George William, Elector of Brandenburg
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George William, Elector of Brandenburg

George William (German: Georg Wilhelm; 13 November 1595 - 1 December 1640), of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was margrave and elector of Brandenburg and duke of Prussia from 1619 until his death. His reign was marked by ineffective governance during the Thirty Years' War. He was the father of Frederick William, the "Great Elector".


Born in Cölln on the Spree (today part of Berlin), George William was the son of John Sigismund, Margrave of Brandenburg and Anna of Prussia. His maternal grandfather was Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia. In 1616, he married Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. Their only son Frederick William would later be known as the "Great Elector". Of his two daughters, the eldest, Louise Charlotte, married Jacob Kettler, Duke of Courland, and the younger, Hedwig Sophie, married William VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel.[1]

In 1619, George William inherited the Margravate of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia, then part of Poland, although his ownership was not confirmed by Sigismund III Vasa until September 1621. He proved a weak and ineffective ruler in a very difficult period of history; possession of Prussia involved him in the 1621 to 1625 Polish-Swedish War, since Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was married to his sister Maria Eleonora.[2]

During the Thirty Years' War, the Calvinist George William tried to remain neutral in the contest between the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II, and his mostly Lutheran opponents. When the war shifted to northern Germany in 1625, this did not protect his lands from being looted by Imperial troops, and he was forced to take sides when Gustavus intervened in the Empire in 1630. However, this simply replaced one set of plunderers with another; Gustavus could not support so large an army, and his unpaid and unfed troops became increasingly mutinous and ill-disciplined.[3]

After Gustavus was killed at Lützen in November 1632, George William joined the Swedish-backed Heilbronn League, until defeat at Nördlingen on 6 September 1634. Following the 1635 Peace of Prague, the League was dissolved, although by now Brandenburg's population had been decimated by the war.[4]

Leaving his Catholic and pro-Imperial chief minister Schwarzenberg to run the government, George William withdrew in 1637 to the relatively untouched region of Prussia, where he lived in retirement until his death at Königsberg in 1640. He was succeeded by his far more accomplished son Frederick William.[5]


George William's ancestors in three generations
George William, Elector of Brandenburg Father:
John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg
Paternal Grandfather:
Joachim Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John George, Elector of Brandenburg
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Sophie of Legnica
Paternal Grandmother:
Catherine of Brandenburg-Küstrin
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Küstrin
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Catherine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Anna of Prussia
Maternal Grandfather:
Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Albert, Duke of Prussia
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Anna Marie of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Maternal Grandmother:
Marie Eleonore of Cleves
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Archduchess Maria of Austria


  1. ^ Johnson & Sabean 2011, p. 133.
  2. ^ Wilson 2009, pp. 189-190.
  3. ^ O'Connell 1968, pp. 253-254.
  4. ^ Clark 2008, p. 26.
  5. ^ Wedgwood 1938, p. 438.


  • Clark, C (2008). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674023857.
  • Johnson, Christopher H; Sabean, David Warren (2011). Sibling Relations and the Transformations of European Kinship, 1300-1900. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-0857450463.
  • O'Connell, Daniel Patrick (1968). Richelieu. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wedgwood, CV (1938). The Thirty Years War (2005 ed.). New York Review of Books. ISBN 978-1590171462.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wilson, Peter H. (2009). Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9592-3.
George William, Elector of Brandenburg
Born: 13 November 1595 Died: 1 December 1640[aged 45]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John Sigismund
Elector of Brandenburg
Duke of Prussia

Succeeded by
Frederick William

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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