Gregory Brown
513 Agnes Arnold Hall
Department of Philosophy
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204-3004

The House of Brunswick

In the 10th century, the lands that comprised the duchy of Brunswick (Braunschweig) belonged to the family of the Brunos (of the counts of Nordheim and Süpplinburg), from which the name "Brunswick" is derived.  In the 12th century these lands were inherited by Heinrich the Proud (1102-1139), duke of Saxony and Bavaria and member of the family of Welf, and later formed a part of the Saxon duchy ruled by his son, Heinrich the Lion (1129-1195).

In 1181 Heinrich the Lion was placed under imperial ban and his duchy was dismembered, but he was allowed to retain his hereditary lands, which consisted of a large part of Brunswick and Lüneburg. The greater part of these lands were inherited by Heinrich's grandson, Otto the Child (1204-1252), and in 1235 the emperor Friedrich II., who wished to be reconciled with the Welfs, recognized Otto's title and created him first duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg.  Otto later acquired several counties and the town of Hanover, and upon his death in 1252 he was succeeded by his sons Albrecht I. (1236-1279) and Johann (1242-1277).  In 1267 the two princes divided the duchy, and Albrecht became duke of Brunswick (founder of the Old House of Brunswick) and Johann became duke of Lüneburg (founder of the Old House of Lüneburg).

Albrecht I. had three sons: Wilhelm (1270-1292), who inherited Brunswick; Albrecht II. (1268-1318), who inherited Göttingen and, after the death of Wilhelm, Brunswick as well; Heinrich (1267-1322), who inherited Grubenhagen. One of Albrecht II.'s sons, Magnus I. (1304-1369), inherited Brunswick in 1345, but the line from his brothers, inheriting Göttingen, died out in 1463, and the Grubenhagen line died out in 1506.

The dukes of Lüneburg increased their territorial holdings, and when the family died out in 1369 a struggle for succession erupted. The duke of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel, Magnus II. (1324-1373), son of Magnus I., made a claim but was forced to withdraw by emperor Karl IV. (1316-1378).  His sons, however, Bernhard I. (d. 1434) and Heinrich the Mild (d. 1416), succeeded in incorporating Lüneburg with Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel: Bernhard inherited Lüneburg (founder of the Middle House of Lüneburg) and Heinrich inherited Brunswick (founder of the Middle House of Brunswick).  In 1428 the only surviving son of Magnus II., Bernhard, was forced to partition the duchy, retaining Lüneburg for himself and ceding Brunswick to his nephews, Wilhelm the Victorious (1400-1482) and Heinrich, who in 1432 divided Brunswick into Calenberg and Wolfenbüttel.  In1473, however, Wilhelm, who had acquired Göttingen in 1463, united Calenberg, Wolfenbüttel, and Göttingen; but they were divided again from 1495 to 1584.  The son of Wilhelm the Victorious, Wilhelm II. (d. 1503), had two sons, Heinrich the Elder (1463-1514), who inherited Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel in 1491, and Erich I. (1470-1540), who inherited Calenberg in the same year. With the death of duke Erich II. (1528-1584), who was the son of duke Erich I. and the great grandson of Wilhelm the Victorious, Julius (1528-1589), the third son of Heinrich the Younger (1489-1568),  inherited the principality of Calenberg - Göttingen.  Julius had already inherited Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel upon the death of his father in 1568, so Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel and Calenberg - Göttingen were once again united under his rule in 1584.  In 1596, under the rule of his son, Heinrich Julius (1564-1613), Grubenhagen was added to it.  However, his grandson, duke Friedrich Ulrich (1529-1634), was forced to cede this territory to Lüneburg in 1617.  When he died in 1634 his family became extinct, and Brunswick was divided between the two branches of the Lüneburg family.

The duchy of Lüneburg was reestablished in 1428 by Bernhard I. (d. 1434), and it remained undivided until 1520, when duke Heinrich the Middling (1468-1532) abdicated and his three sons divided the duchy.  Two of the branches founded at this time soon died out; and in 1569, after the death of their father, Ernst the Confessor (1497-1546), representative of the third branch, his two surviving sons, Heinrich of Dannenberg (1533-1598) and Wilhelm the Younger (1535-1592), agreed upon a partition.  According to the agreement, Heinrich relinquished his joint rule of Lüneburg and in return received the castle, province, and city of Dannenberg, as well as the monastery of Scharnebeck and the continuous revenue from it.  From that point on he received a yearly income of 500 talers and a one-time payment of 4000 talers for the liquidation of debts.  However, Duke Heinrich had by this agreement contractually ensured all rights to the principality of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel.  In case of an extinction of the Wolfenbüttel line, his descendents were at that point to take up the succession.  This happened in 1635, after the death in 1634 of the last Welf ruler from the Middle House of Brunswick, duke Friedrich Ulrich (1591-1634), who died without heirs.  But within the family branch of Lüneburg, a struggle for succession first broke out.  Only under pressure from the emperor did the Welf descendents from the Lüneburg line come to terms.  Duke Heinrich's youngest son August the Younger (1579-1666) had previously purchased all rights with respect to the principality of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel from his seven eldest brothers.  So in 1635, on the basis of the inheritance contract that his father Heinrich of Dannenberg had made with the Lüneburg line, duke August took up in Wolfenbüttel a fifty-five year reign of the principality of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel.  Consequently, duke August was the founder of the New House of Brunswick.  In return for it, the principality of Calenberg - Göttingen was separated from Wolfenbüttel and awarded to the Lüneburg line under duke Georg of Calenberg (1583-1641).  After the acquisition of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel in 1635, the Dannenberg line took the title of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel, and ruled in the direct line until 1735.  The reign of duke August the Younger was followed by that of his sons, Rudolf August (1627-1704) and Anton Ulrich (1633-1714).  Duke Anton Ulrich was succeeded, first by his eldest son, August Wilhelm (1662-1731), and then by his youngest son, Ludwig Rudolf (1671-1735).  The Dannenberg line was then followed by the family of Brunswick - Bevern, which had split off from the parent line in 1666 and ruled until 1884.  The first duke of Brunswick - Wolfenbüttel from the Bevern line was Ferdinand Albrecht II. (1680-1735), second son of Ferdinand Albrecht I. (1636-1687).

     Duke Georg of Calenberg had four sons:

  1. Christian Ludwig (1622-1665)
    • Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Calenberg (Hanover) (1641-1648).
    • Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Celle (1648-1665).
    • In 1663 married (Sophie) Dorothea of Holstein - Glücksburg (1636-1689).
  2. Georg Wilhelm (1624-1705)
    • Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Calenberg (Hanover) (1648-1665).
    • Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Celle (1665-1705).
    • In 1675 married Eléonore Desmiers d'Olbreuse.
  3. Johann Friedrich (1625-1679)
    • Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Calenberg (Hanover) (1665-1679).
    • Married Benedicte Henriette (1652-1730) of the Palatinate - Simmern  in 1668, the niece of Sophie (1630-1714), electress of Hanover, and Elizabeth (1618-1680), princess of Bohemia.
    • In 1676 duke Johann Friedrich appointed Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz as librarian and counselor to his court. Toward the end of 1677, Leibniz was installed as Privy Counselor to duke Johann Friedrich.
  4. Ernst August (1629-1698)

In 1701 the English parliament decided to amend the law of succession to the throne with the Act of Settlement.  In this succession act, the Electress Sophie was declared next in line to the throne in the Protestant line.  But Sophie died on 8 June 1714, so following the death of Queen Anne (1665-1714) on 12 August 1714 Sophie's eldest son, Georg Ludwig (1660-1727), became George I., the first Hanoverian king of Great Britain (1714-1727).  The only daughter of Sophie and Ernst August, Sophie Charlotte (1668-1705), became from her marriage to Friedrich (1657-1713) first the electress of Brandenburg (in 1688) and then the first queen of Prussia (1701-1705).  Georg I. Ludwig was succeeded in 1727 by his son, Georg II. August (1683-1760).  The son of Georg II. August, Friedrich Ludwig (1707-1751), was created prince of Wales in 1729, but he preceded his father in death in 1751, and thus did not inherit the throne.  Georg II. August was succeeded in 1760 by his grandson, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1738-1820), the "King George" of the American Revolution.


  • The Encyclopædia Britannica, 13th edition. New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1926.
  • Aiton, E. J.  Leibniz: A Biography. Boston: Adam Hilger, 1985.