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Jutland and Northernmost Germany showing Schleswig and Holstein in today's German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein.
Coat of arms of Holstein: a stylised nettle leaf; similar to the coat of arms of Schaumburg

Holstein (German pronunciation: [ˈhɔlʃtain]) (Low German: Holsteen, Danish: Holsten, Latin and historical English: Holsatia) is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany.

Holstein once existed as the County of Holstein (German: Grafschaft Holstein), the later Duchy of Holstein (German: Herzogtum Holstein), and was the northernmost territory of the Holy Roman Empire. The history of Holstein is closely intertwined with the history of the Danish Duchy of Schleswig. The capital of Holstein is Kiel.

Holstein's name comes from the Holcetae, a Saxon tribe mentioned by Adam of Bremen as living on the north bank of the Elbe, to the west of Hamburg. The name means "dwellers in the wood".


Holstein, essentially the part of Old Saxony that was situated north of the river Elbe, was conquered by Charlemagne ca. 800. It was a county from 1111–1474; it was first a fief of the Duchy of Saxony, then of the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg, and finally of the Bishopric of Lübeck.

The County of Holstein was ruled by the House of Schauenburg; the first count was Adolf I, Count of Holstein. Holstein was occupied by Denmark after the Battle of Stellau (1201), but was reconquered by Schauenburg in the Battle of Bornhöved (1227). In the 14th century, the counts of Holstein acquired the Duchy of Schleswig, a fief of the Kingdom of Denmark. When the Holstein line of the Schauenburg counts became extinct in 1459, Holstein and Schleswig fell to the king of Denmark through the Treaty of Ribe (1460); only the Lordship of Pinneberg remained with the Schauenburg counts.

In 1474, Holstein was raised to a duchy and became a state of the Holy Roman Empire (reichsunmittelbar), which it remained until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.

In 1490, Holstein was divided into Holstein-Segeberg and Holstein-Gottorp. Holstein-Segeberg remained with the Danish king and was also known as Royal Holstein; later it came to be known as Holstein-Glückstadt. Holstein-Gottorp, also known as Ducal Holstein, was given to a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg, to which the kings of Denmark belonged.

The Duke of Holstein-Gottorp became emperor of Russia in 1762 as Peter III and was planning an attack on Denmark to recover the lost Holstein-Gottorp lands in Schleswig. Although Peter was soon overthrown by his wife, Catherine the Great, the Danes determined to rid themselves of this problem. In 1773, they exchanged the County of Oldenburg for the Gottorp lands in Holstein, bringing all of Holstein under their control. Thus, Holstein was again united in one state.

Because of its personal union with Denmark, the Duchy of Holstein did not come under French control during the Napoleonic era. From 1815 to 1864 it was a member of the German Confederation, though still in personal union with Denmark (the King of Denmark being also Duke of Holstein). Following the death of King Frederick VII of Denmark in 1863, the inheritance of Schleswig and Holstein was disputed. The new king, Christian IX, made his claim to the Danish throne through a female line. The Duke of Augustenborg, a minor scion from another line of the family, claimed the Duchies, and soon the German Confederation, led by Prussia and Austria, went to war with Denmark, quickly defeating it in 1864 and forcing it to cede the duchies. However, the duchies were not given to the Duke of Augustenborg. In 1865 an arrangement was worked out between Prussia and Austria where the Austrians occupied and administered Holstein, while the Prussians did the same in Schleswig. This arrangement came to an end with the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, which resulted in Schleswig and Holstein both being incorporated into Prussia as the Province of Schleswig-Holstein.

For a list of rulers, see Counts of Schauenburg and Holstein.


As of 1864, Holstein bordered Denmark in the north, the Principality of Lübeck (an exclave of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg), the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck, and the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg in the east, and the Kingdom of Hanover and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in the south. It also borders the North Sea in the west and the Baltic Sea in the east. Its only major island is Fehmarn.

Cities in Holstein included Kiel, Altona, Glückstadt, Rendsburg, Segeberg, Heiligenhafen, Oldenburg in Holstein, and Plön. It had an area of 8,385 km².

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HOLSTEIN, formerly a duchy of Germany. Until about 'Ito the county of Holstein formed part of the duchy of Saxony, and it was made a duchy in 1472. From 1460 to 1864 it was ruled by members of the house of Oldenburg, some of whom were also kings of Denmark. It is now the southern part of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. (See Schleswig-Holstein, and for history Schleswig-Holstein QUESTION.

<< Friedrich von Holstein

Karl Christian Johann Holsten >>


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