The Rhine castles experienced on the whole - apart from small territorial battles and the tooth of time - three waves of destruction in their "active time".
The first was the Thirty Years´ War, 1618 -1648. The second the Palatine War of Succession 1688-1697 and the third the wars in the course of the French revolution 1789-1815.
The Thirty Years´ War:
In 1618 the question of who should lead the community of the European states as a sovereign assumed the proportions of a serious crisis finally leading to a long and cruel war.
At variance were the Habsburger being roman emperors of the German Nation, the French kings with their huge connected territory and the king of Sweden who already reigned over the "Ostsee" zone.
In the course of this war in which most of the other European states par- ticipated on different sides, the French and Sweden formed an alliance against the Habsburger in 1634 and from then on defeat followed defeat for the German empire.
Until the end of the war in 1648 whole regions were devastated and people were driven into famine and misery.
In the whole empire the population was reduced by more than a third by the end of the war.
Castles destroyed in the Thirty Years´ War: Burg Lahneck
The Palatine War of Succession:
Since the Westphalian peace in 1648 the kingdom France under king Lud- wig XIV became the mightiest neighbour of the Electorate of the Palatinate. The palatine count Karl Ludwig therefore sought a friendly relation to France.
In order to establish a "security measure" he married his daughter, Elisa- beth Charlotte, known as" Liselotte von der Pfalz" to the duke of Orléans, brother of the "Sun King".
To be on the safe side he had Liselotte disclaim all heritage demands on the Pfalz at her wedding.
When her brother died childless after a short period of reign, King Ludwig XIV raised claims on parts of the Pfalz on behalf of his sister in law.
The subsequent Palatine War of Succession was lead in the Rhine area o- beying the principle of the "burned earth" with a brutality unknown be- tween Christian enemies so far.
The methodical incineration of towns, villages, castles and palaces in an area which had hardly recovered from the Thirty Years´ War was the dis- astrous result of this unsuccessful palatine marriage policy.
The war was ended in 1697 in the peace of Rijswijk.
Castles destroyed in the Palatine War of Succession: Burg Ehrenfels, Burg Fürstenberg, Heimburg, Burg Sooneck, Schönburg, Burg Stahleck, Burg Stolzenfels
The French revolution:
With the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789 the next big war star- ted.
In 1792 the battle against the revolution, the Coalition Wars began. Austria and Prussia were going to war against France.
In 1794 the French occupa- tion of the areas left of the Rhine took place. In the following years the re- public forces controlled nearly all of the Rhineland.
After the French defeat in the war against Russia in 1812 the German Wars of Liberation against France began. In the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig Napoleon was conquered in 1813 and the French troops retreated across the Rhine.
Castles destroyed in the course of these wars: Festung Ehrenbreitstein, Burg Gutenfels, Burg Katz, Festung Rheinfels
Apart from the castles being already decayed, uninhabitable and given up in a more or less ruined condition before the beginning of the Thirty Years´ War merely two castles survived all these wars intact. But even they lost their function. The epoch of castles was gone for good.
Castles decayed before the big wars: Burg Liebenstein, Burg Maus, Burg Reichenstein, Burg Rheinstein, Burg Sterrenberg
Castles being substantially preserved: Marksburg, Pfalzgrafenstein