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Herzogtum Braunschweig-Lüneburg
Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg
State of the Holy Roman Empire
Duchy of Saxony

Coat of arms

Brunswick-Lüneberg shown as part of the Holy Roman Empire, ca.1648
Capital Braunschweig,
Government Principality
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Otto the Child
    Duke of Brunswick
    and Lüneburg
 - Partition into
    Principality of Lüneburg
    and Principality of
 - Grubenhagen
    split off Brunswick
 - Principality of Göttingen
    split off Brunswick
 - Brunswick divided into
    Wolfenbüttel and
 - Raised to Electorate 1806

Brunswick-Lüneburg (German: Braunschweig-Lüneburg, also English: Brunswick-Lunenburg) was a historical ducal state during the period from the late Middle Ages until the late Early Modern era within the North-Western domains of the Holy Roman Empire.

The main city of this feudal state was Lüneburg through much of the late Middle Ages, Braunschweig (Brunswick) - which itself lay in the duchy of Wolfenbuettel - being the name of the family. Eventually Hanover, currently the capital of the federal state (or in German, "Land") of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), grew into a city that economically dominated the region and later dukes made it their main administrative seat while keeping the family seat in the historic domain, hence giving one reason of the change to the title when the family ascended to the more recent and more prestigious rank of "Elector".


Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg

The state emerged from the inheritance of the first Saxon state of Henry the Lion in the late 12th century. In 1180 Henry was deposed by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as Duke of Saxony, but retained various Lower Saxon lands which were inherited by his children as the Duchies of Brunswick and Lüneburg.

The first duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg was Otto I, grandchild of Henry the Lion, who reigned from 1235 onwards. After 1267 his sons split the duchy into two parts, the Lüneburg-Celle line of John and the Wolfenbüttel line of his brother Albert, which later became a multitude of smaller states. All of them were ruled by the Welf or Guelph dynasty and maintained close relations—not infrequently by the practice of marrying cousins— a practice far more common than one might think, even among the peasantry of the Holy Roman Empire, for the salic inheritance laws in effect, encouraged the practice of retaining control of lands and benefits. The centres of power moved in the meantime from Braunschweig and Lüneburg to Celle and Wolfenbüttel.

While there is a total of about a dozen subdivisions that existed, some of them were only dynastic and were not recognised as states of the Empire, which at one time had over 1500 such legally recognized entities. In the List of Reichstag participants (1792), the following four subdivisions of Brunswick-Lüneburg had recognized representation:

By 1705 only two Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg survived, one ruling Calenberg, Celle, and other possessions, and the other ruling Wolfenbüttel.

From Lüneburg to Hanover

One of the dynastic lines was that of the dukes of Lüneburg-Celle, who in 1635 acquired Calenberg for George, a junior member of the family who set up residence in the city of Hanover. His son Christian Louis and his brothers inherited Celle in 1648 and thereafter shared it and Calenberg between themselves; a closely related branch of the family ruled separately in Wolfenbüttel.

As a latter day development, what became the Electorate of Hanover was initially called the Elector of Brunswick-Lunenberg when the Holy Roman Emperor appointed Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lunenberg an Elector in 1696 (two years before his death) in a somewhat controversial move to increase the number of Protestant electors—thereby offending the entrenched interests of the extant prince-electors who would no longer be so few—. As with most matters in Europe during these times, this was part of the centuries-long religious unrest accompanied by outright warfare (see Thirty Years' War) triggered by the zealous advocates on either side of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Clearly, these masked dynastic ambitions of grasping noblemen.

The territories of Calenberg and Lüneburg-Celle were made an Electorate by the Emperor Leopold I in 1692 in expectation of the imminent inheritance of Celle by the Duke of Calenberg, though the actual dynastic union of the territories did not occur until 1705 under his son George I, and the Electorate was not officially approved by the Imperial Diet until 1708.

The resulting state was known under many different names (Brunswick-Lüneburg, Calenberg, Calenberg-Celle; its ruler was often known as the "Elector of Hanover". Coincidentally, in 1701 the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg found himself in the line of succession for the British crown later confirmed in 1707, by the Act of Union, and inherited that creating a personal union of the two crowns in 20 October 1714.

After a little over a decade, the matter of the disputed electorate was settled upon the heir, and the new Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (acceded as duke on 23 January 1698), George Louis I was able to style himself the Elector of Brunswick and Lüneburg from 1708. It was not just happenstance but similar religious driven politics that brought about the circumstance that he was also been put into line of succession for the British crown by the Settlement Act of 1701— which was written to ensure a Protestant succession to the thrones of Scotland and England in a day when anti-Catholic sentiment ran high in much of Northern Europe and much of Great Britain. In the event, George I succeeded his second cousin Queen Anne of Great Britain — the last reigning member of the House of Stuart, and subsequently formed a personal union from 1 August of 1714 between the British crown and the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg (electorate of Hanover) which would last until well after the end of the Napoleonic wars more than a century later—including even through the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the rise of a new successor kingdom. In that manner, the "Electorate of Hanover" (the core duchy) was enlarged with the addition of other lands and became the kingdom of Hanover in 1814 at the peace conferences (Congress of Vienna) settling the future shape of Europe in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.


History of the relationship to the British crown

The first Hanoverian King of England, George I of Great Britain was the reigning Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and was finally made an official and recognized prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire in 1708. His possessions were enlarged in 1706 when the hereditary lands of the Calenberg branch of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg merged with the lands of the Lüneburg-Celle branch to form the state of Hanover. Subsequently, George I was referred to as Elector of Hanover.

In 1700 and 1701, when the English Parliament had addressed the question of an orderly succession, with a particular religious bias toward a Protestant ruler, from the childless ruling Queen Anne (House of Stuart), it passed by the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 to Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of James I. Sophia predeceased Queen Anne by a few weeks, but her son and heir, George I, succeeded as King of Great Britain when Anne, his second cousin, died in August of 1714. Great Britain and Hanover remained united in personal union until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.

George I was followed by his son George II and great-grandson George III. The last mentioned retained the position of elector even after the Holy Roman Empire was abolished by its last emperor in 1806. George III contested the validity of the dissolution of the Empire and maintained separate consular offices and staff for the Electorate of Hanover until the peace conferences at the war's end. After the fall of Napoleon, George III regained his lands plus lands from Prussia as King of Hanover, whilst giving up some other smaller scattered territories.

After the Congress of Vienna

After the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Calenberg-Celle and its possessions were added to by the Congress of Vienna ending the Napoleonic war being born anew under the name of Kingdom of Hanover (including Brunswick-Lüneburg). During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Kingdom of Hanover was ruled as personal union by the British crown from its creation under George III of the United Kingdom, the last elector of Hanover until the death of William IV in 1837. At that point, the crown of Hanover went to William's younger brother, Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale under the Salic laws requiring the next male heir to inherit, whereas the British throne was inherited by his first cousin, Queen Victoria.

Subsequently, the kingdom was lost in 1866 by his son George V of Hanover during the Austro-Prussian War when it was annexed by Prussia, and became the Prussian province of Hanover.


The Wolfenbüttel line retained its independence, except for the period from 1807 to 1813, when both it and Hanover were merged into the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia. The Congress of Vienna of 1815 turned it into an independent country under the name Duchy of Brunswick. The Duchy of Brunswick remained independent and joined first the North German Confederation and in 1871 then the German Empire.

When the main line of descent became extinct in 1885, the German Emperor withheld the proper heir, the Crown Prince of Hanover, from taking control, instead installing a regent. Decades later, the families were reconciled with the marriage of the Crown Prince's son to the Emperor's only daughter, and the Emperor allowed his son-in-law to assume rule (his father having renounced his own right).

Today both polities are part of the federal state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

Dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg 1235-1428

See also

For later rulers see:

See further:

External links


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