07 May 2015

Today's Princess: Sibylle of Saxony

School of Lucas Cranach the Elder via Wikimedia Commons
Exactly 500 years before little Princess Charlotte of Cambridge was born on May 2, another princess was born in Freiburg, Saxony. Sibylle of Saxony (1515-1592) was the first child of the future Duke Henry IV of Saxony and Catherine of Mecklenburg. Granted the area of Friesland by his brother, who was then the Duke, Henry wasn't much of a ruler and eventually gave it back to his brother in exchange for money. Sibylle was born some years after this. Her childhood was likely colored by this as well as by the Protestant Reformation. Her uncle was a staunch Catholic while her parents were secret Protestants.

Her brother, husband and extended relations were eventually caught up in the religious wars of the century. Sibylle, however, had more troubles at home. Just before her 25th birthday, she married Duke Francis I of Saxe-Lauenburg. Despite having nine children together, theirs was a rocky relationship. They separated and reunited more than once. Unlike in other royal marriages, however, it was the wife who was accused of "vindictive and unloving acts."

The relationships with and among their children was no less complicated. The marriage lasted four decades until his death. Having plunged his territories deeply in to debt and pawned off some of his demesnes, Francis abdicated in favor of their eldest son Maurice, who had promised to use the money from his Swedish marriage to  restore the treasury. When he didn't do this, Francis deposed him and reasserted himself as Duke. Magnus gathered an army and returned but, with the help of his second son Francis II, Francis defeated him. He then named son #2 his heir, in violation of the laws of inheritance. After Dad's death in 1581, Francis II with help from little brother Maurice, warded off Magnus and imprisoned him for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Sibylle was not making things any easier for her sons. In fact, she so disapproved of Maurice's mistress, Gisela von Tschammer, that she brought charges of witchcraft against her.

Her daughters' lives were not so dramatic. They all married various German Dukes. Dorothea's husband built the pleasure gardens at Herzberg Castle for her, although she had no children. Ursula gave her husband five children. The youngest Sidonia Catherine, lost her first husband, by whom she had six children in 12 years, and remarried another Duke.

Sibylle died in 1592 at the age of 77.


  1. A very interesting and throughly researched piece! i did enjoy it, and learned a lot.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for your comment.