constitution. The constitution made all male residents citizens of equal rights. Thus serfs were liberated and Jews emancipated, soccage was abolished. The Napoleonic code was enacted, doing away with gilds and providing for the right of free enterprise. A metric system of weights and measures was introduced. Just as before the conquest, freedom of expression remained curtailed and censorship was instituted. In 1810 the coastal and northern départements North (capital: Stademarker) and Lower Elbe (capital: Lunenburgmarker) had to be ceded to the French Empire.

Following the French example Jewish congregations were reorganised and a Consistory supervising them was established. The former Brunswick-Wolfenbüttelian merchant and man of letters, Israel Jacobson, became its consistorial president, assisted by a board of officers. Jacobson did his best to exercise a reforming influence upon the various congregations of the country. He opened a house of prayer in Kassel, with a ritual similar to that introduced in Seesenmarker. Napoléon's inglorious so-called décret infâme, restricting again the rights of many French Jews, did not apply in Westphalia.

A significant burden on the kingdom was the requirement to supply troops and financial support for the Napoleonic wars. Large numbers of Westphalian troops perished in the Russian campaign of 1812; the Westphalian Guards heroically but unsuccessfully charged the Raevski Redoubt during the Battle of Borodinomarker.

In September 1813 Russian cossacks surrounded Kassel, defeated the French completely and retook the city. By October 1 the cossacks had conquered the whole Kingdom, but three days later Jérôme returned with French soldiers and managed to recapture Kassel. The Elector of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) arrived soon after and the cossacks besieged the city again. After France lost the Battle of the Nationsmarker on 19 October 1813, the Russians dissolved the Kingdom and restored the status quo of 1806 (although Kaunitz-Rietberg and Stolberg-Wernigerode were not recreated).

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