George William, Elector of Brandenburg

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George William of Brandenburg (German: Georg Wilhelm) (November 13, 1595 – December 1, 1640), of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was margrave and elector of Brandenburg and duke of Prussia (1619–1640). His reign was marked by ineffective governance during the Thirty Years' War.



Early life

Born in Cölln on the Spree, George William was the son of Margrave John Sigismund and Anna of Prussia. His maternal grandfather was Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia.

In 1616 George William married Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. Their only son Frederick William later became known as the "Great Elector". Of his two daughters, the eldest, Louise Charlotte, married Jacob Kettler, Duke of Courland and the younger, Hedwig Sophie, married William VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel).


In 1619 George William inherited the Margravate of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia. During the Thirty Years' War, he tried to remain neutral between the Roman Catholic forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant principalities. As his sister Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg was queen of Sweden, George William had to maneuver between requests of assistance from his Protestant brother-in-law King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and his own Protestant counsellors on one side and his Catholic chancellor Count Adam von Schwarzenberg on the other.

Despite his attempts at neutrality, he was forced by Gustavus Adolphus to join the Protestant forces in 1631. His rule was largely weak and ineffective however, as much of Brandenburg-Prussia's government responsibilities were left with Schwarzenberg as the country suffered greatly during the war. Protestant and Catholic troops alike burned and plundered the region and the population was decimated there as it was throughout the German states during that conflict.

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