Wilhelm VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel
Dutch General of Cavalry (1727-47), Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1751-60)
born March 10, 1682, Kassel
died February 1, 1760, Rinteln
Being the third suriving son of Landgrave Karl (1654-1730) and his wife Maria Amalia of Kurland (1653-1711), Wilhelm originally was not destined to become landgrave of Hesse-Kassel.
Following his education at his father‘s court Wilhelm was sent on the obligatory educational tour to Paris and Geneva among other destinations, subsequently entering the military services of the Dutch Republic. His career advanced rapidly and included several regimental commands as well as governorships of several Dutch provinces. By 1727 he had risen to the rank of a General of the Cavalry. He service for the Dutch Republic ended in 1747.
In 1720, the eldest surviving son of Landgrave Karl, Friedrich became King of Sweden by marriage, and with the death of their father in 1730, Wilhelm became governor of Hesse-Kassel for his brother and thus the de facto ruler. In 1751 he officially became landgrave when his brother died without issue.
Wilhelm VIII increased the Hessian armed forces considerably, finally amounting to some 24 000 troops - quite a number considering the fact that the total population of the landgraviate was somewhere around 300 000.
Sympathizing with his friend King Frederick II of Prussia and contractual partner of Great Britain, the involvement of Hesse-Kassel on the side of the allies was inevitable. In fact, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Cassel became one of the major European theatres of war, leaving cities and countryside devastated.
Wilhelm VIII died early in 1760 and was succeeded by his only surviving son Friedrich II [not to be confused with Friedrich II of Prussia].
Both, Wolf von and Hans Vogt (Hrsg.): Landgraf Wilhelm VIII. von Hessen-Kassel. Ein Fürst der Rokokozeit, Veröffentlichungen der Historischen Kommission für Hessen und Waldeck, Bd. 27,1/ Schriften zur Hessischen Kulturgeschichte, Bd. 1, München 1964
Stephen Westfall for the initial version of this article