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John George I, Elector of Saxony

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John George I
Elector of Saxony
Margrave of Meissen
Portrait by Franz Luycx (1652).
Elector of Saxony
Reign23 June 1611 – 8 October 1656
PredecessorChristian II
SuccessorJohn George II
Margrave of Meissen
Reign23 June 1611 – 8 October 1656
PredecessorChristian II
SuccessorJohn George II
SpouseSibylle Elisabeth of Württemberg
Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia
Issue
Stillborn son
Stillborn son
Princess Sophie Eleonore
Princess Marie Elisabeth
Prince Christian Albert
Prince Johann Georg
Prince Augustus
Prince Christian
Princess Magdalene Sibylle
Prince Maurice
Prince Heinrich
HouseHouse of Wettin
FatherChristian I, Elector of Saxony
MotherSophie of Brandenburg
Born5 March 1585(1585-03-05)
Dresden
Died8 October 1656 (aged 71)
Dresden ?

John George I (German: Johann Georg I; 5 March 1585 – 8 October 1656) was Elector of Saxony from 1611 to 1656.

Contents

Biography

Born in Dresden, he was the second son of the Elector Christian I and Sophie of Brandenburg.

He succeeded to the electorate in 23 June 1611 on the death of his elder brother, Christian II. The geographical position of electoral Saxony rather than her high standing among the German Protestants gave her ruler much importance during the Thirty Years' War. At the beginning of his reign, however, the new elector took up a somewhat detached position. His personal allegiance to Lutheranism was sound, but he liked neither the growing strength of Brandenburg nor the increasing prestige of the Palatinate; the adherence of the other branches of the Saxon ruling house to Protestantism seemed to him to suggest that the head of electoral Saxony should throw his weight into the other scale, and he was prepared to favor the advances of the Habsburgs and the Roman Catholic party.

Thus he was easily induced to vote for the election of Ferdinand, archduke of Styria, as emperor in August 1619, an action which nullified the anticipated opposition of the Protestant electors. The new emperor secured the help of John George for the impending campaign in Bohemia by promising that he should be undisturbed in his possession of certain ecclesiastical lands. Carrying out his share of the bargain by occupying Silesia and Lusatia, where he displayed much clemency, the Saxon elector had thus some part in driving Frederick V, elector palatine of the Rhine, from Bohemia and in crushing Protestantism in that country, the crown of which he himself had previously refused.

Gradually, however, he was made uneasy by the obvious trend of the imperial policy towards the annihilation of Protestantism, and by a dread lest the ecclesiastical lands should be taken from him; and the issue of the edict of restitution in March 1629 put the capstone to his fears. Still, although clamouring vainly for the exemption of the electorate from the area covered by the edict, John George took no decided measures to break his alliance with the emperor. He did, indeed, in February 1631 call a meeting of Protestant princes at Leipzig, but in spite of the appeals of the preacher Matthias Hoe von Hohenegg (1580-1645) he contented himself with a formal protest.

Monument to John George in Johanngeorgstadt.

Meanwhile Gustavus Adolphus had landed in Germany, aiming to relieve Magdeburg. Gustavus attempted to conclude an alliance with John George to allow him to cross the Elbe at Wittenberg, but John George remained hesitant to join the Protestant cause and the discussions went nowhere. Hoping that an alliance would be concluded eventually, Gustavus avoided any military action.

Tilly, commander of the main imperial force, was also concerned about the possibility of an alliance, no matter how unlikely it was at the time. In order to preempt any such move, he invaded Saxony and started to ravage the countryside. This had the effect of driving John George into the alliance he had hoped to preempt, which was concluded in September 1631. The Saxon troops were present at the battle of Breitenfeld, but were routed by the imperialists, the elector himself seeking safety in flight.

Nevertheless he soon took the offensive. Marching into Bohemia the Saxons occupied Prague, but John George soon began to negotiate for peace and consequently his soldiers offered little resistance to Wallenstein, who drove them back into Saxony. However, for the present the efforts of Gustavus Adolphus prevented the elector from deserting him, but the position was changed by the death of the king at Lützen in 1632, and the refusal of Saxony to join the Protestant league under Swedish leadership.

Still letting his troops fight in a desultory fashion against the imperialists, John George again negotiated for peace, and in May 1635 he concluded the important treaty of Prague with Ferdinand II. His reward was Lusatia and certain other additions of territory; the retention by his son Augustus of the archbishopric of Magdeburg; and some concessions with regard to the edict of restitution. Almost at once he declared war upon the Swedes, but in October 1636 he was beaten at Wittstock; and Saxony, ravaged impartially by both sides, was soon in a deplorable condition. At length in September 1645 the elector was compelled to agree to a truce with the Swedes, who, however, retained Leipzig; and as far as Saxony was concerned this ended the Thirty Years' War. After the peace of Westphalia, which with regard to Saxony did little more than confirm the treaty of Prague, John George died (1656).

Although not without political acumen, he was not a great ruler; his character appears to have been harsh and unlovely, and he was addicted to drink and other diversions such as hunting.

Ancestors

John George's ancestors in three generations
John George I, Elector of SaxonyFather:
Christian I, Elector of Saxony
Paternal Grandfather:
Augustus, Elector of Saxony
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Henry IV, Duke of Saxony
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Katharina of Mecklenburg
Paternal Grandmother:
Anna of Denmark
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Christian III of Denmark
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg
Mother:
Sophie of Brandenburg
Maternal Grandfather:
John George, Elector of Brandenburg
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Joachim II Hector, Elector of Brandenburg
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Magdalena of Saxony
Maternal Grandmother:
Sabine of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Maternal Great-grandfather:
George, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Hedwig von Münsterberg

Family and children

File:SibyllaElisabethWuertSa.JPG
Sibylle Elisabeth of Württemberg, John George's first wife.

In Dresden on 16 September 1604 Johann Georg married firstly Sibylle Elisabeth of Württemberg. She died in the birth of their only child:

  1. Stillborn son (Dresden, 20 January 1606).

In Torgau on 19 July 1607 Johann Georg married secondly Magdalene Sibylle, daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia. They had ten children:

  1. Stillborn son (Dresden, 18 July 1608).
  2. Sophie Eleonore (b. Dresden, 23 November 1609 - d. Darmstadt, 2 June 1671), married on 1 April 1627 to Landgrave Georg II of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  3. Marie Elisabeth (b. Dresden, 22 November 1610 - d. Husum, 24 October 1684), married on 21 February 1630 to Duke Frederick III of Holstein-Gottorp.
  4. Christian Albert (b. Dresden, 4 March 1612 - d. Dresden, 9 August 1612).
  5. Johann Georg II (b. Dresden, 31 May 1613 - d. Freiberg, 22 August 1680), successor of his father as Elector of Saxony.
  6. August (b. Dresden, 13 August 1614 - d. Halle, 4 August 1680), inherited Weissenfels as Duke.
  7. Christian I (b. Dresden, 27 October 1615 - d. Merseburg, 18 October 1691), inherited Merseburg as Duke.
  8. Magdalene Sibylle (b. Dresden, 23 December 1617 - d. Schloss Altenburg, 6 January 1668), married on 5 October 1634 to Crown Prince Christian, eldest son and heir of King Christian IV of Denmark; and secondly on 11 October 1652, to Duke Frederick Wilhelm II of Saxe-Altenburg.
  9. Maurice (b. Dresden, 28 March 1619 - d. Moritzburg, 4 December 1681), inherited Zeitz as Duke.
  10. Heinrich (b. Dresden, 27 June 1622 - d. Dresden, 15 August 1622).

In addition to his successor John George II he left three sons, Augustus, Christian and Maurice, all of whom were endowed with lands in Saxony and founded cadet branches of the Saxon house.

Preceded by
Christian II
Elector of Saxony
1611 – 1656
Succeeded by
John George II

References

 

All translations of john george of saxony


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