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Albert I of Brandenburg

From Academic Kids

Albert I (c. 1100-1170), Margrave of Brandenburg, also called, The Bear (Ger: Albrecht der Bär), was the only son of Otto the Rich, count of Ballenstedt, and Eilika, daughter of Magnus Billung, Duke of Saxony. He inherited the valuable estates in northern Saxony of his father in 1123, and on his mother's death, in 1142, succeeded to one-half of the lands of the house of Billung.

Missing image
Albrecht_gesamt.JPG
Monument commemorating Albrecht, Spandau Citadel, Berlin

Albrecht was a loyal vassal of his relation, Lothar I, duke of Saxony, from whom, about 1123, he received the margravate of Lusatia, to the east; after Lothar became king of the Germans, he accompanied him on a disastrous expedition to Bohemia in 1126, when he suffered a short imprisonment.

Albert's entanglements in Saxony stemmed from his desire to expand his inherited estates there. In 1128 his brother-in-law, Henry II, who was margrave of a small area on the Elbe called the Saxon Northern March, died, and Albert, disappointed at not receiving this fief himself, attacked Udo, the heir, and was consequently deprived of Lusatia by Lothar. In spite of this, he went to Italy in 1132 in the train of the king, and his services there were rewarded in 1134 by the investiture of the North Mark, which was again without a ruler.

Once he was firmly established in the Nordmark, Albert's covetous eye lay also on the thinly populated lands to the north and east. Three years he was occupied in campaigns against the Slavic Wends, who as pagans were considered fair game, and whose subjugation to Christianity was the aim of the "Wendish crusade" of 1147 in which Albert took part; diplomatic measures were more successful, and by an arrangement made with Pribislav, the last of the Wendish dukes of Brandenburg, Albert secured this district when the duke died in 1150. Taking the title "margrave of Brandenburg", he pressed the "crusade" against the Wends, extended the area of his mark, encouraged German migration, established bishoprics under his protection, and so became the founder of the margraviate of Brandenburg in 1157, which his heirs—the Ascanians"—held until the line died out in 1320.

In 1137 his cousin and nemesis, Henry the Proud was deprived by the Hohenstaufen Conrad III, King of the Germans of his Saxon duchy, which was awarded to Albert, if he could take it. After some initial success in his efforts to take possession, he was driven from Saxony, and also from his Nordmark by Henry, and compelled to take refuge in South Germany. When peace was made with Henry in 1142 Albert renounced the Saxon dukedom and received the counties of Weimar and Orlamünde. It was possibly at this time that Albert was made arch-chamberlain of the Empire, an office which afterwards gave the margraves of Brandenburg the rights of a prince-elector.

A feud with Henry's son, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, was interrupted, in 1158, by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in 1162 Albert accompanied the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to Italy, and distinguished himself at the storming of Milan.

In 1164 he joined a league of princes formed against Henry the Lion, and peace being made in 1169, Albert divided his territories among his six sons, and died on November 13 1170, and was buried at Ballenstedt.

His personal qualities won for him the surname of the Bear, "not from his looks or qualities, for he was a tall handsome man, but from the cognisance on his shield, an able man, had a quick eye as well as a strong hand, and could pick what way was straightest among crooked things, was the shining figure and the great man of the North in his day, got much in the North and kept it, got Brandenburg for one there, a conspicuous country ever since," says Carlyle, who called Albert "a restless, much-managing, wide- warring man." He is also called by later writers "the Handsome."

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Preceded by:
Henry II

Duke of Saxony

Succeeded by:
Henry III

de:Albrecht I. (Brandenburg)

pl:Albrecht Niedźwiedź

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