Duchy of Saxony

Duchy of Saxony

Hartogdom Sassen  (Low German)
Herzogtum Sachsen  (German)
Saxony around 1000 CE, within the German Kingdom
Saxony around 1000 CE, within the German Kingdom
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Formation by Charlemagne
• Welf ascendancy
• Expanded by conquest
• Welfs deposed, Ascanians enfeoffed with severely belittled duchy
• John I and Albert II co-rulers
• Competences divided
1269, 1272 and 1282
• Definite partition into Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg
• Wittenbergs extinct; reunification failed

Preceded by
Succeeded by
Old Saxony
Saxe-WittenbergCoat of arms of Saxony.svg
Saxe-LauenburgCOA family de Sachsen-Lauenburg.svg
County of OldenburgArms of the County of Oldenburg.svg
Prince-Archbishopric of BremenBremen-Erzbistum.PNG
Duchy of Brunswick-LüneburgCoat of Arms of Brunswick-Lüneburg.svg

The Duchy of Saxony (Low German: Hartogdom Sassen, German: Herzogtum Sachsen) was originally the area settled by the Saxons in the late Early Middle Ages, when they were subdued by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars from 772 and incorporated into the Carolingian Empire (Francia) by 804. Upon the 843 Treaty of Verdun, Saxony was one of the five German stem duchies of East Francia; Duke Henry the Fowler was elected German king in 919.

Upon the deposition of the Welf duke Henry the Lion in 1180, the ducal title fell to the House of Ascania, while numerous territories split from Saxony, such as the Principality of Anhalt in 1218 and the Welf Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1235. In 1296 the remaining lands were divided between the Ascanian dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg, the latter obtaining the title of Electors of Saxony by the Golden Bull of 1356.


Map showing the location of the three states, Lower Saxony in the northwest, Saxony-Anhalt in the center, and the Free State of Saxony in the southeast, within today's Germany

The Saxon stem duchy covered the greater part of present-day Northern Germany, including the modern German states (Länder) of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt up to the Elbe and Saale rivers in the east, the city-states of Bremen and Hamburg, as well as the Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Holstein region (Nordalbingia) of Schleswig-Holstein. In the late 12th century, Duke Henry the Lion also occupied the adjacent area of Mecklenburg (the former Billung March).

The Saxons were one of the most robust groups in the late tribal culture of the times, and eventually bequeathed their tribe's name to a variety of more and more modern geopolitical territories from Old Saxony (Altsachsen) near the mouth of the Elbe up the river via the Prussian Province of Saxony (in present-day Saxony-Anhalt) to Upper Saxony, the Electorate and Kingdom of Saxony from 1806 corresponding with the German Free State of Saxony, which bears the name today though it was not part of the medieval duchy (see map on the right).