Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Emperor

Infobox Former Emperorship
realm = the Holy Roman Empire
insignia = Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg
insigniasize = 120px
insigniacaption = Flag of the Holy Roman Empire

caption = Otto I the first Emperor
first_emperor = Otto I
last_emperor = Francis II
style = "Holy Roman Emperor"
residence =
appointer = Electors' Council
began = 962
ended = August 6, 1806
The Holy Roman Emperor ( _de. Römischer Kaiser or Römisch-Deutscher Kaiser, _la. Romanorum Imperator) was the elected monarch ruling over the many varying numbers of states making up the Holy Roman Empire— a Central European feudal state in existence from the Early Middle Ages (962) into the Early Modern period until its dissolution during the Napoleonic Wars (1806). The Empire, whose Emperor was crowned as King of the Romans was based upon the Germanic territories of the Emperor Charlemagne, and held by tradition to be his successors ruling its successor state. The last Emperor, Francis II of Austria and technically the Emperor-elect (candidates were initially elected by the Prince-Electors as King of the Germans)—as most were from the time of the Investiture Controversy in the 1070s–1080s, though styled as Emperor— dissolved the empire so that Napoleon could not become (Holy Roman) emperor by controlling client states whose heads of state were the empire's Prince-Electors.

By convention the first Emperor was taken to be the Saxon king Otto the Great, crowned as Emperor by Pope John XII on February 2 962, although the Empire itself (as well as the style "Holy Roman Emperor") did not come into use until some time later. Some have asserted that the first Emperor was Charlemagne (crowned in 800), but that claim was only made afterwards. Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the Popes up until the 16th century, and the last Emperor, Francis II, abdicated in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars that saw the Empire's final dissolution.

The "Roman" of the Emperor's title was a reflection of the "translatio imperii" ("transfer of rule") principle that regarded the (Germanic) Holy Roman Emperors as the inheritors of the title of Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, a title left unclaimed in the West after the death of Julius Nepos in 480.

Establishment of the Holy Roman Empire

From the time of Otto the Great onward, much of the former Carolingian kingdom of Eastern Francia became the Holy Roman Empire. The various German princes elected one of their peers as "King of the Germans", after which he would be crowned as emperor by the Pope. The last emperor to be crowned by the pope was Charles V; all emperors after him were technically "emperors-elect", but were universally referred to as "Emperor".

Conflict with the Papacy

The title of "Emperor" ("Imperator") carried with it an important role as protector of the Catholic Church, and women were ineligible to be crowned. As the papacy's power grew during the Middle Ages, Popes and emperors came into conflict over church administration. The most well-known and bitter conflict was that known as the Investiture Controversy fought during the 11th century between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII.


Successions to the kingship were controlled by a variety of complicated factors. Elections meant the kingship of Germany was only partially hereditary, unlike the kingship of France, although sovereignty frequently remained in a dynasty until there were no more male successors. Some scholars suggest that the task of the elections was really to solve conflicts only when the dynastic rule was unclear, yet, the process meant that the prime candidate had to make concessions, by which the voters were kept on side, which were known as "Wahlkapitulationen" (election capitulations). The Electoral council was set at seven princes (three archbishops and four secular princes) by the Golden Bull of 1356. It remained so until 1648, when the settlement of the Thirty Years' War required the addition of a new elector to maintain the precarious balance between Protestant and Catholic factions in the Empire. Another elector was added in 1690, and the whole college was reshuffled in 1803, a mere three years before the dissolution of the Empire.

After 1438, the Kings remained in the house of Habsburg and Habsburg-Lorraine, with the brief exception of one Wittelsbach, Charles VII. In 1508, and permanently after 1556, the King no longer traveled to Rome for the crowning by the Pope.

List of Emperors

This list includes all emperors, whether or not they styled themselves "Holy Roman Emperor", from Otto the Great on. There are some gaps in the tally. For example, Henry the Fowler was King of Germany but not Emperor; Emperor Henry II was numbered as his successor as German King. The Guideschi follow the numeration for the Duchy of Spoleto.

Ottonian (Saxon) Dynasty

*Otto I the Great, 962–973
*Otto II, 973–983
*Otto III, 996–1002
*Henry II the Saint, 1014–1024 (enumerated as successor of Henry I who was German King 919–936 but not Emperor.)

alian (Frankish) Dynasty

*Conrad II, 1027–1039 (enumerated as successor of Conrad I who was German King 911–918 but not Emperor)
*Henry III, 1046–1056
*Henry IV, 1084–1105
*Henry V, 1111–1125 [cite book
title=The Origins of Modern Germany
publisher=W. W. Norton & Company

upplinburger dynasty

*Lothair III, 1133–1137 (enumerated as successor of Lothair II, who was King of Lotharingia 855–869 but not Emperor)

taufen (or Hohenstaufen) dynasty

*Frederick I Barbarossa, 1155–1190
*Henry VI, 1191–1197

House of Welf

*Otto IV of Brunswick, 1209–1215 (d.1218)

taufen (or Hohenstaufen) dynasty

*Frederick II, 1211–1250

House of Luxembourg

*Henry VII, 1312–1313

House of Wittelsbach

*Louis IV the Bavarian, 1328–1347

House of Luxembourg

*Charles IV, 1355–1378
*Sigismund, 1433–1437

House of Habsburg

*Frederick III, 1452–1493
*Maximilian I, 1508–1519 (emperor-elect)
*Charles V, 1530–1556 (emperor-elect 1519–1530)
*Ferdinand I, 1558-1564 (emperor-elect)
*Maximilian II, 1564–1576 (emperor-elect)
*Rudolf II, 1576–1612 (emperor-elect; enumerated as successor of Rudolf I who was German King 1273–1291 but not Emperor)
*Matthias, 1612–1619 (emperor-elect)
*Ferdinand II, 1619–1637 (emperor-elect)
*Ferdinand III, 1637–1657 (emperor-elect)
*Leopold I, 1658–1705 (emperor-elect)
*Joseph I, 1705–1711 (emperor-elect)
*Charles VI, 1711–1740 (emperor-elect)

House of Wittelsbach

*Charles VII Albert, 1742–1745 (emperor-elect)

House of Habsburg-Lorraine

*Francis I, 1745–1765 (emperor-elect)
*Joseph II, 1765–1790 (emperor-elect)
*Leopold II, 1790–1792 (emperor-elect)
*Francis II, 1792–1806 (emperor-elect)


The Emperor was crowned in a special ceremony, traditionally performed by the Pope in Rome, using the Imperial Regalia. Without that coronation, no king, despite exercising all powers, could call himself Emperor. In 1508, Pope Julius II allowed Maximilian I to use the title of Emperor without coronation in Rome, though the title was qualified as "Electus Romanorum Imperator" ("elected Emperor of the Romans"). Maximilian's successors adopted the same titulature, usually when they became the sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Maximilian's first successor Charles V was the last to be crowned Emperor.

ee also

*Holy Roman Emperors family tree
* King of the Romans
* List of German monarchs
* Holy Roman Empress
* Emperor for other uses of the title "Emperor" in western Europe.


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