John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg

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John Sigismund (German: Johann Sigismund) (8 November 1572 – 23 December 1619) was a Prince-elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from the House of Hohenzollern. He also served as a Duke of Prussia.

John Sigismund was born in Halle an der Saale to Joachim Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, and his first wife Catherine, Princess of Brandenburg-Küstrin. He succeeded his father as Margrave of Brandenburg in 1608. He gave the Reichshof Castrop to his teacher and educator Carl Friedrich von Bordelius. John Sigismund received the territories of Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in the Treaty of Xanten in 1614. He succeeded his father-in-law Albert Frederick as Duke of Prussia in 1618, but died the following year.

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Religious policy

John Sigismund's most significant action was his conversion from Lutheranism to Calvinism. He was probably won over to the faith during a visit to Heidelberg in 1606, but it was not until 1613 that he publicly took communion according to the Calvinist rite. The vast majority of his subjects in Brandenburg, including his wife Anna of Prussia, remained deeply Lutheran, however, and after the Elector and his Calvinist court officials drew up plans for mass conversion of the population to the new faith in February 1614, as provided by the Eius religio, cuius regio rule in the Holy Roman Empire, there were serious protests, with his wife backing the Lutherans. Resistance was so strong that in 1615, John Sigismund backed down and relinquished any attempt at forcible conversion, allowing his subjects to be either Lutheran or Calvinist according to the dictates of their own consciences. Henceforward, Brandenburg-Prussia would be a bi-confessional state.[1]

Family and children

On 30 October 1594, John Sigismund married Anna of Prussia, daughter of Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia (1553–1618). They were parents to eight children:

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