Thüngen, Johann Karl von

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Personalities >> Thüngen, Johann Karl von

Thüngen, Johann (Hans) Karl von

Imperialist General-Feldwachtmeister (1683-1688), Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (1688-1690), General-Feldzeugmeister of the Electorate of Mainz (1690-1692), Imperialist General-Feldzeugmeister (1692-1696) Field-Marshal (1696-1709)

Master of Waizenbach, Neuhaus an der Saale and Zeitlofs

Knight of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle (1705-1709)

born 5 February 1648, Castle of Gersfeld, Hesse, Holy Roman Empire

died 8 October 1709, military camp near Speyer, Palatinate, Holy Roman Empire


Portrait of Johann Karl von Thüngen – Source: Photo by CSvBibra in Wikimedia Commons Johann Karl von Thüngen

Thüngen was from a very old Franconian aristocratic family, first mentioned as early as 788. The name came from the village and castle of Thüngen in Lower Franconia, some 25 km north of Würzburg, which was a property of the family since 1406.

Hans Karl was born on 5 February 1648 at the Castle of Gersfeld, another property of the family. His father was Wolfgang von Thüngen and his mother (second wife of Wolfgang) Helena von Ebersberg.

Hans Karl spent his early years in the estates of Unter-Ebersbach and then studied at Schweinfurth and Gotha.

In 1663, Hans Karl attended the gymnasium at Coburg where he completed his education.

In 1664, at the age of 16, Hans Karl joined the army of Lorraine where he initially served in the Maras Regiment in Spanish pay. After serving for only six weeks as an ensign (Fähnrich), he was promoted to lieutenant and within the same year to captain.

Hans Karl distinguished himself on many occasions and was promoted to Obristwachtmeister (major).

In 1673, Hans Karl at the head of a detachment quenched the rebellion of the Marquis de Listenois in Franche-Comté. At the end of the same year, Hans Karl raised a battalion of 5 companies at his own expenses in his estates. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish service and commander of the city of Besançon in Franche-Comté. (ceded to France in May 1674).

In 1674, Hans Karl was appointed aide-de-camp to the Prince de Vaudémont and, on 11 August, fought in the Battle of Seneffe.

Between 1674 and 1676, Hans Karl momentarily abandoned military service and returned to his estates.

In 1676, Hans Karl was appointed colonel and commander of an Imperial foot regiment by the Elector of Würzburg. From May to September, Hans Karl took part in the siege of Philippsburg at the head of his regiment. He later campaigned in Lorraine and Alsace under the command of the Prince of Lorraine.

On 5 January 1678, Hans Karl von Thüngen married Maria Johanna Faust von Stromberg (born 14 July 1663, deceased 3 November 1739), the daughter of Franz Ernst Faust von Stromberg, Württemberg Privy Councillor and Oberamtmann of Haßfurt. There were no children from this marriage.

In 1683, Hans Karl became Bambergisch-Würzburgischer Generalwagenmeister.

During the Great Turkish War, on 23 June 1683, Hans Karl was promoted to General-Feldwachtmeister (GFWM, a rank roughly equivalent to major-general ). He then led the troops of Cologne (Kurköln) and of the Circle of Franconia during the siege of Vienna by the Turks.

From 1684, Hans Karl served in Hungary. The same year, he was promoted to major-general in the Imperial Army.

In 1685, Hans Karl was present at the siege and storming of Neuhäusl. On 6 August at the Battle of Gran (present-day Esztregom/HU), he was wounded at a shoulder. On 14 October, he received confirmation of his rank in the Imperial Army.

On 20 July 1686 near Ofen, Hans Karl was wounded once more. He was later appointed commander of Fünfkirchen (present-day Pécs/HU), a function that he would assume until 1688.

In 1688, Karl Hans participated in a raid in Bosnia where he was once more wounded at a shoulder and an arm. On 4 October, he was promoted to Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (FML). In the night of 19 December he captured the Fortress of Szigeth (present-day Szigetvár/HU). Meanwhile, the French had occupied parts of Imperial territories and the bishops of Bamberg and Würzburg recalled Hans Karl to serve in Germany. However, even after his return to Franconia, Karl Hans remained commander of his Imperial infantry regiment (Nr. 42).

In 1689, during the Nine Years War, Hans Karl led the troops of Bamberg and Würzburg and distinguished himself at the sieges of Mainz and Bonn. During the siege of Bonn, he lost his right eye. Since that time, he wore a black eye patch. He was afterwards appointed commander of the Fortress of Mainz.

On 12 January 1690, Thüngen was promoted to General-Feldzeugmeister (FZM) and commander of all troops of the Electorate of Mainz by Elector Anselm Franz von Ingelheim.

In 1692, FZM Thüngen assumed command of the Reichsarmee and fought against French troops. By a decree issued on 23 May at Laxenburg, Thüngen was made an Imperial General-Feldzeugmeister.

On 2 July 1694, Thüngen was appointed proprietor of Thüngen Infantry (formerly Pfalz-Neuburg Infantry). His old regiment (No. 42) was given to Baron Thavonat.

On 2 January 1696, Thüngen was promoted to Field-marshal by the Elector of Mainz, a rank soon confirmed on 9 June by the Emperor in his own army. The same year, Thüngen was captured by a French detachment near Philippsburg but was freed four weeks later after paying a ransom of 5.000 fl. Still the same year, Thüngen started the construction of the Castle of Bad Ems (the so called “Vier-Türme Haus”).

In the Autumn of 1697, after the signature of the Treaty of Ryswick, the French evacuated Philippsburg.

On 7 January 1698, Thüngen became commander of Philippsburg. Thüngen was not paid during 7 years because of the financial problems of Emperor Leopold I, even spending 1,000 Thaler to improve the fortifications of Philippsburg.

At the official outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1702, Thüngen conducted the Siege of Landau.

In 1703, Thüngen was in command of Philippsburg. He then moved to Stollhofen and took over the command and defence of the Bühl-Stollhofen Lines on the Upper Rhine from Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden who had fallen ill.

Did you know that...
Some sources mention that Thüngen married the widow of Count Arco, beheaded in 1704 after a trial conducted by Thüngen.

This is impossible: Thüngen's wife, Maria Johanna Faust von Stromberg and his legatees erected his epitaph in the Church of Freudenthal and her name is mentioned on this epitaph as his widow.

On 4 February 1704, Hans Karl Baron Thüngen, as head of the martial court, sentenced Philipp Count Arco to death for his shameful capitulation at Alt-Breisach the previous year (on 6 September 1703). Arco was beheaded at Konstanz (some sources mention Bregenz). On 11 March, Thüngen was promoted to Reichs-Generalfeldzeugmeister. On 2 July, he led the Imperial grenadiers during the Battle of the Schellenberg near Donauwörth and was again wounded at the left arm. Later on, he captured Ingolstadt. At the end of August, when the Allied army left Ulm, Thüngen took over the siege until the surrender on 11 September. His valour earned him the title of baron. After the recapture over Landau, Trier and Trarbach, he was given command of the positions on the Rhine and Neckar.

In January 1705, Thüngen was sent to Berlin in a diplomatic mission. King Frederick I decorated him with the Knight Cross of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle. The same year, he commanded an Imperial Army at Lauterburg. In September, he undertook the Siege of Hagenau.

In 1706, FZM Thüngen commanded an army of 15,000 men who campaigned against the French. At the end of September, it occupied Hagenau.

In 1707, FZM Thüngen acted once more as commander of Phillippsburg.

On 13 November 1708, Emperor Joseph I made Thüngen a Reichsgraf (Imperial Count). Despite his poor health condition, Thüngen then replaced Elector Georg Ludwig von Hannover at the head of an army.

On 8 October 1709, Hans Karl Count Thüngen died in the camp of Speyer. His body was transported to Philippsburg and later buried in the tomb of his family in the Protestant Church of Freudenthal near Ludwigsburg.

Thüngen was known as one of most faithful and courageous soldier. He had the reputation to be intelligent, judicious, calm and imperturbable. He hated the French because of their behaviour during the campaigns in Germany. During his last years, Thüngen suffered from the gout. Sometime he could not even sign his letters.

A branch of the Thüngen Family still lives in Germany.


Treuenfest, A. v.: Geschichte des k.k. Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 20 Friedrich Wilhelm, Kronprinz v. Preussen, Vienna, 1878

Wikipedia (German Edition) Johann Karl von Thüngen

Duncker, Carl von: Thüngen, Johann Karl Graf von. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Band 38, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1894, pp. 218–220.

Biedermann, J. G.: Geschlechtsregister der reichsfrey-unmittelbaren Ritterschaft Landes zu Franken löblichen Orts Baunach, Tafel 279. Bayreuth, 1747

Biedermann, J. G.: Geschlechtsregister Der Reichsfrey unmittelbaren Ritterschaft Landes zu Franken Löblichen Orts Rhön und Werra, Tafel 207

Grosses vollständiges Universal Lexicon aller Wissenschaften und Künste, welche bisshero durch menschlichen Verstand und Witz erfunden und verbessert worden, Band 43 Eintrag zu Thüngen, Hanns Carl von p. 1819 ff


Harald Skala for the initial version of this article and Jorg Meier for additional detail