Albert Frederick of Prussia, Brandenburg-Prussia, Duchy of Prussia, Elector of Brandenburg, Georg-Friedrich of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, House of Hohenzollern, Joachim-Friedrich, King Sigismund III Vasa of Poland, Kingdom of Poland, Maria Eleanor of Cleves
Albrecht-Friedrich (May 7, 1553 – August 28, 1618) was the Duke of Prussia, from 1568 until his death. He was a son of Duke Albrecht of Prussia, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Anna Marie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the daughter of Duke Eric I of Brunswick-Calenberg (1470–1540) and Elizabeth of Brandenburg (1510–1558). He was the second and last Prussian duke of the Ansbach branch of the Hohenzollern family.
Albrecht-Friedrich, Duke of Prussia
Duke of Prussia
Albrecht-Friedrich became Duke of Prussia after paying feudal homage to his cousin, the King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, on July 19, 1569 in Lublin. The homage was described by the Polish chronicler Jan Kochanowski in his work Proporzec (“Standard”). During the 1573 Polish election, Albrecht-Friedrich attempted to gain acceptance to the Polish senate but was opposed by the powerful Jan Zamoyski (later Grand Hetman of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland) who feared the influence of Protestants in the Polish legislative body.
Albrecht-Friedrich initially refused to recognize the election of Stefan Bathory and supported the candidacy of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II of Austria to the Polish throne. However, at the Toruń sejm of October 1576 he gave his support to the new monarch.
As the great grandson of the Polish king, Casimir IV Jagiellon, and as a Duke in Prussia who was fluent in Polish, Albrecht-Friedrich was himself seriously considered for a time as a possible candidate for the Polish throne. He particularly enjoyed the support of Polish Lutherans.
Albert-Friedrich was married in 1573 to Marie Eleonore of Cleves, a daughter of Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and Archduchess Maria of Austria (1531–1581). Archduchess Maria was a daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. Marie Eleonore of Cleves was also the niece of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England and Ireland.
Marie Eleonore of Cleves
While Marie Eleonore’s her father was a Reform Catholic, she was of a strong willed character and displayed firm Lutheran sympathies early on. Her father was afraid that she would influence her younger sisters with her religious views, and therefore wished to have her married to someone of her own religious convictions as soon as possible in order to remove her from his domains, and thus considered grooms for his daughter that he would not otherwise have considered. Albrecht-Friedrich, Duke of Prussia, was thus accepted as a suitor, despite showing mental disorders.
In 1572 he began to exhibit signs of mental disorder. In early 1578, the regency was taken over by his cousin, Georg-Friedrich of Brandenburg-Kulmbach (1539–1603). After Georg-Friedrich death in 1603, the Polish King Sigismund III Vasa appointed Joachim-Friedrich as regent in 1605, and permitted his son, Johann-Sigismund, to succeed him in 1611. The latter became Duke of Prussia after Albrecht-Friedrich’s death in 1618.
With Georg-Friedrich of Brandenburg-Kulmbach taking over the regency of the Duchy of Prussia, this made the position of Marie Eleonore more difficult at the Ducal court of Köningsberg. In 1591, she returned with her daughters to Jülich, where she remained until 1592. She arranged the marriage of her daughters to German princes to avoid them being married by the regency council to Polish suitors, and by the marriage alliances she arranged, she ensured that the Duchy of Julich would come to the Brandenburg after the death of her brother.
Georg-Friedrich of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
Here is a list of the children of Albrecht-Friedrich of Prussia and Marie Eleonore of Cleves and their spouses:
1. Anna of Prussia (1576 – 1625). Married Johann-Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg.
2. Marie of Prussia (1579 – 1649). Married Christian, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth.
3. Albrecht-Friedrich of Prussia (1 June 1580 – 8 October 1580).
4. Sophie of Prussia (1582 – 1610). Married Wilhelm Kettler of Courland.
5. Eleanor of Prussia (1583 – 1607). Married Joachim-Friedrich, Elector of Brandenburg.
6. Wilhelm-Friedrich of Prussia (1585 – 1586).
7. Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia (1586 – 1659). Married John George I, Elector of Saxony.
Since neither of Albrecht-Friedrich’s two sons survived until adulthood, at his death on August 28, 1618, the Duchy of Prussia passed to his son-in-law Johann-Sigismund, Elector and Margrave of Brandenburg, combining the two territories under a single dynasty and forming Brandenburg-Prussia. This new State of Brandenburg-Prussia would be the foundation upon on which both the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire were built.