Portrait of Augustus (1526-1586), Elector of Saxony (1553-1586), 1572
Augustus (German: August von Sachsen; 31 July 1526 – 11 February 1586), was Elector of Saxony from 1553 to 1586. Augustus was born in Freiberg, the youngest child and third (but second surviving) son of Henry IV, Duke of Saxony, and Catherine of Mecklenburg. He consequently belonged to the Albertine branch of the House of Wettin. Brought up as a Lutheran, he received a good education and studied at the University of Leipzig. When Duke Henry IV died in 1541, he decreed that his lands should be divided equally between his two sons; but as his bequest was contrary to the Albertine Law, it was not carried out, and the dukedom passed almost intact to his elder son, Maurice. Augustus, however, remained on friendly terms with his brother, and to further his policy spent some time at the court of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, in Vienna. In 1544, Maurice secured the appointment of his brother as administrator of the bishopric of Merseburg; but Augustus was very extravagant and was soon compelled to return to the Saxon court at Dresden. Augustus supported his brother during the war of the Schmalkaldic League, and in the policy which culminated in the transfer of the Saxon electorate from John Frederick I, the head of the Ernestine branch of the Wettin family, to Maurice, head of the Albertine branch. In Torgau on 7 October 1548 Augustus was married to Anna, daughter of King Christian III of Denmark and Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg. They took up residence at Weissenfels. Soon after his marriage, Augustus desired a more imposing establishment. The result was that Maurice made more generous provision for his brother, who acted as Regent of Saxony in 1552 during the absence of the elector. Augustus was on a visit to Denmark when by Maurice's death in July 1553 he became elector of Saxony. The first care of the new elector was to come to terms with John Frederick, and to strengthen his own hold upon the electoral position. This object was secured by a treaty made at Naumburg in February 1554, when, in return for the grant of Altenburg and other lands, John Frederick recognized Augustus as elector of Saxony. The elector, however, was continually haunted by the fear that the Ernestines would attempt to deprive him of the coveted dignity, and his policy both in Saxony and the wider Holy Roman Empire was coloured by this fear. In imperial politics Augustus acted upon two main principles: to cultivate the friendship of the Habsburgs, and to maintain peace between the contending religious parties. To this policy may be traced his share in bringing about the religious Peace of Augsburg treaty in 1555, his tortuous conduct at the diet of Augsburg eleven years later, and his reluctance to break entirely with the Calvinists. In 1568 a marriage was arranged between Johann Casimir, son of Frederick III, Elector Palatine, and Elisabeth, Augustus' own daughter. For a time it seemed possible that the Saxon elector would support his son-in-law in his attempts to aid the revolting inhabitants of the Spanish Netherlands. Augustus also entered into communication with the Huguenots; however, his aversion to foreign complications prevailed, and the incipient friendship with the elector Palatine soon gave way to serious dislike. Although a sturdy Lutheran, the elector hoped at one time to unite the Protestants. He continually urged them to consider the necessity of giving no cause of offence to their opponents, and he favoured the movement to get rid of the clause in the Peace of Augsburg concerning ecclesiastical reservation, which was offensive to many Protestants. His moderation, however, prevented him from joining those who were prepared to take strong measures to attain this end, and he refused to jeopardize the concessions already won.
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