Ernst (Saxony)

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Landgrave Ernst of Thuringia, founder of the Ernestine line
Ernst as Elector of Saxony

Ernst (born March 24, 1441 in Meißen ; † August 26, 1486 near Colditz ) was Elector of Saxony , Landgrave in Thuringia and Margrave of Meißen . He was the progenitor of the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin , which ruled the Ernestine duchies until 1918 .


Portrait on the Dresden prince procession

Ernst was the second oldest of the three sons of Elector Friedrich II (1412–1464) from his marriage to Margarethe (1416–1486), daughter of Duke Ernst the Iron of Austria . After the death of his older brother Friedrich, Ernst became electoral prince in 1451.

In 1455, Ernst and his younger brother Albrecht were kidnapped from Altenburg by Kunz von Kauffungen in the so-called " Altenburg prince robbery " .

On November 19, 1460 he married Elisabeth , daughter of Duke Albrecht III, in Leipzig . of Bavaria . Four years later, after the death of his father, he became Elector of Saxony. Ernst ruled the Kurland alone, the Meißen and Thuringian lands for 21 years together with his younger brother Albrecht . The provincial administration was carried out by Ernst (according to medieval standards) in an exemplary manner: During his tenure, the Wettin lands expanded considerably. Cities like Dresden and Meißen also flourished under his rule. He acquired the Vogtland in 1466 and was able to get his younger sons the ore chairs of Magdeburg and Mainz. To achieve the latter, Ernst had made a trip to Rome in 1480. Under Ernst, Erfurt and Quedlinburg came under Saxon patronage. He and his brother had invaded Quedlinburg in 1477 and militarily forced the city to obey the abbess, Ernst's sister Hedwig .

On June 17, 1485, despite his brother's warnings, Ernst determined the division of Leipzig with him . Before that, through the death of Landgrave Wilhelm Thuringia, it fell to the land. The brothers dissolved their common court and Ernst received, in addition to the electoral dignity with Saxony-Wittenberg , mainly Thuringia, the Palatinate Saxony, the Burggrafschaft Magdeburg, the Vogtland and the Wettin areas in Franconia. Ernst had prepared the division and let his brother decide which part to choose. The division into the Ernestine and Albertine lines of the house meant an enormous weakening of the Saxon position in the empire.

Each of the brothers was entitled to the full right to mint even after the division of the country. Elector Ernst minted together with his Wettin relatives in the mints of Freiberg , Leipzig , Zwickau , Schneeberg , Colditz (here also with his mother - see also Margarethengroschen ), Gotha and Wittenberg .

The dukes Ernst and Albrecht created together with their uncle Wilhelm III. a completely new coin system, the Leipzig coin reform of April 4, 1465 and thus an order in the Meissnian-Thuringian groschen currency. The result was a completely new type of penny, the horn penny . Since the horn groschen consisted of alloyed silver and the mistrust of alloys could not be shaken off the population, it was replaced in 1474 by the smaller pointed groschen made of fine silver.

In terms of foreign policy, Ernst stood on the Bohemian side despite difficulties. The relationship between the two countries had already been regulated in the Treaty of Eger in 1459. Regardless of his loyalty to Emperor Friedrich III. he sought rapprochement with King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. The eastward policy of Wettin was successful through the acquisition of the Duchy of Sagan in 1472 and the lordships of Sorau , Beeskow and Storkow in 1477, even though Ernst came into conflict with Kurbrandenburg .

Ernst died in an unfortunate fall from his horse on August 26, 1486 near Colditz , after he had campaigned intensively in his last days for the election of the future emperor Maximilian as Roman king . Ernst was buried in the Meissen Cathedral .


Ernst had the following children from his marriage to Elisabeth:

⚭ 1478 King John I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (1455–1513)
⚭ 1. 1500 Princess Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1481–1503)
⚭ 2. 1513 Princess Margarete von Anhalt (1494–1521)
⚭ 1487 Duke Heinrich of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1468–1532)
  • Wolfgang (1473–1478)


Pedigree of Ernst of Saxony

Friedrich II (1310–1349)
⚭ 1328
Mathilde of Bavaria (1313–1346)

Heinrich VIII von Henneberg-Schleusingen

Jutta von Brandenburg

Magnus II. (1324–1373)

Catherine of Anhalt-Bernburg

Wartislaw VI. (1345–1394)
⚭ 1363
Anna of Mecklenburg-Stargard

Albrecht II of Austria (1298–1358)
⚭ 1324
Johanna von Pfirt (1300–1351)

Bernabò Visconti (1323–1385)
⚭ 1350
Beatrice della Scala (–1384)


Algirdas (1296–1377)
⚭ around 1350
Juliana Aleksandrovna Tverskaja (~ 1330– ~ 1392)

Great grandparents

Margrave Friedrich III. (1332–1381)
⚭ 1346
Katharina von Henneberg (1334–1397)

Duke Heinrich I of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1355–1416)

Sophie of Pomerania (1370–1406)

Duke Leopold III. (1351–1386)
⚭ 1365
Viridis Visconti of Milan (1350–1414)

Ziemowit IV.

Alexandra of Lithuania


Elector Friedrich I of Saxony (1370–1428)
⚭ 1402
Katharina von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1395–1442)

Duke Ernst the Iron (1377–1424)
⚭ 1412
Cimburgis of Masovia (1394 / 97–1429)


Elector Friedrich II. (1412–1464)
⚭ 1431
Margaretha of Austria (1416–1486)

Ernst of Saxony


Web links

Commons : Elector Ernst von Sachsen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Walther Haupt: Sächsische Münzkunde (1974), p. 85
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich II. Elector of Saxony
Friedrich III.