Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: The Duchy of Nassau (1806 - 1866)

With today's post we can kill two three birds with one stone... On the one hand, it will serve as an introduction of a new sub-series of our 101 posts called "Tracing the Nassau Roots: The Grand Ducal Family's German Ancestry" in which we will discover the history of the family as well as important buildings related to them, and on the other hand, it will introduce you to the area where the civil nuptials of Prince Félix and Claire Lademacher will take place later this year. The family of the German heiress might come from an area west of Cologne and Mademoiselle Lademacher might have been born in Filderstadt south of Stuttgart, but she grew up in an area that is historically very much linked to her husband's family. On the figurative third hand, it also gives you some background information on this weekend's visit to Limburg, Wiesbaden, Weilburg and Nassau by the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple.

The Grand Duke's style and full title: His Royal Highness Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Count of Sayn, Königstein, Katzenelnbogen and Diez, Burgrave of Hammerstein, Lord of Mahlberg, Wiesbaden, Idstein, Merenberg, Limburg and Eppstein, Prince de Bourbon de Parme. If you look up many of those places, you will notice that most of them lie in today's German states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. One of them, Königstein in case you don't remember, actually is the place of September's civil wedding and the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple will visit some of them this weekend.
The Duchy of Nassau within the German Confederation in 1815
The Duchy of Nassau was founded on August 30, 1806 as a part of the Confederation of the Rhine under Napoleon's protection after the two of the last remaining three branches of the House of Nassau, Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg, had to merge under Napoleon's pressure to hold their houses independencies; before, on July 17, 1806, both states had become part of the Confederation as two independent parts.

The merger of territories ruled by the two branches of the House of Nassau did not propose such a big problem insofar as Prince Friedrich August of Nassau-Usingen did not have any direct male heir and his cousin Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Nassau-Weilburg would have inherited the territories of the Usingen branch anyway.

It was agreed that Friedrich August would become the Duke of the newly erected Duchy of Nassau and his cousin Friedrich Wilhelm, who was 30 years his junior, his heir. Until then, Friedrich Wilhelm was to be styled as the Prince of Nassau. He, however, never ascended to the throne as he died two months before Friedrich August when he fell down the stairs at Schloss Weilburg and thus his oldest son, Wilhelm, became the first Duke of Nassau of the House of Nassau-Weilburg when Friedrich August died in 1816.

The Duchy 1816 - 1866
The Duchy of Nassau was formed out of about 20 independent parts and territories which the two branches of the House received as compensation after the War of the First Coalition. For the first ten years of its existence, the Duchy had two capitals, Weilburg and Wiesbaden. The new country reached its final size in 1815 when the Congress of Vienna created the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Orange-Nassau branch of the family became its new ruler. In turn, they had to give their German ancestral territory, the County of Nassau-Diez, to Prussia who handed parts of it over to the new Duchy of Nassau. (On a sidenote, the new King of the Netherlands received the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to be ruled in personal union as a compensation for his losses.)

Both the Duchy of Nassau and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (though not the United Kingdom of the Netherlands) joined the new German Confederation which replaced the ancient Holy Roman Empire which had existed since 962 as independent states.

During the first few years of its existence, the Duchy of Nassau experienced an era of reform which included the very first modern constitution of any German state as well as the first comprehensive health care system. Some of the changes, especially in relation to civil rights and liberties, were, however, reduced during the restoration phase following the Congress of Vienna.

When Duke Wilhelm died in 1839, his oldest son Adolph, just 22 at the time, succeeded him on the throne. Two years later, the young Duke moved his primary residence to the Stadtschloss in Wiesbaden. He did not play a major political role in the Duchy for most of his early life. He, however, was the first German head of state to address his subjects during the revolutions of 1848.

On March 1, the citizens of Nassau, under the leadership of the liberal politician August Hergenhahn, published the famous Neun Forderungen der Nassauer (roughly translated as the nine demands of the people of Nassau) demanding for the arming of the people, freedom of the press, calling of a German parliament, the army to take an oath on the constitution, freedom of association, public trials by jury, the crown lands to become state property, voting rights for all citizens and freedom of religion. A day later, they handed them over to the minister of state, Baron Emil August von Dungern.

The Stadtschloss in Wiesbaden
(Photo: Luxarazzi)
The demands spread rapidly throughout the Duchy and two days later, on March 4, about 30,000 to 40,000 people, roughly one third of the male population of Nassau, gathered in front of the Stadtschloss, Duke Adolph's residence, to enforce their demands. While the population of Wiesbaden and other towns actually wanted more civil rights and liberties, it was more important for the rural population that the remains of the feudal system would be abolished and the game and forestry laws would be relaxed. Under the pressure of his citizens, Duke Adolph granted them all nine rights from the balcony of his residence that night.

The revolution, however, did not only have positive effects for the people of Nassau as it turned out to be quite chaotic, especially in rural areas where many officials had lost their positions and as a result there was no functioning administrative systems. The people reacted by founding militias. During that period of time August Hergenhahn managed to earn the trust of Duke Adolph and on April 16 he became the new minister-president. Under his leadership a few modern laws were introduced.

Soon after the revolution all the things the people had fought for soon faded away again. The parties in the parliament as well as the government fought about the veto right of the Duke so much that their dispute electrified the population who went out into the street again. The minister president even had to call in Austrian and Prussian troops to calm down the situation again. Due to the introduction of press freedom a big number of new newspapers had emerged but many had to close down again after a few months, both due to low sale figures as well as re-introduced repression. By the end of 1849, the censorship of the press was in full force again. At the time, the era of restauration had started and during the following years Duke Adolph, with the help of new conservative governments, reversed most of the progressive laws.

Photo: Luxarazzi
During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Nassau fought opposite Austria against Prussia. Unfortunately for the Duchy, Austria lost and as a result Nassau was annexed by Prussia on October 5, 1866. The annexion was proclaimed in Wiesbaden on October 9. There was only little resistance in Nassau and Adolph and his family left the country to live in Austria and later Bavaria. 

Even though the people of Nassau accepted to be a part of Prussia many of them still felt as 'Nassauer' (inhabitants of Nassau). This feeling was shown by many clubs and foundations which tried to uphold traditions and erected monuments in memory of Adolph and the ducal family, the most famous of which is the Landesdenkmal in Wiesbaden unveiled in 1909 and dedicated "to the Nassau dynasty with all our love and devotion, the grateful people".

No comments:

Post a Comment