Portrait of George the Bearded (1471-1539), Duke of Saxony (1500-1539)
George the Bearded, Duke of Saxony (German: Georg der Bärtige; Meissen, 27 August 1471 – Dresden, 17 April 1539), was Duke of Saxony from 1500 to 1539 known for his opposition to the Reformation. While the Ernestine line embraced Lutheranism, the Albertines (headed by George) were reluctant to do so. Despite George's efforts to avoid a succession by a Lutheran upon his death in 1539, he could not prevent it from happening. Duke George was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece. His father was Albert the Brave of Saxony, founder of the Albertine line of the Wettin family, his mother was Sidonie, daughter of George Podiebrad, King of Bohemia. Elector Frederick the Wise, a member of the Ernestine branch of the same family, known for his protection of Luther, was a cousin of Duke George. George, as the eldest son, received an excellent training in theology and other branches of learning, and was thus much better educated than most of the princes of his day. As early as 1488, when his father was in East Frisia fighting on behalf of the emperor, George was regent of the ducal possessions, which included the Margraviate of Meissen with the cities of Dresden and Leipzig. George was married at Dresden, on 21 November 1496, to Barbara Jagiellon, daughter of Casimir IV, King of Poland and Elisabeth, daughter of Albrecht II of Hungary. They had ten children, but all, with the exception of a daughter, died before their father.In 1498, the emperor granted Albert the Brave the hereditary governorship of Friesland. At Maastricht, 14 February 1499, Albert settled the succession to his possessions, and endeavoured by this arrangement to prevent further partition of his domain. He died 12 September 1500, and was succeeded in his German territories by George as the head of the Albertine line, while George's brother Heinrich became hereditary governor of Friesland. The Saxon occupation of Friesland, however, was by no means secure and was the source of constant revolts in that province. Consequently, Heinrich, who was of a rather inert disposition, relinquished his claims to the governorship, and in 1505 an agreement was made between the brothers by which Friesland was transferred to George, while Heinrich received an annuity and the districts of Freiberg and Wolkenstein. But this arrangement did not restore peace in Friesland, which remained a source of trouble to Saxony. In 1515 George sold Friesland to the future Emperor Charles V (then Duke of Burgundy) for the very moderate price of 100,000 florins. These troubles outside of his Saxon possessions did not prevent George from bestowing much care on the government of the ducal territory proper. When regent, during the lifetime of his father, the difficulties arising from conflicting interests and the large demands on his powers had often brought the young prince to the verge of despair.
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