m. 14 FEB 1479
Facts and Events
Albert of Prussia (17 May 1490 – 20 March 1568) was the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, who after converting to Lutheranism, became the first monarch of the Duchy of Prussia, the secularized state that emerged out of the former Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights. Albert was the first European ruler to establish Protestantism as the official state religion of his lands. He proved instrumental in the political spread of Protestantism in its early stage, ruling the Prussian lands for nearly six decades (1510–1568).
A member of the Brandenburg-Ansbach branch of the House of Hohenzollern, Albert's election as Grand Master had brought about hopes of a reversal of the declining fortune of the Teutonic Knights. He was a skilled political administrator and leader, and did indeed reverse the decline of the Teutonic Order. However, Albert, who was sympathetic to the demands of Martin Luther, rebelled against the Catholic church, and the Holy Roman Empire by converting the Teutonic state into a Protestant and hereditary realm, the Duchy of Prussia, for which he did homage to his uncle, the King of Poland. The arrangement was confirmed by the Treaty of Kraków in 1525. Albert pledged a personal oath to the King and in return was invested with the duchy for himself and his heirs.
Albert's rule in Prussia was fairly prosperous. Although he had some trouble with the peasantry, the confiscation of the lands and treasures of the Catholic church enabled him to propitiate the nobles and provide for the expenses of the newly established Prussian court. He was active in imperial politics, joining the League of Torgau in 1526, and acted in unison with the Protestants in plotting to overthrow Emperor Charles V after the issue of the Augsburg Interim in May 1548. Albert established schools in every town and founded Königsberg University in 1544. He promoted culture and arts, patronising the works of Erasmus Reinhold and Caspar Hennenberger. Albert's final years were clouded by peasant resentment of heavy taxes, a step he felt compelled to take due to there no longer being any church land available to confiscate in Prussia. The intrigues of court favourites, Johann Funck, and Paul Skalić also caused various religious and political disputes. Albert spent his final years virtually deprived of power, and died at Tapiau on 20 March 1568. His son Albert Frederick succeeded him as Duke of Prussia.
Albert's dissolution of the Teutonic State caused the founding of the Duchy of Prussia, paving the way for the rise of the House of Hohenzollern. He is therefore often seen as the father of the Prussian nation, and even as indirectly responsible for the unification of Germany.