Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
(duke and afterwards elector) OF SAXONY, one of the most prominent characters in the history of the Reformation in the Church of Germany, a celebrated general and champion of the Protestant cause, was the eldest son of duke Henry of the Albertine line and nephew of duke George the Bearded, the most bitter opponent of the Reformation. Maurice was born at Freiburg March 21, 1521; he espoused in 1541 Agnes, daughter of the landgrave Philip of Hesse; and later in the same year succeeded his father in the duchy of Saxony and its dependencies. He was hardly well established in his dominions when a dispute arose between him and his cousin, the elector of Saxony, John Frederick, regarding their respective rights over the bishopric of Meissen, which was the common property of the Ernestine and Albertine lines; but by the influence of Luther and of the landgrave Philip a temporary reconciliation was effected. In the war with the Turks he distinguished himself as a soldier, and became the favorite of Charles V. Whether, however, Maurice was at this time the sincere friend of the emperor is a question that has never yet been determined. This much is certain that Maurice was selfish by nature, and sought rather the furtherance of his own interests than the welfare of his associates and those who befriended him. A professed Protestant, he took part in the deliberations at Smalcald (q.v.; (See Holy League) ), but refused to become a member of the league for fear of displeasing the emperor, with whom he coquetted at that time to secure the protectorate of the bishoprics of Magdeburg and Halberstadt. No sooner had the emperor bestowed upon him this much-coveted favor, and honored him with the title of elector (June 19, 1546), than Maurice deserted the Protestant camp, and played the part of a most devoted adherent of the emperor's cause. In consequence of this unexpected hostility to the Protestants the imperial army gained a decisive victory at Muhlberg in April, 1547, well-nigh proving the death-stroke of the Protestant cause.
By this defeat of the Protestants, and the imprisonment of his rival, John Frederick, Maurice, according to a previous understanding with the emperor, became himself the ruler of all Saxony. Thus gratified in all the ambitious desires in which he could expect aid from Charles V, Maurice became quite uneasy in his present relation, and hesitated not to embrace the very first opportunity to seek anew the favor of the leaders he had so basely deserted. It is true as late as 1547 Maurice was still found on the side of the imperialists, for he this year supported the Interim (q.v.) of Augsburg; but gradually he lessened the hold of the Romanists upon him, and by 1551 we find him a party to a secret treaty of the Protestants with Henry II of France, at the very time that he was professing to besiege the rebellious city of Magdeburg. As treacherously and unhesitatingly as he had abandoned the cause of the Reformers he now forsook the imperial side. Poor Charles was at Innsbruck, employing himself in building up vast schemes of ambition, little dreaming of the mine which the man whom he most of all confided in was preparing to spring under his feet. When suddenly the word came to him that he must release prince Philip of Hesse, whom he had imprisoned for his opposition to the imperial cause, even before he had time to decide the case, news came to him that Maurice of Saxony was marching against him.
Without money, without troops, without allies, Charles was compelled to yield to the demands of the man whom he had himself made powerful. On April 18, by the mediation of Ferdinand, king of the Romans, a treaty was concluded at Linz granting the demands of the Protestants; but as it was not to take effect till May 26, Maurice employed himself in attacking (May 18) the camp of Reitti, in which soldiers were assembling for the emperor, defeated and wholly dispersed the imperialists, and advanced on Innsbruck with the view of taking Charles captive. Had it not been that a mutiny stopped his progress, the emperor would have been rudely handled, as Maurice knew his antagonist, and feared the consequences of his treachery. But Maurice also was feared. His advance on Innsbruck so alarmed the members of the Council of Trent, then in session there, that they fled from the town, and the sittings were thenceforth suspended for some years. Finally came the day of convocation of the electors and princes of the empire at Passau; Maurice directing the cause of the Protestants, and Ferdinand attending to the imperial interests. To the Protestants this meeting must ever be memorable. It was here that a treaty of peace was established which secured to Protestants free exercise of worship; and it was by the Passau treaty that the Romanists of Germany agreed that the imperial chamber, from which Lutherans were not to be excluded, should render justice irrespective of religion; and that the Aulic Council should be composed exclusively of German ministers.
These conditions, which in political matters secured "Germany for the Germans," and in religious affairs permanently established the principles of toleration, were embodied in the agreement called the Peace of Passau (Aug. 22, 1552). Charles, though he professed reconciliation, never lost an opportunity to wreak his vengeance on the elector. The latter, with his usual subtlety and address, patched up a reconciliation with the emperor, and engaged in the campaign of 1553 against the Turks, who were gradually gaining ground in Hungary. Returning soon, he found that one of his former allies, Albert, margrave of Kulmbach, had refused to accede to the treaty of Passau, and continued the war on his own account, making raids on the ecclesiastical princes of the Rhine and Franconia. Maurice also speedily discovered that behind the margrave stood the emperor, who had secured the services of the margrave because he had found in him a general and an army capable of wreaking his vengeance on the perfidious Saxon prince. But Maurice was equal to the occasion. Putting himself at the head of 20,000 men, he marched to protect his bishopric of Magdeburg against the ecclesiastical spoliator, and, falling in with him at Sievershausen, completely defeated him (July 9, 1553), but fell himself in the conflict, mortally wounded, and died July 11, 1553. "So thoughtful and reticent, so enterprising and energetic, so correct in judgment and unfailing in action, and at the same time wholly devoid of moral sentiment, he is one of the most prominent instances of power without principle which the world's history has ever presented."
Kohlrausch has perhaps furnished the most moderate comment on the perjured life of Maurice of Saxony. "The final efforts he so patriotically made for the promotion and establishment of general tranquillity, and his love for peace and order, which he sealed with his own blood, have in a great degree served to throw the mantle of oblivion over his earlier proceedings, and conciliated the critical voice of public opinion" (Hist. Germany, p. 296). Robertson appears to be equally anxious to laud the last act of Maurice, and to let it stand forth only as the lifework of this faithless prince. He excuses him on the ground that "his long and intimate union with the emperor had afforded him many opportunities of observing narrowly the dangerous tendency of that monarch's (Charles) schemes. He saw the yoke that was preparing for his country, and was convinced that but a few steps more remained to be taken in order to render Charles as absolute a monarch in Germany as he had become in Spain. At the same time he perceived that Charles was bent on exacting a rigid conformity to the doctrines and rites of the Romish Church, instead of allowing liberty of conscience, the promise of which had allured several Protestant princes to assist him in the war against the confederates of Smalcald. As he himself, notwithstanding all the compliances which he had made from motives of interest, or an excess of confidence in the emperor, was sincerely attached to the Lutheran tenets, he determined not to be a tame spectator of the overthrow of a system which he believed to be founded in truth" (p. 386).
Though we would gladly like to concede this point, truth compels us to dissent, from the opinion of the noted historian. We doubt very much whether Maurice of Saxony, in any period of his life, believed either Romanism or Protestantism "to be founded in truth;" we doubt even that he ever believed himself "to be founded in truth." Let us say, rather, that he was possessed of an ambition which knew no bounds, and that, seeking honor for himself, he reaped all the glory of having concerted and completed that unexpected revolution which closed with the treaty of Passau — "that overturned the vast fabric in erecting which Charles had employed so many years, and had exerted the utmost efforts of his power and policy; that annulled all his regulations with regard to religion; defeated all his hopes of rendering the imperial authority absolute and hereditary in his family; and established the Protestant Church, which had hitherto subsisted precariously in Germany, through connivance or by expedients, upon a firm and secure basis" (p. 415; comp. p. 424, 425). It is indeed a singular circumstance that the Reformation should be indebted for its security and full establishment in Germany to the same hand which had brought it to the brink of destruction, and that both events should have been accompanied by the same acts of dissimulation. See J. Camerarius, Vita Mauritii Electoris Saxoniae (1569); Georg Arnold, Vita Mauritii (1719); F. A. von Langenn, Moritz Herzog und Churfurst von Sachsen (1841, 2 vols.); Schlenkert, Moritz Churfurst von Sachsen (1798-1800, 4 vols.); R. von Weber, Moritz, Graf von Sachsen, etc. (Lps. 1863); Taillandier, Maurice du Saxe (Paris, 1865); Coxe, House of Austria, 1:450 sq.; Vehse, Memoirs Court of Austria, 1:254; Kohlrausch, Hist. of Germany, ch. 4; Robertson, Charles V, book 10. (See Charles V;) (See Interim); (See Reformation).