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Landgrave Ernst of Thuringia, Elector of Saxony (1441–1486), founder of the Ernestine line
Elector Friedrich the Wise (1463–1525), patron of Martin Luther

The Ernestines are a line of the German princely family of the Wettins . The name derives from the progenitor of the line Elector Ernst von Sachsen . The Ernestines were heads of state in the Grand Duchy of Saxony and in the duchies of Saxe-Meiningen , Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg until the end of the monarchy as a result of the November Revolution .

The emergence of the Ernestine line of the Wettins

Ernst and Albrecht von Sachsen, the two sons of Elector Friedrich II. (1412–1464) ruled their paternal inheritance together for a long time, with Ernst as the eldest elector. In 1485 the two brothers divided their countries ( Leipzig division ). Albrecht and his descendants were given their own territory with Dresden as their center, which they ruled from now on as Dukes of Saxony.

While the Ernestine Elector Frederick the Wise supported the Reformation , the Albertine Duke George the Bearded tried to prevent it in his area. It was not until his brother Heinrich the Pious (1539–1541), who succeeded George as Duke, that the Reformation also introduced the Albertine Saxony.

The loss of the electorate

Although the Albertine Moritz von Sachsen was also a Protestant , in 1546 he sided with Emperor Charles V against the Protestant princes of the Schmalkaldic League under the leadership of his Ernestine cousin Johann Friedrich . After the defeat of the Protestants in the Schmalkaldic War , Moritz received the electoral dignity from the emperor in the Wittenberg surrender in 1547 and large parts of the Ernestine lands as a reward for his services. Since then, the Albertines have been the leading line of the Wettin house . As a result of the loss of the electoral dignity and the constant division of inheritance (and the associated fragmentation of their property), the Ernestine line permanently lost its political power in the empire from the middle of the 17th century .

Ernestine lines

Grand Duchy of Saxony

Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach , which was called the Grand Duchy of Saxony from 1903, began in 1741, as Ernst August I owned both Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach . Under Carl August von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach , the Duchy of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach was united under constitutional law and in 1815 elevated to the status of a Grand Duchy . The state parliament of the Grand Duchy had 38 members. The current head of the House of Saxony-Weimar is Michael-Benedikt von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach .

Duchy of Saxony-Meiningen

The Sachsen-Meiningen line was founded by Bernhard I in 1680 . The constitution of the duchy was based on the Basic Law of August 23, 1829 and the laws of July 20, 1871, April 24, 1873 and March 9, 1896. The state parliament consisted of 24 members, headed by a country marshal. Saxony-Meiningen was represented in the Federal Council in Berlin by the Kingdom of Bavaria . The current head of the house is Konrad von Sachsen-Meiningen.

Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Saxe-Coburg and Gotha , whose first Duke was Ernst I , was created in 1826 after Saalfeld was exchanged for Gotha . The duchy had the two royal cities of Coburg and Gotha. There were two state parliaments for Coburg and Gotha with 11 and 19 members. In addition, there was a joint state parliament consisting of all members for common matters. The current head of the house is Andreas von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha .

Duchy of Saxony-Altenburg

Sachsen-Altenburg existed from 1603 to 1672 and between 1826 and 1918. In the period in between there was the Duchy of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg . The estates of the Duchy of Saxony-Altenburg were reorganized in 1870. The state parliament was composed of 30 members. Ernst II was the last duke to abdicate in 1918, and the Free State of Saxony-Altenburg was founded. Since Georg Moritz von Sachsen-Altenburg had no descendants, the Sachsen-Altenburg line became extinct in 1991 in the male line .

European kings and tsars

The Saxon-Coburg and Gotha line achieved international importance in the 19th century through its marriage policy, when members of the house immediately reached a number of European thrones. Today members of the House still rule in Belgium and Great Britain , although in the case of Great Britain it has been under the name of House Windsor since 1917 .

The Thuringian State Exhibition 2016 was dedicated to the Ernestine family. The Schloss Friedenstein Foundation and the Classic Foundation Weimar presented “The Ernestiner. A dynasty shapes Europe ”. The exhibition took place in two cities at a total of four locations: in Weimar in the Neues Museum and in the City Palace , in Gotha in Schloss Friedenstein and in the Ducal Museum . The ruling family of the Ernestines was presented on a total of 4,000 m² of exhibition space in their former residential cities as the Protestant princely house, which directed and lastingly influenced the fate of its country between the Reformation and the end of the monarchy.

Wettin lines and principalities 1485–1918 (graphic)

Overview of the individual lines and principalities of the Wettins that have arisen through inheritance divisions since the formation of the Ernestine and Albertine lines in the Leipzig division in 1485, as well as their inheritance when they became extinct. (To enlarge please click on the picture!)

Branches of the Ernestine and Albertine lines since 1485

Other branches of the family

coat of arms

See also


  • Johann Huebner: Johann Huebners, Rectoris des Fürstlichen Gymnasii zu Merseburg, three hundred and three and thirty genealogical tables. In: Digital Library of the Bavarian State Library ( ), Tab 158, Leipzig, 1708th
  • Werner Greiling, Gerhard Müller, Uwe Schirmer and Helmut G. Walther (ed.): The Ernestiner. Politics, culture and social change. Series: Publications of the Historical Commission for Thuringia, Bd. 50. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2016. ISBN 978-3-412-50402-1 .
  • Friedichtung Freitag and Karin Kolb (eds.): The Ernestiner. A dynasty shapes Europe. Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2016. ISBN 978-3-95498-215-8 .
  • Siegrid Westphal, Hans-Werner Hahn and Georg Schmidt (Hrsg.): The world of the Ernestiner. A reader. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2016. ISBN 978-3-412-50522-6 .
  • Franziska Bomski, Hellmut Th. Seemann and Thorsten Valk (eds.): Mens et Manus. Art and science at the courts of the Ernestines. Series: Yearbook of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, year 2016. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2016. ISBN 978-3-8353-1819-9 .
  • Stefanie Kellner: Prosperity through education. The liberal spirit of the Ernestines shaped Europe. In: Monuments . 1.2016 ( ).

Web links

Individual evidence