The House of Wettin () is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The dynasty is one of the oldest in Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt. The Wettins gradually rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. Members of the family became the rulers of several medieval states, starting with the Saxon Eastern March in 1030. Other states they gained were Meissen in 1089, Thuringia in 1263, and Saxony in 1423. These areas cover large parts of Central Germany as a cultural area of Germany. The family divided into two ruling branches in 1485 by the Treaty of Leipzig: the Ernestine and Albertine branches. The older Ernestine branch played a key role during the Protestant Reformation. Many ruling monarchs outside Germany were later tied to its cadet branch, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Albertine branch, while less prominent, ruled most of Saxony and played a part in Polish history. Agnates of the House of Wettin have, at various times, ascended the thrones of United Kingdom, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, Saxony, and Belgium. Only the British and Belgian lines retain their thrones today.

Origins: Wettin of Saxony

The oldest member of the House of Wettin who is known for certain is Theodoric I of Wettin, also known as ''Dietrich'', ''Thiedericus'', and ''Thierry I of Liesgau'' (died c. 982). He was most probably based in the Liesgau (located at the western edge of the Harz). Around 1000, the family acquired Wettin Castle, which was originally built by the local Slavic tribes (see Sorbs), after which they named themselves. Wettin Castle is located in Wettin in the Hassegau (or Hosgau) on the Saale River. Around 1030, the Wettin family received the Eastern March as a fief. The prominence of the Wettins in the Slavic Saxon Eastern March (or ''Ostmark'') caused Emperor Henry IV to invest them with the March of Meissen as a fief in 1089. The family advanced over the course of the Middle Ages: in 1263, they inherited the landgraviate of Thuringia (although without Hesse) and in 1423, they were invested with the Duchy of Saxony, centred at Wittenberg, thus becoming one of the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire.

Ernestine and Albertine Wettins

The family split into two ruling branches in 1485 when the sons of Frederick II, Elector of Saxony divided the territories hitherto ruled jointly. The elder son Ernest, who had succeeded his father as Prince-elector, received the territories assigned to the Elector (''Electorate of Saxony'') and Thuringia, while his younger brother Albert obtained the March of Meissen, which he ruled from Dresden. As Albert ruled under the title of "Duke of Saxony", his possessions were also known as Ducal Saxony. File:1441 Ernst.jpg|Ernest, Elector of Saxony (1441–1486) File:Herzog-Albrecht-der-Beherzt.jpg|Albert, Duke of Saxony (1443–1500)


The older Ernestine branch remained predominant until 1547 and played an important role in the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. Frederick III (''Friedrich der Weise'') appointed Martin Luther (1512) and Philipp Melanchthon (1518) to the University of Wittenberg, which he had established in 1502. The Ernestine predominance ended in the Schmalkaldic War (1546/7), which pitted the Protestant Schmalkaldic League against the Emperor Charles V. Although itself Lutheran, the Albertine branch rallied to the Emperor's cause. Charles V had promised Moritz the rights to the electorship. After the Battle of Mühlberg, Johann Friedrich der Großmütige, had to cede territory (including Wittenberg) and the electorship to his cousin Moritz. Although imprisoned, Johann Friedrich was able to plan a new university. It was established by his three sons on 19 March 1548 as the ''Höhere Landesschule'' at Jena. On 15 August 1557, Emperor Ferdinand I awarded it the status of university. The Ernestine line was thereafter restricted to Thuringia and its dynastic unity swiftly crumbled, dividing into a number of smaller states, the Ernestine duchies. Nevertheless, with Ernst der Fromme, Duke of Saxe-Gotha (1601–1675), the house gave rise to an important early-modern ruler who was ahead of his time in supporting the education of his people and in improving administration. In the 18th century, Karl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, established what was to become known as Weimar Classicism at his court in Weimar, notably by bringing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe there. It was only in the 19th century that one of the many Ernestine branches, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, regained importance through marriages as the "stud of Europe", by ascending the thrones of Belgium (in 1831), Portugal (1853–1910), Bulgaria (1908–1946) and the United Kingdom (in 1901).

Residences of Ernestine branches

File:Schloss Altenburg 02.JPG|Altenburg Castle File:Schloss Saalfeld.jpg|Saalfeld Castle File:Schloss Weimar - Panorama.jpg|Schloss in Weimar File:City palace - Stadtschloss - Eisenach - Thuringia - Germany.jpg|Eisenach Palace File:Schloss01.jpg|Elisabethenburg Palace in Meiningen File:Schloss Hildburghausen.JPG|Hildburghausen Castle


The Albertine Wettins maintained most of the territorial integrity of Saxony, preserving it as a significant power in the region, and used small appanage fiefs for their cadet branches, few of which survived for significant lengths of time. The Ernestine Wettins, on the other hand, repeatedly subdivided their territory, creating an intricate patchwork of small duchies and counties in Thuringia. The junior Albertine branch ruled as Electors (1547–1806) and Kings of Saxony (1806–1918), and also played a role in Polish history: two Wettins were Kings of Poland (between 1697–1763) and a third ruled the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–1814) as a satellite of Napoleon. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Albertine branch lost about 40% of its lands (the economically less-developed northern parts of the old Electorate of Saxony) to Prussia, restricting it to a territory coextensive with the modern Saxony (see Final Act of the Congress of Vienna Act IV: Treaty between Prussia and Saxony 18 May 1815). Frederick Augustus III lost his throne in the German Revolution of 1918. The role of present head of the Albertine "House of Saxony" is claimed by his great-grandson Prince Rüdiger of Saxony, Duke of Saxony, Margrave of Meissen (born 23 December 1953). The headship of Prince Rüdiger is however contested by his second cousin, Alexander (born 1954), son of Roberto Afif, later by change of name Mr Gessaphe, and Princess Maria Anna of Saxony, a sister of the childless former head of the Albertines, Maria Emanuel, Margrave of Meissen (died 2012), who had adopted his nephew, granting him the name Prince of Saxony, contrary to the rules of male descent under the Salic Law. Both are however not recognized by the Nobility Archive in Marburg as well as by the Conference of the Formerly Ruling Houses in Germany. Prince Rüdiger, because his father Timo was expelled from the House of Wettin, Prince Alexander because he is not of noble descent (father was Roberto Afif from Lebanon). Consequently, the House of Wettin, Albertine Branch, is officially treated by the German nobility as extinct in its legal succession-line.

Albertine Electors and Kings of Saxony

Residences of the Albertine branch

File:DD-Schloss-gp.jpg|Dresden Royal Palace File:Meißen Burgberg mit Albrechtsburg und Dom.jpg|Meissen (near Dresden) File:Moritzburg bei Dresden (tone-mapping).jpg|Moritzburg Castle (near Dresden) File:Pillnitz-Wasseransicht.jpg|Pillnitz Palace (near Dresden) File:Schloss Weesenstein (14-2).jpg|Weesenstein Castle (near Dresden) File:Schloss Freudenstein Freiberg.jpg|Freudenstein Castle at Freiberg File:Schloss Augustusburg Südseite.jpg|Augustusburg Hunting Lodge (near Chemnitz) File:Schloss Hubertusburg, Wermsdorf, Sachsen, Deutschland.JPG|Hubertusburg Castle (near Leipzig)

The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

The senior (Ernestine) branch of the House of Wettin lost the electorship to the Albertine line in 1547, but retained its holdings in Thuringia, dividing the area into a number of smaller states. One of the resulting Ernestine houses, known as Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld until 1826 and as Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after that, went on to contribute kings of Belgium (from 1831) and Bulgaria (1908–1946), as well as furnishing husbands to queens regnant of Portugal (Prince Ferdinand) and the United Kingdom (Prince Albert). As such, the British and Portuguese thrones became possessions of persons who belonged to the House of Wettin. From King George I to Queen Victoria, the British Royal family was called the House of Hanover, being a junior branch of the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg and thus part of the dynasty of the Guelphs. In the late 19th century, Queen Victoria charged the College of Heralds in England to determine the correct personal surname of her late husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—and, thus, the proper surname of the royal family upon the accession of her son. After extensive research, they concluded that it was Wettin, but this name was never used, either by the Queen or by her son (King Edward VII) or by her grandson (King George V); they were simply Kings of the House of "Saxe-Coburg-Gotha". Severe anti-German sentiment during World War I (1914-1918) led some influential members of the British public (especially radical Republicans such as H. G. Wells) to question the loyalty of the royal family. Advisors to King George V searched for an acceptable surname for the British royal family, but ''Wettin'' was rejected as "unsuitably comic"."Since the Saxe-Coburg family belonged to the House of Wettin in the District of Wipper, ''Wettin'' or ''Wipper'' might be more appropriate. Either one could have passed for an English name, but both were considered 'unsuitably comic.'" Anne Edwards, ''Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor'' (2014)
p. 302
An Order in Council legally changed the name of the British royal family to "Windsor" (originally suggested by Lord Stamfordham) in 1917.

Residences of the family

File:Coburg-Veste4.jpg|Veste Coburg, ancestral seat of the House of Saxe-Coburg File:Coburg-Ehrenburg1.jpg|Ehrenburg Palace, Coburg (summer residence) File:Gotha Schloss 1900.jpg|Friedenstein Castle, Gotha (winter residence) File:Reinhardsbrunn Schloss Winter.JPG|Reinhardsbrunn Castle, Gotha File:CO Schloss Rosenau1.jpg|Rosenau Castle, Coburg Schloss Callenberg 2.jpg|Callenberg Castle

Branches and titles of the House of Wettin and its agnatic descent

Early Wettins

* Counts of Wettin * Margraves of Landsberg * Margraves of Meissen * Margraves of Lusatia * Dukes of Saxony, Landgraves of Thuringia * Electors of Saxony and Arch-Marshals of the Holy Roman Empire File:Wartburg von Brücke.jpg|Wartburg near Eisenach (1250–1406: residence of the Wettins)


* Electors of Saxony and Arch-Marshals of the Holy Roman Empire (1464–1547) File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-16879-0019, Wittenberg, Schloss, Schlosskirche.jpg|Wittenberg Castle, residence of Frederick III, "the Wise", built 1490–96 File:SchlossHartenfels.JPG|Hartenfels Castle in Torgau, main residence of the Ernestine Electors since Frederick III, "the Wise", built 1533–40

Existing Ernestine branches

* Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach * Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen * Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) * Kings of the Belgians (House ''van België'' or ''de Belgique'' or ''von Belgien'', "House of Belgium", previously known as House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) * Kings and Queen of the United Kingdom (House of Windsor, previously known as House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) * Tsars of Bulgaria (House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, sometimes known as "Sakskoburggotski") File:Coat of Arms of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.svg|Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach File:Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen-Hildburghausen.svg|Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen File:Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.svg|Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha File:Coat of Arms of the King of the Belgians.svg| King of the Belgians File:Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg.svg|Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg

Extinct Ernestine branches

* Dukes of Saxe-Coburg * Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld * Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg (first line of Altenburg) * Dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (second line of Altenburg) * Dukes of Saxe-Hildburghausen, then Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg (third line of Altenburg) * Dukes of Saxe-Weimar * Dukes of Saxe-Eisenach * Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach * Dukes of Saxe-Jena * Dukes of Saxe-Gotha * Dukes of Saxe-Eisenberg * Dukes of Saxe-Marksuhl * Dukes of Saxe-Römhild * Kings of Portugal and the Algarves (House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)


thumb|Catholic members of the Royal Albertine branch of the House of Wettin buried in the crypt chapel of the Katholische_Hofkirche,_Katholische_Hofkirche,_[[Dresden_">Dresden.html"_style="text-decoration:_none;"class="mw-redirect"_title="Katholische_Hofkirche,_[[Dresden">Katholische_Hofkirche,_[[Dresden_ *_Margraves_of_[[March_of_Meissen.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Dresden_.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Dresden.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Katholische Hofkirche, [[Dresden">Katholische Hofkirche, [[Dresden ">Dresden.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Katholische Hofkirche, [[Dresden">Katholische Hofkirche, [[Dresden * Margraves of [[March of Meissen">Meissen * [[Grand Master of the Teutonic Order]] (1498–1510) * [[Electors of Saxony]] and [[Prince-elector#High offices|Arch-Marshal]]s of the Holy Roman Empire (1547–1806) * [[Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth|Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania]] *Duke of Courland and Semigallia (1758–1763) * Kings of Saxony (1806–1918), currently ''Prince/Princess of Saxony'' and ''Duke/Duchess of Saxony'', with the head of the family also ''Margrave of Meissen'' * Duke of Warsaw (1807–1815)

Extinct Albertine branches

* Dukes of Saxe-Zeitz * Dukes of Saxe-Merseburg * Dukes of Saxe-Weissenfels File:Zeitz Schloss1.jpg|Moritzburg Palace in Zeitz File:Merseburger Schloss 2006.jpg|Merseburg Castle File:Schloss Neu-Augustusburg Ostseite.JPG|Neu-Augustusburg Castle, Weissenfels

Family tree of the House of Wettin

Coats of arms

File:Wappen Mark Landsberg.svg|Counts of Wettin, Margraves of Landsberg File:Wappen Landkreis Meissen.svg|Margraves of Meissen File:Blason Thuringe-Misnie.svg|Margraves of Meissen and Landgraves of Thuringia File:Blason Jean-Georges IV de Saxe.svg|Elector of Saxony and Arch-Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire File:Coat of arms of Saxony.svg|King of Saxony (standard arms) For an extensive treatment of the coats of arms, see: Coat of arms of Saxony or in French: Armorial de la maison de Wettin

See also

* Rulers of Saxony, a list containing many Wettins * Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt, the city from which the Wettin dynasty originated


External links

House of Wettin – European Heraldry page

Website of Rüdiger, Margrave of Meissen

Website of Albert Prinz von Sachsen
{{DEFAULTSORT:Wettin, House of * Category:German noble families