Walrad Fürst von Nassau-Saarbrücken-Usingen

24 February 1635 - 17 October 1702

Saarbrücken's Background and name

Walrad of Nassau-Saarbrücken1 was part of one of the lines of Nassau which by then had little to do with the Stadholders. Count Wilhelm Ludwig of Nassau-Saarbrücken-Weilburg and Anna Amalia von Baden-Durlach had four sons. Upon the death of Wilhelm Ludwig and the eldest son his dominions were divided. The oldest son became count of Nassau-Ottweiler and the second count of Nassau-Saarbrücken. Being the third son, our Walrad became count of Nassau-Usingen. The fact that in literature he is almost always referred to as Walrad of Nassau-Saarbrücken probably had to do with a principle by which in a lot of houses all the sons of a ruling count become counts too, with only the oldest able to pass the title to his sons. Anyway, in 1688 Walrad became a 'fürst' of the empire. He signed his letters as 'Walrad prince de Nassau', others referred to him as the 'prince of Saarbrücken' or prince of Nassau2.

Walrad's Usingen

In contrast to his titles Walrad was only fürst of Usingen, a small town of nowadays about 13,000 inhabitants. One of the first notable acts by Walrad was his conversion of the old castle of Usingen to a small palace. This still stands today, albeit in a modified form. After a fire destroyed the 'Oberstadt' of Usingen Walrad made his second mark on this town. He rebuilt it as 'Neustadt' on a regular plan and with a Huguenot church. This to please the Huguenots he attracted to the town.

Saarbrücken joins the Dutch army

One can easily imagine that an ambitious count did not consider planning changes to a small town as a career. Therefore Saarbrücken took the road that many other minor German rulers took, and joined an army in 1668. In his case this was the Dutch army. We know that Saarbrücken became a Lieutenant General of cavalry in April 1672 or before3. He also got a commission as a colonel for a Holland cavalry regiment in 16794.

Saarbrücken in the war of the League of Augsburg

During the war of the League of Augsburg Saarbrücken got appointed as field marshal of the Dutch army. His rank as field marshal was behind Waldeck and the appointment was supported by William III. He also got appointed as Imperial 'Veltmarschalck' On 10 October 16905. During this war he is reported to have served at Fleurus and Steinkerque, but I have not yet discovered a good source for these reports. After the war of the League of Augsburg Saarbrücken got the honor to organize a revue of an army of 18,000 near Klarenbeek6.

Saarbrücken during the Spanish Succession War

Because the Duke of Holstein Ploen did not actually command during the Spanish Succession War Saarbrücken was the highest ranking soldier when this war started. One could be tempted to suppose that the death of Captain General William III raised Saarbrücken in rank, but the acts by which the States General increased their grip on the army probably nullified this effect. One can also wonder in how far the civil rank of other Dutch officers outweighed Saarbrücken's rank as marshal.

In the war the first assignment of Saarbrücken was to drive the French from Cologne. This boiled down to organizing the Siege of Kaiserswerth. A successful operation against Kaiserswerth was however dependent on diversions in the Spanish Netherlands. From the fact that these did not take place one can draw some conclusions. Nassau Saarbrücken was the highest officer and commander of the allied armies7, but as long as the army was not in one place he did not have any real authority over the Dutch officers who commanded other parts of the army8. The siege lasted very long, but this can be attributed to the situation in which it had to be carried out.

The appointment of Marlborough as supreme commander of the united English and Dutch army in June 1702 cannot have pleased Saarbrücken. When his work at Kaiserswerth was finished on 15 June he removed himself to Germany, but this might have had just as much to do with sickness. After crossing the Meuse the army had to 'split' on occasion of the siege of Venlo. Saarbrücken could then again be given an honorable command, and so he started the siege of Venlo. The siege of Venlo was a lot simpler than that of Kaiserswerth. It went much more smoothly even though its commencements were heavily criticized. Venlo started to parley on 22 September.

Next came the siege of Roermond. The army closed in on the town on 25 September and on 9 October the garrison marched out on terms. This would prove to be Saarbrücken's last feat of arms. Some days after the siege he became ill, and on 17 October 1702 he died9. He was burried with great pump at Moers.

Generalship of Saarbrücken

As a general Saarbrücken did not signal himself by great victories. On the other hand Saarbrücken did not suffer serious defeats. We can only judge his abilities by his actions in the 1702 campaign. We therefore have to compare him to Boufflers. The result means that Saarbrücken was a capable general, not much more and nothing less.




1) With regard to the Walrads of Nassau one should take note not to confuse Saarbrücken with his nephew Walrad count of Nassau-Ottweiler, who also served in the Dutch army.
2) In the Heinsius correspondence about half refer to him as 'Prince de Nassau' and the other half as 'Prince of Saarbrücken' only a few call him Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken.
3) Staatse Leger VIII/I page 175
4) Staatse Leger VII page 257. This seems to be in contradiction to being a Lieutenant General, but indeed pertains to an appointment for a specific regiment. Count on it that Walrad had another regiment before this.
5) Staatse Leger VII page 231 and 232
6) Staatse Leger VII page 143
7) There seems to exist an official appointment of Saarbrücken as supreme commander prior to the appointment of the English Captain General
8) Letter from the Elector Palatine to Heinsius 29 April 1702: '..de vous représenter au long la nécessité indispensable de donner une authorité et pouvoir en ample forme dans l'assiette présente de la conjuncture changeante a mons.r le Prince de Nassau-Saarbrucken pout faire marcher agir et marcher les corps commandé par etc.'.
9) Staatse Leger VIII/I page 175