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The Grand Duchy of Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Cassel, is a small constitutional monarchy in western Europe. It is a member state of the Holy Roman Empire and is bordered (clockwise from due north) by Paderborn, Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Calenberg, Eichsfeld, Erfurt, Ducal Saxony, Fulda, Hesse-Darmstadt, Wetzlar, United Netherlands and Münster-Westphalia. The capital is Kassel and the population around 940,000.
The Head of State is Grand Duke William VII Philip.
The official language is German.
The currency is the Hesse-Kassel Taler (HKT).
The original Landgraviate of Hesse had been part of Thuringia before winning its independence under Henry I during the War of Thuringian Succession in the mid-13th century. The landgraviate was twice divided by split inheritances though was reunified by Philip the Good in 1515. Under Philip, Hesse would ruthless crush the peasant revolts of the early Reformation bring the state considerable prestige and good standing with the Emperors, and was promoted to a Duke. However Philip only opposed change from the bottom up, not Protestantism itself and had already converted to Lutheranism in around 1525. Under his leadership the Lutheran states of Northern Germany slowly coalesced into a protective armed League which drew in promises and guarantees from states outside the Empire. His death in 1542 however left the state to be split into three parts; Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt and Hesse-Marburg. Kassel's new Duke, Christopher I, would successfully keep the League united during the First Schmalkaldic War and would be a powerful voice, and an electorate, in the splinter Empire which emerged from the Second.
Previously when the other Hesse lines had died out the other simply reabsorbed the lands however with a three-way split this was more problematic, and since the divide Kassel and Darmstadt had embraced different faiths with Darmstadt taking a Calvinist line. Marburg under Henry V meanwhile had been rather lasse-faire, with a worryingly large Anabaptist following developing. Both of the remaining Landgravines saw it as their duty to restore their version of the Protestant creed to the land. Although certainly hostile to Calvinism the Schmalkaldic Empire was cautious about provoking yet more confrontation with the Catholic Empire and gave Kassel precious little assistance in the war. Darmstadt was hardly overflowing with support either so hence when the two embarked on the First Hessian War (1574-1580) the fight was brutally even and devastating to both. Darmstadt would eventually gain the upper hand, largely thanks to the death of Christopher I and Kassel's division into two amongst his sons.
The now smaller Hesse-Kassel (as opposed to the newly established Hesse-Rotenburg) allied with the Lutheran side in the Anglian War of Religion and its Hessian mercenary troops were a vital part of John III and William IV's forces, becoming a byword for piety and professionalism in the process. Many Anglians and Frisians would later repay the debt by serving the Kassel army in future campaigns.Kassel would be reunited with Rotenburg in time for the Fifty Years War however relations between Darmstadt and Kassel were thoroughly ruined. They would fight on opposite sides of the conflict and indeed vent much of their aggression on each other (fighting what was in effect a separate 'Second Hessian War' in the 1640s). Hesse in general would be one of the worst hit areas of German by disease, depopulation and devastation.
Recovery from the conflict was slow though it had absorbed various Imperial cities and Eichsfeld at the war's close. It would receive émigrés from Lutheran Francia stabilising the population and the ruthlessly pursued policies of Absolutism and Mercantilism would turn it into one of Germany's most vibrant states. It was awarded with being raised to the status of Grand Duchy and granted one of the new electorates in the war's aftermath which is another long-standing grievance with Darmstadt.
It would ally with Denmark during the Wolfenbuttel War (1737-1739) and despite Danish defeat would accquit itself well. In fact throughout the 17th and 18th centuries around 8% of the entire population was maintained on a war-footing, at vast cost of course, but the Hessians remained the Empire's go-to mercenary force, fighting in the Luxembourg-Anglian War (1723-1738), Great Baltic War (1761-1774) and the three Hungarian Wars. After the considerable losses during the Iberian Revolution this war-footing was abandoned and much more emphasis was placed on the economy.
Whilst Kassel already held Germany's oldest permanent theatre, the establishment of the University of Kassel, focused on the humanities, in 1848 by Grand Duke Charles III has left the Grand Duchy with a fine literary tradition (such as novelists Adolf Mara and Augusta Nahl, and playwright Willhelm Kaiserling. Meanwhile the city of Kassel became an important industrial centre.
It is poised to inherit Minden on the death of its incumbant, however republican sympathies are running high in the small principality and it is likely there will be little enthusiasm for its annexation.
Hesse-Kassel is governed by a single chambered Diet with elections held every three years. The Grand Duke has little real power these days but can still dissolve the diet in certain circumstances and propose legislation.
The current Head of State is Grand Duke William VII Philip and the Chancellor is Frederick Herrscher.