Albert, Duke of Prussia

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Ansbach, Franconia
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Birthday
Birthplace
Ansbach, Franconia

Albert of Prussia was the first Duke of Prussia and the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. He was raised to work for the Church from the time he was a child, but he was also interested in math and science. He grew up to be a person who was open-minded and liberal. He was made the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order in the hopes that he could turn around the declining fortunes of the Teutonic Knights by settling the political dispute between eastern Prussia and Poland with the help of his maternal uncle, the king of Poland. But the disagreement led to a war that was terrible for Prussia. As a good leader, he eventually took Martin Luther’s advice and went against the Catholic Church to turn the Teutonic state into the Duchy of Prussia, a Protestant fiefdom of Poland and hereditary dukedom. He also swore an oath to the king of Poland, Sigismund I. Even though the first few years of his rule were good, the dukedom was ruined by violent political and theological disagreements. Two years before he died, peace was brought back, a form of Lutheranism was made mandatory, and King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland took care of the regency.

Early years and childhood

Albert was born on May 17, 1490, in Ansbach, Franconia. He was born into a royal family. He was the third son of Frederick I, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Sophia, the daughter of Casimir IV Jagiellon, Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, and Elisabeth of Austria, his wife.

In his early years, he learned how to be a priest at the court of Hermann IV of Hesse. He was put in charge of the Cologne Cathedral by Hermann IV.

He was spiritually devoted by nature, but he was also interested in things like math and science. At times, he even questioned the teachings of the Church that said scientific observations were true. Still, he got enough help from Catholic ministers to help him move up in his Church career.

After leaving the church in 1508, he went to Italy with Emperor Maximilian I and then stayed for a short time in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Duke Frederick’s Career

Duke Frederick of Saxony was the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. He died in December 1510, and Albert was chosen to take his place. Most people thought that Poland’s King Sigismund I, Albert’s maternal uncle and the King of Poland, would help settle the ongoing dispute with Prussia over eastern Prussia.

But family ties couldn’t save the situation, and in December 1519, a war broke out that lasted for two years and did a lot of damage to East Prussia. Even the peace agreement that came after couldn’t end the fighting.

Even powerful monarchs like Emperor Charles V were told about the dispute, but it didn’t help. Albert was eager to get help and get the war going again. So, in 1522, he went to the Diet of Nuremberg, where he met Reformer Andreas Osiander, who got him interested in Protestantism.

The next year, he met Martin Luther in Wittenberg. Luther, a religious reformer, told him to change Prussia from a Teutonic Order to a hereditary dukedom under Polish rule. He liked the idea and moved carefully toward making the change.

King Sigismund I of Poland finally agreed with the idea in the year 1525. A treaty signed in Kraków said that Prussia was to be treated as if it were part of Poland. On February 10, 1525, the dukedom was given to Albert for himself and his children.

Soon after that, all of the Estates of the realm got together to swear their loyalty. But, much to everyone’s dismay, he started to spread Luther’s ideas on a large scale. When he didn’t show up to explain himself to the Imperial Court of Justice, the Order was upset and banned him. Walter von Cronberg was chosen as the new Grand Master to take his place.

But the Peasants’ War, the wars against the Ottoman Turks, and the Reformation were causing trouble for the German princes the whole time. So, to make things easier, the princes didn’t care about the ban on the duke, and the protests against him died down quickly.

In 1526, he joined the League of Torgau and plotted with other princes to get rid of Charles V after the Augsburg Interim was released in May 1548.
In the first few years of his rule, Prussia did very well. He wanted people to learn and set up schools in every town and the Konigsberg University in 1544. He also freed serfs who wanted to go to school.

Within a few years, strong theological disagreements between his friend Osiander, whom he had made the professor of Konigsberg University, and Philip Melanchthon, a believer in Konigsberg, caused chaos in his dukedom. Soon, problems with how things were run made his rule unpopular.

He was a big fan of Osiander’s ideas, and after he died in 1552, he started helping Johann Funck and Paul Skali, two adventurers. Together, they made religious and political fights in the kingdom worse and made a lot of money at the expense of the people. So, there were a lot of fights in his dukedom.

In this kind of chaos, it was likely that he would die before his time, and since he’s only son, Albert Frederick, was still a child, he needed a regent. He had to say bad things about Osiander’s ideas.

In 1566, the Estates of the Realm complained about him to King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland, who ordered an investigation. So, his opportunistic advisor Funck was killed, and Skali ran away from the town. In the end, all disagreements were settled, a regency was chosen, and everyone had to follow a form of Lutheranism.

Works of note

In 1544, as a rival to the Roman Catholic Cracow Academy and because he liked learning and Luther’s ideas, he set up the Konigsberg University.

He also had the “Prutenic Tables” of astronomy made by Erasmus Reinhold and the best maps of Prussia made by Caspar Henneberger printed.

Albert’s Achievements

Albert was the one who put an end to the Teutonic State and set up the Duchy of Prussia.
In the end, the Duchy of Prussia became the most powerful German state and brought together the whole country. So, he is often called the father of the Prussian nation and, indirectly, the person who brought Germany together.

Personal History and Legacies

Albert had two marriages during his life. Princess Dorothea, who was the daughter of King Frederick I of Denmark, was his first wife. In 1526, they got married and had six children. But only Anna Sophia, the oldest child, made it.

After his first wife died in 1547, he married Anna Maria, who was the daughter of Duke Eric I of Brunswick-Lüneburg. They had a daughter named Elisabeth and a son named Albert Frederick, who later took over as king.

On March 20, 1568, at Tapiau, he died of the plague. The same day he died, so did his wife. Cornelis Floris de Vriendt made his tomb, which is in the Konigsberg Cathedral.

Albert liked writing letters and often sent them to important people of his time.

Estimated Net worth

Unknown.