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Herzogtum Sachsen-Lauenburg
Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg
State of the Holy Roman Empire
State of the German Confederation
Duchy of Saxony


Saxe-Lauenburg in 1848 (map in Dutch)
Capital Lauenburg on Elbe (to 1619)
Ratzeburg (from 1619)
Government Principality
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Partitioned from
    Duchy of Saxony
 - Partitioned into
    and Saxe-Ratzeburg
 - Personal union:
     - with Lüneburg-Celle
     - with Elect. Hanover
 - Dissolved during
    Great French War
 - Personal union:
     - with Denmark
     - with Prussia
 - Merged into Prussia 1876

The Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg (German: Herzogtum Sachsen-Lauenburg, called Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) between the 14th and 17th centuries), later also known as the Duchy of Lauenburg, was a Reichsfrei duchy that existed 1296–1803 and 1814–76 in the extreme southeast region of what is now Schleswig-Holstein. Its territorial center was in the modern district of Herzogtum Lauenburg and its eponymous capital was Lauenburg upon Elbe, though in 1619 the capital moved to Ratzeburg.


Former territories not part of today's district of Lauenburg

In addition to the core territories in the modern district of Lauenburg, at times other territories mostly south of the river Elbe belonged to the duchy:

  • The Amt Neuhaus proper, then including areas on both sides of the Elbe, ceded to the Kingdom of Hanover in 1814, all part of today's Lower Saxon Lüneburg (district)
Saxe-Lauenburg ca. 1400 (green), including the tracts south of the Elbe and the Amt Neuhaus, but without Hadeln out of the map downstream the Elbe.
  • The exclave Land Hadeln in the area of the Elbe estuary was disentangled from Saxe-Lauenburg in 1689 and administered as a separate territory under imperial custody, before its was ceded to Bremen-Verden in 1731, now its is part of today's Lower Saxon Cuxhaven (district).


The coat of arms of Saxe-Lauenburg as fixed by Duke Julius Francis and confirmed by Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1671. It shows in the upper left quarter the Ascanian barry of ten, in sable and or, covered by a crancelin of rhombs (they are not shown in this undetailed copy) bendwise in vert.[1] The second quarter shows in azure an eagle crowned in or (crown missing in this copy). The third quarter displays in argent three water-lily leaves in gules. The lower right fourth quarter shows in sable and argent the electoral swords (Kurschwerter) in gules, indicating the Saxon office as Imperial Arch-Marshal (Erzmarschall, Archimarescallus), pertaining to Saxon privilege as Prince-elector, besides the right to elect the new emperor after the decease of the former. Saxe-Lauenburg always claimed the privilege, but could not prevail after 1356.
Saxe-Lauenburg's coat-of-arms as used between 1507 and 1671, sketch of 1605.

The duchy was established by partitioning of the Duchy of Saxony into the duchies of Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg. The residences of Saxe-Lauenburg's dukes were located in the towns of Ratzeburg and Lauenburg/Elbe. The dukes of Lauenburg and Wittenberg each rivallingly claimed the electoral dignity for their Duchy of Saxony.

In 1314 the dispute escalated into the election of two rivalling German kings, the Habsburgian Frederick III, the Fair and his Wittelsbachian cousin Louis IV, the Bavarian. Louis received five of the seven votes, to wit Archbishop-Elector Baldwin of Trier, the legitimate King-Elector John of Bohemia, Duke John II of Saxe-Lauenburg, rivallingly claiming the Saxon prince-electoral power, Archbishop-Elector Peter of Mainz, and Prince-Elector Waldemar of Brandenburg.

Frederick the Fair received in the same election four of the seven votes, with the deposed King-Elector Henry of Bohemia, illegitimately assuming electoral power, Archbishop-Elector Henry II of Cologne, Louis's brother Prince-Elector Rudolph I of the Electoral Palatinate, and Duke Rudolph I of Saxe-Wittenberg, rivallingly claiming the Saxon prince-electoral power. However, only Louis the Bavarian finally asserted himself as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The Golden Bull of 1356, however, conclusively named the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg as electors.

Since the 14th c. Saxe-Lauenburg termed itself as Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen).[2] However, Saxony as a naming for the area comprising the older Duchy of Saxony in its borders before 1180 still prevailed. So when in 1500 the Holy Roman Empire established the Imperial Circles as tax levying and army recruitment districts, the circle comprising Saxe-Lauenburg and all its neighbours became designated as Saxon Circle, while the Wettin-ruled Saxon electorate and duchies at that time formed the Upper Saxon Circle. The naming of Lower Saxony became more colloquial and the Saxon Circle was later renamed into Lower Saxon Circle. In 1659 Duke Julius Henry decreed in his general disposition (guide-lines for his government) "to also esteem the woodlands as heart and dwell [of revenues] of the Principality of Lower Saxony."[3]

With the death of Duke Julius Francis the Lauenburg line of the House of Ascania was extinct in the male line. However, female succession was possible by the Saxe-Lauenburgian laws. So the two surviving out of the three daughters of Julius Francis, Anna Maria Franziska of Saxe-Lauenburg and Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg fought for the succession of the former, the elder sister. Their weakness was abused by Duke George William of the neighbouring Brunswick-Lunenburgian Principality of Lunenburg-Celle, who invaded Saxe-Lauenburg with his troops, thus inhibiting the ascension of the legal female heir to the throne Duchess Anna Maria.

Also other monarchies claimed the succession, resulting into a conflict involving further the neighbouring duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and of Danish Holstein, as well as the five Ascanian-ruled Principalities of Anhalt, the Electorate of Saxony, which had succeeded the Saxe-Wittenbergian Ascanians in 1422, Sweden and Brandenburg. Militarily engaged were Celle and Danish Holstein, which agreed on 9 October 1693 (Hamburger Vergleich), that Celle anyway de facto holding most of Saxe-Lauenburg will retain the duchy, while the fortress in Ratzeburg, fortified under Celle rule and directed against Holstein, would be razed. In return Danish Holstein, which had invaded Ratzeburg and ruined the fortress, would withdraw its troops.

So Saxe-Lauenburg, except of Hadeln, passed to the House of Welf and its cadet branch House of Hanover, while the legal heirs, Anna Maria Franziska of Saxe-Lauenburg and Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg, never waiving their claim, were dispossessed and the former exiled in Bohemian Ploskovice. Emperor Leopold I rejected Celle's succession and thus retained Hadeln, which was out of Celle's reach, in his custody. Only in 1728 his son Emperor Charles VI enfeoffed George II Augustus with Saxe-Lauenburg, finally legitimising the de facto takeover by his grandfather in 1689 and 1693.

Saxe-Lauenburg's coat of arms after 1864. These arms alter the Danish version, then featuring a golden horse head on red. Prussia added a rim in black and white, its official colours, and showed the horse head in silver.

The duchy was occupied by French troops in 1803–05, after which the French occupational troops left in a campaign against Austria. Then British, Swedish and Russian coalition forces captured Saxe-Lauenburg in autumn 1805 at the beginning of the War of the Third Coalition against France (1805–1806). In December the Empire of the French, since 1804 France’s new form of government, ceded Saxe-Lauenburg, which it didn't hold anymore, to Brandenburg-Prussia, which captured it early in 1806.

But when the Kingdom of Prussia, the name element Electorate of Brandenburg had turned void at the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire on 6 August 1806, after it had turned - as part of the Fourth Coalition - against France, was defeated in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (November 11, 1806), France recaptured Saxe-Lauenburg. It was integrated into the Kingdom of Westphalia, a French client state. In 1810 most of the former duchy - except of the Amt Neuhaus, which remained with Westphalia - was annexed into the First French Empire.

The Congress of Vienna reestablished Saxe-Lauenburg as a duchy now ruled in personal union by the Danish House of Oldenburg and a member state of the German Confederation. Prussia occupied the duchy 1864 in the Second Schleswig War. In 1865 Saxe-Lauenburg's Estates of the Realm offered William I of Prussia to become Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg. He agreed and ruled the duchy in personal union. William appointed the then Minister President of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, as minister for Saxe-Lauenburg. In 1867 Saxe-Lauenburg joined the North German Confederation.

In 1871 Saxe-Lauenburg was one of the component constituent states founding united Germany. However, in 1876 the ducal government and the estates decided to dissolved the Duchy with effect of 1 July 1876. Its territory was then integrated into the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein as the district Herzogtum Lauenburg (lit. in English: Duchy of Lauenburg).

Dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg

For the Duchesses consort see List of Saxon consorts, partially also presenting portraits. For portraits of the dukes, starting with Julius Henry, see List of Saxon rulers.


House of Ascania (1260–1689)

The counting of the dukes includes the two preceding Ascanian dukes Bernard I and his son Albert I, who both ruled the Saxon dukedom before its partition into Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg.

  • 1260–72: Albert II, ruled jointly with his elder brother John I (according to different sources the joint rule ended 1269, 1272 or as late as 1282)
  • 1260–82: John I (*1249–1285*), ruled jointly with his younger brother Albert II until 1269, 1272 or 1282. John left the rule to his minor sons and retired into a Franciscan monastery in Wittenberg.
  • 1282–96: Albert II, after John's resignation (1282) he ruled as custodian, after John's death (1285) as guardian for his three nephews, the minor sons of John
  • 1296–1305: John II (*ca. 1275–1322*), ruled jointly with his brothers Albert III and Eric I
  • 1296–1305: Albrecht (Albert) III (*?–1308*), ruled jointly with his brothers John II and Eric I
  • 1296–1305: Eric I (*?–1361*), ruled jointly with his brothers John II and Albert III

In 1305, the brothers divided their inheritance between them, creating the Bergedorf-Mölln and Ratzeburg-Lauenburg lines.

Bergedorf-Mölln line

  • 1305–22: John II (*ca. 1275–1322*), ruled alone in Bergedorf-Mölln
  • 1322–43: Albrecht (Albert) IV (*?–1343*), son of the preceding.
  • 1343–56: John III (*?–1356*), son of the preceding.
  • 1356–70: Albrecht (Albert) V (*?–1370*), brother of the preceding.
  • 1370–1401: Eric III (*?–1401*), brother of the preceding.

In 1401, the elder branch became extinct and Lauenburg rejoined the Ratzeburg-Lauenburg line.

Ratzeburg-Lauenburg line

  • 1305–08: Albrecht (Albert) III (*?–1308*), ruled jointly in Ratzeburg-Lauenburg with his brother Eric I.
  • 1305–38: Eric I (*?–1360*), rules jointly in Ratzeburg-Lauenburg with his brother Albert III until 1308, resigned in 1338.
  • 1338–68: Eric II (*1318/1320–1368*), son of the preceding.
  • 1368–1412: Eric IV (*1354–1411/1412*), son of the preceding, ruled jointly with his sons Eric V and Bernard II since 1401.[4]

In 1401, the younger branch inherited Lauenburg and other possessions of the extinct elder Bergedorf-Mölln line.

  • 1401–36: Eric V (*?-1436*), son of the preceding, ruled jointly with his father until 1412, his brother John IV until 1414 and his younger brother Bernard II as of 1426.
  • 1401–14: John IV (*?-1414*), brother of the preceding, ruled jointly with his father until 1412 and his brother Eric V.
  • 1426–63: Bernard II (*1385/1392–1463*), brother of the preceding, ruled jointly with his brother Eric V as of 1426.[5]
  • 1463–1507: John V (*1439–1507*), son of the preceding.[6]
  • 1507–43: Magnus I (*1488–1543*), son of the preceding.
  • 1543–71: Francis I (*1510–1581*), son of the preceding, resigned in favour of his son Magnus II.[7]
  • 1571-74: Magnus II (*1543–1603*), son of the preceding.[8]
  • 1574–81: Francis I (*1510–1581*), reascended the throne, replacing his son Magnus II.
  • 1581-88: Magnus II (*1543–1603*), son of the preceding, ruled jointly with his brothers Maurice and Francis II, Magnus resigned in 1588.
  • 1581-1612: Maurice (*1551–1612*), ruled jointly with his brothers Magnus II (till 1588) and Francis II.
  • 1581–1619: Francis II (*1547–1619*), ruled jointly with his brothers Magnus II (till 1588) and Maurice (till 1612).[9]
  • 1619–56: Augustus (*1577–1656*), son of the preceding.[10]
  • 1656–65: Julius Henry (*1586–1665*), brother of the preceding.[11]
  • 1665–66: Francis Erdmann (*1629–1666*), son of the preceding.
  • 1666–89: Julius Francis (*1641–1689*), brother of the preceding.[12]

House of Welf (1689–1803)

For 113 years the duchy was ruled by members of the Welf dynasty. However, since its violent takeover only in 1728 Emperor Charles VI enfeoffed George II Augustus with Saxe-Lauenburg, finally legitimising the Welfs as dukes.

House of Brunswick and Lunenburg–Celle (1689–1705)

House of Hanover (1705–1803)

Napoleonic Wars (1803–14)

House of Oldenburg (1814–64)

For fifty years, from 1814, Saxe-Lauenburg was within the Germany German Confederation, and in personal union with the Denmark Kingdom of Denmark:

Main line (1814–63)

  • 1814–39: Frederick I; also King of Denmark (1808–39, as Frederick VI) and Duke of Coat of arms of Schleswig-Holstein.svg Schleswig-Holstein; previously King of Norway Norway (1808–14) and Regent of Norway Denmark-Norway from 1784.
  • 1839–48: Christian I; also King of Denmark (as Christian VIII) and Duke of Schleswig-Holstein; previously King of Norway (1814, as Christian Frederick).
  • 1848–63: Frederick II; also King of Denmark (as Frederick VII) and Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.

Glücksburg line (1863–64)

  • 1863–64: Christian II; also King of Denmark (1863–1906, as Christian IX) and Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.

House of Hohenzollern (1865–76)

For twelve years Saxe-Lauenburg was ruled in personal union with Kingdom of Prussia Prussia, within the Germany North German Confederation (1867–71). In 1871 Saxe-Lauenburg became a component state of united Germany Germany (German Empire).

Dependent rule (1876-today)

The current Prince of Saxe-Lauenberg lives in the United Kingdom. Frederick Sidolph Willem Viktor Karl (b) 1952 inherited the rights to the title from his late uncle Prince Lennart in 1988.

External links


  1. ^ The House of Wettin also adopted this coat-of-arm, when it gained Saxe-Wittenberg, which is why they reappear in the arms of many (formerly) Wettin-ruled states.
  2. ^ However, today's State of Germany named Lower Saxony comprises only small fringes of Lauenburgian Lower Saxon territory, to wit its areas south of the river Elbe, such as 1) the Land Hadeln, 2) a tract of land along the southern Elbe bank, connecting from Marschacht to the Amt Neuhaus, 3) the Amt Neuhaus.
  3. ^ The addition in edged brackets not in the original. In the German original: "… auch die Höltzung für des Fürstenthumbs Niedersachsen Kern und Brunquell zu achten." Generaldisposition of Julius Francis, 1659.
  4. ^ His wife was Sophia of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Wolfenbüttel) and they had Catharina of Saxe-Lauenburg (mar. Henry IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) as daughter.
  5. ^ His wife was Adelheid of Pomerania and they had Sophie of Saxe-Lauenburg (*before 1428-1473*) as daughter, married to Gerhard VII, Duke of Juliers.
  6. ^ His wife was Dorothea of Brandenburg (c. 1446 - March, 1519, daughter of Frederick II, Elector of Brandenburg). Their children were Eric of Saxe-Lauenburg (1472 - 20 October 1522, as Eric I Prince-Bishop of Münster, as II Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim) and Sophia of Saxe-Lauenburg (mar. in ca. 1420, d. 1462, mother of Eric II, Duke of Pomerania).
  7. ^ He married on 8 February 1540 Sybille of Saxe-Wittenberg (Freiberg, 2 May 1515 - 18 July 1592, Buxtehude), daughter of Henry IV of Saxe-Wittenberg. Their children were Henry of Saxe-Lauenburg (as Henry II Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, as III Prince-Archbishop of Bremen and as IV Prince-Bishop of Paderborn), Sidonia Katharina of Saxe-Lauenburg (mar. with Wenceslaus III Adam, Duke of Cieszyn) and Ursula of Saxe-Lauenburg-Ratzeburg (mar. with Henry, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Dannenberg)).
  8. ^ His wife was Sophia of Sweden.
  9. ^ Francis' wife was Mary of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Wolfenbüttel) (1566-1626, daughter of Julius, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg (Wolfenbüttel)) and they had daughters Juliane of Saxe-Lauenburg (26 December 1589 - 1 December 1630, mar. 1 August 1627), married to Friedrich, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Norburg, and Sophie Hedwig of Saxe-Lauenburg (24 May 1601 - 1 February 1660, mar. 23 May 1624) with Philipp, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.
  10. ^ His wife was Elisabeth Sophie of Holstein-Gottorp, daughter of John Adolf, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. Their daughter was Anna-Elisabetha of Saxe-Lauenburg (23 August 1624 - 1688, mar. 2 April 1665), wife of William Christoph, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg.
  11. ^ He married three times: 1) Anne of Ostfriesland, 2) on 27 February 1628 Elisabeth Sophia of Brandenburg (13 July 1589–24 December 1629), daughter of John George, Elector of Brandenburg and mother of Duke Francis Erdmann, and 3) on 18 August 1632 Anna Magdalene, Baroness Popel von Lobkowitz (d. 7 September 1668), the only to ascend with him to the throne on 18 January 1656. She was mother of Duke Julius Francis.
  12. ^ His wife was Hedwig of Palatine Sulzbach (15 April 1660 - 23 November 1681; daughter of Christian Augustus, Count Palatine of Sulzbach) and they had Anna Maria Franziska of Saxe-Lauenburg and Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg as daughters.


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