House of Wettin
|House of Wettin|
Armorial of Wettin
|Country||Holy Roman Empire, Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Saxony|
|Founder||Dietrich I von Wettin|
|Founding year||10th century|
|Ethnicity||Germanic (see details)|
The House of Wettin, also the House of Saxony, is a royal and noble house founded in the 10th century by Dietrich I von Wettin. Their paternal ancestry is obscure other than the fact that they were Germanic. Some have speculated that they were descendants of the Hunfridings, who were Dukes of Swabia of Alemannic origin during the early 10th century, but this is far from certain. The dynasty established Wettin Castle as their base, on land conquered from Slavs, holding the Saxon Eastern March in the Holy Roman Empire.
The family would gain many more territories during its history, including the Margraviate of Meissen under Henry I, Margrave of the Saxon Ostmark in 1089, as well as the Landgraviate of Thuringia in 1263 under Henry III, Margrave of Meissen who fought for Christianity during the Prussian Crusade.
Following the extinction of the Wittenberg Ascanians, the dynasty gained the title Elector of Saxony, with Frederick I, Elector of Saxony. This meant that Wettin would be one of the seven Prince-Electors involved in the process of electing a Holy Roman Emperor, as established by the Golden Bull of 1356.
They became Dukes of Saxony in 1464, as the dynasty diversified into many different branches, with the primary lines been the Albertine and Ernestine. While both of these branches became Lutheran, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Schmalkaldic War, with the Albertines supporting Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, for which they were rewarded with gaining the Electoral title from their more senior cousins.
A junior branch from this line provided two Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania—these were Augustus II and Augustus III. Wettin sided with Napoleon Bonaparte during the Napoleonic Wars, providing a Duke of Warsaw. Wettin would also provide seven Kings of Saxony as part of the German Confederation and then the German Empire until 1918.
Despite losing out during the 16th century, the Ernestine branch, through one of its cadet lines, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, furnished many monarchs in other parts of Europe. Most notably the House of Windsor whom from Edward VII up to the present day Elizabeth II reigned over the United Kingdom and the British Empire.
This had the consequence of the family finding itself on divided sides during World War One and World War Two. Also four Kings of Portugal between 1853—1910, four Tsars of Bulgaria between 1887—1946 and six Kings of Belgium from 1831 to the reigning Albert II of Belgium.
- Of major importance was the division of the Wettin dynasty into Ernestine and Albertine lines in 1485. The Albertines secured the electorate of Saxony from the Ernestines in 1547. The Ernestines retained thereafter some less important possessions in Thuringia which they constantly subdivided between themselves. Their possessions became known as the Saxon duchies and included Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Eisenach, Saxe-Altenburg, and Saxe-Gotha, among others. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Ernestine Wettins of the Saxe-Coburg branch rose to unprecedented heights. One became king of the Belgians as Leopold I in 1831, and another, Albert, married the British queen Victoria in 1840 and was the ancestor of five successive British sovereigns (though the name Wettin was rarely cited in England, and that of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was officially changed, for the British, to the house of Windsor in 1917). Yet another Ernestine, Ferdinand, married Maria II of Portugal in 1836 and was the founder of the Portuguese royal house that reigned from 1853 to 1910. And finally, a fourth Ernestine became prince of Bulgaria in 1887 and king in 1908, as Ferdinand I, with his descendant reigning until 1946.
- Wettin Dynasty, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.