House of Wettin
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|Final sovereign||Multiple sovereigns until today|
|Current head||Michael, Prince of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach|
|Founding||January 1, 900|
In order of seniority:
The House of Wettin is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors (Kurfürsten) and kings that once ruled the area of today's German states of Saxony, the Saxon part of Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia for more than 800 years. Agnates of the House of Wettin have, at various times, ascended the thrones of Great Britain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, Saxony, and Belgium; of these, only the British and Belgian lines retain their thrones today. (See list of members.)
Origins: Wettin of Saxony
The oldest member of the House of Wettin who is known for certain is Dietrich I von Wettin, also known as Thiedericus, or as 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, after which they named themselves. Wettin Castle is located in Wettin in the Hosgau on the Saale River. Around 1030, the Wettin family received the Eastern March as a fief.
The prominence of the Wettin family in the Slavic marches 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 (though 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 divided 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. Their predominance ended in the Schmalkaldic War, which pitted the Protestant Schmalkaldic League against Emperor Charles V. Although itself Protestant, the Albertine branch rallied to the Empire's cause; Charles V rewarded them by forcing the Ernestines to sign away their rights to the Electoral title and lands to the Albertines. The Ernestine line was thereafter restricted to Thuringia, and its dynastic unity swiftly crumbled.
The Albertine Wettin maintained most of the territorial integrity of Saxony, preserving it as a significant power in the region, and using small appanage fiefs for their cadet branches, few of which survived for significant lengths of time. The Ernestine Wettin, 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 Wettin 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, including 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).
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 Hanover, Brunswick and Guelph. 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, neither by the Queen nor 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, prospectively for all time.
Branches of the House of Wettin and its agnatic descent
- Count of Wettin
- Margraves of Lusatia
- Margraves of Meissen
- Dukes of Saxony, Landgraves of Thuringia
- Electors of Saxony
- Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania
- Dukes of Saxe-Coburg
- Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
- Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
- 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-Weimar-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-Meiningen
- Dukes of Saxe-Römhild
- Kings and Queen of the United Kingdom (House of Windsor)
- Princes of Saxe-Coburg-Kohary
- Kings of Portugal (House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, last reigning from Royal House of Portugal)
- Kings of Bulgaria (sometimes had been known as "Kohary" and as "Sakskoburggotski")
- Kings of the Belgians
- Empress consort of Mexico
- Dukes of "Saxe-Dresden"
- Electors of Saxony
- Kings of Saxony, currently Prinz/Prinzessin von Sachsen
- Dukes of Saxony, Landgraves of Thuringia, Dukes of Luxembourg
- Rulers of Saxony, a list containing many Wettins
- Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt, the city from which the Wettin dynasty originated
- Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. IX, col. 50, Munich 1969–1999
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: House of Wettin|
- Website of the House of Wettin (German)
- 2nd official website of the House of Wettin (German)
- The House of Wettin
- Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy of the Wettin dynasty from Genealogy.eu". Genealogy.EU.[self-published source][better source needed]
- Online Gotha