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European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Saxe-Meissen (Saxony)
AD 1485 - 1547

The state of Saxe-Thuringen was a descendant of the electorate of Saxony which had been reconstituted in 1356 in the form of Saxe-Wittenberg. The role of the senior Saxon duke as one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman empire was irrevocably confirmed in 1356 by the Golden Bull of Emperor Charles IV, which also decreed that the duke of Saxony should be imperial administrator of any territory which was subject to Saxon law in the absence of the emperor.

The Saxe-Wittenbergers were thereby confirmed as electors, although there could sometimes be as many Saxon dukes as there were heirs. As with many German states during the second millennium AD, territory continued to be divided with formal and permanent divisions between heirs, and some of these were never undone by succeeding generations. Only one branch of the family would ever retain the important and powerful position of elector though.

The death in 1422 of Elector Albert IV, nicknamed 'the poor' due to the impoverished nature of his state, left it without an heir. He was the last descendant in the male line of the Ballenstedt dynasty. A fresh appointment was in the emperor's hands, so Emperor Sigmund appointed his faithful servant, Friedrich IV 'der Streitbare'. Ironically it had been against the Wettins of Meissen that the Saxons had fought several conflicts in the fourteenth century. Friedrich's descendants continued to rule Saxony until the end of the First World War.

The Wettin Duke Ernest of Saxony became sole ruler of all of the Wettin territories in 1482, upon the death of his uncle, William III, landgrave of Thuringia. In 1485 he and his brother, Albert 'the Bold', agreed under the terms of the Treaty of Leipzig (or 'Partition of Leipzig') to divide their Wettin territories between them. The division was generally between the Saxon and Thuringian halves, with Ernest retaining the Saxon part as the prince-elector of the duchy of Saxe-Thuringen. Albert gained the Thuringian part as the duke of Saxe-Meissen. Two pockets of territory to the east of the main holdings remained shared. However, this division actually harmed the prospects of a central German unified state emerging. It took another three centuries and the rise of Brandenburg Prussia for that to happen.

Duke Ernest and his Ernestine line of dukes held the all-important title of prince-elector for only a few generations. The junior branch in Saxe-Meissen eventually gained the title of prince-elector for itself. The numbering for Albert III seemingly ignores Saxe-Lauenburg's numbering - which had already been done in Saxe-Wittenberg by Albert 'the Poor' in 1419, but also seems to ignore Albert 'the Poor' himself. Strictly speaking, Albert 'the Bold' should have been Albert V. The later Albert 'the Good' of the kingdom of Saxony (1873-1892) was not affected by this as the numbering had been reset by Saxony's elevation to a kingdom.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information 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), and Triumph for the heretics: the Battle of Aussig, Alexander Querengässer (Medieval Warfare Medieval Warfare, Vol 5, No 2, Karwansaray BV, 2015, and available via JSTOR), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 Edition.)

1485 - 1500

Albert III 'the Bold'

Duke. Founder of the Albertine line of Saxony.

1486

Duke Ernest of Saxe-Thuringen, just nine months after signing the Treaty of Leipzig to formalise the division of Wettin lands between himself and his brother (Albert 'the Bold'), takes a fall from his horse. He dies on 26 August at the young age of forty-six.

Maximilian I of Austria and the Holy Roman empire
The sole heiress of Burgundy, Mary, married Maximilian of Austria, who became Holy Roman emperor in 1493 while also personally ruling Belgium, Burgundy, the Netherlands, and Austria

1489 - 1492

The Second Flemish Revolt in the Netherlands is triggered in Ghent in November 1487. When Maximilian of Habsburg attempts to blockade the city, Bruges joins the revolt, capturing Maximilian himself. The empire sends further troops, backed by Antwerp. In 1489, Albert 'the Bold' is drafted in as the governor of the Netherlands to suppress the revolt by 1492. However, Albert dies on a further campaign in 1500 while attempted to secure his own lands in Friesland, gifted to him by the emperor.

1500 - 1539

George 'the Bearded'

Son. Opposed the Reformation.

Frederick

Younger brother. Grand master, Teutonic Knights (1497-1510).

1539 - 1541

Henry IV 'the Pious'

Brother. Acceded aged 66. Introduced Lutherism.

1539

Henry's numbering as the fourth of his name to rule Saxon lands continued from that of Henry III 'the Lion', Welf duke of Saxony from 1142. Prior to assuming command in Saxony, Henry had been lord of Friesland, the remnant of Albert 'the Bold's gifted territory in the Netherlands. With revolts and uprisings there seemingly never-ending and Henry not being of an especially active disposition, he had sold the lands to George in 1505.

1541 - 1547

Maurice / Moritz

Son. Elector of Saxony from 1547 to 1553.

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. While Maurice is generally a supporter of Protestantism, he is also highly political, with an eye on the prize of the Saxon electorship which John Frederick holds.

Ultimately the league is defeated in the Schmalkaldic War. Elector John Frederick 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. Maurice and his Albertine line permanently retains the electorship as the electors of Saxony.

Electorate of Saxony / Saxe-Meissen (Wettins)
AD 1547 - 1806

The Wettin Duke Ernest of Saxony became sole ruler of all of the remaining eastern Saxon territories in 1482, upon the death of his uncle, William III, landgrave of Thuringia. In 1485 he and his brother, Albert 'the Bold', agreed under the terms of the Treaty of Leipzig (or 'Partition of Leipzig') to divide their territories between them. The division was generally between the Saxon and Thuringian halves, with Ernest retaining the Saxon part as the prince-elector of the duchy of Saxe-Thuringen. Albert gained the Thuringian part as the duke of Saxe-Meissen. Two pockets of territory to the east of the main holdings remained shared. However, this division actually harmed the prospects of a central German unified state emerging. It took another three centuries and the rise of Brandenburg Prussia for that to happen.

Duke Ernest and his Ernestine line of dukes in Saxe-Thuringen held the all-important title of prince-elector for only a few generations. The junior branch in Saxe-Meissen gained the prestigious title and position for itself by politically outmanoeuvring Saxe-Thuringen during the divisive Schmalkaldic War. Although generally a supporter of Protestantism, Maurice of Saxe-Meissen ensured that his cousin was on the losing side of the war by attacking him in person. Elector John Frederick I of Saxe-Thuringen was captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice. Maurice and his descendants would forever retain the title, although Maurice would be forced to fight several battles against the Catholic side of the imperial territories to consolidate acceptance of Protestantism.

The situation regarding territorial divisions became increasingly complicated during this period. In 1656 Saxe-Meissen sub-divided itself to create Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels, and Saxe-Zeitz. None would last very long, with the territory being drawn back into Saxe-Meissen. Saxe-Thuringen was divided in 1553 into Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar, while Saxe-Coburg was absorbed by the former. Saxe-Gotha was sub-divided in 1572 to create Saxe-Eisenach, and this was also sub-divided, in 1602, to create Saxe-Altenburg. The latter was part of Saxe-Gotha between 1672-1826 before regaining its autonomy and surviving until the end of the First World War in 1918. The complexity was far deeper than this brief précis, with details being included in specific pages.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information 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), and Triumph for the heretics: the Battle of Aussig, Alexander Querengässer (Medieval Warfare Medieval Warfare, Vol 5, No 2, Karwansaray BV, 2015, and available via JSTOR), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 Edition.)

1547 - 1553

Maurice / Moritz

First elector. Duke of Saxe-Meissen. Died of battle wounds.

1553

Saxe-Thuringen is divided into Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar by the sons of John Frederick I. The eldest becomes Duke John Frederick II of Saxe-Gotha while also being the dominant authority in Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Coburg. John William receives Saxe-Weimar. 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. It is the electorate of Saxe-Meissen which is now and remains the senior Saxon line, even eventually being elevated to the status of kingdom.

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)

1553 - 1586

Augustus

Brother. Strengthened and increased territories.

1566

John Frederick of Saxe-Gotha continues to pursue the aim of regaining his family's lost territory and the Saxon electorship. He attacks Würzburg, capturing and plundering it. Augustus launches his own retaliatory attack, capturing Gotha, John Frederick's leading general, and the duke himself. John Frederick is removed from his position and peace is restored.

1572 - 1573

As part of an ongoing German pattern of sub-dividing their imperial territories, Saxe-Gotha is partitioned to form the junior subdivisions of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Eisenach. Elector Augustus becomes guardian to the two sons of John William of Saxe-Weimar following John's death in 1573.

1586 - 1591

Christian I

Son.

1591 - 1611

Christian II

Son. Acceded aged 8. Died without an heir.

1591 - 1601

Sophie of Brandenburg

Mother & regent. Dau of John George of Brandenburg.

1591 - 1601

Frederick William I

Duke of Saxe-Weimar. Co-regent.

1591 - 1601

When Elector Christian I of Saxe-Meissen dies, his son and heir is aged only eight years. His mother, Sophie of Brandenburg, becomes regent for the young Christian II, but Frederick William of Saxe-Weimar is asked to assist. This he does with enthusiasm, possibly encouraged by a positive experience during the regency period of his own early years. He moves to Torgau to take up his administrative duties in Saxe-Meissen, placing his younger brother, John, in command of Saxe-Weimar.

Frederick William I of Saxe-Weimar
Frederick William I of Saxe-Weimar was only too keen on assisting in the running of Saxe-Meissen and the electorate, but in doing so he neglected his own domains

1603

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

Brother of Christian II. Lands divided upon his death.

1630 - 1632

Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in summer 1630, albeit without either Saxe-Meissen, Saxe-Lauenburg, or Saxe-Coburg taking part (John George prefers to avoid directly siding with either side, despite a history of supporting the Habsburg emperor in return for his own ownership of ecclesiastical lands). As part of the military funding, tolls and food supplies secured in Swedish Prussia are pivotal assets.

The stance taken by the empire in opposition means invading Saxony itself, which drives John George into the arms of the Protestant opposition (albeit in a half-hearted fashion). Saxe-Coburg also sides with the Swedes. The first major victory of the Protestant forces in the war is at the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, although the Saxon forces are routed during the engagement. The victory ensures that the northern German Protestant states will not be forced to reconvert to Catholicism by the Holy Roman empire.

French troops during the Thirty Years War
The onset of the Thirty Years War was marked by the newly-elected Holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand II, imposing religious uniformity on all his lands, which meant that all Protestants would have to covert - an impossible demand

1633 - 1635

Saxe-Coburg doesn't outlive its sole duke following his death in 1633, with the lands going (briefly) to his brother, John Ernest of Saxe-Eisenach, to increase the overall size of his holdings. In 1635 John George agrees the Treaty of Prague with Emperor Ferdinand II, which gives him Lusatia and a few other pockets of territory.

1641 - 1680

Saxe-Gotha re-emerges (for two generations of dukes). Having been subsumed following the death in 1638 of Duke John Ernest, Saxe-Eisenach also re-emerges for just four years, thanks to the newly-acclaimed Duke William of Saxe-Weimar creating it for his younger brother. Albert IV. Albert's death without an heir just three years later means it is 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. The agreement is confirmed by John George II and his brothers in 1657, with the aim being to avoid fratricidal disputes over the succession. Now reduced, Saxe-Meissen continues to retain the electorship under John George II. He remains the senior of the four brothers, and the remaining portions of Saxe-Meissen remain part of the senior division.

1656 - 1680

John George II

Son. Ruled without several divided territories.

1662

Saxe-Eisenach reappears (for two generations), formed out of Saxe-Weimar following the death of Duke William. One of his four sons, Adolf William, receives it, although he has to share it with a younger brother, John George. Both Saxe-Jena (which lasts for two generations), and Saxe-Marksuhl are also partitioned out of Saxe-Weimar.

The market place of Saxe-Marksuhl, with the castle tower in the background
Modern Marksuhl's immaculate market place is shown here, with the castle tower rising in the background as part of the home of the dukes of Saxe-Marksuhl

1671 - 1672

With the untimely death in 1671 of the young and sickly William Augustus, Saxe-Eisenach goes to John George of Saxe-Marksuhl, who governs his territory from the small town of Marksuhl. In the following year another death, this time of Frederick William III of Saxe-Altenburg, means that his heirless lands are partitioned. Saxe-Eisenach, still held by Saxe-Marksuhl, gains some territory out of this, Saxe-Jena has already been gained by Bernhard, brother of John Ernest II of Saxe-Weimar, and the rest of Saxe-Altenburg is gained by Ernest 'the Pious' of Saxe-Gotha.

1680 - 1691

John George III 'Saxonian Mars'

Son. Marshal of the HRE. Killed by plague on campaign.

1680

Saxe-Gotha is divided for the seven sons of Duke Ernst der Fromme ('the Pious'). Its lands are partitioned between (and into) Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg (which re-emerges under one duke only), Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Römhild, Saxe-Eisenberg, Saxe-Hildburghausen (1680-1826), and Saxe-Saalfeld.

1683

John III of Poland and Charles V of Lorraine lift the siege of Vienna on 12 September, with support from Elector John George III. The victory ends Ottoman expansion in Europe by drawing a metaphorical line in the sand.

1686

Duke John George of Saxe-Marksuhl and Saxe-Eisenach is killed in a hunting accident, just the year following the birth (in 1685) of Johann Sebastian Bach in his own domains. With the late duke's holdings being divided up amongst surviving relatives, Saxe-Eisenach now reappears again as an independent entity (for three generations).

1689

The duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg passes out of Saxon hands to the descendants of Saxony's own former Welfs, in the form of Georg Wilhelm, duke of Brunswick, elector of Hanover, and father of the future George I of England.

Henry the Lion and Matilda
One of the most famous Welfs in European history was Henry 'the Lion', duke of Saxony until he was dispossessed in 1180, although he did retain Brunswick and Lüneburg

1690

The death of the third and last duke of Saxe-Jena, the fifteen year-old John William, son of Bernard II, means that Saxe-Jena's brief existence as an independent territory is ended. Its lands are divided between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach.

1691 - 1694

John George IV

Son. Died of smallpox, without a legitimate heir.

1694 - 1734

Frederick Augustus I

Brother. Augustus II, first Saxon king of Poland-Lithuania.

1697 - 1704

Poland is joined with Saxony in personal union under Augustus for much of his reign in both lands. This temporarily ends when Stanislas Lesczynski, the Swedish candidate and ineffective vassal ruler, is placed in command of Polish lands while Augustus marshals his forces in Saxony.

1699

The death of Albert V of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Saalfeld means that both territories are merged under the banner of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (which had, in effect, already existed in reality under Albert V since 1680). Since Albert has outlived his children, his brothers squabble over the inheritance, with John Ernst finally gaining the lands as the duke of 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. Duke Maurice William of Saxe-Zeitz attempts to seek out Swedish support in his cause to have his lands recognised as an independent imperial entity, but instead Swedish troops occupy Zeitz for a time in 1709. Saxe-Weissenfels is also occupied, between 1706-1707.

Eventual victory falls to Russia, Poland, and Denmark in 1721, when the Treaty of Nystad ends the Swedish Scandinavian empire. The personal union between Saxony and Poland is renewed on 8 August 1709 when Augustus regains the Polish throne. His victory at the Battle of Poltava has made it impossible for Stanislas Lesczynski to retain any pretence at kingship of Poland. Instead he retreats with his Swedish masters to Swedish-controlled Pomerania.

Capture of Malmo 1709
The capture of the town of Malmo in 1709 by Count Magnus Stenbock was probably one of the last Swedish victories of the Great Northern War as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year

1707

The death of Duke Christian of Saxe-Eisenberg without any male heir means that the inheritance of his lands is disputed by his brothers and their descendants. The issue is more notable than the usual inheritance disputes, even being named as the 'Coburg-Eisenberg-Römhild inheritance dispute'. It takes until 1735 to fully iron out, with Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Duke Frederick II being the main beneficiary.

1710

The popular but luxuriously-living Duke Henry of Saxe-Römhild dies without an heir, leaving behind him large debts. His estate is auctioned to the highest bidder in order to meet those debts, with Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld appearing to be the main winner in territorial terms.

1718

Having had five children - two of them sons - and having outlived four of them including the sons, Duke Maurice of Saxe-Zeitz dies at his home in Osterburg Castle. Since he has no male heir his lands and title revert to Frederick Augustus as elector of Saxony.

1734 - 1763

Frederick Augustus II

Son. Also king of Poland-Lithuania. Died of a stroke.

1738

Henry, duke of Saxe-Merseburg, is the last of his particular line, barring two daughters who are ineligible to succeed him. Instead, for the first time since 1656, his title passes back into the hands of the senior branch, Saxe-Meissen and Elector Frederick Augustus II.

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 which 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.

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

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.

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

The death of the heirless Duke William Henry of Saxe-Eisenach means that his territories are combined back into Saxe-Weimar in the form of a personal union, which is generally now known as Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. A formal merger of territories takes place in 1809, and it survives in this form until 1918. One of its most notable grand dukes is Prince Bernhard, who serves as governor-general of Luxembourg in 1831.

Modern Prague
Modern Prague, former capital of the kingdom of Bohemia (and place of death of John Adolf II of Saxe-Weissenfels) was largely rebuilt after the Second World War

1746

Independent since 1656, the death of John Adolf II from a heart attack at the age of sixty-one leaves Saxe-Weissenfels without a surviving male heir. He had been withdrawing into Bohemia along with the Saxon troops who are engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession. His territories and titles revert to the senior branch of the family in the form of Saxe-Meissen and Elector Frederick Augustus II.

1756 - 1763

The Third Silesian War is sparked by Prussia pre-emptively invading Saxony and temporarily occupying it as part of the Seven Years War. Saxon resources are channelled into Prussian hands while Frederick the Great pursues his war against Austria. When the Treaty of Hubertusburg is signed in 1763 to end the war, Saxony is forced to renounce its claim on Silesia.

1763

Frederick Christian

Son. Died of smallpox after three months.

1763 - 1806

Frederick Augustus III

Son. Aged 13 at accession.

1763 - 1768

Francis Xavier

Uncle & regent. Died 1806.

1763 - 1768

Maria Antonia

Dowager electress. Mother of Frederick & regent.

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 formal end of the Holy Roman empire is declared under the dictates of the French Emperor Napoleon I. However, the Austrian empire retains most of its eastern possessions and is (to an extent) a continuation of the Holy Roman empire in all but name.

Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806
The once-formidable army of Frederick the Great was thoroughly beaten in just a month of campaigning by Napoleon Bonaparte, losing the descisive battle of Jena (shown here) and surrendering Stettin to just eight hundred French troops, making it necessary to overhaul Prussia's entire army after 1806

In the autumn of 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte heavily defeats Prussia and the Fourth Coalition, and liberates Prussia's holdings in Poland, forming them into an imperial satellite state. Prussia's ally in the campaign, Saxony, is left without any information on Prussia's subsequent aims so it agrees a separate peace with Napoleon. It is forced to join his Confederation of the Rhine, losing some territory in Thuringia to the new kingdom of Westphalia, while gaining Cottbus from Prussia and being elevated on 11 December as the kingdom of Saxony.

Kingdom of Saxony
AD 1806 - 1918

Duke Ernest and his Ernestine line of dukes in Saxe-Thuringen held the all-important title of prince-elector until 1547. The junior branch in Saxe-Meissen gained this prestigious title and position for itself by politically outmanoeuvring Saxe-Thuringen during the divisive Schmalkaldic War. Although generally a supporter of Protestantism, Maurice of Saxe-Meissen ensured that his cousin was on the losing side of the war by attacking him in person. Elector John Frederick I of Saxe-Thuringen was captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice. Maurice and his descendants would forever retain the title of 'Elector of Saxony'.

Since then Saxony had suffered badly from the territorial divisions which were inherent within the Holy Roman empire, until Napoleon Bonaparte and his 'First Empire' France terminated the empire in 1806. In the autumn of that year, Napoleon heavily defeated Prussia and the Fourth Coalition, leaving Prussia's ally, Saxony, without any idea of its subsequent intentions. Instead, Elector Frederick Augustus III agreed a separate peace with Napoleon. He was forced to join the new Confederation of the Rhine, losing some territory in Thuringia to the invented kingdom of Westphalia, while gaining Cottbus from Prussia and being elevated on 11 December as the kingdom of Saxony.

Now as Frederick Augustus I, the new king also found himself in command of the grand duchy of Warsaw, renewing old links as this entity was created in personal union with Saxony. By 1814, the Napoleonic Wars had largely been brought to a conclusion (aside 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. Those territories which had been Saxon for a millennium and which had previously formed Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels, and Saxe-Zeitz but which had gradually been regained by Saxe-Meissen due to family deaths were now lost again, this time permanently and to non-Saxon rulers. 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.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Campaigns of Napoleon, David Chandler (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1996), from Napoleon 1812, Nigel Nicolson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1985), from The Years of the Sword: Wellington, Elizabeth Longford (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, 1969), from The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter (Marc Raeff, Ed, Doubleday, 1991), from Warfare in the Age of Bonaparte, Michael Glover (Cassell History of Warfare series, Guild Publishing, 1980), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia.com, and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Special Collections (University of Arizona), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 Edition, and The Napoleon Series.)

1806 - 1827

Frederick Augustus I

Formerly 'Elector of Saxony', now king. Lost half of kingdom.

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 German lands of 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 / Anton 'the Kind'

Brother. Acceded aged 71. Died without a male heir.

1830

Following his attempt to restore the Ancien Régime in full, the July Revolution overthrows King Charles X of France, and he abdicates in favour of his ten year-old grandson, Henri, duke of Bordeaux. The revolution also results in some instability in Belgium, Hessen-Homburg, and Saxony. Saxony's unrest results in a change to the constitution in 1831, and the appointment of a younger, more relevant co-regent (Frederick Augustus instead of his father, Prince Maximilian), creating a constitutional monarchy to replace the former feudal organisation.

1836 - 1854

Frederick Augustus II

Nephew, via Prince Maximilian of Saxony.

1849

The 'May Uprising' takes place because Frederick Augustus has rowed back on some of his earlier, more liberal acts. He is forced to flee Königstein Fortress, although within a few days the uprising has been crushed by Saxon and Prussian troops and he is able to return.

1854 - 1873

John / Johann

Brother. Acceded aged 52.

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 (which include Saxony) are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant.

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

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.

1868 - 1871

The exile of Queen Isabella of Spain to France starts a remarkable chain of events. Isabella's abdication on 25 June 1870 leads to the Franco-Prussian War when France refuses to accept the possibility of the Prussian Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen gaining the Spanish throne.

French troops are humiliated by Prussia's ultra-modern army, and by Saxony's allied troops which are ably commanded by its future king, Albert. The siege of Paris by the combined German forces brings about the downfall of its empire. Following the victory, the Second Reich (Germanic empire) is declared by Prussia, which now displaces Austria as the main Germanic power, as well as being the dominant power throughout central and Western Europe.

For its part Saxony is effectively annexed as part of the new empire. 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.

Franc-Prussian War 1870-1871
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 swept away any surviving myth of the greatness of France's military capabilities when the highly modernised Prussian forces drove them back to the gates of Paris

1873 - 1902

Albert 'the Good'

Son. Led and reformed the army prior to acceding.

1902 - 1904

George

Brother. Died aged 72.

1904 - 1918

Frederick Augustus III

Son. Last king of Saxony. Abdicated. Hereditary to 1932.

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. Frederick Augustus voluntarily abdicates his throne. 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. The Hereditary kings of Saxony retain their titles but no particular ongoing claim to their lost throne.

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

As with many of the German principalities during the early modern period, Saxony suffered badly from the territorial divisions which were inherent within the Holy Roman empire. Then Napoleon Bonaparte and his 'First Empire' France terminated the empire in 1806, heavily defeated Prussia and the Fourth Coalition, and left the 'Electorate of Saxony' without a standing ally. With little other choice left to him, Elector Frederick Augustus III agreed a separate peace with Napoleon.

Now as Frederick Augustus I, the new king also found himself in command of the grand duchy of Warsaw, renewing old links as this entity was created in personal union with Saxony. Following the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, Saxony was heavily punished for its involvement with France. Even though it had been presented with no choice in the matter it still lost half its territory to Prussia. The defeat of the French 'Second Empire' in 1871 made it possible for Prussia to create the new German empire, with Saxony as one of its subservient subjects. In this guise it was dragged into the First World War in 1914. All of the German monarchies were abolished upon the defeat of Germany in 1918. King Frederick Augustus III voluntarily abdicated his throne and Saxony was recreated as a constituent part of the new federal Germany.

The Wettin noble house to which Frederick Augustus belonged 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, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Campaigns of Napoleon, David Chandler (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1996), from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia.com, and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Special Collections (University of Arizona), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 Edition, and Royal Musings, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and The Saxon Royal Succession (Eurohistory).)

1918 - 1932

Friedrich Augustus III

Former and last king of Saxony.

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. Saxony becomes the 'Free State of Saxony'.

Spartacist Uprising of 1919
The Spartacist Uprising of radical socialists in 1919 was a general strike which began on 4 January and lasted for nine days as the last act of the German Revolution

1923

Frederick August George

Eldest son. Renounced rights. Possibly assassinated 1943.

1932 - 1968

Frederick Christian

Second son. Born 1893. 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 - 2012

Maria Emanuel

Son. Born 1926. Margrave of Meissen. No children.

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 East German border guards taking no action to stop them. The following year, the two Germanies are reunited on 3 October.

Fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a popular move that was generally people-driven and spontaneous, following the general collapse of the Soviet empire which backed East Germany's police state

1999

With no children of his own, and with his previous nominated heir, Prince Johannes Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, having predeceased him, Marie Emanuel selects Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe. Born Alexander Affif, he is the son of Maria's sister, Princess Anna of Saxony, and Roberto Afif, although their marriage is considered to be contrary to traditional Saxon laws where dynastic inheritance is concerned. The Afif (or Gessaphe) family had provided Lebanon with its Assaf provincial rulers between 1306-1591. Alexander is married to Princess Gisela of Bavaria.

2002

Maria Emanuel's brother, Albert, changes his mind about agreeing to the selection of Prince Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe as selected successor as head of the Saxon royal house. Two other family members back him up, but Maria Emanuel continues to view Alexander as his rightful successor until his own death in 2012.

2012

Albert

Brother. Claimed the succession. Died 3 months later.

2012

Upon the death of Maria Emanuel in July 2012, Prince Albert assumes the position of head of the royal house. It is alleged but not proven, that Albert meets Alexander prior to Maria's funeral to acknowledge him as the head of the house, but Albert himself denies this on his deathbed that October.

Nevertheless, Alexander does assume his role, citing the 1997 agreement as the basis for his claim. During the requiem for Maria, Albert's favourite for the succession, Prince Rüdiger, holds a royalist demonstration outside the cathedral and subsequently appoints himself as head of the royal house in opposition to Alexander.

Prince Maria Emanuel and Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe of Saxony
The death of Prince Maria Emanuel (third from left, with Princess Gisela on his left) and his choice of Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe (left, next to Princess Anastasia-Luise, Maria's wife) as his successor has left Saxony's modern-day royal house divided

2012 - Present

Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe

Nephew. Maria's adopted heir (in 1999). Rightful successor.

2012 - Present

Rüdiger

Son of Timo. Rival claimant, but claim unsubstantiated.

2015

Rüdiger's claim remains unsubstantiated, and is anyway invalid because the children of Prince Timo have already long been deemed as not being members of the Saxon royal house. Rüdiger's mother is the daughter of a butcher, a commoner, with the marriage being declared morganatic (unequal).

The succession of Prince Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe as head of the royal house of Saxony remains disputed, however. A statement is issued by the three most senior surviving Ernestine branches of the Saxon royal family (the Ernestines having descended from the lesser Saxe-Thuringen side of the family). In that statement all three branches withdraw any remaining support from Alexander. The issue remains unresolved.