Puneet Varma (Editor)

House of Wettin

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Founded  10th century
Ethnicity  German
Founder  Theodoric I
House of Wettin
Country  Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom
Titles  Ernestine branch: (see more) Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach King of the Belgians King of Portugal King/Queen of the United Kingdom Tsar of Bulgaria Albertine branch: (see more) King of Saxony King of Poland
Current head  Michael, Prince of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

The House of Wettin (German: Haus Wettin) is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony and Thuringia. The dynasty is one of the oldest in Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt. The Wettins gradually rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. Members of the family became the rulers of several medieval states, starting with the Saxon Eastern March in 1030. Other states they gained were Meissen in 1089, Thuringia in 1263, and Saxony in 1423.


The family divided into two ruling branches in 1485 by the Treaty of Leipzig: the Ernestine and Albertine branches. The older Ernestine branch played a key role during the Protestant Reformation. Many ruling monarchs outside Germany were later tied to its cadet branch, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Albertine branch, while less prominent, ruled most of Saxony and played a part in Polish history.

Agnates of the House of Wettin have, at various times, ascended the thrones of Great Britain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, Saxony, and Belgium. Only the British and Belgian lines retain their thrones today.

Origins: Wettin of Saxony

The oldest member of the House of Wettin who is known for certain is Theodoric I of Wettin, also known as Dietrich, Thiedericus, and Thierry I of Liesgau (died c. 982). He was most probably based in the Liesgau (located at the western edge of the Harz). Around 1000, the family acquired Wettin Castle, which was originally built by the local Slavic tribes (see Sorbs), after which they named themselves. Wettin Castle is located in Wettin in the Hassegau (or Hosgau) on the Saale River. Around 1030, the Wettin family received the Eastern March as a fief.

The prominence of the Wettins in the Slavic Saxon Eastern March (or Ostmark) caused Emperor Henry IV to invest them with the March of Meissen as a fief in 1089. The family advanced over the course of the Middle Ages: in 1263, they inherited the landgraviate of Thuringia (although without Hesse) and in 1423, they were invested with the Duchy of Saxony, centred at Wittenberg, thus becoming one of the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire.

Ernestine and Albertine Wettins

The family split into two ruling branches in 1485 when the sons of Frederick II, Elector of Saxony divided the territories hitherto ruled jointly. The elder son Ernest, who had succeeded his father as Prince-elector, received the territories assigned to the Elector (Electorate of Saxony) and Thuringia, while his younger brother Albert obtained the March of Meissen, which he ruled from Dresden. As Albert ruled under the title of "Duke of Saxony", his possessions were also known as Ducal Saxony.


The older Ernestine branch remained predominant until 1547 and played an important role in the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. Frederick III (Friedrich der Weise) appointed Martin Luther (1512) and Philipp Melanchthon (1518) to the University of Wittenberg, which he had established in 1502.

The Ernestine predominance ended in the Schmalkaldic War (1546/7), which pitted the Protestant Schmalkaldic League against the Emperor Charles V. Although itself Lutheran, the Albertine branch rallied to the Emperor's cause. Charles V had promised Moritz the rights to the electorship. After the Battle of Mühlberg, Johann Friedrich der Großmütige, had to cede territory (including Wittenberg) and the electorship to his cousin Moritz. Although imprisoned, Johann Friedrich was able to plan a new university. It was established by his three sons on 19 March 1548 as the Höhere Landesschule at Jena. On 15 August 1557, Emperor Ferdinand I awarded it the status of university.

The Ernestine line was thereafter restricted to Thuringia and its dynastic unity swiftly crumbled, dividing into a number of smaller states, the Ernestine duchies. Nevertheless, with Ernst der Fromme, Duke of Saxe-Gotha (1601–1675), the house gave rise to an important early-modern ruler who was ahead of his time in supporting the education of his people and in improving administration. In the 18th century, Karl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, established what was to become known as Weimar Classicism at his court in Weimar, notably by bringing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe there.

It was only in the 19th century that one of the many Ernestine branches, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, regained importance through marriages as the "stud of Europe", by ascending the thrones of Belgium (in 1831), Portugal (1853–1910), Bulgaria (1908–1946) and the United Kingdom (in 1901).


The Albertine Wettins maintained most of the territorial integrity of Saxony, preserving it as a significant power in the region, and used small appanage fiefs for their cadet branches, few of which survived for significant lengths of time. The Ernestine Wettins, on the other hand, repeatedly subdivided their territory, creating an intricate patchwork of small duchies and counties in Thuringia.

The junior Albertine branch ruled as Electors (1547–1806) and Kings of Saxony (1806–1918), and also played a role in Polish history: two Wettins were Kings of Poland (between 1697–1763) and a third ruled the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–1814) as a satellite of Napoleon. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Albertine branch lost about 40% of its lands (the economically less-developed northern parts of the old Electorate of Saxony) to Prussia, restricting it to a territory coextensive with the modern Saxony (see Final Act of the Congress of Vienna Act IV: Treaty between Prussia and Saxony 18 May 1815). Frederick Augustus III lost his throne in the German Revolution of 1918.

The role of present head of the Albertine "House of Saxony" is claimed by his great-grandson Prince Ruediger of Saxony, Duke of Saxony, Margrave of Meissen (born 23 December 1953). The headship of Prince Rüdiger is however contested by his second cousin, Alexander (born 1954), son of Roberto Afif, later by change of name Mr Gessaphe, and Princess Maria Anna of Saxony, a sister of the childless former head of the Albertines, Maria Emanuel, Margrave of Meissen (died 2012), who had adopted his nephew, granting him the name Prince of Saxony, contrary to the rules of male descent under the Salic Law. The dispute is detailed in the article Line of succession to the former Saxon thrones. Both are however not recognized by the Nobility Archive in Marburg as well as by the Conference of the Formerly Ruling Houses in Germany. Prince Rüdiger, because his father Timo was expelled from the House of Wettin, Prince Alexander because he is not of noble descent (father was Roberto Afif from Lebanon). Consequently the House of Wettin, Albertine Branch, is officially treated by the german nobility as extinct in its legal succession-line.

The Grandukal House of Saxe-Weimar

Saxe-Weimar (German: Sachsen-Weimar) was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in present-day Thuringia. The chief town and capital was Weimar. The Weimar branch was the most genealogically senior extant branch of the House of Wettin.


1 History 1.1 Division of Leipzig 1.2 Division of Erfurt 1.3 Thirty Years' War 1.4 Weimar Classicism 2 Dukes of Saxe-Weimar 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

History Division of Leipzig

In the late 15th century much of what is now Thuringia, including the area around Weimar, was held by the Wettin Electors of Saxony. According to the 1485 Treaty of Leipzig, the Wettin lands had been divided between Elector Ernest of Saxony and his younger brother Albert III, with the western lands in Thuringia together with the electoral dignity going to the Ernestine branch of the family. The Schloss in Weimar, the ducal residence

Ernest's grandson Elector John Frederick I of Saxony forfeited the electoral dignity in the 1547 Capitulation of Wittenberg, after he had joined the revolt of the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League against the Habsburg emperor Charles V, was defeated, captured and banned. Nevertheless, according to the 1552 Peace of Passau he was pardoned and allowed to retain his lands in Thuringia. Upon his death in 1554, his son John Frederick II succeeded him as "Duke of Saxony", residing at Gotha. His attempts to regain the electoral dignity failed: in the course of the 1566 revolt instigated by the robber baron Wilhelm von Grumbach, the duke was banned and imprisoned for life by Emperor Maximilian II. Division of Erfurt

John Frederick II was succeeded by his younger brother John William at Weimar, who in short time also fell out of favour with the emperor by his alliance with King Charles IX of France. In 1572 Maximilian II enforced the Division of Erfurt, whereby the Ernestine lands were divided among Duke John William and the two surviving sons of imprisoned John Frederick II. John William retained the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, while his minor nephews received the southern and western territories around Coburg and Eisenach.

This division was the first of numerous partitions; over the next three centuries the lands were divided when dukes had more than one son to provide for, and re-combined when dukes died without direct heirs, but all of the lands stayed in the Ernestine branch of the Wettin family. As a result, the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar shrank and grew more than once. The Thuringian states throughout this period typically consisted of several non-contiguous parcels of territory of various sizes. Facing their lack of political power, the rulers of these petty states built up splendid monarchical households at their residences and pursued greater cultural achievements.

Duke John William, chafing under the loss, died in 1573, succeeded by his son Frederick William I. Upon his death in 1602 Saxe-Weimar was again divided among his younger brother John II and Frederick William's minor son John Philipp, who received the territory of Saxe-Altenburg. John's son Duke Johann Ernst I of Saxe-Weimar on occasion of the burial of his mother Dorothea Maria of Anhalt in 1617 established the literary Fruitbearing Society. Thirty Years' War

At the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, Duke Johann Ernst I supported the Protestant Bohemian estates under the "Winter King" Frederick V of the Palatinate, who were defeated at the 1620 Battle of White Mountain. Stripped of his title by Emperor Ferdinand II, he remained a fierce opponent of the Catholic Habsburg dynasty and died on Ernst von Mansfeld's Hungarian campaign in 1626.

His younger brother Wilhelm, regent since 1620, assumed the dignities upon his death. At first also an advocate of Protestant concerns, after the death of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden he chose to accord with the 1635 Peace of Prague his Albertine cousins had negotiated with the emperor - against the opposition of his younger brother General Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, who entered into the French service under Cardinal Richelieu. Nevertheless, like many German estates, the Weimar lands were devastated by combat actions as well as by plague epidemics.

When in 1638 the Ernestine Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Coburg branch became extinct upon the death of Duke John Ernest, Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar inherited large parts of his estates. In 1640 however he had to involve his younger brothers Ernest I and Albert IV, thereby (re-)establishing the Duchies of Saxe-Gotha and short-lived Saxe-Eisenach, which was again dissolved upon Duke Albert's death in 1644.

Another rearrangement of the Ernestine lands took place in 1672 after Duke Frederick William III of Saxe-Altenburg, descendant of Duke John Phillip, had died without heirs and his cousin Duke Johann Ernst II of Saxe-Weimar inherited parts of his duchy, which originally had been split off the Saxe-Weimar territory in 1602. Johann Ernst II immediately divided the enlarged Saxe-Weimar lands between himself and his younger brothers John George I and Bernhard II, who received the Duchies of Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Jena, which reverted to Saxe-Weimar upon the death of Bernhard's son Duke Johann Wilhelm in 1690. Weimar Classicism Theobald von Oer: The Weimar Court of the Muses (1860); Schiller reads at Schloss Tiefurt, Wieland, Herder and Goethe among the listeners

Upon the death of John George's descendant Wilhelm Heinrich in 1741, Duke Ernest Augustus I of Saxe-Weimar also inherited the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach. He then ruled both duchies in personal union and decisively forwarded the development of his estates by the implementation of the primogeniture principle.

His son Ernest Augustus II, who succeeded him in 1748, died in 1758, whereafter Empress Maria Theresa appointed his young widow, Duchess Anna Amalia, regent of the country and guardian of her infant son, Charles Augustus. The regency of energetic Anna Amalia and the reign of Charles Augustus, who was raised by the writer Christoph Martin Wieland, formed a high point in the history of Saxe-Weimar. Both intelligent patrons of literature and art, Anna Amalia and Charles Augustus attracted to their court the leading German scholars, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Johann Gottfried Herder, and made their residence Weimar an important cultural center in an era referred to as Weimar Classicism.

In 1804 Duke Charles Augustus entered into European politics by marrying his son and heir Charles Frederick to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, sister of Emperor Alexander I of Russia. However, at the same time he joined Prussia in the War of the Fourth Coalition against the French Empire, and after the defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt was forced to accede the Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine in 1806. In 1809 Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach, which had been united only in the person of the duke, were formally merged into the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

Dukes of Saxe-Weimar

Johann Wilhelm (1554–73) Frederick William I (1573–1602), son of Johann Wilhelm Johann II (1602–05), brother Johann Ernest I (1605–20), son of Johann Wilhelm (1620–62), brother Johann Ernest II (1662–83), son of Wilhelm Wilhelm Ernest (1683–1728), son of Johann Ernest II Johann Ernest III (1683–1707), son of Johann Ernest II Ernest August I (1707–48), son of Johann Ernest III Ernest August II (1748–58), son of Ernest August I Karl August (1758–1809), son of Ernest August II

Merged with Saxe-Eisenach to form Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Head of the House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach:

HRH Prince Michael of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Tenure 14 October 1988 - present Predecessor Hereditary Grand Duke Charles Augustus Born 15 November 1946 (age 70) Bamberg, Germany

Full name: Michael Benedikt Georg Jobst Carl Alexander Bernhard Claus Friedrich House House of Wettin, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Branch Father Charles Augustus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Mother Baroness Elisabeth of Wangenheim-Winterstein Religion Lutheranism Grand Ducal Family of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Wappen Deutsches Reich - Grossherzogtum Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach.png

HRH The Prince HRH The Princess HH Princess Leonie HH Princess Elisabeth HH Princess Beatrice-Maria

Prince Michael was born in Bamberg, Bavaria, the only son of Hereditary Grand Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Baroness Elisabeth of Wangenheim-Winterstein (1912–2010).[3] Among his godparents were Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia imposter, Anna Anderson, who was living with his aunt Princess Luise of Saxe-Meiningen.[4]

When his father died in 1988, Michael succeeded as Head of the House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. In 1991 he inherited the leadership in the House of Saxe-Altenburg, as that line went extinct and since 2012 he regards the Albertine royal Saxon line to also be extinct.[5]

In 2004 he withdrew his claim for restitution of numerous properties, archives (partly including those of Schiller and Goethe) as well as priceless artwork in a settlement with the Free State of Thuringia which put him in a hereditary role on the board of the Klassik-Stiftung-Weimar and the Wartburg-Stifung, both public institutions, entrusted with the management of the Grandukal Heritage.

Prince Michael is in the line of succession to the British throne, being a great5-grandson of Princess Augusta, eldest sister of King George III.[3] As he has no sons, the current heir to the headship of the grand ducal house and the House of Wettin is his cousin Prince Wilhelm Ernst (b. 1946), followed by Wilhelm Ernst's son Prince Constantin (b. 1977). Marriages

Prince Michael married Renate Henkel (b. Heidelberg, 17 September 1947), daughter of Konrad Henkel and wife Jutta von Hülsen and sister of Christoph Henkel, in a civil ceremony 9 June 1970 at Hamburg-Eimsbüttel. They were married religiously on 4 July 1970 at Linnep bei Breitscheid.[3] The marriage was childless and dissolved by divorce at Düsseldorf on 9 March 1974.

He was married secondly to Dagmar Hennings (b. Niederpöcking, 24 June 1948), daughter of Henrich Hennings and wife Margarethe Schacht, in London on 15 November 1980. They have one daughter:

Princess Leonie Mercedes Augusta Silva Elisabeth Margarethe of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (b. Frankfurt, 30 October 1986)

In 1919 royalty and nobility were mandated to lose their privileges in Germany, hereditary titles were to be legally borne thereafter only as part of the surname, according to Article 109 of the Weimar Constitution. Styles such as majesty and highness were not retained. Willis, Daniel A., The Descendants of King George I of Great Britain, Clearfield Company, 2002, pp. 457-458. Montgomery-Massinberd, Hugh (1972). Burke's Guide to the Royal Family. London: Burke's Peerage, Ltd. p. 266. ISBN 0-220-66222-3. Mundy, Carlos & Stravlo, Marie. The Lost Romanov Icon and the Enigma of Anastasia. Page XXII

The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

The senior Ernestine branch lost the electorship to the Albertine in 1547, but retained its holdings in Thuringia, dividing the area into a number of smaller states. One of the resulting Ernestine houses, known as Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld until 1826 and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after that, went on to contribute kings of Belgium (from 1831) and Bulgaria (1908–1946), as well as furnishing husbands to queens regnant of Portugal (Prince Ferdinand) and the United Kingdom (Prince Albert). As such, the British and Portuguese thrones became possessions of persons who belonged to the House of Wettin.

From King George I to Queen Victoria, the British Royal family was variously called House of Hanover, being a junior branch of the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg and thus part of the dynasty of the Guelphs. In the late 19th century, Queen Victoria charged the College of Heralds in England to determine the correct personal surname of her late husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—and, thus, the proper surname of the royal family upon the accession of her son. After extensive research, they concluded that it was Wettin, but this name was never used, either by the Queen or by her son or grandson, King Edward VII and King George V; they were simply called 'Saxe-Coburg-Gotha'.

Severe anti-German sentiment during World War I led some influential members of the public quietly to question the loyalty of the Royal Family, because they had a German or German-sounding name. Advisors to King George V again searched for an acceptable surname for the British royal family, but Wettin was rejected as "unsuitably comic". By Order in Council, the name of the British royal family was legally changed to Windsor.

Early Wettins

  • Counts of Wettin
  • Margraves of Landsberg
  • Margraves of Meissen
  • Margraves of Lusatia
  • Dukes of Saxony, Landgraves of Thuringia
  • Electors of Saxony and Arch-Marshals of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Ernestines

  • Electors of Saxony and Arch-Marshals of the Holy Roman Empire (1464–1547)
  • Existing Ernestine branches

  • Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
  • Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen
  • Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
  • Kings of the Belgians (House van België or de Belgique or von Belgien, "House of Belgium", previously known as House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
  • Kings and Queen of the United Kingdom (House of Windsor, previously known as House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
  • Tsars of Bulgaria (House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, sometimes known as "Sakskoburggotski")
  • Extinct Ernestine branches

  • Dukes of Saxe-Coburg
  • Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
  • Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg (first line of Altenburg)
  • Dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (second line of Altenburg)
  • Dukes of Saxe-Hildburghausen, then Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg (third line of Altenburg)
  • Dukes of Saxe-Weimar
  • Dukes of Saxe-Eisenach
  • Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach
  • Dukes of Saxe-Jena
  • Dukes of Saxe-Gotha
  • Dukes of Saxe-Eisenberg
  • Dukes of Saxe-Marksuhl
  • Dukes of Saxe-Römhild
  • Kings of Portugal and the Algarves (House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
  • Albertines

  • Margraves of Meissen
  • Electors of Saxony and Arch-Marshals of the Holy Roman Empire (1547–1806)
  • Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Kings of Saxony (1806–1918), currently Prince/Princess of Saxony and Duke/Duchess of Saxony, with the head of the family also Margrave of Meissen
  • Duke of Warsaw (1807–1815)
  • Extinct Albertine branches

  • Dukes of Saxe-Zeitz
  • Dukes of Saxe-Merseburg
  • Dukes of Saxe-Weissenfels
  • For an extensive treatment of the coats of arms, see: Coat of arms of Saxony

    or in French: Armorial de la maison de Wettin


    House of Wettin Wikipedia