- Written by L.C.Geerts
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The House of Nassau
The history of the house of Orange-Nassau is a little confusing because, the original Nassua-Dillenburg family on which the Orange-Nassau family is based became extinct in 1702 with the dead of Prince William II, grand-son of William of Orange. The line in The Netherlands was after 1702 continued through the Nassau-Dietssz family-line in the person of John William Friso (1687-1711), on this line the present Dutch Kingdom is based. The bloodline of the present Queen, Beatrix, is as far a descendent of William I of Orange as Alpha and Omega in the alphabet and is only in "name" a member of the Orange-Nassau family. The title Prince/Princess of Orange-Nassau became after 1702 only a "ceremonial title" though denied by the Dutch Aristocracy and specially the Protestant Christian branch of the common Dutch people.
In accordance to the "Salic Law", still in use by Nobility in Germany and other Countries, the succession can only continue through the male line. In The Netherlands this law was already broken in 1702 when John William Friso was declared "Prince of Orange", from 1890 on until present day the family tree continued through the female line with Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix, which is a "dead-sin" for nobility.
Origin of the Nassau family
The House of Nassau is a diversified aristocratic dynasty in Europe. It is named after the lordship associated with Nassau Castle, located in present-day Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The lords of Nassau were originally titled Count of Nassau, then elevated to the princely class as princely Counts. At the end of the Holy Roman Empire, they proclaimed themselves Duke of Nassau. All Dutch queens since 1890 and the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg since 1912 have been descended in the female line from the House of Nassau.
According to German tradition, the family name is passed only in the male line of succession. The house is therefore, from this perspective, extinct. However Dutch aristocratic customs (and Luxembourg's, which are based on the aforementioned) differ, and do not consider the House extinct.
The first ancestor
Around 950, the Lords of Lipporn obtained the Esterau (the area near present day Holzappel) from Herman I, Duke of Swabia. In 991, a Drutwin from Lipporn is mentioned as Count in the Königssondergau east of Wiesbaden.
Dudo-Henry of Larenburg (German: Dudo-Heinrich von Laurenburg) (born c.1060, died c.1123) was Count of Laurenburg in 1093 and is considered the founder of the House of Nassau. Probably with his father, Dudo built the castle of Laurenburg on the edge of the Esterau, located a few miles upriver from Nassau on the Lahn in 1080. This was sometime before 1093, because a "Comes Dudo de Lurenburch" is mentioned in founding charte of the Maria Laach Abbey, in fifth place of the witness list. Some historians, however, have claimed that this document was fabricated. He is later mentioned in a document from 1117 as the Vogt in Siegerland, having succeeded his father.
The House of Nassau would become an important aristocratic family in Germany, from which are descended the present-day rulers of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, though extinct respectively in 1890 and 1912.
For further reading : Lines colored in :
ORANGE = line from Dudo-Henry to William III, 1093 - 1702, straight Male succession.
YELLOW = line from Walram II to William IV, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, 1255 - 1912.
PINK = line from Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxemburg to Henri, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, 1912 - present, Female succession.
Counts of Laurenburg
Dudo-Henry c.1060-c.1123), Count of Laurenburg 1093-1123, Count of Idstein 1122-1123
Count Dudo was the son of Robert (German: Ruprecht), the Archbishop of Mainz’s Vogt in Siegerland. It is presumed from their ancestral possessions in the Lipporn area that they were descendants of the Lords of Lipporn, who were mentioned as early as 881 in a document of Prüm Abbey as the owners of parts of the Lipporn-Laurenburg area. He was a supporter of the Salian emperors, opposing the Archbishops f Mainz, Cologne, and Trier and the Counts of Katzenelnbogen.
In 1122, Dudo received the castle of Idstein in the Taunus as a fief under the Archbishopric of Mainz. This was part of the inheritance of Count Udalrich of Idstein-Eppstein. He also received the Vogt-ship of the richly-endowed Benedictin Bleidenstadt Abbey (in present-day Taunusstein).
Dudo-Hery of Laurenburg married Anastasia of Arnstein an der Lahn (near present day Obernhof), daughter of Count Louis II of Arnstein (Anastasia, possibly as heiress to Louis II, had claims on the Vogtship of Koblenz), children :
- Robert (Ruprecht) I 1090-1154, Count of Nassau (1123-1154)
- Arnold I, Count of Laurenburg (1123-1148)
- Demudis, married Emich, Count of Diez
The chronology of the Counts of Laurenburg is not certain and the link between Robert I and Walram I is especially controversial. Also, some sources consider Gerhard, listed as co-Count of Laurenburg in 1148, to be the son of Robert I's brother, Arnold I.
The Counts of Laurenburg and Nassau expanded their authority under the brothers Robert I of Nassau (1123-1154) and Arnold I of Laurenburg (1123-1148). Robert was the first person to call himself Count of Nassau, but the title was not confirmed until 1159, five years after Robert's death.
Robert I of Nassau 1090-1154, Count of Nassau 1123-1154
Robert (Ruprecht) I of Nassau was from 1123 Count of Laurenburg and would later title himself the first Count of Nassau. Robert was the eldest son of Count Dudo-Henry of Laurenburg.
After 1120, Robert, ruled from Nassau Castle together with his brother Arnold I. In 1124, Robert became the Bishopric of Worms's Vogt over the Weilburg Diocese. He inherited this position from the Hessian Count Werner IV, Count of Gröningen. Idstein, which had come under the control of Count Dudo in 1122, was also added to this fief.
Through this, Robert was able to decisively expand the possessions of the House of Nassau. He gained, among other lands, the village of Dietsskirchen and established himself in the Haiger Mark. Along with numerous property and lordship rights in the Westerwald and Dill River region, Weilburg's territory included the former Königshof Nassau, which had fallen to Weilburg in 914. This did not, however, settle the dispute with the Bishop of Worms over the legality of constructing Nassau Castle.
When Robert I began calling himself Count of Nassau after the castle, the Worms Bishopric disputed the title. The title was only confirmed through the intervention of the Archbishop of Trier Hillin von Fallemanien in 1159, five years after Robert’s death, under his son Walram I.
In 1126, Robert endowed the Benedictine Schönau Abbey near Lipporn. The land had already in 1117 been donated by Count Dudo-Henry to Schaffhausen Abbey for construction of a monastery. Under Robert’s rule, from 1126 to 1145, the Romanesque buildings were constructed, presumably including a three-nave basilica. The Abbey included both a monastery for monks and a convent for nuns. From 1141 until her death in 1164 the abbey convent would be the home of St. Elizabeth of Schönau. Robert had continual disputes with several of his neighbors. He was a loyal follower of the Hohenstaufen Emperors. Robert died before May 13, 1154.
Before 1135, Rupert married Beatrix of Limburg (born c. 1115, deceased July 12, after 1164), daughter of Walram II the Pagan, Count of Limburg and Duke of Lower Lorraine, and Jutta of Guelders (daughter of Gerard I, Count of Guelders). Possibly as many as four, children were born of this union:
- Robert (Ruprecht) II, Count of Laurenburg, 1154-1158, died c.1159
- Arnold II, Count of Laurenburg, 1151-1154, died 1158
- Walram I, Count of Nassau (c.1146-1198)
Walram I 1146-1198, Count of Nassau 1154-1198
Walram (Valéran) I of Nassau was the first legally-titled Count of Nassau. Walram was the younger son of Count Robert I of Nassau. Robert I had ruled from Nassau Castle, together with his brother Arnold I, since about 1120. Originally titled Count of Laurenburg.
When his father died Walram was only seven years. Therefore, he initially shared the rule with his older brother Robert (Ruprecht) II, who died c.1159. After Robert II’s death, he shared power with his cousins, Henry (Heinrich) I and Robert (Ruprecht) III and Arnold I of Laurenburg (both sons of Robert I’s brother). After Henry and Robert’s deaths in 1167 and 1191, respectively, Walram reigned alone until 1198.
Although the Vogtship of Weilburg, with its numerous property and lordship rights in the Westerwald and Dill River region, had given Robert I a loose connection between his seat on the lower Lahn and his distant position in the Siegerland, Walram was able to create a solid land bridge in about the middle of the 12th century. He received the Herborner Mark, the Kalenberger Znt (including Mengerskirchen, Beilstein, and Nenderoth, the second two now being parts of Greifenstein), and the Court of Heimau (including Driedorf and Löhnberg) as a fief from the Thüringen-Hessian Landgraviate.
The same period may also have brought the Lordship of the Westerwald (including Marienberg, Neukirch, and Emmerichenhain, now part of Rennerod). Walram also bought the Vogtship of Koblenz and Ems. To the south of his possessions, Walram took over partial rule of the Einrichgau, later-named the Vierherrengericht (Four Lords’ Jurisdiction), with its main town of Marienfels. This had been part of the former Countship of Arnstein. The last Count of Arnstein, Ludwig III, had no heir and had converted his castle of Arnstein into a monastery, Arnstein Abbey, near present-day Obernhof, east of Nassau.
On entering the monastery himself in 1139/1140, he had transferred control of Marienfels to his cousin Reginbold of Isenburg. In 1160, Reginbold sold it jointly to his cousins, the Counts of Nassau and Katzenelnbogen. The Nassau Counts were able to claim part of the inheritance through the marriage of their ancestor Count Drutwin IV of Laurenburg with one of the seven daughters of Count Ludwig of Arnstein.
Walram became affiliated with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarrossa in the Peace of the Rhine Country in 1179. He placed his lands under the immediate suzerainty of the German king, rather than remaining a vassal of the archbishop of Trier. He would remain a loyal supporter of the Hohenstaufen Emporers. Walram's close ties with the imperial house were rewarded with Königshof Wiesbaden. At about the same time, he also received possession of the game rights in the forests of the Rheingau (a fief of the Archbishopric of Mainz), so that his rule extended over the Taunus, south to the Middle Rhine. Walram had ongoing feuds with the neighboring houses of Eppstein, Solms, and Katzenelnbogen.
With his cousin Robert III, Walram went to the Third Crusade (1189-1190). Walram and Robert were part of Frederick I’s delegation set ahead to Constantinople to prepare for the arrival of the German troops. While Frederick had earlier received promises of cooperation from Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, the delegation was initially snubbed and then actually held as hostages by the Emperor.
After Robert's death in the Holy Land, Walram became the Vogt of Siegerland. Walram played a role in the formation of the Teutonic Order in Acre. His son, Robert (Roprecht) IV, would later join the Teutonic Knights. Walram I died on February 1, 1198. He is buried in Arnstein Abbey.
Walram married Kunigunde (probably Kunigunde of Ziegenhain, daughter of Count Poppo II of Nidda, on November 8 (year unknown). Her death date is also unknown but she was still alive on March 20, 1198. children:
- Henry (Heinrich) II, the Rich, Count of Nassau (1180-1251)
- Robert (Ruprecht) IV, Count of Nassau(1198-1230) and Teutonic Knight (1230-1240)
- Beatrix of Laurenburg, a nun in Affoderbach Abbey in Miehlen (a town owned by Laurenburg-Nassau since 1132)
Counts and Co-Counts of Laurenburg (c.1093-1159)
|Dudo-Henry||c.1060-c.1123||son of Robert (Ruprecht), the Archbishop of Mainz’s Vogt in Siegerland|
|Robert (Ruprecht) I||1123-1154||son of Dudo-Henry|
|to Walram I (1154-1198) of the House of Nassau|
|Arnold I||1123-1148||co-Count, son of Dudo-Henry|
|Gerhard||1148||co-Count, son of Arnold I|
|Arnold II||1151-1154||co-Count, son of Robert I|
|Robert II||1154-1159||son of Robert I|
Counts of Laurenburg-Nassau 1154-1255
Though actually Walram I was the first Count o Nassau, Henry II is mentioned as the first official Count.
Henry II the Rich 1190-1251, Count of Nassau 1198-1247
Henry II the Rich (Heinrich II der Reiche, in Dutch Hendrik II de Rijke) was the eldest son of Count Walram I of Nassau. Upon his father’s death in 1198, Henry succeeded him at the age of eight as Count of Nassau. He shared the reign with his younger brother, Robert IV, until 1239.
In the politics of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry was generally a loyal supporter of the Hohenstaufen emperors. However, between 1209 and 1211, he backed the rival Otto IV of Brunswick as emperor, before reverting sides to support Frederick II. Between 1212 and 1214, he held prisoner Frederick's (an his own) opponent, the Archbishop of Trier Theodoric II (also known as Dietssrich of Wied).
Towards the end of the 12th century, his father Walram I had been able to strengthen his power on the lower Lahn. As part of the inheritance of the Counts of Arnstein, he succeeded them as the Archbishopric of Trier's Vogt in Koblenz, Pfaffendorf (now a borough of Koblenz), Niederlahnstein, and Humbach (Montabaur). However, by the 1230s Trier's influence near the Rhine and Lahn had strengthened enough to oust Nassau from the majority of the Archbishopric's vogtships.
The Archbishop had reinforced Montabaur around 1217 in order to protect his possessions on the right bank of the Rhine from Nassau. Henry's father had received the Königshof Wiesbaden from Emperor Frederick I in reward for his support of the emperor in the conflicts of 1170-1180. Nassau’s possessions in this area were expanded around 1214 when Henry received the Imperial Vogtship (Reichsvogtei) over Wiesbaden and the surrounding Königssondergau, which he held as fiefdoms.
In about 1200, Henry, together with his brother Robert IV, began building Sonnenberg Castle on a spur of Spitzkippel peak in the Taunus above Wiesbaden. This was intended for protection against the Archbishopric of Mainz and its vassals, the Lords of Eppstein, who held the lands bordering Wiesbaden. However, the cathedral chapter of St. Martin in Mainz claimed Sonnenberg as their own. To settle the dispute, Nassau paid 30 Marks to the cathedral chapter in 1221 to acquire the land of Sonnenberg Castle. Henry was also forced to recognize the sovereignty of the Archbishops of Mainz over Sonnenberg, taking the castle as a fief of Mainz.
In 1224, Henry found support from the Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert II, who made Henry his Marschall (chief military officer) and Schenk (an honorary title that originally meant "cup-bearer"). However, in exchange for his protection from the Archbishops of Mainz and Trier, Henry had to cede half of Siegen to Cologne. Unaffected by this division of rule, however, Nassau retained its sovereign rights in the region surrounding Siegen, where the important High Jurisdiction (hohe Gerichtsbarkeit) and Game Ban (Wildbann) explicitly survived to 1259.
In 1231, Henry attended the Reichstag at Worms and in 1232 was at Emperor Frederick II's imperial assembly in Ravenna. Henry’s brother, Robert IV, had joined the Teutonic Order in 1230. On his death in 1239, Robert bequeathed his legacy to the Order. Henry continuously disputed any division of his realm with the Teutonic Order. Henry also held the Upper Vogtship over the Diocese of St. George in Limburg an der Lahn during the construction of the Limburg Cathedral.
In 1239 he transferred, at the request of his vassal Friedrich of Hain, the income of the Netphen parishes to the Premonstratensian Keppel Abbey near Hilchenbach. His descendants took over the patronage of the monastery. In 1247, he supported the election of Anti-King William II of Holland, who confirmed all of Henry’s imperial possessions and gave him the right to mint money. Henry's policies in the Herborner Mark angered the local aristocratic families.
Around 1240, Henry II built Dillenburg Castle to better subjugate the dissidents. By 1248, the century-long Dernbacher Feud had already begun, involving Hesse as well in the context of the War of the Thuringian Succession.(an over one-hundred year long (c. 1230-1333)ongoing dispute between the House of Nassau, several knightly families, and the Landgrave of Hesse).
Henry died on January 25, 1251, after having abdicated in 1247 in favor of his son Otto I.
Before 1221, Henry married Matilda of Guelders (German: Mathilde von Geldern; died after 1247), daughter of Otto I, Count of Guelders and Zutphen and Richardis of Bavaria (herself daughter of Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria). Eleven children were born, including :
- Walram II of Nassau (c.1220-1276)
- Robert (Ruprecht) V, died January 19, before 1247 - fought Diez and Ober-Lahnstein on behalf of the Archbishop of Trier, was a Knight of the Teutonic Order
- Henry (Heinrich), became a monk in Arnstein Abbey in 1247 (died May 28, year unknown)
- Otto I of Nassau, born c.1224 (reigned jointly with his elder brother Walram II until 1255. After this time the brothers separated the County, Otto became Count of Nassau in Dillenburg, Hadamar, Siegen, Herborn and Beilstein (1255-1290)
- Elizabeth (born c.1225, married Gerhard III, Lord of Eppstein (died c.1250). Her death date is reported variously as "after January 6 or March 6, 1295 or in 1306
- Gerhard, mentioned in a charter from November 21 1259, archdeacon of Kempen, canon of St. Lambert in Liege, dean of the cathedral chapter of Our Lady in Maastricht, Aachen Cathedral, and St. Walburg in Tiel, buried in Aachen. His death date is reported variously as May 2 or 4, 1311
- John I (Jan van Nassau), c.1230-1309, Bishop-Elect of Utrecht (1267–1290), died July 13, 1309 in Deventer and was buried at St. Lebuinuskerk Deventer
- Catherine (Katharina) (born 1227), became Abbess of Altenburg Abbey in Wetzlar in 1249. Her death date is reported variously as April 27 or 29, 1324.
- Jutta (d.1313), married c.1260 to Johann I of Cuijk (Jan I van Cuijk), Lord of Merum (now part of Roermond, d.1308)
Counts of Laurenburg-Nassau 1154-1255
|Walram I||1154-198||son of Robert I, was the first to be legally Count of Nassau|
|Henry I||1158-1167||co-Count, son of Arnold I, died in Rome during the August 1167 epidemic (after the Battle of Monte Porzio)|
|Robert III||1160-1191||co-Count, the Bellico, the Bellicose, son of Arnold I|
|Henry II, the Rich||1198-1247||son of Walram I|
|Robert IV||1198-1230||co-Count, son of Walram I, from 1230-1240 Knight of the Teutonic Order.|
The Great division of 1255
Walram II and Otto I, divided the Nassau lands between themselves on December 17, 1255. This first division of the Nassau Countries was later known as the “Great division.” This began the separate Walramian and Ottonian lines of the House of Nassau. Both lines would often themselves be divided over the next few centuries.
The Walramian line
Walram II began the Countship of Nassau-Weilburg-Wiesbaden-Idstein, which existed to 1816. The Walramian line received the lordship of Merenberg in 1328 and Saarbrücken (by marriage) in 1353. The sovereigns of this house afterwards governed the Duchy of Nassau until 1866 and was continued from 1890 by the branch of Nassau-Weilburg as Grand Duchy in Luxembourg. The succession by the male line became extinct in 1912, but the line continued by the female line until present.
The Ottonian line
Otto I began the Countship of Nassau-Dillenburg-Hademar-Siegen-Herborn-Beilstein, which existed to 1890. The descendants of Otto I became known as the Ottonian Line, which would inherit parts of Nassau in France and the Lowlands. The succession by the male line became extinct in 1890, but in The Netherlands the line was continued by females until present.
|Otto I||1247-1255||from 1255-1290 Count of Nassau in Dillenburg, Hadamar, Siegen, Herborn and Beilstein|
|Walram II||1249-1255||from 1255-1276 Count of Nassau in Wiesbaden, Idstein, and Weilburg|
The descendants of Walram II became known as the Walramian Line, which became important for the Duke ship of Nassau and Luxembourg.
The Walramian A Line 1255-1912
Counts of Nassau in Wiesbaden, Idstein, and Weilburg 1255-1344
|Adolf||1276-1298||crowned King of Germany in 1292|
|Walram III||1298-1324||Count of Nassau in Wiesbaden, Idstein, and Weilnau|
|Gerlach I||1298-1344||Count of Nassau in Wiesbaden, Idstein, Weilburg, and Weilnau|
Counts of Nassau-Weilburg 1344-1816
Counts of Weilburg 1344-1688
|Philipp I||1371-1429||from 1381 Count of Saarbrücken|
|Louis II||1593-1625||Count of Nassau-Weilburg and in Ottweiler, Saarbrücken, Wiesbaden, and Idstein|
|Ernst Casimir||1625-1655||Not to be confused with Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietssz.|
Princely Counts of Nassau-Weilburg 1688-1816
|Charles Christian||1753-1788||Married on 5 March 1760 Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau (1743-1787), daughter of William IV, Prince of Orange|
|Frederick William||1788-1816||From 1806 Prince of Nassau|
|William (Wilhelm)||1816-1839||Prince of Nassau-Weilburg and Duke of Nassau|
|Nassau-Weilburg merged into Duchy of Nassau|
Dukes of Nassau 1816-1866
|Adolf||1839-1866||Duke of Nassau-Weiburg, became Grand Duke of Luxembourg in 1890|
|Annexed by Prussia 1866|
In 1866, Prussia annexed the Duchy of Nassau as the Duke had been an ally of Austria in the Second Austro-Prussian War. In 1890, Duke Adolf would become Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg.
Grand Dukes of Luxemboug (from the House of Nassau-Weilburg) - 1890-Present
|Adolphe (Adolf)||1890–1905||Duke of Nassau until 1866|
|William IV||1905–1912||Left no male heir|
|Marie-Adélaïde||1912–1919||The first female|
From a morganatic marriage, contracted in 1868, descends a family, Count of Merenberg, which in 1907 was declared non-dynastic. Had they not been excluded from the succession, they would have inherited the headship of the house in 1912.
The Walramian B Line 1344-1816, Counts of Nassau-Wiesbaden and Idstein
Counts of Wiesbaden-Idstein 1344-1775
|Adolf I||1344-1370||co-Count of assau, Count of Wiesbaden-Idtein|
|Philipp II||1558-1566||Count of Nassau-Idstein|
|Balthasar||1566-1568||Count of Nassau-Idstein|
|Johann Ludwig I||1568-1596||co-Count|
|Johann Ludwi II||1596-1605|
|Johann||1625-1677||Count of Nassau-Idstein, and (from 1651) inWiesbaden, Sonnenberg, Wehen, Bug-Schwalbach and Lahr|
|Georg Augut Samuel||1677-1721||Prince of Nassu-Saarbrücken-Idstein 1688-1721|
|Friedrich Ludwig||1721-1728||Count o Nassau-Ottweiler (1680-1728), and in Rixingen (1703-28), and in Wiesbaden, Idstein, etc (1721-28)|
|Karl||1735-1775||Left no male heir|
Counts of Saarbrücken 1429-1799
|John Louis I||1472-1545|
|Louis II||1602-1625||Count of Saarbrücken and Ottweiler|
|Wilhelm Ludwig||1625-1640||Count of Nassau-Saarbrücken and Ottweiler|
|Johann Ludwig||1640-1690||Count of Nassau-Saarbrücken and (1659-80) in Ottweiler, Jungenheim, and Wцllstein|
|Ludwig Kraft||1677-1713||co-Count until 1690|
|Heinrich Ludwig||1794-1799||He had no heir, only a daughter, Marie Françoise de St. Maurice princess of Montbarey 1761-1838|
Counts of Usingen 1659-1816
|Friedrich August||1803-1816||He had no heir, only a daughter, Luise princess of Waldeck|