General Georg Wilhelm Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck
General Georg Wilhelm rigsgreve af Sponneck
Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger was born in Silesia (which is now part of Poland) on 17th April, 1672. He was the eldest child of Johann Georg von Hedwiger by his second marriage, (his first wife had passed away). Johann Georg was a captain in the Austrian Imperial Army. Georg Wilhelm’s siblings were Johann Christopher and Johann Rudolph and a sister, Anna Sabina von Hedwiger. These sons were all commissioned in the Imperial Army and the sister, Anna Sabina was called to be a Lady-in-Waiting to the Duchess of Wuerttemberg-Oels. It was during this time that the Dukes of Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard were in exile in the Duke of Wuerttemberg-Oels court. The senior Duke of Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard’s daughter had married her cousin, the Duke of Wuerttemberg-Oels, so this was a safe haven having been driven out of their western states of Montbeliard by the French King, Louise XIV, during his wars against the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I of Austria.
Here the youngest son of the Duke of Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard had met and fallen in love with the beautiful Anna Sabina von Hedwiger, Lady-in-Waiting to his elder sister. This brought the young Duke into contact with her three brothers, all army officers in the Duke of Wuerttemberg-Oels regiment. A good friendship with the family had ensued and in 1695, the young Duke Leopold Eberhard von Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard morganatically married his Anna Sabina von Hedwiger. At the Peace of Rijwijk (1697) between Louis XIV of France and Leopold I of Austria the lands west of the Rhine had been returned to the Dukes of Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard and so it was that, as Leopold Eberhard’s father, Duke Georg II had died on 1st June 1699, he, as only surviving son, Leopold Eberhard became the new Duke of Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard. Duke Leopold had taken Anna Sabina, his wife of four years and their two surviving children, and later, invited her eldest brother, our Georg Wilhelm von Hedwiger to resign his commission and take up the governorship of his Mompelgard lands and estates.
In 1701 the Hedwiger siblings were encouraged and recommended by Duke Leopold Eberhard von Wuerttemberg-Mompelgard to apply for the creation of the title of ‘Reichsgrafen’ by Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, which was granted and so on the 2nd August, 1701, they were all created ‘Reichsgrafen von Sponeck’, after the Castle Burg Sponeck on the east of the Rhine River, a possession of the Wurettemberg Dukes’ for its strategic crossing of the Rhine to their western lands and estates in France.
Georg Wilhelm served the Duke Leopold Eberhard between 1699 and 1703 in this capacity but the pull of the military was in his blood and in 1703, as a Colonel, he took up the call to join up with the Danish expeditionary forces in the ‘War of the Spanish Succession’, once again between the French and Austrian monarchs. He led his Danish regiments with distinctions in the Battles of Ramillies (1706) and the Battle of Oudenaarde (1708) and the Battle of Malplaquet (1709). Being severely wounded during this battle, he retired to Denmark to recover. By the year 1710 Georg Wilhelm von Sponneck was settled in Denmark, and made commander of the Danish Queen’s Guard with the rank of Colonel.
In 1711 he was promoted to Brigadier-General in the Danish Army. In 1712 Sponneck was sent by the Danish King to take command of the Danish forces in Rostock – an important part in Danish held Schleswig-Holstein. Here Sponneck’s Danish forces participated, and he with major distinctions, in the Battle of Gadebusch. He was mentioned in dispatches that he with four battalions covered the right flank and defended the position until the evening. In 1715 he participated in the siege of Stralsund which was the preparation for the invasion of Ruegen Island in the Baltic Sea. Having been again wounded, he returned to Denmark and in 1716 was promoted to Major-General at the age of 43 years.
In 1716 Sponneck was stationed in Norway as second in command of forces there and also given the honour of serving King Frederik IV as personal chamberlain. Traditionally, this meant Sponneck was an advisor and treasurer of the King’s own finances and financial affairs. In the year 1717 Sponneck was made a ‘White Knight’ of the Order of the Grand Cross of the Dannebrog, the Flag of Denmark.
The year 1719 saw Sponneck as second-in-command to General Barthold Heinrich von Luetzow of the Danish/Norwegian Army and in 1720 in full command. Sponneck was made a Privy Councillor to the Danish King in 1731. He was promoted to full General of the Danish Infantry in the year 1734.
It was in the year 1739 that General Georg Wilhelm Reichsgraf von Sponneck was made a ‘Knight of the Elephant’ by the Danish King Christian VI for his faithful service to the Danish throne over the years. He passed away in Copenhagen on the 3rd September, 1740 at the age of 68 years!
The Sponneck family were honoured again in 1889 by King Christian IX by being granted the Danish equivalent title to their former Holy Roman Imperial one of Reichsgrafen, by being given the Danish title ‘Rigsgreverne af Sponneck’. This translates to ‘Count-of-the-(Danish)-Realm’.