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Rudolph, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
Rudolph, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst

Rudolph of Anhalt-Zerbst (Harzgerode, 28 October 1576 – Zerbst, 30 July 1621), was a German prince of the House of Ascania and ruler of the unified Principality of Anhalt. From 1603, he was ruler of the principality of Anhalt-Zerbst.

Rudolph was the fifth son of Joachim Ernest, Prince of Anhalt, but third-born son by his second wife Eleonore, daughter of Christoph, Duke of Württemberg.


In 1586, after the death of his father, Rudolph inherited the principality of Anhalt jointly with his half- and full brothers, but because he was still a minor, his older brother John George I acted as regent.

By the accounts of contemporary witnesses, Rudolph was an eager pupil and student. In 1596 the twenty-year-old prince was invited to the coronation of King Christian IV of Denmark in Copenhagen.

His Grand Tour began in 1600 when he arrived in Sicily. With his younger brother Louis, Rudolph spent a year in Florence. On 21 November 1601 he was admitted to the University of Siena. A year later, in 1602, the prince left Switzerland (where he had lived for some time) and returned to Dessau.

In 1603, a formal division of the principality of Anhalt was agreed upon by Rudolph and his surviving brothers. He received Zerbst, where his main residence was, and supported there the renovation of the Gymnasium Francisceum, beginning with the addition of a library. In 1618, Rudolph joined the Fruitbearing Society.

Marriages and issue

In Wolfenbüttel on 29 December 1605 Rudolph married Dorothea Hedwig (b. Wolfenbüttel, 3 February 1587 – d. Zerbst, 16 October 1609), daughter of Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. They had four daughters:

The death of his wife caused Rudolph to fall into a deep depression, according to contemporary witnesses.

In Oldenburg on 31 August 1612 Rudolph married for a second time to Magdalene (b. Oldenburg, 6 October 1585 – d. Coswig, 14 April 1657), heiress of Jever and daughter of John VII, Count of Oldenburg; only when Rudolph met her did he find a way out of his depression. They had two children:

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