BRANDENBURG ~ Electorate.
Named after the (episcopal) town on the River Havel, west of Berlin. As Branibor, it was the capital of a Slav principality, whose last Prince bequeathed it to Albert the Bear, the Margrave of the Nordmark, on his death in 1150. It was not until 1157 that Albert was able to get full control of his new lands; thereafter his territory is known as Brandenburg.
It was ruled by his family, the Ascanians, until they died out in the male line in 1320. During that time Brandenburg was recognised as one of the Electorates, and this was later confirmed by Charles IV in the Golden Bull of 1356. The Wittelsbachs held the Mark, 1323-73, and were followed by the Luxemburgs, the family of Charles IV. They were overstretched, however, and in the late 14th and early 15th centuries the Mark was partly or wholly mortgaged. Eventually the Emperor Sigismund, who had inherited the Mark in 1378 and then used it to finance his various enterprises, granted it to Frederick VI of Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg, in 1415/17. Brandenburg was ruled by him and his descendants until the fall of the German monarchy in 1918.
The Ascanians had partitioned the Mark, with capitals at Stendal and Salzwedel, between John I (d.1266) and Otto III (d.1267) and their descendants, though from the time that John had become an Elector, the Ascanians acknowledged the senior of the line as Elector. The Golden Bull of 1356 prevented the division of the Electoral land (Kurmark), but the Hohenzollerns had two Franconian territories that could be used, if vacant, to satisfy younger sons, whilst the Neumark, the land beyond the Oder, was not part of the Electoral lands. Hans, the younger brother of Joachim II, ruled the Neumark from 1535 to 1571.
The Electors, whose lands belonged to the Upper Saxon Circle after 1512, increased their territory, a process that speeded up in the early 17th century, when Cleves and Mark were acquired in the Rhineland and the Duchy of Prussia, which lay outside the bounds of the Empire, was inherited. By the beginning of the 18th century the Elector held a substantial territory and in the first year of the century he became King in Prussia. Thenceforward the lands he held are usually called PRUSSIA rather than Brandenburg.
The lands of Brandenburg proper consisted of:
- The Altmark, the old Nordmark which had been held by Albert the Bear and which lay mainly west of the Elbe;
- Prignitz, northeast of the Elbe and lying between the Altmark and Mecklenburg;
- The Mittelmark, lands between the Elbe and the Oder, consisting of Zauche and Teltow south of the Havel and Spree, Havelland, bounded west, south and east by the Havel, and Barnim, east of the Havel and north of the Spree – to these the County of Ruppin was added in the 16th century;
- The Uckermark, land between the Mittelmark and the Duchy of Pomerania;
- The Neumark, acquired from the 13th century onwards and mainly east of the Oder, divided by the Warthe into the Neumark proper, north of the river, and the land of Sternberg, south of that river, and also including the detached district around Cottbus;
- The lands of the Bishoprics of Havelberg, Brandenburg and Lebus, secularised and added to the Electorate after the Reformation.
(The Kurmark, the lands allocated as the Electoral Lands, consisted of the Altmark, the Mittelmark (without Ruppin), Prignitz and the Uckermark. Under the Golden Bull of 1356 the Kurmark could not be partitioned and passed by primogeniture to the next Elector).
In the Kingdom of Prussia after 1815, these lands became the greater part of the province of Brandenburg, with the exception of the Altmark, which was placed in the Prussian province of Saxony.
The lands of the old Electorate are now divided between the Länder of Brandenburg, Berlin and Sachsen-Anhalt and the Polish Republic.