Distaff & Camp followers
Frederick and the Family Tree
A Study of Family Relationships Between Royal Hesse and Great Britain
By Tom Pulley and Alexis Dekeyser
The man who would become Frederick II (Friedrich), Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, was born on 14 August 1720 to Wilhelm VIII and Dorothea Wilhelmine (Princess of Saxony-Zeitz). He was raised in a manner traditional of German royalty of that time. He received academic instruction from a private tutor (Jean Pierre de Crousaz) and later attended university in Geneva where he was personally instructed by J. von Schmerfeld and Colonel von Donop. He also received military training in the tradition of the house of Hesse.
Wilhelm VIII arranged a marriage between Frederick and Mary Hanover. She was born in 1723 to George II and Caroline of Ansbach. They were married by proxy on 8 May 1740 in London and in person on 28 June 1740 in Kassel. He became estranged from Mary in 1747 (some say due to liaisons occurring during his military service at the time). Before their separation, they would have four sons. The first died in infancy and the second would become ruler of Hesse-Hanau and then become Wilhelm IX Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel upon the death of Frederick II.
In 1749 Frederick converted to Catholicism. Some have attributed this to his desire to be King of Poland (he would later decline an offer of that throne) while others believe the switch was due to his acceptance of the effects of the Counter Reformation. Regardless of the true reason, the conversion caused him considerable difficulties in an area of Europe dominated by Calvinism. His father forced him to sign the “Assekurationsakte” which provided guarantees to the citizens of Hesse that the principality would remain Protestant. One of the more interesting restrictions of this agreement was that only one officer per regiment could be of the catholic faith. Also, Mary left Frederick and lived in Hanau with her sons. She also spent some time in Denmark and her two oldest sons would marry Danish princesses.
Frederick saw military service in the Prussian Army in the war of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. He became Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel in 1760 (but could not rule until the conclusion of the Seven Years War because Hesse was occupied by French troops at that time). In 1763, after the Seven Years War, he reorganized the Hessian Army largely based on the Prussian model (his future Minister of State, von Jungkenn, had been adjutant in his Prussian regiment). As we well know, Frederick entered into a subsidiary treaty with Great Britain and Hesse-Kassel provided over half of the German troops sent to America during the Revolution.
Frederick was apparently a bit of a micro-manager when it came to military affairs. He took a personal interest in, or actually had the final decision of such things as: deviations from the regulation uniform, the promotion to officer from the noncommissioned ranks and requests for transfer back to Hesse. In one example, he countermanded the order of a Hessian commander who had changed the tactical order of his units. At the conclusion of the Revolution, each returning regiment was personally welcomed by Frederick.
Mary died in Hanau in 1772. Frederick married Margravine Philipine of Brandenberg-Schwedt on 10 January 1773 in Berlin. Frederick died on 31 October 1785 of an apparent stroke.
So, as far as our group is concerned, are the relationships between the rulers of Britain and Hesse of significance? It would not seem so if we look at the principal players: George III and Frederick II. Frederick was married to Mary Hanover and she was George III’s aunt. George III was, as we all know, married to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her parents were Duke Charles Louis Frederick and Elizabeth Albertin of Saxe-Hilburghausen. So Charlotte was not related to Frederick II. Given Frederick’s separation from Mary around 1750 and his conversion to Catholicism around the same time it is difficult to imagine that the tenuous relationship between George III and Frederick played a significant role in the later subsidiary treaties agreed to by the two rulers.
The relationship between the two families starting with our Landgrave’s Father and Mother and his Wife’s parents. As you will notice he married George the 2nd’s Daughter, who was the Sister to the Prince Frederick of Wales who was King George the 3rd’s Father and never himself became King. But that is another story. So our Landgrave married George the 3rd’s Aunt, not Sister.
King George the 3rd married into a German family but Duchess Sophia as far as I can trace back had no connection to either the Hessian Royal family or the British Royal family. She is related to the Danish and Portuguese royal family several generations back.