History of Germany between 1740 - 1788
The dominant factor in 18th-century German history was undoubtedly the emergence of Prussia as the main rival to Austria, which had long been the leading state within the German empire. Prussia grewin stature for several reasons - through Frederick the Great's seizure of the rich province of Silesia, through the personal prestige acquired by Frederick himself, and through the vast gain of territory in the successive partitions of Poland. But certain other states were also be identified at this time as likely players in the struggles which will eventually lead, in the 19th century, to a united Germany.
Saxony began the 18th century as a very significant power. The state was weakened in subsequent decades, through disastrous involvement in Poland and because it was between the arch-rivals Prussia and Austria. Even so, Saxony's size and large population gave it an undeniable importance.
Hanover acquired an entirely new stature during the century, from the personal link with Britain after the elector succeeds to the British throne in 1714 as George I. In the wars of the 18th century Hanover had a special importance and exposure, as Britain's continental outpost.
Bavaria, ruled by the Wittelsbachs, had played a major role in German history from early medieval times. In recent centuries a division between two branches of the family had somewhat reduced its status. From 1329 the western region went its own way as the Palatinate of the Rhine. The split was accentuated in the Reformation, when the Palatinate becomes Protestant while Bavaria remains Roman Catholic.
The Palatinate returned to the Catholic fold in 1685, and by the end of the 18th century this line has recovered the entire inheritance. In 1777 the Bavarian line of the dynasty died out. The region was reunited under the rule of the Palatine branch.
In the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748) Maria Theresa fought successfully for recognition of her succession to the throne. But in the Silesian Wars and in the Seven Years' War she had to cede 95 percent of Silesia to Frederick the Great of Prussia. After the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763 between Austria, Prussia and Saxony, Prussia won recognition as a great power, thus launching a century-long rivalry with Austria for the leadership of the German peoples.
In 1772–1795 Prussia took the lead in the partitions of Poland, with Austria and Russia splitting the rest. Prussia occupied the western territories of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that surrounded existing Prussian holdings. This occupation led over a century of Polish resistance until Poland again became independent in 1918.
Before 1750 the German upper classes looked to France for intellectual, cultural and architectural leadership; French was the language of high society. By the mid-18th century the Enlightenment had transformed German high culture in music, philosophy, science and literature. Christian Wolff (1679–1754) was the pioneer as a writer who expounded the Enlightenment to German readers; he legitimized German as a philosophic language. German music, sponsored by the upper classes, came of age under composers Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).
In remote Königsberg philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) tried to reconcile rationalism and religious belief, individual freedom, and political authority. Kant's work contained basic tensions that would continue to shape German thought – and indeed all of European philosophy – well into the 20th century.
The German Enlightenment won the support of princes, aristocrats, and the middle classes, and it permanently reshaped the culture.
From 1763, against resistance from the nobility and citizenry, an "enlightened absolutism" was established in Prussia and Austria, according to which the ruler governed according to the best precepts of the philosophers. The economies developed and legal reforms were undertaken, including the abolition of torture and the improvement in the status of Jews. Emancipation of the peasants slowly began. Compulsory education was instituted.
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.
A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.
In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.
In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.
In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.
From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.
The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.
In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.