John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg

John Sigismund (German: Johann Sigismund; 8 November 1572 – 23 December 1619) was a Prince-elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from the House of Hohenzollern. He became the Duke of Prussia through his marriage to Duchess Anna, the eldest daughter of Duke Albert Frederick of Prussia who died without sons. Their marriage resulted in the creation of Brandenburg-Prussia.

John Sigismund
Elector of Brandenburg
Duke of Prussia
John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg
Elector of Brandenburg
PredecessorJoachim Frederick
SuccessorGeorge William
Duke of Prussia
PredecessorAlbert Frederick
SuccessorGeorge William
Born(1572-11-08)8 November 1572
Died23 December 1619(1619-12-23) (aged 47)
SpouseAnna, Duchess of Prussia
IssueGeorge William
Anne Sophia
Maria Eleonora
Joachim Sigismund
John Frederick
Albrecht Christian
FatherJoachim III Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg
MotherCatherine of Brandenburg-Küstrin
ReligionLutheran (until 1613)
Calvinist (since 1613)

Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia

John Sigismund was born in Halle an der Saale to Joachim III Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, and his first wife Catherine of Brandenburg-Küstrin. He succeeded his father as Margrave of Brandenburg in 1608. In 1611, John Sigismund traveled from Königsberg to Warsaw, where on 16 November 1611 he gave feudal homage to Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland (the Duchy of Prussia was a Polish fief at the time). He officially became Duke of Prussia in 1618, although he had served as regent on behalf of the mentally-disturbed Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia, for several years prior. John Sigismund died in the following year.

John Sigismund gave the Reichshof Castrop to his teacher and educator Carl Friedrich von Bordelius, whereas he received the territories of Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in the Treaty of Xanten in 1614.

Religious policy

John Sigismund's most significant action was his conversion from Lutheranism to Calvinism, after he had earlier equalized the rights of Catholics and Protestants in the Duchy of Prussia under pressure from the King of Poland. He was probably won over to Calvinism during a visit to Heidelberg in 1606, but it was not until 1613 that he publicly took communion according to the Calvinist rite. The vast majority of his subjects in Brandenburg, including his wife Anna of Prussia, remained deeply Lutheran, however. After the Elector and his Calvinist court officials drew up plans for mass conversion of the population to the new faith in February 1614, as provided for by the rule of Cuius regio, eius religio within the Holy Roman Empire, there were serious protests, with his wife backing the Lutherans. Resistance was so strong that in 1615, John Sigismund backed down and relinquished all attempts at forcible conversion. Instead, he allowed his subjects to be either Lutheran or Calvinist according to the dictates of their own consciences. Henceforward, Brandenburg-Prussia would be a bi-confessional state.[1]

Family and children

On 30 October 1594, John Sigismund married Anna of Prussia, daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia (1553–1618). She was the elder sister of his stepmother. They were parents to eight children:



  1. Christopher Clark The Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947 (Penguin, 2007) pp.115-121
  • Theodor Hirsch (1881), "Johann Sigismund", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 14, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 169–175
  • Settlement of Dortmund between Brandenburg and Palatinate-Neuburg and the conflict of succession in Jülich, in full text
  •  "Brandenburg, Confession of" . Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg
Born: 8 November 1572 Died: 23 December 1619
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Joachim Frederick
Elector of Brandenburg
Succeeded by
George William
Preceded by
Albert Frederick
Duke of Prussia
Title last held by
John William
Duke of Cleves,
Count of Mark,
Count of Ravensburg

Incorporated into Brandenburg

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