House of Mecklenburg

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House of Mecklenburg
Grosses wappen MSTRELITZ.jpg
Country Mecklenburg,
Titles Prince, Duke, Grand Duke, Elected Duke of United Baltic Duchy, King of Sweden, Queen of the Netherlands
Founded 1131
Founder Niklot
Final ruler Frederick Francis IV (Schwerin)
Adolphus Frederick VI (Strelitz)
Current head Duke Borwin (Strelitz branch)[1][2]
Deposition 1918

The House of Mecklenburg is a North German dynasty of West Slavic origin that ruled until 1918. If their history is counted since Niklot's inauguration in 1129, they ruled for almost eight centuries. There are no records regarding whether and how Niklot descended from earlier Obotrite rulers. Nevertheless they were among the longest-ruling families of Europe. They most recently reigned in the Netherlands, from the abdication of Queen Wilhelmina, Duchess of Mecklenburg, in 1948 until the abdication of Queen Juliana, Duchess of Mecklenburg, in 1980.

Origins[edit]

Niklot was a lord of the Wendish tribe of Obotrites. When the Holy Roman Empire expanded eastwards, notably to the coast of Baltic in the 13th century, a faction of Obotrite lords allied with German leaders, and strengthened their own position as a consequence. The mightiest of these were those who became first Lords of Mecklenburg (their name derives from their main castle, Mikla Burg, big fortress). The main branch of the house was elevated in 1347 to ducal rank. They gradually became outwardly more German, preserving their ruling position.

Coat of Arms[edit]

Claims to Swedish throne[edit]

The Dukes of Mecklenburg pursued from 14th century a claim to inheritance in Sweden. The Duke of Mecklenburg was a descendant and the heir of two women whom legends tied to Scandinavian royal houses.

The Sverker dynasty had long been extinct, having lost the throne ultimately to Eric XI. The male dynasty of Eric X was already extinct, and issue of his other daughters had been sidestepped by Birger Jarl, the husband of his daughter (the only one still alive in in 1250), Ingeborg Eriksdotter of Sweden. Birger took great care to secure the kingship for his own sons.

The Dukes of Mecklenburg's claim to the Swedish throne became reality during a brief reign: Henry II's son Albert II, Duke of Mecklenburg (1318–79), married a kinswoman, a Scandinavian heiress named Euphemia of Sweden and Norway (born 1317 and died 1370). The couple's second son duke Albert III deposed his uncle from the Swedish throne, and ascended as king.

Margaret I of Denmark chose Eric of Pomerania as her heir. Eric descended from the elder brother of Albert III. Monarchs of the Kalmar union were all cognatic descendants of the House of Mecklenburg.

The agnatic House of Mecklenburg, descended from Euphemia's youngest son Magnus I, Duke of Mecklenburg, continued to keep their claim to the throne, and occasionally stirred the situation in Scandinavia.

Claims to Norway[edit]

The Hereditary Kingdom of Norway, has been the only medieval Scandinavian realm whose kingship was hereditary, not elective. Already when Olav IV of Norway was young and his mother Margaret was regent, the Dukes of Mecklenburg advanced their claims.

The Dukes of Mecklenburg's claim to the Norwegian throne is based on their descent from Euphemia of Sweden, granddaughter of Haakon V of Norway.

When Olav IV died in 1387, Norway was without a monarch, under the government of the regentess Margaret. She soon chose an heir, Eric of Pomerania, whose mother Maria of Mecklenburg had been Eufemia's eldest granddaughter.

When Eric's nephew king Christopher died (before the death of the deposed Eric III of Norway), after some hiatus another magnate, Christian VIII of Oldenburg, descended in the female line from Eufemia and the Mecklenburg family (Eufemia's daughter's great-grandson), was in 1450 chosen as king of Norway, this time surpassing his cousin and male-line rival, Duke Henry the Fat of Mecklenburg.

The Dukes of Mecklenburg continued to regard themselves as the rightful heirs to the throne of Norway but they were unable to gain the kingdom from the Oldenburgs.

Modern states in Mecklenburg[edit]

Around 1711, a treaty was signed between the Dukes of Mecklenburg and the Elector of Brandenburg through which the elector was recognized as the next heir of Mecklenburg after the male lines of the genealogical house of Mecklenburg. Thereby the electors, later kings of Prussia, regarded themselves as having become members of the House of Mecklenburg and started to use its titles, e.g. Duke of Mecklenburg, among their own titulary.

The legality of that treaty concession has been, and still is under discussion, because not all of the then agnates of the House participated in the deed, and at least one of them was then underage.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the duchy was divided several times between agnates of the ducal house. Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Güstrow and Mecklenburg-Strelitz were typical partition principalities. Until the late 18th century, most parts had returned to the senior branch (Schwerin), after which the patrimony was divided in two states until the very end of monarchy in Germany:

These were elevated to grand duchies by recognition of the Congress of Vienna. In 1918, less than a year before the elimination of the monarchy, the main line of Strelitz went extinct and the then Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin stepped in as regent, but succession unclarities (there was a junior Strelitz branch living in Russia) were not solved until the small monarchies both were dissolved to republics.

Slavic heritage[edit]

The house of Mecklenburg was originally a tribal chieftain dynasty of Slavic Obotrites, such as Niklot and Pribislav, who gradually became Germanized. In the beginning of 20th century, its Slavic roots were remembered for example by king Nicholas I of Montenegro who chose Duchess Jutta of Mecklenburg as the wife of his heir-apparent, Danilo, Crown Prince of Montenegro, stating the Slavic ethnicity of the Mecklenburg as sufficient.

House of Mecklenburg today[edit]

House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin[edit]

The House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin became extinct in the male line on 31 July 2001 with the death of Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick Francis of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the eldest son and heir of the last reigning Grand Duke, Frederick Francis IV.

The remaining members of the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin are the daughters of Duke Christian Ludwig; the second son of Frederick Francis IV; the Duchesses Donata (born 1956) and Edwina (born 1960); and their cousin Duchess Woizlawa Feodora (born 1918), the daughter of Duke Adolf Friedrich.

House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz[edit]

With the extinction of Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz is now the only surviving branch of the Grand Ducal house in the male line. The current head of this house is Borwin, Duke of Mecklenburg.[1][2][3] His grandfather was Count Georg of Carlow, the morganatic son of Duke George Alexander of Mecklenburg (1859–1909). Count Georg of Carlow was adopted in 1928 by his uncle Duke Charles Michael of Mecklenburg the head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He then assumed the title Duke of Mecklenburg (Serene Highness) which was confirmed by the head of the Imperial House of Russia, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich on 18 July 1929 and recognised on 23 December by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.[4] He succeeded his uncle as head of the house on 6 December 1934[5] and was granted the style of Highness on 18 December 1950.[4]

In addition to Duke Borwin, the current members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz are his wife Duchess Alice (née Wagner; born 1959); their children Duchess Olga (born 1988), the Dukes Alexander (born 1991) and Michael (born 1994); his sisters, the Duchesses Elisabeth Christine (born 1947), Marie Catherine (born 1949) and Irene (born 1952); and his uncle Duke Carl Gregor (born 1933).

States ruled by the House of Mecklenburg[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "A letter by Duke Georg Borwin of Mecklenburg". Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  2. ^ a b Notiert, Kurz (2006-02-12). "Saisoneröffnung auf Gedenkstätte an Preußenkönigin Luise". MV-Zeitung. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  3. ^ Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Beiträge zur Geschichte einer Region. p. 191. 
  4. ^ a b L'Allemagne Dynastique, Tome VI : Bade-Mecklembourg. p. 235. 
  5. ^ Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Beiträge zur Geschichte einer Region. pp. 188–189. 

Sources[edit]

  • Ilka Minneker: Vom Kloster zur Residenz – Dynastische Memoria und Repräsentation im spätmittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Mecklenburg. Rhema-Verlag, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-930454-78-5
  • Erstling, Frank; Frank Saß; Eberhard Schulze (April 2001). "Das Fürstenhaus von Mecklenburg-Strelitz". Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Beiträge zur Geschichte einer Region (in German). Friedland: Steffen. ISBN 3-9807532-0-4. 
  • Huberty, Michel; Alain Giraud; F. et B. Magdelaine (1991). L'Allemagne Dynastique, Tome VI : Bade-Mecklembourg. Le Perreux-sur-Marne: Giraud. ISBN 978-2-901138-06-8. 

External links[edit]

Royal house
House of Mecklenburg
New title Ruling House of Mecklenburg
1131–1918
Declared a
Republic
Preceded by
House of Bjelbo
Ruling House of Sweden
1364–1389
Succeeded by
Kalmar Union
New title Ruling House of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
1621–1701
Partitioned into
Mecklenburg-Schwerin and
Mecklenburg-Strelitz
New title
Created from
Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Ruling House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
1701–1918
Declared a
Republic
Preceded by
House of Orange-Nassau
Ruling House of the Netherlands
1948–1980
Succeeded by
House of Lippe-Biesterfeld