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As the elder son of his father, Ernest became duke following the senior Ernest's death in 1015. Since he was a minor, the government of Swabia was run by regency. At first his mother Gisela assumed the position of regent; she later gave way to Poppo, Archbishop of Trier.
In 1024 Gisela's husband Conrad, who she had married in 1016, was elected King of Germany as Conrad II. Although Conrad was generous in his relations with Ernest, contentious issues soon split the duke and his stepfather. Ernest resented the power of the German Kings over Swabia. Both men also were potential claimants to the Kingdom of Burgundy once its childless ruler, Rudolph III, died. Gisela's mother was Gerberga, a sister of the king, and both Conrad and Ernest wished to become Rudolph's eventual successor.
In 1025 Ernest, who was still relatively young, entered into rebellion against Conrad. By 1026, however, the king had defeated the resistance and Ernest eventually submitted. He then participated in his stepfather's Italian expedition of 1026-1027. While in Italy, Conrad sent Ernest back to Swabia in order to crush the local resistance that still existed. When he returned, however, Ernest joined the opposition and rebelled against Conrad again. The refusal of the local Swabian rulers to support him caused his defeat. He was forced to surrender and was imprisoned. Gisela, despite supporting Conrad against her son, did not wish for him to be entirely humiliated; as a result Ernest remained duke, although Gisela probably governed the duchy while he remained imprisoned.
In 1028, Conrad's son Henry was crowned king. Around this time, due to Henry's and Gisela's requests, Ernest was set free, although he was not restored to his full powers as duke. At the Diet of Easter 1030 Ernest was offered these powers, if he would crack down on the enemies of Conrad. Ernest's refusal to do so, especially against his friend Werner von Kyburg, resulted in his final downfall. He was stripped of his title as duke. Only a few months later, while battling the people of the Bishop of Konstanz, both Ernest and Werner were killed. Ernest was buried in Constance. The Duchy of Swabia passed to his younger brother Herman.
| Duke of Swabia