start page Charles V TOUR :   Baltic region ➜

      Contemporaries in Prussia      

Albert, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and Duke in Prussia 1511-1525-1568
- cousin of Elector Joachim I   and   nephew of King Sigismund I of Poland -
*1490. Albert was the third son of Margrave Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach and a Polish princess. In 1510, he was elected Grand Master of the Teutonic Order - without ever having been a member before. It was hoped he would save the Order from Polish claims based on terms of the Peace Treaty of Toruń (1466). He fought against Poland, but lost the battle. As he did not get any help from the empire, he turned to the Reformation. Luther advised him to transform the Order's lands into a secular dukedom. This led to a peace treaty with Poland: Albrecht publically swore the oath of allegiance to his uncle King Sigismund I on the market place of Kraków in 1525. He was then enfeoffed with the lands of the Order which, in turn, were converted into a duchy in East Prussia. However, numerous members of the Order opposed this procedure. Those who wished to stick to the catholic faith moved the catholic Order to Mergentheim in western Germany, while Prussia turned into a protestant country. At the order's instigation, Emperor Charles V declared the transformation of the order into a secular dukedom as null and void in 1530, but this remained without consequences.
Albrecht founded the "Albertina", the University of Königsberg, in 1544.
After Albrecht's death in 1568, his son became duke. He was a minor at the time and later fell mentally ill so that his guardian Georg Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach became governor. In 1618, Prussia reverted to the main branch of the Brandenburg House of Hohenzollern thanks to the enfeoffment with Poland which Joachim II had obtained in 1569.

Prussia was exhausted and her money ruined when the peace treaty of 1525 induced a monetary union between Poland and Prussia. In April 1528, after tedious and difficult negotiations, royal West-Prussia and ducal East-Prussia agreed to join the monerary reform, on which Poland had decided 1 1/2 years earlier. The new coins were Pfennig, Schilling (= 6 Pf.), Groschen (= 3 Schill.), 3 Gröscher and 6 Gröscher. Torun, Gdansk and Elbag in West-Prussia minted along the same standards and with similar appearance as Königsberg in East-Prussia (see King Sigismund's laws of coinage).

Groschen 1529, Königsberg.     Ø 23 mm   Neumann 45.
Obv.:   ¤IVSTVS¤EX¤FIDE¤VIVIT¤1529¤(arms of Zollern)
Justus ex fide vivit = The just shall live by faith (motto from Albrecht)

The Prussian eagle with the polish crown at his neck, on the breast the initial S for king Sigismund I.

Groschen 1539, Königsberg.     Ø 22 mm, 2,04 g.   Neumann 45; Kopicki 3780,
like before.

Groschen 1543, Königsberg.     Ø 23 mm, ~2,0 g.   Neumann 46
Obv.:   ¤IVSTVS¤EX¤FIDE¤VIVIT¤1545¤ (arms of Hohenzollern)
Rev.:   ALBER¤D¤G¤MAR¤BRAN¤DVX¤PRVSS (mm. clover leaf)
Prussian eagle with a crown around the neck, on its breast the initial letter S of Sigismund I of Poland.

The striking new feature of that time was the bust in the Renaissance style. Albert took over the design of his coins from his feudal lord King Sigismund I of Poland, who married in 1518 Bona Sforza, a daughter of Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan. Bona's court brought the Renaissance to Poland.

3 Gröscher 1535, Königsberg.     Ø 22 mm, 2,39 g.   Neumann 42; Kopicki 3800.
Obv.:   ¤ALBERtus¤Dei¤Gratia¤MARchio¤BRANdenburgici¤DVX¤PRVSSIaE
Rev.:   ¤III¤ / GROSSvs:ARgentea: / ·TRIPLEX· / ·ALBERtus:DVCis· / PRVSSIE / ¤1535¤

3 Gröscher1540, Königsberg.     Ø 22 mm, ~2,7 g.   Neumann 42,
like before.

3 Gröscher 1544, Königsberg.     Ø 21 mm, 2,65 g.   Neumann 44; Kopicki 3810.
The inscription of the revers "III GROSSVS ARGENTEA TRIPLEX" emphasizes the 'triple' silver portion of the coin.
This high-grade coin (875‰ silver) was soon imitated with less silver content
by John of Küstrin   (see 3 Gröscher 1545, Krossen)
and by Frederic II of Legnica-Brzeg   (see 3 Gröscher 1545, Legnica).

Although size and weight of 3 Gröscher ('Dreigröscher') and Groschen are similar, the actual silver content of the Dreigröscher is three times the content of the Groschen: according to the laws of coinage, 74 Dreigröscher were to be struck from the mark of 14 Lot fine silver and 96 Groschen were to be struck from the mark of 6 Lot. (By agreement, 16 Lot is the fineness of pure silver; the Cracow mark had to weigh 197,68g.) That is, the Dreigröscher had to weigh 197,68g/74 = 2,67g and contain 14/16 = 87,5% or 2,34g of pure silber. The Groschen had to weigh 197,68g/96 = 2,06g and contain 6/16 = 37,5% or 0,77g of pure silver. Therefore, the Dreigröscher contains three times as much silver as the Groschen although it only weighs about 30% more. Mintage proceeded according to the agreed ratio for some time but the ratio deteriorated in later decades.

6 Gröscher 1535, Königsberg.     Ø 28 mm   Neumann 41, Schulten 2807.
Obv.:   ALBERTVS¤D¤G¤MAR¤BRAN¤DVX¤PRVSSI¤ (arms of Zollern)
Rev.:   GROS¤AR¤SEXDVP¤DVCIS¤PRVSSIE¤1535 (mintmark cloverleaf)
arms of the dukedom Prussia, on top the value V I
besides K - I for "Koenigsbergae Incusus" (minted in Königsberg)
Compare the parallel royal coinage, a 6 Groschen 1535, Torun for Prussia.

The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was custodian and administrator in the bishopry of Ermland and his memorandums influenced the mint reform. Copernicus claimed that coins with a deficit silver content would inevitably supplant good coins. He demanded, therefore, the currency value of a coin should not be higher than its metal worth plus production costs, the mint owners profit was to be cancelled, and there were to be as few independent mints as possible. With these demands, he defended the interests of the people and of his bishopry, which was not entitled to mint.

• W. Schwinkowski: Das Geldwesen in Preußen unter Herzog Albrecht (1525-69). ZfN 27 (1909) 185-375.
• E. Neumann: Die Münzen des Deutschen Ordens in Preußen, der Herzogtums Preußen, Westpreußen
      sowie die Gepräge des D. O. in Mergentheim 1235-1801.
Köln 1987.

start page Charles V   /   Karl V. TOUR :   Baltic region ➜