The Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Darmstadt, is a small constitutional monarchy in western Europe. It is a member state of the Holy Roman Empire and is divided into two non-contiguous territories north and south of Frankfurt. It is bordered (clockwise from due north) by Hesse-Kassel, Fulda, Isenburg, Frankfurt (which divides the two parts of the duchy), Wurzburg, Aschaffenburg, the Palatinate, Worms, Mainz, Hochst, United Netherlands and Wetzlar. The capital is Darmstadt and the population is around one million.
The Head of State is Duke George VI.
The official language is German.
The currency is the Hesse Mark (HEM).
The original Landgraviate of Hesse had been part of Thuringia before winning its independence under Henry I during the War of Thuringian Succession in the mid-13th century. The landgraviate was twice divided by split inheritances though was reunified by Philip the Good in 1515. Under Philip, Hesse would ruthless crush the peasant revolts of the early Reformation bringing the state considerable prestige and good standing with the Emperors, and was promoted to a Duke. However Philip only opposed change from the bottom up, not Protestantism itself and had already converted to Lutheranism in around 1525. Under his leadership the Lutheran states of Northern Germany slowly coalesced into a protective armed League which drew in promises and guarantees from states outside the Empire. His death in 1542 however left the state to be split into three parts; Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Kassel, and Hesse-Marburg. Darmstadt's new Duke, Philip II, would distance himself from the Schamlakaldic League and immediately begin plans to enlarge his portion of the inheritance, securing a marriage alliance with the County of Katzenelnbogen to the south. This would result in a disputed succession only solved in the 1570s with Luxembourg's assistance. The county would be divided between Darmstadt and Luxembourg. Meanwhile however Hesse-Marburg had also fallen vacant.
Previously when the other Hesse lines had died out the other simply reabsorbed the lands. However, with a three-way split this was more problematic, and since the divide Darmstadt and Kassel had embraced different faiths; Darmstadt taking a Calvinist line while Kassel's Lutheranism became ever more entrenched. Marburg under Henry V meanwhile had been rather laisse faire, with a worryingly large Anabaptist following developing. Both of the remaining Landgravines saw it as their duty to restore their version of the Protestant creed to the land. Darmstadt was hardly overflowing with support but crucially neither was Kassel (the Schmlakaldic Empire was largely unwilling to provoke a confrontation with the Holy Roman Empire) so hence when the two embarked on the First Hessian War (1574-1580) the fight was brutally even and devastating to both. Darmstadt would eventually gain the upper hand, largely thanks to the annexation of Katzenelnbogen but also due to the division of Kassel into two parts.
William V would convert the duchy back to Catholicism, probably on the urging of his Burgundian wife Catherine-Henriette, a move which caused considerable public outrage but reconciled the state to the Hapsburg Emperors who were happy to provide funds to assist in the re-conversion of a heretical duchy. During the Fifty Years War the rivalry with Kassel reached new heights. They would fight on opposite sides of the conflict and indeed vent much of their aggression on each other (fighting what was in effect a separate 'Second Hessian War' in the 1640s). Hesse in general would be one of the worst hit areas of German by disease, depopulation and devastation.
Even worse, in the years following the war Kassel would become an electorate and a 'grand-duchy'. However, Darmstadt, with its connections to the Rhine and friendly relations with the United Netherlands, would outpace its northern neighbour in terms of recovery from the war and as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace. In terms of factory output Darmstadt is one of the most productive regions of Europe and excels in heavy engineering.
The rivalry between the two Hesses in sporting events is considerable and often taken to frightening levels. Two members of Hesse-Darmstadt's Assendelft team which lost to Kassel in May 2015 were sent death threats, while public disturbances normally follow any match between the two (whether Darmstadt wins or not).
Hesse-Kassel is governed by a single-chambered Diet with elections held every four years. The Duke still has some limited executive power but rarely intervenes in politics directly. Having said that, the ducal office was instrumental in gaining votes for women and establishing national parks in the state.
The current Head of State is Duke George VI and his Chancellor is Volker Kartmann.