Thomas von dem Knesebeck (the Younger)

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Thomas von dem Knesebeck (27 March 1594 - 1 February 1658) was a Privy Councillor and Landeshauptmann (Governor) of the Altmark during most of the 30 Years War, as well as one of the earliest members of the Fruitbearing Society.

House of Knesebeck noble family

Knesebeck is the name of two branches of a prominent aristocratic family in the tradition of ancient nobility in Germany. In the 17th century they acknowledged a common ancestry and combined their arms. The black line of the family von dem Knesebeck stems from the ancient nobility of Lower Saxony, while the white line stems from the ancient nobility of the Altmark. Branches of both lines remain to this day. The family has produced numerous senior military and public figures. These have included ambassadors, bishops, governors, members of parliament, a field marshal, and dozens of generals.

Landeshauptmann gubernatorial title

Landeshauptmann or Landeshauptfrau is the chairman of a state government and the supreme official of an Austrian states and the Italian autonomous provinces of South Tyrol and Trentino. His or her function is equivalent to that of a minister-president or premier. Until 1933 the term was used in Prussia for the head of government of a province, in the modern-day states of Germany the counterpart to Landeshauptmann is the Ministerpräsident (minister-president).

Altmark region in the north west of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

The Altmark is a historic region in Germany, comprising the northern third of Saxony-Anhalt. As the initial territory of the March of Brandenburg, it is sometimes referred to as the "Cradle of Prussia", as by Otto von Bismarck, a native from Schönhausen near Stendal.


He was born into one of the most prominent Brandenburg families as the son of Landeshauptmann Thomas von dem Knesebeck (the Elder), who introduced Calvinism to Brandenburg and affected the conversion of the Elector of Brandenburg, John Sigismund. [1] At the encouragement of his father, who believed in an extensive education, he spent almost ten years studying law and the humanities at the Universities of Helmstedt, Frankfurt (Oder), Wittenberg, Marburg and Heidelberg, under the tutelage of some of the leading German thinkers such as Henning Arnisaeus and Leonhard Hutter. These studies were followed by the almost obligatory grand tour of Europe, including Geneva, Italy, France, the Netherlands and England.

Thomas von dem Knesebeck was a Privy Councillor and Landeshauptmann (Governor) of the Altmark. Together with his father and grandfather he was a major figure in the introduction of protestantism to Brandenburg.

John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg Prince-elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg

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University of Helmstedt university

The University of Helmstedt, was a university in Helmstedt in the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel that existed from 1576 until 1810.

Upon his return he was appointed a judge on the Higher Regional Court (Kammergericht), in expectation that he would inherit the position of Landeshauptmann of the Altmark from his father, which he did in 1626. Supported by his brother Hempo, who was by then the war commissary of Brandenburg, the early years in this role were largely spent mitigating the impact of the 30 Years War on the region. Knesebeck’s own estates were laid waste by imperial troops in 1631. At the insistence of Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, having declined once before, he was admitted into the Privy Council in 1646. He was further appointed director of the Kammergericht in 1651, in order to push through long-needed reform of that institution. [2]

Kammergericht highest regular court of the state of Berlin

The Kammergericht (KG) is the Oberlandesgericht, i.e. the highest state court, for the city-state of Berlin, Germany. As an ordinary court according to the German Courts Constitution Act (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz), it deals with criminal and civil cases, superior to the local Amtsgerichte and the Landgericht Berlin. Its name differs from other state courts for historic reasons; there are no other courts called Kammergericht in Germany.

A war commissary or armed forces commissary is a military official responsible for supplying military arms and provisions, and sometimes in charge of the military budget and conscription. The rank is used, or has been used, in the Danish Army, Norwegian Army, Prussian Army, Swedish Army, French Army and Soviet army.

Holy Roman Empire Complex of territories in Europe from 962 to 1806

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also included the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia and Kingdom of Italy, plus numerous other territories, and soon after the Kingdom of Burgundy was added. Its size gradually diminished over time, particularly from 1648 onward, and by the time of its dissolution, it largely contained only German-speaking territories, plus the Kingdom of Bohemia which was bordered by the German lands on three sides.

One of the major incidents under his administration was the 1653 Landtag, a meeting of the Estates necessitated by the burdensome post-war financial demands made on them by Frederick William in part due to his drive to fund a standing army. Though Knesebeck was broadly opposed to this policy, the eventual outcome was a five-year payment plan, in exchange for increased absolutist power for the Elector, as well as greater privileges for the nobility versus the peasantry.

Estates of the realm broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society recognised in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe

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Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia

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Knesebeck died on 1 February 1658. He remained unmarried and was succeeded as Landeshauptmann by his brother Hempo.

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  1. Isaacsohn, Siegfried, "Knesebeck, Thomas von dem" in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 16 (1882), p.285
  2. L. Noack & Jürgen Splett. Bio-Bibliographien: Brandenburgische Gelehrte der Frühen Neuzeit - Mark Brandenburg mit Berlin-Cölln 1506–1640. pp.205-07