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William I
Elector of Hesse
Spouse Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark and Norway
Marie Friederike
Karoline Amelie
William II, Elector of Hesse
House House of Hesse
Father Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel
Mother Princess Mary of Great Britain
Born 3 June 1743
Died 27 February 1821

William I, Elector of Hesse (German: Wilhelm I., Kurfürst von Hessen; 3 June 1743 – 27 February 1821) was the eldest surviving son of Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) and Princess Mary of Great Britain, the daughter of George II.

William was born in Kassel, Hesse. His father, landgrave Frederick II (who died in 1785) had in 1747 left the family and soon converted Catholicism, and in 1755 formally ended the marriage. Their grandfather, Landgrave William, granted the newly-acquired principality of Hanau to his daughter-in-law and grandsons, and young William became technically the reigning prince of Hanau, though under his mother's regency. The young prince William, together with his two younger brothers, were with their mother the landgravine Mary and became since 1747 fostered by Protestant relatives and soon moved to Denmark, to the care of family of her sister Louise of Great Britain who had died in 1751.

William of Hanau married, on 1 September 1764 at Christiansborg Palace, his first cousin Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark and Norway (1747–1820), the second surviving daughter of king Frederick V of Denmark and Norway. They remained mostly in Denmark, until 1785 to return to Kassel when he succeeded in the landgraviate. William however received the Principality of Hanau south of the Hessian territories, near Frankfurt, as successor of its newly extinct princes, already in the lifetime of his father, since the Hanau people did not want to have a Catholic ruler.

William's younger brother Charles followed suit and in 1766 married another of their Danish first cousins.

Upon the death of his father on October 31, 1785 he became William IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and as such, is said to have inherited one of the largest fortunes in Europe at the time.

Due in part to the wealth of his estate, William is especially notable for his role in affording Mayer Amschel Rothschild both the relationship, and situational means, by assigning some of the care of his properties and tax-gathering, for founding the Rothschild family dynasty. Also, though acquainted since 1775, William IX didn't formally designate Rothschild as overseer until 1801.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild and William:

Already at Hanau, William utilized the knowhow of Rothschild, who resided in the nearby Frankfurt.

The early fortunes of the Rothschild family were made through a conjunction of financial intelligence and the wealth of Prince William. In 1785 the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel died, leaving his immense wealth (largely gained through the loan of Hessian mercenaries, not least to Great Britain during the American Revolution) to his eldest son, the Prince William of Hanau. During the Napoleonic wars William saw necessary to have his fortune hidden from Napoleon by using his long standing Jewish friend's home in Frankfurt. This money then saw its way through to Nathan Mayer, (N.M.) in London, where it helped fund the British movements through Portugal and Spain. The interest made from this venture was reaped by the budding Jewish bankers, who used it to swiftly develop their fortune and prestige in Europe and Britain. It was not long before their riches outweighed that of their benefactor, William of Hesse-Kassel.

In 1803, Landgrave William was created Elector of Hesse; but in 1806 his electorate was annexed by the Kingdom of Westphalia, ruled by Jérôme Bonaparte. William escaped to Denmark with his family and lived there in exile until the French were repulsed from Germany. Following the defeat of the Napoleonic armies in the Battle of Leipzig, he was restored in 1813, and ruled until his death in Kassel in 1821.

He was succeeded by his son William.


With his wife Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark and Norway he had four children:

He had several mistresses, and sired over twenty recognized illegitimate children and provided some financial means to each of them.

With his mistress Charlotte Christine Buissine:

  • Wilhelm of Heimrod (1775–1811)
  • Karl of Heimrod (1776–1827)
  • Friedrich of Heimrod (b. & d. 1777)
  • Friedrich of Heimrod (1778–1813)

With his mistress Rosa Dorothea Ritter (1759–1833):

  • Wilhelm Karl of Hanau (1779–1856)
  • George Wilhelm of Hanau (1781–1813)
  • Philipp Ludway of Hanau (1782–1843)
  • Wilhelmine of Hanau (1783–1866)
  • Moritz of Hanau (1784–1812)
  • Marie Sophie of Hanau (1785–1865)
  • Julius Heinrich of Hanau (1786–1853)
  • Otto of Hanau (1788–1791)

With his mistress Karoline von Schlotheim (1766–1847):

  • Wilhelm Friedrich of Hessenstein (1789–1790)
  • Wilhelm Karl of Hessenstein (1790–1867)
  • Ferdinand of Hessenstein (1791–1794)
  • Karoline of Hessenstein (1792–1797)
  • Auguste of Hessenstein (1793–1795)
  • Ludwig Karl of Hessenstein (1794–1857)
  • Friederike of Hessenstein (1795–1855)
  • Wilhelm Ludwig (1800–1836)
  • Friedrich Ludwig (1803–1805)
  • Karoline of Hessenstein (1804–1891)

See also

External links

Preceded by
Frederick II
Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel
31 October 1785 – February 27, 1821
Succeeded by
William II, Elector of Hesse
Preceded by
new creation
Elector of Hesse
1803 – February 27, 1821


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