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The Leib Garde of Hesse Seewald

The History of Hesse Seewald

The House of Hesse Seewald
The origins of the Kingdom of Hesse Seewald go back to the 14th Century when a minor noble by the name of Rudolph von Seewald allegedly saved the life of the Holy Roman Emperor, when the latter was cornered by a pack of wolves whilst hunting in the Harz Mountains. Rudolph was awarded the lands around Nordhausen and title the Barony of Nordhausen. The Seewald family built a reputation as one of the finest armourers in Europe, which enabled them to amass a respectable amount of wealth for those times. Subsequent generations of von Seewalds used their wealth to acquire neighboring lands. 

The family's fortunes took a significant turn for the better during the Thirty Years War in Germany (1618 to 1648) as the family head, Wilhelm der Lowen deftly supplied arms to both sides of the conflict that devastated Germany. Some say that Willy the Lion was a central figure in the sack of Magdeburg and that the family's alleged treasure was secreted away in the Harz Mountains. Following the TYW, Willy the Lion was made a duke of the Hesse Seewald lands and an Elector of the Empire in 1682. Willy's successor, his son Friedrich, steered the duchy through the wars of the French Sun King, Louis XIV by aligning himself with Dutch-English-Austrian Grand Alliance. Friedrich died in 1709 and was succeeded by his son, Georg Ludwig who had pretensions of royalty.

Ludwig's efforts to be raised to the purple fell on deaf ears within the Empire, as the emperor kept stringing him along with the promise of a kingdom, a promise that was never kept. Ludwig observed the example of the Elector of Brandenburg, who similarly rebuffed, styled himself as "king in Prussia" rather than as "king of Prussia", noting that the lands of Prussia were outside the boundaries of the Empire. Ludwig accordingly acquired a parcel of land along the Baltic coast near Danzig, changed the name of the land to "Seewald" and like Friedrich Hohenzollern, declared himself Georg Ludwig I, the "king in Seewald". While other princes may have laughed at Ludwig and his farce, they could not laugh at the military power that he continued to amass. For unlike Friedrich Hohenzollern, Ludwig von Seewald had no interest in building grand palaces and mini-Versailles, not when he could divert more funds into his army. 

The Death Of Georg Ludwig I in 1734

Ludwig died in 1734, when a cannonball took off his head during some minor skirmish in the War of the Polish Succession. He was succeeded by Georg Ludwig II, king of Hesse Seewald.  Georg Ludwig II cast his eyes towards the neighboring Duchy of Gotha, whose ruler, Karl V, had but one daughter , Princess Charlotte, as his heir. Figuring that he could easily add Gotha to his realm through marriage, he sent his ambassador, Count von Schadenfreude to the court of Gotha to arrange the nuptials. The couple were married in 1736 and now it only remained for Duke Karl to pass away and deed the duchy to Hesse Seewald.

In the spring of 1739, Georg Ludwig commenced the Grand Tour of European Courts with visits to Versailles, London, Vienna and Berlin. It was while he was in Berlin, visiting Frederick II at Sans Souci, that word came to him that Duke Karl V had died in a hunting accident in the Forest of Glim. Witnesses swore that a ditzy young brunette by the name of Lady Diana Pettygree, had pushed her horse against that of Duke Karl, causing him to fall over the cliff into a chasm 300 feet below.

One of the hunting party, a certain French ex-pat named Lady De Winter, shouted out, "it's her, Lady Pettygree, I saw her push Duke Karl over the cliff!" Lady Pettygree spurred her horse and galloped away from the scene of the crime and was last heard to have been spotted in the Saxon capital at Dresden.

Whoever caused the fall, accidental or intentional, the prime beneficiary of the incident was Georg Ludwig II, who inherited the Duchy of Gotha and the neighboring County of Wiemar. This did not go over very well in Dresden, where Duke Wilhelm von Sachsen-Raschstein had long coveted Gotha and Wiemar for himself. And thus were planted the seeds for a future war between  Hesse Seewald and Saxony. More of that later, for grander events were about to overshadow the kerfuffle between the two minor countries in Central Germany.

In 1740, the harmonic conversion of the deaths of two rulers, Charles of Austria and Frederick William of Prussia, created conditions of succession turmoil in Central Europe.  The new young king of Prussia, Frederick II stunned the world with his invasion of Silesia, ripping the duchy from the arms of the Hapsburgs. All of Europe joined in on the land grab of Hapsburg possessions. Georg Ludwig was no less astute and following on Frederick II's example, the Hesse Seewald army marched into the duchies of Gotha and Wiemar and annexing their lands to his kingdom. The Gotha relationship was further cemented by the marriage of Georg Ludwig to the princess Charlotte of Gotha. So while Austria, Saxony, Bavarian and Prussian were all fighting over Silesia in the two wars of the Austrian Succession, Georg Ludwig II was adding territory at the expense of Saxony and some of its related minor duchies.

The Geography of the Kingdom
The Kingdom of Hesse Seewald occupies an important piece of land in Central Germany that sits astride one of the principal East-West roads that link Saxony in the East and Hesse Kassel and Westphalia to the West. The kingdom is bounded on the south by the vast forest known as the Thuringerwald, which is nearly impenetrable, save for a few roads. To the north, it is walled off by the Harz Mountains. Its western boundary lies at the junction of the rivers Weser and Werra at the town of Munden. The Weser flows northward into the North Sea and is one of the major North-South waterways in Germany. The eastern boundary of the kingdom lies where the river Unstrut bends north into the Thuringen Plain, before it turns east and flows into the river Saale. The Saale flows into the Elbe, another major North-South navigable river in Central Germany.

A look at the map gives one an appreciation for the good fortune of the House of Seewald for the protection given to it by its geography. Geography also provides a major source of income to the kingdom in the form of its river trade.

The Kingdom's Economy
Following the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in1648, the then-Duke of Hesse Seewald commenced a public works project to build a canal that connected the river Unstrut  to the river Weser. Some say that the duke funded the works using treasure captured from the Saxons  during the Thirty Years War. Others hint that the gold was stolen from some of the bishoprics of Mainz, Wurzburg and Koln. Whatever the source of the gold, it was sufficient to build the canal which now allowed trade goods to be transported by river barge from the Elbe to the Weser. This attracted a considerable amount of trade traffic and the resultant tolls quickly paid for the construction of the canal and quickly filled the duke's exchequer.

The kingdom's economy consists of an active grain and woolen industry in the rich agricultural lands astride the river Unstrut. Timber is harvested from the Thuringerwald and transported down the Elbe to Hamburg, where it is sold to the Dutch and British navies for their ships. There are abundant deposits of iron ore, tin and silver in the Harz Mountains, spawning the world famous Harz Armory, which has manufactured fine armour and edged weapons since the 14th Century. Nordhausen silver is also highly sought within Central Europe and is the center of the silversmith industry in Central Germany.

The kingdom's diversity of trade (agriculture, wool, timber, iron ore and silver smithing) has generated tremendous wealth for the kingdom of Hesse Seewald. Its wealth has not gone unnoticed by other princes of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly the Saxons, Bavarians and Austrians and their related satellite countries, principalities and duchies.

The Hesse Seewald Heere
Surrounded as the kingdom is by preditory neighbors, the early dukes of Hesse Seewald invested considerable financial resources into the development and maintenance of a strong military establishment. The kingdom maintains a military force of about 20,000 men at arms, making it one of the more powerful countries in the Empire. In fact, Hesse Seewald's army is as large as the forces that can be fielded by larger states such as Bavaria, Saxony, Wurttemburg, Hesse Kassel and Hanover.

The kingdom has a long history of alliance with the Elector of Brandenbourg-Prussia (now know as the Kingdom of Prussia) that predates the War of the Spanish Succession. Accordingly, the Hesse Seewald Heere is modeled after that of Prussia in terms of organization, drill and even in the cut of their uniforms. The two states exchange officers and Ludwig von Seewald is even the inhaber of one of King Friedrich of Prussia's infantry regiments.

Other traditional allies of the kingdome include its sister state, Hesse Kassel, plus Britain, Hanover and the Vereingte Frie Stadt (or "VFS").

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful to understand a potential opponent's history and alliances...Bill