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Maurice (21 March 1521 – 9 July 1553) was Duke (1541–47) and later Elector (1547–53) of Saxonymarker. His clever manipulation of alliances and disputes gained the Albertine branch of the Wettin dynasty extensive lands and the electoral dignity.

1521-1541: Infancy and youth

Maurice was the fourth child but first son of the still-Catholic Duke Henry IV and the Protestant Catherine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

In December 1532, Maurice, aged 11, came to live at the castle of his godfather Albert of Brandenburg, cardinal, archbishop of Magdeburg and archbishop of Mainz. During two years, he lived the reflective life of the cardinal until his uncle, the Duke George, demanded his return to his homeland and began the training of the later Saxonian Duke and educate him as a catholic. After 1536 Maurice's father was converted to the Protestant faith and the entire Duchy follow him; Heinrich and Katharina took the education of their son again into their hands and, when Maurice had 18 years, left his parents and moved with his older cousin John Frederick I, which resided in Torgaumarker and was despised by Maurice; this originated a strong hate between both. With a further cousin, the Landgrave Philip I of Hesse, whom he met in Dresdenmarker, connected, however, in a lifetime friendship.

After Maurice came of age, in 1539, his parents began to look for a wife for him. The favorite was Philip's eldest daughter, Agnes. The marriage plans threatened to fail, however, because the illegal double marriage of the Landgrave. Without the knowledge of his parents, Maurice remained committed to his engagement with Agnes. The wedding, particularly disapproved by his mother, took place in Marburgmarker on 9 January 1541. Letters from that time illustrate the strong mutual devotion of the couple. Together they had two children:

  1. Anna (b. Dresden, 23 December 1544 – d. Dresden, 18 December 1577), married on 24 August 1561 to Prince William I of Orange-Nassau. They divorced in 1574.
  2. Albert (b. Dresden, 28 November 1545 – d. Dresden, 12 April 1546).

1541-1548: The Wurzener Feud and the Schmalkaldic War

On 18 August 1541 the Duke Henry died, and Maurice, as the eldest son, succeeded him as the Duke of Saxony and Head of the Albertine Line. He replaced most of his advisors, because they had been against his marriage with Agnes since the beginning. George von Carlowitz, one of the new confidants of the Duke, advised Moritz (in order to prevent a war with the Emperor Charles V and his brother Ferdinand, at the same time King of the Romans and his neighbour -as a King of Bohemia-) not to endanger the continuation of the Protestant Movement.

Thus, he participated on the Emperor's Army in the war against the forces of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire (1542), Duke William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (1543), and King Francis I of Francemarker (1544). However, on the other hand, the Duke confiscated the properties of the Catholic Church in his lands, and was suitable so enormous possession on. From the fortune of dissolved monasteries Maurice in his country donated the Prince Schools (Fürstenschulen) in Schulpfortamarker (100 places), Meissenmarker (60 places) and Grimmamarker (70 places). Legal basis for this was the "New National Order" (Neue Landesordnung) from 1543.

Later, Maurice, refused to join in the Protestant Schmalkaldic League, although the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, his friend and father-in-law, was the Leader of the League. As principal reason for this refusal the membership is generally regarded on his hate to his Ernestine cousin John Frederick I and the Imperial promise of the Saxon electorship, then held by John Frederick. Into the Holy Week of 1542, came between them in the process of the Wurzener Feud (Wurzener Fehde) nearly to a brother war, because John Frederick occupied the together administered "Wurzener Country". A controversy between Maurice and John Frederick had preceded over the use of the tax funds from this area. The intervention of the Landgrave Philip of Hesse and Martin Luther prevented the war.
Due to the energetic persistence of Elector John Frederick in establishing the Evangelical Faith, the Emperor Charles V, on 20 July 1546, imposed the Imperial Ban (Reichsacht) over him, with agreement of the Catholic Imperial Estates, enforcement of which was laid on Maurice after the Wurzener Feud. The emperor tried in this way to drive a wedge still more deeply into the Protestant camp in order to prevent a further propagation of the Protestant Faith. In case of successful enforcement, Maurice hoped to be invested by the emperor with the Electorship. Maurice hesitated for a long time, since by this punitive actions his father-in-law Philip of Hesse would have been affected also. But when the brother of the emperor, Ferdinand I, himself wanted to begin a campaign against Electoral Saxony, he had to forestall that, in order not to lose to the Habsburgs the initiative in his own countries.

Maurice returned to Charles's camp. After initial successes — he occupied Electoral Saxony nearly without a fight — Maurice with his army was pressed by the Schmalkaldic League and retreated toward Bohemia. In the crucial Battle of Mühlberg at the Elbe, the Emperor and his brother Ferdinand, as well as Maurice could defeat the Schmalkaldic League with the capture of Landgrave Philip and John Frederick. According to contemporary chronicles, all of this happened on one day, 24 April 1547. In order to escape being beheaded, John Frederick ceded the Electorate and sizable lands to Maurice in the Surrender of Wittemberg. Duke Maurice of Saxony was raised to the Electoral Dignity already briefly after the battle on 4 June 1547 in the field camp to the Elector of Saxony. The official appointment took place later, but at a high price: He had betrayed the Evangelical Faith and had brought his father-in-law, Philip of Hesse, into a hopeless situation. Maurice assured him that he would not be imprisoned, if he would surrender to the emperor. However, Philip was taken prisoner and exiled, after he had fallen on his knees before Charles V.

1548-1553: The Diet of Augsburg and the Peace of Passau

Maurice, insulted after these incidents for his compatriots as "Judas", was also disappointed for the emperor's attitude (because now Charles V tried to reintroduce Catholicism in the Empire's Protestant territories and the continued imprisonment of his father-in-law, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, whose freedom Charles V had guaranteed), he hid, however, his feelings to him in relation to up to the Diet of Augsburg on 25 February 1548, where the ceremony of the formal possession of Maurice as Elector of Saxony took place. Charles V, hoped, with his appointment as the Elector of Saxony the agreement as the Augsburg Interim too gotten, with whose assistance of the Emperor the faith splitting in the Empire wanted to terminate.

Commissioned to capture the rebellious Lutheran city of Magdeburgmarker (1550), Maurice seized the occasion to raise an Army and signed anti-Habsburg compacts with France and Germany's Protestant princes.

In the Treaty of Chambord signed with the French King Henry II in January 1552 Maurice promised to the King money and weapon assistance for a campaign against Charles V. As return, Henry was able to take four Imperial cities (Metzmarker, Toulmarker, Verdunmarker and Cambraimarker) should as well as their dioceses gotten, although Maurice was no right to have it.

In March 1552 the rebels overran southern German states, including parts of Austriamarker, forcing the Emperor to flee and release Philip of Hesse. While Henry up to the Rhinemarker advanced and occupied the promised Imperial lands, the emperor surprised by the attack fled over the Alps in the Carinthiamarker Villachmarker. In view of this success, Maurice quit his alliance with Henry II and negotiated with Charles's brother King Ferdinand I a treaty, which Charles agreed against-willingly. With the Peace of Passau, signed in August 1552, the Lutheran position was provisionally guaranteed. As part of the Peace, his former opponents from the Schmalkaldic War, John Frederick I of Saxony and the Landgrave Philipp of Hesse were released. The war was terminated in 1556 by Ferdinand I; the Imperial cities remained in French possession.

When Maurice returned to Saxony after the Peace of Passau, it was no longer the "Judas"; both Protestants and Catholics rendered it equally respect. Also the emperor admonished it in letters to provide at his place in the Empire for peace; shortly after, he campaigned against the Ottomans in Hungarymarker. The Margrave Albert Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Kulmbach (who had rejected the Passau armistice) conquered soon thereafter the dioceses of Würzburgmarker and Bambergmarker — under his control since eleven years before, after his former owner, John Frederick ceded them to him — as well as the Imperial city of Nurembergmarker. This was the beginning of the Second Margrave War, which ended only with the Peace of Augsburg of 1555.

In 1552 Maurice with the army of the Holy Roman Empire (11,000 men) march in Hungarymarker. The Ottomans besieged Eger, but the Black Death broke out in Hungary, and Maurice daren't move along.


Albert Alcibiades was a former ally of Maurice, which fought in the Schmalkaldic War on his side. But now Maurice, accomplished at a prince alliance, among others, with Ferdinand I, was compelled to fight against Albert Alicibiades. On 9 July 1553 the Battle of Sievershausenmarker taken place in Lehrtemarker. Maurice won the battle; however, was hurt by a shot into the abdomen from the rear heavily and succumbed two days later in the field camp at the age of 32 years. He was buried in the Freiberg Cathedralmarker. In 1853, 300 years after the Battle, the place of his death was commemorated with a monument established to it. The 7.5 tons heavy granite originates from his homeland in Saxony.

Because Maurice died without surviving male issue, his brother Augustus succeeded him as Elector. He established in Dresdenmarker, shortly after the death of Maurice, the Maurice Monument (Moritzmonument), the first historical monument in Saxony.


  • Georg Voigt, Moritz von Sachsen, Leipzig 1876.
  • Erich Brandenburg, Moritz von Sachsen, Bd. I, Leipzig 1899.
  • Günther, Wartenberg, Landesherrschaft und Reformation. Moritz von Sachsen und die albertinische Kirchenpolitik bis 1546. Weimar 1988.
  • Karlheinz Blaschke, Moritz von Sachsen. Ein Reformationsfürst der zweiten Generation. Göttingen 1983.
  • Johannes Herrmann, Moritz von Sachsen. Beucha 2003.
  • Hans Baumgarten, Moritz von Sachsen, Berlin 1941.
  • Hof und Hofkultur unter Moritz von Sachsen (1521-1553), hrsg. von André Thieme und Jochen Vötsch, unter Mitarbeit von Ingolf Gräßler im Auftrag des Vereins für sächsische Landesgeschichte, Beucha 2004.


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