George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg : biography
George William (Herzberg am Harz, 26 January 1624 – 28 August 1705, Wienhausen) was duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and ruled first over the Principality of Calenberg, a subdivision of the duchy, then over the Lüneburg subdivision. In 1689 he occupied the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.
George William was the second son of George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1648, he received Calenberg from his elder brother Christian Louis when Christian Louis inherited Lüneburg. On Christian Louis' death in 1665, George William inherited Lüneburg, and gave Calenberg to his next brother, John Frederick.
In exchange for being freed from the obligation to marry Princess Sophia of the Palatinate, George William ceded Lüneburg to his younger brother Ernst August, settling for the smaller duchy of Celle and promising to remain unmarried so that he would produce no legitimate heir who might pose a challenge to his brother's claim. Ernst August then married Sophia and became the Duke of Hanover. This left George William free to indulge his desires to travel and socialize without great encumbrances of state.
Things changed in 1665, when George William entered into a morganatic marriage with his mistress Eleanor, Countess of Wilhelmsburg. In 1666 their daughter Sophia Dorothea was born. Ten years later in 1676, desiring to improve the status of his mistress and daughter and in open violation of his promise, George William married Eleonore and legitimized Sophia Dorothea. This development greatly alarmed his relatives, as it threatened to hinder the contemplated union of the Lüneburg territories. However, in 1682, the difficulty caused by George William's having a family and heirs of his own was bridged over by the marriage of his daughter with his nephew, George Louis (who later became King George I of Great Britain), son of George William's younger brother Duke Ernest Augustus, who became elector in 1692.
When in 1689 Julius Francis, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg died leaving two daughters, Anna Mary Francisca and Mary Francisca Sibylla Augusta, only, George William claimed the succession for himself. Their father had provided for the legal grounds of female succession in Saxe-Lauenburg, but George William simply invaded the duchy with his troops, thus inhibiting the accession of the legal heiress Anna Mary Francisca.
Also other monarchies claimed the succession, resulting into a conflict involving further the neighbouring duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and of Danish Holstein, as well as the five Ascanian-ruled Principalities of Anhalt, the Electorate of Saxony, which had succeeded the Saxe-Wittenbergian Ascanians in 1422, Sweden and Brandenburg.
However, only George William and Duke Christian V of Holstein (also Danish king), were militarily engaged. On 9 October 1693 they agreed (Hamburger Vergleich) that George William - anyway de facto holding most of Saxe-Lauenburg - would retain the duchy in personal union. However, Emperor Leopold I did not accept this violent act. He withheld the Saxe-Lauenburgian exclave Land of Hadeln, which George William did not have occupied, in imperial custody. But else Leopold I did not conquer Saxe-Lauenburg to enthrone its legitimate duchess. Only his son Emperor Charles VI finally legitimised the de facto takeover and enfeoffed George William's second successor, Elector George II Augustus of Hanover (also British king) with the duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg in 1728. Saxe-Lauenburgian Hadeln remained in imperial custody until 1731, when it was ceded to George Augustus too.
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