Joachim Ernest, Prince of Anhalt

Joachim Ernest of Anhalt (21 October 1536 – 6 December 1586), was a German prince of the House of Ascania, ruler of the principality of Anhalt-Zerbst from 1551, and from 1570 sole ruler of all the Anhalt lands.

Joachim Ernest
Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
PredecessorJohn V
Successornone (unification of all Anhalt principalities in 1570)
Prince of Anhalt
Predecessornone (unification of all Anhalt principalities in 1570)
SuccessorJohn George I
Christian I
John Ernest
Born(1536-10-21)21 October 1536
Died6 December 1586(1586-12-06) (aged 50)
SpouseAgnes of Barby-Mühlingen
Eleonore of Württemberg
IssueAnna Maria, Duchess of Legnica-Brzeg-Oława-Wołów
Elisabeth, Electress of Brandenburg
Sibylla, Duchess of Württemberg
John George I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau
Christian I, Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg
Bernhard, Prince of Anhalt
Agnes Hedwig, Electress of Saxony and Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg
Dorothea Maria, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar
Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Plötzkau
Rudolph, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
John Ernest, Prince of Anhalt
Louis I, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen
Joachim Christoph
Anna Sophie, Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
FatherJohn V, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
MotherMargaret of Brandenburg


Joachim Ernest of Anhalt.

Early life


Joachim Ernest was born in Dessau on 21 October 1536 as the second son of John V, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, by his wife Margaret, daughter of Joachim I Nestor, Elector of Brandenburg. He received an extensive education under the supervision of his father. On 1 February 1549, just thirteen years of age, he was officially admitted to the University of Wittenberg, where, among others, he studied with the theologian Georg Helt.

Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst


In 1550, after the death of his father, he inherited Anhalt-Zerbst along with his older brother Karl I and his younger brother Bernhard VII.

The death of his uncle George III without male heirs permitted him and his brothers, Karl I and Bernhard VII, to inherit Anhalt-Plötzkau in 1553, while the death of his uncle Joachim I permitted him and his surviving brother Bernhard VII to inherit Anhalt-Dessau in 1561. In 1562 his cousin Wolfgang abdicated Anhalt-Köthen in his favor.



In Barby on 3 March 1560 Joachim Ernest married Agnes of Barby-Mühlingen (b. Barby, 23 June 1540 – d. Bernburg, 27 November 1569), daughter of Wolfgang I, Count of Barby-Mühlingen (1502–1564) and his wife, Countess Agnes of Mansfeld (1511–1558). They had six children.

In Stuttgart on 9 January 1571 Joachim Ernest married for a second time to Eleonore (b. Tübingen, 22 March 1552 – d. Schloss Lichtenberg, 12 January 1618), daughter of Christoph, Duke of Württemberg and his wife, Princess Anna Maria of Brandenburg-Ansbach. They had ten children.

Sole ruler of Anhalt


In 1570 the death of his last surviving brother, Bernhard VII, left him as sole ruler of all the Anhalt states, which were finally unified for the first time since their first partition in 1252. Joachim Ernest made Dessau the seat of his government.

Joachim Ernest was a typical Renaissance monarch who generously supported the arts and culture. He sent his sons with their tutors on educational journeys across Europe. Also, he ordered the son of his chancellor, Tobias Hübner, to create a description of the famous knight's games (German: Ritterspiele) that took place at the Dessau court.

In 1572 he created the Regional Legal Code of Anhalt (German: Landesverordnung Anhalts) and in 1582 he founded the Francisceum High School (German: Gymnasium Francisceum) in Zerbst. He was a fervent supporter of the Reformation and the Huguenots.

Death and succession


Prince Joachim Ernest died in Dessau on 6 December 1586. Since succession in the territories of Anhalt was not governed by the rules of primogeniture, Joachim Ernest's seven sons shared rule of the territories of Anhalt until 1603, when the five surviving sons divided their lands among themselves.


Name Birth Death Notes
By Agnes of Barby-Mühlingen
Anna Maria Zerbst, 13 June 1561 Brzeg, 14 November 1605 married on 19 May 1577 to Joachim Frederick, Duke of Legnica-Brzeg-Oława-Wołów
Agnes Zerbst, 16 September 1562 Bernburg, 4 June 1564
Elisabeth of Anhalt-Zerbst Zerbst, 25 September 1563 Crossen, 5 October 1607 married on 19 May 1577 to John George, Elector of Brandenburg
Sibylla Bernburg, 28 September 1564 Leonberg, 26 October 1614 married on 22 May 1581 to Frederick I, Duke of Württemberg
John George I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau Harzgerode, 9 May 1567 Dessau, 24 May 1618 married on 22 February 1588 to Countess Dorothea of Mansfeld-Arnstein, and secondly on 21 February 1595 to Countess Palantine Dorothea of Pfalz-Simmern
Christian I, Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg Bernburg, 11 May 1568 Bernburg, 17 April 1630 married on 2 July 1595 to Countess Anna of Bentheim-Steinfurt-Tecklenburg-Limburg
By Eleonore of Württemberg
Bernhard, Prince of Anhalt b. Dessau, 25 September 1571 Klosterhof bei Tyrnau, 24 November 1596)
Agnes Hedwig Dessau, 12 March 1573 Sonderburg, 3 November 1616) married on 3 January 1586 to Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and secondly on 14 February 1588 to John II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg
Dorothea Maria Dessau, 2 July 1574 Weimar, 18 July 1617 married on 7 January 1593 to John II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar
Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Plötzkau Dessau, 14 July 1575 Plötzkau, 22 August 1653) married on 25 January 1618 to Countess Sibylle of Solms-Laubach
Rudolph, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst Harzgerode, 28 October 1576 Zerbst, 30 July 1621 married on 29 December 1605 to Dorothea Hedwig of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and secondly on 31 August 1612 to Countess Magdalene of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst
John Ernest, Prince of Anhalt Dessau, 1 May 1578 Vienna, 22 December 1601
Louis I, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen Dessau, 17 June 1579 Köthen, 7 January 1650 married on 31 October 1606 to Countess Amöena Amalie of Bentheim-Steinfurt-Tecklenburg-Limburg, and secondly on 12 September 1626 to Countess Sophie of Lippe
Sabine Dessau, 7 November 1580 Darmstadt, 28 March 1599
Joachim Christoph Dessau, 7 July 1582 Dessau, 16 July 1583
Anna Sophie Dessau, 15 June 1584 Oberkranichfeld, 9 June 1652) married on 13 June 1613 to Charles Günther, Count of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt




  • Johann Christoph Beckmann: Historie des Fürstenthums Anhalt. 7 Tle. Zerbst 1710. (Ndr. Dessau 1995).
  • Gerhard Heine: Geschichte des Landes Anhalt und seiner Fürsten, Heine, 1866, S. 98 ff.
  • Berent Schwineköper (1974), "Joachim Ernst", Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German), vol. 10, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, p. 433; (full text online)
  • Ferdinand Siebigk: Das Herzogthum Anhalt, Desbarats, 1867, S. 207 ff.
Joachim Ernest, Prince of Anhalt
Born: 21 October 1536 Died: 6 December 1586
Preceded by
John V
Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
with Karl I (until 1561) and Bernhard VII
Succeeded by
Unification of all
Anhalt Principalities
Preceded by
George III
Prince of Anhalt-Plötzkau
with Karl I (until 1561) and Bernhard VII
Preceded by
Joachim I
Prince of Anhalt-Dessau
with Bernhard VII
Preceded by
Prince of Anhalt-Köthen
with Bernhard VII
Preceded by
Principality created
Prince of Anhalt
Succeeded by