Walram I, Count of Nassau

Coat of Arms of the Counts of Laurenburg and Nassau (12th century)

Walram I of Nassau (French: Valéran) (c. 1146–1198) was the first (legally titled) Count of Nassau, reigning from 1154 to 1198. The House of Nassau would become an important aristocratic family in Germany, from which are descended the present-day rulers of both the Netherlands and Luxembourg.


Early life

Walram was the younger son of Count Robert I (German: Ruprecht) of Nassau and an unknown mother. She may have been Robert I’s wife, Beatrix of Limburg (c. 1115-c. 1164), daughter of Walram II the Pagan, Count of Limburg and Duke of Lower Lorraine and Jutta of Guelders (daughter of Gerard I, Count of Guelders), but this is considered unconfirmed by some historians.[1]

When his father died, Walram was only seven years. Therefore, he initially shared the rule with his older brother Robert (Ruprecht) II, who died early as 1159 and of whom little is known. After Robert II’s death, he shared power with his cousins, Henry (Heinrich) I and Robert (Ruprecht) III (sons of Robert I’s brother, Arnold I of Laurenburg). After Henry and Robert’s deaths in 1167 and 1191, respectively, Walram reigned alone.

Robert I had ruled from Nassau Castle, together with his brother Arnold I, since about 1120. Originally titled Count of Laurenburg, Robert called himself Count of Nassau after his castle. This title was disputed by the Bishop of Worms, with whom the Laurenburgs had been in conflict since Robert I’s father, Count Dudo-Henry of Laurenburg (founder of the House of Nassau) undertook to build Nassau Castle on land belonging to the Worms Diocese. The title was only confirmed during Walram's reign through the intervention of Archbishop of Trier Hillin of Falmagne in 1159, about five years after Robert’s death. To settle the dispute, the Archbishop exchanged his own estate in Partenheim in the Nahegau for the Bishop of Worms’ possessions around Nassau, and received the castle of the Laurenburgs as a loan. The Laurenburger family gave up their claim to allodial title over Nassau and in return were given the fiefdom over the castle and town of Nassau from the archbishop. Thereafter, the Laurenburger family were titled the Counts of Nassau. Although this action by the Archbishop settled the feud with Worms, it would eventually lead to new conflicts with Trier under Walram’s descendants (despite the fact that the Archbishop of Trier renounced his territorial claims in 1192).

Territorial expansion

Although the Vogtship of Weilburg, with its numerous property and lordship rights in the Westerwald and Dill River region, had given Robert I a loose connection between his seat on the lower Lahn and his distant position in the Siegerland, Walram was able to create a solid land bridge in about the middle of the 12th century. He received the Herborner Mark, the Kalenberger Zent (including Mengerskirchen, Beilstein, and Nenderoth, the second two now being parts of Greifenstein), and the Court of Heimau (including Driedorf and Löhnberg) as a fief from the Thüringen-Hessian Landgraviate. The same period may also have brought the Lordship of the Westerwald (including Marienberg, Neukirch, and Emmerichenhain, now part of Rennerod). Walram also bought the Vogtship of Koblenz and Ems.

To the south of his possessions, Walram took over partial rule of the Einrichgau, later-named the Vierherrengericht (Four Lords’ Jurisdiction), with its main town of Marienfels. This had been part of the former Countship of Arnstein. The last Count of Arnstein, Ludwig III, had no heir and had converted his castle of Arnstein into a monastery, Arnstein Abbey, near present-day Obernhof, about 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) east of Nassau. On entering the monanstery himself in 1139/1140, he had transferred control of Marienfels to his cousin Reginbold of Isenburg. In 1160, Reginbold sold it jointly to his cousins, the Counts of Nassau and Katzenelnbogen. The Nassau Counts were able to claim part of the inheritance through the marriage of their ancestor Count Drutwin IV of Laurenburg with one of the seven daughters of Count Ludwig I of Arnstein.[2]

Ties to Emperor Frederick I

Walram became affiliated with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarrossa in the Peace of the Rhine Country in 1179. He placed his lands under the immediate suzerainty of the German king, rather than remaining a vassal of the archbishop of Trier.[3] He would remain a loyal supporter of the Hohenstaufen Emperors. Walram's close ties with the imperial house were rewarded with Königshof Wiesbaden. At about the same time, he also received possession of the game rights in the forests of the Rheingau (a fief of the Archbishopric of Mainz), so that his rule extended over the Taunus, south to the Middle Rhine.

Walram had ongoing feuds with the neighboring houses of Eppstein, Solms, and Katzenelnbogen.

With his cousin Robert III, Walram went to the Third Crusade (1189–1190). Walram and Robert were part of Frederick I’s delegation set ahead to Constantinople to prepare for the arrival of the German troops. While Frederick had earlier received promises of cooperation from Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, the delegation was initially snubbed and then actually held as hostages by the Emperor.[4] After Robert's death in the Holy Land, Walram became the Vogt of Siegerland.

Walram played a role in the formation of the Teutonic Order in Acre. His son, Robert (Ruprecht) IV, would later join the Teutonic Knights.

Walram I died on February 1, 1198. He is buried in Arnstein Abbey.


Walram married a woman named Kunigunde (probably Kunigunde of Ziegenhain, daughter of Count Poppo II of Nidda, or else a daughter of a Count of Spanheim) on November 8 (year unknown). Her death date is also unknown; she was still alive on March 20, 1198.[5] From this union came three children:


  1. Dek (1970) actually states Walram was Robert I's grandson and the son of Robert II.
  2. History of Marienfels and the Counts of Arnstein. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  3. Nassau, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 2009-01-24.
  4. Setton, Kenneth M.; Harry W. Hazard; Robert Lee Wolff; Norman P. Zacour; Marshall Whithed Baldwin (2005). A History of the Crusades: The Later Crusades, 1189-1311. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 896. ISBN 978-0-299-04844-0.
  5. Dek (1970). p. 13.


External links

Preceded by
Robert I
Count of Nassau
Succeeded by
Henry II and
Robert IV
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