Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha

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Ernest I
Ernest I, duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.jpg
Ernest I, the Pious
Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg
Successors Frederick in Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Albrecht in Saxe-Coburg
Bernhard in Saxe-Meiningen
Heinrich in Saxe-Römhild
Christian in Saxe-Eisenberg
Ernst in Saxe-Hildburghausen
Johann Ernst in Saxe-Saalfeld
Duke of Saxe-Gotha
Predecessor Johann
Born(1601-12-25)25 December 1601
Altenburg, Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, Holy Roman Empire
Died26 March 1675(1675-03-26) (aged 73)
Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, Saxe-Gotha, Holy Roman Empire
Consort Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg
Issue Elisabeth Dorothea, Landgravine of Hesse-Darmstadt
Frederick I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Albert, Duke of Saxe-Coburg
Bernhard I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Henry, Duke of Saxe-Römhild
Christian, Duke of Saxe-Eisenberg
Princess Dorothea Maria
Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen
Johann Ernest IV, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
House House of Wettin
Father Johann II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar
Mother Dorothea Maria of Anhalt
Religion Lutheran

Ernest I, called "Ernest The Pious" (Altenburg, Duchy of Saxe-Weimar 25 December 1601 – Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, 26 March 1675), was a duke of Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg. The duchies were later merged into Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

Altenburg Place in Thuringia, Germany

Altenburg is a city in Thuringia, Germany, located 40 kilometres south of Leipzig, 90 kilometres west of Dresden and 100 kilometres east of Erfurt. It is the capital of the Altenburger Land district and part of a polycentric old-industrial textile and metal production region between Gera, Zwickau and Chemnitz with more than 1 million inhabitants, while the city itself has a population of 33,000. Today, the city and its rural county is part of the Central German Metropolitan Region.

Saxe-Weimar duchy

Saxe-Weimar was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in present-day Thuringia. The chief town and capital was Weimar. The Weimar branch was the most genealogically senior extant branch of the House of Wettin.


Saxe-Gotha was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in the former Landgraviate of Thuringia. The ducal residence was erected at Gotha.


He was the ninth but sixth surviving son of Johann II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and Dorothea Maria of Anhalt. His mother was a granddaughter of Christoph, Duke of Württemberg, and great-granddaughter of Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg.

Johann II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Jena

Johann II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, was a Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Jena.

Dorothea Maria of Anhalt Duchess consort of Saxe-Weimar

Dorothea Maria of Anhalt, was by birth a member of the House of Ascania and princess of Anhalt. After her marriage, she became Duchess of Saxe-Weimar.

Christoph, Duke of Württemberg Duke of Württemberg

Christoph of Württemberg, Duke of Württemberg ruled as Duke of Württemberg from 1550 until his death in 1568.


Left an orphan early in life (his father died in 1605 and his mother in 1617), he was brought up in a strict manner, and was gifted and precocious but not physically strong. He soon showed traits of the piety of the time. As ruler, by his character and governmental ability as well as by personal attention to matters of state, he introduced a golden age for his subjects after the ravages of the Thirty Years' War. By wise economy, which did not exclude fitting generosity or display on proper occasions, he freed his land from debt, left at his death a considerable sum in the treasury, and reduced taxation. Public security and an incorruptible and efficient judiciary received much of his attention, and his regulations served as models for other states.

Piety virtue

In spiritual terminology, piety is a virtue that may include religious devotion, spirituality, or a mixture of both. A common element in most conceptions of piety is humility.

Thirty Years War War between 1618 and 1648; with over 8 million fatalities

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period January to May 1945; one of its enduring results was 19th-century Pan-Germanism, when it served as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and became a key justification for the 1871 creation of the German Empire.

He did not rise far enough above his time to do away with torture, though he restricted it, and in the century of trials for witchcraft he yielded to the common delusion, though he was not otherwise inclined to superstition and was a foe of alchemy. He prohibited dueling and imposed the death penalty for a mortal result.

Witchcraft Practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities either alone or in groups

Witchcraft or witchery broadly means the practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups. Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft often occupies a religious divinatory or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view.

Alchemy ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscientific tradition

Alchemy was an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscientific tradition practiced throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, originating in Greco-Roman Egypt in the first few centuries AD. It aims to purify, mature, and perfect certain objects. Common aims were chrysopoeia, the transmutation of "base metals" into "noble metals" ; the creation of an elixir of immortality; the creation of panaceas able to cure any disease; and the development of an alkahest, a universal solvent. The perfection of the human body and soul was thought to permit or result from the alchemical magnum opus and, in the Hellenistic and Western mystery tradition, the achievement of gnosis. In Europe, the creation of a philosopher's stone was variously connected with all of these projects.

In 1640, according to the partition treaty with his brothers, Ernst received Gotha.

His laws were not conceived in the spirit of modern ideas about individual liberty; they forbade secret betrothals, tried to regulate dress, and extended even to the stable, kitchen, and cellar. Nevertheless, his regulations promoted agriculture, commerce, learning, and art. His palace of Friedenstein in Gotha was rebuilt, and its collections owe their origin to Ernest; the library became one of the largest in Germany. Churches were built and by his Schulmethodus of 1642 Ernest became the father of the present grammar-school. It was a popular saying that his peasants were better instructed than the townsmen and nobles elsewhere, and at his death, it was said, no one in his land was unable to read and write. He made the gymnasium in Gotha a model school which attracted pupils not only from all German lands, but from Sweden, Russia, Poland, and Hungary. In like manner he fostered the University of Jena, increasing its funds and regulating its studies, with too much emphasis on the religious side. The same fault is attached to his efforts in church affairs, which won him the nickname of "Praying Ernest"; but an excuse is found in the fearful demoralization caused by the war. The Bible was his own everyday book and he strove unceasingly to make his people religious after a strict Lutheran pattern. Religious instruction, consisting in catechetical exercises without Bible history, was kept up even to advanced years and not unnaturally the rigid compulsion in some cases defeated its purpose. Ernest's system has maintained itself surprisingly; it still exists legally though somewhat modified or disregarded.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by far or by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.77 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is the largest metropolitan area in Europe proper and one of the largest cities in the world; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

His efforts for Protestantism were not confined to his own land. He interceded with the emperor for his Austrian co-religionists, and wanted to establish them in Gotha. He became a benefactor to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Germans in Moscow and entered into friendly relations with the tsar. He even sent an embassy to introduce Lutheranism into Abyssinia, but this failed to accomplish its purpose. His rule of his family is a miniature of his government of his land; the strictest discipline prevailed at court. Its life was simple and industrious, regulated on all sides by religious exercises. Rules were added to rules. No detail was overlooked which could promote the spiritual and physical development of his children, and their religious education was carried to excess. Nevertheless, his children all turned out well and Ernest died with the name of "father and savior of his people." Oliver Cromwell counted him among the most sagacious of princes; in him was embodied "the idea of the Protestant patriarchal prince and of a Christian governor of State and Church truly caring for both."

Family and children

In Altenburg on 24 October 1636, Ernst married his cousin Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg. As a result of this marriage Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg were unified, when the last duke of the line (Elisabeth's cousin) died childless in 1672. Ernst and Elisabeth Sophie had eighteen children:

  1. Johann Ernest (b. Weimar, 18 September 1638 – d. Weimar, 27 November 1638).
  2. Elisabeth Dorothea (b. Coburg, 8 January 1640 – d. Butzbach, 24 August 1709), married on 5 December 1666 to Louis VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt.
  3. Johann Ernest (b. Gotha, 16 May 1641 – d. of smallpox, Gotha, 31 December 1657).
  4. Christian (b. and d. Gotha, 23 February 1642).
  5. Sophie (b. Gotha, 21 February 1643 – d. of smallpox, Gotha, 14 December 1657).
  6. Johanna (b. Gotha, 14 February 1645 – d. [of smallpox?] Gotha, 7 December 1657).
  7. Frederick I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (b. Gotha, 15 July 1646 – d. Friedrichswerth, 2 August 1691).
  8. Albert, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (b. Gotha, 24 May 1648 – d. Coburg, 6 August 1699).
  9. Bernhard I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (b. Gotha, 10 September 1649 – d. Meiningen, 27 April 1706).
  10. Henry, Duke of Saxe-Römhild (b. Gotha, 19 November 1650 – d. Römhild, 13 May 1710).
  11. Christian, Duke of Saxe-Eisenberg (b. Gotha, 6 January 1653 – d. Eisenberg, 28 April 1707).
  12. Dorothea Maria (b. Gotha, 12 February 1654 – d. Gotha, 17 June 1682).
  13. Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen (b. Gotha, 12 June 1655 – d. Hildburghausen, 17 October 1715).
  14. Johann Philip (b. Gotha, 1 March 1657 – d. Gotha, 19 May 1657).
  15. Johann Ernest IV, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (b. Gotha, 22 August 1658 – d. Saalfeld, 17 February 1729).
  16. Johanna Elisabeth (b. Gotha, 2 September 1660 – d. Gotha, 18 December 1660).
  17. Johann Philip (b. Gotha, 16 November 1661 – d. Gotha, 13 March 1662).
  18. Sophie Elisabeth (b. Gotha, 19 May 1663 – d. Gotha, 23 May 1663).

Their eldest son Frederick was the first to inherit this title. His granddaughter from this son, Anna Sophie of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, was a direct matrilineal ancestor of Nicholas II of Russia. His younger son Johann Ernest was father of Franz Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.


See List of members of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

See also


He is portrayed positively as a figure in the fictional 1632 series, also known as the 1632-verse or Ring of Fire series, an alternate history book series, created, primarily co-written, and coordinated by historian Eric Flint


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Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha
Born: 25 December 1601 Died: 26 March 1675
Preceded by
Frederick Wilhelm III
Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Succeeded by
Frederick of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Albrecht of Saxe-Coburg
Bernhard of Saxe-Meiningen
Heinrich of Saxe-Römhild
Christian of Saxe-Eisenberg
Ernst of Saxe-Hildburghausen
Johann Ernst of Saxe-Saalfeld
Preceded by
Johann of Saxe-Weimar
Duke of Saxe-Gotha