Landmeister Gotthard Kettler
Gotthard Kettler, Duke of Courland (also
Ketteler, German: Gotthard Kettler, Herzog von Kurland; 2 February 1517 – 17 May 1587) was the last
Master of the Livonian Order and the first Duke of Courland and Semigallia. Kettler was born near Anröchte, Kreis
Soest, of an old Westphalian noble family and the ninth child of the German knight Gotthard Kettler zu Melrich (mentioned
1527–1556) and his wife Sophie of Nesselrode. Gotthard's older brother Wilhelm Kettler was bishop
of Münster from 1553 to 1557. Kettler enlisted in the Livonian order around 1537
and became a knight. In 1554 Gotthard Kettler became Komtur of Dünaburg,
and in 1557 Komtur of Fellin. In 1559, during the Livonian
War (1558–1582) he succeed Wilhelm von Fürstenberg as a Master of the Teutonic Order
in Livonia. When the Livonian Confederation came under increasing pressure from Tsar
Ivan the Terrible, Kettler converted to Lutheranism and secularised Semigallia and Courland. On the basis of the Treaty
of Vilnius (28 November 1561), he created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia as a vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania,
which was soon merged into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Following the Duke's proposal
in 1567, the regional assembly (landtag) decided to build 70 new churches and 8 schools in the remote areas of Duchy where
many peasants still lived and died unbaptized. He died on 17 May 1587 in Mitau (Polish Mitawa,
Latvian Jelgava), aged 70. His heirs ruled in Courland until 1737.
On 11 March 1566 Kettler married Anna, Duchess of Mecklenburg,
daughter of Duke Albert VII of Mecklenburg-Güstrow and Princess Anna of Brandenburg.
Couple had seven children, three of whom died early. His sons Friedrich Kettler and Wilhelm Kettler succeeded him as dukes.
The daughter Anna Kettler married the Lithuanian prince Albrecht Radziwiłł, the son of Mikołaj Radziwiłł
Czarny, the daughter Elisabeth Kettler married the Adam Wenceslaus, Duke of Cieszyn of Duchy of Teschen.