Albrecht of Brandenburg–Ansbach

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First duke of Prussia, margrave of Ansbach, and last grand master of the Teutonic Knights; b. Ansbach, May 17, 1490; d. Tapiau, East Prussia (presentday Gvardiesk, Russia), March 20, 1568. A distinguished member of the Hohenzollern family, he was the nephew of King Sigismund of Poland through his mother. He was already Margrave of Ansbach when he was elected grand master of the teutonic Knights of East Prussia in 1511, a position he held until April 9, 1525, when he announced his conversion to Lutheranism, suppressed the order, and secularized its property along with the adjacent lands of Samland and Ermland as his personal fief under the suzerainty of the king of Poland. His initial contact with Lutheranism came at the Diet of Nuremberg in 1522, when he met Andreas osiander. Later, he married (1526) at luther's suggestion. His first wife was Dorothy of Denmark, and by this union he linked lutheranism with the Scandinavian countries. His second wife, whom he married in 1550, three years after the death of his Danish wife, was Marie of BraunschweigCalenberg. Under Albrecht's active leadership Lutheranism spread into Kurland, Livonia, and Estonia. His brother William became archbishop of Riga and in 1539 emulated the actions of Albrecht. The University of Königsberg (Collegium Albertinum ) was founded by Albrecht in 1544 as an academic institution to study and propagate the Lutheran faith. In 1549 he appointed Osiander as professor of theology, and immediately the university was plunged into theological controversy over Osiander's preaching. In the controversy Albrecht supported Osiander and thus helped to widen the split within the ranks of Lutheranism. He died in 1568 lamenting, "We have, alas, very few pastors of souls, but quite a swarm of hirelings and storks." His biographers agree that he saved Prussia from possible absorption by Poland and paved the way for the eventual union of Brandenburg and Prussia in 1618, thus contributing to the rise of Prussia.

Bibliography: albrecht of brandenburgansbach, Vertrau Gott allein, ed. e. roth (Würzburg 1956). p.g. thielen, Die Kultur am Hofe Herzog Albrechts von Preussen (Göttingen 1953). w. hubatsch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart ³, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 1:218219. Kardinal Stanislaus Hosius, Bischof von Ermland, und Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, ed. e. m. wermter, (Reformationsgeschichtliche Studien und Texte 83; Münster 1957). Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche ², ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:292.

[c. l. hohl, jr.]