"Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weiber und Gesang, Der bleibt ein Narr sein Lebelang."
The Counts of Hessen descended from the Counts of Thüringenand both Hessen and Thüringen use a striped lion in their arms (an early example is shown, above).
Hessen was split into several states 500 years ago, when the Hauß surname was first recorded, but the area that contained our ancestors was called Hessen-Marburg, a "Landgraviate" (i.e. a principality directly under the Holy Roman Emperor) that existed independently between 1485 - 1500 and again between 1567 - 1605. It was comprised of the city of Marburg and the surrounding territories (what is today called "Oberhessen," or "Upper Hessen").
During the period of the Frankish Empire, the territory was divided into several Gaue (districts)called Saxon Hessengau, Frankish Hessengau, Buchonia, and Oberlahngau. The Gaue were ruled over by counts (Grafen).
The Frankish king, Clovis, was converted to Christianity in the 4th century, and he was responsible for the conversion of his nation and the Saxon tribes. The Chatti, now Christians, reemerged under the name "Hessens," and their land eventually formed the state of Hessen. But despite the religious conversion, their warring nature remained.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries a new line of nobility emerged, called the Gisos, or the Counts of Gudensberg. The daughter of the last Giso married Count Louis I of Thüringia, became the landgrave in 1130. Hessen and Thüringia were then united until the War of the Thüringian Succession (1247-64). After the fighting was over, Hessen had gained its independence. It became an earldom within the Holy Roman Empire. The new ruler, Henry I the Child, founded the Brabant dynasty of Hessen. He was raised to the rank of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1292.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the Landgrafschaft of Hessen was the greatest and strongest power of central western Germany. Over the next two centuries the landgraves expanded their territory and often clashed with the neighboring archbishop-electors of Mainz.
Then in 1458, Hessen expanded after a division of territory within the Holy Roman Empire. The new ruler, Ludwig the Peaceful, created a sub-landgraviate for his younger brother, Henry. Henry was based at Hessen-Marburg, where our Hauß family would first be recorded.
Philip the Magnanimous (at right), the landgrave from 1509 to 1567, was born at Marburg on the 13th of November 1504, and became landgrave after his father's death in 1509. The epithet "magnanimous" that has been handed down through the centuries is probably a mistake: The translation of his title, der Großmütige, does mean "magnanimous" in modern German, but in Renaissance German, when he lived, it appears to have meant "haughty." And that is a much better description of this man's reign.
Having been declared "of age" in 1518, he was married in 1523 to Christina, daughter of George, duke of Saxony. Philip was a cultured intellectual, who created a University in Marburg (which eventually claimed the Brothers Grimm in the faculty). But he was also a fiery, controversial leader who spent most of his reigning years at war. In 1525 he took a leading part against the rebellion of the peasants in north Germany, crushing them at Frankenhausen.
After the battle, Philip I adopted the reformed faith (a denomination that the Hauß family would follow for the next 200 years), and he is remembered today as the German Prince (Fürst) who saved Protestantism in Germany, forming the League of Torgau in 1526.
But we need to ask an important question: What was the reason for Philip's conversion to the reformed faith? Well, it wasn't about church practices as much as it was about a girl... or two. Basically, we have Protestantism today so that Philip could practice bigamy, with the help of an Augustinian monk and theology professor named Martin Luther.
The first meeting of Philip with Luther was in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, but at that time he had little interest in the religious theories of the famous reformer. It was only after Philip's marriage with Christina, the daughter of George of Saxony, early in 1524, that he began to take an active part in forwarding the cause of the Reformation. Within a few weeks after marrying the unattractive and sickly Christina, who was also alleged to be an alcoholic, Philip had committed adultery.
In 1526, Philip began to consider marrying a second wife. He was influenced by the case of Henry VIII, in which the Reformer Melanchthon had proposed that the king could take a second wife instead of divorcing the first one. Then there were Luther's sermons on Genesis, as well as historical precedents in which God had not punished people in the New Testament who did the same thing, and instead held them up as models of faith. Philip wrote Luther for his opinion on bigamy, citing the polygamy of the patriarchs; but Luther replied that it was not enough for a Christian to consider the acts of the patriarchs, but that brides and groom, like the patriarchs, must have special divine sanction. Since, however, such sanction was lacking in Philip's case, Luther advised against another marriage. Despite this discouragement, Philip continued his affairs and polygamous schemes, which for years kept him from receiving communion.
Unfortunately, Philip's impulsiveness proved his undoing: While recuperating from an illness due to "excesses," the idea of bigamy became Philip's main obsession. He decided to marry the daughter of one of his sister's ladies-in-waiting, named Margarethe von der Saale. But Margarethe was unwilling to take the step unless they had the approval of the theologians.
Philip finally won the grudging approval of a second marriage as a concept, at least, from Luther and Melanchthon, without either of them knowing that the next wife had already been chosen. Melanchthon was then summoned to Rotenburg-on-the-Fulda, where on March 4th, 1540, Philip and Margarethe were wed.
Philip was bitterly disgusted by the criticism, and worse yet, feared that a law which he himself had enacted against adultery might be applied to his own case. Philip decide that he had to make his peace with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and obtain a pardon, but on terms which would not involve desertion of the Protestant cause. He offered to observe neutrality regarding the imperial acquisition of the duchy of Cleves and to prevent a French alliance, on condition that the emperor would pardon him for all his opposition and violation of the imperial laws (without direct mention of his bigamy, of course). But on July 20, 1546, an imperial ban was declared against Philip as a perjured rebel and traitor. The result was the Teutsche Krieg, or Schmalkaldic War.
defeat at Mühlberg and the capture of Philip's ally, the Elector John Frederick,
marked the fall of the Schmalkald League. In despair Philip, who had been negotiating
with the emperor for some time, agreed to throw himself on his mercy, on condition
that his territorial rights should not be impaired and that he himself should
not be imprisoned. Not surprisingly, these terms were disregarded, however, and
on June 23, 1547, both Philip and John Frederick were taken to south Germany and
held as captives.
Religious tensions were high throughout the second half of the 16th Century. The Catholics of eastern Europe (Poland and Austrian Habsburgs) were trying to restore the power of Catholicism. The area that the Hauss' resided was mainly Lutheran. When Count Ludwig of Hessen-Marburg died childless in 1604, a conflict arose between his nephews, Wilhelm of Hessen-Kassel and George of Hessen-Darmstadt, over who would get his territory. He bequeathed equal shares of his territory to the lines of Hesse-Kassel (Marburg) and Hesse-Darmstadt (Gießen, Nidda), yet under the condition that both territories should remain Lutheran (Hesse-Kassel was Calvinist). But the two sides would fight over the land for decades.
The Thirty Years War
"One German makes a philosopher, two a public meeting, three a war."
Elizabeth was the daughter of King James I of England, and part of the Stuart dynasty. She was said to be incredibly beautiful, and had attracted most of the royal suitors of Europe before (and after) her marriage. In fact, she was nicknamed the “Queen of Hearts.” But she eventually married Frederick V in 1613, in order to cement an alliance between English and German Protestantism (detailed here in the Stuart Genealogy).
When Ferdinand II heard that Frederick had been elected ruler of Bohemiathe title that Matthias had supposedly given to himhe refused to recognize the new "king" and sent two Catholic "councilors" (Martinitz and Slavata) to Hradcany castle in Prague to make way for his coronation as the rightful heir to the throne. But the Bohemian Calvinists seized the councilors and threw them out of a palace window. (The official Catholic version of the story claims that angels suddenly appeared and carried them to safety. The official Protestant version says that they landed in manure.)
This event, known as the second defenestration of Prague, began the "Bohemian Revolt" which erupted in Bohemia, Silesia, Lusatia and Moravia.
With a holy war breaking out everywherethe first ever to pit Christian against ChristianFerdinand then called on his cousin, King Philip IV of Spain, for assistance. Philip was more than happy to join the conflictnot because he was pro-Catholic so much as because he coveted the lands of the Palatinate, and figured to take over the land when he conquered Frederick. This may not have been the most Christian reason to fight, but Ferdinand couldn't be picky at this point.
So now Frederick was battling Spain, as well. Worse yet, his most powerful political ally, his father-in-law King James of England, ignored his pleas for help against the Spanish. Why? Because James cared more about land and political alliances than family, and was actually supporting the Spanish, over his own daughter Elizabeth! (I hope he wasn't expecting a nice gift on Fathers Day.)
Frederick V was forced to flee and lived the rest of his life in exile with his wife and family at the Hague.
The catastrophic defeat of the Protestant army at White Mountain meant that eastern Germany was up for grabs. The Spanish took the Rhine Palatinate, seeking to outflank the Dutch in preparation for the soon-to-be-renewed Eighty Years' War. Before the end of that war, France, several German states, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands also fought their way through the land. The area was looted and pillaged, remade, then looted and pillaged again, by different invaders for many years.
Upon Frederick V's death in 1632, his son Karl I Ludwig, Elector Palatine (1610-1680) inherited his exiled father's pretensions to the Palatinate, and was, in fact, restored to his kingdom in 1648 at the conclusion of the Thirty Years' War. He gained a new title of Elector Count Palatine of the Rhine, Archtreasurer of the Empire, as well as most of his father's lands. But he was not restored to the imperial electoratehe was just a figurehead. Instead he received a new Electoral title, while the original one remained in the possession of the Electors of Bavaria. So Karl Ludwig reigned over a largely devastated country with no power to fightbut more invasions would follow, anyway.
Finally in 1648, the second Teutsche Krieg ended with a truce, aimed at balancing the powers of the European nations. The Netherlands and Spain lost their predominance to France. The idea of a Catholic empire under Pope and emperor was abandoned, and a community of sovereign states was established instead. Protestantism was given equal voice with Catholicism. The word "Holy" was removed from the title of the German emperor; he became a feudal overlord rather than a monarch.
The country's land was devastated, and many villages had been looted and burned to the ground. The war had destroyed Germany's capital resources and its living standards fell... Not that there were many people left to work the land, anyway.
During this conflict, over 300,000 German soldiers had died in battle. Millions of citizens had died of malnutrition and disease. Most authorities say that the population of the German empire dropped from about 21,000,000 to 13,500,000 between 1618 and 1648, meaning one out of every three people had died, more than in all later wars combined (including World War I and World War II). The Hessian territory around Marburg lost more than two thirds of its population, thanks to the local "Dreissigjaehrigen" war of 1645-1648 (a sub-conflict of the Thirty Years' War in which Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt again fought over the Marburg territory).
But by some miracleor when there's this much death and destruction, blind luckour family survived. Thanks to wars, famines, plagues and general desperation, the Hauß family had by this time spread all over western Germany. But the home base of our line was in a tiny state bordering Hessen, called the Duchy of Solm. And it is there that we meet our first known ancestor:
CHAPTER TWO: JOHAN CHRISTIAN HAUSS,
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