Foundations: Brandenburg, Prussia and Hohenzollern

Hohenzollern Dynasty and Brandenburg
House of Hohenzollern is a German dynasty, commonly known for ruling over Margraviate of Brandenburg (1415-1806) , Prussia (1525-1918) and German Empire (1871-1918). And although the dynasty is mostly associated with Prussia, their origins go as far south as to a town named Hechingen in Zollern county, in the region of Swabia.The first historical records mentioning the Hohenzollerns are dated around 1061. Back then, the Hohenzollerns were called the Zollerns and they were carrying the unofficial title of Count of Zollern until this became official in 1111 when the Emperor himself granted them the title.When Frederick (later known as Barbarossa) of House Hohenstaufen dynasty, a Swabian dynasty and overlords of the Zollerns, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1155, House of Zollern proved their loyalty and expanded their territory. Frederick III, count of Zollern and head of Zollern dynasty at the time, fought many battles with Barbarossa and later his sons which gained him enough fame to arrange a marriage with the only daughter of Conrad II , Burgrave of Nuremberg in 1184. After the death of Conrad in 1191, Frederick inherited the title and became Frederick I of Burgraviate of Nuremberg.

The possession of new lands in Nuremberg created another branch in the dynasty, after Frederick I’s death in around 1200, his sons Conrad and Frederick inherited different parts of his lands.Conrad, the older brother, inherited County of Zollern and Frederick, the younger brother, inherited Burgraviate of Nuremberg. In around 1218 however, these lands were exchanged between brothers thus making Conrad I the Burgrave of Nuremberg and Frederick IV the Count of Zollern. Conrad’s line adopted the name Hohenzollern for the first time and later this branch was known as Franconian branch of the dynasty while Frederick’s line was named Swabian branch.Of these two branches, members of the Swabian continued to rule over the ancestral lands of the Hohenzollerns and various other smaller counties inside the empire until 1849 when rulers of Swabian branch abdicated their thrones to the Franconian branch, which was the ruling family of Kingdom of Prussia at that time.Swabian branch also provided rulers for Kingdom of Romania between 1866-1947.

Francian branch, however, proved to be much more successful throughout history. While ruling Nuremberg as the Burgraves, they gradually added new territories under their rule, some of them being important cities such as Ansbach and Kulmbach. After the death of Frederick V in 1398, his lands were partitioned between his two sons by the younger son Frederick taking Ansbach and the older son John taking Kulmbach while Burgraviate of Nuremberg being jointly ruled by these two brothers. In 1910, after helping Sigismund succeed to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick was granted control over Margraviate of Brandenburg, where Sigismund had hereditary rights. Frederick was officially granted the title of Margrave of Brandenburg, the Prince-Elector and became known as Frederick I of Brandenburg. Frederick I faced many rebellions from local nobles in Brandenburg, most of which he supressed with artillery. Constant fighting made him abdicate his throne in favour of his son John but holding his Elector title. John’s rule was negatively responded by the people of Brandenburg because of his obsession on alchemy. John was interested in alchemy, and was obsessed with the idea of creating gold through other objects. His father Frederick realized this incompetency and appointed John to Kulmbach and made his other son Frederick II, the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1437. After his death, the Elector title was also inherited by Frederick II in 1440 and Kulmbach was fully inherited by John the Alchemist.

Region of Prussia before Hohenzollern Rule
Prussia, after which the state was named, is a region on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea, stretching from Danzig Bay in the west and current-day Lithuanian border to the east.This region was inhabited by pagan tribes until 13th century. In 13th century, a crusade was called upon these pagan tribes and after years of fighting, crusaders (mainly Teutonic Knights) came out victorious and established a monastic state called the Teutonic Order in the region.

For around two centuries, Teutonic Order constantly raided Polish and Lithuanian lands and fought many wars against them. These raids were partially successful at converting some of the pagans living in Lithuanian lands.In 1410, however, Battle of Grunwald -one of the greatest medieval battles- took place in which the Order was devastatingly defeated. After the battle, although initially the Order seemed to maybe recover from the defeat, Polish-Lithuanian didn’t give them the chance to rise to their former strength. Finally, after Thirteen Years’ War (1454-1466), Teutonic Order was forced to cede western Prussia including Danzig to Polish vassals in the region. Eastern parts of the Order remained as a Polish vassal until 1525, when Grandmaster Albert, who was a member of House of Hohenzollern, converted to Lutheran Protestantism and secularized what had remained from the Order, forming Duchy of Prussia and claiming himself as the first Duke of Prussia. Duchy of Prussia became the first Protestant state in the history.

As mentioned above in 1525 a member of the Hohenzollerns, Grandmaster Albert of Teutonic Order, turned against the Catholic Church and secularized the Order and became the first Duke of Prussia. Since he was no longer a Knight of the Order, he was, as a rightful Duke, allowed to marry. Albert married Anna Marie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, whose mother was a Hohenzollern of Brandenburg branch. Albert and Anne Marie had a son named Albert Frederick, who succeeded to the throne after his father’s death in 1568. Albert Frederick and Joachim Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg and Prince-Elector, arranged a marriage between these two branches of Hohenzollern families. As a result of this arrangement, Albert Frederick’s daughter Anna married to Joachim Frederick’s son John Sigismund. John Sigismund first succeeded as Margrave of Brandenburg and Prince-Elector when his father died 1608.Ten years later, Albert Frederick died without an heir, resulting in inheritance of Duchy of Prussia to John Sigismund through a personal union.Starting with John Sigismund, Prince-Electors of Brandenburg inherited and used the title Duke of Prussia.

In the first 20 years of Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), because of Prince-Elector Georg William’s incompetent governance and poor decisions, Brandenburg’s lands were overrun and sacked in many occasions.In 1640, Georg William died and he was succeeded by his son Frederick William.When Frederick William took over, Brandenburg-Prussia was in a dire situation politically and economically caused by the war. After Frederick’s succession, Brandenburg-Prussian armies occupied eastern Pomerania and they had eyes on western Pomerania as well. However, at the end of the war, in Peace of Westphalia (1648) , Brandenburg-Prussia could only get eastern Pomerania, and instead of western Pomerania, it was given several smaller territories inside the Empire. After the war, seeing the need for a standing army, Frederick William ordered the establishment of a Royal standing army.

Around a decade after, in 1656, during Second Northern War between Swedish and Polish forces, Frederick William made an alliance with Swedish King, saving his lands in eastern Prussia from Polish fiefdom and marching to Warsaw with his army alongside the Swedish army. In the Battle of Warsaw, Frederick William’s army showed its strength as Polish-Lithuanian armies were defeated. In the Treaty of Labiau (1656) , Frederick William was granted full and uncontested rule of Duchy Prussia. Until his death in 1688, Frederick William gained a huge amount of respect from other rulers’ by making his state into a major force both political and military-wise within the Empire.For this he was given the nickname “the Great Elector”.

Kingdom of Prussia
Frederick III , who succeeded to throne after his father’s death in 1688, acted against his father’s policy of keeping good relations with the French when he joined the League of Augsburg against France in 1689. Even though Frederick did not have any territorial gains at the end of the war, he showed his enthusiasm towards active diplomacy. After showing his state’s political and military capabilities, Frederick wasn’t content with the titles Margrave and Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia. He had his eyes on the “king” title but that was not possible due to the laws of the Empire at the time. According to the law no man could name himself a “king” within the Empire. However, Frederick managed to persuade Emperor Leopold I to sign a treaty called Crown Treaty, according to which Frederick would provide 8000 strong force to the Emperor in his war against the French and in return Leopold would recognize Frederick as the “king in Prussia”. Frederick coronated himself as “King in Prussia” on 18 January 1701 in Königsberg and adopted the name Frederick I of Prussia.The reason why he wasn’t called “king of Prussia” but rather “king in Prussia” was to imply that he was the king in the former lands of Duchy but his lands within the Empire were still subject to the Emperor. The date ’18 January 1701′ is still considered as the foundation of Kingdom of Prussia even though Prussian rulers did not adopt the title ‘King of Prussia’ until 1772.


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