The Kingdom of Hanover existed from its creation after the Congress of Vienna in 1814 (being a duchy and electorate within the HRE prior) until its annexation by Prussia after it lost the German-German war on the Austrian side. The Prussian crown annexed the kingdom and organized it as the newly formed Prussian province of Hanover in 1866. Hanover was notable for the fact that the British monarch came from the House of Hanover starting with George I in 1714 and ending in 1837 with the death of William IV.

My question is: How was it possible that Prussia was simply allowed to annex Hanover in 1866? Hanover was the 4th largest state in the former HRE region, as a kingdom a considerably prestigious country, and by providing the British monarch for more than 100 years certainly not a diplomatic leightweight.

Was there no diplomatic outcry, no foreign protest towards such an annexation? It would seem to me that an annexation of such central German power by an already nascent Prussia in the second half of the 19th century would certainly not just have been accepted by the other Great European Powers just standing by? However, I have trouble finding sources in literature to analyse reactions in Europe at the time. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me?

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    What do you mean, "How was it possible"? Prussia won the war and conquered Hanover (along a bunch of other Austrian allies). To the victor goes the spoils.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 11, 2015 at 11:53
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    I'm pretty sure France wasn't too happy about annexations by Prussia, but what could they do ? They didn't want to start a way over that. They waited 1870, and you know the sequel.
    – Bregalad
    Oct 11, 2015 at 16:49

4 Answers 4


Hanover was originally an electorate which was annexed to Westphalia during the Napoleonic wars. During those times a lot of countries were roadkill on the political highway, pawns in the global political dynamic. After Napoleon was defeated the English restored Hanover as a kingdom, a completely different status.

Dictators (like kings and like Napoleon) do not particularly like free countries or oligarchies, like electorates. When you have lots of free countries around it makes you look bad if you are a dictator. Also, negotiating with free countries is difficult because there are multiple decision makers. "Erecting" the Kingdom of Hanover was kind of like the Allies making Czechoslovakia after the Great War, an artificial entity made to counterbalance Prussia.

When Prussia annexed this English-concocted Kingdom of Hanover, Napoleon III had no objections at all, stating that it contributed to the "peace of Europe". At the time, France was more concerned by the activity of Austria in the Mediterranean and the removal of Hanover as an Austrian ally reduced that threat.

An English publisher wrote the following editorial expressing the English point of view:

If Hanover were a State in any true sense of the word, the action of the King of Prussia in abolishing it would be simply oppressive, but it is not; it is simply a section of Germany, in which it was once expedient for German interests that a separate sovereign should reign, and is now expedient for German interests that he should not.

--Opinions of the Press on the annexation of Mysore (1866)

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    Odd quote attribution. I thought Mysore was in India? Oct 11, 2015 at 16:01
  • @StuartAllan The monograph is mostly about Indian affairs, the Prussian war is just mentioned along the way. Oct 11, 2015 at 16:06
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    I don't lnow what makes you think that an electorate is more of a "free country" than a kingdom. An elector is simply a monarch who has (nominally) a vote at the election of the "Holy Roman" Emperor.
    – fdb
    Oct 13, 2015 at 8:33
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    So that makes it a free country?
    – fdb
    Oct 13, 2015 at 10:53
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    You are missing the point. "Electorate" means that the ruler was an "Elector", that is, one of the few rulers of German states with the right to vote for the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. It meant nothing about the internal politics of the Electorate. After the Napoleonic Wars there was no longer a HRE, so there was no "Electorate" at all but the Kingdom of Hannover, a constitutional monarchy (like Prussia itself). And the article that you write sounds more a "since Prussia annexed Hannover, we can annex Mysore" kind of "justification", not any sort of actual reasoning.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 14, 2015 at 8:54

Hanover was just the "spoil of war" for being on the losing side of the Austro-Prussian_War.

Early in the war, the Hanoverian army won a "Pyrrhic Victory" at Langensalz. This allowed it to be crushed from behind by two Prussian armies, and the Kingdom overrun. When Prussia went on to win the whole war, Hanover had no allies to rescue her.

There were no diplomatic repercussions in Britain, because Hanover had forbidden Queen Victoria to become Queen of Hanover because she was a woman in 1837. Britain's response was, "you're on your own."

France was friendly to Italy, neutral to Prussia, and hostile to Austria at the time, having sided with Italy in an 1859 war against Austria. (Italy was allied with Prussia in 1866.)

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    And Victoria continued to be a woman even after 1837...
    – C Monsour
    May 3, 2020 at 3:38

The German unification was a drawn-out process.The Holy Roman Empire had several hundred "sovereign nations" in the middle ages, that was slowly concentrated into fewer, larger nations, and finally into one.

In the end it came down to a Lesser German Solution under the leadership of Prussia, or a Greater German Solution under the leadership of Austria with Prussia playing second fiddle. The Austro-Prussian War settled this for the Lesser German Solution.

Ever since the Napoleonic Wars, there was widespread sentiment towards unification. What the English wikipedia calls the German Campaign of 1813 are the Liberation Wars in Germany, that has a completely different ring. Patriotic Germans were ambivalent between support for their sovereign or support for the idea of Germany which transcended the petty state. The German Anthem was a desperate call for the states to unify, have a look at the first two stanzas in the context of not having a German nation.

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    -1: This doesn't answer the question. (Also, it's ugly to mix two languages in your answer)
    – Bregalad
    Oct 13, 2015 at 7:46
  • @Bregalad. English is a mixture of two languages (Anglo-Saxon and French).
    – fdb
    Oct 13, 2015 at 10:54
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    @Bregalad, I've provided the translations, and I tried to point out why preventing a further unification of Germany would have beed hard to explain on anything but pure balance-of-power politics.
    – o.m.
    Oct 13, 2015 at 16:05
  • @o.m. The problem is not the lack of translation (I understand german anyway) it is just ugly - either you answer in english or you answer in german, but do not mix both language within the same sentence. Oder would you gern like ob ich like this rede ?
    – Bregalad
    Oct 13, 2015 at 20:23
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    @Bregalad, I think the answer needs to mention kleindeutsche Lösung und großdeutsche Lösung. Tyler's quote in the other answer talked about the British understanding of German interests, but what those were was still being defined at the time. Now I'm linking to the wiki page which does the translation.
    – o.m.
    Oct 14, 2015 at 5:36

Electors were by no means "democratic" or "elected". The Elector of Hesse-Kassel was a deeply-reactionary ruler whose repressive measures caused an unavoidable bust-up when he asked the Austrian Empire for assistance, when Prussia was much closer and more relevant (although Protestant) power. King Georg V of Hanover flew in the face of near-tearful appeals from his Council to refrain from acting against that (Protestant) Power when the bust-up came. The King was the son of one of the most detested and reviled reactionaries in Europe, whose Administration of his Kingdom, nonetheless, pleased many of his subjects. The Kingdom disappeared and took with it Ludwig Windhorst, one of Bismarck's most trenchant critics, one of the most rational politicians in Germany. This is, of course, no place for a discussion of the Schleswig-Holstein conundrum, but the Franco-Austrian War would have been far less likely to occur without a dusting of Electors to muddy the waters. (I love a mixed metaphor.).

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