1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

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4786761911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 24 — Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

SAXE-COBURG-GOTHA (Ger. Sachsen-Koburg-Gotha), a sovereign duchy of Germany, in Thuringia, and a constituent member of the German empire, consisting of the two formerly separate duchies of Coburg and Gotha, which lie at a distance of 14 m. from each other, and of eight small scattered exclaves, the most northerly of which is 70 m. from the most southerly. The total area is 764 sq. m., of which about 224 are in Coburg and 540 in Gotha. The duchy of Coburg is bounded on the S.E., S., and S.W. by Bavaria, and on the other sides by Saxe-Meiningen, which, with part of Prussia, separates it from Gotha. The considerable exclave of Königsberg in Bavaria, 10 m. south, belongs to Coburg. Lying on the south slope of the Thuringian Forest, and in the Franconian plain, the duchy of Coburg is an undulating and fertile district, reaching its highest point in the Senichshöhe (1716 ft.) near Mirsdorf. Its streams, the chief of which are the Itz, Biberach, Steinach and Rodach, all find their way into the Main. The duchy of Gotha, more than twice the size of Coburg, stretches from the south borders of Prussia along the northern slopes of the Thuringian Forest, the highest summits of which (Der grosse Beerberg, 3225 ft.; Schneekopf, 3179 ft.; and Inselsberg, 2957 ft.) rise within its borders. The more open and level district on the north is spoken of as the “open country” (das Land) in contrast to the wooded hills of the “forest” (der Wald}. The Gera, Hörsel, Unstrut and other streams of this duchy flow to the Werra, or to the Saale. The climate is that of the other central states of Germany, temperate in the valleys and plains and somewhat inclement in the hilly regions.

Industries and Population. — In both duchies the chief industry is agriculture, which employs about 30% of the entire population. According to the returns for 1905, about 50% of the area was occupied by arable land, 10% by meadow-land and pasture and 30% by forest. In the same year the chief crops were oats, barley, rye, wheat, potatoes and hay. A small quantity of hemp and flax is raised, but a considerable quantity of fruit and vegetables is annually produced, and some wine, in the Coburg district of Königsberg. Cattle-breeding is important, especially in Gotha and the Itz valley in Coburg. Beehives are numerous and produce excellent honey, and poultry is reared in large numbers for export. The mineral wealth of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is insignificant, small quantities of coal, lignite, ironstone and millstone being annually raised. There are also salt-works, and some deposits of potter's day.

The manufactures of the duchies, especially in the mountainous parts less favourable for agriculture, are tolerably brisk, but there is no large industrial centre in the country. Iron goods and machinery, glass, earthenware, chemicals and wooden articles, including large quantities of toys, are produced; and various branches of textile industry are carried on. Coburg (pop. 1905, 24,289) and Gotha (36,893) are the chief towns of the duchies, to which they respectively give name; the latter is the capital of the united duchy. There are nine other small towns, and 320 villages and hamlets. Friedrichroda and Ruhla, the Inselsberg and the Schneekopf and other picturesque points, annually attract an increasing number of summer visitors and tourists. The population in 1905 was 242,432 (117,224 males and 123,208 females), or about 290 to the square mile. Of these 71,512 were in Coburg and 170,920 in Gotha; the relative density in either duchy being about equal. In Coburg the people belong to the Franconian and in Gotha to the Thuringian branch of the Teutonic family, and, according to religious confessions, almost theentire population is Lutheran, Roman Catholics only numbering some 3000 and Jews about 700.

Constitution and Administration. — Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is a limited hereditary monarchy, its constitution resting on a law of 1852, modified in 1874. For its own immediate affairs each duchy has a separate diet, but in more important and general matters a common diet, formed of the members of the separate diets and meeting at Coburg and Gotha alternately, exercises authority. The members are elected for four years. The Coburg diet consists of eleven members and the Gotha diet of nineteen. The franchise is extended to all male taxpayers of twenty-five years of age and upwards. The ministry has special departments for each duchy, but is under a common president. There is a sub-department for the control of ecclesiastical affairs, which are locally managed by ephories, twelve in number. The united duchy is represented in the imperial Bundesrat by one member and in the Reichstag by two members, one for each duchy. By treaty with Prussia in 1867 the troops of the duchy are incorporated with the Prussian army. The budget is voted in either duchy for four years, a distinction being made between domain revenue and state revenue. Taking both together the receipts into the exchequer on behalf of Coburg were estimated for 1909-1910 at about £100,000 and those for Gotha at about £200,000, while the common state expenditure amounted to about the same sum. The civil list of the reigning duke is fixed at £15,000 a year, in addition to half the proceeds of the Gotha domains, after £5000 has been deducted and paid into the state exchequer, and half the net revenue of the Coburg domains. Besides the civil list the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha enjoys a very large private fortune, amassed chiefly by Ernest I., who sold the principality of Lichtenberg, which the congress of Vienna had bestowed upon him in recognition of his services in 1813, to Prussia for a large sum of money.

History. — The district of Coburg came into the possession of the family of Wettin in the 14th century, and after the Wettins had become electors of Saxony this part of their lands fell at the partition of 1485 to the Ernestine branch of the house. In 1572 Gotha was given to John Casimir, a son of the Saxon duke John Frederick, but when he died childless in 1633 it passed to another branch of the family. In 1680, as Saxe-Coburg, it was formed into a separate duchy for Albert, one of the seven sons of Ernest I., duke of Saxe-Gotha (d. 1675), but he died childless in 1699, when his possessions were the subject of vehement contentions among the collateral branches of the Saxon house. Eventually it was assigned to Albert's youngest brother, John Ernest (d. 1729), who called himself duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and who left two sons, Christian Ernest and Francis Josiah, who ruled the land together, the principle of primogeniture being introduced by the survivor of the two, Francis Josiah. Under this duke and his son and successor, Ernest Frederick, the land was plunged into bankruptcy and a commission was appointed to manage its finances. The measures adopted to redeem the country's credit were successful, but they imposed much hardship on the people and a rising took place which was only quelled by the aid of troops from electoral Saxony. Duke Francis died in December 1806 and was succeeded by his son Ernest, although the country was occupied by the French from 1807 to 1816.

Also an early possession of the Wettins, Gotha fell at the partition of 1485 to the Albertine branch of the family, but was transferred to the Ernestine branch by the capitulation of Wittenberg of 1547. In 1554 it became a separate duchy, its line of rulers being founded by Duke John Frederick, a son of the dispossessed elector of Saxony, John Frederick, and becoming extinct in 1638. In 1640 Saxe-Gotha came into the possession of Ernest the Pious, and after his death in 1675 its duke was his eldest son Frederick (d. 1691), whose family, having inherited Altenburg, became extinct in February 1825 with the death of Duke Frederick IV. This event was followed in 1826 by a redistribution of the Saxon lands. Ernest, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, exchanged Saalfeld for Gotha, took the title of duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and became the founder of the present ruling house.

Ernest II. (1818-1893) succeeded to the duchy in 1844, and during his long reign various reforms were achieved and the union of the two parts of the duchy was made closer. This duke had no issue, and the succession passed to the children of his brother Albert, the English prince consort. In 1855 his second son, Prince Alfred, had been declared heir to the duchy, and he succeeded his uncle in 1893. When he died without sons in July 1900, the succession having been renounced by his brother, the duke of Connaught and his issue, Saxe-Coburg passed to Charles Edward, duke of Albany (b. 1884), a nephew of the late duke. For many years there had been trouble between the ruler and the people over the ownership of the extensive crown lands, it being evidently feared at one time that an English prince might renounce the throne and yet claim the lands. The matter was settled by a law of 1905, on the lines mentioned in the earlier section of this article.

See Fleischmann, Zur Geschichte des Herzogtums Sachsen- Coburg (Hildburghausen, 1880); A. Lotz, Koburgische Landesgeschichte (Coburg, 1892).