Freikorps were German military volunteer units that existed from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, which fought as mercenary or private armies, regardless of their own nationality. In German-speaking countries, the first so-called Freikorps were formed in the 18th century from native volunteers, enemy renegades and deserters; these sometimes exotically equipped units served as infantry and cavalry, sometimes in just company strength, sometimes in formations up to several thousand strong. The Prussian von Kleist Freikorps included infantry, jäger and hussars; the French Volontaires de Saxe combined dragoons. In the aftermath of World War I and during the German Revolution of 1918–19, Freikorps consisting of World War I veterans were raised as right-wing paramilitary militias, ostensibly to fight on behalf of the government against the Soviet-backed German Communists attempting to overthrow the Weimar Republic. However, the Freikorps largely despised the Republic and were involved in assassinations of its supporters.
The first Freikorps were recruited by Frederick the Great during the Seven Years' War. On 15 July 1759, Frederick ordered the creation of a squadron of volunteer hussars to be attached to the 1st Regiment of Hussars, he entrusted the command of this new unit to Colonel Friedrich Wilhelm von Kleist. This first squadron was raised in Dresden and consisted of Hungarian deserters; this squadron was placed under the command of Lieutenant Johann Michael von Kovacs. At the end of 1759, the first four squadrons of dragoons of the Freikorps were organised, they consisted of Prussian volunteers from Berlin, Magdeburg and Leipzig, but recruited deserters. The Freikorps were regarded as unreliable by regular armies, so they were used as sentries and for minor duties; these early Freikorps appeared during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, when France and the Habsburg Monarchy embarked on an escalation of petty warfare while conserving their regular regiments. During the last Kabinettskrieg, the War of the Bavarian Succession, Freikorp formations were formed in 1778.
Germans, Poles and South Slavs, as well as Turks and Cossacks, were believed by all warring parties to be inherently good fighters. The nationality of many soldiers can no longer be ascertained as the ethnic origin was described imprecisely in the regimental lists. Slavs were referred to as "Hungarians" or just "Croats", Muslim recruits as "Turks". For Prussia, the Pandurs, who were made up of Croats and Serbs, were a clear model for the organization of such "free" troops. Frederick the Great created 14 "free infantry" units between 1756 and 1758, which were intended to be attractive to those soldiers who wanted military "adventure", but did not want to have to do military drill. A distinction should be made between the Freikorps formed up to 1759 for the final years of the war, which operated independently and disrupted the enemy with surprise attacks and the free infantry which consisted of various military branches and were used in combination, they were used to ward off Maria Theresa's Pandurs.
In the era of linear tactics, light troops had been seen necessary for outpost and reconnaissance duties. During the war, eight such volunteer corps were set up: Trümbach's Freikorps Kleist's Freikorps Glasenapp's Free Dragoons Schony's Freikorps Gschray's Freikorps Bauer's Free Hussars Légion Britannique Volontaires Auxiliaires. Because, with some exceptions, they were seen as undisciplined and less battleworthy, they were used for less onerous guard and garrison duties. In the so-called "petty wars", the Freikorps interdicted enemy supply lines with guerrilla warfare. In the case of capture, their members were at risk of being executed as irregular fighters. In Prussia the Freikorps, which Frederick the Great had despised as "vermin", were disbanded, their soldiers were given no entitlement to pensions or invalidity payments. In France, many corps continued to exist until 1776, they were attached to regular dragoon regiments as jäger squadrons. During the Napoleonic Wars, Austria recruited various Freikorps of Slavic origin.
The Slavonic Wurmser Freikorps fought in Alsace. The combat effectiveness of the six Viennese Freikorps, was low. An exception were the border regiments of Croats and Serbs who served permanently on the Austro-Ottoman border. Freikorps in the modern sense emerged in Germany during the course of the Napoleonic Wars, they fought not so much for money but rather out of patriotic motives, seeking to shake off the French Confederation of the Rhine. After the French under Emperor Napoleon had either conquered the German states or forced them to collaborate, remnants of the defeated armies continued to fight on in this fashion. Famous formations included the King's German Legion, who had fought for Britain in French-occupied Spain and were recruited from Hanoverians, the Lützow Free Corps and the Black Brunswickers; the Freikorps attracted students. Freikorps commanders such as Ferdinand von Schill, Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm von Lützow or Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, known as the "Black Duke", led their own attacks on Napoleonic occupa
Battle of Leipzig
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine; the battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I. Decisively defeated for the first time in battle, Napoleon was compelled to return to France while the Coalition kept up their momentum, dissolving the Confederation of the Rhine and invading France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to Elba in May 1814; the French Emperor Napoleon I attempted to militarily coerce Tsar Alexander I of Russia into rejoining his unpopular Continental System by invading Russia with about 650,000 troops, collectively known as the Grande Armée, occupied Moscow in late 1812, after the bloody yet indecisive Battle of Borodino.
However, the Russian Tsar refused to surrender as the French occupied the city, burnt by the time of its occupation. The campaign ended in complete disaster as Napoleon and his remaining forces retreated during the bitterly cold Russian winter, with sickness and the constant harrying of Russian Cossack marauders and partisan forces leaving the Grande Armée destroyed by the time it exited Russian territory. Making matters worse for Napoleon, in June 1813 the combined armies of Great Britain and Spain, under the command of Britain's Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, had decisively routed French forces at the Battle of Vitoria in the Peninsular War, were now advancing towards the Pyrenees and the Franco-Spanish border. With this string of defeats, the armies of France were in retreat on all fronts across Europe. Anti-French forces joined Russia as its troops pursued the remnants of the destroyed Grande Armée across central Europe; the allies regrouped as the Sixth Coalition, comprising Russia, Prussia, Great Britain, Spain and certain smaller German states whose citizens and leaders were no longer loyal to the French emperor.
Napoleon hurried back to France and managed to mobilize an army about the size of the one he had lost in Russia, but severe economic hardship and news of battlefield reverses had led to war-weariness and growing unrest among France's citizenry. Despite opposition at home, Napoleon rebuilt his army, with the intention of either inducing a temporary alliance or at least cessation of hostilities, or knocking at least one of the Great Powers of the Coalition out of the war, he sought to regain the offensive by re-establishing his hold in Germany, winning two hard-fought tactical victories, at Lützen on 2 May and Bautzen on 20–21 May, over Russo-Prussian forces. The victories led to a brief armistice, he won a major victory at the Battle of Dresden on 27 August. Following this, the Coalition forces, under individual command of Gebhard von Blücher, Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden, Karl von Schwarzenberg, Count Benningsen of Russia, followed the strategy outlined in the Trachenberg Plan: they would avoid clashes with Napoleon, but seek confrontations with his marshals.
This policy led to victories at Großbeeren, Kulm and Dennewitz. After these defeats, the French emperor could not follow up on his victory at Dresden. Thinly-stretched supply lines spanning now somewhat hostile Rhineland German lands, coupled with Bavaria's switching of sides to the Coalition just eight days prior to the battle, made it impossible to replace his army's losses of 150,000 men, 300 guns and 50,000 sick. With the intention of knocking Prussia out of the war as soon as possible, Napoleon sent Marshal Nicolas Oudinot to take the Prussian capital of Berlin with an army of 60,000. Oudinot was defeated at the Battle of Großbeeren, just south of the city. With the intact Prussian force threatening from the north, Napoleon was compelled to withdraw westward, he crossed the Elbe with much of his army between late September and early October, organized his forces around Leipzig, to protect his crucial supply lines and oppose the converging Coalition armies arrayed against him. He deployed his army around the city, but concentrated his force from Taucha through Stötteritz, where he placed his command.
The Prussians advanced from Wartenburg, the Austrians and Russians from Dresden, the Swedish force from the north. The French had around 160,000 soldiers along with 700 guns plus 15,000 Poles, 10,000 Italians, 40,000 Germans belonging to the Confederation of the Rhine, totaling to 225,000 troops on the Napoleonic side; the coalition had some 380,000 troops along with 1,500 guns, consisting of 145,000 Russians, 115,000 Austrians, 90,000 Prussians, 30,000 Swedes. This made Leipzig the largest battle of the Napoleonic wars, surpassing Borodino, Wagram and Auerstadt, Dresden; the French Grande Armée, under the supreme command of Emperor Napoleon, was in a weakened state. Napoleon conscripted these men to be readied for an larger campaign against the newly formed Sixth Coalition and its forces stationed in Germany. While he won
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon Bonaparte. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated part of a Prussian army under Field Marshal Prince Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium; the Battle of Ligny is a strategic loss for the French. While the French troops did force the enemy to retreat, the Prussian army survived and went on to play a pivotal role two days at the Battle of Waterloo, reinforced by the Prussian IV Corps, which had not participated in the Battle of Ligny. Had the French army succeeded in keeping the Prussian army from joining the Anglo-allied Army under Wellington at Waterloo, Napoleon might have won the Waterloo Campaign. On 13 March 1815, six days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw. Napoleon knew that, once his attempts at dissuading one or more of the Seventh Coalition Allies from invading France had failed, his only chance of remaining in power was to attack before the Coalition could put together an overwhelming force.
If he could destroy the existing Coalition forces south of Brussels before they were reinforced, he might be able to drive the British back to the sea and knock the Prussians out of the war. The Duke of Wellington expected Napoleon to try to envelop the Coalition armies, a manoeuvre that he had used many times before, by moving through Mons to the south-west of Brussels; the roads to Mons were paved. This would have cut Wellington's communications with his base at Ostend, but would have pushed his army closer to Blücher's. In fact, Napoleon planned instead to divide the two Coalition armies and defeat them separately, he encouraged Wellington's misapprehension with false intelligence. Moving up to the frontier without alerting the Coalition, Napoleon divided his army into a left wing, commanded by Marshal Ney, a right wing commanded by Marshal Grouchy, a reserve, which he commanded personally. Crossing the frontier at Thuin near Charleroi before dawn on 15 June, the French overran Coalition outposts and secured Napoleon's favoured "central position" – at the junction between the area where Wellington's allied army was dispersed to his north-west, Blücher's Prussian army to the north-east.
Only late on the night of 15 June was Wellington certain that the Charleroi attack was the main French thrust, he duly ordered his army to deploy near Nivelles and Quatre Bras. Early on the morning of 16 June, at the Duchess of Richmond's ball, on receiving a dispatch from the allied I Corps headquarters sent by Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque, he was shocked by the speed of Napoleon's advance, hastily sent his army in the direction of Quatre Bras, to support the brigade of Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, holding a tenuous position against the French left, commanded by Marshal Ney. Ney's orders were to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, so that if necessary, he could swing east and reinforce Napoleon; as Napoleon considered the concentrated Prussian army the greater threat, he moved against them first. The I Corps rearguard actions on 15 June held up the French advance, giving Blücher the opportunity to concentrate his forces in the Sombreffe position, selected earlier for its good defensive attributes.
Napoleon's original plan for 16 June was based on the assumption that the Coalition forces, caught napping, would not attempt a risky forward concentration. To assist this operation the reserve would move at first to Fleurus to reinforce Grouchy, should he need assistance in driving back Blücher's troops. In pursuance of this object Ney, to whom III Cavalry Corps was now attached, was to mass at Quatre Bras and push an advanced guard about 10 kilometres northward of that place, with a connecting division at Marbais to link him with Grouchy; the centre and left wing together would make a night-march to Brussels. The Coalition forces would thus be irremediably sundered, all that remained would be to destroy them in detail. Napoleon now awaited further information from his wing commanders at Charleroi, where he massed the VI Corps, to save it, if possible, from a harassing countermarch, as it appeared that it would only be wanted for the march to Brussels. Ney spent the morning in massing his I and II corps, in reconnoitring the enemy at Quatre Bras, who, as he was informed, had been reinforced.
But up till noon he took no serious step to capture the cross-roads, which lay at his mercy. Grouchy meantime reported from Fleurus that Prussians were coming up from Namur, but Napoleon does not appear to have attached much importance to this report, he was still at Charleroi when, between 09:00 and 10:00, further news reached him from the left that considerable hostile forces were visible at Quatre Bras. He at once wrote to Ney saying that these could only be some of Wellington's troops, that Ney was to concentrate his force and crush what was in front of him, adding that he was to send all reports to Fleurus. Keeping Lobau provisionally at Charleroi, Napoleon hastened to Fleurus, arriving about 11:00. Blücher havin
Emmanuel de Grouchy, marquis de Grouchy
Emmanuel de Grouchy, 2ème Marquis de Grouchy was a French general and marshal. Grouchy was born in Condécourt, Château de Villette,the son of François-Jacques de Grouchy, 1st Marquis de Grouchy and intellectual wife Gilberte Fréteau de Pény, his sister was a noted feminist. He entered the French artillery in 1779: in 1782 he was transferred to the cavalry, subsequently, in 1786, to the Gardes du Corps. In spite of his aristocratic birth and his connections with the court, he was a convinced supporter of the principles of the Revolution, had in consequence to leave the Guards. About the time of the outbreak of war in 1792 Grouchy became colonel of the Régiment de Condé-Dragons, soon afterwards, as a maréchal de camp, he was sent to serve on the south-eastern frontier. In 1793 he distinguished himself in La Vendée, was promoted Général de division. Grouchy was shortly afterwards deprived of his rank as being of noble birth, but in 1795 he was again placed on the active list, he served on the staff of the Army of Ireland, took a conspicuous part in the Irish expedition.
In 1798 he administered the civil and military government of Piedmont at the time of the abdication of the king of Sardinia, in 1799 he distinguished himself as a divisional commander in the campaign against the Austrians and Russians. In covering the retreat of the French after the defeat of Novi, Grouchy received fourteen wounds and was taken prisoner. On his release Grouchy returned to France. In spite of his having protested against the coup d'état of the 18 Brumaire he was at once re-employed by the First Consul, distinguished himself again at Hohenlinden, it was not long before he accepted the new régime in France, from 1801 onwards he was employed by Napoleon in military and political positions of importance. He served in Austria in 1805, in Prussia in 1806, Poland in 1807, where he distinguished himself at Eylau and Friedland, Spain in 1808, commanded the cavalry of the Army of Italy in 1809 in the Viceroy Eugène's advance to Vienna. In 1812 he was made commander of the III Cavalry Corps.
He led the corps at Smolensk and Borodino and during the retreat from Moscow Napoleon appointed him to command the escort squadron, composed of picked officers. His continuous service with the cavalry led Napoleon to decline in 1813 to place Grouchy at the head of an army corps, Grouchy thereupon retired to France. In 1814, however, he hastened to take part in the defensive campaign in France, he was wounded at Craonne. At the Restoration he retired. In 1815, he joined Napoleon on his return from Elba, was made Marshal and peer of France. In the Waterloo Campaign he commanded the reserve cavalry of the army, after Battle of Ligny he was appointed to command the right wing to pursue the Prussians. Napoleon sent Grouchy to pursue a part of the retreating Prussian army under the command of General Johann von Thielmann. On 17 June, Grouchy was unable to close with the Prussians. Despite hearing the cannon sound from the nearby Battle of Waterloo, he decided to follow the Prussians along the route specified in his orders while the Prussian and British-Dutch armies united to crush Napoleon.
He won a smart victory over the III Prussian Corps in the Battle of Wavre, on 18–19 June 1815, but it was too late, as by the time this battle was over, Napoleon had lost at Waterloo. So far as resistance was possible after the great disaster, Grouchy made it, he gathered up the wrecks of Napoleon's army and retired and unbroken, to Paris, after interposing his reorganized forces between the enemy and the capital, he resigned his command into the hands of Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout. The rest of his life was spent in defending himself. An attempt to have him condemned to death by a court-martial failed, but he was exiled and lived in America until amnestied in 1821. On his return to France he was reinstated not as marshal nor as peer of France. For many years thereafter he was an object of aversion to the court party, as a member of their own caste who had followed the Revolution and Napoleon, to his comrades of the Grande Armée as the supposed betrayer of Napoleon. In 1830 Louis Philippe restored him to the Chamber of Peers.
He died at Saint-Étienne on 29 May 1847. He was married firstly to Cécile le Doulcet de Pontécoulant, sister of Louis Gustave le Doulcet, comte de Pontécoulant, by whom he had 4 children: Ernestine Alphonse Aimee-Clementine Victor He married secondly Fanny Hua and had 1 daughter: Noemie Grouchy published the following: Observations sur la relation de la campagne de 1815 par le général de Gourgaud Refutation de quelques articles des mémoires de M. le Duc de Rovigo Fragments Historiques Relatifs a la Campagne de 1815 et a la Bataille de Waterloo — in reply to Barthélemy and Méry, to Marshal Gérard Reclamation du marchal de Grouchy Plainte contre le general Baron Berthezène — Berthezène a divisional commander under Gérard, stated in reply to this defence that he had no intention of accusing Grouchy of ill faith. Warnant, Léon. Dictionnaire de la prononciacion française. Gembroux: Duculot. Attribution This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed..
"Grouchy, Marquis de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12
Battle of Wavre
The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18–19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard, consisting of the Prussian III Corps under the command of General Johann von Thielmann and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A blocking action, this battle kept 33,000 French soldiers from reaching the Battle of Waterloo and so helped in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Following defeat at the Battle of Ligny two days earlier, the Prussian army retreated north in good order and formed up at Wavre. Wellington's Anglo-allied army held at Quatre Bras, but had to retreat northwards, to a defensive position at Waterloo. Napoleon moved the bulk of his army off in pursuit of Wellington, sent Grouchy in pursuit of the retreating Prussians with the right wing of the Army of the North, a force consisting of 33,000 men and 80 guns; the French units in the order of battle were: III Corps 17,099 infantry – 38 guns IV Corps 15,013 infantry – 38 guns II Cavalry Corps 3,392 infantry – 12 guns IV Cavalry Division 1,485 infantry – 8 guns detached from the I Cavalry Corps 5,000 cavalry from the Reserve ArmyGrouchy was slow in taking up the pursuit after Ligny, which allowed Prince Blücher to fall back unmolested to Wavre, regroup his army, execute a flank march with three of his four corps to join up with Wellington's Anglo-allied army at Waterloo.
The remaining corps, the III Prussian Corps of 17,000 men and 48 guns, was to follow the other three corps leaving a small rearguard in Wavre, unless the French appeared in force in which case he was to oppose any French attempt to close on the main body of the Prussian army. Marshal Grouchy was in Gembloux with III Corps commanded by General Vandamme and IV Corps commanded by General Gerard; the 4th Cavalry Division, commanded by Pajol, the 21st infantry division, under Teste, formed the remainder of his force. Reconnaissance by Pajol's horsemen during the 17 June found. At around 06:00 of 18 June 1815 Grouchy reported to Napoleon that the Prussians had left Tourinnes by marching all night, he further reported. At 10:00 Grouchy reported to Napoleon that the Prussian I, II, and—mistakenly—III Corps were marching in the direction of Brussels, that Prussian officers were talking of joining Wellington to offer battle to the French army, his despatch included a Prussian requisition form by way of proof.
He suggested that by attacking and standing at Wavre, he could block the Prussians from intervening against the rest of the French army. At 11:30, Grouchy and his corps commanders heard in the distance the noise from the Grand Battery as the Battle of Waterloo started. Grouchy's corps commanders Gérard, suggested that they should "march to the sound of the guns." Grouchy, had written and verbal orders from Napoleon to march on Wavre and to engage the Prussians there, knew that Marshal Ney had been taken to task by Napoleon two days earlier for not following orders at the Battle of Quatre Bras. Grouchy therefore declined to follow his subordinates' suggestion, pointing out that Napoleon had more than enough force to deal with Wellington. Minutes after this conversation, Exelmans reported strong Prussian positions 5 km at Wavre. At 13:00, elements of Exelmans' cavalry were in contact with the Prussian 14th Brigade’s rear guard. Further argument was ended by the arrival at 16:00 of another order from Napoleon, repeating the instruction to Grouchy to attack the Prussians before him.
Blücher had ordered Thielmann to defend the position of Wavre in the event of Marshal Grouchy advancing in force, or, if otherwise, to follow the main Prussian army in the direction of Couture-Saint-Germain and the battlefield of Waterloo. Thielmann was on the point of leaving Wavre to march towards Couture-Saint-Germain when the French III Corps arrived in front of his position, at about 16:00, the French artillery opened a cannonade upon the Prussians. All the brigades of the Prussian III Corps, had, at that time, received the order to commence the general movement to the right. A detachment of only two battalions, under Colonel Zepelin, from the 9th Brigade, which had not yet crossed the river Dyle, was to be left in occupation of Wavre; the 12th Brigade was in full line of march, the 11th had just been put in motion. When General Borcke, who commanded the 9th Brigade, fell back upon Wavre for the purpose of carrying out his instructions, he found the bridge barricaded, therefore proceeded with his brigade to Basse-Wavre.
Having crossed the Dyle at this point, he left a detachment there, consisting of the sharpshooters of the Fusilier Battalion of the 8th Regiment and those of the 1st Battalion of the 30th Regiment, under Major Ditfurth, whom he directed to destroy the bridge immediately. He detached the 2nd Battalion of the 30th Regiment and his two squadrons of the Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, as a reinforcement to Zepelin at Wavre. With the remainder of his brigade, he continued his march. In the meantime, French Tirailleurs were observed extending along the opposite heights, in their rear considerable masses of French troops appeared to be advancing, it soon became manifest to the Prussians that the French contemplated forcing a passage of the river. Thielmann, judging by
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony was a state of the Holy Roman Empire established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356. Upon the extinction of the House of Ascania, it was feoffed to the Margraves of Meissen from the Wettin dynasty in 1423, who moved the ducal residence up the river Elbe to Dresden. After the Empire's dissolution in 1806, the Wettin Electors raised Saxony to a territorially reduced kingdom. After the dissolution of the medieval Duchy of Saxony, the name Saxony was first applied to a small territory midway along the river Elbe, around the city of Wittenberg, which had belonged to the March of Lusatia. Around 1157 it was held by the first Margrave of Brandenburg; when Emperor Frederick Barbarossa deposed the Saxon duke, Henry the Lion in 1180, the Wittenberg lands belonged to Albert's youngest son, Count Bernhard of Anhalt, who assumed the Saxon ducal title. Bernard's eldest son, Albert I, ceded the territory known as, Anhalt to his younger brother, retaining the ducal title and attched to this territory the lordship of Lauenburg.
His sons divided the territory into the duchies of Saxe-Lauenburg. Both lines claimed the Saxon electoral dignity or privilege, which led to confusion during the 1314 election of the Wittelsbach duke, Louis of Bavaria as King of the Romans against his Habsburg rival, Duke Frederick the Fair of Austria, as both candidates received one vote each from each of the two rival Ascanian branches. Louis was succeeded by Charles of Bohemia. After his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in 1355, Charles issued the Golden Bull of 1356, the fundamental law of the Empire settling the method of electing the German King by seven Prince-electors; the rival Wittelsbach and Habsburg dynasties got nothing, instead the Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg, Archmarshal of the Empire, received the right to elect the King of the Romans and the prospective Emperor, together with six other elector Princes of the Empire. Thus, the country, though small in area, gained influence far beyond its extent; the electoral privilege contained the obligation of male primogeniture.
That is, only the eldest son could succeed as ruler. It therefore forbade the division of the territory among several heirs, in order to prevent the disintegration of the country; the importance of this stipulation is shown by the history of most of the fragmented German principalities which were not constituted as electorates. The Ascanian line of Saxe-Wittenberg became extinct with the death of Elector Albert III in 1422, after which Emperor Sigismund granted the country and electoral privilege upon Margrave Frederick IV of Meissen, a loyal supporter in the Hussite Wars; the late Albert's Ascanian relative, Duke Eric V of Saxe-Lauenburg protested in vain. Frederick, one of the seven Prince-electors, was a member of the House of Wettin, which since 1089 had ruled over the adjacent Margravate of Meissen up the Elbe river - established under Emperor Otto I in 965 - and over the Landgravate of Thuringia since 1242. Thus, in 1423, Saxe-Wittenberg, the Margravate of Meissen and Thuringia were united under one ruler, as a unified territory became known as, Upper Saxony.
When Elector Frederick II died in 1464, his two surviving sons overrode the primogeniture principle and divided his territories by the Treaty of Leipzig on 26 August 1485. This resulted in the separated Wettin dynasty becoming the Ernestine and Albertine branches; the elder Ernest, founder of the Ernestine line, received large parts of the former Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg with the electoral privilege attached to it, the southern Landgravate of Thuringia. While the younger Albert, founder of the Albertine line, received northern Thuringia and the lands of the former Margravate of Meissen. Thus, although the Ernestine line had had greater authority until the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, the electoral privilege and territory fell to the Albertine line, which also became a royal house when Saxony was proclaimed a kingdom in the 19th century; this partition was to decisively enfeeble the Wettin dynasty in relation to the rising House of Hohenzollern. It had achieved its own electoral privilege as Margraves of Brandenburg since 1415.
The Protestant movement of the 16th century spread under the protection of the Saxon rulers. Ernest's son, Elector Frederick the Wise established in 1502 the University at Wittenberg, where the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, was appointed professor of philosophy in 1508. At the same time he became one of the preachers at the castle church in Wittenberg. On 31 October 1517, he enclosed in a protest letter to Albert of Brandenburg the Archbishop of Mainz, The Ninety-Five Theses against the sale of indulgences and other Catholic practices, an action that marked the start of what came to be called the Reformation. Although the Elector did not at first share the new attitude, he granted his protection to Luther anyway. Owing to this intervention, Pope Leo X decided against summoning Luther to Rome in 1518, the Elector secured for Luther Imperial safe-conduct to the Diet of Worms in 1521; when Luther was declared banned in the entire empire by Emperor Charles V, the Elector had him brought to live in Wartburg Castle on his Thuringian estate.
Lutheran doctrines spread first in Ernestine Saxony. In 1525, Frederick died never having left the Catholic Church, unless on his deathbed in 1525, but he was sympathetic towards Lutheranism by the time of his death, he was succeeded by John the Constant. John was a zealous Lutheran, he exercised full authority over the new chu