History Files
 

European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Saxe-Weimar (Saxony)
AD 1553 - 1602

The electorate of Saxe-Thuringen was a descendant of the once-much larger electorate of Saxony which in 1356 had been rebuilt 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 that year 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 death in 1422 of Elector Albert IV left his state without an heir, so Emperor Sigmund appointed his faithful servant, the Wettin noble, Friedrich IV of Meissen. Friedrich's descendants continued to rule Saxony until the end of the First World War. Duke Ernest became sole ruler of all of the Wettin territories in 1482. 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.

Duke Ernest and his Ernestine line held the all-important title of prince-elector for only a few generations. The dukes of Saxe-Thuringen were heavily involved in the Protestant Reformation - Martin Luther was appointed by Duke Frederick III to the University of Wittenberg and was subsequently heavily protected by him. Ultimately, although they served the cause productively, the fortunes of the dukes themselves took a sharp downturn when defeated by the Holy Roman emperor in 1547. The title of prince-elector was transferred to Saxe-Meissen, while Saxe-Coburg had already been divided away for the duke's younger brother. Upon the death of John Frederick I in 1553, Saxe-Thuringen itself was divided to form Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha.

(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, and Saxe-Weimar (Worldstatesmen).)

1554 - 1573

John William

Son of John Fredk I of Saxe-Thuringen. Gained Saxe-Gotha.

1566 - 1567

The brother of John William is John Frederick of Saxe-Gotha. He is placed under the imperial ban in November 1566, but he refuses to obey the emperor even though he has now effectively been removed as duke of Saxe-Gotha. Elector Augustus of Saxony, the target of John Frederick's attacks, launches his own attack. The people of Gotha fail to rise up in support of John Frederick so the town is taken. John Frederick is imprisoned and John William is gifted sole control of the duchy.

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)

1572 - 1573

John William has angered the emperor and even his own subjects by supporting the Catholic French against the Protestant Huguenots. The emperor has encouraged the surviving sons of John Frederick of Saxe-Gotha to agitate against John William so that, by 1572, the 'Division of Erfurt' is concluded.

As part of an ongoing German pattern of sub-dividing their imperial territories, Saxe-Gotha is now partitioned to form the junior subdivisions of Saxe-Coburg - for John Casimir - and Saxe-Eisenach for John Ernest.

John William himself retains a small territory around Weimar, while adding Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Meiningen, and also keeping Gotha itself. Elector Augustus of Saxe-Meissen becomes guardian to John William's two sons following John's death in 1573.

1573 - 1602

Frederick William I

Son. Aged 11 at accession. Absent in 1591-1601. Died.

1573 - 1586

Augustus

Regent and distant relative. Elector of Saxony.

1591 - 1601

When Elector Christian I of Saxe-Meissen dies, his own son and heir is aged only eight years. His mother, Sophie of Brandenburg, becomes regent for the young Christian II, but Frederick William 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. However, he does tend to neglect his own territories to the advantage of the electorate itself.

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

1602 - 1603

John II

Brother of Frederick William. Took Saxe-Jena. Died 1605.

1603 - 1641

After one generation Saxe-Eisenach's holdings are handed out to the newly created Saxe-Altenburg (which has been hived off out of Saxe-Weimar's territories) and to Saxe-Weimar itself. With the newly-matured sons of the late Frederick William II now demanding their inheritance from John II, he gives them Saxe-Altenburg while he retains the smaller creation of Saxe-Weimar-Jena, more usually known simply as Saxe-Jena. An entity which is known solely as Saxe-Weimar re-emerges in 1641 under the command of John's son, William, while William's brother gains Saxe-Gotha.

Saxe-Weimar (Saxony)
AD 1641 - 1741

The death in 1422 of Elector Albert IV of Saxony left his state without an heir, so Emperor Sigmund appointed his faithful servant, the Wettin noble, Friedrich IV of Meissen. In 1485 Friedrich 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.

The all-important title of prince-elector was transferred to Saxe-Meissen in 1547, while Saxe-Coburg had already been divided away for the duke's younger brother. Upon the death of Duke John Frederick I in 1553, Saxe-Thuringen itself was divided to form Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha (both in their initial guises). The complicated story of divisions and mergers then saw the end of Saxe-Gotha's initial phase of existence in 1572, when it was partitioned to form the junior subdivisions of Saxe-Coburg (in its second guise) and Saxe-Eisenach.

In 1602, after one generation, Saxe-Eisenach's holdings were handed out to the newly created Saxe-Altenburg and to Saxe-Weimar. With the newly-matured sons of the late Frederick William II now demanding their inheritance from John II of Saxe-Weimar, he gave them Saxe-Altenburg while he retained the smaller creation of Saxe-Weimar-Jena, more usually known simply as Saxe-Jena. Politically-speaking, Saxe-Weimar essentially ceased to exist for the period between 1603-1641.

The year 1641 proved to be an important one. The combination of territories which had formed Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Weimar were, on 22 September 1641, divided into recreations of Saxe-Gotha (for two generations of dukes), Saxe-Weimar (for Duke William, son of John II of the first creation of Saxe-Weimar, after previously having held Saxe-Jena from his attainment of adulthood in 1620), and Saxe-Eisenach (for Albert IV). The latter lasted just three years before it too was divided up between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha.

(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, and Saxe-Weimar (Worldstatesmen).)

1641 - 1662

William

Son of John II of Saxe-Weimar. Also held Saxe-Jena.

1644

Albert IV of Saxe-Eisenach dies without having produced an heir, just three years after assuming control of his territories. His titles and lands are divided between William in Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Jena, and his brother Ernest in Saxe-Gotha.

Duke William of Saxe-Weimar
Duke William (shown here) and his brother Ernest confirmed the re-establishment of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha, but frequent later changes in holdings and possessions would make most maps irrelevent in a very short span of time

1656

Saxe-Meissen is partitioned by Elector John George's successors into a smaller Saxe-Weissenfels, Saxe-Merseburg, and Saxe-Zeitz. The agreement is confirmed by Saxe-Meissen's 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.

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.

1662 - 1683

John Ernest II

Son. Further divided his territories. Regent in Saxe-Jena.

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 (1672) 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, and the rest of Saxe-Altenburg is gained by Ernest 'the Pious' of Saxe-Gotha.

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

1680

Saxe-Gotha is divided for the seven sons of Duke Ernst der Fromme ('the Pious'). It is 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 - 1728

William Ernest

Son. Co-ruled with brother. Died without an heir.

1683 - 1707

John Ernest III

Joint ruler with little power. Based in Kapellendorf. Died.

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.

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.

French troops during the Thirty Years War
The onset of the Thirty Years War immediately prior to the re-establishment of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha 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

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.

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.

1707 - 1728

Ernest August I

Son. Joint ruler. Based in Kapellendorf. Became sole ruler.

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.

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 in this period as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year

1728 - 1748

Ernest August I

Former joint ruler. Merged lands as Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

1738

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

1741

The death of the heirless Duke William Henry of Saxe-Eisenach means that his territories are combined back into a personal union with Saxe-Weimar (rather than a formal merger). The combined territories are usually known as Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, with that formal merger being enacted in 1809. It survives in this form until 1918.

Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Saxony)
AD 1741 - 1918

The German habit of encouraging territorial fragmentation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw Saxony gradually being divided into ever-smaller pockets of land. Even before the all-important title of prince-elector was transferred to Saxe-Meissen in 1547, Saxe-Coburg had already been divided away as a separate holding. In 1553, Saxe-Thuringen itself was divided to form Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha (in their initial guises).

The complicated story of divisions and mergers then saw the end of Saxe-Gotha's first phase of existence in 1572, when Saxe-Coburg was restored and Saxe-Eisenach was created. In 1602 the latter was itself divided between Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Weimar. With the newly-matured sons of the late Frederick William II now demanding their inheritance from John II of Saxe-Weimar, he gave them Saxe-Altenburg while he retained the smaller creation of Saxe-Weimar-Jena, more usually known simply as Saxe-Jena. Saxe-Weimar was recreated in 1641, along with Saxe-Gotha (for two generations of dukes), and Saxe-Eisenach (for Albert IV). The latter lasted just three years before it too was divided up between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha.

Since then Saxe-Weimar had largely remained intact, although in 1662 part of it was returned to a recreated Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Jena, with Saxe-Marksuhl also being formed. Parts of Saxe-Jena were regained in 1690, and Saxe-Eisenach in 1741. It was the latter recombining of territories back under the ruler of Saxe-Weimar which provided the spur to rename these holdings to Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, with Duke Ernest August holding them under personal union. A formal union was enacted in 1809. The duke had already ended the practice of dividing territories by introducing the law of primogeniture to ensure a single heir to all lands (confirmed by the emperor in 1724). Now Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach would survive intact until the conclusion of the First World War. One of its most notable grand dukes was Prince Bernhard, who served as governor-general of Luxembourg in 1831.

(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, and Saxe-Weimar (Worldstatesmen).)

1741 - 1748

Ernest Augustus I

Formerly held Saxe-Weimar alone (from 1728).

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.

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

1748 - 1758

Ernest Augustus II

Son. Acceded aged 11. Always sickly. Died aged 21.

1748

Frederick III

Regent. Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

1748 - 1755

Francis Josias

Regent. Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

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.

1758 - 1828

Charles Augustus

Son of Ernest A II. Acceded at 9 months. Grand duke (1815).

1758

Charles

Regent from May 1758. Duke of Brunswick-Woffenbüttel.

1758 - 1775

Anna Amalia

Mother of Charles Augustus & regent. Died 1807.

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 (Charles August is personally involved in the Battle of Jena, on the Prussian side). Prussia's holdings in Poland are taken by France, which forms 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.

1814

At the Congress of Vienna, towards the end of 1814 and the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars against France, the German principalities are reorganised. Partially this is to reverse some of Napoleon's changes, but the clock is most definitely not wound back to the previous century. In reward for Charles Augustus having served in the Netherlands as part of the Sixth Coalition, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach is raised to the status of grand duchy and Charles Augustus to the position of grand duke.

1826

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 survives until 1918.

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)

1828 - 1853

Charles Frederick

Son. Supported Richard Wagner.

1853 - 1901

Charles Alexander

Son. Outlived his son and heir, Charles Augustus.

1901 - 1918

William Ernest

Grandson. Last grand duke. Abdicated 1918. Died 1923.

1903

Having been raised to the status of grand duchy by the Congress of Vienna in 1814, the duchy under William Ernest now officially adds that title to its name, although it is rarely used.

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. King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony 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, including descendants of the last grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, but no particular ongoing claim to their lost throne.