© Staatsarchiv Coburg


Coburg has been home to many famous personalities. Did you know that Prince Albert and the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland had nine children together? Or that the Waltz King, Johann Strauss, was a resident of the town?


© Coburg Marketing

A duchy makes world history

Royal heritage

The dukes of Coburg came from the House of Wettin, one of the oldest and most powerful German noble families. Wettin rule over the Coburg region began in 1353 and lasted until 1918. The independent Duchy of Saxe-Coburg under Duke Johann Casimir was created through partible inheritance in 1572 from the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin. The actual Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld with Coburg as a Residenzstadt, or a city in which the sovereign ruler resided, was formed in 1735. The Duchy was of relatively little historical significance during its first two centuries of existence. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that this changed. Other dynasties used their power and influence to expand or strengthen their position through military force. In contrast, the small Duchy of Coburg succeeded through peaceful means and in a relatively short amount of time in becoming a “European dynasty”. Like the Habsburgs, Coburg lived by the motto: “Others may wage war. You, fortunate Coburg, marry!” This is how sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Coburg ducal family ascended to the thrones of European royal dynasties and reigned over the course of the 19th century - some still to this day.

Victoria & Albert

Dream couple of the 19th century

Their marriage was a happy one - a love match that was rare among the European royal courts in the second half of the 19th century. Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland and her Prince Consort Albert, who was also her first cousin, married on February 10, 1840. The marriage of Victoria and Albert was in fact arranged - contrived by their uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium. But the desired success did come after some “initial difficulties”. Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the second son of Duke Ernest I, was born at Rosenau Palace near Coburg in August 1819. On his second visit to London in October 1839, he has the opportunity to charm the spirited, fun-loving and rather fastidious (when it came to men) Victoria. She later writes in her diary that Albert was beautiful. Shortly thereafter Victoria makes a marriage proposal to her three month younger cousin, which he readily accepts. This alliance would make Prince Albert one of the most important men of the 19th century. Like no other person, he represented German-British cultural exchange and a politics that strived for peace.

© Patrick Dellert

Good to know

Saint Mauritius

He pops up almost everywhere in the city - on coats of arms, on buildings and even on manhole covers: the legendary Coburg Moor, the city’s patron saint. Coburg’s main church St. Moriz is also named after him. St. Mauritius was not actually black, but artists of the Middle Ages liked to portray him as such because of his name. He came from Upper Egypt and lived there in the third century when Christianity was already widespread. As a general of a battle-hardened legion and a devout Christian, he refused to pay homage to the pagan state gods of the Romans before the start of a war and was therefore executed for blasphemy. Because he had stood up for his convictions, he became a martyr. In Coburg, the characterful Mauritius can even be seen on the gable of the town hall. The people of Coburg like to call him lovingly the "Bratwurstmännle", because his marshal's staff supposedly indicates the length of the traditional Coburg bratwurst.

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder is considered one of the most important German painters, graphic artists and book printers of the Renaissance. In the entourage of Elector Frederick the Wise and his brother John, he spent six months in Coburg as court painter to the Elector of Saxony in 1506. He stayed at the Veste Coburg and accompanied the princes on hunts to study and later paint portraits of them. Cranach had been commissioned to decorate the banquet hall with hunting murals that no longer exist. Today, 33 of his paintings are on display in the collections of Veste Coburg. A media installation recalls his stay.

Martin Luther

On Good Friday, April 15, 1530, 70 nobles, seven knights and a group of 120 travellers and soldiers rode through the Coburg Spitaltor gate. The entourage included Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and Justus Jonas - important theologians and scholars of their time. The group of travellers took shelter in the city of Coburg on their way to Augsburg. Luther, under imperial ban, was unable to travel any further. He was forced to stay in Coburg, which at the time was the southernmost bastion of the Electorate of Saxony. He took refuge within the thick walls of Veste Coburg and stayed there nearly six months. It was a very productive period for the reformer. He developed great intellectual creativity and translated parts of the Bible. Luther preached in the church of St. Moriz, where there is still a memorial today.

Johann Casimir

Johann Casimir, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (1564-1633), was born in Gotha as the son of Johann Friedrich II, Duke of Saxony, and Elisabeth from the House of Wittelsbach in the Electoral Palatinate. Together with his brother Johann Ernst, Casimir inherited the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach. Following a division of the territory, the duchy of Saxe-Coburg fell to Johann Casimir in 1596. Under his rule, the royal town experienced an urban and cultural upturn with the creation of a town hall on the market place, an armoury, a grammar school (Casimirianum) and expansions to Ehrenburg Palace. Johann Casimir supported the school system, art and music, and established law and order. The Casimirian Church Order of 1626 gave the Coburg church a constitution that would last for centuries. As a ruler, he always took care of the state; however he also showed little mercy. Burning of witches reached their peak under his rule in Coburg.

Prince Josias

The people of Coburg admired Prince Frederick Josias (1737-1815). As the youngest son of Duke Francis Josias of Coburg, Prince Josias was a remarkable figure in the Seven Years’ War of the Austrians and Russians against the Turks. Together with Russian alliances, he finally defeated the main army of the Grand Vizier. The Austrians appointed him the last Field Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In 1806, the Napoleonic army occupied Coburg and threatened to plunder the town. Through a conversation with the French marshal, the 70-year-old prince managed to ward off the threat of looting. In 1911, a bronze monument designed by August Sommer was erected in his honour in the park of his residence, the Bürglaß-Schlösschen.

Jean Paul

The German poet and writer Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825) moved from Meiningen and Hildburghausen, whose duke had granted him the title of legation councillor, to Coburg in the spring of 1803. He stayed here for a year. Jean Paul lived with his family in the so-called “Prätorius’schen Haus” in the alley called Gymnasiumsgasse. The nature lover chose the Adamiberg, which lies southwest of the railway station near the river Itz, as his place of work. Today, the summerhouse is known as the “Jean-Paul-Garten”, where he completed his famous novel “Flegeljahre”. A bust of the poet was placed on Jean Paul’s summerhouse.

Duke Ernst I

Ernst I (1784-1844) was the first-born son of Duke Franz Friedrich Anton and Auguste Caroline Sophie. After his father’s death, he became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1806. As the first duke of the newly created double duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he was the founder of the princely house of the same name in 1826. His first marriage, contracted in 1817, to Luise (1800-1831), daughter of Duke August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and mother of his sons Ernst and Albert (later British prince consort), failed. Luise had to leave Coburg against her will and was never allowed to see her children again on Duke Ernst I’s orders. Ernst built palaces and theatres, established a state teachers’ seminar in Coburg, founded a grammar school in Gotha (Ernestinum), increased the Gotha library and collections, set up savings banks, aid societies, and improved the road network. During his reign, the international relations of the House of Coburg were established.

Friedrich Rückert

He is still considered a linguistic genius today: the poet and orientalist Friedrich Rückert. Besides his mother tongue, he is said to have spoken more than 40 languages. Rückert was born in Schweinfurt in 1788. In October 1820, the 32-year-old poet settled in Coburg. The city was an important station in his life. Here he wrote, among other things, “Liebesfrühling”, a collection of hundreds of songs inspired by his love affair with Anna Luise Wiethaus-Fischer, with whom he started a family. His best-known work is “The Wisdom of the Brahmin”. Rückert often used the former court library, currently known as the Landesbibliothek Coburg, for his work. In 1838, Rückert acquired an estate in Neuses near Coburg. His idyllically situated summerhouse on the Goldberg became his most favourite place. Today, his great work is honoured with the Coburg Rückert Prize.

Prince Leopold I

Leopold I, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and from 1826 Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was the first King of the Belgians. He was the eighth child and youngest son of Duke Franz Friedrich Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750-1806) and his wife Auguste. The prince spent his childhood in Coburg’s “Erbprinzenpalais” opposite Ehrenburg Palace. In 1816, he married the British heir to the throne, Princess Charlotte Augusta, who died a year later following the birth of her stillborn son. Leopold had great diplomatic skill and political vision. He successfully managed the European politics of the House of Saxe-Coburg and saw several Coburg natives ascend the European throne in the 19th century. One year after his inauguration in Belgium in 1831, Leopold I married Louise d’Orléans, the Catholic daughter of the King of France. He died in 1865 at Laeken Castle near Brussels.

Duke Ernst II

Ernst II was the eldest son of Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Saalfeld and Princess Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. He took over the reign of the double duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1844 after the death of his father. Ernst II was an enthusiastic patron of art, music and literature throughout his life. He had received extensive musical training in piano playing and music theory at a very early age. At the suggestion of his friend Franz Liszt, he composed various operas and performed as an actor. The opera “Santa Chiara” became his most successful and ambitious work. Ernst II was, among others, a friend of the then famous German writer Gustav Freytag and Johann Strauss. Since Ernst’s marriage to Princess Alexandrine of Baden remained childless, his nephew Alfred, the second-born son of his brother Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, became his successor.

Prince Albert

Albert, the second son of Duke Ernst I of Coburg, was born at Rosenau Palace near Coburg. His cradle can still be seen today. Prince Albert established the House of Saxe-Coburg in Great Britain through his marriage to Queen Victoria in 1840. The house subsequently took on the name of Windsor during the First World War. The handsome prince consort was initially regarded with suspicion at the British court. With his pragmatic approach and diplomacy, he gradually won over the hearts of his subjects. Victoria and Albert are said to be the British monarchy’s first perfect couple. They had nine children in 17 years.

Johann Strauss

Known as the “King of Waltz”: Johann Baptist Strauss, born in Vienna in 1825, is still considered the most popular musician and composer of his time. He changed his citizenship because of love and officially became a Coburg citizen in 1886. His third marriage to Adele was a delicate affair of the heart in 19th century Catholic Vienna. The Coburg sovereign at the time, Duke Ernst II, was allowed to grant divorces under certain conditions and valued Strauss’ talent and friendship. In order to remarry, the musician and his bride had to give up their Austrian citizenship. Strauss married Adele in 1887 in the church of Ehrenburg Palace after living in Coburg for a year. A plaque in the foyer of the town hall still commemorates the famous couple.

Gurken Alex

Coburg local Alexander Otto was born in 1884 on Steinweglein road, near the Casimirianum grammar school. He was a well-known personality within the town and his dialect made him a true Coburg native. Although he had completed his training to become a bookbinder, he worked as a hawker with his vendor’s tray, first selling shoelaces and sparklers, later cucumbers. It is possible that he chose this profession due to his poor eyesight. Alexander Otto attended all of the carnivals and summer festivals, even selling his cucumbers in guesthouses. His activities earned him the nickname “Cucumber Alex”. Following his death in 1960, a statue was erected on Herrngasse atop a fountain to honour a person who independently mastered many difficulties in life without complaint.

Martin Luther

From April to October 1530, Coburg Fortress (Veste Coburg) was home to Martin Luther. As the reformer approached the fortress on foot, he summarised his first impressions as follows:


"It is a perfectly charming place and suitable for studying."
© Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg
© Stadtarchiv der Stadt Coburg


Town chronicle

Important historical events from prehistory and early history, early modern times, modern times, the Free State of Coburg and its annexation to Bavaria, from the National Socialist era to contemporary history are documented in the chronicle. Coburg's town history is told from the first documentary mention to the 100th anniversary of voluntary accession to the Free State of Bavaria.


Stumbling stones against forgetting

Today, the Judengasse (Jews' Lane), Ilse Kohn Square and more than 100 stumbling stones laid in Coburg are reminders of the eventful German-Jewish history. There is evidence that a Jewish community has lived in the town in the Judengasse area since 1301. For centuries, larger Jewish communities only existed in the countryside. After the First World War, the relatively short period of cultural and social coexistence ended with the rise of nationalist movements. Coexistence was repeatedly characterised by exclusion, injustice and violence towards the Jewish population – until a policy of extermination began with the Nazi takeover. Today, the town is working on a culture of remembrance that commemorates Jewish life in Coburg.

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