Frederick I (Brandenburg)

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Elector Friedrich I of Brandenburg
Friedrich VI. Burgrave of Nuremberg
Margravial coat of arms of Frederick I of Brandenburg

Friedrich I of Brandenburg (* around 1371 in Nuremberg ; † September 20, 1440 on the Cadolzburg , Principality of Ansbach ) was Margrave of Brandenburg from 1415 to 1440 as well as Arch Chamberlain and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire . He was the first owner of this title from the Hohenzollern family . He was as Friedrich VI. initially Burgrave of Nuremberg (1397–1420), after the division of the estate by his father Friedrich V , Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1398–1440) and through the death of his older brother Johann also Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach (1420–1440). He was de jure the last burgrave of Nuremberg, although all Brandenburg margraves up to Wilhelm II carried on the title in the great title.


Origin and first stage of life

Friedrich was the second-born son of Burgrave Friedrich V of Nuremberg (1333–1398) and Elisabeth of Meißen (1329–1375). Friedrich came to the court of his brother-in-law, Duke Albrecht III , around 1389 . of Austria . After his death in 1395, Friedrich appeared for the first time, in connection with that of Pope Boniface IX. proclaimed crusade against the Turks, in the service of the Hungarian and later Roman-German King Sigismund . In 1396, while his father was still alive, Friedrich and his older brother Johann took part in the campaign against the Turks , which took place on the right bank of the Danube near the city of Nikopolis , in today's Bulgaria. Sigismund's army, reinforced by strong French forces, suffered a crushing defeat. The two castle counts' brothers only narrowly escaped with the king. On this occasion Johann was able to save the King of Hungary, his brother-in-law, from capture. Johann's wife Margarethe was Sigismund's half-sister. After returning home, Friedrich and his brother Johann shared the inheritance of their father, who had died in 1398, in accordance with the Dispositio Fridericiana . The firstborn inheritance law was not yet applied to the Hohenzollern family . However, according to the legacy, the property should be divided into two parts at most, and a common reign was set for the first ten years. The first-born Johann chose the Kulmbach for himself , Friedrich accordingly received Ansbach . The brothers exercised the office of burgrave of Nuremberg together. In the emerging turmoil between King Wenzel of Bohemia and the Ruprechts von der Pfalz party , Friedrich first tried to mediate, but in September 1399 sided with Ruprecht, who was married to a sister of Friedrich, Elisabeth von Hohenzollern-Nürnberg . Here the two brothers stood in different political camps, which did not affect their unity.

Service man at the Hungarian court of Sigismund

A dispute with the Free Imperial City of Rothenburg ob der Tauber , which began in 1405 and which expanded into an open feud in the following years, put a considerable strain on the burgrave's finances. In the summer of 1407 he led an army of around 8,000 knights, mercenaries and soldiers against Rothenburg and besieged the city. Until late autumn, people lay around the city, but without sufficient siege equipment they could neither storm the city nor starve them because of sufficient food. The siege consumed all of the burgrave's financial reserves. In November 1407, he was almost insolvent. At the beginning of 1408 peace negotiations were started, which had previously been brokered by the city of Mergentheim , together with the Marbacher Bund . On February 8, 1408, King Ruprecht issued the arbitration award, according to which the imperial ban previously pronounced against Rothenburg was lifted. None of the conflicting parties had to pay war indemnity and both sides were supposed to bear their own war costs.

At the turn of the year 1408/09 the debt burden had become so heavy that the dissolution of the princely household on the Cadolzburg was seriously considered. The burgrave saw himself about to move with his family to his brother Johann in the Plassenburg in Kulmbach. The appearance of the Frankish knight Ehrenfried von Seckendorff on the Cadolzburg brought a way out. The latter made the proposal to the burgrave to re-serve King Sigismund of Hungary, son from the third marriage of the late Emperor Charles IV. For an annual payment of 4,000 guilders, Friedrich had been in the executive service of the King of Hungary since February 1, 1409.

Participation in the royal election and main team in the market

When the German King Ruprecht died on May 18, 1410, there were three candidates for the throne from the House of Luxembourg: King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, his younger half-brother Sigismund of Hungary and their cousin Jobst of Moravia .

On September 20, 1410, Friedrich took part in the election in Frankfurt am Main , with powers of attorney for Brandenburg's electoral vote, which Wenzel had pledged to Jobst . Sigismund was extremely controversial, with three votes, including the very questionable vote of Brandenburg, elected German king. Formally, Wenzel was still the rightful king for some electors, which is why they refused a new election: The archbishops of Mainz and Cologne , although present in Frankfurt, did not take part in the vote. Wenzel (as the Bohemian ruler himself holder of a vote) and the Elector of Saxony did not even appear in Frankfurt for the reasons mentioned. Thus it came to the election of Sigismund with only two undisputed votes as well as the legally untenable vote of Brandenburg. In another election in October, Jobst asserted his Brandenburg electoral vote and was able to win over three more electors, so that four of the seven electoral votes came to the German throne. After he had died in January 1411 under unexplained circumstances, the pledged Mark Brandenburg and the associated voting vote fell back to Sigismund. On July 21st there was a third king election, this time Sigismund was elected unanimously, with all seven votes, as Roman-German king. However, he always calculated the years of his reign based on the first election on September 20, 1410, never after the third election on July 21, 1411.

As a thank you for Friedrich's service and his diplomatic skill, King Sigismund made him “Right Colonel, common administrator and governor” and thus the unrestricted administrator of the Mark Brandenburg in 1411. According to the certificate of appointment, he had all the powers and the full right of disposal like the actual owner of the mark. Only the privilege to elect a king remained with Sigismund.

With a clever alliance policy, including with the Archbishop of Magdeburg and the Dukes of Braunschweig and Lüneburg , Frederick was able to secure the mark externally for the duration of the alliances. With the support of these allies and troops from his Franconian homeland, Friedrich succeeded in conquering all the important castles of the rebellious Brandenburg nobility, including Friesack, Plaue, Beuten and Golzow, in February and March 1414 using modern siege weapons, in particular siege guns and rifles . An oversized artillery, the so-called “lazy Grete”, is said to have played a decisive role here, according to the vernacular. However, parts of the Quitzows in particular continued to fight for years in a robbery and looting battle both in the march and in the Magdeburg archbishopric.

In 1415 Friedrich joined the Parakeet Society directed against Ludwig VII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt , of which he remained a member even after the conversion to the Konstanz League . The family relationship with his brother-in-law, Duke Heinrich XVI. von Bayern-Landshut plays an essential role.

Council of Constance and elevation to the rank of elector

Friedrich I. receives the Mark Brandenburg as a fief

At the Council of Constance , King Sigismund granted him the hereditary dignity of Margrave and Elector of Brandenburg on April 30, 1415. On October 21, 1415, the Brandenburg estates paid homage to him at a state parliament in Berlin. On April 18, 1417, the king once again carried out the formal enfeoffment of the Kurmark and the conferment of the dignity of arch chamberlain in Constance, on the upper market . The contemporary depiction on the left shows Friedrich I standing in the upper part, behind a banner bearer each with the coat of arms of Brandenburg and the family coat of arms of the Hohenzollern (Zollern Vierung), in anticipation of the formal enfeoffment by King Sigismund, who can be seen in the upper left image section.

After the end of the council, the king left the empire to travel abroad for several months to the courts of Spain and England. During his absence, he appointed Margrave Friedrich I, contrary to the regulations of the Golden Bull, as Reich Administrator of the German Lands. The fact that the position of Frederick I as imperial administrator was not challenged by the college of electors is testimony to the extraordinary relationship of trust with the king and the reputation that Frederick enjoyed in large parts of the empire. At that time he was even considered the first candidate for a possible royal election among the electors. King Sigismund was also considering a candidacy for Frederick as Roman-German king after he had been anointed as emperor by the pope.

Quarrel with King Sigismund

In the 1420s, the relationship between Sigismund and Friedrich I. Various factors played a role. On April 8, 1421, in Cracow , the residence of the Polish kings at that time, a marriage and alliance contract was signed between Brandenburg and Poland . The then designated sole heir, Crown Princess Hedwig, was betrothed to Friedrich's second son, who later became Friedrich II of Brandenburg. The main motive on Frederick's side was to win Poland as a powerful ally in order to induce the Teutonic Order to return the pledged Neumark . In the beginning, Sigismund saw this alliance as a welcome opportunity through Frederick's mediation to win the Polish court over to fight the hitherto undefeated Hussites . On September 5, 1421, Frederick I received from the king the certificate of appointment to the captaincy of a new imperial army. That new campaign, like all previous ones, ended with losses after a few months. If Frederick I was one of Sigismund's closest advisers in the 1410s, the marriage of his only child, Elisabeth of Bohemia and Hungary, on September 28, 1421 with Duke Albrecht V of Austria, the later Roman-German King Albrecht II. , A new party at court emerged. Friedrich I was assumed to have led the campaign only half-heartedly. Poland was suspected of actively supporting the Hussites with Lithuania and, together with them, indirectly, Elector Friedrich. In the Binger Kurverein formed in 1424 , Friedrich was a driving force behind the merger of the electors. Sigismund felt this undermining of his royal authority, which he saw against him, as ingratitude on the part of Margrave Friedrich I of Brandenburg, whereby his impulsive character was ungracious towards a supposed opponent as well as patronizing towards loyal-minded people. Regardless of this, Frederick continued to do his service faithfully as a high imperial prince and partisan of the king. A letter sent by Friedrich to his third son Albrecht after Sigismund's death may serve as proof here when he writes: “Dear Albrecht, I have exalted you and your brothers that you can all be comrades in princes, which never through burgravialism alone would have been possible. That is why you are also obliged to ask God for the emperor's soul, from whom we have this. If he was also ungracious to me at times, he has become gracious to me again! ” .

Feuds in the Mark and in Franconia

Continued entanglements with the dukes of Mecklenburg and those of Pomerania, the ongoing feuds between the Bavarian dukes, in which he was directly involved through the aforementioned family ties to Duke Heinrich von Bayern-Landshut, and ultimately the campaigns against the Hussites and other imperial affairs led to a constant overuse of financial resources as well as physical and psychological strength. His wife Elisabeth was always a witty and strong-willed companion. During his many absences, she represented him either in the Mark or in the Franconian homeland. Although this fact was not necessarily a novelty for the time, it was nevertheless very noteworthy that the prince's wife still exercised extensive powers during the lifetime of the prince. It spoke at the same time for their distinctive talents, as well as for the particularly trusting and complementary relationship to each other. In 1425 he was in the Margraviate of Brandenburg for the last time and from then on, as Margrave, left government business to his eldest son Johann the Alchemist ; but he himself remained elector. All in all, Friedrich only resided in the Mark for a few years. Nevertheless, he managed to restore general peace in the country, even though it was only his great-grandson Joachim I (Nestor) who was able to put a lasting stop to the general robbery feud during this period of several interruptions . From 1427 he again organized the Imperial War against the Hussites and, on the occasion of the Council of Basel on November 30, 1433, played a key role in mediating the Prague compacts .

Sale of the Nuremberg Reichsburg

Panorama from the Nuremberg Castle in the west over the Sinwell Tower to the Kaiserstallung and Luginsland, 2007

After the approval of King Sigismund , Friedrich, his wife and the members of his house who could be reached signed a contract on June 27, 1427 for the sale of the Nuremberg Castle, including the "Office of the Veste" and additional affiliations for 120,000 guilders with the council and thus the imperial city Nuremberg . As early as 1420, the Nuremberg Burggrafenburg was destroyed by the troops of Duke Ludwig VII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt . After that it was not rebuilt by the Hohenzollerns. This conflict was preceded by disagreements with the city council. These had already come to light again and again during the time of his father, Friedrich V of Nuremberg. An increasingly self-confident patrician council wanted to increasingly emancipate itself from the guardianship of the castle count. Although the Franconian Hohenzollern still had the addition of Burggraf zu Nürnberg in their title, the sale ultimately meant the end of the constitutional existence of the Burggrafschaft Nürnberg. The northern part of the castle, the castle counts, had been in ruins since 1420. After the death of Konrad II von Raab (died approx. 1191), the southern part of the Burggrafenburg went to the Egidienkloster in Nuremberg. The remark of the Nuremberg city chronicler Sigmund Meisterlin (d. 1491), with which he described the Burggrafenburg as a parvum fortalitium , i.e. a small fortification, is understandable . With the castle share, ownership of the two imperial forests was also given up, but subject to the right of escort and wild bans , as well as the Zeidelgericht in Feucht . The sale was also associated with a financial loss due to the loss of income from the rich drapery suburb of Wöhrd . The reason for the sale was the financial bottleneck in which Friedrich found himself. It was caused by the high debt obligations of the numerous new acquisitions and the costly takeover of the Mark Brandenburg, here above all by the campaign in the Uckermark . As early as 1424, Friedrich had to forego the Nuremberg imperial coin, which he had only acquired in 1419, in exchange for a deposit transfer fee in favor of the city. In 1422, the Nuremberg Council also imposed a loan freeze.

Reconciliation with Sigismund

At the end of the 1420s it was clear both in the empire and on the part of the Catholic Church that the conflict against the Bohemian Hussites could not be resolved by military means. The successes of the Hussites on the battlefield were regarded by many as a curse and a divine exhortation to urgently reform the diseased Catholic Church. In the negotiations that had already begun in the run-up to the Basel Council, as well as during the council itself, Friedrich once again demonstrated his diplomatic skills in an outstanding manner as one of the representatives of the secular princes and increasingly gained Sigismund's trust. At the time when Sigismund was anointed emperor by Pope Eugene IV in Rome on May 31, 1433 , the relationship with Frederick I had largely been restored, although it never regained the deep relationship of trust. In 1434, for example, he formulated privileges for the cities of his margraviate that countered the efforts of the cities to obtain special rights from the emperor.

Death and Legacy - Disposition Fridericiana

Altar donated by Friedrich I. by the master of the Cadolzburg altar with images of the donor couple, today in the Grunewald hunting lodge

After an eventful life, which brought him the electoral office , he saw his life slowly coming to an end in 1437.

His wife Elisabeth gave him six daughters and four sons. Except for Sophie (1416–1417), all of them reached adulthood, which was unusual for the time. The succession was settled by mutual agreement. Especially the still endangered and restless Mark Brandenburg, which had been ruled by his eldest son Johann since 1426 , continued to worry him.

The government of the less ambitious Johann showed that he lacked the necessary authority and discipline to rule the principality. This led to the unusual step of overriding the primogeneity in the succession and instead transferring the mark and the office of elector to his second oldest son Friedrich, who in turn shared the same name with his youngest brother Friedrich the Younger for the first few years. The eldest son Johann and the third oldest Albrecht were to share the Franconian ancestral lands, with Johann being given the privilege of first choice. He decided on the area around Kulmbach and Albrecht thus remained in the area around Ansbach .

Johann accepted the father's decision and in all subsequent decisions of the three older brothers, the unity of the Hohenzollern was in the foreground, according to the father's will.

On September 20, 1440, Friedrich I died at the Cadolzburg, probably aged 69. Today the remains rest in a stone collective coffin in the crypt under the high grave of Margrave Georg Friedrich I , the elder, and 20 other members of the Franconian Hohenzollern in the former monastery church of Heilsbronn . In 1853 the church was renovated and the bones found in the collapsed graves (including those of the first three Brandenburg electors) were placed in this collective coffin.

On the Cadolzburg Altar donated by him from 1425/30 he is shown together with his wife as the donor couple . The original of the three-winged altar is now in the Grunewald hunting lodge in Berlin .


Like his father Friedrich V of Nuremberg, Friedrich I of Brandenburg continued the imperial policy that was so successful for the Hohenzollerns. It is certainly not easy whether Friedrich always had this in his plan in a programmatic way or whether coincidence, in connection with the threatened financial bankruptcy at the turn of the year 1408/09 and the mediation to the Hungarian court by the knight Ehrenfried von Seckendorff, was certainly not easy to answer. The fact that Frederick was already at the service of the respective king based on the basic principle, quasi as a Reich official, is evident from the office of burgrave. The mediating role that he played as a young, unmarried and therefore dynastically unbound knight in the disputes between the Electors and King Wenceslaus at the end of the fourteenth century certainly suggests that he was already consciously involved in imperial affairs in order to promote his prestige. The later support for his brother-in-law Ruprecht III., Elector and Count Palatine of the Rhine, the later Roman-German King Ruprecht, may have been opportunistic pragmatism and a consequence of the close family relationship. For himself, however, it didn't work out. The arbitration award issued by King Ruprecht on the occasion of the feud between the imperial city of Rothenburg and the Burgrave Friedrich VI. led to the aforementioned de facto bankruptcy. At this point one could speak of a dead end in imperial affairs. This is where coincidence or fate comes into play, in which Friedrich met his future patron King Sigismund of Hungary in 1409 and entered his service. The following decades saw Friedrich rise as kingmaker in 1410, as captain and right-wing colonel of the mark in 1411, as hereditary margrave and elector of the mark in 1415/17, as a temporary imperial administrator and as a leading imperial prince in the college of electors. Interesting at this point is the fact that he was not given a nickname. While the epoch was not stingy in assigning such names, as you can already see from his direct descendants: Friedrich II. "Eisenzahn" , Albrecht III. "Achilles" , Johann "Cicero" , Joachim I. "Nestor" , before the story, Friedrich I was simply Friedrich I, the first from the House of Hohenzollern as Elector in the Mark and progenitor of future Prussian kings and German emperors.


Constance , House Zum Hohen Hafen , reminder of Friedrich I's enfeoffment of the Kurmark in 1417. Signed facade painting, Carl von Häberlin , 1905
Constance, town hall, enfeoffment of Friedrich I with the Kurmark, facade painting (1864) by Ferdinand Wagner

On September 18, 1401, Friedrich married Elisabeth (1383–1442), the daughter of Duke Friedrich of Bavaria-Landshut :

⚭ 1. 1418/20 Duke Ludwig II of Liegnitz and Brieg (1380 / 5–1436)
⚭ 2. 1438/39 Duke Wenzel von Teschen (1413 / 18–1474)
  • Johann the Alchemist (1406–1464), renounced the firstborn rights in 1437, Margrave of Kulmbach-Bayreuth
⚭ 1416 Princess Barbara of Saxony-Wittenberg (1405–1465)
⚭ 1423 Duke Wilhelm I of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1392–1482)
⚭ 1. 1423 Duke Albrecht V of Mecklenburg (1397–1423)
⚭ 2. 1441 Duke Ludwig VIII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt (1403–1445)
⚭ 1426 Duke Friedrich II of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1418–1478)
⚭ 1446 Princess Catherine of Saxony (1421–1476)
⚭ 1. 1446 Princess Margarete of Baden (1431–1457)
⚭ 2. 1458 Princess Anna of Saxony (1437–1512)
  • Sophie (1416-1417)
  • Dorothea (1420-1491)
⚭ 1432 Duke Heinrich IV of Mecklenburg (1417–1477)
⚭ 1449 Princess Agnes of Pomerania (1436–1512)


Monument to Frederick I within the former Berliner Siegesallee

For the Berlin Siegesallee designed Ludwig Manzel the Monument Group 15 with a statue of Frederick in the center, flanked by the side pieces (busts) of Johann Graf von Hohenlohe (left) and Governor of Wend Ileburg out of the house Eulenburg . The unveiling of the group took place on August 28, 1900. A bronze cast of the main character (Friedrich I) is now a memorial at Tangermünde Castle . In Havelberg is the Burggrafenstein, built in 1912, with a bronze relief depicting Friedrich, which commemorates Friedrich's entry into the Mark Brandenburg in 1412.

In the Kaiser Wilhelm monument in the city of Wülfrath in North Rhine-Westphalia , Friedrich's helmet commemorates him as the first elector of the Hohenzollern family.


In 1415 he had the following title:

We Fridrich von gotesgnaden Marggrave zu Brandenburg ,
the holy Roman Ryches Ertzkamerer and Burggrave zu Nuremberg .

See also


Web links

Commons : Friedrich I. (Brandenburg)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Adolph Friedrich Riedel: History of the Prussian royal house - second part. Berlin 1861, page 531
  2. ^ Heinrich Gradl : Regesten der von Zedtwitz , 1884  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , P. 46, accessed June 15, 2012 (PDF document)@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  3. Nuremberg Castle. Retrieved February 15, 2016 .
  4. ^ Handbook of Bavarian History, Vol. 3/1, History of Franconia up to the end of the 18th century, Max Spindler / Sigmund Benker, Verlag CH Beck 1997; Pages 590-592
  5. Nürnbergische Münzbelustigungen for the year 1767. (etc.), Georg Andreas Will, Verlag Chr. Riegels Altdorf 1767, pages 29–31
  6. ^ Max Döllner : History of the development of the city of Neustadt an der Aisch until 1933. 1950; 2nd edition, Ph. CW Schmidt, Neustadt an der Aisch 1978, ISBN 3-87707-013-2 , p. 50.
  7. ^ Monastery church of the Cistercian monastery in Heilsbronn in Franconia. Retrieved February 15, 2016 .
  8. Heilsbronn and the rise of the Hohenzollern. (PDF) Retrieved February 15, 2016 .
  9. ^ House of Bavarian History
predecessor Office successor
Sigismund Elector of Brandenburg
Friedrich II.
- Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Albrecht Achilles
Johann Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
Johann the Alchemist
Friedrich V. Burgrave of Nuremberg