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Örjan Martinsson

Brandenburg-Prussia

= Brandenburg 1415   = Territorial gains   = Temporary possessions
= Other parts of the Holy Roman Empire   = Duchy of Prussia

The margraviate of Brandenburg was created when the Holy Roman Empire conquered the area in the 12th century. Its first margrave was Albrecht the Bear who belonged to the house of Askanien, he and his descendants expanded Brandenburg through marriage, purchase and war so it became one of the most important principalities in the Holy Roman Empire. During the 13th century the margrave of Brandenburg was also elevated to the rank of elector, which meant that he was one of seven princes that had the right to participate in the election of the German kings. But when the House of Askanien died out 1319 a period of decline followed when Brandenburg was a part of the possessions of the powerful dynasties of Wittelsbach and Luxembourg, during that period the government of Brandenburg was neglected and its territory decreased.

The turning point came in 1415 when Emperor Sigismund granted Brandenburg as fief to Friedrich of Hohenzollern. He also possessed Ansbach and Bayreuth in southern Germany and these areas were united with Brandenburg 1415-1440 and 1470-1486 but they were lost to collateral branches of the Hohenzollern dynasty. In Brandenburg the Hohenzollern electors strengthened the central power and regained territories that had been lost during the previous period.

Albrekt of Hohenzollern who belonged to a collateral branch of the dynasty became 1510 Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and was thereby also regent of the Polish fief Prussia. In 1525 he secularised the fief and transformed it into a hereditary and Protestant duchy. At the same time the Protestants were persecuted by Joachim I in Brandenburg , but his son Joachim II converted to Protestantism 1539.

= Brandenburg 1524   = Territorial gains in 1614 and 1618

Because of the childless duke Albrecht Friedrich’s insanity became Brandenburg’s elector Johann Sigismund regent over Prussia in 1605, and eleven years later he also succeeded Albrecht Friedrich as duke whereby the historically significant union between Brandenburg and Prussia was a fact. Before that he had also acquired the duchy of Kleve and the counties of Mark, Ravensberg and Ravenstein in western Germany. As a result of these acquisitions the Brandenburg state was now made up of three separate geographical regions which the following electors and kings would spend much effort to unite.

= Brandenburg 1618   = The Great Elector's conquests

Brandenburg held a wavering position during the Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 and its territory was therefore ravaged by both Swedish and Imperial armies. Even though Brandenburg was one of the largest principalities in the Holy Roman Empire its army was not big and few could realise how powerful Brandenburg would become during Friedrich Wilhelm’s reign 1640-1688. He was successful in defending Brandenburg’s interests at the Peace of Westphalia. He had a legitimate claim to Swedish-occupied Pomerania but was only given the eastern half, as compensation for that he obtained the dioceses of Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Minden and Kammin, although Magdeburg would not be incorporated with Brandenburg until its administrator died, which happened 1680.

Friedrich Wilhelm, or the Great Elector that he soon came to be called, spent the years after the Peace of Westphalia rebuilding his war-torn country. Absolutist rule was introduced gradually in all parts of the Brandenburg state and a large standing army was raised. In the Northern War 1655-1660 between Sweden and Poland with allies Brandenburg once again displayed a wavering position, but this time it was much more successful and Friedrich Wilhelm managed to obtain sovereignty from Poland for the duchy of Prussia and gain Polish territory along the border to Germany.

= Brandenburg 1688   = Territorial gains   = Territorial loss 1695

Fredrich Wilhelm´s son Friedrich III’s reign 1688-1713 fall in the shadows of both his father’s and his son’s reigns, despite of that it was he who got the emperor’s permission to proclaim himself as king of Prussia 1701 whereby the Brandenburg state changed its name to Prussia. Through purchase he expanded this state with Quedlinburg (1698) and Tecklenburg (1707) and through inheritance after William III of Orange were the counties of Mörs and Lingen (1702) and Neuchatel with Valangin (1707) incorporated with Prussia, the latter area was located outside the Holy Roman Empire in present day Switzerland. The participation in the War of the Spanish Succession was reworded with a part of Obergeldern in the Netherlands.

Friedrich’s son Friedrich Wilhelm had unlike his father no cultural interests, but he was economical and hardworking and under his reign 1713-1740 the Prussian finances and its agriculture and industry were greatly improved. Friedrich Wilhelm’s greatest interest lay however in his army, which was large for a country like Prussia already when he ascended the throne, in spite of that he increased the army from 38 000 men to 83 000 and drilled it so hard so it became the best in Europe. But Friedrich Wilhelm preferred peace and participated only in one war, The Great Northern War 1715-1720, in which he conquered the southern half of Swedish Pomerania.

The history of Prussia continues on the next page.