After passing some time at the court of the emperor Sigismund, he took part in the war against the Hussites, and afterwards distinguished himself whilst assisting the German king, Albert II, against the Poles.
On the division of territory which followed his father's death in 1440, Albert received the margravate of Ansbach. Although his resources were very meagre, he soon took a leading place among the German princes, and was especially prominent in resisting the attempts of the towns to obtain self-government.
In 1443 he formed a league directed mainly against Nuremberg, over which town members of his family had formerly exercised the rights of burgrave. It was not until 1448, however, that he found a pretext for attack, and the war which lasted until 1453 ended in a victory for the Nurembergers, and the recognition of their independence.
He supported the emperor Frederick III in his struggle with the princes who desired reforms in Germany, and in return for this loyalty received many marks of favour from Frederick, including extensive judicial rights which aroused considerable irritation among neighbouring rulers.
In 1457 he arranged a marriage between his eldest son John, and Margaret, daughter of William III, landgrave of Thuringia, who inherited the claims upon Hungary and Bohemia of her mother, a granddaughter of the emperor Sigismund. The attempt to secure these thrones for the Hohenzollerns through this marriage failed, and a similar fate befell Albert's efforts to revive in his own favour the disused title of duke of Franconia.
The sharp dissensions which existed among the princes over the question of reform culminated in open warfare in 1460, when Albert was confronted with a league under the leadership of the Count Palatine, Frederick I, and Louis IX, duke of Bavaria-Landshut. Worsted in this struggle, which was concluded in 1462, Albert made an alliance with his former enemy, George of Podebrady, King of Bohemia, a step which caused Pope Paul II to place him under the ban.
In 1470 Albert, who had inherited Bayreuth on the death of his brother John in 1464, became Margrave of Brandenburg owing to the abdication of his remaining brother, the elector Frederick II. He was soon actively engaged in its administration, and by the treaty of Prenzlau in 1472 he brought Pomerania also under his supremacy. Having established his right to levy a tonnage on wines in the mark, he issued in February 1473 the important disposition Achillea, which decreed that the margravate of Brandenburg should descend in its entirety to the eldest son, while the younger sons should receive the Franconian possessions of the family.
After treating in vain for a marriage between one of his sons and Mary, daughter and heiress of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Albert handed over the government of Brandenburg to his eldest son John, and returned to his Franconian possessions.
In 1474 he married his daughter Barbara to Henry, XI Duke of Glogau, who left his possessions on his death in 1476 to his widow with reversion to her family, an arrangement which was resisted by Henry's kinsman, John II, Duke of Sagan. Aided by Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, John invaded Brandenburg, and the Pomeranians seized the opportunity to revolt. Under these circumstances Albert returned to Brandenburg in 1478, compelled the Pomeranians to recognize his supremacy, and, after a stubborn struggle, secured a part of Duke Henry's lands for his daughter in 1482.
His main attention was afterwards claimed by the business of the Empire, and soon after taking part in the election of Maximilian as king of the Romans he died at Frankfurt on the 11th of March 1486. He left a considerable amount of treasure.
Albert was a man of relentless energy and boundless ambition, who by reason of his physical and intellectual qualities was one of the most prominent princes of the 15th century.