1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John, King of Saxony
JOHN (1801–1873), king of Saxony, son of Prince Maximilian of Saxony and his wife Caroline of Parma (d. 1804), was born at Dresden on the 12th of December 1801. As a boy he took a keen interest in literature and art (also in history, law, and political science), and studied with the greatest ardour classical and German literature (Herder, Schiller, Goethe). He soon began to compose poetry himself, and drew great inspiration from a journey in Italy (1821–1822), the pleasure of which was however darkened by the death of his brother Clemens. In Pavia the prince met with Biagioli’s edition of Dante, and this gave rise to his lifelong and fruitful studies of Dante. The first part of his German translation of Dante was published in 1828, and in 1833 appeared the complete work, with a valuable commentary, which met with a great success. Several new editions appeared under his constant supervision, and he collected a complete library of works on Dante.
On his return from Italy he was betrothed to Princess Amalia of Bavaria, daughter of King Maximilian Joseph. He thus became the brother-in-law of Frederick William IV., king of Prussia, with whom he had a deep and lasting friendship. His wife Amalia died on the 8th of November 1877, having borne him nine children, two of whom, Albert and George, later became kings of Saxony.
On his return to Dresden, John was called in 1822 to the privy board of finance (Geheimes Finanzkollegium) and in 1825 became its vice-president. Under the leadership of the president, Freiherr von Manteuffel, he acquired a thorough knowledge of administration and of political economy, and laid the foundations of that conservatism which he retained throughout life. These new activities did not, however, interrupt his literary and artistic studies. He came into still closer relations with politics and government after his entry into the privy council in 1830. During the revolution in Saxony he helped in the pacification of the country, became commandant of the new national guard, the political tendencies of which he tried to check, and took an exceptionally active part in the organization of the constitution of the 4th of September 1831 and especially in the deliberations of the upper chamber, where he worked with unflagging energy and great ability. Following the example of his father, he taught his children in person, and had a great influence on their education. On the 12th of August 1845, during a stay at Leipzig, the prince was the object of hostile public demonstrations, the people holding him to be the head of an alleged ultramontane party at court, and the revolution of 1848 compelled him to interrupt his activities in the upper chamber. Immediately after the suppression of the revolution he resumed his place and took part chiefly in the discussion of legal questions. He was also interested in the amalgamation of the German historical and archaeological societies. On the death of his brother Frederick Augustus II., John became, on the 9th of August 1854, king of Saxony. As king he soon won great popularity owing to his simplicity, graciousness and increasingly evident knowledge of affairs. In his policy as regards the German confederation he was entirely on the side of Austria. Though not opposed to a reform of the federal constitution, he held that its maintenance under the presidency of Austria was essential. This view he supported at the assembly of princes at Frankfort in August and September 1863. He was unable to uphold his views against Prussia, and in the war of 1866 fought on the side of Austria. It was with difficulty that, on the conclusion of peace, Austrian diplomacy succeeded in enabling the king to retain his crown. After 1866 King John gradually became reconciled to the new state of affairs. He entered the North German confederation, and in the war of 1870–71 with France his troops fought with conspicuous courage. He died at Dresden on the 29th of October 1873.
See J. Petzholdt, “Zur Litteratur des Königs Johann,” Neuer Anzeiger für Bibliographie (1858,1859,1871,1873,1874); “Aphorismen über unsern König J.,” Bote von Geising (1866–1869); Das Büchlein vom König Johann (Leipzig, 1867); H. v. Treitschke, Preussische Jahrbücher 23 (1869); A. Reumont, “Elogio di Giovanni, Rè di Sassonia,” Dagli Atti della Accademia della Crusca (Florence, 1874); J. P. von Winterstein, Johann, König von Sachsen (Dresden, 1878), and in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (1881); H. Ermisch, Die Wettiner und die Landesgeschichte (Leipzig, 1902); O. Kaemmel, Sächsische Geschichte (Leipzig, 1899, Sammlung Göschen).