The prince-electors, or electors for short, were the members of the electoral college that elected the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. From the 13th century onwards, the prince-electors had the privilege of electing the monarch who would be crowned by the pope. After 1508, there were no imperial coronations and the election was sufficient. Charles V was the last emperor to be crowned; his successors were elected emperors by the electoral college, each being titled "Elected Emperor of the Roman
- Etymology of Kurfürst
- Rights and Privileges
- High Offices
The German word Kur- is related etymologically to the English word choose (cf. Old English ceosan [tʃeo̯zan], participle coren 'having been chosen' and Gothic kiusan). In English, the s/r interchange of the Germanic verb conjugation has been regularized to "s", while German retains the r in Kur-. There is also a modern German verb küren which means 'to choose' in a ceremonial sense. Fürst is German for 'prince,' but while German distinguishes between the head of a principality (der Fürst) and the son of a monarch (der Prinz), English uses prince for both concepts. Fürst itself is related to English firstand is, therefore, the 'foremost' person in his realm. Note that 'prince' (from Latin 'princeps') carries the same meaning.
EnlargeCoat-of-arms representing the seven original electors with the figure of GermaniaThe German practice of electing monarchs began when ancient Germanic tribes formed ad hoc coalitions and elected the leaders thereof. Elections were irregularly held by the Franks, whose successor states include France and Germany. The French monarchy eventually became hereditary, but the German monarchy remained elective. While all free men originally exercised the right to vote in such elections, suffrage eventually came to be limited to the leading men of the realm. In the election of Lothar II in 1125, a small number of eminent nobles chose the monarch and then submitted him to the remaining magnates for their approbation. Soon, the right to choose the monarch was settled on an exclusive group of princes, and the procedure of seeking the approval of the remaining nobles was abandoned. The college of electors was mentioned in 1152 and again in 1198. A letter of Pope Urban IV suggests that by "...
Electors were among the rulers of the States of the Empire, but enjoyed precedence over the other princes. They were, until the 18th century, exclusively entitled to be addressed with Durchlaucht ([your] Serene Highness). In 1742, the electors became entitled to the superlative Durchläuchtigste (Most Serene Highness), while other princes were promoted to Durchlaucht. As rulers of States of the Empire, the electors enjoyed all the privileges of the other princes, including the right to enter into alliances, autonomy in relation to dynastic affairs and precedence over other subjects. The Golden Bull recognised certain additional rights belonging to the electors. For instance, electors were granted a monopoly over all mines of gold, silver, and other metals within their territories, to tax Jews, to collect tolls, and to mint money; these powers belonged to the Emperor in the other territories, and princes who wrongly assumed them could be deprived of their status. Thus, the electors we...
The electors, like the other princes ruling States of the Empire, were members of the Reichstag, which was divided into three collegia: the Council of Electors, the Council of Princes, and the Council of Cities. In addition to being members of the Council of Electors, several lay electors were therefore members of the Council of Princes as well by virtue of other territories they possessed. In many cases, the lay electors ruled numerous States of the Empire, and therefore held several votes in the Council of Princes. In 1792, the King of Bohemia held three votes, the Elector of Bavaria six votes, the Elector of Brandenburg eight votes, and the Elector of Hanover six votes. Thus, of the hundred votes in the Council of Princes in 1792, twenty-three belonged to electors. The lay electors therefore exercised considerable influence, being members of the small Council of Electors and holding a significant number of votes in the Council of Princes. The assent of both bodies was required fo...
Main article: Imperial electionThe individual chosen by the electors assumed the title "King of the Romans", though he actually reigned in Germany. The King of the Romans became Holy Roman Emperor only when crowned by the Pope. On many occasions, a Pope refused to crown a king with whom he was engaged in a dispute, but a lack of a papal coronation deprived a king of only the title Emperor and not of the power to govern (cf Declaration at Rhense). The Habsburg dynasty stopped the practice of papal coronations. After Charles V, all individuals chosen by the electors were merely "Emperors elect". The electors were originally summoned by the Archbishop of Mainz within one month of an Emperor's death, and met within three months of being summoned. During the interregnum, imperial power was exercised by two imperial vicars. Each vicar, in the words of the Golden Bull, was "the administrator of the empire itself, with the power of passing judgments, of presenting to ecclesiastical benefice...
EnlargeThe Arms of Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, Arch-Steward and Prince-Elector.Each elector held a "High Office of the Empire" and was a member of the (ceremonial) Imperial Household. The three spiritual electors were all Arch-Chancellors (German: Erzkanzler, Latin: archicancellarius): the Archbishop of Mainz was Arch-Chancellor of Germany, the Archbishop of Trier was Arch-Chancellor of Burgundy, and the Archbishop of Colognewas Arch-Chancellor of Italy. The other offices were as follows: When the Duke of Bavariareplaced the Elector Palatine in 1623, he assumed the latter's office of Arch-Steward. When the Count Palatine was granted a new electorate, he assumed the position of Arch-Treasurer of the Empire. When the Duke of Bavaria was banned in 1706, the Elector Palatine returned to the office of Arch-Steward, and in 1710 the Elector of Hanover was promoted to the post of Arch-Treasurer. Matters were complicated by the Duke of Bavaria's restoration in 1714; the Elector of Bavaria r...
Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire The prince-electors (or simply electors ) of the Holy Roman Empire (German: Kurfürst Latin : Princeps Elector ) were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having since the 13th century the privilege of electing the King of the Romans or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.
Elector, German Kurfürst, prince of the Holy Roman Empire who had a right to participate in the election of the emperor (the German king). Beginning around 1273 and with the confirmation of the Golden Bull of 1356, there were seven electors: the archbishops of Trier, Mainz, and Cologne; the duke of Saxony; the count palatine of the Rhine; the margrave of Brandenburg; and the king of Bohemia.
There were originally seven Electors, the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier, the Duke of Saxony, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Margrave of Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia. Subsequently, electorates were created for Bavaria (1623–1778), Hanover (from 1708), and Hesse-Kassel (from 1803).
May 05, 2021 · A skillful diplomat, he negotiated major reforms in the structure of the Holy Roman Empire, increasing the power and freedom of its electors, nobles and free cities. In 1518, he was the Imperial Vicar, second only to Emperor Maximilian I, who was approaching death. When the Emperor died in January of 1519, he was regent of the Empire.
- Early career
- Later years
- Early years
Charlemagne (2 April 742/747/748 28 January 814), also known as Charles the Great (German: Karl der Große; Latin: Carolus or Karolus Magnus) or Charles I, was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, and from 800 the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state he founded is called the Carolingian Empire.
The oldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman's sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Charlemagne continued his father's policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, at times leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden. Charlemagne reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned \\"emperor\\" by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter's Basilica.
Called the \\"Father of Europe\\" (pater Europae), Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne's empire. Charlemagne died in 814, having ruled as emperor for just over thirteen years. He was laid to rest in his imperial capital of Aachen in what is today Germany. His son Louis the Pious succeeded him.
Louis the Pious (778 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor (as Louis I) with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. As the only surviving adult son of Charlemagne and Hildegard, he became the sole ruler of the Franks after his father's death in 814, a position which he held until his death, save for the period 83334, during which he was deposed. Lothair I or Lothar I (German: Lothar, French: Lothaire, Italian: Lotario, Dutch: Lotharius) (795 29 September 855) was the Emperor of the Romans (817855), co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria (815817), Italy (818855) and Middle Francia (840855). The territory of Lorraine (Lothringen in German) is named after him. Lothair II (835 August 8, 869) was the king of Lotharingia from 855 until his death. He was the second son of Emperor Lothair I and Ermengarde of Tours. He was married to Teutberga (died 875), daughter of Boso the Elder. Charles the Bald (13 June 823 6 October 877) was the King of West Francia (84377), King of Italy (87577) and Holy Roman Emperor (87577, as Charles II). After a series of civil wars that began during the reign of his father, Louis the Pious, Charles succeeded by the Treaty of Verdun (843) in acquiring the western third of the Carolingian Empire. He was a grandson of Charlemagne and the youngest son of Louis the Pious by his second wife, Judith. Charles the Fat (13 June 839 13 January 888), also known as Charles III, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne and was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire. Guy of Spoleto (died 12 December 894), sometimes known by the Italian version of his name, Guido, or by the German version, Wido, was the Margrave of Camerino from 880 (as Guy I or Guy II) and then Duke of Spoleto and Camerino (as Guy III) from 883. He was crowned King of Italy in 889 and Holy Roman Emperor in 891. He died in 894 while fighting for control of the Italian peninsula. Guy was married to Ageltrude, daughter of Adelchis of Benevento, who bore him a son named Lambert. Lambert II (c. 880 15 October 898) was the King of Italy from 891, Holy Roman Emperor, co-ruling with his father from 892, and Duke of Spoleto and Camerino from his father's death in 894. He was the son of Guy III of Spoleto and Ageltrude, born in San Rufino. He was the last ruler to issue a capitulary in the Carolingian tradition. Arnulf of Carinthia (850 8 December 899) was the Carolingian King of East Francia from 887, the disputed King of Italy from 894 and the disputed Holy Roman Emperor from 22 February 896 until his death at Regensburg, Bavaria. Louis the Blind (c. 880 28 June 928) was the king of Provence from 11 January 887, King of Italy from 12 October 900, and briefly Holy Roman Emperor, as Louis III, between 901 and 905. He was the son of Boso, the usurper king of Provence, and Ermengard, a daughter of the Emperor Louis II. Through his father, he was a Bosonid, but through his mother, a Carolingian. He was blinded after a failed invasion of Italy in 905. Berengar I (c. 845 7 April 924) was the King of Italy from 887, and Holy Roman Emperor after 915, until his death. He is usually known as Berengar of Friuli, since he ruled the March of Friuli from 874 until at least 890, but he had lost control of the region by 896. Henry the Fowler (German: Heinrich der Finkler or Heinrich der Vogler; Latin: Henricius Auceps) (876 2 July 936) was the Duke of Saxony from 912 and the King of Germany from 919 until his death. First of the Ottonian Dynasty of German kings and emperors, he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet \\"the Fowler\\" because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king. Otto I (23 November 912 7 May 973), also known as Otto the Great, was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, reigning as German king from 936 until his death in 973. The oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, Otto was \\"the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy\\". Otto II (955 December 7, 983), called the Red (Rufus), was Holy Roman Emperor from 973 until his death in 983. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto II was the youngest and sole surviving son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy. Otto II was made joint-ruler of Germany in 961, at an early age, and his father named him co-Emperor in 967 to secure his succession to the throne. His father also arranged for Otto II to marry the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, who would be his wife until his death. When his father died after a 37-year reign, the eighteen-year old Otto II became absolute ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in a peaceful succession. Otto II spent his reign continuing his father's policy of strengthening Imperial rule in Germany and extending the borders of the Empire deeper into southern Italy. Otto II also continued the work of Otto I in subordinating the Catholic Church to Imperial control. Otto III (Jun/Jul 980 - January 23, 1002) was Holy Roman Emperor from 996 until his early death in 1002. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto III was the only son of the Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophanu. Henry II (6 May 972 13 July 1024), also known as Saint Henry, Obl. S. B. (\\"Oblate of Saint Benedict\\"), was Holy Roman Emperor (\\"Romanorum Imperator\\") from 1014 until his death in 1024 and the last member of the Ottonian dynasty of Emperors as he had no children. The Duke of Bavaria from 995, Henry became King of Germany (\\"Rex Romanorum\\") following the sudden death of his second cousin, Emperor Otto III in 1002, was crowned King of Italy (\\"Rex Italiae\\") in 1004, and was crowned by the Pope as Emperor in 1014. Conrad II (c. 990 4 June 1039), also known as Conrad the Elder, was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1027 until his death in 1039. The founder of the Salian dynasty of emperors, Conrad also served as King of Germany from 1024, King of Italy from 1026, and King of Burgundy from 1033.
During his reign in Aquitaine, Louis was charged with the defence of the Empire's southwestern frontier. He conquered Barcelona from the Muslims in 801 and asserted Frankish authority over Pamplona and the Basques south of the Pyrenees in 812. As emperor he included his adult sons, Lothair, Pepin, and Louis, in the government and sought to establish a suitable division of the realm among them. The first decade of his reign was characterised by several tragedies and embarrassments, notably the brutal treatment of his nephew Bernard of Italy, for which Louis atoned in a public act of self-debasement. In the 830s his empire was torn by civil war between his sons, only exacerbated by Louis's attempts to include his son Charles by his second wife in the succession plans. Though his reign ended on a high note, with order largely restored to his empire, it was followed by three years of civil war. Louis is generally compared unfavourably to his father, though the problems he faced were of a distinctly different sort. Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne's former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876 following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire. Otto inherited the Duchy of Saxony and the kingship of the Germans upon his father's death in 936. He continued his father's work to unify all German tribes into a single kingdom and greatly expanded the king's powers at the expense of the aristocracy. Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, Otto installed members of his family to the kingdom's most important duchies. This reduced the various dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, into royal subjects under his authority. Otto transformed the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to strengthen the royal office and subjected its clergy to his personal control. After putting down a brief civil war among the rebellious duchies, Otto defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, thus ending the Hungarian invasions of Western Europe. The victory against the pagan Magyars earned Otto the reputation as a savior of Christendom and secured his hold over the kingdom. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy and extended his realm's borders to the north, east, and south. In control of much of central and southern Europe, the patronage of Otto and his immediate successors caused a limited cultural renaissance of the arts and architecture. Following the example of Charlemagne's coronation as \\"Emperor of the Romans\\" in 800, Otto was crowned Emperor in 962 by Pope John XII in Rome. Early in his reign, Otto II defeated a major revolt against his rule from other members of the Ottonian dynasty who claimed the throne for themselves. His victory allowed him to exclude the Bavarian line of Ottonians from the line of Imperial succession. This strengthened his authority as Emperor and secured the succession of his own son to the Imperial throne. Otto III was crowned as King of Germany in 983 at the age of three, shortly after his father's death in southern Italy while campaigning against the Byzantine Empire and the Emirate of Sicily. Though the nominal ruler of Germany, Otto III's minor status ensured his various regents held power over the Empire. His cousin Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, initially claimed regency over the young king and attempted to seize the throne for himself in 984. When his rebellion failed to gain the support of Germany's aristocracy, Henry II was forced to abandon his claims to the throne and to allow Otto III's mother Theophanu to serve as regent until her death in 991. Otto III was then still a child, so his grandmother, the Dowager Empress Adelaide of Italy, served as regent until 994. In 996, Otto III marched to Italy to claim the titles King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor, which had been left unclaimed since the death of Otto II in 983. Otto III also sought to reestablish Imperial control over the city of Rome, which had revolted under the leadership of Crescentius II, and through it the papacy. Crowned as Emperor, Otto III put down the Roman rebellion and installed his cousin as Pope Gregory V, the first Pope of German descent. After the Emperor had pardoned him and left the city, Crescentius II again rebelled, deposing Gregory V and installing John XVI as Pope. Otto III returned to the city in 998, reinstalled Gregory V, and executed both Crescentius II and John XVI. When Gregory V died in 999, Otto III installed Sylvester II as the new Pope. Otto III's actions throughout his life further strengthened imperial control over the Catholic Church. From the beginning of his reign, Otto III faced opposition from the Slavs along the eastern frontier. Following the death of his father in 983, the Slavs rebelled against imperial control, forcing the Empire to abandon its territories east of the Elbe river. Otto III would fight to regain the Empire's lost territories throughout his reign with only limited success. While in the east, Otto III strengthened the Empire's relations with Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary. Through his affairs in Eastern Europe in 1000, he was able to extend the influence of Christianity by supporting mission work in Poland and through the crowning of Stephen I as the first Christian king of Hungary. Unlike his predecessor, who had focused upon imperial attention in Italy, Henry spent most of his reign concerned with imperial territory north of the Alps. His main focus was on a series of wars against the Polish Duke Boles?aw I, who had already conquered a number of countries surrounding him. Henry did, however, lead three expeditions into Italy to ensure imperial dominion over the peninsula: twice to suppress secessionist revolts and once to challenge the Byzantine Empire for dominance over southern Italy. On 14 February 1014, Pope Benedict VIII crowned Henry as Holy Roman Emperor (\\"Romanorum Imperator\\") in Rome.
Lothair was the eldest son of the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious and his wife Ermengarde of Hesbaye, daughter of Ingerman the duke of Hesbaye. On several occasions, Lothair led his full-brothers Pippin I of Aquitaine and Louis the German in revolt against their father to protest against attempts to make their half-brother Charles the Bald a co-heir to the Frankish domains. Upon the father's death, Charles and Louis joined forces against Lothair in a three-year civil war (840843). The struggles between the brothers led directly to the breakup of the Frankish Empire assembled by their grandfather Charlemagne, and laid the foundation for the development of modern France and Germany.
Usually considered lethargic and inept he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the famous siege of Paris in 886. Nevertheless, contemporary opinion of him was not nearly so negative as modern historiographical opinion.
Otto's later years were marked by conflicts with the Papacy and struggles to stabilize his rule over Italy. Reigning from Rome, Otto sought to improve relations with the Byzantine Empire, which opposed his claim to emperorship and his realm's further expansion to the south. To resolve this conflict, the Byzantine princess Theophanu married his son, Otto II, in April 972. Otto finally returned to Germany in August 972 and died of natural causes in 973. Otto II succeeded him as Emperor.
Returning to Rome in 1001, Otto III faced a rebellion by the Roman aristocracy, which forced him to flee the city. While marching to reclaim the city in 1002, however, Otto III suffered a sudden fever and died in a castle near Civita Castellana at the age of 21. With no clear heir to succeed him, his early death threw the Empire into political crisis.
The son of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria and his wife Gisela of Burgundy, Emperor Henry II was a great-grandson of German King Henry I and a member of the Bavarian branch of the Ottonian dynasty. Since his father had rebelled against two previous emperors, the younger Henry was often in exile. This led him to turn to the Church at an early age, first finding refuge with the Bishop of Freising and later being educated at the cathedral school of Hildesheim. He succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria in 995 as \\"Henry IV\\". As Duke, he attempted to join his second-cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, in suppressing a revolt against imperial rule in Italy in 1002. Before Henry II could arrive, however, Otto III died of fever, leaving no heir. After defeating several other claimants to the throne, Henry II was crowned as King of Germany (\\"Rex Romanorum\\") on July 9, 1002 and as King of Italy (\\"Rex Italiae\\") on 15 May 1004. Henry II in 1004 aided Jaromír, Duke of Bohemia against the Poles, definitively incorporating the Duchy of Bohemia into the Holy Roman Empire.
Henry II married Cunigunde of Luxembourg, who later became his queen and empress. As the union produced no children, after Henry's death the German nobles elected Conrad II, a great-great-grandson of Emperor Otto I, to succeed him. Conrad was the first of the Salian dynasty of Emperors.
The final Holy Roman Emperor-elect, Francis II, abdicated in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars that saw the Empire's final dissolution. The term sacrum (i.e., "holy") in connection with the German Roman Empire was first used in 1157 under Frederick I Barbarossa .
For most of its existence, the Holy Roman Empire was ostensibly an elected monarchy. There was a system of highly ranked prince-electors from throughout the Holy Roman Empire’s territory, drawn from the high nobility and the clergy. This electoral college would vote on who would be “King of the Romans” or “Emperor of the Romans.”
His wife effectively ruled Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. They were the founders of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty. The oldest surviving son of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine , Francis left the duchy for the deposed Polish king Stanisław Leszczyński in exchange for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as one of the terms ending the War of the Polish ...
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