Princess Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg

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Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg
Duchess of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg
Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg, duchess of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.jpg
Tenure 1640–1675
Born(1619-10-10)10 October 1619
Died 20 December 1680(1680-12-20) (aged 61)
Spouse Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha
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, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
House House of Wettin
Father Johann Philipp, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Mother Elisabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Religion Lutheranism

Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg (Halle, 10 October 1619 Gotha, 20 December 1680), was a princess of Saxe-Altenburg and, by marriage, duchess of Saxe-Gotha.

Saxe-Altenburg duchy

Saxe-Altenburg was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in present-day Thuringia. It was one of the smallest of the German states with an area of 1323 square kilometers and a population of 207,000 (1905) of whom about one fifth resided in the capital, Altenburg. The territory of the duchy consisted of two non-contiguous territories separated by land belonging to the Principality of Reuss. Its economy was based on agriculture, forestry, and small industry. The state had a constitutional monarchical form of government with a parliament composed of thirty members chosen by male taxpayers over 25 years of age.


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.


She was the only daughter of Johann Philipp, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg and Elisabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.

Johann Philipp, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg German Duke

Johann Philipp, was a duke of Saxe-Altenburg.


In Altenburg on 24 October 1636, Elizabeth Sophie married her kinsman Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha. As a dowry, she received 20,000 guilders, who were pledged by the town of Roßla. As Widow's seat, the bride obtained the towns of Kapellendorf and Berka, with the called Gartenhaus in Weimar.

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.

Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg

Ernest I, called "Ernest The Pious", was a duke of Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg. The duchies were later merged into Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

Roßla Ortsteil of Südharz in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Rossla is a village and a former municipality in the Mansfeld-Südharz district, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Since 1 January 2010, it is part of the municipality Südharz. From 1706–1803, Rossla was the seat of Stolberg-Rossla.

Because according to the succession laws of the House of Saxe-Altenburg (which excluded the women from inheritance), after her father died two years later (1 April 1639), he was succeeded by his brother, Frederick Wilhelm II.

When her cousin, the duke Frederick Wilhelm III died childless in 1672, Elisabeth Sophie became in the general heiress of all the branch of Saxe-Altenburg on the basis of her father's testament (as it was ultimately recognized in law that the Salic Law does not prevent an agnate from willing all his possessions to those other agnates of the house he desires to make his heirs, leaving other agnates without; and if those favored agnates also happened to be the testator's son-in-law and maternal grandsons, that's in no way prohibited).

Ernest I of Saxe-Gotha claimed the whole succession of Saxe-Altenburg, claimed both being the closest male relative and his wife's rights. However, the other branch of the family, the Dukes of Saxe-Weimar didn't accept that will, opening a succession dispute.

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.

Finally, Elisabeth Sophie and Ernst's sons received the lion's share of Saxe-Altenburg inheritance, but a portion (a quarter of the original duchy of Saxe-Altenburg) passed to the Saxe-Weimar branch. Hence, the Ernestine line of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was founded, which would exist until 1825.

When Duke Ernst I died in 1675, his numerous sons divided the inheritance (five eighths of all Ernestine lands) into seven parts: Gotha-Altenburg, Coburg, Meiningen, Römhild, Eisenberg, Hildburghausen and Saalfeld. Of them, Coburg, Römhild and Eisenberg did not survive over that one generation and were divided between the four remaining lines.

Of the four remaining duchies, only two branches survive until today: Meiningen and Saalfeld (which eventually became the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). Through the Saalfeld branch, Elisabeth Sophie is a direct ancestress of the British Royal Family.

After her husband's death, Elisabeth Sophie changed the towns originally given to her as Widow's seat in her marriage for the towns of Reinhardsbrunn and Tenneberg. Under the name "the Chaste", she was a member of the Virtuous Society. [1]


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, 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 George V of the United Kingdom and Nicholas II of Russia. His younger son John was father to Franz Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Related Research Articles

House of Wettin noble family

The House of Wettin is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The dynasty is one of the oldest in Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt. The Wettins gradually rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. Members of the family became the rulers of several medieval states, starting with the Saxon Eastern March in 1030. Other states they gained were Meissen in 1089, Thuringia in 1263, and Saxony in 1423. These areas cover large parts of Central Germany as a cultural area of Germany.

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Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was a duchy ruled by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in today's Thuringia, Germany. The extinction of the line in 1825 led to a major re-organisation of the Thuringian states.


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  1. Erika Alma Metzger, Richard E. Schade: Sprachgesellschaften, galante Poetinnen, Daphnis, Amsterdam 1988, p. 622.
Princess Elisabeth Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 10 October 1619 Died: 20 December 1680
German royalty
New creation Duchess consort of Saxe-Gotha
1640 – 26 March 1675
The two states that shared a personal union merged into one. When Saxe-Altenurg was recreated the successor was: Duchess Amelia of Württemberg
Title last held by
Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony
Duchess consort of Saxe-Altenburg
14 April 1672 26 March 1675