History Files
 

European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Saxe-Meissen (Saxony)
AD 1485 - 1547

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

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.

1485 - 1500

Albert the Bold

Duke. Founder of the Albertine line of Saxony.

1500 - 1539

George the Bearded

Son.

Frederick

Younger brother and grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

1473 - 1541

Henry the Pious

1541 - 1553

Maurice / Moritz

Elector of Saxony from 1547.

1531

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.

The Schmalkaldic League
The Schmalkaldic League was formed in 1531 during a meeting of German princes and dukes in the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia.

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 is 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 as the electors of Saxony.

Electorate of Saxony (Wettins)
AD 1547 - 1806

 

1547 - 1553

Maurice / Moritz

First elector. Former duke of Saxe-Meissen.

1553

Saxe-Thuringen is divided into Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar when Duke Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar creates a subdivision for his younger brother, Ernest I the Pious. Weimar had previously been outside Saxon control, having been granted to Albert the Bear, Ascanian duke of Saxony, when he had relinquished that title in 1142.

1553 - 1586

Augustus

1572

Saxe-Gotha is partitioned to form the junior subdivisions of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Eisenach.

Map of German states AD 1560
Introduced in 1560, the system of imperial states replaced the now-outdated feudal system, with an imperial circle ('reichskreis') being a regional grouping of the imperial states (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1586 - 1591

Christian I

1591 - 1611

Christian II

1602

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

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.

1633

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.

1656

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

Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels, and Saxe-Zeitz are created. John George II remains the senior of the four brothers, and the remaining portions of Saxe-Meissen remains the senior division.

1656 - 1680

John George II

Succeeded, but lost several divided territories.

1662

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.

1671

Saxe-Eisenach goes to Saxe-Marksuhl.

1680 - 1691

John George III

1680

Saxe-Gotha is divided for the seven sons of Duke Ernst der Fromme ('the Pious'). 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.

1686

Saxe-Eisenach reappears (for three generations).

1689

The duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg 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.

1690

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

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.

1699

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

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.

1707

Saxe-Eisenberg goes to Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

1710

Saxe-Römhild goes to Saxe-Meiningen.

1718

The electorate gains Saxe-Zeitz.

1734 - 1763

Frederick Augustus II

Son. Also king of Poland-Lithuania.

1738

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 Courland's 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.

1741

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)

1746

The electorate gains Saxe-Weissenfels.

1763 - 1806

Frederick Augustus III Christian Leopold

Son.

1791

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.

1806

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 territories that had previously formed Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels and Saxe-Zeitz but which had gradually been regained by Saxe-Meissen were now lost again, this time permanently.

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)

1826

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

1866

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

1871

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 had helped to create. Saxony now occupies the position of a sub-kingdom.

1873 - 1902

Albert the Good

1902 - 1904

George

1904 - 1918

Frederick Augustus III

Last king of Saxony.

1914

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.

1918

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

The Wettin noble house does not hold a formal claim to any Polish crown, but it does have the best position in any race for one, should a Polish kingdom ever again be considered. The elective monarchy of the Polish commonwealth generally meant that no particular royal house could claim to be the hereditary king of Poland. However, on 3 May 1791, the Polish constitution gave formal sanction to the union with Lithuania, removing the process of electing kings and making the crown hereditary again under the ruling Saxon dynasty. The commonwealth was rapidly dying by this time though, so the sanction had little real effect, and the constitution itself may be of dubious legal status as it was forcibly cancelled in 1792.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, and from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008).)

1918 - 1932

Friedrich Augustus III

1919

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.

George

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.