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Hesse Hanau and the Treaty With England

To properly understand the treaty with England, and the formation of the Jäger Corps, one must start with the formation of Hesse Hanau as a principality first under Landgravine Mary, and then under Erbprinz Wilhelm IX. The beginning of this principality is joined tightly with the domestic affairs of Hesse-Kassel and the Landgrave Frederick II and his father Wilhelm VIII1

The story of Hesse Hanau begins with the marriage of Frederick II to Princess Mary of England in 1740. Initially meant by Wilhelm VIII to solidify his domain with that of England, this marriage would prove to cause problems. It was during the time before the Seven Years War that Frederick, long since influenced by religious enlightenment thought rejected Protestantism and became a Catholic in 1749. This created quite a stir among the Protestant rulers of the various German principalities, not to mention England and Prussia.2 War was scant few years away, and both of these great powers would be partially dependent on Hessian man-power to face the French and Reichsarmee in the west, and Frederick’s switch to Catholicism meant he would be more receptive of French or Austrian overtures.

Not unlike the father of Frederick the Great of Prussia, Wilhelm VIII was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the actions of his son. When Frederick switched to Catholicism, Wilhelm VIII had enough. With the support of other Protestant principalities and countries, he issued a document called the Assekurationsakte. This official document effectively placed strict controls on Frederick, especially when it came to Catholic influences. To maintain his current marriage and prevent a divorce, Wilhelm VIII sent Princess Mary to Hanau with her sons. In return, Wilhelm VIII made Hanau a self governing principality under Mary with her son Wilhelm IX to succeed her (Hanau being acquired as a county of Hesse Kassel in 1714).3 It was Frederick’s conversion to Catholicism, combined with his estranged relationship with Mary (due to his various sexual liaisons at the front), which led Wilhelm VIII to send Mary to Hanau, and thus the beginning of Hesse Hanau as a principality.

While Mary was still reigning in Hanau, Wilhelm IX sought to solidify his future principality as Protestant. During this time there existed what can be called the “Protestant System? which was a loose organization made up of the Protestant German principalities, England, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark.4 To place Hanau within this system (and perhaps because she herself had family ties with the Royal family of England), Wilhelm IX married Princess Caroline of Denmark in 1764. This not only ensured a close connection between Hesse Hanau and the Danes, but also helped to place Hanau on the map as a Protestant principality. The marriage also solidified Wilhelm’s already close ties with England, a major bankroller of Europe.5

When word spread to Europe about the bloody beating the English army suffered at Breed’s Hill in 1775, Wilhelm IX was the first German prince to offer military assistance to his distant relative; George III. However, like all German offers of assistance at the time, this offer was declined.6 Yet once it became clear to the English government that assistance by their long-time German allies would be needed, George III turned to Hesse Hanau to help provide some much needed manpower. In early 1776, Colonel William Faucitt was sent to the court of Hanau to negotiate a treaty with Frederic Malsbourg, representative of Wilhelm IX.

The first treaty concluded between England and Hanau included an infantry battalion of 668 men and an artillery company. Later, again in early 1777 another treaty was signed which added a four company Jäger Corps consisting of 412 men to the Hesse Hanau contingent. This treaty was later changed to include another company of Jägers. Wilhelm’s domain stood to make approximately 343,130 pounds; with over 51,140 pounds being paid out for all purposes to keep the Hesse Hanau Jäger Corps in service.7 Not only would the men swear allegiance to the Hereditary Prince, they would also swear allegiance to His Majesty King George III. According to the first treaty, “The Corps shall take the oath of fidelity to his Britannic Majesty, without prejudice to that which they have taken to their Sovereign?.8 The Jäger Corps was assigned to St. Leger’s expedition in the Mohawk Valley; only one company would make it in time to see combat at Fort Stanwix and Oriskany.

Works Cited:

Atwood, Rodney. The Hessians, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Burgoyne, Bruce E. Notes From the British Museum, Bowie MD: Heritage Books, 2004.

Ingrao, Charles W. The Hessian Mercenary State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Treaty Between His Britannic Majesty and the Hereditary Prince of Hesse Kassel Reigning Count of Hanau Signed at Hanau 5 February 1776, Article X, Public Archives of Canada: MG21 MSS21813 Reel A-744.

1 I will address Wilhelm VIII of Hesse Kassel and Wilhelm IX of Hesse Hanau by their respective official titles to keep the two apart and prevent confusion.

2 Charles W. Ingrao, The Hessian Mercenary State, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 17.

3 Ibid, 18.

4 Ibid, 122.

5 Frederick II of Hesse Kassel would attempt to marry an Austrian princess soon after Mary died in 1772. His efforts were severely criticized and rebuffed. He was effectively forced to marry Princess Philippine of Brandenburg/Schwedt in 1773, a Protestant. Wilhelm IX, unlike his father, wanted to make sure Hanau was protestant, as to turn Catholic would have resulted in alienation from England and Prussia, two of the most important powers on Continental Europe.

6 Rodney Atwood, The Hessians, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 24.

7 Bruce E. Burgoyne, Notes From The British Museum, (Bowie MD: Heritage Books, 2004), 7. This figure includes pay, rations, equipment, etc. and is only for the Haldimand period in Canada.

8 Treaty Between His Britannic Majesty and the Hereditary Prince of Hesse Kassel Reigning Count of Hanau Signed at Hanau 5 February 1776, Article X, Public Archives of Canada: MG21 MSS21813 Reel A-744.

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