Date of Birth: 13 November 1504
Predecessor: William II
Spouse: Christine (daughter of George, duke of Saxony, and Barbara of Poland) and Margarethe von der Saale
Reign: 1509 - 1567
Summary: Philip was born into a troublesome time for Germany. He became landgrave at the age of five when his father, William II, died young. His mother fought for five years to become regent but only succeeded in 1514. Hesse remained in a state of quasi-civil war until 1518 when the Hessian estates proclaimed their fourteen-year-old landgrave old enough to rule. During his early years, he had a very scattered education with both morality and religious training being neglected, something that would become important oversights later in his life. Soon after he reached sixteen, he started actively participating in the government of Hesse.
Philip was lucky in that Hesse was a single unified state under his rule. Salic Law often separated German states and, indeed, Philip divided his own state into four quarters upon his death. Philip met Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, in 1521 at the Diet of Worms and he became attracted to the priest's ideas. In 1524, he personally accepted Lutheranism and then went out to suppress a peasant revolt at the Battle of Frankenhausen. By 1526, Philip was actively participating in a Protestant alliance that was growing in Germany. He began the Protestantization of Hesse that same year and opened the Protestant University of Marburg the year after. Intrigues in 1528 forced Hesse and the Electorate of Saxony to launch a preemptive strike against Catholic Germany to ensure the survival of Protestantism. They only awaited the time that such a rebellion would be required. A secret treaty was signed in 1529 and in 1530 the Schmalkaldic League against the Holy Roman Emperor was formed. For four years tensions rose in Germany as peace settlements were tried. Finally in 1534, the situation became dire. Ferdinand of Austria was invested with the duchy of Württemberg and at the Battle of Lauffen he was denied that and Philip was proclaimed a Protestant hero. The Schmalkaldic League was a success and in 1535 new members were added and the treaty was extended to 1545. Personal problems affected Philip's popularity after 1540 when the landgrave entered into a bigamous marriage with Margarethe von der Saale. To avoid utter scandal, Philip began negotiating with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and came to terms with him over all but Protestantism. Philip's position as leader of German Protestantism was at an end. For a brief while he was a trusted advisor to Charles V, and the emperor even considered using him as the commander of a new war against the Ottoman Empire.Things feel apart again in 1544, though, as differences between the emperor and Philip broke out into the Schmalkaldic War which ended in 1547 with the capture of the Saxon Elector John Frederick and the dissolution of the Schmalkaldic League. Charles imprisoned both John Frederick and Philip in southern Germany until 1552. Philip was now old and new Protestant leaders had arisen during his captivity. Philip spent his last years seeking a peace between Catholics and Protestants while also supporting the Protestant cause in France. Upon his death, Hesse was divided permanently into four landgraviates.
Date of Death: 31 March 1567
Successor: William IV (Kassel), Louis IV (Marburg), Philipp II (Rheinfels), & Georg I (Darmstadt)
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