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Wettin

Wettin (vĕtˈĭn) [key], German dynasty, which ruled in Saxony, Thuringia, Poland, Great Britain, Belgium, and Bulgaria. It takes its name from a castle on the Saale near Halle. The family gained prominence in the 10th cent. as leaders in the German drive to the east, which made Saxony and Lusatia German. It acquired (c.1100) the margravate of Meissen and soon expanded its domains to include most of Saxony and Thuringia. In 1423, Frederick the Warlike of Meissen was granted Saxony and became (1425) elector of Saxony as Frederick I. The Wettin holdings were repeatedly subdivided. The most important division (1485) established the Ernestine line and the Albertine line, named for Frederick II's sons Ernest and Albert. The electoral title and most of Saxony passed in 1547 from the Ernestine to the Albertine line. The Ernestine line retained its possessions in Thuringia but split into several collateral branches. In 1918, when the house of Wettin was deposed in Thuringia and Saxony, its Thuringian holdings consisted of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, a grand duchy (see under Saxe-Weimar), and of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (see under Saxe-Coburg), Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Altenburg, which were duchies. From the branch of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha the Belgian, the English, and the Bulgarian dynasties were descended through, respectively, Leopold I of the Belgians, Prince Albert (consort of Queen Victoria), and Czar Ferdinand of Bulgaria. The English house changed its name to Windsor; the Bulgarian branch was deposed in 1946. A cousin of Prince Albert married Queen Maria II of Portugal and became king consort as Ferdinand II of Portugal. The Albertine line ruled in Saxony, obtaining hereditary royal rank in 1806; it also ruled Poland from 1697 to 1763 (see Augustus II; Augustus III).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies


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