Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Brief History of Prussian Nobility – Duchy of Prussia


This is the beginning of a series of posts involving the history of the Prussian nobility and of Prussia itself. I’ve found it important to begin with Prussia’s history before going into its nobility, so let’s start there …

First of all, let me define the word Prussia. A Baltic tribe related to the Lithuanians and Latvians were once called the Old Prussians until they were conquered by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century and germanised by a heavy German settlement to the East, also called the German Eastward Expansion.


Fast forwarding a bit, the Duchy of Prussia, also called Ducal Prussia, was established in 1525 and became a duchy (a territory, fief or domain, ruled by a duke or duchess) in the eastern part of what would later become Prussia. It was the first Protestant (Lutheran) state after the Reformation of Martin Luther and possessed a dominantly German-speaking population, as well as Polish and Lithuanian minorities. (See the striped area of the map below.)


The Protestant Reformation, a movement attempting to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Europe beginning in 1517 and pretty much considered to have ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, was largely instrumental for the reconstruction and reorganization of the territories within the Germanic states. During this period, Albert, Duke of Prussia and 37th Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, became the first duke of the Duchy of Prussia after converting to Lutheranism. This secularized (meaning, broke away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church) the Prussian territory and established a fief under the Crown of Poland, its capital being Koenigsberg (Polish - Kr√≥lewiec). In 1618, this territory was inherited by the Hohenzollern prince-electors of Brandenburg. In 1657, Frederick William otherwise known as the „Great Elector“ of Brandenburg, attained full authority over the territory and was maintained until his death in 1688. It wasn’t until 1701, that the Duchy of Prussia, after being inherited by the Margraviate of Brandenburg, evolved to form the Kingdom of Prussia.

Duchy of Prussia Coat of Arms


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