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The Electorate of Hanover (formally the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg; German: Kurfürstentum Braunschweig und Lüneburg, colloquially Kurfürstentum Hannover or simply Kurhannover) was the ninth Electorate of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. It was a monarchy in Northern Germany, ruled by the House of Hanover, cadet branch of the House of Welf, which then ruled and earlier had ruled a number of principalities, which had several times been partitioned among several heirs from an earlier unitary territory named Brunswick-Lüneburg after the pertaining cities of Braunschweig (Brunswick) and Lüneburg (Lunenburg). After 1705, only two of these territories left: One was the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, which remained independent as the Duchy of Brunswick (new title adopted in 1815) until 1918. The other, the new Electorate, was based on the dynastic line of the Calenberg.

With the ascension of its prince-elector as King of Great Britain in 1714, it became ruled in personal union with Great Britain. As a consequence, a reluctant Great Britain was forced time and again to become involved with the fate of the German possessions of her King.[1] However, internally, it remained a separately ruled territory with its own government and bodies. In 1814, it was transformed into the Kingdom of Hanover, with the personal union with the British crown lasting until 1837.

Official name and other name versions

In 1692, Emperor Leopold I elevated Duke Ernest Augustus of the Brunswick-Lüneburg line of Calenberg, to the rank of prince-elector of the Empire as a reward for aid given in the War of the Grand Alliance. There were protests against the addition of a new elector, and the elevation did not become official until the approval of the Imperial Diet in 1708. Then George I Louis had already succeeded his late father and furthermore had inherited the Principality of Lüneburg, whose dynastic line was extinct, in 1705. Calenberg's capital Hanover became colloquially eponymous for the electorate; however, officially it used the name of the entire ducal dynasty. In 1700 the territories forming the electorate introduced – like all Protestant territories of imperial immediacy – the Improved Calendar, as it was called by Protestants, in order not to mention the name of Pope Gregory XIII. So Sunday, the 18 February of Old Style was followed by Monday, the 1 March New Style.


Link with Britain

In 1714, George Louis became king of Great Britain, so that the electorate and Great Britain were ruled in personal union. The possessions of the electors grew in Germany as well, as they de facto purchased the formerly Swedish-held duchies of Bremen and Verden in 1719. In 1728 Emperor Charles VI officially enfeoffed George II Augustus, who in 1727 had succeeded his father George Louis, with the reverted fief of Saxe-Lauenburg, which had de facto been ruled in personal union with Hanover and its one preceding Principality of Lüneburg since 1689.

Sketch map of the Electorate, ca. 1720, and its neighbouring territories, among others the ducal Principality of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Wolfenbüttel). George I Louis acquired Saxe-Lauenburg (by feoffment 1727) and Bremen-Verden (de facto 1719) for his electorate. George I Augustus gained the Land of Hadeln (1731), in the map the bulk of the beige tip at the Elbe estuary. Under George III the electorate acquired the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück (1803).

In 1731 Hanover gained as well the formerly Saxe-Lauenburgian exclave of Hadeln (since 1689 in imperial custodianship), conveying it to Bremen-Verden. It took George II Augustus until 1733 to get Charles VI to also enfeoff him with the Duchy of Bremen and the Principality of Verden, colloquially called Duchies of Bremen-Verden. At both feoffments George II Augustus swore that he would respect the existing privileges and constitutions of the estates in Bremen-Verden and in Hadeln, thus confirming 400-year-old traditions of estate participation in government.

In Hanover, the electoral capital, the Privy Council of Hanover (electoral government) installed a new ministry in charge of the Imperial Estates ruled by the electors in personal union. It was called the Department of Bremen-Verden, Hadeln, Lauenburg and Bentheim. However, the electors spent most of their time in England. Direct contact with the electorate was maintained through the office of the German Chancery, situated in St James's Palace in London.

Seven Years War

In the course of the Anglo-French and Indian War (1754–63) on North American colonies Britain feared a French invasion in Hanover. Thus George II Augustus formed an alliance with his Brandenburg-Prussian cousin Frederick II, the Great combining the North American conflict with the Brandenburg-Prusso–Austrian Third Silesian or Seven Years’ War (1756–63).

In summer 1757 the French invaded Hanover and defeated George II's son William Duke of Cumberland, leading the Anglo-Hanoverian army, at the Battle of Hastenbeck and drove him and his army into remote Bremen-Verden, where in the former monastery of Zeven he had to capitulate on 18 September (Convention of Kloster-Zeven). But George II Augustus denied his recognition of the convention. In the following year the British army, supported by troops from Brandenburg-Prussia, Hesse-Kassel and the ducal Principality of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Wolfenbüttel) expelled again the occupants.

Hanover remained unaffected for the rest of the war and after its end peace prevailed until the French Revolutionary Wars started. The War of the First Coalition against France (1793–97) with Great Britain-Hanover and other war allies forming the coalition, didn't affect Hanoverian territory, since the first French Republic was fighting on several fronts, even on its own territory. However, men were drafted in order to recruit the 16,000 Hanoverian soldiers fighting in the Low Countries under British command against France. In 1795 the Holy Roman Empire declared its neutrality, comprising Hanover; however, a peace treaty with France was under negotiation until it failed in 1799. Brandenburg-Prussia, however, ended for its part the war with France by the Treaty of Basel (1795), stipulating Brandenburg-Prussia would ensure the Holy Roman Empire's neutrality in all the latter's territories north the demarcation line of the river Main, including the British continental dominions of Hanover, Bremen-Verden, and Saxe-Lauenburg. To this end also Hanover had to provide troops for the so-called demarcation army maintaining the armed neutrality.

Napoleonic era

In the course of the War of the Second Coalition against France (1799–1802) Napoléon Bonaparte urged Brandenburg-Prussia to occupy the continental British dominions. In 1801 24,000 Brandenburg-Prussian soldiers invaded, surprising Hanover, which surrendered without a fight. In April 1801 the Brandenburg-Prussian troops arrived in Bremen-Verden's capital Stade and stayed there until October of the same year. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland first ignored Brandenburg-Prussia's hostility, but when the latter joined the pro-French coalition of armed neutral powers such as Denmark-Norway and Russia, Britain started to capture Brandenburg-Prussian sea vessels. After the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) the coalition fell apart and Brandenburg-Prussia withdrew its troops.

As part of the German Mediatisation of 25 February 1803, the Electorate received the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück in real union, whose every second ruler had been alternately staffed by members of the House of Hanover since 1662.

After Britain – this time without any ally – had declared war on France (18 May 1803), French troops invaded Hanover on 26 May. According to the Convention of Artlenburg (5 July 1803), confirming the military defeat of Hanover, the Hanoverian army was disarmed and its horses and ammunitions were handed over to the French. The Privy Council of Hanover, with minister Friedrich Franz Dieterich von Bremer holding up the Hanoverian stake, fled to the trans-Elbian Saxe-Lauenburg, ruled by Britain-Hanover in personal union. Soon later the French also occupied Saxe-Lauenburg.

In autumn 1805, at the beginning of the War of the Third Coalition against France (1805–6), the French occupational troops left Hanover in a campaign against Austria. British, Swedish and Russian coalition forces captured Hanover. In December the Empire of the French, since 1804 France’s new form of government, ceded Hanover, which it didn't hold anymore, to Brandenburg-Prussia, which captured it early in 1806.

On 6 August 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, thereby doing away with the function of prince-electors electing its emperors. Thus the title of Elector of Brandenburg became meaningless for the Kingdom of Prussia. After it had turned against France, it was defeated in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (11 November 1806), and France recaptured Hanover.

Following the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 the new Kingdom of Westphalia was founded, ruled by Napoléon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte, then including territories of the former Electorate of Hesse-Cassel, the ducal Brunswick-Lüneburgian principality Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and formerly Prussian territories. In early 1810 Hanover proper and Bremen-Verden, but not Saxe-Lauenburg, were also annexed by Westphalia. In an attempt to assert the Continental System the French Empire annexed in late 1810 all the continental North Sea coast (up till Denmark) and the areas along the sections of the rivers navigable for seagoing vessels, including Bremen-Verden and Saxe-Lauenburg and some adjacent territories of Hanover proper.

However, the government of George III did not recognise the French annexation, being at war continuously with France through the entire period, and Hanoverian ministers continued to operate out of London. The Privy Council of Hanover maintained its own separate diplomatic service, which maintained links to countries such as Austria and Prussia, with whom the United Kingdom itself was technically at war. The Hanoverian army was dissolved, but many of the officers and soldiers went to England, where they formed the King's German Legion. The Legion was the only German army to fight continually during the whole Napoléonic wars against the French.

French control lasted until October 1813 when the territory was overrun by Russian troops, and the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig later the same month spelled the definitive end to the Napoléonic client state of Westphalia, as well as the entire Confederation of the Rhine, after which the rule of the House of Hanover was restored. The former electorate became the Kingdom of Hanover, confirmed at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.

Electors of Hanover

The Electorate was legally bound to be indivisible: it could add to its territory, but not alienate territory or be split up among several heirs – as used to be the rule before, having led at times to a multitude of Brunswick-Lüneburgian principalities. Its succession was to follow male primogeniture. Since this was against the Salic law, then valid for the ducal family, the change needed imperial confirmation, which Emperor Leopold I granted in 1692.

In 1692, at the upgrading to the rank of electorate, its territory comprised the Brunswick-Lüneburgian principalities of Calenberg and Grubenhagen, which the line of the former had already inherited in 1665. But until the confirmation of the electorate by the Imperial Diet in 1708 the Calenberg line further inherited the principality of Celle in 1705. Further included were the earlier acquired counties of Diepholz and Hoya.

Although the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806, George III's government did not consider the dissolution to be final, and he continued to be styled "Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, Arch-treasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" down to 1814.

Electors of Hanover
Image Name Date Notes
King George I by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (2).jpg George I Louis 1708–1727 Son of Ernest Augustus. Became King of Great Britain in 1714. Acquired Bremen-Verden in 1719.
80px George II Augustus 1727–1760 Son of preceding. Acquired the Land of Hadeln in 1731.
George III of the United Kingdom.jpg George III William Frederick 1760–1806 Grandson of preceding. Became King of the United Kingdom (by way of the act of union with Ireland) in 1801. Acquired the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück in 1803. He lost (early 1801), regained (April 1801), lost again (May 1803), regained again (Autumn 1805), lost for a third time (early 1806), and regained for a third time (October 1813) de facto power in Hanover by various occupations and annexations during the Great French War (1801–1813). After the electoral title became defunct, with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, nonetheless between 1806 and 1814, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire was not recognised and George III retained the electoral title until early 1814 when Georg was proclaimed King of Hanover, a title which was universally recognised during the Congress of Vienna (1814–15).


  1. During the 18th. century, whenever war was declared between Great Britain and France, the French army invaded or threatened to invade Hanover, forcing Great Britain to intervene diplomatically and militarily to defend the Electorate. In 1806, George III of Great Britain even declared war on Prussia after King Frederic William III, under heavy pressure from Napoleon, had annexed George III's German possessions. Auguste Himly, Histoire de la formation territoriale des États de l'Europe centrale. 1876, vol. 1, pp. 95-96.

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