Biographies of
Famous Lutherans
Biographies of
Tridentine Catholics
First posted on January 25th 2003, last revied on November 15th 2004

External Links : Biographies to the History of the Reformation

For links on general biographical sources, go to Biographies Main Page

Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon (ÖH), in German; concise biographies
Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL), in German, scholarly
Catherine Winkworth, Christian Singers of Germany, a site dealing with hymn singers from the 8th century to 1850
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol.I : Aachen-Basilians, Vol.II : Basilica-Chambers, Vol.III : Chamier-Draendorf, Vol.IV : Draeseke-Goa, Vol.V : Goar-Innocent Vol.VI : Innocent-Liudger, Vol.VII : Liutprand-Moralities, Vol.VIII : Morality-Petersen, Vol.IX : Petri-Reuchlin, Vol.X : Reutsch-Son, Vol.XI : Son of Man-Tremellius, Vol.XII : Trench-Zwingli
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907-1913 edition
Printed Reference : Biographies related to the History of the Reformation Era

Biographies of Famous Reformation Era Rulers


Charles V. (Ger.: Karl V., Dutch : Karel V., Latin : Carolus V., Span.: Carlos I.), 1500-1558
The young man destined to become the most powerful of Europe's monarchs was raised in Brussels and mastered five languages - German, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French. In 1515 he was proclaimed mature and crowned Duke of Burgundy. He was elected King of Spain in 1516, in 1519 Roman (German) King; he claimed the title of Emperor since 1520.
Charles V. faced the opposition of France, the Ottoman Empire, Pope Clement VII. and the princely opposition in Germany. While Charles V. himself was uncompromisingly loyal to the Catholic church and had protestants treated as heretics in his territories, he treated Lutheranism in the Empire as a diplomatic issue. He stood to the safe passage he had promised MARTIN LUTHER when the latter appeared at the DIET OF WORMS in 1521, declaring the ban over Luther after the diet had judged over him.
Constantly worried over the Ottoman threat, and even more about France, with which he lay in almost permanent conflict (over MILAN, a.o.) In 1527 an Imperial army sacked Rome (SACCO DI ROMA), frightening Pope Clement VII. who from then on took a more cautious policy; in 1530 he crowned Charles V. Emperor. In 1530 (AUGSBURG CONFESSION) Charles V. pursued a policy of bridging the gap between Catholics and Lutherans; he hoped to build up on that and solve the problem diplomatically. When the long awaited general church council finally could be held (after peace with France had been concluded in 1544), on Imperial territory in Trent, few representatives from the Empire were able to attend - the situation at home was too explosive. While Charles V. hoped the council would make it possible for Lutheran representatives to attend, by conceding them two key demands - priest marriage and communion in both kind - the council immediately took an uncompromising course. In Germany the SCHMALKALDIC WAR followed, which ended with a brilliant Imperial victory in the BATTLE OF MÜHLBERG. Negotiations on Imperial church policy (AUGSBURG INTERIM etc.) went on slowly; in 1552 Duke-Elector MAURICE OF SAXONY suddenly marched an army on Augsburg, where the diet had convened, and on to Innsbruck where the Emperor resided, taking the latter by surprise and causing him to sign the TRUCE OF PASSAU (1552) which later was confirmed in the PEACE OF AUGSBURG; the idea of reuniting the church in the Empire was given up, two confessions recognized. The year after Charles V. abdicated (1556), succeeded in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands by his son PHILIP II., in Austria, Hungary and the Empire by his nephew Ferdinand.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia
German language biography, from BBKL

Elizabeth I., 1533-1603
Daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn, she inherited the throne after the death of her half-sister Mary in 1558. Elizabeth reestablished the ANGLICAN CHURCH, decided to stay unmarried (the VIRGIN QUEEN), reintroduced the Saints Days. Her foreign policy was characterized by a cautious, deceiving defiance of Spain; she supported the Dutch rebellion and piracy at the expense of the Spanish; in 1588 the SPANISH ARMADA was defeated by the British and by storms. During Elizabeth's rule, non-Anglican denominations (Puritans, Catholics) continued to thrive. Elizabeth had MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, who had repeatedly plotted against her, executed. Elizabeth was succeeded by Mary Stuart's son James I.

English language biography, from ; from, illustrated

Francis I. (Fr. : Francois I.), 1494-1547
King of France since 1515; an opponent of the Lutheran and Calvinist Reformation; Luther's teachings were condemned by the Synod of Paris in 1528. Involved in a long conflict with Charles V., Francis was defeated and taken prisoner in the BATTLE OF PAVIA in 1525. Francis entered into alliances with Charles V.'s opponents - the Schmalkaldic League in 1532, the Ottoman Turks in 1543. Francis I. was succeeded by his son Henry II.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia

Frederick the Wise (Friedrich der Weise), 1463-1525
In 1486 he succeeded his father as Duke-Elector of (ERNESTINE) SAXONY. He made WITTENBERG his residence; in 1502 he founded the UNIVERSITY OF WITTENBERG. In 1519 he was proposed to declare his candidacy for the crown of Holy Roman Emperor; he declined. MARTIN LUTHER, after having posted his 95 THESES, was excommunicated in 1520, Frederick rejected the claim of extradition of Luther to Rome, insisting that Luther was to be tried by his own countrymen. This trial was to be held at the DIET OF WORMS (1521), where Luther refised to recant. Frederick the Wise upheld his protection over Luther, so the safe passage promised to him was upheld; but the ban was declared against Luther. Frederick the Wise had Luther, on his way home, abducted (for his own protection); Luther lived for a while on the Ducal fortress of Wartburg, under the alias JUNKER JÖRG.
Frederick the Wise was suspicious of Charles V., who had, by the way of inheritance, greatly increased the power of the Habsburg Dynasty and was capable, as Holy Roman Emperor (traditionally a rather weak authority) to exert real authority - at the expense of the Empire's princes. Frederick the Wise was a pious man, aware of abuses among the Catholic church. He prohibited Tetzel to sell letters of indulgence in his territory and, in 1521, permitted Dr. Karlstadt to implement the first steps of the Lutheran reformation, only to have Luther return and get the reformation back under control (Karlstadt had unleashed iconoclastic riots). Neither Luther nor Frederick the Wise thought to have begun a schism; both hoped for a general church council deciding on a major church reform. Frederick the Wise was a collector of relics. He died in 1525.

English language biography, from, illustrated, 18 lines
German language biography, from BBKL, 26 lines, bibliography
Portrait by Albrecht Dürer (1496), from Olga's Gallery

Georg, Duke of Albertine Saxony (Georg der Bärtige), 1471-1539
In 1500 he succeeded his father as Duke of (ALBERTINE) SAXONY. Duke Georg was aware of the corruption within the church and willing to promote/implement reforms which targeted the symptoms, but not to change her substance. When Luther attacked the sale of letters of indulgence, he did so with the support of Duke Georg; the Duke forbade TETZEL to preach in his territory. The LEIPZIG DISPUTATION between JOHANN ECK and ANDREAS KARLSTADT / MARTIN LUTHER 1519 was held under Georg's protection. When Luther turned more and more critical of the Catholic church and her administration, Georg withdrew his support.
Duke Georg, throughout his reign, pursued the policy of dealing with scandals within the church, in his territory, while remaining strictly loyal to Emperor and Catholic Church. He was willing to promote the discussion, but not the implementation of the reform. Those who advocated Lutheran reform, in his territory, were arrested (since 1522). Duke Georg died childless in 1539 and was succeeded by his brother Heinrich (Henry), who introduced the Lutheran Reformation.

German language biography, from BBKL

Henry II. (Fr. : Henri II.), 1519-1559
King of France since 1547; continued the anti-Habsburg policy of his father. In 1552 he concluded an alliance with Germany's protestant princes. Married CATHERINE DE MEDICI. Ordered the persecution of protestants; suffered defeats at the hand of Philip II. Had to sign the PEACE OF CATEAU-CAMBRESIS (1559) which recognized the Habsburg victory. In the late 1550es, Calvinism spread quickly in France.

Henry VIII. King of England, (1491) 1509-1547

John Frederick I., the Magnanimous, 1503-1554
Educated a.o. by GEORG SPALATIN. His father John succeeded his uncle FREDERICK THE WISE as Duke-Elector of (ERNESTINE) SAXONY in 1532. He supported MARTIN LUTHER; in 1526 he married Sibylla von Jülich-Kleve. He was involved in the suppression of the GERMAN PEASANTS REVOLT of 1525; from 1529 onward he temporarily governed on behalf of his father John (Duke-Elector 1525-1532). Ernestine Saxony accepted the AUGSBURG CONFESSION of 1530 and in 1531 joined the SCHMALKALDIC LEAGUE. In 1532 John Frederick succeeded his father as Duke-Elector. He had MAURICE OF (ALBERTINE) SAXONY given a Lutheran education in Torgau (1537). In 1546 - John Frederick, in command on an army of the Schmalkaldic League, while out of his country (in Württemberg), his Electoral Saxony was invaded and occupied by Duke Maurice of Albertine Saxony (SCHMALKALDIC WAR, 1546-1547). Feeling betrayed (Maurice was his relative, and a Lutheran), he marched his army back, liberated Electoral Saxony, occupied ALBERTINE SAXONY and proceeded invading Bohemia, when the Imperial Army appeared on the scene. John Frederick withdrew with his troops and was decisively defeated in the BATTLE OF MÜHLBERG (1547). John Frederick submitted, was accused of treason and sentenced to death; this death sentence was not executed. John Frederick had tp cede Electoral Saxony to Maurice, keeping only territory in Thuringia. He remained imprisoned until 1552, when he was set free according to the TREATY OF PASSAU, brought about by the same Maurice Duke of Saxony who had attacked him in 1546. He now established his residence in Weimar. He promoted the Gymnasium of Jena, soon to be elevated to the University of Jena (1557) and promoted works on the publication of Luther's complete writings (Jena 1552).

English language biography, from EB 1911, 53 lines
German language biography, from BBKL, 76 lines, bibliography

Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) 1516-1558
Daughter of Henry VIII. and Catherine of Aragon. A devoted Catholic, she ordered protrestantism in England suppressed. Many, among them THOMAS CRANMER, archbishop of Canterbury, were executed (hence her byname Bloody Mary). She married Philip II. of Spain (1554); in 1558 she ceded Calais to France.

English language biography, from; from, illustrated; from Catholic Encyclopedia
German language biography, from BBKL

Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587
Married Francis, future King of France (1559-1560) in 1558; returnmed to Scotland in 1560, of which she was Queen since 1542. Mary was a devoted Catholic and fought the Presbyterian church. She married Lord Darnley in 1565. In 1567 she fled, when the Scottish nobles revolted. Arriving in England, she was imprisoned at the order of Queen ELIZABETH I.. Mary, from her prison cell, participated in several plots against Elizabeth and in 1587 was executed. Mary's son JAMES VI. and I. was to become both Mary's and Elizabeth's successor.

English language biography, from, illustrated; from Catholic Encyclopedia

Maurice (Moritz), 1521-1553
Was educated (the Catholic way) at the court of Archbishop Cardinal Albrecht II. von Mainz 1532-1534; then in 1537 (the Lutheran way) in Torgau, at the initiative of Duke-Elector of (Ernestine) Saxony, JOHN FREDERICK. In 1541 Maurice succeeded his father as Duke of (Albertine Saxony), which under his father had introduced the Lutheran reformation. He married Agnes, daughter of Count PHILIP THE MAGNANIMOUS of Hessen in 1541. Albertine Saxony had associated heself with the SCHMALKALDIC LEAGUE; Maurice, however, adopted a policy of supporting Emperor Charles V. against the Turks (1542) and the French (1544). In 1545 he supported the expulsion of Duke Henry of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel by the Schmalkaldic League. Maurice pursued a policy of separating religion and policy; in doing so, he was ahead of his time. He entered into a secret alliance with the Emperor, and, being promised territorial gain at the expense of his Ernestine relatives, attacked Electoral Saxony in 1546, beginning the SCHMALKALDIC WAR. Initially, his troops occupied almost the entire territory of Duke-Elector John Frederick of (Ernestine) Saxony; then John Frederick expelled Maurice's forces, occupied Albertine Saxony and penetrated even into Bohemia, when the Imperial forces entered the scene, turning the table again. The BATTLE OF MÜHLBERG decided the war against John Frederick, who lost the major part of his territory, Electoral Saxony, which was granted to Maurice by the Diet of Augsburg in 1547. Maurice, in the LANDTAG OF LEIPZIG, gained the recognition by his new subjects (PHILIPP MELANCHTHON, JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN among the delegates from Electoral Saxony); now Maurice was Duke-Elector of a reunited Saxony (the Ernestine neighbours only held on to territory in Thuringia).
Emperor Charles V.'s attempts to undo reforms of the Lutheran reformation via the tool of Reichstag legislation (AUGSBURG INTERIM 1548) was disconcerting to Maurice. In 1552 he marched his army on Augsburg, where the Reichstag was deliberating, taking control of the city and marching on toward Innsbruck, where the Emperor was residing; he fled. This action lead to the TREATY OF PASSAU (1552), which contained the outlines of the PEACE OF AUGSBURG 1555 - the 1552 campaign terminated Charles V policy to diplomatically undo the reformation. Maurice lead the Imperial forces against the Turks in 1553; later that year he campaigned in Germany against Count Albrecht Achilles von Brandenburg-Kulmbach. During the campaign he was assassinated, age 32.

English language biography, from infoplease, in English, 13 lines
German language biography, from BBKL, 47 lines, bibliography

Philip I. the Magnanimous (Philipp der Grossmütige), 1504-1567
Born in 1504; inherited the Landgraviate (Landgrafschaft) of Hessen in 1517, at 13 years of age. Emperor Maximilian I. declared Count Philip of age in 1518. In 1523 Philip married Christine, daughter of Duke Georg of (Albertine) Saxony. In 1524 Philip, influenced by PHILIPP MELANCHTHON, ordered the gospel to be held in German, thus opting for the Lutheran reform. In the GERMAN PEASANTS WAR (1525) Count Philip achieved quick military successes against the poorly armed and organized peasant forces. In 1527 Count Philip founded the UNIVERSITY OF MARBURG, endowed with confiscated church property. In 1528 he declared the authority of the Archbishop of Mainz in church affairs over Hessen for terminated. In 1529, at his invitation, MARTIN LUTHER and HULDRYCH ZWINGLI discussed religious matters in the MARBURG COLLOQUY, without coming to an agreement. In 1531 the Hessian (Lutheran) church was organized, placed under 6 superintendents (bishops). In the same year, Philip Count of Hessen was one of the founders of the SCHMALKALDIC LEAGUE. In 1534 Philip restored Duke Ulrich of Württemberg to his duchy, from where he had been expelled in 1519. In 1540 Count Philip, in communication with Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, entered in a second marriage. In 1541, Emperor CHARLES V. declared him a bigamist; in return for an Imperial pardon, Philip made political concessions which significantly weakened the Schmalkaldic League. In the SCHMALKALDIC WAR, Philip had to submit unconditionally to Charles V.; he was imprisoned by the latter until 1552 (Treaty of Passau). He attempted to implement the AUGSBURG INTERIM in Hessen, but failed due to the resistance of the Hessian clergy. After his death, the Landgraviate was partitioned among his sons, creating HESSEN-DARMSTADT and HESSEN-KASSEL. Philip Count of Hessen is hailed as the father of political protestantism.

English language biographies, from infoplease, 13 lines; from EB 1911, 127 lines, incomplete
German language biographies, from BBKL, 45 lines, bibliography

Waldburg, Gebhard Truchsess von , 1547-1601
Born into Swabian nobility; he studied at Ingolstadt, Perugia and Leuven. In December 1577 he was elected Archbishop of Cologne (which brought with it the title of Prince of Westphalia and Elector). In 1582 he proclaimed his conversion to Lutheran faith; he married Countess Agnes of Mansfeld (1583). As the Princearchbishop of Cologne had a seat on the Council of Electors, the affair was of critical importance for the Habsburg Dynasty - a protestant archbishop meant a protestant majority in the electoral council. Pope Gregory XIII. excommunicated Truchsess von Waldburg. A new election was held, and Ernst von Wittelsbach, already bishop of Liege, Freising and Hildesheim, was chosen archbishop; the Princebishopric now experienced a civil war. While Ernst enjoyed the full support of the Spanish and the Imperial party, Germany's Lutheran princes were lackluster in their support of Waldburg, because of his friendly attitude toward the Calvinists. Thus, Truchsess von Waldburg was ousted. He took up residence in the Netherlands.

English language biography from EB 1911 , 62 lines
German language biography, from Wer war wer im Dreissigjährigen Krieg, 54 lines

Waldeck, Franz von , 1491-1553
Son of Count Philipp II. of Waldeck. Studied theology in Erfurt, was ordained a priest, in 1524 provost of St. Alexander in Einbeck. Since 1523/24 he lived together with Anne Poelmann, who bore him 8 children. Elected Bishop of Minden in 1530, of Münster and Osnabrück in 1532. The city of Münster, though formally subject to the bishop, by that time was out of control, in the hands of an Anabaptist community turning ever more radical. In 1534 Bishop Franz von Waldeck laid siege to the city; the latter fell in 1535, by an act of treason, and the Anabaptist leaders were executed, Anabaptism persecuted throughout the three bishoprics.
Franz von Waldeck leaned toward Lutheranism and thought of having his three bishoprics transferred into a secular principality. Yet because of the Anabaptist craze he acted very cautiously; in the 1540es he encouraged the Lutheran reformation in the city and Stift of Osnabrück. Lutheranism also made progress in the Stift Münster. Then the SCHMALKALDIC WAR in 1546-1547 changed the situation; Franz von Waldeck did not convert, neither did he implement Lutheranism as state confession in Münster, Osnabrück and Minden. When he died in 1553, he left behind territories where the reformation had partially been implemented (on a local level), in Osnabrück stronger than in the others.

German language biography, from BBKL


Gustavus II. Adolphus (Gustav II. Adolf), 1594-1632, King of Sweden 1611-1632
When Gustavus II. Adolphus ascended to the throne, he implemented a military reform. In a series of wars against Russia, Poland and Sweden's campaign in the Thirty Years' War, he elevated SWEDEN into a first-rank military power. Sweden was unable to finance war at that scale; the Swedish armies pressed the occupied country to sustain them. Gustavus II. was a devoted Lutheran, and after the defeat of King Christian of Denmark by Wallenstein, regarded himself the protector of Lutheranism in Germany. Nonetheless he had to force Brandenburg and Saxony to enter into alliances, on Swedish terms. In 1632 he fell in the BATTLE OF LÜTZEN.

English language biography, from Carpe Noctem, illustrated; from EB 1911, 104 lines, incomplete (unprofessional edition)
German language biography, from Wer war wer im Dreissigjährigen Krieg ?, illustrated, 36 lines; link leads to more detailed biography, from same site

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