Duchy of Oldenburg

Duchy of Oldenburg
(Grand) Duchy of Oldenburg
(Groß) Herzogtum Oldenburg
Duchy of Saxony

Flag Coat of arms
Heil dir, o Oldenburg
Oldenburg within the German Empire
Capital Oldenburg
Government Monarchy
 - Established 1180
 - Part of Denmark 1667–1773
 - Raised to Duchy 1774
 - Raised to Grand Duchy 1829
 - German Revolution 1918
Currency till 1858: 1 VereinsTaler = 72 Grote = 360 Schwaren

1858 to 1871: 1 Taler = 30 Groschen

Oldenburg (Low German: Ollnborg) — named after its capital, the town of Oldenburg — was a state in the north of present-day Germany. Oldenburg survived from 1180 until 1918 as a county, duchy and grand duchy, and from 1918 until 1946 as a free state. It was located near the mouth of the River Weser. Its ruling family, the House of Oldenburg, also came to rule in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Greece and Russia.[1]



The first known count of Oldenburg is Elimar I, Count of Oldenburg (d. 1108). Elimar's ancestors appear as vassals, though sometimes rebellious ones, of the dukes of Saxony; but they attained the dignity of princes of the empire when the emperor Frederick I dismembered the Saxon duchy in 1180. At this time, the county of Delmenhorst formed part of the dominions of the counts of Oldenburg, but afterwards it was on several occasions separated from them to form an apanage for younger branches of the family. This was the case between 1262 and 1447, between 1463 and 1547, and between 1577 and 1617.[1]

During the early part of the 13th century the counts carried on a series of wars with independent, or semi-independent, Frisian princes to the north and west of the county, which resulted in a gradual expansion of the Oldenburgian territory. The free city of Bremen and the bishop of Münster were also frequently at war with the counts of Oldenburg.[1]

In 1440, Christian succeeded his father Dietrich, called Fortunatus, as Count of Oldenburg. In 1448 Christian was elected king of Denmark as Christian I, partly based on his maternal descent from previous Danish kings. Although far away from the Danish borders, Oldenburg was now a Danish exclave. The control over the town was left to the king's brothers, who established a short reign of tyranny.[1]

In 1450 Christian became king of Norway and in 1457 king of Sweden; in 1460 he inherited the Duchy of Schleswig and the County of Holstein, an event of high importance for the future history of Oldenburg. In 1454 he handed over Oldenburg to his brother Gerhard (about 1430–99), a wild prince, who was constantly at war with the bishop of Bremen and other neighbors. In 1483, Gerhard was compelled to abdicate in favor of his sons, and he died while on pilgrimage in Spain.[1]

Early in the 16th century Oldenburg was again enlarged at the expense of the Frisians. Protestantism was introduced into the county by Count Anton I (1505–73), who also suppressed the monasteries; however, he remained loyal to Charles V during the Schmalkaldic War, and was able thus to increase his territories, obtaining Delmenhorst in 1547. One of Anton's brothers, Count Christopher of Oldenburg (about 1506–60), won some reputation as a soldier.[1]

Anton's grandson, Anton Günther (1583–1667), who succeeded in 1603, considered himself the wisest prince who had yet ruled Oldenburg. Jever had been acquired before he became count, but in 1624 he added Kniphausen and Varel to his lands, with which in 1647 Delmenhorst was finally united. By his neutrality during the Thirty Years' War and by donating valuable horses to warlord Count of Tilly, Anton Günther secured for his dominions an immunity from the terrible devastations to which nearly all the other states of Germany were exposed. He also obtained from the emperor the right to levy tolls on vessels passing along the Weser, a lucrative grant which soon formed a material addition to his resources. In 1607 he erected a Renaissance castle.[1]

After the death of Anton Günther, Oldenburg fell again under Danish authority. In 1773, Danish rule ended and, in 1777, the County of Oldenburg was raised to a duchy. By the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803, Oldenburg acquired the Oldenburger Münsterland and the Bishopric of Lübeck. Between 1810 and 1814, Oldenburg was occupied by Napoleonic France. Its annexation into the French Empire, in 1810, was one of the causes for the diplomatic rift between former allies France and Russia, a dispute that would lead to war in 1812 and eventually to Napoleon's downfall. In 1815 it acquired the Principality of Birkenfeld and in 1829 Oldenburg became a grand duchy.[1]

Parliament building (Landtag)

In 1871 Oldenburg joined the German Empire,[1] and in 1918 it became a free state within the Weimar Republic.

In 1937 (with the Greater Hamburg Act), it lost the exclave districts of Eutin near the Baltic coast and Birkenfeld in southwestern Germany to Prussia and gained the City of Wilhelmshaven; however, this was a formality, as the Hitler regime had de facto abolished the federal states in 1934.

By the beginning of World War II in 1939, as a result of these territorial changes, Oldenburg had an area of 5,375 km² (2,075.3 sq mi) and 580,000 inhabitants.

After World War II, Oldenburg was merged into the newly founded state of Lower Saxony as the administrative region (Regierungsbezirk) of Oldenburg, both of which became a part of West Germany.

See also

  • Rulers of Oldenburg


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anonymous 1911, pp. 72.


External links

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