History Files History Files
Donate add-in

European Kingdoms

Central Europe


Saxony (Saxons) (Germans)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

At the time of the late Roman empire, the Saxon tribes could be found occupying a large swathe of territory around the North Sea coast of northern Germany, bordering on Frisia to the west, Angeln to the north, and what became the eastern march counties, such as the North March. It was from the North Sea coast that many Saxon groups emigrated to Britain in the fifth to early seventh centuries while a loose Saxon state began to form behind them. However, Saxons had been emigrating to Britain for some time, being settled by the Romano-British authorities as laeti. In some instances these groups later formed their own small kingdoms in Britain, or merged with newly arriving groups of Angles and Saxons.

The Franks under Charlemagne slowly conquered the pagan Saxon tribes on the Continent between 782-804 (the Saxon Wars). Initially they were subsumed within the Frankish empire, but they eventually emerged with a unified kingdom of their own during the Carolingian fragmentation which followed. Subsequent centuries saw the territory divided or dispersed until the only piece which still bore the Saxon name was down in the south-eastern corner (modern Saxony in eastern Germany), far removed from the former heartland of Saxony at its height.

MapOld Saxony

Small Nav - Indo-Europeans - Germans

The Saxons formed a loose state after the collapse of the Roman empire, and were relatively important in northern Germany during the subsequent period. They seem to have been centred on the area between the North Sea coastline and Hannover, and then stretching southwards to an undetermined degree. Their tribal collective (and territory) was probably swelled by the absorption of other tribes, such as the Germanic Chauci, the Cherusci who were so important in AD 9, and lesser tribes such as the Angrivarii, Dulgubnii, and Warini. Together they formed a large coalition in the territory between modern Berlin and the northern Frisian coast, and were bordered to the north by the Angles. The Saxons, Angles and Jutes formed the bulk of the emigrants to Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, although sizable numbers of Saxons remained behind, in what became known by the migrants in post-Roman Britain as 'Old Saxony'.

The name 'Saxon' itself was formed by combining a word for a type of knife - a seaxe, or sax - plus the common Germanic plural suffix that was often used after the name of a tribe, this being '-on' (whereas today English speakers would use an 's'). A 'sax' is a single-edged, drop-point knife, something that in North America is called a Bowie knife. Add the plural suffix '-on' and you have Saxon.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987, R McKitterick (1983), from The Anglo-Saxon Age c.400-1042, D J V Fisher, from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from Wulf and Eadwacer, from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Res Gestae, Ammianus Marcellinus, and from External Links: The Latin Library, and the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and the Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory of Tours (539-594): History of the Franks: Books I-X (Fordham University).)

1st century AD?

Vegdegg Odinson

Clearly a later Norse name. Randomly added to a modern list.

AD 98

In his work on Greater Germania, the Roman writer Tacitus omits to mention the Saxons, although it is known that they occupy territory in upper western central Europe, in modern Schleswig-Holstein and north-west Germany, with the Frisians on their western flank and the Langobards to their immediate south.

Mandø Island
The islands between modern Denmark and Sweden were part of a little-known habitat for the early Suebic tribes of the Western Baltic Sea, including Mandø seen here, one of the islands in the Danish Wadden Sea off the south-west coast of Jutland

Instead, the Saxons of this period should be accounted as part of 'the seven tribes of Jutland and Holstein', which include the Angles, Aviones, Eudoses, Nuitones, Reudigni, Suardones, and Warini, all of whom are part of the Suebic confederation. Their omission is startling, but the Suardones may supply the answer, thanks to similarities between the names (this is discussed in more detail on the Suardones page).


The division of the Goths into two branches causes population movements which, among other things, sees the Germanic Chauci gradually overrun by the Saxons in their homeland against the north-western coast of Germany. The absorption of this group is probably only partly voluntary, and could also include the absorption of some of the 'seven tribes' mentioned in AD 98. This would appear to be an event caused by the Saxon migration and expansion from their earlier homeland in Schleswig-Holstein.

287 - 292

In the late third century, Heruli raid into Iberia along with Alemanni and Saxons, possibly as a result of the Lower Rhine incursions of this year. Roman Emperor Maximianus is involved in heavy fighting on the Lower Rhine and also on the Upper Danube.


The Salii, or Salian Franks, seek Roman protection on the Batavian island after being expelled from their own lands by the Saxons. The Roman acceptance of their settlement there marks the beginning of the end for the Batavi as an identifiably separate people.

c.300 - c.375

According to the Codex Gothanus, the Langobards are subjugated by the Saxons around AD 300, but it seems that they later rise up under their own king, Agelmund. The reason may be the poor harvests that they suffer in the late fourth century. The Langobards begin to migrate southwards, but Ludo Moritz Hartmann suggests that they probably leave behind a sizable portion of their number, with these people being fully subsumed within the Saxon confederation and losing their name. The Angrivarii are also certainly subsumed within the confederation by this date, if not earlier.


Possibly a foundation name for Guelders.

364 - 367

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and Attacotti (possibly part of a Damnonian confederation) attack Roman Britain in what seems to be a serious incursion in 364. Saxons and Frisians are also part of the great 'Barbarian Conspiracy' of 367.

fl c.370s


Later added to list of kings of Angeln. Killed by the Myrging.


While Freawine is included in later English royal genealogies as an ancestor figure, Wieg is shown as his son (see below). However, in the story of Offa (see the Myrging of Widsith) they are shown as contemporaries and enemies, suggesting that the genealogies subsequently arrange them in series, making them genealogically father and son in the manner of most genealogies.

fl 400s


Probably Wihtgils, father of Hengist of Wehta's Folk.

5th century

The Angrivarii remain in their homeland of the last five centuries, still part of the Saxon confederation. By now they are known by a variety of names, the Angarii, Aggeri, Aggerimenses, Angeri, Angerienses, or the Angri, but the name is also beginning to appear as that of their homeland, Engern (in the modern German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia).

406 - 409

The bulk of the Suevi cross the Rhine at Mainz in 406 in association with the Vandali and Alani. Some of the tribes of the Suevi confederation elect to remain behind in Germany, including the Alemanni and Warini. After this point the Warini probably come to be dominated by the growing Saxon confederation that fills the vacuum left by the departure of the Suevi.

c.440 - 500

Saxons who have emigrated to Britain advance along the Thames Valley and head north into the Chilterns to encroach on British territories. Some groups break off to settle the region around Londinium and become known as the Middel Seaxe and the Suther-ge.

Lowbury Hill in Berkshire
Increasingly beleaguered British territories began turning civilian structures into military ones, such as the former Roman temple at the top of Lowbury Hill (near Compton in west Berkshire), which apparently became a look-out point that faced towards the River Thames

Other Saxon groups head southwards towards the Upper Thames Valley from the territory of the Middil Engle. The success of Hengist and Horsa in Kent encourages greater Saxon and Angle leaders to migrate to Britain as a way of escaping the increasing pressures of life in their native lands, squeezed between dominant Danes to the north and Frisians to the south.

Wieg / Wig

'Son' of Freawine. Later added to Baeldaeg's Folk.


Brother. Mentioned in Widsith.


The Myrging are a Germanic clan descended from Saxons who occupy territory in modern Schleswig-Holstein, on the border with the Angles to the north. They become involved in a war with Offa, who kills two of the sons of Eadgils. Eadgils himself is subsequently killed by Ket and Wig, the sons of the Saxon prince, Freawine, perhaps allowing the Myrging to overrun the border district between Saxons and Angles until they are completely conquered by Offa. The Myrging are totally absorbed into the Angle tribal collective, probably disappearing as a distinguishable people under the rule of Angeltheow, who abolishes the title 'king of the Myrging'.

fl 463

Eadwacer / Adovacrius

'King of the Saxons'. Leader of warband attacking Angers.


Saxons are sailing along the English Channel, hunting for settlement locations along the Gaulish coast. Despite the official end of Roman interest in Britain, it seems that Gaul is still a more attractive (and richer) option. Eadwacer leads a band of Saxons around the Gaulish coast to the River Loire. From there they sail up the river to capture Angers, only to be dislodged by Childerich of the Franks, acting as an ally of the Roman domain of Soissons. The chances of being able to break through the increasing Frankish domination of northern Gaul are apparently fading, and Britain is perhaps becoming a more realistic proposition for invasion and settlement.

Eadwacer seems to be given as Odoacer in at least one translation of Gregory of Tours. The names are certainly very similar - Eadwacer (ed/od-oo-acer) to Odoacer (od-oc-er) but the geographical areas of interest are completely different. Eadwacer is a Saxon leader, operating in northern Germany and along the western coastline, while Odoacer is a Goth (most likely a Scirian), operating from Pannonia and then Italy. What is more, Odoacer is known as a commander of Heruli, Rugii, and Sciiri troops, not Saxons. Instead, this Eadwacer may be the character mentioned in the Old English poem, Wulf and Eadwacer.

? - 477?

Ælle / Aelle

Important chieftain in Old Saxony? Founded Suth Seaxe.

c.475 - 495

Angles begin to arrive and take control of the lower east coast of Britain, where they intermingle with the Saxon descendants of Roman foederati. The late Roman history of this coastline is almost completely blank, which serves to underline the loss of lines of communication and probably also towns.


FeatureÆlle and his sons, Cymen, Wlencing, and Cissa, land at Cymens ora and beat off the Britons who oppose their landing. These Saxons quickly become known as the Suth Seaxe, although it is possible that they are soon wiped out in a major defeat at the battle on Mons Badonicus.


Clovis of the Franks defeats, captures and executes Syagrius, the last Roman commander of Soissons. The Franks are now completely dominant in northern Gaul and Roman control has been thrown off. The death of Syagrius also sends a signal to the Saxons and other Germanic peoples that attempting to settle in Gaul is now hopeless. This would seem to be the single defining event that forces the Saxons to turn their attention to invading Britain instead.


Saxons move into British territory on the north bank of the Thames Estuary. They find that the Saxon descendants of Roman laeti have already been settled there for well over a century. Together these groups found the kingdom of the East Seaxe.


By this date, Saxon pressure from the north has slowly been forcing the Frankish peoples southwards from their original territory around Cologne and Cambrai, so that the northern border now lies along the Somme, giving them the same border as the former domain of Soissons.

The Old English poem Widsith seems not to mention the Suardones of Tacitus. The historian Johann Martin Lappenberg is the first modern scholar to connect the Suardones to the Sweodweras of Widsith, but if they are in fact the Saxons, then their fate is very much known as a major Northern European group which retains a recognisable identity for centuries, while their neighbouring tribes are eventually subsumed by the growing power and dominance of the Danes.

fl c.531


Acclaimed by Adam of Bremen as 'duke' of Saxons (a leader).

c.531 - 532

The Franks of Austrasia conquer the Thuringians to the immediate south-east of the Saxons (after which event Hadugato is mentioned as duke of the Saxons). Portions of Thuringian territory are subsequently lost to the Saxons on the north-west border, probably to the Continental Saxons, but there also seems to be a reverse migration of Germanics from the east coast of Britain, where the recent native victory at Mons Badonicus has cut them off from the acquisition of new lands. These returning Angles and Saxons appear to be given land in Thuringia by King Theuderich of Austrasia. Warrior groups of Thuringians are soon to be found in another Frankish conquest, that of Alemannia, where they act as part of the governing Frankish authority.


The Eucii, or Saxones Eucii, are associated with the Saxons by this point, which is when they become dependants of the Franks. Some scholars identify these people with the Jutes who have been settled in Britain for almost a century. Instead, these Eucii may be an obscure tribe known as the Euthiones who are also associated with the Saxons in a poem by Venantius Fortunatus (written in 583).

fl c.550s


fl c.550s

Alof the Great

Female leader. Mother-in-law to Halga of the Danes (c.520s).


Chilperic, king of the Franks, sends an army to fight Waroch of Bro Erech along the Vilaine. The Frankish army consists of units from Anjou, Bayeux, Maine, Poitou, and Touraine. The Baiocassenses, the 'men from Bayeux', are Saxons. They in particular are routed by the Bretons over the course of three days of fighting. Waroch is forced to submit in the end, and pays homage by sending his son as a hostage and agreeing to pay an annual tribute. He subsequently breaks the latter promise, but Chilperic's dominion over the Bretons (or at least their eastern borders) is relatively secure as evidenced by Venantius Fortunatus' celebration of it in a poem.

587 - 590

Gunthchramn of Burgundy compels Waroch of Bro Erech to renew his oath in writing and demands a thousand solidi in compensation for raiding Nantes. That compensation has not been paid by 588, even though Waroch has promised it both to Gunthchramn and Chlothar II of the Franks. In 589 or 590, Gunthchramn sends an expedition against Waroch under the command of Beppolem and Ebrachain. Ebrachain is an enemy of Fredegund, queen consort to the late King Chilperic, and it is she who sends the Saxons of Bayeux to aid Waroch.

Beppolem fights Waroch alone for three days before dying, at which point Waroch attempts to flee to the Channel Islands. Ebrachain destroys his ships and forces him to accept renewed peace, the renewal of his oath, and surrendering a nephew as a hostage. Despite all of this, the Bretons retain their spirit of independence and refuse to be cowed by the powerful Franks.

early 600s


? - 627

Berthoald / Berthoala / Berthold

'Duke of the Saxons'. Killed in battle.


King of the Franks, Chlothar II, gives Austrasia to his son, Dagobert I, effectively granting the kingdom semi-autonomy in repayment for the support of its nobles, most notably Pepin I, mayor of the palace of Austrasia. The Saxons have been paying tribute to the Franks at the rate of four hundred cows a year until this year (alternatively shown as 631). The Liber Historiae Francorum (of AD 727) and the Gesta Dagoberti (of the 830s) both describe Berthoald's revolt against Frankish authority, beginning with the defeat of Dagobert. Clothar is forced to intervene and Berthoald is slain in battle. The Saxons pay a heavy price for their revolt, with many being killed in retaliation.

fl c.660s-690s


Son of Berthoald? Father of Theoderic?


678 - 690

The English Bishop Wilfred arrives in Frisia and the Anglo-Saxon Christianisation of the Germanic lands begins, although the first mission is quickly aborted. A second attempt in 690 proves much more successful and for the best part of a century churchmen and monks crisscross the English Channel or North Sea, intent on spreading the Christian faith amongst their Germanic cousins who border the Merovingian Frankish kingdom. There is special interest in the conversion of the German Saxons, whom the English consider their kinsfolk.

Saxon warriors
The average Saxon warrior of the seventh century would have looked very familiar to anyone coming from Saxon Britain, despite changes to dress there brought about by influences from the Romano-British

fl c.743 - 744

Theoderic / Theodoric

Captured in 744.

743 - 744

The Carolingian mayors of the Merovingian palace, Pepin the Short and Carloman, march first against the Bavarians and then against the Saxon leader, Theoderic, for his non-payment of the supposedly-restored annual tribute. Despite the loss to the Saxons of the castrum of Hohseoburg a repeat invasion has to be mounted in 744. This time Theoderic is captured.

? - 768


Related to Theoderic? Died.


An opening skirmish in a fresh series of conflicts is struck when Charlemagne's Frankish empire destroys the Saxon sanctuary of Irminsul. Apparently a form of sacred pillar, it is probably a tree - specifically an oak - but its exact nature has been the subject of somewhat intense scholarly debate.


According to the Royal Frankish Annals, the lands of the Angrivarii are conquered in this year by Charlemagne after laying siege to the Frankish court at Fritzlar. The Angrian commanders conclude a separate peace agreement with the Carolingian empire near Bückeburg, removing themselves from the destructive Carolingian-Saxon wars to follow, while the Saxons themselves are forced to accept incorporation as a Frankish march (border territory).

fl c.777 - 785

Widukind / Withukund the Great

Chief antagonist against Charlemagne. Son of Wernicke.

777 - 778

Widukind is first mentioned by the Frankish Annals when he fails to attend Charlemagne's court at Paderborn alongside his fellow Saxon nobles. Instead he is visiting one 'Sigfred, king of the Danes' - probably Sigurd, son of the present king. In 778, the Angrivarii invade the Frankish Rhineland while Charlemagne is busy in the south, dealing with events in Iberia, although this appears to be their last direct involvement in affairs.


The Annalista Saxo records that Charlemagne establishes the bishoprics of Bremen, Halberstadt, Hildesheim, Verden, Paderborn, Minden, Münster, and Osnabrück in Saxony.

782 - 784

The Saxon Wars begin against the Carolingian empire when Widukind succeeds (probably after some years of trying) in securing the support of the other Saxon nobles in throwing off Frankish domination. It is one of Charlemagne's toughest fights, taking a total of twenty-seven years. The fighting, by all accounts, is brutal, with little restraint or humanity being shown by either side. Saxon paganism, toughness, and ruthlessness perhaps foreshadows the future ferocity of their northern cousins, the Vikings. The mass execution of Saxons at Verdun in 782 has to be one of Charlemagne's darkest hours.


The Saxons have secured help from the Frisians, but even so Charlemagne drives Widukind and his forces back into the heartland of their territory. Widukind and his colleague or co-leader, Abo. are forced into a surrender in return for clemency and they accept Christianity. Both are baptised at Attigny, along with many of their people. Widukind later becomes an almost mythological hero figure to many Germanic rulers, including the Saxon Ottonians and Billungs, and Matilda, wife to Henry I of England, all of whom claim him as an ancestor.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
Charlemagne at Paderborn
Charlemagne received the surrender of the Saxons at Paderborn in 785 after two hard years of fighting against a people who were determined to retain their independence, while above is a map of Frankish-dominated Europe around AD 800 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

fl c.785 - 811

Abo / Abi

Successor to or colleague of Widukind. 'Count' in 811.

791 - 804

Pepin of Italy marches a Lombard army into the Drava valley to ravage Pannonia, with Duke Eric of Friuli assisting him. This strike is a diversionary tactic so that Charlemagne is able to take his own forces along the Danube into Avar territory. He suffers the loss of most of his army's horses to an equine epidemic during the summer of 791, and some of his more recently-acquired subjects rebel. In 792 Charlemagne breaks off from his campaign to handle such a revolt by the Saxons, but Pepin and Eric continue to attack the Avars, taking their capital twice. The Avars are forced to submit in 796. The Saxon revolt, however, rumbles on until 803/4.

804 - c.832

The Saxon Wars come to an end with the Carolingian empire annexing the Saxon state. The Franks now move northwards, finding themselves on the border with the Danes, who immediately respond to their threat by erecting defensive works.

In Saxony itself the Frankish local territorial administration unit, the pagus (which itself is a descendant of Roman organisation) is presumably introduced only after a certain degree of internal stability is achieved following the peace of 803/4. The '-gau' suffix that is applied to the names of local administrative units 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 that are located in all of the original German provinces.

Dukes of Saxony (Hattonids)
c.AD 832 - 840

Banzleib of the Hattonid family was a mid-ninth century Frankish magnate in the Carolingian empire. When north-western Germany was organised as the duchy of Saxony, he was appointed by Louis the Pious as the count and margrave of the Saxon people, but he later supported the wrong side in the civil war which arose between Louis' sons. Banzleib was dispossessed in 840 and may have been killed in battle.

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.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

832? - 840


Count of Maine (832). Dispossessed.


The county is granted to Warin, abbot of Corvey. He presumably holds the title until c.850.

840 - c.850?


Abbot of Corvey.

840 - 843

Louis the Pious wills the Frankish empire to his sons, but tries to ensure that the eldest gains the biggest share, in order to avoid the fragmentation of territory that 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 Eastern Francia (Germany, including Alemannia, Bavaria, Khorushka, and Saxony, plus regions that are already emerging as Franconia and Thuringia). However, Lothar initially claims overlordship over all three 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.

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

The Liudolfingers and Ottonians claimed descent from Widukind the Great of Old Saxony. Following his defeat in AD 785, two generations of his descendants were powerful figures in late Old Saxony, but not overall rulers. Instead, the third generation of them apparently achieved that position (albeit questionably), beginning the process of cementing Saxony into a single state. He was Liudolf, who was 'Dux Orientalium Saxonum' 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. As mentioned, several early sources refer to Liudolf as dux, but there is no record of his formal appointment as Saxon leader. Nevertheless, Ludolf's son Otto was powerful enough to be a credible candidate for the royal succession after the extinction of the Carolingian dynasty in 911, and his own son Heinrich (Henry the Fowler) was elected king of Germany in 919 (East Francia).

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

? - 827/34

Wigebart / Withert / Wicibert

Son of Widukind the Great. A duke of Saxony.

827 - 843

Bruno III

Son. Margrave and a duke of Saxony.

844 - 864

Liudolf the Great

Son. Margrave and duke of Saxony.


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 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.

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)

after 852 - 880


Son. Died on campaign.


The death of Louis the German results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something that 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. For now the concept of a single state by that name does not exist - instead the region is a patchwork of minor lordships and counties. The most important in terms of their descendants are the Hessians of the Wetterau, the counts of Lahngau.


Bruno dies either crossing a flooded river or in battle whilst undertaking an expedition against the Danes.

880 - 912

Otto the Illustrious


881 - 882

Charles the Fat succeeds as titular head of the Frankish Empire, 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 and West Franks.

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).


The North March is formed when territory to the west of the Oder is incorporated into the March of the Billungs and the North March.

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.


Otto secures the powerful duchy of Swabia for his son, Ludolph.


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.

962 -1024

Otto's line continues as Holy Roman Emperors.

Duchy of Saxony (Billungs)
AD 962 - 1106

The Billungs claimed descent from Widukind the Great of Old Saxony. Although significant central cohesion was achieved in Germany by the Ottonian emperors in the tenth century, Saxony maintained a considerable level of autonomy. Hermann Billung was appointed military chief in Saxony by Emperor Otto I and was referred to as dux from 965. The ducal title attributed to the Billung dukes was at first not linked specifically to the territory of Saxony in contemporary documentation, perhaps due to the largely military-orientated authority of the title-holder and the focus of his efforts on protecting the eastern frontier against the Slavs, and expanding Saxony's territory into that frontier in a region along the Baltic coast that became known as the March of the Billungs.

From the late tenth century onwards, contemporary sources 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'.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

962 - 973

Hermann Billung

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


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 that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

973 - 1011

Bernard I

1011 - 1059

Bernard II


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.

1059 - 1072


1072 - 1106



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.

Duchy of Saxony (Supplinburgs)
AD 1106 - 1127

The title 'Duke of Saxony' or 'Duke of the Saxons' is first noted in documentation from the early eleventh century. The choice of Lothar von Süpplingenburg (Supplinburg) 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. Although his appointment was designed to limit the growing influence of the two more obvious candidates, Heinrich 'der Schwarze' of the Welf dynasty and Otto Graf von Ballenstedt of the Askanian dynasty, both sons-in-law of the last Billung Duke Magnus, 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) that were directly responsible to him. Within a few years, Duke Lothar had effectively transformed himself into the head of a Saxon nation, breaking imperial power in Saxony with his defeat of the imperial army at Welfesholz near Mansfeld in 1115. He further demonstrated his autonomy from imperial control in 1123 when he conferred the Markgrafschaft of Lausitz on Albrecht 'der Bär' Graf von Ballenstedt and the Markgrafschaft of Meissen on Konrad von Wettin. By 1125, Duke Lothar had risen to such prominence that he was elected king of Germany after the death of Emperor Heinrich V. After his accession to the German throne, Lothar retained the duchy of Saxony in his own hands. He pursued the policy of creating new counts, including Wöltingerode, Wernigerode, Scharzfels, Ilfeld-Honstein, and perhaps Rothenburg. This further complicated the political scene in Saxony as these new creations were by definition imperial not ducal fiefs. The result was that later dukes were never the sole imperial fiefholders in the province, although the personal territorial holding in Saxony of each successive duke was significant.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

1106 - 1127

Lothar II of Germany

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

Duchy of Saxony (Welfs)
AD 1127 - 1138

Henry the Proud brought Saxony under the control of the Welfs through his marriage to an heiress of the Billungs, former dukes of Saxony. There came to be some conflict in Saxony between the Hohenstaufen and Welf dukes. The former went on to become HREs while the latter seemed to lose out and were granted the duchy of Brunswick as compensation.

The rivalry between the duke and the other Saxon nobility intensified after the installation of the Welf Heinrich 'der Löwe' as duke in 1139, aggravated by his acquisition of numerous additional territories by inheritance or aggression. The power struggle culminated in the 1166/1170 rebellion of princes who considered their positions threatened by Duke Heinrich's expansionism. The Ballenstedt family finally succeeded as dukes of Saxony in 1180, after Duke Heinrich 'der Löwe' was deposed.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

1127 - 1138

Henry II (IV) Welf, the Proud

Duke Henry XI of Bavaria.

Duchy of Saxony (Ascanians)
AD 1138 - 1142

1138 - 1142

Albert I the Bear

Gained the margraviate of North March & formed Brandenburg.

Duchy of Saxony (Welfs)
AD 1142 - 1180

1142 - 1180

Henry III (V) Welf, the Lion

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


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


Henry refuses to follow his cousin, HRE Frederick Barbarossa, into war in Lombardy. In punishment for this the duchy is 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, but they have their base further east in Lusatia and Thuringia, near the Elbe, resulting in the name of Saxony migrating eastwards.

Duchy of Saxony (Ascanians)
AD 1180 - 1272

The Ascanian dukes received the Saxon ducal title during the deposition of the former duke, Henry the Lion, by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The vast Saxon lands were broken up during this process, with the western sections being handed over to the archbishop of Cologne and the County Palatine of Saxony being handed to Louis III, landgrave of Thuringia (he promptly passed it onto his brother, the future Landgrave Herman I, in 1881). The duchies of Brunswick and Lüneburg remained under the hand of the Welfs. The Ascanians had their base further east in Lusatia and Thuringia, near the Elbe, resulting in the name of Saxony migrating eastwards. The name Angria, a region formed by the tribal Angrivarii which had emerged as one of the central three regions of Saxony, thereafter became obsolete.

1180 - 1212

Bernard III

Count of Anhalt.

1212 - 1260

Albert II

Margrave of Brandenburg (1205-1260).

1260 - 1272

John I

Son. Ruled Saxe-Lauenberg from after 1272.

1260 - 1298

Albert III

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

1272 - 1356

At some point after 1272, John and Albert divide their Saxony between them. Saxe-Lauenberg 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.

In 1314 they are on opposite sides of a double election and eventually the Saxe-Wittenbergers under Rudolf II succeed in gaining the upper hand. To distinguish Rudolf from other, now lesser, dukes of Saxony, he uses the title of Elector of Saxony.

Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg
AD 1272 - 1689

Following the division of the duchy of Saxony by John I and Albert III, Saxe-Lauenburg (or Saxe-Lauenberg in some sources) formed the western half of the territory while Saxe-Wittenberg formed the eastern half. Both duchies claimed the title of prince-elector of the Holy Roman empire until the Saxe-Lauenburgers gained the upper hand in 1314. A further division fractured the duchy even further.

1272 - 1285

John I

Former duke of Saxony.

1285 - 1305

John II

Son. Ruled Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf from 1305.

1296 - 1305

Albrecht III

Brother. Ruled jointly. Ruled Saxe-Ratzeburg from 1305.

1296 - 1305

Erich I

Brother. Ruled jointly. Ruled Saxe-Ratzeburg from 1305.


In 1305 the three brothers divide their territory into Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf and Saxe-Ratzeburg.

Duchy of Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf

Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf and Saxe-Ratzeburg were created in 1305 from a division of lands within the already-reduced duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.

1305 - 1321

John II

Former duke of Saxe-Lauenburg.

1321 - 1343

Albrecht IV

1343 - 1356

John III

1356 - 1370

Albrecht V

1370 - 1401

Erich III


This senior Lauenberg line becomes extinct with the death of Erich, and the territory is joined with that of Saxe-Ratzeburg.

Duchy of Saxe-Ratzeburg

Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf and Saxe-Ratzeburg were created in 1305 from a division of lands within the already-reduced duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.

1305 - 1308

Albrecht III

Former duke of Saxe-Lauenburg.

1305 - 1361

Erich I

Brother. Ruled jointly until his brother's death.

1361 - 1368

Erich II

1368 - 1401

Erich IV

Ruled a reunited Saxe-Lauenburg from 1401.


The line of dukes in Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf dies out and the territory is rejoined to Saxe-Ratzeburg.

Duchy of Saxe-Lauenberg (Saxe-Ratzeburg)

Saxe-Mölln-Bergedorf and Saxe-Ratzeburg were rejoined in 1401 under the latter line of dukes.

1401 - 1412

Erich IV

Former duke of Saxe-Ratzeburg.

1412 - 1436

Erich V

1412 - 1436

John IV

Ruled jointly.

1436 - 1463

Bernhard III

1463 - 1507

John V

1507 - 1543

Magnus I

1543 - 1581

Franz I

1581 - 1603

Magnus II

1603 - 1619

Franz II

1619 - 1656


1656 - 1665

Julius Heinrich

1665 - 1666

Franz Erdmann

1666 - 1689

Julius Franz


The duchy passes out of Saxon hands to the Welfs in the form of Georg Wilhelm, duke of Brunswick, elector of Hanover, and father of the future George I of England.


The duchy is united with the kingdom of Denmark within the German Confederation.


Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in central Europe. Prussia gains the newly-created kingdom of Italy as an ally in the south and several minor German states in the north. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant. Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, the kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hessen-Kassel, and the duchy of Nassau, along with the free city of Frankfurt. Prussia also subsumes Schleswig and Holstein, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876).

Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg
AD 1272 - 1356

Following the division of the duchy of Saxony by John I and Albert III, Saxe-Lauenburg formed the western half of the territory while Saxe-Wittenberg formed the eastern half. Both duchies claimed the title of prince-elector of the Holy Roman empire until the Saxe-Lauenburgers gained the upper hand in 1314.

1272 - 1298

Albert III

Former duke of Saxony.

1298 - 1356

Rudolf I


Rudolf I's successor, Rudolf II, gains the title of prince-elector and his duchy is accordingly raised in its level of importance to become the electorate of Saxony.

Electorate of Saxony (Saxe-Wittenberg)
AD 1356 - 1806

The title of the duchy of Saxony had passed to the margraves of Meissen, a march county between the original Saxon lands and Poland. Later Saxony was situated east and south of the original duchy, while the former territory eventually became known as Upper Saxony, and was subsumed within Westphalia. The later lands around the Lower Elbe became Lower Saxony, and this is where the name survived until the end of the German empire.

As with many German states, territory continued to be divided with formal and permanent divisions between heirs, and some of these were never undone by succeeding generations. In fact, there could sometimes be as many dukes as there were heirs. The complicated divisions and swapping of territory and names are not covered in detail here but are covered in brief, below.

The Saxon ruler's role as one of the seven electors of the empire was irrevocably confirmed in 1356 by the Golden Bull of Emperor Karl IV, which also decreed that the Duke of Saxony should be imperial administrator of the territory subject to Saxon law in the absence of the Emperor.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

1356 - 1370

Rudolf II

Former duke of Saxe-Wittenberg.

1370 - 1388

Wenzel / Wenceslaus

1388 - 1419

Rudolf III

Died 1419.

1419 - 1422

Albert III

Electorate of Saxony (Wettins)

After the death in 1422 of Elector Albrecht IV, last descendant in the male line of the Ballenstedt dynasty, Emperor Sigmund appointed Friedrich IV 'der Streitbare' Markgraf von Meissen and Landgraf of Thuringia as duke of Saxony. His descendants continued to rule Saxony until the end of the First World War.

(Additional information from External Link: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.)

1423 - 1428

Frederick I the Warlike

Duke & elector.

1428 - 1464

Frederick II the Gentle

Elector. Ruled in absentia?

1445 - 1482

William III

In Thuringia. Rival duke of Luxemburg (1439-1482).

1464 - 1485


Elector. Founder of the Ernestine Line in Saxe-Thuringen.

1464 - 1485

Albert the Bold

Duke. Founder of the Albertine Line in Saxe-Meissen.


The electorate's territory is divided between Ernest and Albert. Ernest's line, in Saxe-Thuringen, holds the electorship for a few generations before the Albertines gain precedence in Saxe-Meissen.

Saxe-Altenberg is also created in 1602, and is part of Saxe-Gotha between 1672-1826, when it regains its autonomy and survives until the end of the First World War in 1918. Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar are divisions of Saxe-Thuringen created in 1553.

Electorate of Saxony (Saxe-Thuringen)

Duke Ernest was the senior of the two Wettins who divided the electorate in 1485, with his branch holding the title of prince-elector (although only for a few generations. The junior branch was Saxe-Meissen.

1485 - 1486


Elector. Founder of the Ernestine Line.

1486 - 1525

Frederick III the Wise


1525 - 1532

John the Constant


1532 - 1547

John Frederick I the Magnanimous



Many of the empire's princes and lords are organised by Elector John Frederick and Duke Philip I of Hesse to form the Schmalkaldic League when meeting at the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia. Both have seen increasingly that there are moves by the Catholic leaders to provide a unified response to what they see as the Protestant 'threat', and they realise that the Protestant leaders need to be similarly unified in their response.

1542 - 1553

John Ernest

In Coburg.

1546 - 1547

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sees the tide of conversions to Protestant rites as a move by the many princes and lords of the empire to gain more autonomy from imperial governance. Now that Charles has returned from his war in Italy, the two sides concentrate their forces, with Charles intent on destroying the Protestant league. Elector John is distracted by his cousin, Duke Maurice of the Albertine Saxe-Meissen, invading his lands in Ernestine Saxony, and ultimately the league is defeated in the Schmalkaldic War. John is captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice. The Albertines retain the electorship permanently. Philip of Hesse is also imprisoned until 1552.


Saxe-Thuringen is divided into Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar.


Saxe-Gotha is partitioned to form Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Eisenach.


After one generation Saxe-Eisenach's holdings are handed out to the newly created Saxe-Altenberg and Saxe-Weimar.


Saxe-Coburg doesn't outlive its sole duke, going Saxe-Eisenach.

1640 - 1680

Saxe-Gotha re-emerges (for two generations of dukes). Saxe-Eisenach also re-emerges for just four years before being divided up between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha.


Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels, and Saxe-Zeitz are created.


Saxe-Eisenach reappears (for two generations) out of Saxe-Weimar. Both Saxe-Jena (which lasts for two generations), and Saxe-Marksuhl are also partitioned out of Saxe-Weimar.


Saxe-Eisenach goes to Saxe-Marksuhl.


Saxe-Eisenberg is created for one generation. Saxe-Meiningen is also created. Saxe-Gotha re-emerges (for two generations of dukes) and is partitioned between (and into) Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1680-1825), Saxe-Coburg (which re-emerges under one duke only), Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Römhild, Saxe-Eisenberg, Saxe-Hildburghausen (1680-1826), and Saxe-Saalfeld.


Saxe-Eisenach reappears (for three generations).


Saxe-Jena is divided between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach.


Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Saalfeld are merged, becoming Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.


Saxe-Eisenberg goes to Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.


Saxe-Römhild goes to Saxe-Meiningen.


Saxe-Zeitz goes to the electorate of Saxony.


Saxe-Merseburg goes to the kingdom of Saxony.


Saxe-Eisenach goes to Saxe-Weimar, which is renamed Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. It survives until 1918. One of its most notable grand dukes is Prince Bernhard, who serves as governor-general of Luxembourg in 1831.

Princess Anna of Prussia
Princess Maria Anna Friederike (Anna), daughter of Prince Charles of Prussia and Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, married Prince Frederick William I of Hessen-Kassel in 1853 but, as his second wife following the tragic death of his first during childbirth, she found the relationship to be loveless, if productive (oil on canvas by Franz Xaver Winterhalter) (click or tap on image to view full sized)


The wife of Duke Ernest III of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld is heiress to Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, so when her father dies, the latter title falls to Ernest as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Saxe-Altenburg is detached from Saxe-Gotha and passes to Saxe-Hildburghausen. The duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen takes this title in place of his previous title, and Saxe-Hildburghausen passes to Saxe-Meiningen. Saxe-Meiningen is renamed Saxe-Meiningen-Hildburghausen. It also survives until 1918.

Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The wife of Duke Ernest III of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was the heiress to Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. When her father died in 1826 the latter title fell to Ernest as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In the process, the new sovereign duchy lost Saxe-Altenburg to Saxe-Hildburghausen. However, it was the source of some importance marriages into other European monarchies, and survived until 1918.

1826 - 1844

Ernest I

First duke. Formerly Ernest III of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Prince Ferdinand

Younger brother. Ferdinand II of Portugal (1836-1853).

Prince Leopold

Youngest brother. Leopold I of the Belgians (1831-1865).

Prince Francis Albert

Second son of Ernest I. m Queen Victoria of England (1839).

1844 - 1893

Ernest II



Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in central Europe. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant. Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876). The new, Prussian-dominated North German Confederation gains members in Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the kingdom of Saxony, among many others.

Prince Ferdinand

Grandson of Ferdinand. Ferdinand of Bulgaria (1887-1918).

1893 - 1900


Son of Prince Francis Albert & Victoria of England.


Brother. Duke of Albany. Died before accession.

1900 - 1918

Carl Eduard



All German monarchies are abolished upon the defeat of the German empire in the First World War. Saxony is recreated as a constituent part of the new federal Germany and its future fortunes would be tied to this new political creation.

1918 - 1954

Carl Eduard

Hereditary duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

1954 - 1998

Prince Friedrich Josias

Son. Born 29 November 1918.

1998 - ?

Prince Andreas

Son. Born 21 March 1943.

Prince Hubertus Michael

Son and heir. Born 16 September 1975.


The death of Prince Johannes Heinrich of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in April 2010 means that a distant cousin becomes heir to the title. The late prince's uncle, Philipp, and his descendants from his morganatic marriage with Sarah Aurelia Halasz have already been barred from the inheritance. The new holder is Simeon II, hereditary king of Bulgaria.

2010 - 2012

Simeon II

Cousin. Hereditary king of Bulgaria. Born 16 June 1937.


Simeon nominally cedes his rights (and those of his children) to leadership of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to his sister, Marie Louise.

2012 - ?

Marie Louise

Sister of Simeon II of Bulgaria.

Electorate of Saxony (Saxe-Meissen)

Duke Albert was the junior of the two Wettins who divided the electorate in 1485, with his branch gaining the title of prince-elector after a few generations had passed. The senior branch was Saxe-Thuringen.

1485 - 1500

Albert the Bold

Duke. Founder of the Albertine Line.

1500 - 1539

George the Bearded



Younger brother and grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

1473 - 1541

Henry the Pious

1541 - 1553

Maurice / Moritz

Elector of Saxony from 1547.


Many of the empire's princes and lords are organised by Elector John Frederick I of Saxe-Thuringen and Duke Philip I of Hesse to form the Schmalkaldic League when meeting at the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia. Both have seen increasingly that there are moves by the Catholic leaders to provide a unified response to what they see as the Protestant 'threat', and they realise that the Protestant leaders need to be similarly unified in their response.

1546 - 1547

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sees the tide of conversions to Protestant rites as a move by the many princes and lords of the empire to gain more autonomy from imperial governance. Now that Charles has returned from his war in Italy, the two sides concentrate their forces, with Charles intent on destroying the Protestant league. Elector John Frederick I Saxe-Thuringen is distracted by his cousin, Duke Maurice, invading his lands in Ernestine Saxony, and ultimately the league is defeated in the Schmalkaldic War. John is captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice. The Albertines retain the electorship permanently. Philip of Hesse is also imprisoned until 1552.

1553 - 1586


1586 - 1591

Christian I

1591 - 1611

Christian II

1611 - 1656

John George I

1630 - 1632

Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in summer 1630. As part of the military funding, tolls and food supplies secured in Swedish Prussia are pivotal assets. The first major victory of the Protestant forces in the war is at the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, which ensures that the northern German Protestant states will not be forced to reconvert to Catholicism. The forces of Sweden and Saxony force the Catholic League's line to collapse, and serious casualty numbers are inflicted on the armies of the Holy Roman empire, Hungary and Croatia. Tragically for Sweden, the king is killed at the Battle of Lützen on 6 November 1632. Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna, governor-general of Swedish Prussia, becomes supreme commander of the Swedish troops in Germany and then regent for the king's daughter, Christina.


Saxe-Meissen is partitioned by John George's successors into a smaller Saxe-Weissenfels, Saxe-Merseburg, and Saxe-Zeitz. Now reduced, Saxe-Meissen continues to retain the electorship.

1656 - 1680

John George II

1680 - 1691

John George III

1691 - 1694

John George IV

1694 - 1734

Frederick Augustus I

Also Augustus II the Strong, first Saxon king of Poland-Lithuania.

1697 - 1704

Poland is joined with Saxony in personal union under Augustus.

1702 - 1710

Sweden moves fast to try and knock Saxony and Poland out of the Great Northern War by occupying large areas of Poland. However, victory falls to Russia, Poland and Denmark in 1721, when the Treaty of Nystad ends the Swedish Scandinavian empire.


The electorate gains Saxe-Zeitz.

1734 - 1763

Frederick Augustus II

Son. Also king of Poland-Lithuania.


The electorate gains Saxe-Merseburg.

1740 - 1741

The duke of Courland is exiled by the new Russian regime but continues to claim to rule. The landowners ignore him and Frederick Augustus II announces his son, Count Carl of Saxony, as the next duke.

1740 - 1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is a wide-ranging conflict that encompasses the North American King George's War, two Silesian Wars, the War of Jenkins' Ear, and involves most of the crowned heads of Europe in deciding the question of whether Maria Theresa can succeed as archduke of Austria and, perhaps even more importantly, as Holy Roman Emperor. Austria is supported by Britain, the Netherlands, the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia, and Saxony (after an early switchover), but opposed by an opportunistic Prussia and France, who had raised the question in the first place to disrupt Habsburg control of central Europe, backed up by Bavaria and Sweden (briefly). Spain joins the war in an unsuccessful attempt to restore possessions lost to Austria in 1715.

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

The War of Jenkins' Ear pitches Britain against Spain between 1739-1748. The Russo-Swedish War, or Hats' Russian War, is the Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia in 1741-1743. King George's War is fought between Britain and France in the French Colonies in 1744-1748. The First Carnatic War of 1746-1748 involves the struggle for dominance in India by France and Britain. Henry Pelham, leader of the English government in Parliament, is successful in ending the war, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Austria is ultimately successful, losing only Silesia to Prussia.


The electorate gains Saxe-Weissenfels.

1763 - 1806

Frederick Augustus III Christian Leopold



On 3 May, the Polish constitution gives formal sanction to the union with Lithuania, removing the process of electing kings and making the crown hereditary again under the Saxon dynasty.


The electorate is elevated to a kingdom by France's Napoleon Bonaparte on 11 December.

Kingdom of Saxony
AD 1806 - 1918

Raised to a kingdom by France, the new king also found himself in command of the grand duchy of Warsaw, which was created in personal union with Saxony, reviving the eighteenth century relationship between the two countries. By 1814, the Napoleonic Wars had been brought to a conclusion, apart from the Hundred Days of 1815, and Saxony was heavily punished for its involvement with France, even though it had been presented with no choice in the matter. Prussia, intent on empire-building, halved the kingdom, taking the territory for itself. The duchies of Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels and Saxe-Zeitz were lost.

However, the practice of sub-dividing Saxony's surviving territories had been continued, so that the grand duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the duchies of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Hildburghausen, and Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld all existed alongside the kingdom of Saxony.

1806 - 1827

Frederick Augustus I Christian Leopold

Survived Napoleonic Wars but lost half of kingdom to Prussia.

1813 - 1814

In March 1813, the grand duchy of Warsaw is occupied by Russia while the allies continue to push the French army ever further westwards. The Battle of Leipzig in Saxony in October of the same year frees Germany from French influence, setting up a climax to the war in 1814. The Congress of Poland is formed by the victorious powers at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and Polish territory is effectively re-partitioned, removing it once again from Saxon control.

Map of Confederation of German States AD 1815
French defend against Prussians. Leipzig 1813
French grenadiers of the line defend against an attack by Prussian infantry in the three-day Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, dubbed the 'Battle of the Nations' due to the number of states involved, in this 1914 painting by Richard Knötel - above that is a map of the new post-wars Confederation of German States (click or tap on map to view full sized)


The wife of the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld is heiress to Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, so the latter title falls to Saxe-Coburg as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The duke's second son, Albert, marries (in 1839) to Queen Victoria of England, while his elder son inherits the duchy. Saxe-Altenburg is detached from Saxe-Gotha and passes to Saxe-Hildburghausen. The latter duke exchanges this for his old territory, which passes to Saxe-Meiningen.

1827 - 1836

Anthony Clement

1836 - 1854

Frederick Augustus II

1854 - 1873

John / Johann


Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in central Europe. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant. Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876). The new, Prussian-dominated North German Confederation gains members in Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the kingdom of Saxony, among many others.

Austro-Prussian War 1866
Austria's slow-moving forces were outpaced by Prussia's fully modern army during the Austro-Prussian War, which decided the power balance in central Europe, as shown in this oil by Georg Bleibtreu


The kingdom is annexed as part of the German empire by Prussia. Ironically, Prussia itself had originally been created out of the margraviate of Brandenburg, which the original dukes of Saxony helped create. Saxony now occupies the position of a sub-kingdom.

1873 - 1902

Albert the Good

1902 - 1904


1904 - 1918

Frederick Augustus III

Last king of Saxony.


The German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). At the start it is successful against the Russian invasion of Prussia, routing their army at the Battle of Tannenberg, and in the west its armies reach the northern outskirts of Paris (occupying Luxembourg along the way) before they are stopped by the armies of Britain and France, together with the small Belgian army.


All German monarchies are abolished upon the defeat of the German empire in the First World War. Saxony is recreated as a constituent part of the new federal Germany and its future fortunes are to be tied to this new political creation.

Hereditary Kings of Saxony (Wettins)
AD 1918 - Present Day

1918 - 1932

Friedrich Augustus III


Germany adopts the democratic 'Weimar constitution' following the abolition of the German empire. This new Germany consists of the former German kingdoms and duchies, all of which have now been abolished, including Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, Lippe, Saxony and Württemberg.


Eldest son.

1932 - 1968

Frederick Christian

Second son. Margrave of Meissen.

1933 - 1945

The Third Reich ('third empire' of Germany, which claims the first (Holy Roman) and second (German) empires as its forebears in order to attain a level of legitimacy) is established under Adolf Hitler's dictatorial Nazi rule, sweeping away the Weimar republic. The Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Great Britain pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September. Hitler subsequently commits suicide in his bunker on 30 April 1945 as Soviet Russian forces overrun Berlin. Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally on 7 May to the Allies at General Eisenhower's HQ at Rheims in France.

1968 - Present

Maria Emanuel

Son. Margrave of Meissen.

1989 - 1990

With the weakening of the Soviet Union and increased calls for reform, the Berlin Wall is pulled down by the people of both halves of the divided city, the border guards taking no action to stop them. The following year, the two Germanies are reunited on 3 October.