Grand arms of the Kingdom of Saxony
Arms of Saxony
|Arms showing the crossed Wittenberg swords and Saxon bars and band.|
Saxony has a long history as a duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire (the Electorate of Saxony), and eventually as a kingdom (the Kingdom of Saxony). Its monarchy was overthrown in 1918 and a republican form of government was established under its current name subsequent to Germany's defeat in World War I. Abolished during communist rule, it was re-established on 3 October 1990 during the re-unification of East and West Germany.
In prehistoric times the territory of the Free state Saxony was the site of some of the largest of the ancient Central European monumental temples, dating from the 5th millennium BC. Notable archaeological sites have been discovered in Dresden and the villages of Eythra and Zwenkau near Leipzig.
The first mediæval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy" and emerged about AD 700 covering the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony-Anhalt. In the 10th century the dukes of Saxony were at the same time kings (or emperors) of the Holy Roman Empire (Ottonian or Saxon Dynasty). At that time, a Saxon noble family of Billungs received extensive fiefs in Saxony, and the Emperor eventually gave them the title of Duke of Saxony. After the extinction of the male line of Billungs, the duchy was given to Lothar of Supplinburg, who then also became Emperor for a short time.
In 1137 Saxony was passed to the Welfen dynasty, who were descendants (1) of Wulfhild Billung, eldest daughter of the last Billung duke, and (2) of the daughter of Lothar of Supplinburg. It reached its peak under Duke Henry the Lion, and after his death it began to decline (Henry had declined to participate in the later Italian wars of his liege lord, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and those expeditions to Italy ended in disasters. The furious emperor retaliated and sent his troops to end Duke Henry's dominion). In 1180 large portions west of the Weser were ceded to the Bishops of Cologne, while some central parts between the Weser and the Elbe remained to the Welfs, later forming the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg). The remaining Eastern lands, together with the title of Duke of Saxony, were passed to an Ascanian dynasty (who descended from Eilika Billung, Wulfhild's younger sister) and divided in 1260 into the two small states of Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg. Saxony-Lauenburg was later renamed Lauenburg and was no longer part of Saxony or its history. Saxe-Wittenberg was confirmed to have inherited the "main" ducal title of the Saxons and as such was recognized as an Elector of the Empire in 14th century.
Saxony-Wittenberg, in present Saxony-Anhalt, became subject to the margravate of Meißen and ruled by the Wettin dynasty in 1423. A new powerful state was established, occupying large portions of the present Free state of Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. Although the center of this state was far southeast of the former Saxony, it came to be referred to as Upper Saxony and then simply Saxony, while the former Saxon territories were now known as Lower Saxony.
In 1485, Saxony was split as a collateral line of the Wettin princes received what later became Thuringia and founded several small states there; see Ernestine duchies. The remaining Saxon state became even more powerful, becoming known in the 18th century for its cultural achievements, although it was politically inferior to Prussia and Austria, which pressed Saxony from either side.
Following the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Electorate of Saxony became a kingdom by decree of the French Emperor Napoleon, and Elector Frederick Augustus III became King Frederick Augustus I. Frederick Augustus made the mistake of remaining loyal for too long to Napoleon, and he was taken prisoner and his territories declared forfeit by the allies in 1813, with the intention of their being annexed by Prussia. Ultimately, the opposition of Austria, France, and the United Kingdom resulted in Frederick Augustus being restored to his throne at the Congress of Vienna, but Saxony was forced to cede the northern part of the kingdom to Prussia. These lands became the Prussian province of Saxony, which is today incorporated in Saxony-Anhalt. What was left of the Kingdom of Saxony was roughly identical with the present federal state.
During the 1848–49 constitutionalist revolutions in Germany, Saxony became a hotbed for revolutionaries, with anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin and democrats including Richard Wagner and Gottfried Semper taking part in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849. After the Austro-Prussian War Saxony joined the North German Confederation in 1867. In 1871 it became part of the German Empire. Saxony issued some of the last thaler coins prior to unification in early 1872.
Dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg
Dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg
House of Wettin
Ernestine Electors of Saxony (named for Frederick
II's older son)
Albertine Dukes (later Electors) of Saxony (named
for Frederick II's younger son)
Kings of Saxony - House of
In 1547, following Emperor Charles V's victory at the Battle of Mühlberg, Wittenberg and the Electoral dignity passed to the Albertine line. The Ernestine line continued to rule in southern Thuringian, but their lands eventually split up into many different tiny "Ernestine duchies". There will be seperate pages for those I have coins from.
* Saxe-Altenburg (1603 to 1672; 1826 to 1918)
Key identification notes: The coins of Saxony are easily identified by the unique Saxon primary arms, bars with crown. They appear in some form on virtually every Saxon coin, either as the primary device or a central escutcheon. The arms are often split per pale with the crossed swords representing Wittenberg on the left, an old central core of the Saxon domains, with the bars and crown on the right. "SACHSEN", "SAX", or "SAXONIE" appears in the legends.
Groschen and Zinsgroschen