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The Electorate of Saxony (german: Kurfürstentum Sachsen, also ') was a
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
established when Emperor
Charles IVCharles IV may refer to: * Charles IV of France (1294–1328), "the Fair" * Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (1316–1378) * Charles IV of Navarre (1421–1461) * Charles IV, Duke of Anjou (1446–1481) * Charles IV, Duke of Alençon (1489–1525) * C ...

Charles IV
raised the
Ascanian The House of Ascania (german: Askanier) is a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the univers ...
duchy of
Saxe-Wittenberg The Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg () was a medieval duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretati ...
to the status of an
Electorate Electorate may refer to: * The people who are eligible to vote in an Election#Electorate, election, especially their number e.g. the term ''size of (the) electorate'' * The dominion of a Prince-elector in the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 * An electo ...
by the ''
Golden Bull of 1356 The Golden Bull of 1356 (, , , ) was a decree issued by the Imperial Diet at Nuremberg and Metz Metz ( , , ; lat, Divodurum Mediomatricorum, then ) is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle (river), Moselle and t ...

Golden Bull of 1356
''. It comprised a territory of some 40,000 square kilometers (15,445 square miles).Joachim Whaley, "Germany and the Holy Roman Empire: Volume II: The Peace of Westphalia to the Dissolution of the Reich, 1648-1806", from the Oxford History of Early Modern Europe, p. 188. Upon the extinction of the House of Ascania, it was feoffed to the
Margraves of Meissen Margrave was originally the Middle ages, medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire or of a monarchy, kingdom. That position became hereditary in certain Feudal ...
from the
Wettin dynasty The House of Wettin () is a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of Univ ...
in 1423, who moved the ducal residence up the river
Elbe The Elbe (, ; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo), historically in English also Elve, is one of the major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake o ...

Elbe
to
Dresden Dresden (, ; wen, label=Sorbian languages, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Drježdźany) is the capital city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Saxony and its second most populous city, after Leipzig. It is the List of cities in German ...

Dresden
. After the Empire's dissolution in 1806, the Wettin Electors raised Saxony to a territorially reduced kingdom.


Formation and Ascanian rule

After the dissolution of the medieval
Duchy of Saxony The Duchy of Saxony ( nds, Hartogdom Sassen, german: Herzogtum Sachsen) was originally the area settlement geography, settled by the Saxons in the late Early Middle Ages, when they were subdued by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars from 772 and inc ...
, the name ''Saxony'' was first applied to a small territory midway along the river
Elbe The Elbe (, ; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo), historically in English also Elve, is one of the major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake o ...

Elbe
, around the city of
Wittenberg Wittenberg ( , ; Low Saxon Low Saxon or Lower Saxon may refer to: Geography *Lower Saxony Lower Saxony (german: Niedersachsen ; nds, Neddersassen; stq, Läichsaksen) is a German state (''Land'') situated in Northern Germany, northwestern ...
, which had formerly belonged to the
March of Lusatia March is the third month of the year and named after Mars in both the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a minor mod ...
. Around 1157 it was held by
Albert the Bear Albert the Bear (german: Albrecht der Bär; 1100 – 18 November 1170) was the first margrave of Brandenburg Margrave was originally the Middle ages, medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the bor ...
, the first Margrave of
Brandenburg Brandenburg (, also , ; nds, Brannenborg; dsb, Bramborska) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ...
. When Emperor
Frederick Barbarossa Frederick Barbarossa (german: Friedrich I., it, Federico I; 1122 – 10 June 1190), also known as Frederick I, was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death 35 years later. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt on ...

Frederick Barbarossa
deposed the Saxon duke,
Henry the Lion Henry the Lion (german: Heinrich der Löwe; 1129/1131 – 6 August 1195) was a member of the Welf dynasty and Duke of Saxony, as Henry III, from 1142, and Duke of Bavaria, as Henry XII, from 1156, the duchies which he held until 1 ...

Henry the Lion
in 1180, the Wittenberg lands belonged to Albert's youngest son, Count Bernhard of Anhalt, who assumed the Saxon ducal title. Bernard's eldest son, Albert I, ceded the territory known as
Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt (german: Sachsen-Anhalt ; nds, Sassen-Anholt) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

Anhalt
to his younger brother,
Henry Henry may refer to: People *Henry (given name) Henry is a masculine given name derived from Old French Old French (, , ; French language, Modern French: ) was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century ...
, retaining the ducal title and attached to this territory the lordship of
Lauenburg Lauenburg (), or Lauenburg an der Elbe (Lauenburg/Elbe), is a town in the state of Schleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein () is the northernmost of the 16 states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein Holstein (; n ...
. His sons divided the territory into the duchies of
Saxe-Wittenberg The Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg () was a medieval duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretati ...
and
Saxe-Lauenburg The Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg (german: Herzogtum Sachsen-Lauenburg, called ''Niedersachsen'' (Lower Saxony) between the 14th and 17th centuries), was a '' reichsfrei'' duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of E ...
. Both lines claimed the Saxon ''electoral dignity'' or privilege, which led to confusion during the 1314 election of the
Wittelsbach The House of Wittelsbach () is the Kingdom of Bavaria, Royal Bavarian dynasty from Germany, with branches that have ruled over territories including Bavaria, the Palatinate, Holland and Zeeland, Sweden (with Denmark and Norway), Hungary (with ...
duke,
Louis of Bavaria
Louis of Bavaria
as
King of the Romans King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple i ...
against his
Habsburg The House of Habsburg (), alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English (german: Haus Habsburg ; es, Casa de Habsburgo ; hu, Habsburg-család), also known as the House of Austria (german: link=no, Haus Österreich; es, link=no, Casa de Austria), ...
rival, Duke
Frederick the Fair Frederick the Fair (german: Friedrich der Schöne) or the Handsome (c. 1289 – 13 January 1330), from the House of Habsburg The House of Habsburg (; ; alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English; german: Haus Habsburg, es, Casa de Habsburgo, ...
of
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...
, as both candidates received one vote each from each of the two rival Ascanian branches. Louis was succeeded by the
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...
king,
Charles of Bohemia
Charles of Bohemia
. After his coronation as
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
in 1355, Charles issued the ''Golden Bull of 1356'', the fundamental law of the Empire settling the method of electing the ''German King'' by seven
Prince-elector The prince-electors (german: Kurfürst pl. , cz, Kurfiřt, la, Princeps Elector), or electors for short, were the members of the that elected the of the . From the 13th century onwards, the prince-electors had the privilege of who would ...
s. The rival Wittelsbach and Habsburg dynasties got nothing, instead, the Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg,
Archmarshal
Archmarshal
of the Empire, received the right to elect the King of the Romans and the prospective Emperor, together with six other elector Princes of the Empire. Thus, the country, though small in area, gained influence far beyond its extent. The electoral privilege also contained the obligation of male
primogeniture Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit Inherit may refer to: * Inheritance, passing on of property after someone's death * Heredity, passing of genetic traits to offspring * Inheritance ( ...
. That is, only the eldest son could succeed as ruler. It, therefore, forbade the division of the territory among several heirs, in order to prevent the disintegration of the country. The importance of this stipulation is shown by the history of most of the fragmented German principalities (e.g. the Saxon
Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg The Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg (german: Herzogtum Braunschweig und Lüneburg), or more properly the Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, was a historical duchy that existed from the late Middle Ages to the Late Modern era within the Holy Roman ...
) which were not constituted as electorates.


Wettin rule

The Ascanian line of Saxe-Wittenberg became extinct with the death of Elector Albert III in 1422, after which Emperor
SigismundSigismund (variants: Sigmund (given name), Sigmund, :de:Siegmund, Siegmund) is a German proper name, meaning "protection through victory", from Old High German ''sigu'' "victory" + ''munt'' "hand, protection". Tacitus latinises it ''Segimundus''. The ...
granted the country and electoral privilege upon Margrave Frederick IV of Meissen, who had been a loyal supporter in the
Hussite Wars The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were a series of wars fought between the and the combined Catholic forces of , the , European monarchs loyal to the , as well as various Hussite factions. After initial ...
. The late Albert's Ascanian relative, Duke
Eric V of Saxe-Lauenburg Eric V of Saxe-Lauenburg (died 1436) was a member of the House of Ascania; son of Duke Eric IV of Saxe-Lauenburg Eric IV of Saxe-Lauenburg (1354 – 21 June 1411 or 1412) was a son of Eric II, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg and Agnes of Holstein. Li ...
protested in vain. Frederick, one of the seven Prince-electors, was a member of the
House of Wettin The House of Wettin () is a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of th ...
, which since 1089 had ruled over the adjacent
Margravate of Meissen The Margravate of Meissen (german: Markgrafschaft Meißen) was a medieval principality in the area of the modern German state of Saxony Saxony (german: Sachsen ; hsb, Sakska), officially the Free State of Saxony (German: , Upper Sorbian: ), ...
up the Elbe river - established under Emperor
Otto I Otto I (23 November 912 – 7 May 973), traditionally known as Otto the Great (german: Otto der Große, it, Ottone il Grande), was East Francian king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. He was the oldest son of Henr ...

Otto I
in 965 - and also over the Landgravate of Thuringia since 1242. Thus, in 1423, Saxe-Wittenberg, the Margravate of Meissen and Thuringia were
united under one ruler
united under one ruler
, and as a unified territory gradually became known as, ''
Upper Saxony{{short description, Historic lands in Central Germany Upper Saxony (german: Obersachsen) was the name given to the majority of the German lands held by the House of Wettin The House of Wettin () is a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequenc ...
''. When Elector
Frederick IIFrederick II, Frederik II or Friedrich II may refer to: * Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1194–1250), King of Sicily from 1198; Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 * Frederick II of Denmark (1534–1588), king of Denmark and Norway 1559–1588 * Freder ...
died in 1464, his two surviving sons overrode the ''primogeniture principle'' and divided his territories by the
Treaty of Leipzig The Treaty of Leipzig or Partition of Leipzig (German ''Leipziger Teilung'') was signed on 11 November 1485 between Elector Ernest of Saxony and his younger brother Albert III, the sons of Elector Frederick II of Saxony from the House of Wettin ...
on 26 August 1485. This resulted in the already separated Wettin dynasty becoming the
ErnestineErnestine is a feminine given name. Ernest is the male counterpart of this name. Notable people with the name include: * Ernestine Anderson (1928–2016), American jazz and blues singer * Ernestine Bayer (1909–2006), American athlete * Ernestine B ...
and Albertine branches. The elder
Ernest Ernest is a given name A given name (also known as a first name or forename) is the part of a personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, history, and use of prop ...
, founder of the ''Ernestine line'', received large parts of the former Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg with the electoral privilege attached to it, and the southern Landgravate of Thuringia. While the younger
Albert Albert may refer to: Companies * Albert (supermarket) Albert Česká republika, s.r.o., is a division of the Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize group, operating in the Czech Republic. The company (then known as Euronova a.s.) began trading in Czec ...

Albert
, founder of the ''Albertine line'', received northern Thuringia and the lands of the former Margravate of Meissen. Thus, although the ''Ernestine line'' had initially had greater authority until the
Battle of Mühlberg The Battle of Mühlberg took place near Mühlberg, Brandenburg, Mühlberg in the Electorate of Saxony in 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War. The Catholic princes of the Holy Roman Empire led by the Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Holy Roman Empero ...
in 1547, the electoral privilege and territory then fell to the ''Albertine line'', which later also became a
royal house A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the larges ...
when Saxony was proclaimed a kingdom in the 19th century. This partition was to decisively enfeeble the Wettin dynasty in relation to the then rising
House of Hohenzollern The House of Hohenzollern (, also , , german: Haus Hohenzollern, ro, Casa de Hohenzollern) is a German royal whose members were variously s, , s and of , , , the , and . The family came from the area around the town of in during the late 11 ...
. It had already achieved its own ''electoral privilege'' as Margraves of
Brandenburg Brandenburg (, also , ; nds, Brannenborg; dsb, Bramborska) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ...
since 1415.


Protestant Reformation

The Protestant movement of the 16th century largely spread under the protection of the Saxon rulers. Ernest's son, Elector
Frederick the Wise Frederick III (17 January 1463 – 5 May 1525), also known as Frederick the Wise ( German ''Friedrich der Weise''), was Elector of Saxony Saxony (german: Sachsen ; hsb, Sakska), officially the Free State of Saxony (German: , Upper Sorbian ...
established in 1502 the University at Wittenberg, where the
AugustinianAugustinian may refer to: *Augustinians Augustinians are members of Christian religious orders that follow the Rule of Saint Augustine, written in about 400 AD by Augustine of Hippo. There are two distinct types of Augustinians in Catholic relig ...
monk,
Martin Luther Martin Luther (; ; 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citiz ...

Martin Luther
, was appointed professor of philosophy in 1508. At the same time, he became one of the preachers at the castle church in Wittenberg. On 31 October 1517, he enclosed in a protest letter to
Albert of Brandenburg Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg (german: Albrecht von Brandenburg; 28 June 149024 September 1545) was Elector and Archbishop of Mainz from 1514 to 1545, and Archbishop of Magdeburg The Archbishopric of Magdeburg was a Roman Catholic Roman or R ...
the
Archbishop of Mainz The Elector of Mainz was one of the seven Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. As both the Archbishop of Mainz and the ruling prince of the Electorate of Mainz, the Elector of Mainz held a powerful position during the Middle Ages. The Archb ...
, ''
The Ninety-five Theses The ''Ninety-five Theses'' or ''Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences''-The title comes from the 1569 Basel pamphlet printing. The first printings of the ''Theses'' use an incipit The incipit () of a text is the first few wo ...
'' against the sale of
indulgence File:Apostolic Benediction and Plenary Indulgence Parchment 1948 Oct 26 Pope Pius XII to Della Mora Antonietta (DSC 2566).jpg, Apostolic Benediction and Plenary Indulgence Parchment In the teaching of the Catholic Church, an indulgence (, from , 'p ...

indulgence
s and other
Catholic The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic
practices, an action that marked the start of what came to be called the ''
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
''. Although the Elector did not at first share the new attitude, he granted his protection to Luther anyway. Owing to this intervention,
Pope Leo X Pope Leo X (born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, 11 December 14751 December 1521) was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521. Born into the prominent political and banking Medici family ...

Pope Leo X
decided against summoning Luther to
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
in 1518, and the Elector secured for Luther Imperial safe-conduct to the
Diet of Worms The Diet of Worms of 1521 (german: Reichstag zu Worms ) was an imperial diet (a formal deliberative assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic ...

Diet of Worms
in 1521. When Luther was declared banned in the entire empire by Emperor
Charles VCharles V may refer to: * Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, german: Karl V, it, Carlo V, nl, Karel V, la, Carolus V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and offici ...

Charles V
, the Elector had him brought to live in
Wartburg Castle The Wartburg () is a castle originally built in the Middle Ages. It is situated on a precipice of to the southwest of and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free S ...

Wartburg Castle
on his Thuringian estate. Lutheran doctrines spread first in ''Ernestine'' Saxony. In 1525, Frederick died, possibly never having officially left the Catholic Church, unless on his deathbed in 1525, but he was sympathetic towards Lutheranism by the time of his death. He was succeeded by his brother, John the Constant. John was already a zealous
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Jesus Christ and was founded by Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology ...
. He exercised full authority over the ''new church'' introduced as, the " Lutheran Confession", and ordered the dismissal of all priests who continued in the Catholic faith. He directed the use of the '' Vernacular Liturgy'' drawn up by Luther. In 1531 he formed the
Schmalkaldic League The Schmalkaldic League (; ; or ) was a military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement between nations concerning national security National security or national defence is the security and Defence (military), defence ...
with a number of other ruling princes for the continuation of the '' Protestant doctrine'' and for a joint defence against the Habsburg Emperor Charles V, a fierce opponent of the Reformation. John was followed in 1532 by his son, John Frederick the Magnanimous (died 1554), who was also one of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League. In 1542, he seized the Diocese of Naumburg-Zeitz, and confiscated the secular possessions of the Dioceses of
Meissen Meissen (in German orthography German orthography is the orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. ...
and
Hildesheim Hildesheim is a city in Lower Saxony Lower Saxony (german: Niedersachsen ; nds, Neddersassen; stq, Läichsaksen) is a German state The Federal Republic of Germany, as a federal state, consists of sixteen partly sovereign federated s ...
. Lutheranism, as it came to be organised in Saxony, would serve as an example for future Protestant states throughout Europe. The Electorate of Saxony was, however, not the first state to establish Lutheranism as the state religion. Other states, like the
Duchy of Prussia The Duchy of Prussia (german: Herzogtum Preußen, pl, Księstwo Pruskie) or Ducal Prussia (german: Herzogliches Preußen, link=no; pl, Prusy Książęce, link=no) was a duchy A duchy, also called a dukedom, is a medieval In the hi ...

Duchy of Prussia
(1525) and the
Landgraviate of Hesse The Landgraviate of Hesse (german: Landgrafschaft Hessen) was a Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, principality of the Holy Roman Empire. It existed as a single entity from 1264 to 1567, when it was divided among the sons of Philip I, Landgrave of He ...
(1526), preceded the official establishment of it in Saxony (1527).


Schmalkaldic War

Meanwhile, in the ''Albertine'' lands Duke Albert's son,
George George may refer to: People * George (given name) George (, ) is a masculine given name derived from the Greek language, Greek Georgios, Geōrgios (; , ). The name gained popularity due to its association with the Christian martyrs, Christian ...
(1500–39), founder of the Catholic League of Dessau, was a strong opponent of the Lutheran doctrine and had repeatedly sought to influence his ''Ernestine'' cousins in favour of the Catholic Church. However, George's brother and successor, Duke
Henry IV of Saxony Henry IV the Pious, Duke of Saxony (german: Heinrich der Fromme) (16 March 1473, in Dresden – 18 August 1541, in Dresden) was a Duke of Saxony from the House of Wettin. Succeeding George, Duke of Saxony, a fervent Catholic who sought to extingu ...
(1539–41), was finally won over to Protestantism under the influence of his wife,
Catherine of Mecklenburg Catherine of Mecklenburg (1487 – 6 June 1561, Torgau), Duchess of Saxony, was the daughter of the Duke Magnus II of Mecklenburg and Sophie of Pomerania-Stettin. She married on 6 July 1512 in Freiberg, Saxony, Freiberg Duke Henry IV of Saxo ...
, and thus the Catholic diocese of Meissen came to be abolished. Henry's son and successor, Duke
MauriceMaurice may refer to: People *Saint Maurice (died 287), Roman legionary and Christian martyr *Maurice (emperor) or Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus (539–602), Byzantine emperor *Maurice (bishop of London) (died 1107), Lord Chancellor and Lor ...
, was one of the most controversial figures of the Reformation period. Although a zealous Protestant, ambition and desire to increase his wealth led him to join the Emperor against the
Schmalkaldic League The Schmalkaldic League (; ; or ) was a military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement between nations concerning national security National security or national defence is the security and Defence (military), defence ...
, established by his ''Ernestine'' cousin, John Frederick. After the outbreak of the
Schmalkaldic War The Schmalkaldic War (german: link=no, Schmalkaldischer Krieg) refers to the short period of violence from 1546 until 1547 between the forces of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (simultaneously King Charles I of Spain), commanded by t ...
Elector, John Frederick was placed under an Imperial ban and was finally defeated and captured by Emperor Charles V at the
Battle of Mühlberg The Battle of Mühlberg took place near Mühlberg, Brandenburg, Mühlberg in the Electorate of Saxony in 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War. The Catholic princes of the Holy Roman Empire led by the Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Holy Roman Empero ...
on 24 April 1547. The
Capitulation of Wittenberg {{Campaignbox Schmalkaldic War The Capitulation of Wittenberg (german: Wittenberger Kapitulation) was a treaty on 19 May 1547 by which John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, was compelled to resign the title of elector. The Electorate of Saxony ...
of May 19 obliged him to cede former Saxe-Wittenberg with its electoral privilege to his ''Albertine'' cousin, Duke Maurice, who had switched sides as fortunes reversed. After the Capitulation, the Ernestine branch of the Wettin family only retained its possessions in Thuringia, that owing to repeated divisions among the heirs from 1572 onwards, was soon cut up into the minor
Ernestine duchies The Ernestine duchies (), also known as the Saxon duchies (''Sächsische Herzogtümer'', although the Albertine appanage duchies of Weissenfels, Merseburg and Zeitz were also "Saxon duchies" and adjacent to several Ernestine ones), were a cha ...
of
Saxe-Weimar Saxe-Weimar (german: Sachsen-Weimar) was one of the Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-lin ...
,
Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach was a duchy within the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Wes ...
et al. Those still in existence at the time of the 1918
German Revolution German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Germ ...
after
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
were the
Grand Duchy A grand duchy is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisa ...
of
Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (german: Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach) was a historical German state, created as a duchy A duchy, also called a dukedom, is a , territory, , or domain ruled by a or , a high-ranking nobleman hierarchically second to the or ...
and the duchies of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (german: Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha), or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (), was an ErnestineErnestine is a feminine given name. Ernest is the male counterpart of this name. Notable people with the name include: * Ernestine Anderson (19 ...
,
Saxe-Meiningen Saxe-Meiningen (; ) was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine line of the Wettin dynasty, located in the southwest of the present-day German state of Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuring ...
and
Saxe-Altenburg Saxe-Altenburg (german: Sachsen-Altenburg, links=no) was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine duchies, Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in present-day Thuringia. It was one of the smallest of the German states with an area of 132 ...
. After the Wittenberg Capitulation, the Saxon Electorate consisted of former Saxe-Wittenberg and Meissen now united and remained under the authority of the ''Albertine line'' of the Wettin family. Maurice again became estranged from Charles V partly out of resentment for not receiving what was left of the Ernestine possessions, but even more on account of his motivation to see a Protestant at the head of the empire. After the Emperor had issued the
Augsburg Interim The Augsburg Interim (''"Declaration of His Roman Imperial Majesty on the Observance of Religion Within the Holy Empire Until the Decision of the General Council"'') was an imperial decree ordered on 15 May 1548 at the 1548 Diet of Augsburg The D ...
, Maurice concluded an alliance with King
Henry II of France Henry II (french: Henri II; 31 March 1519 – 10 July 1559) was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I of France, Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis ...
and through the
Treaty of Chambord A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as bi ...
1552 ceded the
Three Bishoprics The Three Bishoprics (french: les Trois-Évêchés ) constituted a Provinces of France, government of the Kingdom of France consisting of the dioceses of Bishopric of Metz, Metz, Bishopric of Verdun, Verdun, and Bishopric of Toul, Toul within the ...
of
Metz Metz ( , , lat, Divodurum Mediomatricorum, then ) is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle (river), Moselle and the Seille (Moselle), Seille rivers. Metz is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the Moselle (de ...
,
Toul Toul () is a commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstract is what belongs to or ...
, and
Verdun Verdun (, , , ; official name before 1970 ''Verdun-sur-Meuse'') is a city in the Meuse (department), Meuse departments of France, department in Grand Est, northeastern France. It is an arrondissement of the department. Verdun is the biggest ...
in
Lorraine Lorraine , also , , ; LorrainLorrain may refer to: * Claude Lorrain (1600–82), a 17th-century French artist of the baroque style * Lorrain language Lorrain is a dialect (often referred to as patois) spoken by a minority of people in Lo ...
to France. Maurice secretly took part in all the princely conspiracies against the Emperor, who only escaped capture by fleeing. During the same year, Charles V was obliged by the
Peace of Passau Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had won a victory against Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church, e ...
to grant freedom of religion to the Protestant states. Maurice died in 1553 at the age of 32. His brother and successor, Elector
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...
, seized the Catholic dioceses of
Merseburg Merseburg () is a town in central Germany located in the southern part of Saxony-Anhalt on the river Saale, approx. 14 km south of Halle (Saale) and 30 km west of Leipzig. It is the capital of the Saalekreis district. It had a diocese f ...
and Naumburg-Zeitz for himself. The last Bishop of Merseburg, Michael Helding called Sidonius, died at
Vienna Vienna ( ; german: Wien ; bar, Wean, label=Bavarian language, Austro-Bavarian ) is the Capital city, national capital, largest city, and one of States of Austria, nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's List of cities and towns in Austria, mos ...

Vienna
in 1561. The Emperor demanded the election of a new bishop, but Augustus forced the election of his son Alexander, who was eight years old, as administrator. After Alexander had died in 1565, he administered the diocese himself. Similarly, after the death in 1564 of
Julius von Pflug Julius von Pflug (1499 in Eythra – 3 September 1564 in Zeitz) was the last Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Naumburg from 1542 until his death. He was one of the most significant reformers involved with the Protestant Reformation The ...
, the last Catholic Bishop of Naumburg, the Elector confiscated the bishopric and forbade adherence to the Catholic religion. Those cathedral canons who were still Catholic were only permitted to practice their religion for ten more years. In 1581, John of Haugwitz, the last
Bishop of Meissen The Bishop of Dresden-Meissen is the Ordinary (Catholic Church), ordinary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dresden-Meissen in the Archdiocese of Berlin. The diocese covers an area of 16,934 km² and was erected as the Diocese of Meissen on 2 ...
, resigned his office. In 1587 he became a Protestant. The episcopal domains fell likewise to Saxony, and the cathedral chapter ceased to exist. During the reigns of the Elector Augustus (1553–86) and
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...
(1586–91), a movement called
Crypto-Calvinism Crypto-Calvinism is a pejorative term describing a segment of German members of the Lutheran Church Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German Protestant ...
gained strength in the electorate. As
Christian II Christian II (1 July 1481 – 25 January 1559) was a Scandinavian monarch under the Kalmar Union who reigned as King of Kingdom of Denmark, Denmark and Kingdom of Norway, Norway, from 1513 until 1523, and Kingdom of Sweden, Sweden from 152 ...
(1591–1611) was too young to rule, his mother,
Sophie of Brandenburg Sophie of Brandenburg (6 June 1568 – 7 December 1622) was Electress of Saxony by marriage to Christian I, Elector of Saxony. She was regent from 1591 to 1601 during the minority of their son Christian II of Saxony, Christian II. Biograph ...
became
regent A regent (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repu ...
in 1591 and was the only woman to act as "Elector". She was vehemently opposed to the "new" movement. Just as her young son was assuming the reins of power in 1601, the Saxon chancellor,
Nikolaus Krell Nikolaus Krell (c. 1551 – 9 October 1601), chancellor of the elector of Saxony, was born at Leipzig, and educated at the university of Leipzig, university of his native town. About 1580 he entered the service of Christian I, Elector of Saxony, ...

Nikolaus Krell
, who had been spreading the other Protestant doctrine, was overthrown and beheaded in 1601. A more strict adherence to Lutheranism was reintroduced and with it a religious oath.


Thirty Years' War

The Thirty Years' War (1618–48) occurred during the reign of Elector John George I, Elector of Saxony, John George (1611–56). In this struggle, the Elector was at first neutral, and for a long time, he would not listen to the overtures of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Not until the Imperial General Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, Johann Tserclaes of Tilly advanced into Saxony did the Elector join the forces of the Swedish Empire. However, after the 1634 Battle of Nördlingen (1634), Battle of Nördlingen, the Elector concluded the Peace of Prague (1635), Peace of Prague with Emperor Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II in 1635. By this treaty, Saxony received the Margravates of Upper Lusatia, Upper and Lower Lusatia as a Lands of the Bohemian Crown, Bohemian fiefdom, and the condition of the Church lands that had been secularized was not altered. The Swedes, for their part, took revenge with ten years of plunder. By the 1648 Peace of Westphalia Saxony retained its Lusatian possessions as an Imperial fiefdom. However, it lost forever the possibility of extending its territory along the lower course of the Elbe into the lands of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg, even though they were under the administration of the Wettin Duke, Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels, Augustus of Saxe-Weissenfels. Upon his death in 1680, the secularised Duchy of Magdeburg fell to the "Great Elector" Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William of Brandenburg, which confirmed the primacy of Brandenburg-Prussia under the Protestant Hohenzollern dynasty. In 1653, the Saxon elector became the head of the ''Corpus Evangelicorum'', the union of the Protestant Imperial Estates. Under the following Electors, religious questions were not as prominent. A rigid Lutheranism remained the prevailing faith, and the practice of any other faith was strictly prohibited. About the middle of the 17th century, Kingdom of Italy (medieval), Italian merchants were the first Catholics to reappear in the country. They settled in
Dresden Dresden (, ; wen, label=Sorbian languages, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Drježdźany) is the capital city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Saxony and its second most populous city, after Leipzig. It is the List of cities in German ...

Dresden
, the capital, and in Leipzig, the most important commercial city. The practice of Roman Catholicism was, however, not permitted to them.


Saxony-Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania

On 1 June 1697, Elector Augustus II the Strong, Frederick Augustus I, "the Strong" (1694–1733) converted to Catholicism and was subsequently elected List of Polish monarchs, King of Poland and Grand duke of Lithuania. This marked a ''personal union'' between Saxony and the Commonwealth of Two Nations that lasted almost 70 years with interruptions (see Stanislaw Leszczynski). Meanwhile, in Saxony the formation of a Catholic parish and private observance of the Catholic faith was permitted at least in Dresden. The conversion of the Elector raised fears among many Lutherans that Catholicism would now be re-established in Saxony. In response, the Elector transferred his authority over Lutheran institutions (which, until then, had been exercised by the sovereign) to a government board, the Privy Council. The Privy Council was composed exclusively of Protestants. Even after his conversion, the Elector remained the head of the Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire)#Religious bodies, Protestant body in the Reichstag, despite an unsuccessful attempt by Brandenburg-Prussia and Electorate of Hanover, Hanover to take over the position in 1717–1720. His son, Elector August III the Saxon, Frederick Augustus II (1733–63), was received into the Catholic Church, while still heir-apparent, on 28 November 1712, in Bologna, Italy. With this conversion, which on account of the excitable sentiment of the Lutheran population, had to be kept secret for five years, the ruling family of Saxony once more became Catholic. He too was controversially "elected King of Poland and Grand duke of Lithuania", that is monarch of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania against the French candidate, Louis François, Prince of Conti, who, on learning the result, attempted to claim the throne arriving by sea at the port of Gdańsk. His attempt was repulsed. Frederick Augustus reigned as Augustus III of Poland 1734–1763.Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/43134/Augustus-III


Saxony's partial return to Rome

Before this, individual members of the ''Albertine'' line had returned to the Roman Church, but they had died without issue, as did the last rulers of Saxe-Merseburg (in 1738) and Saxe-Weissenfels who died out in 1746. Another collateral line founded in 1657 was that of Saxe-Zeitz, which became extinct in 1759. Members of this line who became Catholic were Christian Augustus (died 1725), Cardinal Archbishop of Gran in Esztergom, Hungary and Maurice Adolphus, Bishop of Leitmeritz in Bohemia (died 1759). The most zealous promoter of the Catholic faith in Saxony was the Archduchy of Austria, Austrian Archduchess Maria Josepha, daughter of Emperor Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph I, who in 1719 married Frederick Augustus, later the second elector of that name. The Katholische Hofkirche, Court Church of Dresden was built 1739–51 by the Italian architect Gaetano Chiaveri, Chiaveri in the Roman Baroque architecture, Baroque style. It was heavily damaged during the Bombing of Dresden in World War II, bombing of Dresden and subsequently rebuilt. Notwithstanding the faith of its rulers, Saxony remained an entirely Protestant country. The few Catholics who settled there remained without any political or civil rights.


Fighting for survival

In 1756, during the Third Silesian War between Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia and Austria (part of the Seven Years' War), Saxony was invaded and overrun by the forces of King Frederick II of Prussia, who took Dresden and after the Siege of Pirna forced the Saxon army to surrender and join his Prussian Army. Many later deserted, and a force of Saxon troops fought to restore their independence. The Treaty of Hubertusburg in 1763 eventually restored Saxony as an entity. When in 1806 Napoleon began a war with Prussia, Saxony at first allied itself with his long-time rival, but afterwards joined Napoleon and entered the Confederation of the Rhine. Elector Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, Frederick Augustus III (1763–1827) was formally the last Elector of Saxony. With the dissolution of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
, he clung to office and became the first monarch of the short-lived Kingdom of Saxony, under the title of Frederick Augustus I of Saxony.


Subdivisions

The Electorate of Saxony was divided into several districts or (literally "circles", singular ) in the late 15th and renamed in the 19th centuries. These were: * Electoral Circle, which (roughly) corresponded to the former Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, renamed the Wittenberg Circle in 1807 * , named for the Ore mountains * * * , named for Neustadt an der Orla * in northern Thuringia around Weissenfels * in the Vogtland region Additionally, there were several territories which were not part of , such as the Margraviate of Lusatia, Margravate of Lusatia.


See also

* Rulers of Saxony#Electors of Saxony, Electors of Saxony * History of Saxony


References


Bibliography

Sources in German: * Reiner Groß: ''Die Wettiner.'' Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2007, . * Reiner Groß (Hrsg.): ''Landtage in Sachsen 1438–1831.'' Beiträge auf dem von der Professur Regionalgeschichte Sachsens der Technischen Universität Chemnitz veranstalteten wissenschaftlichen Kolloquium am 25. Februar 2000. Technische Universität Chemnitz, Chemnitz 2000. * Katrin Keller: ''Kleinstädte in Kursachsen. Wandlungen einer Städtelandschaft zwischen Dreißigjährigem Krieg und Industrialisierung.'' Böhlau, Köln/Weimar/Wien 2001, . * Frank-Lothar Kroll (Hrsg.): ''Die Herrscher Sachsens. Markgrafen, Kurfürsten, Könige 1089–1918.'' C.H. Beck, München 2007, . * Nina Krüger: ''Landesherr und Landstände in Kursachsen auf den Ständeversammlungen der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts.'' Lang, Frankfurt am Main/Berlin/Bern [u. a.] 2007, . * Hans-Walter Krumwiede: ''Zur Entstehung des landesherrlichen Kirchenregimentes in Kursachsen und Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel'' (= ''Studien zur Kirchengeschichte Niedersachsens.'' Band 16). Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, Göttingen 1967. * Heinrich Kühne: ''Die Askanier.'' Drei Kastanien Verlag, Wittenberg 1999, . * Heiner Lück: ''Die kursächsische Gerichtsverfassung 1423–1550'' (= ''Forschungen zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte.'' Band 17). Böhlau, Köln/Weimar/Wien 1997, . * Frank Müller: ''Kursachsen und der böhmische Aufstand 1618–1622.'' Aschendorff, Münster 1997, . * Marcus von Salisch: ''Treue Deserteure: Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg'' (= ''Militärgeschichtliche Studien.'' Band 41). Oldenbourg, München 2008, . * Uwe Schirmer: ''Kursächsische Staatsfinanzen (1456–1656). Strukturen – Verfassung – Funktionseliten'' (= ''Quellen und Forschungen zur sächsischen Geschichte.'' Band 28). Steiner, Stuttgart 2006, . Sources in English: * Hans-Albrecht Koch. ''Dresden: Crossroads of Europe''. Library of Congress]
Prof. Koch's Remarks - Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library , Exhibitions - Library of Congress
[retrieved 2018.11.27] * Chancellery of Saxony. Coat of arms of Saxony]
Information in English language - Coat of Arms
[retrieved 2018.11.27] * Caroline Schelling. trans. Doug Scott (2014). "Germany in the Late 18th Century
Supplementary Appendix: Germany in the late 18th Century – Caroline Schelling


External links



{{DEFAULTSORT:Saxony, Electorate of Electorate of Saxony, States and territories disestablished in 1806 States and territories established in 1356 States of the Confederation of the Rhine