Herschweiler-Pettersheim - History - Modern Times

Modern Times

Beginning about the 17th century, the Schloss served the Dukes of Zweibrücken as a hunting lodge. The oldest preserved record of a hunt in Pettersheim dates from 1608.

To understand the broader events in the region during the Thirty Years' War, what must first be known is the historical background: While the Holy Roman Emperor was losing power in the High Middle Ages, the Prince-Electors’ might was growing. Within their electoral states, they had absolute power. The Protestant Prince-Electors in particular wholly broke away from the Emperor’s power, so that two denominationally oriented camps formed, in 1608 the Protestant Union and in 1609 the Catholic League. Palatinate-Zweibrücken for the time being remained neutral, although it militantly fought the Reformation’s ideas. When in the seemingly everlasting struggle between Protestants and Catholics the Archbishop of Prague had a Protestant church torn down, the upshot was the 1618 Defenestration of Prague, which started a religious war. The Bohemian Protestants, who rejected the new Emperor, Ferdinand II, chose Protestant Elector Palatine Friedrich V as their king (the “Winter King”). Bohemian and Palatine troops, however, were defeated in a counterrattack by Imperial troops and Friedrich V had to flee into exile. The Emperor then granted the now vacant Palatine Electoral throne to the Bavarian Duke Maximilian I. His general, Tilly, conquered great parts of the Palatinate in 1620 and forced the subjects to embrace Catholicism. Spanish and Italian troops, who fought on the Emperor’s side, also conquered parts of the Palatinate, likewise in 1620, and did not distinguish between Electoral Palatinate and the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken. Thus it was not much use that Johannes II, who had taken over the job of governing in Heidelberg since Friedrich V had left for Prague, wanted to declare Palatinate-Zweibrücken a neutral state. The troops went through the region, plundering, in 1620, exacting food from the local people. Over two thousand years, the Westrich, an historic region that encompasses areas in both Germany and France, was a continual invasion route for foreign troops. When the Protestant resistance was broken, foreign powers intervened to save Protestantism. Count Palatine Johannes II eventually gave up his neutrality and allied himself with Swedish King Gustav II Adolf. The combined forces, although without Gustav II Adolf (for he had been killed at the Battle of Lützen in 1632, despite having been on the winning side), advanced on southern Germany in 1633. When they were beaten at the Battle of Nördlingen in 1634 and forced to withdraw, they brought death and depravity to the Glan area in 1635. Croatian mercenaries in the Imperial army advanced up the Glan by way of Meisenheim, Kusel and Sankt Wendel and grimly laid waste to the area. Kaiserslautern, Kusel and Zweibrücken were utterly destroyed and burnt down. The same fate was visited upon Konken with its church. The already thoroughly plundered and forsaken villages were also utterly destroyed. No further records come from Herschweiler or Pettersheim from this time. Some villages never rose again, such as Reisweiler, a place north of Herschweiler. Supposedly in the whole Oberamt of Lichtenberg, only one cow was left. Anyone who survived the Croats’ onslaught fell victim to either hunger or the Plague. Those who were left fed themselves on roots and tree leaves, mostly without bread, and sometimes even eating dogs and cats. Sometimes they were even driven to cannibalism. Duke Johannes II fled ahead of the Siege of Zweibrücken and went into exile in Metz in 1635, dying there later that same year. The union of the Swedes, who were likewise marauding through the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken robbing and murdering, with the French extended the war by more than a decade, although Emperor Ferdinand III was by then advocating peace. Only when the peace negotiations of Münster and Osnabrück had begun in 1644 did the Imperial troops end their nine-year occupation and withdraw. Only now did Duke Friedrich (1616-1661), who had stayed in Metz, like his late father (succeeding him upon his death in 1635, far from Palatinate-Zweibrücken), dare return to Zweibrücken, nominally nine years after becoming Duke, and take over the task of government. It was a few more years before the Peace of Westphalia was concluded in 1648. After Friedrich’s return from exile in Metz in 1644 and with the confirmation of Zweibrücken’s privileges and freedoms early in 1642, the country’s reconstruction began. Because Zweibrücken had been destroyed, Friedrich moved into the old residence at Meisenheim, which had been mostly spared the war’s ravages. The physically handicapped Duke showed much goodwill, though war debt weighed heavily on the country. The situation only got better when his successor, Friedrich Ludwig, who inherited a great bequest from his mother, became Duke from 1661 to 1681. At last the reconstruction forged ahead. From various parts of Germany and, foremost, from Switzerland, newcomers began settling in the Duchy’s domains, which the war had left almost empty of people. The only families that came back after the Thirty Years’ War, in 1670 (22 years after the war had ended) were the families Veith, Schneider and Scherer in Herschweiler’s case and the families Trapp and Maurer in Pettersheim’s. In Palatinate-Zweibrücken government counsel David König’s 1677 description of the Pettersheim “castle”, the following was reported: “The Pettersheim house is a small house, lies in a quagmire and is surrounded by a moat, has no appurtenances and only a Schultheiß lives there, can sometimes serve as a refuge.” From 1672 onwards, French “Sun King” Louis XIV waged several wars of conquest against German princes with a view to expanding his kingdom’s borders. During one such war, the Franco-Dutch War, 58 villages in the Amt of Lichtenburg were burnt down. Meeting the same fate in 1677 were thirty buildings in Kusel. Beginning in 1680, Louis began his Politique des Réunions, in the hopes of bringing Palatinate-Zweibrücken, too, into his ownership. When the Duke opposed this, he was declared to be out of line, and French troops once more marched into the Duchy. Duke Friedrich Ludwig became ill and died in 1681 at Schloss Landsberg (castle) near Obermoschel. Like Friedrich III of Veldenz before him, Friedrich Ludwig died without a male heir, and the new dynasty turned out to be the Swedish royal family, who were a branch of the late Duke’s family. Thus, King Karl XI of Sweden was awarded the titles of Count Palatine of Zweibrücken and Duke of Bavaria. The King never visited his County Palatine. The job of ruling what now amounted to a Swedish exclave was delegated to Count Palatine Christian II of Platz-Birkenfeld (a Zweibrücken sideline). He ruled from 1681 to 1693, whereafter the County Palatine lay in Charlotta Friederike’s hands; she was the late Friedrich Ludwig’s youngest daughter, who had returned from exile in Lorraine in 1664. She was married to Duke Friedrich Ludwig’s son, who died young. In difficult times, she ruled the Duchy from Meisenheim with great prudence. From 1688 to 1697, King Louis XIV once again overran Electoral Palatinate and parts of Palatinate-Zweibrücken in the Nine Years' War (known in Germany as the Pfälzischer Erbfolgekrieg, or War of the Palatine Succession) to further his inheritance claims on his sister-in-law’s behalf. She was Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, also known as Liselotte. It did not matter either way to the Swedish king whether he held the County Palatine as a German fief or a French one. When King Karl XI died in 1697, he was succeeded by his son, King Karl XII. The year 1697 brought the Treaty of Ryswick, under whose terms Louis XIV had to forgo many of his conquests. Palatinate-Zweibrücken was awarded to the Swedes, though King Karl XII never actually laid eyes on it. Nevertheless, he did decree programmes aimed at furthering agriculture and schooling. Even in the countryside, there was stress on furthering schooling. Under Swedish influence, ecclesiastical development was set on new paths. In 1718 at the Siege of Fredriksten, a fortress at Fredrikshald in Norway (now called Halden), King Karl XII was shot dead (there is some question as to whether it was an enemy gunshot or an assassin’s bullet). Since he was unwed and had no children, his sister took over the task of governing. She was not, however, allowed to succeed her brother in his capacity of Count Palatine (Duke) of Zweibrücken. Thus, the County Palatine in Germany passed to the sideline of Palatinate-Kleeburg, with Karl XII’s first successor here being his cousin, named Gustav Samuel Leopold, an officer in the Emperor’s service who may have converted to Catholicism for his master’s sake. While Herschweiler-Pettersheim may have been important enough to have a palace in its skyline in the 17th and 18th centuries,, according to a 1704 report, the castle, Schloss Pettersheim, was old, small and in disrepair, and had no more than two or three rooms. During the time of Duke Gustav’s rule (1718-1731), the “ruined castle and estate of Peddersheim (archaic spelling)”, on which major conversion work was done in 1725, together with the two villages of Herschweiler and Pettersheim with all their income that in any way has anything to do with the inhabitants passed, in defiance of Duke Wolfgang’s will, as a patrilineal fief to the privy councillor, chief hunting councillor and chief court councillor Johann Heinrich von Hoffmann, in return for military service. Herschweiler’s and Pettersheim’s inhabitants were then beholden to this new lord as his subjects. The family Hoffmann at the Zweibrücker Hof, though highly regarded, nevertheless fell into disrepute for theft on the night of the Duke’s death. After the Countess Hoffmann, who had wed her husband even before his divorce from his first wife, died, the patrilineal fief passed back to the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken. Since Duke Gustav Samuel Leopold died childless, the Duchy’s leadership passed upon his death in 1731 to Count Palatine Christian III of the sideline of Palatinate-Birkenfeld. Christian III, who was Duke Wolfgang’s great-grandson, despite his good relations with the French royal house, remained a loyal evangelical Christian (that is to say, Protestant). Indeed, denominational questions delayed recognition of his succession by three years, until 1734, whereafter he ruled for only one more year, dying in 1735. Since his son, Duke Christian IV was only 13 years old at the time when his father died, his mother Karoline took over the regency for him and ran the Duchy with great prudence and drive. In 1742, Christian IV himself took over the task of governing. He was a duke of great calibre and was said to be an enlightened person. Mindful of the succession in Electoral Palatinate and Bavaria, he decided to convert to Catholicism. The broadminded, dynamic and tolerant prince tended to his subjects’ wellbeing. Improvements in the religious, social and legal sectors as well as in education and agriculture owed themselves to him. Art, science, trade, industry and transport all blossomed. As a friend of the fine arts and sciences, he had the old Schloss Pettersheim torn down and on the same spot arose a magnificent hunting lodge (of palatial proportions) with great garden complexes, elaborately laid out by either the Swedish Baroque architect Jonas Erikson Sundahl or, with Sundahl’s collaboration, the Paris architect Pierre Patte (1723-1814). This new, statelier complex was built in the years 1759-1768 as a secondary residence. When dysentery broke out in Zweibrücken in the autumn of 1763, Christian IV fled with his family to the new palace, work on which was not yet finished. Repeatedly it was the starting point for coursing hunts. Here, too, arose the court chapel with works by concertmaster Ernst Eicher, and court painter Mannlich also worked here. Schloß Pettersheim became such a favourite second home for the Duke, alongside Schloß Jägersburg, that even his favourite nephew, Prince Maximilian Joseph, later the first King of Bavaria (as Maximilian I Joseph), who was brought up at his uncle’s court, spent part of his youth in Pettersheim. Christian IV also had the Fronbotenlinie (a trail whose name means, roughly, “bailiff’s line”) which had existed since 1666, and which led from Zweibrücken by way of Herschweiler-Pettersheim to Meisenheim, expanded into a road after 1750, and sometimes running on it between 1772 and 1794, in Zweibrücken’s service, were six-seat wagonettes. On the night of 5 November 1775, the forward-thinking Duke died at his secondary residence in Herschweiler-Pettersheim of pneumonia. Christian IV, who had been illegitimately married to a dancer named Marianne Camasse of the Mannheim Theatre who had been raised to nobility and been given the title Countess Forbach, was succeeded not by one of his sons, but rather by his nephew Karl II August. Thus was a pall cast over the Schloss, for the new Duke neglected his second home. In the local speech, this egomaniacal despot was disdainfully called “Hundskarl” (Hund being the German word for “dog”). For his Ducal hunts, he had great stalls built for the hounds and the 200 horses, but on the other hand, he neglected the palatial residence in Herschweiler-Pettersheim because he chose to live at his fairytale palace, Karlsberg Castle near Homburg, which he had had built. Karl II August was by nature an absolute ruler whose régime was marked by excessive pageantry and at the same time despotism towards his subjects. He was said to be, on the one hand, a promoter of the arts, and on the other hand a brutal, egomaniacal despot. The time of his rule fell in the last decades before the French Revolution. The extravagant Duke fled in 1793 ahead of the French Revolutionary troops into exile in Mannheim, where he died two years later.

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