Saxe-Weimar [key], Ger. Sachsen-Weimar, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. The area passed in the division of 1485 to the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty and remained with that branch after the redivision of the Wettin lands in 1547, when Elector John Frederick I of Saxony was captured by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the battle of Mühlberg. John Frederick's heirs divided the Ernestine lands into the duchies of Weimar, Gotha, Coburg, Eisenach, and Altenburg. Duke John of Weimar, who died in 1605, left several sons; one of them was the celebrated Protestant general, Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, who served in the Thirty Years War.
The cadet lines of Coburg, Gotha, and Eisenach having failed by 1640, their lands passed to the sons of Duke John. Ernest the Pious, who had Gotha and Coburg, also inherited Altenburg in 1672; his possessions were again divided among his seven sons (see Saxe-Gotha; Saxe-Coburg; Saxe-Meiningen; see also Saxe-Altenburg). An elder brother of Ernest the Pious, William, received Weimar and Eisenach; those duchies, however, were again separated under his heirs until the failure of the Eisenach line in 1741, when its territory (including Jena) reverted to Duke Ernest Augustus I of Saxe-Weimar.
Small as it was, the duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, which resulted from the reunion in 1741, was the most important of the Thuringian principalities. It gained its greatest prosperity and cultural importance under Duke Charles Augustus, the patron and friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who made Weimar, the ducal capital, an intellectual center of Europe. Charles Augustus sided against Napoleon I in the War of the Third Coalition, but was forced in 1806 to join the Confederation of the Rhine. The Congress of Vienna raised him (1815) to the rank of grand duke. Grand Duke Charles Alexander sided (1866) with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War. His grandson, William Ernest, abdicated in 1918, and in 1920 Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was incorporated into Thuringia.
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