LAUENBURG, a former duchy of Germany, at one time also belonging with Holstein to Denmark, but from 1865 to Prussia, and now included in the province of Schleswig-Holstein in the Land of Prussia. It lies on the right bank of the Elbe and has an area of 453 sq.m. The surface is an undulating plain with fertile alluvial soils. (See PRUSSIA.) The earliest inhabitants of the district were a Slav tribe, the Polabes, who were gradually replaced by colonists from Saxony. About the middle of the 12th century the country was subdued by the duke of Saxony, Henry the Lion, who founded a bishopric at Ratzeburg, and after Henry's fall in 1180 it formed part of the smaller duchy of Saxony, which was governed by Duke Bernhard. In 1203 it was conquered by Waldemar II., king of Denmark, but in 1227 it reverted to Albert, a son of its former duke. When Albert died in 1260 Saxony was divided. Lauenburg (Saxe Lauenburg) became a separate duchy ruled by his son John, and had its own lines of dukes for over 400 years, one of them, Magnus I. (d. 1543), being associated with the Renaissance movement. The reigning family, however, became extinct when Duke Julius Francis died in September 1689, and there were at least eight claimants for his duchy, chief among them being John George III., elector of Saxony, and George William, duke of Brunswick-LUneburg-Celle, the ancestors of both these princes having made treaties of mutual succession with former dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg. George William was ultimately recognized as duke. Lauenburg next passed to his nephew, George Louis, elector
of Hanover, afterwards king of Great Britain as George I., whose rights were recognized by the emperor Charles VI. in 1728. In 1803 the duchy was occupied by the French, and in 1810 it was incorporated with France. It reverted to Hanover after the battle of Leipzig in 1813, and in 1816 was ceded to Prussia, the greater part of it being at once transferred by her to Denmark in exchange for Swedish Pomerania. In 1848, when Prussia made war on Denmark, Lauenburg was occupied at her own request by Han overian troops, and was administered for a time by the German confederation, being restored to Denmark in 1851. Definitely incorporated with this country in 1853, it experienced another change of fortune after the war of 1864 between Denmark on the one side and Prussia and Austria on the other, as by the peace of Vienna (30th of October 1864) it was ceded with Schleswig and Holstein to the two German powers. By the convention of Gastein (1865) Austria surrendered her claim to Prussia in return for payment and in 1865 King William I. took formal possession of the duchy. Lauenburg entered the North German confedera tion in 1866 and the German empire in 1870. It retained its constitution and its special privileges until 1876, when it was incorporated with the kingdom of Prussia. It ceased to be a duchy in 1918.