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

Ernst I.
(Ernest I.)
"Ernst the Confessor"

Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Celle (from 1520)

 As second-born son, Ernst was not at first destined to rule in the principality of Lüneburg. However, after his father, duke Heinrich the Middling (1468-1532), supported the French king Franz I. in the election for emperor rather than the newly chosen Habsburg Karl V. (1500-1558), an imperial ban was imposed on him by the new ruler from Austria.  Heinrich the Middling fled thereupon to France.  Thus it happened that in 1520 duke Ernst, together with his older brother Otto (1495-1549), had to assume the rule of the principality of Lüneburg in Celle.  However, Otto shrank from the high debt in the principality and voluntarily resigned from power. Consequently, he received a substantial appanage and was awarded the domain of Harburg as a small estate. Therewith Otto established the Welf branch line of Harburg, which after the death of duke Wilhelm von Harburg, however, reverted again to Lüneburg.

Beginning in 1512, duke Ernst received his education at Wittenberg University and was there impressed by the teaching of Martin Luther (1483-1546).  In 1530 Ernst traveled to the Imperial Diet at Augsburg and signed the evangelical creed (the Augsburg Confession).  Here he made the acquaintance of the evangelical preacher Urban Regius, whom he appointed to be the bishop of the principality of Lüneburg.  With his help duke Ernst furthered the Reformation in his realm.  Monasteries were scarcely supported and fell, like all church matters in the principality of Lüneburg, under the so-called sovereign church hierarchy.  Ecclesiastical relations were reformed, and antiquated structures were abolished.  Hitherto the pope and the emperor were permitted to determine the teaching of the church.  Beginning in 1527, with his "Artikelbuch," duke Ernst himself now intervened in the church doctrine of his principality.  The duke undertook inspections and thereby all church institutions in his realm had to be conducted in accordance with the new creed.  Under duke Ernst the established churches were still not acquainted with any general liturgy, as they were in other Protestant realms of the Empire. The first printed Lüneburgian liturgy appeared in 1564.  The Reformation was, however, not purely a denominational development; it was always connected with secular government and its interests. The Reformation led to, among other things, arguments among dukes with standing about the financing of the empty treasury.

Duke Ernst lived totally according to his motto: "I serve others, I myself am consumed."  He died at the age of forty-nine and left behind three young sons from his marriage with Sophie von Mecklenburg - Schwerin.  Beginning in 1569, his youngest son, Wilhelm the Younger (1535-1592), reigned alone in Celle.

--Adapted from the website, Die Welfen


  • Eckart, Rudolf, ed.  Uelzener Beiträge 16. Herzog Ernst der Bekenner und seine Zeit.  Uelzen, 1998.
  • Vogtherr, Hans-Jürgen.  Die welfischen Fürsten.  Brunswick, 1895.