ANSBACH   or Brandenburg-Ansbach.

Region of Nuremberg, Ansbach, Kulmbach and Bay...

Region of Nuremberg, Ansbach, Kulmbach and Bayreuth, (Franconia and Bavaria, Germany) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imperial Principality in southeastern Germany, named after its capital, which stands on the River Rezat, a tributary of the Rednitz and eventually of the Main.   The town, which is WSW of Nuremberg, is now a Stadtkreis in the Land of Bayern, while the surrounding area forms the Landkreis of Ansbach.

Originally called Onoldsbach, it was the site of a monastery in the 8th century, which became a collegiate church in the 11th.   The lords of nearby Dornberg were the lay protectors of the church and of the town which grew up around it.   Their rights were inherited in 1288 by the Counts of Oettingen, who sold them to the Hohenzollern Burgraves of Nuremberg in 1331.  By 1385 Ansbach had become a principal residence of the Burgraves, who had acquired a considerable territory in eastern Franconia on either side of Nuremberg.

After the death of the Burgrave Frederick V in 1398 the lands outside Nuremburg were partitioned between his two sons, the elder, John III, taking the “Land oberhalb des Gebirges” (Culmbach and Bayreuth) and the younger, Frederick VI, the “Land unterhalb des Gebirges” (Ansbach).   In 1415 Frederick VI became the Elector Frederick I of Brandenburg, and in 1420 reunited the Franconian lands after his brother’s death.   When he died in 1440, his eldest son took Bayreuth, the second became Elector and the third, Albert Achilles, became Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach (the title deriving from the association of Ansbach with the Margraves and Electors of Brandenburg).

Albert Achilles reunited the lands, succeeding to Bayreuth in 1464 and to the Electorate in 1470.   In 1473 he made provision whereby the lands were never to be divided into more than three parts.   When he died in 1486 he was succeeded in Ansbach by Frederick, the elder son of his second marriage, who in 1495 added Bayreuth and Kulmbach on the death of his younger brother.

Frederick abdicated in 1515 (his mental health was dubious) and the Franconian lands again divided, Ansbach being the share of the second son, George, who also acquired Jägerndorf and other territory in Silesia by purchase.   His successor, George Frederick, 1543-1603, reunited the Franconian lands in 1557 and was Regent of Prussia for his cousin, an imbecile.   George Frederick died childless in 1603, whereupon the lands reverted to the Elector of Brandenburg, who bestowed them on the two eldest of his half-brothers, Ansbach being the share of the younger, Joachim Ernest.

His line survived until 1806, but in 1791 the last Prince, Charles Alexander, who had reunited the Franconian lands in 1769, gave them up and sold his rights to his kinsman, the King of Prussia.   He was broke and he wanted to marry an English lady of aristocratic but not princely birth.   In 1805 the King of Prussia ceded Ansbach to France and in 1806 it became part of Bavaria.

Ansbach, which belonged to the Franconian Imperial Circle, was a fairly compact principality, though small enclaves of other principalities lay within it, while the Ansbach district around Uffenheim was separated from the main body by the Free City of Rothenburg.   A distant pocket of land, Sayn-Altenkirchen, in the Westerwald east of the Rhine, had been acquired in 1741.

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