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Sachsen-Altenburg (Saxony-Altenburg)

Sachsen-Altenburg is a former duchy, from 1918 to 1920 it was a “Freistaat” (free state). Today it is part of the “Bundesland” (state) of Thuringia.

File:Duchy Sachsen-Altenburg.png

Information from the year 1900

  • State Capital: Altenburg
  • Area: 1324 km2
  • Population: 194,914



During the middle Ages, since the Leipzig division of 1485, the duchy of Altenburg belonged to the county (Markgrafschaft) of Meißen and was added to the property of the Ernestine family. After more land divisions it belonged to Sachsen-Gotha since 1672. After the line of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg died out in 1826, all of Sachsen-Hildburghausen and the Saalfelder Part on Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld fell to Sachsen-Meiningen. Duke Friedrich III of Sachsen-Hildburghausen in return received Sachsen-Altenburg as an independent duchy.

After the duchy Sachsen-Altenburg received a constitution on 29 April 1831, it joined the Deutscher Zollverein> in 1833/34 as a sovereign state; in 1867 it joined the Norddeutschen Bund> and finally it joined the German Reich in 1871.

>Both organizations promoted political and economic union within Germany

Founded in 1919, the “free state” of Sachsen-Altenburg became part of the land of Thuringia on May 1, 1920.

As the last regent of the duchy of Sachsen-Altenburg, Duke Ernst II of Sachsen-Altenburg stepped down on November 13, 1918. He moved to Trockenborn-Wolfersdorf, close to Stadtroda, into the palace named “Fröhliche Wiederkunft” (“Happy Return”). There he died on March 22, 1955 as the last duke. It is interesting to note that he was the only German duke that became a citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Since his sons, Prince Friedrich of Sachsen-Altenburg (died 23 February, 1985) and the duke in waiting, Prince Georg Moritz (died 13 February, 1991) both remained childless, the house of Sachsen-Altenburg has died out.

Organization of the State

The duchy had 1 vote in the “Bundesrat” (lower chamber of parliament). Altenburg was its state capital. The duchy was organized into the following districts (Landratsamtsbezirk): Altenburg, Schmölln (including Ronneburg) and Roda (including Eisenberg and Kahla) made up of 438 communities. The highest court of the states of Thuringia (Oberlandesgericht) was located in Jena. The duchy of Sachsen-Altenburg was seat of the state court (Landesgericht) Altenburg with circuit points in Altenburg, Eisenberg, Kahla, Roda, Ronneburg und Schmölln. Militarily speaking, the duchy belonged to the district of the Fourth Army Corps. Altenburg was the garrison town of the 7th Thuringia Infantry Regiment No. 96.


The duchy’s population:

  • 1871: 142,122 residents
  • 1875: 145,844 residents
  • 1880: 155,036 residents
  • 1905: 206,508 residents
  • 1910: 216,100 residents


The duchy’s world-renown playing-card factory was located in Altenburg, whereas Kahla was the seat of the world-famous ceramics-industry. Machinery- and metal products were only produced to a minor degree. Agriculture included mainly the production of wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, as well as fruits and vegetables. In the year 1907 the duchy’s livestock included 12,401 horses, 67,745 head of cattle, 7,568 sheep, 77,681 pigs and 15,594 goats. In the same year the mining industry produced 3,060,777 tons of brown coal. Mineral baths at the health resort at Ronneburg promoted tourism. The rather active trade of the duchy was supported by 185 km of railway tracks, two banks and 19 Savings- and Loan.


Most residents belonged to the Lutheran Church, whose head was the Duke of Sachsen-Altenburg as summus episcopus. In 1907 the church was composed of 8 jurisdictional districts (Amtsbezirke) subdivided again into 103 parish districts (Pfarrbezirke).



  • 1. 1603-1618 as guardian elector Christian II of Saxony and Johann Georg II of Saxony on behalf of Johann Philipp, Friedrich (1599-1625), Johann Wilhelm (1600-1632) and Friedrich Wilhelm, sons of Friedrich Wilhelm I
  • 2. 1618-1639 Johann Philipp (1597-1639)
  • 3. 1639-1669 Friedrich Wilhelm II (1603-1669)
  • 4. 1669-1672 as guardian elector Johann Georg II of Saxony and Duke Moritz of Sachsen-Zeitz on behalf of Friedrich Wilhelm II (1657-1672, son of Friedrich Wilhelm II)


  • 1. 1826-1834 Friedrich (1763-1834)
  • 2. 1834-1848 Joseph (1789-1868)
  • 3. 1848-1853 Georg (1796-1853) – brother of Joseph
  • 4. 1853-1908 Ernst I (1826-1908)
  • 5. 1908-1918 Ernst II (1871-1955) – nephew of Ernst I

File:Family portrait of duke of Sachsen-Altenburg 1847-1848.jpg


The Duchy of Saxony-Altenburg was comprised of two geographically separate areas. In the eastern region (Ostkreis) it included the cities of Altenburg, Schmölln, Goßnitz, Lucka and (after receiving the status of a city in 1871) Meuselwitz excluding Mumsdorf, Roschütz, Hilbersdorf, Neukirchen by Waldenburg and Russdorf by Chemnitz. The western region (Westkreis) included the cities of Eisenberg, Kahla, Orlamünde and Roda (in 1925 renamed Stadtroda) excluding Ammelstädt. Today, the former eastern region of the duchy almost makes up the county (Landkreis) of Altenburger Land in the “free state” of Thuringia.


Herzogtum Sachsen-Altenburg 1826-1918

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