Frederick was born in 1515 to Count Palatine John II of Simmern. He was educated strictly in the Roman Catholic rites at his father's court and Cologne, and became greatly skilled in the sciences. He married Maria of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, a devout Protestant, in 1537 and adpoted her faith. He made public his conversion in 1546. After his father's death in 1557 he succeeded him as Count Palatine. Frederick was a poor prince and spent his reign in Simmern engaged in territorial conflicts. In 1559 he succeeded Otto Henry as Elector Palatine and gave Simmern to his brothers.
In 1559 controversies broke out between the strict Lutherans, Calvinists and Melanchthonians which his predecessor had invited into the Palatinate. A further bitter controversy erupted between Hesshusen and the Heidelberg deacon Klebitz over the latter's theses of the Lord's Supper. After mediation failed he deposed both. He then spent much time learning of theology. He developed a dislike for the zealous Lutherans after a disputation in June 1560, and after the Naumburg Convention in 1561 was fully converted to the Reformation.
Under his orders Caspar Olevianus, Emmanuel Tremellius and Zacharius Ursinus transformed the entire church in the Palatinate from 1561. Organs, images of saints, vestments, and anything else considered idolatrous were ruthlessly removed from churches. The revenues from monasteries were confiscated and granted to charities. In 1562 he granted Frankenthal to refugee evangelicals from the Netherlands. The church-order in November 1563 and the consitory order of 1564 closed all the changes. All ministers inclined towards Lutheranism were expelled, and Lutheran populations left the Palatinate. The religious colloquy at Maulbronn in April 1564 increased the Lutheran animosity, and his measures alarmed both the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor and the Protestant princes who feared the end of the Peace of Augsburg (1555).
In 1565 the Emperor Maximilian I ordered all the changes annulled, and a unanimous vote at the Imperial Diet in Augsburg in 1566 also demanded their abolition. However Frederick stood before the diet and stated that this rule was a matter for God alone, and that if action were taken against him he would find comfort in the arms of the Savior. Both the Catholics and Protestants of the Empire did not take action, even though the latter was greatly damaged by his actions. He then endeavoured to spread his reformation to the Upper Palatinate but here he was fiercely and successfully resisted by the Lutheran estates. Furthermore in his own family was a religious controversy. His elder son Louis was a Lutheran like his mother while his younger son John Casimir was a Calvinist like him. He sent John Casimir to assist French Huguenots in 1567 and 1576. He also assisted Wolfgang, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, on his journey to France in 1569.
Frederick died in Heidelberg in 1576 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Spirit. Although he stated in his will that the Palatinate were to remain Calvinist, his elder son and successor Louis quickly converted it to Lutheranism.
Frederick married Maria of Brandenburg-Kulmbach (1519 - 1567) in 1537. They had eleven children:
- Alberta (4 April 1538 - 19 March 1553)
- Louis (4 July 1539 - 22 October 1583)
- Elizabeth (30 June 1540 - 8 February 1594)
- Herman Louis (6 October 1541 - 1 July 1556)
- John Casimir (7 March 1543 - 16 January 1592)
- Dorothea Susanne (15 November 1544 - 8 April 1592)
- Albert (30 September 1546 - 30 April 1547)
- Anne Elizabeth (23 July 1549 - 20 September 1609)
- Christopher (13 June 1551 - 14 April 1574)
- Charles (28 December 1552 - 12 September 1555)
- Kunigunde Jakobäa (9 October 1556 - 26 January 1586)
Frederick married Amalie of Neuenahr (c. 1540 - 1602/12) in 1569. They had no children.
Frederick III, Elector PalatineBorn: 1515 Died: 1576
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