Brandenburg in the 30 Years War

The Reformation in Brandenburg

A.) The Duchy of Brandenburg, it's Structure and Position within the Empire

The Duchy of Brandenburg was located in the east of the Holy Roman Empire, and it is one of it's largest territories. The duke had a special status among the Empire's princes, because he was one of the 7 ELECTORS who, whenever the throne was vacant, were to meet and elect a new king. When the Empire was reorganized in Imperial circles in 1512, Brandenburg was allocated to the UPPER SAXON CIRCLE.
The cities within Brandenburg - foremost BRANDENBURG, BERLIN, POTSDAM, FRANKFURT/ODER, were of secondary importance. Brandenburg administratively was divided in 3 parts - the ALTMARK (to the west of the Elbe), the KURMARK (between Elbe and Oder) and the NEUMARK (to the East of the Oder). The capital, seat of the Duke and the Landtag, was Berlin.

B.) The Duchy of Brandenburg, it's Political Structure

In the late 14th century, Count Friedrich von Zollern - a castle located in southern Germany - was given the Duchy of Brandenburg as a hereditary fief. He thus started the HOHENZOLLERN DYNASTY which was to rule over Brandenburg/Prussia/Germany until 1918.
The territory had a parliament, the LANDTAG, which met irregularly, primarily to discuss the Duke's proposal to raise taxes. It was dominated by the notoriously obstinate nobility, the JUNKERS.

C.) The Duchy of Brandenburg, it's Economical Structure

Brandenburg was a poor country. It's soil is sandy, much less fertile than the rich Loess lands of Magdeburg. Needless to say, there was no mining and, as the country is landlocked, no harbour. While Brandenburg was one of the Empire's largest territories, and it's duke being an elector, one of the politically more important princes, the dukes could only look with envy at the neighbouring Archdiocesis of Magdeburg, the Duchy of Saxony and the Hanseatic League.

D.) The Duchy of Brandenburg : the Reformation

Duke Joachim II. Nestor had been a staunch Catholic and opposed Lutheranism throughout his lifetime. He had established the University of Frankfurt/Oder in 1509. The territory of Brandenburg converted to LUTHERANISM in 1539. In 1613, Duke-Elector John Sigismund converted to CALVINISM, without forcing his subjects to follow.
This separation of dynasty and population over the question of confession indicates that still in the 16th century the position of the dukes was much less firm than in 17th century militarist authoritarian Brandenburg/Prussia.

E.) The Duchy of Brandenburg : Territorial Acquisitions

In 1599, Duke John Cicero acquired the Principality of Jaegerndorf (Silesia) with the exclaves of Beuthen and Oderberg. These areas were lost to Habsburg Austria in 1617/21.
The last of the Dukes of Kleve, who ruled the territories of Kleve, Mark, Berg, Juelich and Ravensberg, all located on the lower Rhine or in Westphalia, died, leaving behind two daughters, one married to the Count of Pfalz-Neuburg, the other to Duke-Elector John Sigismund. The estates of Kleve-Mark-Berg-Juelich-Ravensberg wanted to keep up the territorial unity and sympathized with the count of Pfalz-Neuburg. With the assistance of the Dutch, Duke-Elect John Sigismund was able to push through a partition of the territories; Juelich and Berg were assigned to Pfalz-Neuburg, KLEVE, MARK and RAVENSBERG to Brandenburg. This was the begin of Brandenburgian (Prussian) presence in western Germany. The 30 years war broke out, and the Berlin administration was not able to interfere in Kleve-

List of Duke-Electors of Brandenburg, 1415-1618
Frederick I.
Frederick II.
Albert Akhilleus
John Cicero
Joachim I. Nestor
Joachim II. Hector
John George
Joachim Frederick
John Sigismund
born 1371
born 1413
born 1414
born 1455
born 1484
born 1505
born 1525
born 1546
born 1572
Friedrich I.
Friedrich II.
Albrecht Achilles
Johann Cicero
Joachim I. Nestor
Joachim II. Hektor
Johann Georg
Joachim Friedrich
Johann Sigismund

The once formidable State of the TEUTONIC ORDER had, by 1500, shrunken to a territory in the East of Prussia. But it's wealthy cities (Danzig, Thorn, Elbing) had seceded in 1453, the more fertile agricultural regions with them. The last GRAND MASTER, Albrecht von Brandenburg, a brother of the Duke of Brandenburg, converted the monastic state into the secular, hereditary DUCHY IN PRUSSIA in 1525. He took the Duchy as a Polish fief and introduced Lutheranism. In 1618, Brandenburg and the Duchy in Prussia were united in DYNASTIC UNION.
The Duchy in Prussia had a special heritage - grown out of the State founded by a monastic order with the aim of claiming a country for christianity by conquest. There had been diets (Landtage) as in other countries of that time. But as the most important cities had seceded in 1453, what was left of Prussia was used to be governed autocratically by the Grand Master resp. his successor, the duke. KOENIGSBERG was the most important city left within the duchy.

Carlyle's "History of Friedrich II of Prussia" Vol II : of Brandenburg and the Hohenzollerns. 928-1417, from Projekt Gutenberg
DOCUMENTS Map : Brandenburg 1320-1415, from Germany GenWeb Project
REFERENCE Historical Dictionary of Germany, by Wayne C. Thompson et al., 1994, European Historical Dictionaries No.4
Herbert Tuttle, A History of Prussia, reprint 1996

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Last revised on January 1st 2002

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