- Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
Ernst August I, Duke of Saxe-Weimar (b.
Weimar, 19 April 1688- d. Eisenach, 19 January 1748), was a dukeof Saxe-Weimar and, from 1741, of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.
He was the second but eldest surviving son of
Johann Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Weimarand his first wife, Sophie Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst.
When his father died in 1707, Ernst August became co-ruler ("Mitherr") of Saxe-Weimar, along with his uncle Wilhelm Ernst; but this title was only nominal, because Wilhelm Ernst was the autocratic ruler of the duchy. Only when Wilhelm Ernst died in 1728, Ernst August begin his real government over Saxe-Weimar.
Ernst August was a splendor-loving
baroqueruler, and his extravagances contributing to the eventual financial ruin of the duchy. Also, he became notorious for his fiscal problems, and decided to arrest his wealthy friends without reason, put them free only when they had renounced their fortunes to the duke or had paid expensive ransoms. Some of his victims, considering this behavior tyrannical, made claims against the duke to the Imperial Court in Viennaor in the Imperial Chamber Court of Appealin Wetzlar. Ernst August lost all the legal proceedings instituted against him. The process lasted for many years and eventually led to the duchy's bankruptcy.
The duke maintained a standing army, disproportionately large compared to the duchy's population and to his financial capabilities. The soldiers were rented to the
Electorate of Saxonyor the Emperor. Ernst August's mania for building, which the duchy continued well into his financial ruin, led to the building of the Kleinode, the small Schloss Belvedere and to the Rococo-Schlossin Dornburg, an extravagant residence for the duke. His passion for the hunt was likewise abundant; when he died, Ernst August left 1,100 dogs and 373 horses. The duke maintained a regular harem, in which two noble "Ladies of Honours" ("Ehrenfräulein") and three common "Chamber Women" ("Kammerfrauen") attended to his needs.
Marriages and children
Nienburgon 24 January, 1716, Ernst August married Eleonore Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Köthen. They had eight children:
# Wilhelm Ernst (b. Weimar,
4 July 1717- d. Halle, 8 June 1719).
# Wilhelmine Auguste (b. Weimar,
4 July 1717- d. Weimar, 9 December 1752), twin of Wilhelm Ernst.
# Johann Wilhelm (b. Weimar,
10 January 1719- d. Weimar, 6 December 1732).
# Charlotte Agnes Leopoldina (b. Weimar,
4 December 1720- d. Weimar, 15 October 1724).
# Johanna Eleonore Henriette (b. Weimar,
2 December 1721- d. Weimar, 17 June 1722).
# Ernestine Albertine (b. Weimar,
28 December 1722- d. Alverdissen, 25 November 1769), married on 6 May 1756to Philipp II, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe.
# Bernhardine Christiane Sophie (b. Weimar,
5 May 1724- d. Rudolstadt, 5 June 1757), married on 19 November 1744to Johann Friedrich I, Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.
# Emmanuel Frederick Wilhelm Bernhard (b. Weimar,
19 December 1725- d. Weimar, 11 June 1729).
After the death of his first wife in 1726, the duke decided to not marry again, choosing to live quietly with his Ladies of Honour and Chamber Women. But in 1732 the situation changed unexpectedly: his only surviving son, the hereditary prince ("Erbprinz") Johann Wilhelm, died. This made it necessary for him to find a new wife and sire sons in order to save the dynasty.
Bayreuthon 7 April 1734, Ernst August married his second wife, Sophie Charlotte of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. They had four children:
# Karl August Eugen (b. Weimar,
1 January 1735- d. Weimar, 13 September 1736).
Ernst August II Konstantin, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach(b. Weimar, 2 June 1737- d. Weimar, 28 May 1758).
# Ernestine Auguste Sophie (b. Weimar,
4 January 1740- d. Hildburghausen, 10 June 1786), married on 1 July 1758to Ernst Frederick III Karl, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
# Ernst Adolf Felix (b. and d. Weimar,
23 January 1741/ b. Weimar, 1742 - d. Weimar, 1743) [?] .
The duke also had an illegitimate son with
Friederike von Marschall:
# "Ernst Frederick (b. 1731 - d. 1810), created Freiherr von Brenn; married Beate Helene Bormann, they had descendants extinct in male line in 1849."
axe-Weimar-Eisenach and absolutism
In 1741 the branch of Saxe-Eisenach-Jena became extinct with the death of
Wilhelm Heinrich, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach. As the only surviving kinsman of the late duke, Ernst August inherited his estates; this time, the union between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach-Jena was forever. One of the few wise decisions of the duke was the institution of the "Primogenitur" in Saxe-Weimar (confirmed in 1724 for the Emperor Karl VI); this stopped further land-divisions in the future. From 1741 his new duchy took the name of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach(Jena was merged by Eisenach), but the union was by this time only personal. The new state consisted of two larger areas around the two official residences in Weimar and Eisenach, which were not connected, and a patch of smaller areas and towns between them.
The annexation of Saxe-Eisenach was favorable to the hunt-loving duke; he possessed a large swath of woods in the Eisenach region, which seemed suitable to him for hunting. He left the Hereditary Prince in
Weimarin the Schloss Belvedere, under the guardianship of his Field Marshall, and moved permanently to Eisenach. After this, the duke rarely asked for his son, and send the most unreasonable letters instructions from Eisenach to Weimar in order to regarding his son's education. The Hereditary Prince saw his father for the last time in 1743.
Ernst August tried to implement the
Absolutismin Saxe-Weimar, using the French model. The secret "Ratskollegium"--a consultative organ national formed by nobles--was dissolved. In 1746 the citizens of Eisenach presented to the duke a memorandum with the national conditions, in which they denounced him for constant offences against the traditional rights of conditions. The procedure showed that the citizens resisted the introduction of absolutism; thus the reforms Ernst August had planned could not be completely carried out. The duke's death prevented a terrible controversy between the national nobles and the citizens of Eisenach.
Upon his death, Ernst August left a financially ruined duchy, and a successor to the throne (Ernst August II) who was still under age.
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