In Brandenburg, indecision on religion

On 24 January 2020, by Agathe Albi-Gervy

Struck in 1627 under George-William, elector of Brandenburg, this rare five-ducat gold coin recalls power struggles during the Thirty Years’ War.

Brandenburg-Prussia, five gold ducats, 1627.
Estimate: €75,000

This extremely rare five-ducat coin dated 1627 is only the second known example of its kind. It immerses us into a dark chapter in European history in which the man whose profile is engraved here, George-William, elector of Brandenburg, took part: the Thirty Years’ War. The son of John Sigismund, Margrave of Brandenburg and Anna of Prussia, and a member of the House of Hohenzollern, he was the elector of Brandenburg and the duke of Prussia from 1619, when the electorate inherited the duchy, to 1640. His marriage to the daughter of the elector Palatine strengthened his authority within the Empire, but his weakness and clumsiness ended up leaving an irrevocably weakened Brandenburg to his son and successor, Frederick-William. The cause: his governance errors during the 1618-1648 Thirty Years’ War between the Catholic Habsburgs, backed by the papacy, and the Holy Roman Empire’s Protestant German States, allied with the United Provinces, the Scandinavian countries and France. The indecisive Protestant George-William switched sides, influenced to the point of blindness by the Catholic Count Adam von Schwarzenberg, who even swayed his superior’s political decisions in his favour. This capricious policy caused the duke’s downfall. After the war, seeing his territory decimated, he fled to Prussia in a sort of exile.

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