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European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Dukes of Saxony (Hattonids) (Comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio) (Germany)
c.AD 832 - 840

The Saxon March was formed in AD 775 out of the great swathe of territory which was controlled by the Saxons in what is now northern Germany. Following the gradual fading and collapse of the Roman empire, the Saxons had become relatively important in the region. Their tribal collective (and territory) was probably swelled by the absorption of other tribes, forming a large coalition in what became known to émigré Saxons as Old Saxony.

The brutal and bloody Saxon Wars came to an end around AD 832 when the Carolingian empire was able to annexe the Saxon state. While the Franks were able to focus their next efforts at conquest along the border with the Danes, changes were enacted in Saxony.

The Frankish local territorial administration unit, the pagus (which itself was an adaptation of Roman organisation) is presumed to have been introduced only after a certain degree of internal stability had been achieved following the peace of 803 or 804. The '-gau' suffix which is applied to the names of local administrative units in Saxony appears in imperial diplomas from the mid-ninth century. It is unlikely that this is a purely Saxon term as it is used in relation to pagi which are located in all of the original German provinces.

Banzleib of the Hattonid family was a mid-ninth century Frankish magnate in the Carolingian empire. When the Saxon lands were organised into the duchy of Saxony, he was appointed by Louis 'the Pious', son of Charlemagne, as comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio, 'count of the Saxon border people', while seemingly retaining the title of count of Maine in the former Frankish kingdom of Neustria. The use of Saxoniae patriae marchio has been translated in recent times as 'people and land' or the 'Saxon fatherland', but 'marchio' is the Latinised form of 'march', meaning a border zone, which clearly refers back to the Saxon March, the controlled or sanitised part of Saxon lands.

The title of count of the Saxon people seemingly stood above that of the dukes of Saxony. The latter title was claimed in direct succession to Widukind as the immediate ancestors of the Liudolfings of the mid-ninth century, with Bruno III the main claimant when Banzleib was appointed. Unfortunately for Banzleib, he later supported the wrong side in the civil war which arose between Louis' sons.

By this time, the former Angrivarii tribe are believed to have been known as the Angrarii of Engern, one of three subdivisions of Saxony, the others being Westfalahi and Ostfalahi (all of which are in the modern German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia). Their steady transformation from Germanic tribe to German province over the course of seven centuries provides a revealing insight into the early days of the creation of modern Germany.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987, R McKitterick (1983), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and the Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory of Tours (539-594): History of the Franks: Books I-X (Fordham University), and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

832? - 840

Banzleib

Count of Maine (Neustria, 832). Dispossessed. Killed?

838 - 840

Banzleib is recorded as being count of Maine in the former Frankish kingdom of Neustria in 832, but is confirmed as also being the comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio in 838. Presumably he is granted the title soon after 832, when the Saxon lands have been reorganised following their capture by the Carolingians.

Map of Western Europe at the death of Clovis in AD 511
This map shows the state of the Frankish kingdom at Clovis' death in 511, with the kingdom of Neustria being known as Paris in its early stages (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Louis 'the Pious' wills the Frankish empire to his sons in 840, but tries to ensure that the eldest gains the biggest share, in order to avoid the fragmentation of territory which so weakened the Merovingians.

Lothar receives Middle Francia (the Rhine corridor including the kingdom of Burgundy, and Italy); Charles 'the Bald' receives Western Francia (France and the duchy of Burgundy); and Louis 'the German' receives East Francia (Germany, including Alemannia, Bavaria, Khorushka, and Saxony, plus regions which are already emerging as Franconia and Thuringia).

One of Louis 'the German's first acts - in December 840 - is to dispossess Banzleib of Saxony. Louis shares a mutual antipathy with the Hattonids, and East Francia's formation had already threatened to dispossess them of territory on the east side of the Rhine.

Banzleib may even be killed in battle against Louis while defending his claim to Saxony. The title of comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio is granted instead to Warin, abbot of Corvey, son of Wigebart (Eckbert) of the Liudolfings.

River Main at Wurzburg
This photo shows the River Main passing under Würzburg's oldest bridge - and its only bridge until 1886 - sitting under the watchful gaze of Marienberg Fortress, itself built during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries to replace older fortifications dating back since well before the beginnings of Franconia

840 - c.850?

Warin

Abbot of Corvey. Supported East Francia.

840 - 843

Lothar of Middle Francia initially claims overlordship over all three regions of the inherited regions, and Louis and Charles have to go to war to convince him to relent. The Treaty of Verdun, signed in 843, recognises the division of the empire.

Warin seemingly holds the title of comes of the Saxons until around 850, by which time his nephew, Liudolf the Great has already secured control of the Saxon lands as the first (recognised) duke of Saxony.

Duchy & Kingdom of Saxony (Liudolfings & Ottonians)
AD 844 - 962

The Liudolfingers and Ottonians claimed descent from Widukind 'the Great' of Saxony. Following his defeat in AD 785, two generations of his descendants were powerful figures in Saxony's late pre-conquest period - in the form of Wigebart (Eckbert) and Bruno III (otherwise unknown) - but they were not consensual leaders in the way that Widukind had been.

It was the third generation of Widukind's descendants who apparently achieved that position (albeit questionably), beginning the process of cementing post-conquest Saxony into a single state. The man in question was Liudolf, who was dux Orientalium Saxonum ('duke of the eastern Saxons') and 'Graf von Sachsen' from AD 844, following his father's death in 843.

He was already a duke of Saxony and 'Margrave de Saxe-Orientale' (margrave of eastern Saxony) from 840 until about 850, and also graf of Wormsgau. The precise extent of Liudolf's leadership status and his exact legal relationship with the German king are unclear. Several early sources refer to Liudolf as dux, but there is no record of his formal appointment as Saxon leader. It may be the case that such an appointment passed to him, unrecorded or not worthy of mention, around 850 from Warin, the last of two appointments of a comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio, 'count of the Saxon border people', the first of whom was a Hattonid.

Liudolf may have enhanced his position by marrying Oda, daughter of a Frankish or Saxon lord named Billung (the Billungs would soon become important in Saxony's history). Improved in stature, he was able to marry off one of his own daughters to Louis 'the Younger' of East Francia while a son, Bruno (clearly named for his grandfather) inherited his position and status without apparent question.

Bruno's brother, Otto, became powerful enough to be a credible candidate for the royal succession after the extinction of the Carolingian dynasty in 911. In turn his son, Heinrich (Henry the Fowler), was elected king of Germany in 919 (East Francia).

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987, R McKitterick (1983), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and the Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory of Tours (539-594): History of the Franks: Books I-X (Fordham University), and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

? - 827/34

Wigebart / Withert / Wicibert

Son of Widukind 'the Great'. A duke of Saxony.

827 - 843

Bruno / Brunhart III

Son. Margrave and a duke of Saxony.

840 - 843

Lothar of Middle Francia initially claims overlordship over all three regions of the inherited Carolingian regions, and his brothers, Louis and Charles, have to go to war to convince him to relent.

The Treaty of Verdun, signed in 843, recognises the division of the empire. Warin, abbot of Corvey and son of Wigebart (Eckbert), seemingly holds the title of comes et Saxoniae patriae marchio in Saxony until around 850, by which time his nephew, Liudolf the Great has already secured control of the Saxon lands as the first (recognised) duke of Saxony.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
King Louis 'the Pious' of the Frankish empire attempted to leave the empire intact for his eldest son, Lothar, but the others rebelled at the idea. The treaty of Verdun in AD 843 confirmed the official division of the empire between Charlemagne's three surviving grandsons (click or tap on map to view full sized)

844 - 864

Liudolf 'the Great'

Son. Margrave and duke of Saxony.

864

Liudolf is the first acknowledged overlord of all of the Saxons, rather than a leading noble. The status of Widukind's leadership in the late eighth century is uncertain, but that seems to have been based more on the necessity to have a single acknowledged battle leader rather than his being the ruler of the Saxons.

Liudolf is mentioned in the Annales Alamannicorum as 'Ludolfus dux Saxoniæ avus Heinrici' (Liudolf, grandfather of Henry, duke of the Saxons) amongst those who swear allegiance to the king of East Francia.

after 852 - 880

Bruno / Brunhart (IV)

Son. Died on campaign.

876

The death of Louis 'the German' results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something which he had already foreseen, and portions of territory had been appointed to each of them in 865.

Now, in a peaceful succession, Carloman inherits Bavaria and the Ostmark, Louis 'the Younger' gains Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, while Charles 'the Fat' succeeds to Rhaetia and Alemannia (Swabia). As the oldest son, Carloman also retains de facto dominance over the Eastern Franks as a whole.

This could be the point at which Saxon Hessengau passes to Franconia (which itself could also explain why Henry of Franconia (882-886) is sometimes known as margrave or count of Saxony). It is also the point at which a clear nobility begins to emerge in the future Hesse.

Fritzlar in Hesse
The Conradine success at the Battle of Fritzlar in 906 in Frankish Hessengau (immediately south of Saxon Hessengau) saw them reach the peak of their power, although this depiction of Fritzlar dates from the seventeenth century

880

Bruno dies either crossing a flooded river or in battle whilst undertaking an expedition against the Danes. The battle would be Lüneburg Heath, otherwise known as the Battle of Ebstorf in Saxon lands.

This would place Bruno as a servant of Louis 'the Younger' of East Francia (entirely likely), who is fighting a large body of Danes which had previously formed the 'Great Heathen Army' which had ravaged England for several years and had resulted in the creation of the Danelaw kingdom of East Anglia. The German forces are destroyed, but the Danish army is similarly destroyed at Thimeon in the same month.

880 - 912

Otto 'the Illustrious'

Brother. Died in his seventies or older.

881 - 882

Charles 'the Fat' succeeds as titular head of the Frankish empire in German lands, holding the position as Emperor Charles III. He is crowned by Pope John VIII. In the following year, 882, Louis 'the Younger' dies and Charles, as the last remaining of the three brothers, inherits his territories of Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, thereby reuniting East Francia following its division in 876.

888 - 918

Under Otto, Saxony emerges as one of the more powerful stem duchies in East Francia (under the kings of Germany), once the formal split is made between East Franks and West Franks.

Charles the Fat
Charles 'the Fat' (not necessarily living up to his descriptive sobriquet) welcomes messengers into his tent as titular head of the Frankish empire, as depicted in the fourteenth century Grandes Chroniques de France

912 - 936

Henry I 'the Fowler'/ Heinrich

Son. King of Germany (918-936).

936 - 974

Otto I 'the Great'

Son. King of Germany (936). King of Italy (961). HRE (962).

936

German expansion to the east begins in earnest when territory on the western side of the Oder is incorporated into two border zones or 'marches'. The northernmost of the two is the march of the Saxon family of the Billungs while the North March neighbours it to the south, with the march of Lusatia (Lausitz) to its own south. The main target of conquest both now and for several decades previously is the Polabian Slavs of the Elbe.

946 - 955

Agapetus is a surprisingly strong-willed Pope for this period. He appeals to Otto I to end the stranglehold of Alberic II of Spoleto over the papacy. The appeal has little immediate effect, until after Otto gains much greater power in 962.

948

Otto secures the powerful duchy of Swabia for his son, Ludolph. This comparatively new duchy, one of five and therefore extremely powerful in medieval Germany, includes the Alsace region, just as the Alemanni kingdom had done so before it.

953

Feeling that his position is threatened by his father's marriage to Adelaide, heiress of Italy, Ludolph of Swabia joins forces with his brother-in-law, Conrad 'the Red', duke of Lorraine, in revolt. Ludolph is supported by the Swabians, but Conrad fails to gain the same support from his own subjects. Otto I and Henry I of Bavaria defeat the rebellion. The following year, Ludolph is deprived of his title.

Otto I of Swabia
Duke Otto I of Swabia, grandson of Otto I the Great of Saxony, and also duke of Bavaria and Carinthia, is seen here on the right with his sister, Abbess Mathilda

961 - 962

Berengar II of Ivrea, king of Italy, is defeated by Otto I, which allows Italy itself to be officially incorporated into the expanding Germanic empire. With Otto's success the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed, and Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders.

With he and his immediate family now concerned with imperial affairs, governance of Saxony is largely handed to his Billung relatives.

Duchy of Saxony (Billungs)
AD 962 - 1106
Incorporating the March of the Billungs

The duchy of Saxony had been formed gradually, over the course of less than a century during the days of the Saxon March and the subsequent pacification of the Saxons under a Carolingian comes (count) of the Saxon people. The emergence of an indigenous nobility around the same time led to the Liudolfings and their Ottonian descendants claiming the title of duke of Saxony without, it seems, any opposition.

Their descent from Widukind 'the Great', chief defender of the Saxons against Charlemagne, probably explains that. In AD 961 Otto 'the Great' was able to claim the title of Germanic Roman emperor. With he and his immediate family now concerned with imperial affairs, governance of Saxony was largely handed to his Billung relatives.

The Billungs also claimed descent from Widukind. Their family had been joined to that of the Liudolfings through marriage by Liudolf, the first undisputed and politically dominant duke of Saxony, so it would have been natural to place a Billung relative in such a position of responsibility. Although significant central cohesion was achieved in Germany by the Ottonian emperors in the tenth century, Saxony itself maintained a considerable level of autonomy. Hermann Billung was appointed military chief in Saxony by Emperor Otto I and was referred to as dux (duke) from 965, but not necessarily of Saxony.

The ducal title attributed to the Billung dukes was at first not linked specifically to the territory of Saxony in contemporary documentation. Perhaps this was due to the largely military-orientated authority of the title-holder and the focus of his efforts on protecting the eastern frontier against the various tribes of Slavs, and to expanding Saxony's territory into that frontier along the Baltic coast.

From the late tenth century onwards, contemporary sources do name a single dux in Saxony at any one time. Nevertheless, it is more appropriate to refer to Duke Hermann and his immediate successors as dukes 'in Saxony' rather than 'of Saxony'.

In AD 936 enthusiastic German expansion to the east of Saxony was triggered when territory on the western side of the Oder was incorporated into two border zones or 'marches'. The northernmost of the two was the 'March of the Billungs', neighboured to its south by the North March, with the march of Lusatia (Lausitz) to the south of that. The main target of conquest was the Polabian Slavs of the Elbe. The Slavic revolt of 983 threw off Saxon control of the march, with the harried Saxons only just able to prevent Slavic incursion into their own lands.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987, R McKitterick (1983), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and the Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory of Tours (539-594): History of the Franks: Books I-X (Fordham University), and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

962 - 973

Hermann Billung

Military chief in Saxony to Emperor Otto. Dux from 965.

962

With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders.

The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I 'the Elder' is restored in Flanders, and the march of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process which is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

973 - 1011

Bernard I

Son. Dau Othelindis m Dirk III of West Frisia.

983

The Slavic revolt of the marches sees the Polabian Slavs, plus the Lutici and Obotrite tribes, on the east bank of the Elbe rise up against German overlordship. Faced with a drive to convert them to Christianity as a way of integrating them into the German empire, they take the rare act of organising under Lutici leadership and destroy several churches and settlements. The Saxons are only just able to defend the line of the Elbe, but the 'March of the Billungs' and the North March are lost.

1011 - 1059

Bernard II

Son. Relationship troubled with HRE Henry II.

1024

Following the end of the Ottonian line of Saxon emperors, Franconia becomes the territorial heartland of the succeeding emperors, many of whom have their power base here. Conrad VI, husband of Gisela, daughter of Duke Herman II of Swabia, seemingly now gains the duchy of Franconia. Now he is a candidate for the throne of the Holy Roman empire, which he successfully gains.

Hohenstaufen coat of arms
The Hohenstaufen family of Swabia gained a strong foothold on power in the late eleventh century and went on to supply an entire dynasty of German emperors which included Frederick Barbarossa

1059 - 1072

Ordulf

Son. m dau of Olaf II of Norway.

1072 - 1106

Magnus

Son. Last of the Billungs. Died with no son to succeed him.

1079

With the removal of Swabia from the control of the former rival for the imperial title, Rudolph of Rheinfelden, the Swabian Hohenstaufen family of nobles gains the duchy through Frederick's marriage to Agnes of Germany, granddaughter of Henry I the Black (former Franconian emperor). Frederick is opposed by Rudolph's son, Berthold, while the latter is in exile in Saxony.

1106

The choice of Lothar of Süpplingenburg to succeed Magnus Billung as duke of Saxony after the extinction of the Billung family in the male line in 1106 is a compromise. The two more obvious candidates are Henry 'the Black', soon to be duke of Bavaria, and Otto, count of Ballenstedt of the Ascanian dynasty, both sons-in-law of Duke Magnus.

However, Lothar greatly strengthens Saxon power and effectively transforms himself into the head of a Saxon nation which is now commanded by the Süpplingenburg dukes.

Duchy of Saxony (Supplinburgs)
AD 1106 - 1127

The duchy of Saxony formed over the course of less than a century during the days of the Saxon March. By the mid-ninth century the Liudolfings and their Ottonian descendants were able to claim the title of duke of Saxony without any apparent opposition, probably thanks to their descent from Widukind 'the Great'. In AD 961 Otto 'the Great' was able to claim the title of Germanic Roman emperor, with governance of Saxony being passed on to his Billung relatives.

The choice of Lothar of Süpplingenburg (Supplinburg) by Emperor Henry V to succeed as duke of Saxony after the extinction of the Billung family in the male line in 1106 marked a turning point in Saxon history. Lothar's appointment was designed to limit the growing influence of the two more obvious candidates, the husbands of Magnus Billung's two daughters, Henry 'the Black', soon-to-be duke of Bavaria, and Otto, count of Ballenstedt of the Ascanian dynasty.

Far from being a mere stopgap candidate, however, Lothar created a powerful new force in Saxon politics. He was fortunate in expanding his own territorial holdings through inheritance. He also extended ducal authority into the northern frontier area of Nordalbingia and brought under his control the western part of the duchy. He created many new counties (and counts) which were directly responsible to him.

Within a few years, Duke Lothar had effectively transformed himself into the head of a Saxon nation, when he broke Germanic imperial power in Saxony in 1115, rebelling against his former patron for his increasing autocratic governance. He further demonstrated his autonomy in 1123 with two key appointments and then, in 1125, succeeded as Holy Roman emperor himself.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1106 - 1127

Lothar III of Supplinburg

Son of Count Gebhard of Supplinburg. HRE (1125-1137).

1115

Duke Lothar effectively transforms himself into the head of a Saxon nation when he breaks Germanic imperial power in Saxony following a long-simmering dispute between himself, Emperor Henry V, and several other notable German leaders. The Battle of Welfesholz, near Mansfeld, is fought on 11 February 1115 between Saxon forces and the imperial army, with the latter being sent into flight. Henry V is denied power over Saxony.

1123

Lothar further demonstrates his autonomy from imperial control in 1123 with two key appointments. He confers the margraviate of Lusatia on Albert 'the Bear', count of Ballenstedt (and soon also to be margrave of the North March), and the margraviate of Meissen on Conrad of Wettin.

Lothar of Supplinberg and Holy Roman emperor
Lothar III of Supplinberg became duke of Saxony through his marriage to Richenza, daughter of Count Henry of Northeim, his inheritance of that title and of the domains of the Billungs, and his initial support for Emperor Henry V

1125

By now, Duke Lothar has risen to such prominence that he is elected king of Germany following the death of Henry V. After his accession to the German throne, Lothar retains Saxony in his own hands. He pursues the policy of creating new counts, including those of Wöltingerode, Wernigerode, Scharzfels, Ilfeld-Honstein, and perhaps Rothenburg.

This further complicates the political scene in Saxony as these new creations are, by definition, imperial not ducal fiefs. The result is that later dukes are never the sole imperial fiefholders in the province, although the personal territorial holding in Saxony of each successive duke is significant.

1127

Lothar's daughter, Gertrude, marries Henry 'the Proud', duke of Bavaria, margrave of Tuscany and, through that latter title, duke of Spoleto. A strong supporter of Lothar who had helped him in his bid for the German throne in 1125, Henry now gains control of Saxony as the first of the Welf dukes.

Duchy of Saxony (Welfs)
AD 1127 - 1138

The Billungs had governed the duchy of Saxony from AD 962, shortly after the last of the Ottonian dukes, Otto 'the Great', was able to claim the title of Germanic Roman emperor and required his relatives to manage Saxony. When the last of the Billungs, Duke Magnus, died in 1106, he had no son to succeed him.

Instead, two of the best-placed candidates were the husbands of his daughters. These were Henry 'the Black', soon to be duke of Bavaria, and Otto, count of Ballenstedt of the Ascanian dynasty. However, the compromise selection of Lothar of Supplinburg proved to be pivotal for the duchy, and not least because it kept the other two from assuming a stronger position of power.

Lothar of Supplinburg was selected by Emperor Henry V, initially because he had been a strong supporter of the emperor. But Henry's autocratic instincts soon turned even Lothar against him. Instead Lothar removed imperial control over Saxony in 1115 and then in 1125 became Germanic emperor himself. In 1127 his daughter, Gertrude, married Henry 'the Proud', duke of Bavaria, margrave of Tuscany and duke of Spoleto, and Henry was granted control of Saxony thanks to his firm loyalty to Lothar.

As the empire was rife with opposition between the emperor's supporters and the Hohenstaufens (partially due to a struggle for control of Swabia), the same situation was repeated in Saxony, with some conflict arising. The Hohenstaufens eventually went on to become Holy Roman emperors while the Welfs lost out and were granted the duchy of Brunswick as compensation.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1127 - 1138

Henry II (IV) Welf 'the Proud'

Henry X of Bavaria. Margrave of Tuscany (1136).

1136

Henry takes part in a campaign against the kingdom of Sicily which is undertaken by his father-in-law, Emperor Lothar II. Lothar is impressed with Henry's military capabilities during the campaign, and in reward makes him margrave of Tuscany.

Henry X the Proud of Bavaria and II of Saxony
As Henry X of Bavaria and Henry II of Saxony, Henry the Proud was a powerful supporter of Emperor Lothar II in Germany, and an opponent of the Hohenstaufens

1137 - 1138

The rivalry for the imperial title between Emperor Lothar and his main rival, Frederick II of Swabia, has a destabilising effect on Germany as a whole. Emperor Lothar and his Hohenstaufen successors in Franconia are supported by Louis I of Thuringia, but Lothar dies in 1137 on the way back from his campaign against the kingdom of Sicily.

The election is held to select the next emperor in 1138, but Henry 'the Proud' is defeated as a candidate by Conrad Hohenstaufen of Franconia. Tensions between Conrad and Henry quickly escalate and he is relieved of Bavaria and Saxony in the same year. He fights on against his Ascanian replacement in Saxony.

Duchy of Saxony (Ascanians)
AD 1138 - 1142

The Billungs had governed the duchy of Saxony from AD 962, shortly after the last of the Ottonian dukes, Otto 'the Great', was able to claim the title of Germanic Roman emperor and required his relatives to manage Saxony. When the last of the Billungs, Duke Magnus, died in 1106, he had no son to succeed him.

Instead, two of the best-placed candidates were the husbands of his daughters. These were Henry 'the Black', soon to be duke of Bavaria, and Otto, count of Ballenstedt of the Ascanian dynasty. However, the compromise selection of Lothar of Supplinburg proved to be pivotal for the duchy, and not least because it kept the other two from assuming a stronger position of power.

Lothar removed imperial control over Saxony in 1115 and then in 1125 became Germanic emperor himself. In 1127 his daughter, Gertrude, married Henry 'the Proud', son of Henry 'the Black', and this Henry gained the control of Saxony which his father had failed to achieve. As the empire was rife with opposition between the emperor's supporters and the Hohenstaufens (partially due to a struggle for control of Swabia), the same situation was repeated in Saxony, with some conflict arising.

The election for a new emperor was held in 1138, but as duke of Bavaria and Saxony, margrave of Tuscany, and also duke of Spoleto, Henry 'the Proud' was defeated as a candidate by Conrad Hohenstaufen of Franconia. Tensions between Conrad and Henry quickly escalated and the latter was officially relieved of Bavaria and Saxony in the same year.

He fought on against his Ascanian replacement in Saxony - Albert 'the Bear', son of Otto of Ballenstedt and margrave of the North March (he had been deprived of Lusatia in 1128) - and had all but secured control. A planned attack on Bavaria for 1139 was halted at the last minute by Henry's unexpected death. Albert was restored in his control of Saxony.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1138 - 1142

Albert I 'the Bear'

Margrave of North March. Formed Brandenburg (1136).

1138 - 1139

Although he has been appointed to govern Saxony by the new Hohenstaufen emperor of Germany, Conrad III, Albert experiences some difficulties. Although Henry 'the Proud', former duke of Saxony, has been removed from his position he is fighting on to re-secure Saxony by force of arms.

He largely does so by 1139 - along with taking Brandenburg - and is poised to mount an invasion of Bavaria in order to retake that too, but his sudden death ends the plan.

Albert the Bear
During his career, Albert 'the Bear' started out as margrave of Lusatia, gained the North March, lost Lusatia, gained Saxony, turned the North March into Brandenburg, and gave up Saxony to accept the counties of Orlamünde and Weimar (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Generic)

1142

Albert achieves peace with the son of Henry 'the Proud', Henry 'the Lion', eventually to be duke of Bavaria. Having done so he renounces his claim to Saxony and accepts in its place the counties of Orlamünde and Weimar (later to be a Saxon possession known as Saxe-Weimar). Henry 'the Lion' succeeds him as the (restored) Welf duke of Saxony.

Duchy of Saxony (Welfs Restored)
AD 1142 - 1180

With the end of the Billungs as dukes of Saxony, the title had passed to Lothar of Supplinburg to keep it out of the hands of competing Welfs and Ascanians. That decision by the Germanic Roman emperor had proved pivotal for Lothar's Saxony. Lothar removed imperial control over Saxony in 1115 and then in 1125 became Germanic emperor himself. In 1127 his daughter, Gertrude, married Henry 'the Proud', son of Henry 'the Black' of the Welf dynasty of Bavaria, and this Henry gained the control of Saxony which his father had failed to achieve.

As the empire was rife with opposition between the emperor's supporters and the Hohenstaufens (partially due to a struggle for control of Swabia), the same situation was repeated in Saxony, with some conflict arising. An election for a new emperor was held in 1138, but as duke of Bavaria and Saxony, margrave of Tuscany, and also duke of Spoleto, Henry 'the Proud' was defeated as a candidate by Conrad Hohenstaufen of Franconia.

Tensions between Conrad and Henry quickly escalated and the latter was officially relieved of Bavaria and Saxony in the same year. He fought on against his Ascanian replacement in Saxony - Albert 'the Bear', son of Otto of Ballenstedt and margrave of Brandenburg - and had all but secured control. A planned attack on Bavaria for 1139 was halted at the last minute by Henry's unexpected death. Albert was restored.

However, Albert never really gained any solid control of Saxony. In 1142, he achieved peace with the son of Henry 'the Proud', Henry 'the Lion', eventually to be duke of Bavaria. Having done so he renounced his claim to Saxony and accepted in its place the counties of Orlamünde and Weimar (later to be a Saxon possession known as Saxe-Weimar).

Henry 'the Lion' succeeded him as the (restored) Welf duke of Saxony. Unfortunately for Henry, the rivalry between him and the Saxon nobility intensified after his installation, aggravated by his acquisition of numerous additional territories by inheritance or aggression.

This power struggle culminated in the 1166/1170 rebellion of princes who considered their positions to be threatened by Duke Henry's expansionism (which included obtaining Bavaria in 1156). In the end, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa removed Henry in 1180. This paved the way for the Ballenstedt family of Ascanians to take control and heralded the end of the old stem duchy in favour of a more fractured series of territories.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1142 - 1180

Henry III (V) Welf 'the Lion'

Son of Henry 'the Proud'. Duke Henry XII of Bavaria.

1164

Despite Pomerania already being Christianised, and increasingly Germanised, bishops and dukes from the Holy Roman empire continue to mount expeditions into Pomerania. The Battle of Verchen in 1164 makes Pomerania a vassal of Henry 'the Lion'.

Henry the Lion and Matilda
Henry's second marriage was to Matilda, daughter of Henry II of England, but his eventual conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa cost him his lands and titles

1180

Henry refuses to follow his cousin, HRE Frederick Barbarossa, into war in Lombardy. In punishment for this the stem duchy is greatly reduced by the emperor. Westphalia is handed to the archbishop of Cologne, complete with most parts of Angria (the former Angrivarii tribal lands).

The duchies of Brunswick and Lüneburg remain under the control of the Welfs, while the County Palatine of Saxony is handed to Louis III, landgrave of Thuringia (he promptly passes it onto his brother, the future Landgrave Herman I, in 1881). Pomerania is taken by Barbarossa.

The Ascanian dukes receive the Saxon ducal title. However, their dynastic focus has always lain towards the eastern side of Saxony, especially given their history in Lusatia and the North March (now Brandenburg). Their base remains in Lusatia and Thuringia, near the Elbe, resulting in the name of 'Saxony' migrating eastwards.

Duchy of Saxony (Ballenstedt Ascanians)
AD 1180 - 1272

With the accession in Saxony of Lothar of Supplinburg as duke in 1106, the region found itself being vastly strengthened. Lothar's Saxony removed imperial control in 1115 and then in 1125 he became Germanic emperor himself. In 1127 his daughter, Gertrude, married Henry 'the Proud' of the House of Welf, soon to be duke of Bavaria in a time in which the empire was struggling against increasingly likely Hohenstaufen control.

When the Hohenstaufen Conrad of Franconia was elected emperor in 1138, Henry 'the Proud' was soon relieved of Bavaria and Saxony in favour (in the latter) of an Ascanian replacement: Albert 'the Bear', margrave of Brandenburg. However, Albert never really gained solid control of Saxony. In 1142, he achieved peace with the son of Henry 'the Proud', Henry 'the Lion', eventually to be duke of Bavaria himself.

Henry 'the Lion' succeeded him as the (restored) Welf duke of Saxony. Unfortunately for Henry, the rivalry between him and the Saxon nobility intensified after his installation, culminating in the 1166/1170 rebellion of princes who considered their positions to be threatened by Henry's expansionism. In the end, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa removed Henry in 1180, paving the way for the Ballenstedt branch of Ascanians to take control.

The first duke was Bernard III, youngest of the seven sons of Albert 'the Bear'. He and his successors received the Saxon ducal title, but with the vast Saxon lands being broken up at the same time. This was a period of territorial fracturing in German lands which was ending the old stem duchies and creating a patchwork of lesser holdings. Saxony fared no different than any of the others.

Sections were handed over to outside interests to be removed from the Saxon sphere of influence. In some records the numbering of princely officeholders is restarted from scratch from this point onwards, but this habit was not universally followed. It has also not been followed in the list below, although the restarted alternatives are offered in parentheses.

The rich western areas - Westphalia, formerly part of Old Saxony, but only later becoming part of the post-Carolingian duchy of Saxony - were granted to the archbishop of Cologne, complete with most parts of Angria (the former Angrivarii tribal lands) which soon became obsolete as a designation. The County Palatine of Saxony was handed to Louis III, landgrave of Thuringia (who promptly passed it onto his brother, the future Landgrave Herman I, in 1181).

The duchies of Brunswick and Lüneburg remained under the hand of the Welfs. Pomerania was taken by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa himself. The Ascanians had their base further east in Lusatia, near the Elbe, resulting in the name of Saxony migrating eastwards.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1180 - 1212

Bernard III (II)

Son of Albert 'the Bear'. Count of Anhalt & Ballenstedt.

1212

Upon the death of Bernard III the rules which govern inheritance within the Ascanians means that his territory is divided. The eldest son, Henry, receives Anhalt, while his brother, Albert, gains Saxony. The fact that Saxony is seen as the lesser of the two territories reveals how much it has been reduced by the actions of 1180.

Codex Manesse, Henry, count of Anhalt
Henry, count (and prince from 1218) of Anhalt is portrayed in the Codex Manesse, which was copied and illustrated in Zurich between 1305-1340

1212 - 1260

Albert II (I)

Son. Margrave of Brandenburg (1205-1260).

1260

It had been Bernard III who had moved his court and primary residence to Wittenberg which straddles the River Elbe. Now, upon the death of his son, it is his grandsons who effectively partition the remaining Saxon lands. At first the division is largely theoretical, but it appears to take effect from or soon after 1272, and is further affirmed in 1296.

1260 - 1272

John I

Son. Ruled Saxe-Lauenburg after 1272.

1260 - 1272

Albert III (II)

Brother. Ruled jointly. Ruled Saxe-Wittenberg after 1272.

1272 - 1356

At some point after 1272, and by 1296 at the latest, John and Albert divide their Saxony between them. Saxe-Lauenburg is formed in the west while Saxe-Wittenberg is formed in the east.

The combined duchy is the seat of one of the prince-electors of the Holy Roman empire, so there is some conflict between the two divisions as to who should retain the position.

Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg
AD 1272 - 1356

Once a powerful medieval stem duchy of Saxony under Lothar of Supplinburg, the region found itself at odds with the Hohenstaufen German emperors by the end of the twelfth century. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa removed the incumbent Welf dynasty duke in 1180, paving the way for the Ballenstedt branch of Ascanians to take control.

At the same time the vast Saxon lands were broken up, with sections being handed over to outside interests to be removed from the Saxon sphere of influence. In some records the numbering of princely officeholders is restarted from scratch from this point onwards, but this habit was not universally followed. It has also not been followed in the list below, although the restarted alternatives are offered in parentheses.

The rich western areas - Westphalia, formerly part of Old Saxony, but only later becoming part of the post-Carolingian duchy of Saxony - were granted to the archbishop of Cologne. The County Palatine of Saxony was handed to Louis III, landgrave of Thuringia (who promptly passed it onto his brother, the future Landgrave Herman I, in 1181). The duchies of Brunswick and Lüneburg remained under the hand of the Welfs. Pomerania was taken by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa himself.

The Ascanians had their base further east in Lusatia, near the Elbe (the family also held Brandenburg), resulting in the very name of Saxony migrating eastwards. Wittenberg, seat of the dukes from 1260, remained the seat of the House of Ascania until its extinction at the death of Albert II in 1422.

As if to demonstrate how far reduced Saxony's importance had become, in 1212 the rules governing inheritance within the Ascanian dynasty meant that the territory was further divided. The eldest of the late duke's sons, Henry, received Anhalt, while his brother, Albert, gained Saxony, the lesser of the two.

In 1260, these remaining Saxon lands were again partitioned. At first the division was largely theoretical, but it appeared to take firm effect from or soon after 1272, and was further affirmed in 1296. Saxe-Lauenburg was formed in the western section while the east was rebranded as Saxe-Wittenberg.

The combined duchy was the seat of one of the prince-electors of the Holy Roman empire, so there was initially some conflict between the two divisions as to who should retain the position. In 1314 the two princes found themselves on opposite sides of a double election and, eventually, the Saxe-Wittenbergers under Rudolf succeed in gaining the upper hand, adopting the title 'Elector of Saxony'.

Saxony

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com, and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Special Collections (University of Arizona).)

1272 - 1298

Albert III (II)

Former duke of Saxony (1260).

1285 - 1288

John I of Saxe-Lauenburg abdicates his position in favour of his three sons, all of whom are still minors. In theory at least Saxony overall is still governed between the three new dukes and their uncle, Albert III of Saxe-Wittenberg.

Albert, though, has already positioned himself as the senior figure in this relationship. Just three years later he requests of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph I of Habsburg that his son (another Rudolf) be named as the official elector of Saxony.

Duke Albert III (II) of Saxony 1272-1298
Duke Albert III (II) of Saxony is pictured by Lucas Cranach the Younger between 1578-1580, painted on canvas and later laminated onto wood, and today owned by Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum

1290 - 1296

Albert gains the county of Brehna for 'his' Saxony in 1290, shortly after its control has reverted to the empire following the extinction of its rulers. In 1295 he gains the county of Gommern, the same year in which he agrees with Wenceslas II of Bohemia to elect Adolf of Nassau-Weilburg as the next emperor.

This is the last time that Albert is officially noted as working alongside his three nephews of Saxe-Lauenburg (still minors), with them all being classed as joint electors. The division of Saxony is confirmed by 1296.

1298 - 1356

Rudolf I

Son. A minor. 'Elector of Saxony' (1314).

1298 - 1302

Agnes of Habsburg

Mother & regent. Daughter of HRE Rudolf I.

1314

The two princes of Saxony - Rudolf I of Saxe-Wittenberg and John II of Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf (the successor to Saxe-Lauenburg) - are on opposite sides of a double election. Eventually the Saxe-Wittenbergers under Rudolf succeed in gaining the upper hand. To distinguish himself from other, now lesser, dukes of Saxony, Rudolf adopts the title 'Elector of Saxony'.

1347

Playing an increasingly important role as one of the new emperor's main supporters, Rudolf now gains the territory of Altmark from Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The Elbe is now the border between Saxony and Brandenburg, which is currently a possession of those Ascanian opponents, the Wittelsbachs.

1355 - 1356

Emperor Charles IV issues his Golden Bull at the end of 1355. It lays down the redrafted laws for the Holy Roman empire, one of which stipulates the role of primogeniture, ensuring that only the eldest son or the valid next in line succeeds to a title and its territory.

Emperor Charles IV releases his Golden Bull
Towards the end of 1355 and in early 1356 Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV agreed with his prince electors a new treatise which regulated the emperor's position and the right of succession amongst all the princes

Rudolf and Saxe-Wittenberg are confirmed as the elector and electorate of Saxony respectively. Saxe-Lauenburg in its currently-divided format as Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf and Saxe-Ratzeburg now formally loses any right to the role, along with the privileges it confers. Rudolf dies in March 1356, but his son is able to succeed him as prince-elector of Saxony.

 
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