The Prussian state, which would dominate 19th-century Europe, had its origins in some mutual diplomatic backscratching in the Holy Roman Empire, over 400 years earlier. In 1411, Frederick VI of Nuremberg was rewarded with the plum seat of Prince Elector of Brandenburg for supporting Sigismund of Hungary in obtaining the kingship of Germany. The local populace were displeased, and Frederick had to cow them into acquiescence with a cannonade: the Hohenzollern dynasty was born. Future acquisitions were equally bloodless: Neumark was pawned, then sold to Brandenburg, by the Teutonic Knights. The margravate of Bayreuth was a family hand-me-down in 1464, after which little changed for over a century. John Sigismund (1608–19) achieved the breakthrough, by marrying Anna, heir to the duchy of Prussia. In 1614, the Treaty of Xanten gave him Cleves, Mark and Ravensburg: in 1618, the mad old Prussian duke died, and Brandenburg-Prussia was born.
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