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


Duke of Brunswick - Lüneburg - Gifhorn

Franz was only twelve years old when his older brother, duke Ernst the Confessor (1497-1546), took up the rule in Celle of the principality of Lüneburg in 1520.  From 1522-1536 Franz received his education at the court of the Electorate of Saxony.  Beginning in 1524 the young prince studied at the Wittenberg University, where Martin Luther  (1483-1546) held his professorship.  Since 1525 the principality of Lüneburg, in complete opposition to the other Welf principalities of Wolfenbüttel and Calenberg, stood in the anti-Habsburg camp.  In 1526 Hesse, Saxony, and the principality of Lüneburg ratified a defensive alliance.  Together the Lutheran-aligned princes of the empire marched to Speyer in order to lodge a protest against old-church majority decisions.  However, in 1526 the Imperial Diet of Speyer was disappointing for the Lutheran princes.  The previously allowed freedom of conscience regarding confessional questions was once again denied under the great influence of emperor Karl V. (1500-1558).  The Catholic princes united themselves against the Protestant policy.  Thus it happened that in 1531 the Lutheran princes formed the League of Schmalkalden against the emperor and the Catholic faith.  Duke Franz was promoted to princely messenger of the new beliefs, and in that capacity he successfully sought the aid of his boyhood friend, elector Johann Friedrich (1503-1554) of Saxony.  At the same time he was also able to move his brother-in-law, Christian III. (1503-1559), king of Denmark and Norway, to the side of the League of Schmalkalden.  In 1536, as a result of his diplomatic ability and his successful mission against the Turks, Franz was promoted in the rank of princes of the empire by the brother of the emperor, the German king Ferdinand. The relation between the Welf brothers Ernst and Franz became ever more difficult and strained.  Despite duke Franz's position among princes of the empire, the princely councils and duke Ernst were not willing to have him cooperate actively in the government in the principality of Lüneburg.  In October 1539, the two brothers agreed on a solution by which Franz freely withdrew from the joint rule of the principality of Lüneburg.  The court of Gifhorn with castle and the court of Isenhagen were separated from the principality and transferred to duke Franz.  However, this private solution was not a land partition.  Duke Franz did not to swear to it,  nor even convene the provincial diet, and he received by it no individual vote in the Imperial Diet.  Franz remained true to the Lutheran faith and aided his brother duke Ernst in the war against the Catholic faith and the emperor in the Schmalkaldic War (1546-1547).1  With that the imperial ban was imposed on duke Franz ion 1547 by emperor Karl V.  However, this was rescinded just a month later owing to the previous behavior of duke Franz.  His marriage of convenience in 1547 to Klara of Saxony - Lauenbrug, then only 15 years old, was short.  Duke Franz died just two years later in 1549, leaving behind two young daughters.  In the same year the courts of Gifhorn and Isenhagen reverted to the principality of Lüneburg.

--Adapted from the website, Die Welfen


     1The Schmalkaldic War was a brief and indecisive phase in the struggle between the Roman Catholic emperor Karl V. (1500-1558) and the Protestant party within the Holy Roman Empire.  Because of other commitments, the emperor was unable to face the League until 1546.  But he was able to crush the League with the help of duke Maurice of Saxony (1521-1553), winning a significant victory at the battle of Mühlberg (24 April 1547).


  • Judge, Harry, ed.  Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia.  3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Siebarth, Werner.  Herzog Franz und seine Zeit.  Hanover, 1953.