1618-1648 Saxony, 1694-1740

Saxony, 1648-1694

With the TREATY OF WESTPHALIA, the 30 YEARS WAR ended. Saxony had suffered considerably, although it had not been the worst affected region. During the war, Saxony had gained the LAUSITZ as well as the former Princebishopric of MAGDEBURG, the latter for the most part temporarily (until 1680; from then onward it was to fall under Brandenburg rule).
Duke-Elector JOHN GEORGE I. (1611-1656) was concerned to get the Swedish occupation troops leave his country, which was achieved when the contributions Sweden was promised in the Treaty of Westphalia had been paid (1650). The main concern, however, had to be to overcome the war damage; many farms were deserted, villages destroyed, mines closed down. However, Saxony was in a better position as many other territories which had suffered severe damage during the war, as its soil was extraordinarily rich and the country was rich in mines. In addition, Bohemia had expelled its protestant population; about half of the refugees chose to settle down in Saxony. The population of Saxony in 1650 is estimated at about 535,000, about 80,000 of them Bohemian exulants. In consequence, Saxony's economy recovered faster than the economies of many other German territories. Especially, the metal industry developed, new furnaces and water mill powered hammer works being established in the 1650es and 1660es.
When Duke John George I. died in 1656, he was succeeded by his son JOHN GEORGE II. However, according to John George's testament - in violation of the rule established by Duke Albert in 1499 - SECUNDOGENITURES were established for his second, third and fourth son. These territories - Sachsen-Merseburg (1656-1738), Sachsen-Zeitz (1656-1718) and Sachsen-Weissenfels (1656-1746) - did not become independent entities, as they were refused to establish separate diets, and as the territories, in case the male line ended, were to be reintegrated into Electoral Saxony. They were rather apanages. The establishment of these apanages, however, was detrimental to the Saxon state. John George II., like his father, ruled in close cooperation with the Estates (Landtag); the latter met regularly, about every three years; the Estates' COMMITTEES (Ausschuss/Ausschüsse) met even more frequently. In 1661 a LAND ORDINNANCE was adopted, which regulated all aspects of life.
Under Duke JOHN GEORGE II. (1656-1680) Saxony pursued an inconsistent foreign policy, often changing alliances. In 1664 Saxon troops joined Austrian troops in fighting the Ottomans in Hungary; in the same year Saxony temporarily became a member of the Rhenian Alliance (a tool in Louis XVI.'s foreign policy). In 1673 Saxony adopted a pro-Imperial policy and supported the Imperial war against France, decided upon in 1674. In 1675, Saxon troops fought alongside Brandenburgian regiments against the Swedes. 1678 Saxony switched sides, now siding with France and Sweden, depriving the Brandenburgians of the gains they believed to have earned during the war. When John George II. died in 1680, most of the Princebishopric of Magdeburg was ceded to Brandenburg.
Under John George II.'s rule, the court at Dresden frequently saw magnificent balls; construction, which turned the city into "Florence on the Elbe" continued. The inner city of Dresden suffered a devastating fire in 1685. Composer HEINRICH SCHÜTZ lived and worked in Dresden; the city attracted Italian composers and architects. Leipzig evolved as a major center of German book printing.
John George II. was succeeded by his son JOHN GEORGE III. (1680-1691). Following the example of Sun King Louis XIV., he introduced a STANDING ARMY (1682), 10,000 men strong, and held maitresses. In 1683, Saxony entered into an alliance with the Emperor; Saxon troops were dispatched in order to help break the Turkish siege of Vienna. Saxony signed a treaty with Venice, 'lending' 3,000 of her troops to the maritime republic for two years in return for Venetian suubsidies - the Venetians conquered Morea. In 1688 Louis XIV. invaded the Rhineland; an Imperial war was declared against France, and Saxon troops participated in the operations against France; John George III. himself was placed in command of the Imperial troops.
In 1691, John George III. died, succeeded by his son JOHN GEORGE IV. (1691-1694). His councillor HANS ADAM VON SCHÖNING advised the introduction of absolutism and a foreign policy of breaking with the Emperor and entering an alliance with France. In 1692 he was arrested, in 1693 another treaty of alliance with the Emperor signed; Saxon troops participated in the campaign of 1693 against France.

John George I. of Saxony, from EB 1911, in English, 55 lines, text partially garbled
John George II. of Saxony, from EB 1911, in English, 12 lines
John George III. of Saxony, from EB 1911, in English, 14 lines
John George IV. of Saxony, from EB 1911, in English, 12 lines
Die Wettiner (the Wettin Dynasty), by Sven Wetzig, in German
Johann Georg I. von Sachsen, from Wer war wer im Dreissigjaehrigen Krieg ?, in German, illustrated, detailed
Johann Georg III. von Sachsen, from MDR, in German, illustrated
DOCUMENTS Paulus Jenisius, Annaberger Chronik, 1641-1650, 1651-1660, 1661-1670, 1671-1680, 1681-1690, 1691-1700
Portrait of John George I., from Treasures of the Saxon State Library, online exhibition posted by Library of Congress
REFERENCE Reiner Gross, Geschichte Sachsens (History of Saxony), Berlin : Edition Leipzig 2001

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First posted on December 24th 2002, last revised on November 12th 2004

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