House of Welf
|Country||Germany, Italy, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Ancestral house||House of Este|
|Founder||Welf I, Duke of Bavaria|
|Final sovereign||Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick|
|Current head||Ernst August V, Prince of Hanover|
|Dissolution||1918 (in Germany);
1901 (in UK and India)
|Cadet branches||House of Hanover|
The House of Welf is the older branch of the House of Este, a dynasty whose earliest known members lived in Lombardy in the 9th century. For this reason, it is sometimes also called Welf-Este. The first member of this branch was Welf IV; he inherited the property of the Elder House of Welf when his maternal uncle Welf, Duke of Carinthia, died in 1055. In 1070, Welf IV became duke of Bavaria.
Welf V married Countess Matilda of Tuscany who died childless and left him her possessions, including Tuscany, Ferrara, Modena, Mantua, and Reggio, which played a role in the Investiture controversy. Since the Welf dynasty sided with the Pope in this controversy, partisans of the Pope came to be known in Italy as "Guelphs"; see Guelphs and Ghibellines.
Bavaria and Saxony 
Henry the Black, duke of Bavaria from 1120–1126, was the first of the three dukes of the Welf dynasty carrying the same name. His son, Henry the Proud was the son-in-law and heir of Emperor Lothair of Supplinburg and became also Saxon duke after Lothair's death. Henry the Proud was then the favoured candidate in the imperial election against Conrad III of the Hohenstaufen. But Henry lost the election, as the other princes feared his power and temperament, and was dispossessed of his duchies by Conrad III.
Henry the Lion recovered his father's two duchies, Saxony in 1142, Bavaria in 1156. In 1168 he married Matilda (1156–1189), the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and sister of Richard Lionheart. Dispossessed of his duchies after the Battle of Legnano in 1176 by Emperor Frederick I and the other princes of the German Empire eager to claim parts of his vast territories, he was exiled to the court of his father-in-law Henry II in Normandy in 1180, but returned to Germany three years later. Henry made his peace with the Hohenstaufen Emperor in 1194, and returned to his much diminished lands around Brunswick. He died there in 1195.
Brunswick and Hanover 
Henry's son Otto of Brunswick was elected King of the Romans and crowned as Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV. He incurred the wrath of Pope Innocent III and was excommunicated in 1215. Otto was forced to abdicate the imperial throne by the Hohenstaufen Frederick II.
Henry the Lion's grandson Otto the Child became duke of a part of Saxony in 1235, the new so-called 'Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg', and died there in 1252. The Welf dynasty of Brunswick-Lüneburg would continue to rule in Hanover until the defeat of George V of Hanover, Austria's ally in the Austro-Prussian War, and the annexation of Hanover by Prussia.
In 1692 the head of the cadet Calenberg line was raised to the status of an imperial elector, and became known as the Elector of Hanover. His son, Georg Ludwig, inherited the British throne in 1714 as a result of the Act of Settlement 1701. Members of the Welf dynasty continued to rule Great Britain until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901; in Britain they were known as the House of Hanover.
Hanover itself was raised to a kingdom in 1814, but was annexed by Prussia following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, in which Hanover had sided with Austria. The senior line of the dynasty ruled the much smaller Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. This line became extinct in 1884. Although the Duchy should have been inherited by the Duke of Cumberland, son of the last king of Hanover, suspicions of his loyalty led the duchy's throne to remain vacant until 1913, when Cumberland's son, Ernst August, married the daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II and was allowed to inherit the duchy. His rule there was short-lived, however, as the monarchy came to an end following the First World War in 1918.
Early Welf Princes (1070-1269) 
Dukes of Bavaria and Saxony 
- Welf I, Duke of Bavaria (1070-1077, 1096-1101)
- Welf II, Son of Welf I; Duke of Bavaria (1101–1120)
- Henry the Black, Son of Welf I; Duke of Bavaria (1120–1126)
- Henry the Proud, Son of Henry the Black; Duke of Bavaria (1126–1138), Duke of Saxony (1137–1139)
- Henry the Lion, Son of Henry the Proud; Duke of Saxony (1142–1180), Duke of Bavaria (1156–1180)
Count Palatine of the Rhine 
- Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Son of Henry the Lion; Count Palatine of the Rhine (1195–1213)
- Henry VI, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Son of Henry V; Count Palatine of the Rhine (1213-1214)
Holy Roman Emperor 
- Otto IV, Son of Henry the Lion; Holy Roman Emperor (1198-1215)
Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg 
- Otto I, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Grandson of Henry the Lion; Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1235–1252)
- Albert I, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Son of Otto I; Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1252–1269); Ancestor of the House of Hanover
- John, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Son of Otto I; Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1252–1269)
See also 
Welf family tree 12th century 
Welf family tree 11th century to present 
- Canduci, pg. 294