Elector Ernst-August of Hanover, Ernst August of Hanover, George I of Great Britain, George Wilhelm of Brunswick, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Holy Roman Empire, Prince-Bishop of Osnabruck, Sophia of the Rhine (Electress Sophia), Sophie of the Palatinate
Ernst August (November 20, 1629 – January 23, 1698) was ruler of the Principality of Lüneburg from 1658 and of the Principality of Calenberg from 1679 until his death. He was appointed as the ninth Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire in 1692, but died before the appointment became effective.
Ernst August was born at Herzberg Castle near Göttingen, Principality of Calenberg, the youngest son of Georg, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Prince of Calenberg, and Anne Eleonore of Hesse-Darmstadt.
On September 30, 1658, he married Sophia of the Palatinate in Heidelberg. She was the daughter of Friedrich V, Elector Palatine and Princess Elizabeth of England, and granddaughter of King James I-VI of England and Scotland. Sophia had been betrothed to Ernst August’s older brother, Georg Wilhelm, who did not want her. When she married Ernst August instead, releasing Georg Wilhelm from this obligation, Georg WIlhelm ceded to Ernst August his claim to Lüneburg.
As the fourth son, Ernst August had little chance of succeeding his father as ruler. Therefore, the couple had to live in the Leineschloss at the Hanover court of Ernst August’s eldest brother Christian Ludwig. However, in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, it had been agreed between the Catholic and Protestant powers that the rulership of the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück should alternate between the two churches, and that the respective Protestant bishops should be members of the House of Welf.
When the Osnabruck throne became vacant in 1662, the family appointed Ernst August Prince-Bishop. Ernst August and Sophia moved to Iburg Castle, together with their two living sons and Sophia’s niece Princess Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (future sister-in-law of Louis XIV of France). In 1667 they began to build a more up-to-date residence, Osnabruck Palace, and in 1673 they moved there. Their youngest son was born there in 1674.
Christian Ludwig died childless in 1665, leaving Lüneburg to the second brother, Georg Wilhelm who had ceded his right to Ernst August, who thus succeeded to that title. Georg Wilhelm kept the district of Celle for himself. In 1679, Ernst August inherited the Principality of Calenberg from the third brother Johann Friedrich. In 1680 the family moved back to Hanover.
In 1683, against the protestations of his five younger sons, Ernst August instituted primogeniture, so that his territory would not be further subdivided after his death, and also as a pre-condition for obtaining the coveted electorship. He participated in the Great Turkish War on the side of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1692, he was appointed Prince-Elector by the Emperor, thus raising the House of Hanover to electoral dignity, the elevation becoming effective in 1708 when confirmed by the Imperial Diet.
He was nonetheless recognized as Elector of Hanover, the very first. Ernst August died in 1698 at Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover. He was succeeded as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire by his eldest son, Georg Ludwig, later King George I of Great Britain.
His main residences were the Leineschloss, in Hanover, and the Herrenhausen, a summer residence a short distance outside the city. Ernst August and Sophia had the Great Garden at Herrenhausen enlarged after Italian and Dutch models, creating one of the most distinguished baroque formal gardens of Europe.