Albrecht, Duke of Prussia (1490-1568)
Albrecht (Albert) of Brandenburg-Ansbach, 37th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and first Duke of Prussia (Herzog von Preußen), was b. 16 May 1490 at Ansbach, Bavaria, the son of Friedrich (Frederick) V, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1460-1536) and Sofie of Poland (1464-1512), daughter of Casimir IV of Poland.
Albrecht was raised for a career in the church and was appointed canon of the Cologne Cathedral. In 1511 he was chosen to succeed Friedrich, Duke of Saxony (1473-1510) as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. In 1525 Albrecht joined the Lutherans after a period of leaning toward Schwenckfeldianism. He secularized the Teutonic Order's remaining Prussian territories and assumed the hereditary rights to the duchy of Poland.
Albrecht offered domicile to the Anabaptists in his country (Prussia), which had been greatly impoverished in the Polish-Prussian war (1519-1521), and permitted them to settle in East Prussia near Bardeyn, not far from the town of Preussisch-Holland. But in an otherwise entirely orthodox Lutheran state, this colony was an object of annoyance to the clergy. The duke turned to Martin Luther in 1532 for an exposition of John 6, but received no reply for over a year. Luther finally advised against toleration. On 12 June 1533 he replied to Luther. Until 1535 the margrave followed a policy of toleration, but in 1535 exaggerated reports on Münster caused him to have the Anabaptists expelled by an order of 23 October 1535. But the officials, unwilling to weaken the depopulated land, did not carry out the orders very strictly. They persuaded the duke to permit a new settlement of Anabaptists in 1539 in the village of Schönberg in the same vicinity. However, the duke again yielded to the clergy and in 1543 ordered these settlers banished unless they recanted. Also the later immigrant Mennonites from Holland, who settled in Schönberg as early as 1545 and later (1556-1558) at Drausensee and Ellerwald, were repeatedly hit by edicts of expulsion, in consequence of which they may have settled in the adjacent Polish territory.
Albrecht d. 20 March 1568 and was succeeded by his son Albrecht Friedrich.
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Penner, Horst. Ansiedlung mennonitischer Niederländer im Weichselmündungsgebiet von der Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zum Beginn der preussischen Zeit. Weierhof: Mennonitischen Geschichtsverein, 1940.
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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 35. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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