The Ducal House > History > The House of Wettin

The House of Wettin

The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha exists under this name since 1826. It is a branch of one of the oldest and most illustrious German noble families: the Wettins. The history of the Wettin dynasty can be traced back to the 10th century. The family name - which has been in continuous use since the 12th century - derives from Wettin Castle near Halle on the Saale.

During the Middle Ages, the Wettin family gradually extended its territories and multiplied
its titles:
as of 1032, Margraves of the Lausitz
as of 1089, Margraves of Meissen
as of 1247, Landgraves of Thuringia
as of 1423, Dukes and Electors of Saxony



Illustration left:
The Saxon coat of arms
in the Heraldic Gallery of Greinburg Castle,
Grein on the Danube, Upper Austria

In 1423, when they were invested with the duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg - which was vacated
when the ruling House of Ascania died out - the Wettins also acquired the Saxon electoral dignity.
They thus joined the ranks of the seven imperial Electors entitled to choose the German king.
On the strength of this exceptional privilege, they translated the designation 'Duchy of Saxony'
to their entire domain (including Meissen and Thuringia).

The Wettins also took over the ancestral coat of arms of their ducal predecessors (the Wittenberg line of the House of Ascania) with ninefold black and gold bars and a green crown of rue.

In the year 1485, the two brothers Elector Ernst and Duke Albrecht divided between themselves
the entire hereditary domain of the Wettins. As a result of this so-called 'Leipzig Partition'
the House of Wettin was permanently split into the older Ernestine line and the younger Albertine line. The electoral privilege was at first retained by the Ernestine line - until 1547, when Ernst's grandson Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous lost it to his Albertine cousin Moritz of Saxony after being defeated
in the Battle of Mühlberg. Gotha had belonged of the Wettin domains since 1347, Coburg since 1353; both territories went to the Ernestine line until the end of the monarchy in the year 1918.

(text: F. Bachner; translation: S. Slenczka)


 
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