After the dissolution of the medieval Duchy of Saxony, the name Saxony was applied to a small part of the duchy situated on the Elbe around the city of Wittenberg. This was given to the Ascanian Bernard of Anhalt, the second son of Albert the Bear, who was the founder of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Bernard's son, Albert I, added to this territory the lordship of Lauenburg/Elbe. Albert's sons, Albert II and John I, divided the family's possessions into Saxe-Wittenberg and Saxe-Lauenburg, respectively.
The dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg and Saxe-Lauenburg each claimed the electoral right of the Duchy of Saxony. After the Golden Bull of 1356 recognized the Wittenberg line as having the electoral dignity, Saxe-Wittenberg came to be known as the Electorate of Saxony. When the Ascanian line died out, the electorate passed to the House of Wettin in 1422.