John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony +
3 March AD 1554
Johann Friedrich IJohn Frederick (Johann Friedrich), eldest son of John the Steadfast and nephew of Frederick the Wise of Saxony, was born in Torgau on 30 June 1503. He earned the appellation "John the Magnanimous" (der Grossmütige) because of his generous spirit and gracious bearing during trials.
John Frederick studied under George Spalatin and through him became an early supporter of Martin Luther. In 1530, he traveled to the Diet of Augsburg and joined his father in signing the Augsburg Confession. In 1532, he and his half-brother John Ernest (Johann Ernst) succeeded John the Steadfast He became sole Elector of Ernestine Saxony 1542, ruling until 1547.
Impulsive by nature, he lacked the foresight and forbearance of many politicians and he often ignored the wise counsel of Chancellor Brück, who had also worked under his father. Because of his staunch Lutheranism, he couldn't abide Philip of Hesse's desire to extend the Schmalkaldic League to include Swiss and Strasburg reformers. His personal piety also recoiled at Philip's bigamy and he insisted that the League retain a strict Evangelical (Lutheran) theology.
John Frederick set aside the 1541 election of Julius von Pflug to the see of Naumburg-Zeitz, promoting avowed Lutheran Nicholas von Amsdorf in his stead. In 1542, he unilaterally attempted to introduce the Reformation to the city of Wurzen, a city under the joint protection of Electoral and Ducal Saxony. This antagonized Maurice, Duke of Saxony. Only the efforts of Luther and Philip of Hesse were able to avert war between the two Saxonies.
His suspicious nature led him to doubt the efficacy of councils and colloquies and he neglected to attend diets and other meetings where he might have gained support and built alliances.
As Charles V prepared his attack on the Schmalkaldic League, John Frederick was misled and reacted slowly to the Emperor's threat. When the Schmalkaldic War broke out in July 1546, he took his army from Saxony to engage the imperial forces but returned when Maurice, who had joined with Charles V, invaded Electoral Saxony. He was able to repel Maurice and retake most of his lost lands but then suffered defeat at the hands of imperial forces at Mühlberg on 24 April 1547.
Charles V initially condemned him to death for his part in the rebellion against the Holy Roman Empire. However, the sentence was commuted to life in prison when Wittenberg surrendered. Maurice released him in 1552 after he defeated and drove off Charles V. However, his title remained in Maurice's hands.
To the end, John Frederick refused under any circumstances to renounce or compromise his Evangelical understanding of Scripture and his complete adherence to Lutheran doctrine.
Philip was the son of Landgrave William II of Hesse and his second wife Anna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His father died when Philip was five years old, and in 1514 his mother, after a series of struggles with the Estates of Hesse, succeeded in becoming regent on his behalf. The struggles over authority still continued, however. To put an end to them, Philip was declared of age in 1518, his actual assumption of power beginning the following year. The power of the Estates had been broken by his mother, but he owed her little else. His education had been very imperfect, and his moral and religious training had been neglected. Despite all this, he developed rapidly as a statesman, and soon began to take steps to increase his personal authority as a ruler.
The first meeting of Philip of Hesse with Martin Luther took place in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, where he was attracted by the Luther's personality, though he had at first little interest in the religious elements of the gathering. Philip embraced Protestantism in 1524 after a personal meeting with the theologian Philipp Melanchthon. He then helped suppress the German Peasants' War by defeating Thomas Müntzer at the Battle of Frankenhausen.
Philip refused to be drawn into the anti-Lutheran league of George, Duke of Saxony, in 1525. By his alliance with John, Elector of Saxony, concluded in Gotha on 27 February 1526, he showed that he was already taking steps to organize a protective alliance of all Protestant princes and powers. At the same time, he united political motives with his religious policy. As early as the spring of 1526,he sought to prevent the election of the Catholic Archduke Ferdinand as Holy Roman Emperor. At the Diet of Speyer in the same year, Philip openly championed the Protestant cause, rendering it possible for Protestant preachers to propagate their views while the Diet was in session, and, like his followers, openly disregarding ordinary Roman Catholic ecclesiastical usages.
Although there was no strong popular movement for Protestantism in Hesse, Philip determined to organize the church there according to Protestant principles. In this he was aided not only by his chancellor, the humanist Johann Feige, and his chaplain, Adam Krafft, but also by the ex-Franciscan François Lambert of Avignon, a staunch enemy of the faith he had left. While the radical policy of Lambert, embodied in the Homberg church order, was abandoned, at least in part, the monasteries and religious foundations were dissolved and their property was applied to charitable and scholastic purposes. The University of Marburg was founded in the summer of 1527 to be, like the University of Wittenberg, a school for Protestant theologians.
Philip's father-in-law George, Duke of Saxony, the bishop of Würzburg, Konrad II von Thungen, and the archbishop of Mainz, Albert III of Brandenburg, were active in agitating against the growth of the Reformation. Their activities, along with other circumstances, including rumors of war, convinced Philip of the existence of a secret league among the Roman Catholic princes. His suspicions were confirmed to his own satisfaction by a forgery given him by an adventurer who had been employed in important missions by George of Saxony, one Otto von Pack. After meeting with Elector John of Saxony in Weimar on 9 March 1528, it was agreed that the Protestant princes should take the offensive in order to protect their territories from invasion and capture.
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