Duchy of Żagań

Duchy of Żagań
Księstwo Żagańskie (pl)
Zaháňské knížectví (cs)
Herzogtum Sagan (de)
Silesian duchy

Coat of arms

Silesia 1278 - 1281: The Duchy of Żagań soon after its creation (gray), west of the Duchy of Głogów (green)
Capital Żagań
Government Principality
Historical era Middle Ages
Early modern period
   Partitioned from
  Vassalized by
  Sold to Saxony 1472
   Seized by Bohemia 1549
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Głogów
Lands of the Bohemian Crown

The Duchy of Żagań (Polish: Księstwo Żagańskie, Czech: Zaháňské knížectví) or Duchy of Sagan (German: Herzogtum Sagan) was one of the duchies of Silesia ruled by the Silesian Piasts. Its capital was Żagań in Lower Silesia, the territory stretched to the town of Nowogród Bobrzański in the north and reached the Lusatian Neisse at Przewóz in the west, including two villages beyond the river (Pechern and Neudorf).

It was formed in 1274 from the western part of the Duchy of Głogów and existed under Piast rule until 1304, then again from 1322 to 1394 and from 1413 to 1472. Since 1329 it was under the suzerainty of Bohemia; it was acquired by the Saxon House of Wettin in 1472, before it was finally seized by the Bohemian king in 1549.

The Żagań ducal title later passed to Bohemian and French nobility, in 1742 it was annexed by Prussia. Re-established as a fief of the Prussian throne in 1844, it formally existed until its official termination in 1935.


Piast rule

Żagań Palace

After the death of Duke Konrad I of Głogów, his heirs divided his duchy whereby the castle at Żagań became the residence of his youngest son Przemko, the first Duke of Żagań from 1278, who established a monastery of Augustinian Canons here. In 1284 he swapped his estates for the Duchy of Ścinawa and was succeeded by his elder brother Konrad II the Hunchback. When Konrad II died in 1304 all former Głogów estates were re-unified under his surviving brother Henry III.

In 1309 Henry III of Głogów was followed by his eldest son Henry IV the Faithful, who in 1321 again had to divide the duchy among him and his younger brothers. He ceded Głogów to Przemko II and retired to Żagań, which again became the capital of a duchy in his own right. In 1329 all sons of Henry III of Głogów became vassals of John of Luxembourg, the King of Bohemia - with the exception of Przemko II who died suddenly two years later. When in 1393 Henry VI the Older, grandson of Henry IV died without issue, the estates were again re-unified with Głogów until in 1412 Jan I, the eldest son of Duke Henry VIII the Sparrow became the sole rule of the Żagań duchy. After a fierce battle for the inheritance his son Jan II the Mad in 1472 finally sold it to the Saxon duke Albert III the Bold with the consent of the Bohemian king Matthias Corvinus, thus ending the centuries-long Piast rule.

Wettin and Habsburg

Wettin lands with eastern Żagań exclave (orange), 1485

Duke Albert III, the progenitor of the Albertine line of the Wettin dynasty, ruled jointly with his elder brother Elector Ernest, even after the partition of the Wettin lands in 1485. With the accession of Albert's son Henry IV in 1539, Żagań turned Protestant. The Albertine and Ernestine branches came to a rupture when in the Schmalkaldic War of 1546/47 Duke Maurice of Saxony fought against his cousin John Frederick I, who by the Capitulation of Wittenberg had to renounce his claims to Żagań. In 1549 Maurice, now Elector, swapped Żagań by an agreement with the Bohemian king Ferdinand I of Habsburg.

As a Bohemian fief, Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1627 allotted Żagań to Albrecht von Wallenstein, then Duke of Frýdlant, Imperial generalissimo in the Thirty Years' War, who hosted his astrologer Johannes Kepler here. After Wallenstein's assassination it passed to Václav Eusebius František, Prince of Lobkowicz and so to the illustrious Bohemian family of Lobkowicz, who had the Baroque Żagań Palace erected. King Frederick II of Prussia conquered Żagań in the course of the First Silesian War, after which by the 1742 Treaty of Breslau it fell to Prussia.


Prussian Sagan district 1816-1932

In 1786 Żagań was purchased by Peter von Biron, Duke of Courland, who bequeathed it to his daughter Wilhelmine, from whom in 1842 it passed to her sister Pauline and finally to her (half-)sister Dorothea, the divorced wife of Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord, a nephew of the great French diplomat Talleyrand. Dorothea came to pass her retirement years at Żagań; a patent of King Frederick William IV of Prussia on 6 January 1845 invested her as Duchess of Sagan and Napoleon III recognized the title in France, in favor of her son Napoleon Louis. In France there is a prince and a duc de Sagan. The double title, both Prussian and French, served to render the duc de Sagan a neutral party in World War II: his Château de Valençay provided a safe haven for treasures of the Louvre during the German occupation of France.

The Duchy had a vote on the Silesian County Council, and the holder in the rank of a Duke was a member of the Prussian House of Lords. In 1900 the duchy had the size of 1211 km2 with 65,000 inhabitants. Since 1815 it was incorporated into the Prussian Province of Silesia, part of the Landkreis Sprottau from 1932 on. With the implementation of the Oder-Neisse line in 1945 the Żagań territory fell to Poland, with the exception of the land strip on the western banks of the Neisse river, which today belongs to the German municipality of Krauschwitz.


See also

Coordinates: 51°37′00″N 15°19′00″E / 51.616667°N 15.316667°E / 51.616667; 15.316667

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