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European Kingdoms

Central Europe


The Holy Roman Empire / East Francia
AD 800 - 1806

What became the first German empire was created by the Western Frankish domination of most of Europe under Charlemagne. Division followed in the ninth century, as the empire split into France, Germany and Italy, but the eastern region was known as East Francia even as late as 1493, when Maximilian I made the formal claim that it was now Germania.

Frankish Roman Emperors
AD 800 - 888

The early eighth century saw the rapid diminution of Merovingian power and influence. Instead it was their deputies, the Carolingian mayors of the palace, who exercised real authority throughout the Frankish kingdom. A palace usurpation took place, with the full backing of the Pope, in which the mayor, Pepin III was able to send the last Merovingian king to a monastery and become the first Carolingian king of the Franks in his place. Not a notable general, Pepin nevertheless remained undefeated in battle, but it was his son, Charles, later known as Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, who really reversed Frankish fortunes and created a vast European empire. In 800 he was crowned Roman emperor, apparently against his wishes.

(Additional information from The Annals of Fulda (Manchester Medieval Series, Ninth-Century Histories, Volume II) Timothy Reuter (Trans) 1992.)

800 - 814

Charles the Great / Charlemagne

King of the Western Franks (Italy, Germany, & Burgundy).

806 - 814

By the Act of Thionville in 806, Charlemagne announces the division of his vast empire between his three sons. By 814, Pepin in Italy has already predeceased his father (810), as has Charles 'the Younger', dux Cenomannici of the Breton March and also king of West Francia under Charlemagne following the latter's assumption of the role of emperor (suffering a stroke in 811), so Louis 'the Pious' is crowned Frankish emperor at Aix-la-Chapelle.

814 - 840

Louis I the Pious

King of the Western Franks. The empire splits up.


Despite an expedition by Charles 'the Younger', the Moorish threat to Corsica remains very serious. Now the island's defence is handed over to Boniface II of Tuscany, and he carries out a successful expedition against the Aghlabids in Africa. He also builds a fortress in the southern part of the island which is named Bonifacio, and for the next century, Corsica remains part of the march of Tuscany.


Gebhard of Logenahe, count of Nieder-Lahngau in Hesse, becomes allied to Poppo, count in the Grapfeld of north-eastern Franconia and Archbishop Otgar of Mainz against the rebellious Louis the German. The intention is to support Louis' father, Emperor Louis 'the Pious', a cause which is largely successful.

840 - 843

Louis wills the Frankish empire to his sons, but tries to ensure that the eldest gains the biggest share, in order to avoid the fragmentation of territory which so weakened the Merovingians. Lothar receives Middle Francia (the Rhine corridor including the kingdom of Burgundy, and Italy); Charles 'the Bald' receives Western Francia (France and the duchy of Burgundy); and Louis the German receives Eastern Francia (Germany, including Alemannia, Bavaria, Khorushka, and Saxony). However, Lothar initially claims overlordship over all three regions and Louis and Charles have to go to war to convince him to relent. The Treaty of Verdun, signed in 843, recognises the division of the empire.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
King Louis 'the Pious' of the Frankish empire attempted to leave the empire intact for his eldest son, Lothar, but the others rebelled at the idea. The treaty of Verdun in AD 843 confirmed the official division of the empire between Charlemagne's three surviving grandsons (click or tap on map to view full sized)

840 - 855

Lothar I

King of the Middle Franks & Burgundy.


Upon Lothar's death at Prüm Abbey in Lotharingia, Middle Francia is divided between his three sons. Louis II receives Italy and the imperial crown; Charles receives southern Burgundy, which includes Lyon, Provence, and Vienne, and which comes to be known as the kingdom of Provence; and Lothar II the remainder - the Rhine corridor from Burgundy up to the North Sea. This area has no traditional name of its own, so it is named after its ruler - Lotharingia (which later becomes Lorraine).

855 - 875

Louis II

King of Italy.

855 - 875

Louis' title of emperor has little meaning since he rules only in Italy, and even there his reign is constantly challenged by independent Lombard dukes and by the Arab Aghlabid invaders of southern Italy. He supports his brother Lothar II, king of Lotharingia, in a dispute with the Pope, and briefly (864) occupies Rome. He subsequently submits to the pope. He also unsuccessfully tries to claim Lotharingia after Lothar's death.


Charles 'the Bald' of the Western Franks is crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope John VIII and thereafter nominally rules Italy, and the Frankish empire as Charles II. Boso is his viceroy in Italy and Provence (and later becomes independent king of the latter).


The death of Louis the German, king of East Francia, results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something that he had already foreseen, and portions of territory had been appointed to each of them in 865. Now in a peaceful succession, Carloman inherits Bavaria and the Ostmark, Louis the Younger gains Franconia (which includes the Hessi lands), Saxony, and Thuringia, while Charles 'the Fat' succeeds to Rhaetia and Alemannia (Swabia). As the oldest son, Carloman also retains de facto dominance over the Eastern Franks as a whole.

875 - 877

Charles II the Bald

King of the Western Franks & Italy.

877 - 879

Charles 'the Bald' dies while fending off Carloman (son of Louis the German, king of the Eastern Franks, who himself had been beaten to the Italian throne by Charles 'the Bald'). Carloman gains Italy, but suffers a debilitating stroke just two years later. Unable to rule in anything but name and having no legitimate offspring, he divides his holdings between his brothers. Louis the Younger gains Bavaria while Charles 'the Fat' gains Italy. Carloman's illegitimate son, Arnulf, becomes duke of Carinthia.


Lotharingia, which has been divided between the Eastern Franks and the Western Franks since 870, is incorporated into the Frankish empire thanks to the Treaty of Ribemont.


Charles 'the Fat' succeeds as titular head of the Frankish empire, holding the position as Emperor Charles III. He is crowned by Pope John VIII. In the following year, 882, Louis the Younger dies and Charles, as the last remaining of the three brothers, inherits his territories of Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, thereby reuniting East Francia following its division in 876.

Charles the Fat
Charles 'the Fat' (not necessarily living up to his descriptive sobriquet) welcomes messengers into his tent as titular head of the Frankish empire, as depicted in the fourteenth century Grandes Chroniques de France

881 - 888

Charles III 'the Fat'

King of the Eastern Franks & Italy.


Louis the Younger dies and Charles, as the last remaining of the three brothers, inherits his territories of Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, thereby reuniting East Francia following its division in 876. It must be Charles who appoints Henry of Babenberg, his right-hand man, as the acting count of Franconia.


The rule of the nascent Holy Roman empire falls to non-Frankish emperors when the weak Charles is deposed by the Germans at the Diet of Tribur. The power of the Franks in Germany is broken forever.

Germanic Roman Emperors
AD 888 - 962

Emperor Charles III was deposed by the Germans at the Diet of Tribur (November 887), and the Frankish empire was officially divided between East and West. The western section became modern France, while the eastern section became modern Germany. Five stem duchies also emerged at the same time in Germany, all of which were powerful divisions of the old territory of East Francia, and these were Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, Swabia, and Thuringia.

Berengar of Friuli claimed the throne of Italy, but Guy of Spoleto was a major rival. Guy failed in his attempt to gain overlordship of the Western Franks, and now wanted the Eastern Frankish throne. They engaged in battle and Berengar emerged as marginal victor. Arnulf of Germany immediately forced Berengar to accept vassal status under him, but it seems that Berengar held the Germanic imperial title. This dual claim to Germany and Italy set a precedent that became the norm, becoming entrenched over the next century. It frequently gave the Germanic emperors domination over northern Italy which was the cause of much later strife.

888 - 889

Berengar I of Friuli

King of Italy. Not crowned emperor.


Berengar of Friuli defeats his chief rival in Italy, Guy of Spoleto, as the two vie for control of the eastern half of the former Frankish empire. Arnulf of Carinthia immediately forces Berengar to accept vassal status under him, but it seems that Berengar holds the Germanic imperial title.


With the truce of 888 having expired, Guy of Spoleto attacks Berengar at the Battle of the Trebbia. This time Guy is successful and he assumes the Italian throne, while Berengar is reduced to his own north-eastern Italian holdings in the march territory of Friuli. Despite many attempts, Berengar is unable to retake Italy.

889 - 894

Guy / Guido / Wido

Crowned by Pope Stephen VI. Duke of Spoleto. King of Italy.


The Norse Viking, Ottar, reports his findings to King Alfred of Wessex, who has his account included in the additions to the Universal History of Orosius, which the king republishes. The book is a shared work between Orosius and King Alfred. The Kven Sea is mentioned as the northern border of Germany. The location of Kvenland is also explained in relation to the land of the Norwegians and that of the Swedes.

894 - 896


Emperor. Duke of Spoleto. King of Italy.


Berengar of Fiuli agrees on the formal division of Italy with Lambert. Berengar controls the eastern section, covering the Adda to the Po, while Bergamo is shared. Lambert agrees to marry Berengar's daughter to seal the deal. The peace quickly falls apart when Berengar, perhaps retaining illusions of imperial greatness, is defeated by Lambert while advancing on Pavia. Fortunately for him, Lambert dies just days later. Berengar immediately secures Pavia and is established as sole ruler of Italy (although he is still a vassal of Arnulf, king of Germany, duke of Carinthia, and now Germanic Roman emperor himself).

896 - 899

Arnulf of Carinthia

Emperor. King of Germany. His illegitimate son gained Lotharingia.

899 - 901

As part of their initial invasion of Europe, the Magyars invade Italy, possibly at the prompting of Arnulf, king of Germany (whose wife is Ota, daughter of Berengar of Neustria, son of Gebhard of Logenahe in the lands of the Hessians).

Berengar refuses a request by them for an armistice but his army is surprised and routed at the Battle of the Brenta on 24 September 899. The nobility immediately fear that he is unable to defend Italy and they call in Louis of Provence, yet another Carolingian descendant. Louis defeats Berengar in 900 and the following year he is crowned Germanic Roman Emperor by Pope Benedict IV.

901 - 905

Louis III of Lower Burgundy & Provence

King of Burgundy (887-928) & Provence (c.891). King of Italy (899).


The Frankish empire disintegrates and the German kingdom of East Francia (the nascent Holy Roman empire) is formally secured by elected native German rulers. Conrad I is the first to be elected, and a large-scale political reorganisation of south-western Germany creates the stem duchy of Swabia.


In September 915, Count Palatine Erchanger is confirmed as the first duke of Swabia by the nobility. After being defeated at the Battle of Wahlwies, the proclamation is not supported by King Conrad I of Germany, despite him being Erchanger's brother-in-law. Erchanger's rise and fall is swift, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Location of the battle of Wahlwies
The Battle of Wahlwies took place in the Hegau, an extinct volcanic region in southern Swabia (and modern Germany), with Wahlwies itself being a small satellite village of the town of Stockach, now in the modern district of Konstanz, southern Baden-Württemberg (Photo by External Link: sued7.de)

915 - 922

Berengar I of Friuli

King of Italy (905-922). Restored as emperor.

921 - 923

The death of Berengar due to the machinations of Italian princes frustrates hopes for a united Italy, especially those of Pope John X who had granted him the imperial crown. Those Italian princes had been unhappy with Berengar, so they had invited Rudolph to take the throne, which he promptly did, also gaining the title of Germanic Roman Emperor, only to find a rival in Hugh of Arles.

922 - 933

Rudolf (II) of Upper Burgundy

King of Burgundy (912), Italy (922) & Lower Burgundy (933).

933 - 947

Hugh of Arles

King of Burgundy (928), Italy (926) & Lower Burgundy (933).


German expansion to the east begins in earnest when territory on the western side of the Oder is incorporated into two border zones or 'marches'. The northernmost of the two is the march of the Saxon family of the Billungs while the North March neighbours it to the south, with the march of Lusatia (Lausitz) to its own south. The main target of conquest both now and for several decades previously is the Polabian Slavs of the Elbe.


A massive invasion is conducted by the Magyars as they sweep around in a giant circle through central and Southern Europe. They begin from their base in Pannonia to enter into and ravage Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony, Franconia, and Thuringia within the East Frankish kingdom.

From the Aachen area, the Magyars advance deep into the West Frankish kingdom, the kingdom of Provence, and then the territory of the Middle (Italian) Franks. They attack Tuscany and the Papal States as far south as Naples, before returning to their adopted Hungarian homeland.


An uprising of the Italian nobility forces Hugh into exile, and Berengar of Ivrea now holds any true power and patronage. Hugh's successor is Lothar II, his own son, but he exercises no authority in Italy, quickly dying at Turin. It is possible that he is poisoned by Berengar of Ivrea who subsequently formalises his control of Italy (and the imperial title) by claiming the throne.

947 - 950

Lothar II / Lothair of Arles

King of Italy.

950 - 961

Berengar II of Ivrea

King of Italy.

950 - 961

Adalbert II

Son and joint ruler.

954 - 955


The Magyars launch yet another deep raid in 954, into the East Frankish kingdom following their route of 937. At Worms in Franconia they veer northwards through Lorraine before being stopped just before reaching the West Frankish kingdom.

In the following year they invade again, now through Bavaria. This time they are roundly defeated at Lechfield by the Germans, under the Saxon Otto I. They also lose control of the march of Austria, which has the effect of ending their westward raids.


Berengar is defeated by the Saxon king of Germany, Otto I, which overthrows the Germanic dynastic of Roman emperors. Italy is officially incorporated into the Holy Roman empire. With the accession of Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed, and Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders.

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern those territories which are shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

Saxon Emperors / Kings of Germany
AD 962 - 1024

With the accession of the Saxon king of Germany, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire was confirmed, subsuming previous names including East Francia and the 'Kingdom of Germany'. Formerly Carolingian Italy was also under their mastery as was Corsica, restored to full imperial control. This was the true beginning of a Holy Roman empire centred on Germany, as opposed to the Frankish-centric empire from which it sprang.

MapSignificant central cohesion was achieved in Germany by Otto and his successors in the tenth century. At least partially, this was due to Otto being quite vigorous when it came to establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gained the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc in Lorraine, which became known as Luxemburg, a useful buffer against the Western Franks. Arnulf I the Elder was restored in Flanders, another Frankish buffer region. To the east, the March of Austria was formed (or confirmed) from territory which had already bee captured from an early Hungary (around 960). Saxony still maintained a considerable level of autonomy, with Otto appointing Hermann Billung as duke. He was charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that was already heading that way, the duchy of Poland was formed around the same time. Almost instantly, Christianity was accepted there, making it impossible for the Germans to think of launching any military efforts to achieve this.

(Additional information from Sword, Miter, and Cloister: Nobility and the Church in Burgundy, 980-1198, Constance Brittain Bouchard (New York 1987), and from External Link: Saints website.)

962 - 974

Otto I

King & duke of the Saxons.


Following on from a previous appeal from Pope Agapetus II to free the papacy from outside control, Otto has Pope John accused in an ecclesiastical court. The pope is deposed and replaced, but manages to mutilate Otto's representatives in the city and has himself reinstated, albeit temporarily.

Otto I of Saxony
Otto I accepts the surrender of Berengar of Ivrea in 961 to become undisputed German emperor, shown in this early thirteenth century text called the Manuscriptum Medioalense


Otto I confirms all of Venice's privileges.

973 - 983

Otto II


Henry the Quarrelsome, duke of Bavaria, rebels against Emperor Otto II. As a result, Henry is deprived of his Bavarian title and possessions. Otto I, duke of Swabia is created duke of Bavaria in his place, easily done as Swabia and Bavaria neighbour each other. Carinthia is formally separated from Bavaria by Otto II and made a duchy in its own right - one of many large-scale reorganisations of German lands which also involves the creation of the stem duchies.


The foreign policy of Lothair V of France drives Otto II to invade Lorraine. The king manages to repulse him, aided by Hugh Capet, count of Paris. In return, Lothair later tries to destabilise the Holy Roman empire when Otto's infant son succeeds to the throne.


FeatureNotger, a former Benedictine monk of Swabian descent, is appointed by Otto as the first prince-bishop of Liège (see feature link), a tactic to keep out the Carolingian king of the Western Franks who claims the 'Land of Liège' and surrounding regions for his own state.

He is supporting the rebellious local nobility in the diocese which is not prepared to accept the authority of the German kings without some sort of resistance.


The Kalbids, raiding into south-western Italy from their emirate on Sicily, are confronted by an army led by Otto II. The Kalbid forces prove their power at this time by defeating their opponents in battle near Crotone in Calabria. Otto I, duke of Swabia, is amongst the defeated nobles, and he also escapes a subsequent Arab ambush. The duke is selected to take the news of the defeat back to Germany but dies en route.


The Slavic revolt of the marches sees the Polabian Slavs, plus the Lutici and Obotrite tribes, on the east bank of the Elbe rise up against German overlordship. Faced with a drive to convert them to Christianity as a way of integrating them into the German empire, they take the rare act of organising under Lutici leadership and destroy several churches and settlements. The Saxons are only just able to defend the line of the Elbe, but their 'March of the Billungs' and the North March are lost.


Otto II declares peace with Venice and confirms its commercial privileges.

983 - 1002

Otto III

Established archbishopric in Poland.

983 - 991


Mother, empress and regent. Died 991.


On 7 to 15 March the Congress Of Gniezno (the capital of Poland) is held. Otto III establishes an archbishopric in Gniezno with three new bishoprics in Krakow (Cracow) for Little Poland, Wroclaw for Silesia, and Kolobrzeg for Pomerania, plus the reaffirmation of the old bishopric in Poznan.

1001 - 1002

Having taken direct control of Rome in 998, Otto's dream of recreating the Roman empire united together with the Papacy falls apart when the people of Rome revolt against him and force him from the city. He dies on the way back to the city with an army.

1002 - 1024

Henry II the Saint

Duke Henry IV of Bavaria.


Swabia loses Alsace, which is separated from it by Henry II following Duke Herman's opposition to his accession as king and emperor. Herman had seen himself as a suitable candidate for the title and the two houses are now implacable enemies.

Also in 1002, it has become apparent that a ruling duke of Burgundy has failed to produce an heir. However, Duke Otto-Henry does have a stepson by his first wife, Gerberga of Mâcon, widow of Adalbert II of Italy. It is this man, Otto William, who succeeds him, but the supporters of Robert II (the Pious) of Capetian France see an opportunity to oppose him. A two year war of succession results, with the duchy being permanently divided in 1004.

The Free County of Burgundy largely incorporates territory from the kingdom of Burgundy on the east bank of the Saône, but a small portion of the duchy of Burgundy in the north - on the western bank of the Saône - is also incorporated into it, with ultimate control being vested in the kings of Germany and their successors (following the death of its current holder, Otto William, count of Mâcon and Nevers and the new duke of Burgundy). The remainder of the duchy is annexed to France by Robert the Pious.


The annals of the town of Quedlinburg in Germany report the arrival of Saint Brunon, known more normally as Bonifatius, on missionary work among the Prussians. His attempt ends in failure, and it is believed he is killed together with his eighteen companions somewhere in the vicinity of the Lithuanian border (the first mention of 'Lithuania' in written sources).


The Gisonen are a powerful regional family in Hesse that provide the county's titular heads. The names of the counts of Gudensberg ('Comes de Udenesberc' in Latin) are largely known, but their order of succession is relatively unclear. They now become advocates of the empire thanks to Henry II.

A general view of Gudensberg, with the Castle Hill prominent, and Fritzlar in the background from the Sciographia Cosmica, printed between 1637-1678


A peace treaty is signed in Budziszyn with Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II the Saint) - ratifying Poland's control over Lusatia and Meissen (as well as Galicia). In the same year, Germany and Hungary support an expedition against Kyiv, and Boleslaw defeats his son-in-law's enemy there, taking over 'Grody Czerwieńskie'. This is possibly the Cherven towns which include the town of Peremyshl of the Lyachs which had been conquered by St Vladimir the Great of the Rus in 981.


Cunigunde / Kinigundis

Widow of Henry II and daughter of Sigfried of Luxemburg. Regent.



Brother and co-regent.



Brother and co-regent.


With the death of Henry II, the empire is administered by his widow, Cunigunde. She has long been politically active at Henry's side and now, with the assistance of her brothers, Dietrich and Heinrich, she manages the regency period for about two months until the vacancy on the throne is filled by Conrad the Salian. Cunigunde hands over the imperial jewels to Conrad as a symbol of her legitimacy in office before retiring to Kaufungen Abbey, which she had previously founded in Hesse.

Franconian Emperors
AD 1024 - 1138

Following the end of the Ottonian line of Saxon emperors, Franconia became the territorial heartland of the succeeding emperors, many of whom had their power base here. As a result, this stem duchy failed to find its footing as a powerful state of its own in line with others such as Saxony (already powerful of course), and Swabia (which would provide much of the opposition to the Franconian emperors). It seems that Conrad the Salian, former duke of Carinthia as Conrad I, gained the duchy of Franconia which had seemingly been in the hands of the bishops of Würzburg since its division in 949, and then mounted his claim for the imperial title.

1024 - 1039

Conrad II the Salian

Conrad VI of Franconia. Inherited Frankish Burgundy (1032).


Conrad II the Salian (of Rhenish Franconia) is also duke of Franconia, and should not be confused with his cousin, Conrad II the Younger, future duke of Carinthia, although both are candidates for the imperial throne in this year. Conrad the Salian is married to Gisela, daughter of Duke Herman II of Swabia.

1027 - 1030

Ernest II of Swabia takes part in an unsuccessful rebellion against Conrad II (who is married to Gisela of Swabia, Ernest's mother in her second marriage). As a result, he is captured, but Gisela intercedes to prevent his execution and he is imprisoned instead. It is possible that Gisela governs the duchy during this period.


As agreed by Rudolf III of Burgundy in 1006, following his death and with no heir to succeed him, the kingdom (including its Swiss territories) is inherited by Conrad the Salian. Although the kingdom continues to operate with a fair degree of autonomy, from this point onwards, the emperors also count themselves as kings of Arles.


Count Siegfried I of Spanheim (1010-1065) serves with distinction under Conrad II against Adalberon of Eppenstein, duke of Carinthia. He also soon marries one Richgard, daughter of Count Engelbert of the Sieghardingers of Bavaria. Through this he inherits large tracts of territory in Carinthia and Tyrol and, in 1045, is appointed margrave of the Hungarian march. His son Engelbert becomes margrave of Istria in 1090 and a descendant becomes duke of Carinthia in 1122.


Duke Herman IV of Swabia, still a minor at the time of his accession, is campaigning in southern Italy alongside Conrad II. When the young duke is struck down by an epidemic, Conrad ignores the rights to the duchy that are held by Gebhard, son of Herman, and instead transfers it to his own son, Henry the Black. Gebhard retains the county of Sulzbach, whilst his younger brother remains Adalbert I, count of Windberg. Henry also gains Burgundy.

1039 - 1056

Henry III the Black / Henry of Franconia

Son. Henry of Bavaria (VI), Franconia (I) Swabia (I), & Burgundy.

1046 - 1047

William Iron Arm has not been recognised as count of Apulia by Henry III, probably due to the fact that the emperor has played no part in creating the title of duke or count of Apulia or in granting either title to their holders. Now, upon William's death, and in an effort to take control he removes the ducal title from Guaimar IV of Salerno and grants it to Drogo. He is created Dux et Magister Italiae comesque Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae - although he is still regarded as only a count - and becomes a direct vassal of the emperor.

In 1047, Henry visits southern Italy to demand homage from the dukes of the south. He returns Capua to Pandulf and takes Aversa and Melfi directly under his suzerainty. Finally, he deprives Guaimar of his title over Apulia and Calabria. The emperor also besieges Benevento, where Empress Agnes is being held while the gates are shut to him. At that point, Daufer, the future Pope Victor III, and brother of Pandulf III of Benevento, flees the city and seeks Guaimar's protection.


In opposing Henry III, Baldwin the Pious of Flanders seizes Thuin and Huy, important towns in the principality of Liège, destroying them almost entirely. These had been the emperor's main strongholds in the Sambre-Meuse region. The powerfully fortified centre of Huy defends both the passage of the Meuse and access to the Condroz region and the Ardennes, creating a strong barrier to the territorial ambitions of the counts of Namur and Leuven, as well as to military expeditions by the counts of Flanders and Hainaut.

1056 - 1106

Henry IV

Henry of Franconia.


The margraviate of Baden is formed in eastern central Swabia during the general political collapse in Germany which dominates this century. The rebellion of Rudolf of Rheinfelden becomes known as the Great Saxon Revolt, with him being succeeded in his opposition against Emperor Henry IV by Berthold I of Rheinfelden, Hermann of Luxemburg, and Conrad of Franconia.

1070 - 1073

Duke Otto II of Bavaria is intent on extending the duchy. This brings him into conflict with Henry IV who covets the same lands on his southern border. A dubious charge of plotting to assassinate the emperor is levelled against him by the Hessian Count Giso II and Adalbert of Schauenburg, probably with the emperor's full knowledge. Otto is deposed as duke of Bavaria, deprived of his Saxon lands, and pronounced an outlaw. At Pentecost in 1071 he submits to Henry who has him arrested until July 1072. Then he is released and his personal domains returned to him - but not his extensive fiefs. In 1073 his followers murder Count Giso and Adalbert.


The German chronicler Adam of Bremen discusses Kvens in Gesta. He calls Kvenland 'Terra Feminarum', or 'Women's Territory', paralleling remarks made by Tacitus in AD 98.

1076 - 1122

A long-running investiture controversy is triggered when the Pope challenges the authority of European monarchs to control appointments (investitures) for church officials in their own countries (such as deciding who to appoint as a bishop, for example). It is another step in restoring the power of the church and one that is not resolved until a compromise is reached under the terms of the Concordat of Worms in 1122, but the Holy Roman empire, the main papal opponent in the dispute, is permanently weakened by it.

1077 - 1080

[Rudolf of Rheinfelden]

Rival. Duke of Swabia (1057-1079). Died following battle.


Anti-pope Clement III is appointed by the exasperated Henry IV. The emperor has already been excommunicated twice by Pope Gregory VII for opposing his reforms which will involve a loss of established imperial power over the papacy. In the same year, the bid by Rudolf of Rheinfelden to oppose Henry IV and secure the throne fails when he is fatally wounded during the Battle on the Elster on 15 October 1080. Despite his forces beating those of Henry, his rebellion falls apart without his leadership.

1081 - 1093

[Hermann of Luxemburg]



To confuse the issue of who governs the duchy of (eastern) Franconia, the Salian counts in Rhenish Franconia to the west are sometimes referred to as dukes of Franconia (HRE Conrad II the Salian being a prime example), but seemingly only after gaining the title Holy Roman emperor and thereby the (eastern) duchy of Franconia. Now in 1093 their Rhenish Franconian territory is granted as a fief to the palatine count of Aachen, progenitor of the Electoral Palatinate.

1093 - 1101

[Conrad of Franconia]



Torbeno, giudice of Arborea on Sardinia, signs a charter which permits Nivata, Torbeno's mother, to dispose of her castles of Massone de Capras and Nuraghe Nigellu as she wishes. She donates them in perpetuity to the Holy Roman Emperor, whom she refers to as Torbeno's overlord, making this the first acknowledgement in writing that Arborea at least is subject to the Holy Roman empire, along with much of northern Italy at this time. It is entirely possible that the rest of Sardinia also acknowledges this position.

1106 - 1125

Henry V

m Matilda, 13 yr-old daughter of Henry I of England.


The establishment of the German duchy of Pomerania leads to more and more conquest of native lands on the southern Baltic coast and a gradual end to native rule.


Duke Lothar of Saxony effectively transforms himself into the head of a Saxon nation when he breaks Germanic imperial power following a long-simmering dispute between himself, Henry V, and several other notable German leaders. The Battle of Welfesholz, near Mansfeld, is fought on 11 February 1115 between Saxon forces and the imperial army, with the latter being sent into flight. Henry V is denied power over Saxony.


Henry II of Carinthia, also Henry II of Eppenstein, dies without having produced an heir. With him dies the family of Eppenstein in the male line. Only his sister, Hedwig, survives him. Her son, Henry, becomes the next ruling duke of Carinthia through this relationship whilst also holding the title count of Spanheim thanks to his father, Count Engelbert I. However, at the same time as Henry is acceding to the title, Carinthia is again sub-divided. A large proportion of the former Eppensteiner lands in Upper Styria (on the eastern edge of Carinthia) pass to Ottokar VI, margrave of Styria. Unfortunately Ottokar is only briefly able to enjoy his expanded domains. He dies in November of the same year.


Upon Henry's death, Matilda is recalled to the English royal court and plays a key role in the civil war against Stephen. Frederick II of Swabia puts himself forward as a candidate for the imperial title but is defeated by the successful election of Lothar. Conflict erupts between the two and their supporters.

1125 - 1137

Lothar II (III) of Supplinburg

Duke of Saxony.


Gertrude, Lothar's daughter, marries Henry the Proud, duke of Bavaria, margrave of Tuscany and, through that latter title, duke of Spoleto. A strong supporter of Lothar who had helped him in his bid for the German throne in 1125, Henry now gains control of Saxony as the first of the Welf dukes.

Lothar of Supplinberg and Holy Roman emperor
Lothar III of Supplinberg became duke of Saxony through his marriage to Richenza, daughter of Count Henry of Northeim, his inheritance of that title and of the domains of the Billungs, and his initial support for Emperor Henry V

1137 - 1138

The rivalry for the imperial title between Emperor Lothar and his main rival, Frederick II of Swabia, has a destabilising effect on Germany as a whole. Emperor Lothar and his Hohenstaufen successors in Franconia are supported by Louis I of Thuringia, but Lothar dies in 1137 on the way back from a campaign against the kingdom of Sicily.

The county of Württemberg is formed in western central Swabia as another step towards the total disintegration of the duchy during the general political crisis in the country. The election is held to select the next emperor in 1138, with one of the candidates being Henry the Proud of Saxony (senior heir to the Saxon House of Billung), Tuscany, and Spoleto is defeated by Conrad Hohenstaufen of Franconia.

Hohenstaufen (Swabian) Emperors
AD 1138 - 1268

The Hohenstaufen dynasty gained power in the duchy of Swabia through the marriage of Duke Frederick I to Agnes of Germany, granddaughter of Henry I the Black (former Franconian emperor). It swiftly became one of the most powerful families, holding onto the duchy for most of the remainder of its existence and supplying a dynasty of emperors. Because Franconia had provided a power base for the previous dynasty of emperors, it also remained a centre of power for the early Hohenstaufen emperors, thereby preventing it from establishing a clear regional governing structure that might ensure its survival.

The heir apparent to the imperial throne was traditionally titled 'king of the Romans'. The title originally referred to the uncrowned emperor himself, but by the twelfth century it was being used for the heir following his election to that role during his predecessor's lifetime, but before he succeeded to the throne.

1138 - 1152

Conrad III Hohenstaufen

Uncrowned. Conrad I of Franconia.

1152 - 1190

Frederick I Barbarossa

Nephew. Duke Frederick III of Swabia.

1158 - 1162

Supported as always by his brother-in-law, Louis the Iron of Thuringia, Frederick claims direct imperial control of Italy at the Diet of Roncaglia in 1158. The diet, held near Piacenza, includes representatives of cities in northern Italy, plus general nobles and senior church officials of the empire. It is held as a direct response to raids carried out by Frederick Barbarossa in Italy, who is attempting to restore his rights over the increasingly independent trading cities there. The diet finds in his favour so the cities of northern Italy refuse to accept the decision (led by the Veronese League). Frederick imposes his will by force of arms, and in 1162 razes Milan to the ground (supported on campaign by Herman of Carinthia). The Italian response is to unite under the Lombard League.

Hohenstaufen coat of arms
The Hohenstaufen family of Swabia gained a strong foothold on power in the late eleventh century and went on to supply an entire dynasty of German emperors which included Frederick Barbarossa


Frederick IV of Swabia, gifted the duchy by his cousin, Frederick Barbarossa, dies in Rome while on campaign there. Frederick Barbarossa passes the duchy onto his own three year-old son. He effectively controls it directly through his tight control of the succession, not only through these two Fredericks, but also through Frederick VI, who only survives him by a year.

1176 - 1177

Venice offers hospitality to Pope Alexander III and Frederick Barbarossa, and the republic arbitrates the peace between them following Barbarossa's defeat at Legnano the year before (29 May 1176).


Frederick comes into conflict with Henry 'the Lion' Welf, duke of Bavaria. Frederick dispossesses Henry of his lands and passes Bavaria to the Wittelsbachs and the County Palatine of Saxony to Louis III, landgrave of Thuringia (he promptly passes it onto his brother, the future Landgrave Herman I, in 1881). Henry's Saxon duchy is also divided while the vassalage of Pomerania is taken directly by the emperor. The old stem duchies are finally abolished entirely in favour of more numerous territorial divisions.

1180 - 1202

German Christian missionaries arrive in the Baltic tribal territories of the Lats and Ests and their neighbouring tribes converting small numbers of Balts and probably establishing nascent congregations. On the whole the Balts appear reluctant to convert, perhaps fervently so, which means German Crusaders are sent to the Lats and their neighbours to convert the pagan population - a pretext for a grab for land and resources which is supported by the Pope. They are strongly opposed, although extremely little is known about the Livonian native leaders who lead that opposition.


The Peace of Constance agrees that Frederick I shall renounce his rights of sovereignty over northern Italy and the cities of the Lombard League. The cities agree to remain loyal to the empire but will pursue an independent course when it comes to their own governance.


Frederick I Barbarossa enters Anatolia via the Dardanelles as part of the Third Crusade. His impressive and large force swiftly hands out defeats at the battles of Philomelium and Iconium, both against the sultanate of Rum. The sultanate's capital is occupied and Rum hits one of its lowest points. On his way towards a besieged Acre, the aging but still capable Barbarossa subsequently drowns in the River Saleph, seemingly while bathing but possibly having been exhausted by the Anatolian summer heat. The death causes hundreds of German Crusaders to return home.

1190 - 1197

Henry VI

Son. King of Naples & Sicily (1194-1197).

1197 - 1198

Philip Hohenstaufen, youngest brother of Henry VI and a former bishop of Würzburg, has already been made duke of Tuscany in 1195. In 1196 he had become duke of Swabia on the death of his brother Conrad, and now appears to be the guardian of Henry's son, the infant Frederick (II). In 1197, Philip sets out to fetch Frederick from Sicily for his coronation as king of the Germans when he hears of the emperor's death and returns at once to Germany.

Philip Hohenstaufen
Philip Hohenstaufen climbed through the ranks of the nobility during his lifetime, from bishop of Würzburg, through duke of Tuscany and then Swabia, to become emperor of the Germans

Many other members of the German nobility also hurry back to their seats in order to protect their interests during the coming struggle. They have been involved in the short-lived German Crusade (otherwise known as the Crusade of 1197 or the Crusade of Henry VI), including Ulrich II of Carinthia. Henry VI had been determined to complete the work of his father in the Holy Land with a fresh expedition, but he himself had died before even embarking.

Those who remain in the Holy Land capture territory for the kingdom of Jerusalem between Tyre and Tripoli, restoring the land link to the county of Tripoli, but the campaign ends abruptly with the recapture of the lordships of Beirut and Sidon in 1198 (both lost to Saladin in 1187 - the brotherhood of the Teutonic Knights is also elevated in this year to a spiritual military order, and its priors become grand masters).

Hostility to the kingship of a child is growing, and after Philip is selected as defender of the empire during Frederick's minority he consents to his own election as emperor. He is elected as the German king at Mühlhausen on 8 March 1198, and is crowned at Mainz on 8 September. A number of princes who are hostile to Philip, lead by Adolph, archbishop of Cologne, elect an anti-king in the person of Otto of Brunswick, second son of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. The subsequent war is largely a north-south affair as Philip has his power base in Swabia.

1198 - 1208

Philip Hohenstaufen

Duke of Swabia (1196-1208). Murdered.

1198 - 1215

Otto IV of Brunswick

Rival. Earl of York (1190-1218). Duke of Swabia (1208-1212).

1202 - 1214

In a conflict which is vital to the French monarchy, the 'War' of Bouvines involves John of England, HRE Otto IV, and also Thiébaut of Lorraine on the one side, and Philip II on the other supported by Otto III of Burgundy. The culmination is the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. The French are victorious, while John loses the duchy of Normandy and his other French possessions. Thiébaut is taken prisoner during the rout but is freed soon afterwards.

1204 - 1208

The war between rival emperors, Philip Hohenstaufen of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick, lasts with varying fortunes until Hermann of Thuringia submits in 1204. Adolph of Cologne and Henry I, duke of Brabant soon follow suit, but Philip is murdered before the final peace can be agreed. Otto secures the throne for himself (and also Swabia) until 1215 when the young Frederick can finally succeed his father, Henry VI.

FeatureMore opportunistically perhaps, Duke Bernard of Carinthia supports Philip until his death, then Otto at his coronation, and then switches to Frederick II after 1212. With the diminution of the emperor's authority, the prince-bishop of Liège is isolated, becoming a territorial prince like any other, even if he is charged with maintaining spiritual power (see feature link).

1215 - 1250

Frederick II

King of Naples & Sicily (1197). Swabia (1212). Jerusalem (1225).

1215 - 1216

The confirmation of Frederick's election as Holy Roman Emperor in 1215 (delayed from 1198 and the death of his father, Henry VI) allows him to devolve power in Swabia to his son, Henry, in 1216, while he concentrates on the trappings of higher office. In 1220 Henry also shares his office as co-emperor. Although he is named Henry VIII, his numbering is not official, as he is not sole emperor. That number is reused by Henry of Luxembourg in 1308-1313.

1219 - 1227

German prince-bishops consolidate their conquest of the central Baltics (modern Latvia and South Estonia), otherwise known as Livonia, while the Danish kingdom takes North Estonia. In 1227, the overlordship of Pomerania is recovered by Frederick II from the Danes.

1220 - 1235

Henry (VII)

Son. King of Naples & Sicily (1212-17). Duke of Swabia (1216-35).


German crusaders recapture all of the rebellious Estonian provinces and Vetseke of Koknese is reduced to holding just the Unguenois centre at Tharbata. Bishop Hermann of Buxhoeveden takes control of Ugaunia from his base in Dorpat while the Order of the Knights of the Sword is granted control of Sakala.

1228 - 1229

When the Fifth Crusade (Second Expedition) is decreed, Frederick II is excommunicated both for not taking part and then for going and negotiating the possession of Jerusalem (until 1244). He is accompanied on his expedition by Matthew II of Lorraine amongst others. To rub salt into the wound, Pope Gregory IX invades his territories while he is away, and it is probably this invasion which regains control of Spoleto for the Papal States. Relations between the pope and the emperor steadily decline thereafter, to the point where they are constantly at war with one another.

1241 - 1242

Mongol leaders Batu Khan and Subedei turn their attention farther into Europe. They enter Galicia, capturing the capital and destroying the cathedral there and ending any hopes that the Galicians might have had of holding onto Kyiv. Both Poland and Hungary are also conquered, with European defeats at Liegnitz and the River Sajo (the Battle of Mohi). Austria, Dalmatia, and Moravia also fall under Mongol domination, and the tide seems unstoppable. However, the death of Ogedei Khan causes the Mongols to withdraw, with Batu Khan intent on securing his conquests in the lands of the Rus thanks to the possibility that his rival, Guyuk Khan, could be elected great khan.


Due to Frederick's agents acting in the Papal States, Pope Innocent is forced to leave Rome in disguise and make his way to Lyon in France. He gathers together all the bishops who can make their way there and holds the First Council of Lyon. The emperor is excommunicated (again) and declared deposed, relieving his subjects of their allegiance to him. This sends shockwaves throughout Europe, and Innocent's life is only spared from retribution by the death of the emperor in 1250.

1246 - 1247

[Henry Raspe]

Rival. Last Ludovingian landgrave of Thuringia.

1247 - 1256

[William of Holland]


1250 - 1254

Conrad IV

Uncrowned. King of Jerusalem (1228-1254). Duke of Swabia (1235-1254). King of Naples & Sicily (1250-1254).

1254 - 1273

With the death of Conrad from malaria, his young son, Conradin is recognised as the new duke of Swabia and also as the new emperor by his supporters. He fails actually to succeed his father in the latter role, however, and an interregnum follows in which no sole emperor is recognised and Germany begins a period of collapse with no central authority to hold it together.

FeatureThis collapse involves the break-up of stem duchies such as Swabia and Franconia, while Saxony has already been forcibly divided (in 1180 - and see feature link for more on the system of imperial states which replaced the stem duchies).

Non-Dynastic Emperors
AD 1273 - 1437

(Additional information from External Link: Special Collections (University of Arizona).)

1257 - 1272

[Richard of Cornwall]


1257 - 1284

[Alfonso X of Castile]

Elected candidate. Never acceded throne.

1260 - 1274

The Livonian Knights and Teutonic Knights are defeated severely, at the Battle of Durbe in Livonia by the Samogitians. As a result, numerous rebellions break out all across the Baltics, including a general uprising throughout Prussia. The Prussians win several battles against the hard-pressed Knights and by 1264 the situation is critical. Reinforcements arrive from Germany and the knights launche a fresh offensive to end the rebellion by 1274.


The Hessians have selected Henry of Brabant as their first landgrave, but following a heavy defeat at Besenstedt (near Wettin) in October 1263, his mother, Sophie of Brabant, has to admit failure in securing the remainder of Thuringia for her son. That passes to the March of Meissen, and through this it eventually becomes part of the electorate Saxony when the Wettins gain the ducal title (1423). Hesse is separated from Thuringia and is eventually recognised as the independent landgraviate of Hesse.

Duchess Sophia of Brabant
Duchess Sophia led the fight to secure the various Hessian lands as a unified landgraviate for her son, Henry of Brabant, otherwise known as Henry the Child due to his young age


Part of the territory of Swabia, an obscure and unimportant part in the mountainous west of the duchy, is given over to the newly formed county of Vaduz. The Schellenbergs under Marquard now govern this important route into Italy.

1273 - 1291

Rudolph I of Habsburg

Uncrowned. Duke of Austria, Carinthia, & Swabia. In Bohemia.


Feeling in the German nobility is against the idea of a successful, conquering Czech king, so they support Rudolf so that he is able to wrest the duchy of Austria from Ottokar, and kill the Przemysl king in battle on the Moravia Field, on the right bank of the River Morava in Austria.

1292 - 1298

Adolf of Nassau

Uncrowned. Count of Nassau-Weilburg.

1292 - 1298

Henry I the Child, landgrave of Hesse, gains the title 'Prince of the Empire' from Emperor Adolph. Unfortunately, Adolf is killed at the Battle of Göllheim, near Speyer, in 1298 whilst fighting his rival, Albert of Habsburg in Austria. Unusually for the dukes of Lorraine, the soon-to-be Duke Thiébaut II is present at the battle on the side of Albert.

1306 - 1307

[Rudolph III of Habsburg]

Uncrowned. Duke of Austria. King of Bohemia-Moravia.

1307 - 1308

[Heinrich VI of Kaernten / Tirol]

Uncrowned. King of Bohemia-Moravia.

1298 - 1308

Albert I of Habsburg

Uncrowned. Duke of Austria.


Thanks to Albert's failure to address the problem of adequate compensation for the loss of Styria in 1283 by his brother, Rudolph II, the king is assassinated by Rudolph's son, John. John is named 'Parricide', and continues to hold his inherited claim on Swabia.

1308 - 1313

Henry VII of Luxemburg

Procured title for his son, who became King John of Bohemia.


With the death of John Parricide, any claim to the former Swabian duchy dies with him. Large areas of its territory have already gone to the established county of Württemberg and the margraviate of Baden. Territory formerly belonging to the Alemanni people also later forms parts of Austria (Vorarlberg), France (Alsace) and Switzerland, as well as the Bavarian Swabia region of Bavaria.

1314 - 1347

Louis IV Wittelsbach of Bavaria

m Margaret, countess of Holland (1324). Senator of Rome (1328).

1314 - 1322

When Louis IV (Louis the Bavarian) is elected German king in 1314, a minority faction elects Frederick the Fair of Habsburg as emperor. Louis defeats Frederick in 1322 at the Battle of Mühldorf (in which Frederick's supporter, Duke Ferry IV of Lorraine, is also captured). The Pope refuses to recognise or crown him, so Louis has himself crowned emperor by representatives of the Roman people. This coronation is part of an agreement that has been reached with Frederick whereby the latter is crowned king of the Romans to administer Germany as regent while Louis will fulfil his role from Italy.

Louis IV Wittelsbach
The vigorous king of Bavaria and HRE Louis IV also became king of Italy in 1327 despite many objections and opposition figures, with his strength of will and character being proof of his desire and eligibility to rule

1325 - 1330

Frederick the Fair of Habsburg

Frederick IV of Austria. Withdraws from regency, returns home.


Following the refusal of Pope John XXII to recognise him, Louis IV invades Italy and sets up Nicholas V as the first anti-pope of the Great Schism.


Odo IV of the duchy of Burgundy has already married Joan III, countess of Burgundy, daughter of Philip V of France and also king of Navarre (in 1318). Now his wife inherits from her mother full control of the Free County of Burgundy, that pocket of Burgundian territory which largely lies on the east bank of the Saône. Formed in 982, it had gained a parcel of the duchy's own territory in 1004 and for three hundred years had largely been controlled by the Holy Roman empire.


The St George's Night Uprising in Estonia sees a revolt defeated by the Livonian Knights, using a mixture of treachery and battle. However, they are unable to prevent some disasters, such as the loss of Pöide Castle on Ösel-Wiek, and the probable massacre of its entire garrison. Three years later, the Danish king sells North Estonia to the knights. All of Estonia is now ruled by a German nobility class.

St George's Night Uprising
The oppressed Estonian peasants began the St George's Night Uprising in 1343, which was brutally put down by the Livonian Order, resulting in the Order being able to take control of all of the major Danish strongholds in the duchy of Estonia

1346 - 1347

Pope Clement VI declares Louis IV deposed and secures the election of Charles IV. Louis successfully resists his rival until he dies in a hunting accident.

1347 - 1378

Charles IV of Luxemburg

Grandson of Henry VII. King of Bohemia, Elector of Brandenburg.

1347 - 1349

[Günther of Schwarzburg]


One of the first acts of Charles IV is to found the University of Prague. This is soon challenged by Archduke Rudolph IV of Austria when he founds the University of Vienna as a rival. Rudolph dedicates much of his efforts as archduke to increasing the prestige of Vienna, making it a major European capital.

1355 - 1356

Emperor Charles IV issues his Golden Bull at the end of 1355. It lays down the redrafted laws for the Holy Roman empire, one of which stipulates the role of primogeniture, ensuring that only the eldest son or the valid next in line succeeds to a title and its territory.

Emperor Charles IV releases his Golden Bull
Towards the end of 1355 and in early 1356 Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV agreed with his prince electors a new treatise which regulated the emperor's position and the right of succession amongst all the princes

1356 - 1359

The title of archduke is 'granted' to Austria in 1359, even though it has to be invented and proclaimed by the first archduke, Rudolph IV. The bluff is propagated to make up for the loss to the Habsburgs of the imperial title and their failure to receive an electoral vote in the Golden Bull of 1356. Instead, Rudolph creates the Privilegium Maius, a document that has no authority behind it but which raises the dukes of Austria to archdukes, a new title, and one which grants them the same level of status as the seven prince-electors of the Holy Roman empire.

1378 - 1400

Wenzel / Wenceslas of Luxemburg

Son of Charles IV. King Bohemia, Hungary, Elector Brandenburg.


Gian Galeazzo Visconti purchases a diploma for 100,000 florins from Wenceslas of Luxemburg. This diploma confirms Gian Visconti as duke of Milan and count of Pavia.

1400 - 1410

Rupert of the Palatinate


1410 - 1437

Sigismund of Luxembourg

Son of Charles IV. King of Bohemia, Elector of Brandenburg.

Sigismund marries Mary of Anjou, Queen of Hungary. In 1415 the electorate of Brandenburg is purchased from the Holy Roman empire by the Hohenzollerns from southern Germany.

1410 - 1411

[Jobst of Moravia]

Rival. Elector of Brandenburg. Duke of Luxembourg.

Habsburg Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (First Reich)
AD 1437 - 1806

(Additional information by William Willems, and from Noble Strategies in an Early Modern Small State: The Mahuet of Lorraine, Charles T Lipp.)

1438 - 1439

Albert II

Uncrowned. King of Bohemia. Archduke Albert V of Austria.

1440 - 1493

Frederick III

Duke of Carinthia (1424). Archduke Frederick V of Austria (1458).


Elected king of the Romans, the last Holy Roman emperor to enjoy this honour, Duke Frederick III of Carinthia begins to unite all of the divided Habsburg lands under one ruler, laying the foundations for the later greatness of the Habsburgs in Central Europe. In 1458 he acquires the archduchy of Austria.


FeatureThose imperial states which are represented in the diet are divided into three chambers: the college of prince-electors (the 'Kurfürstenkollegium, Kurfürstenrat'); the college of imperial princes (the 'Reichsfürstenrat'); and the college of imperial cities (see feature link for details).

1493 - 1519

Maximilian I

Uncrowned. Ruled Spanish Netherlands, Burgundy, Netherlands & Austria.

1494 - 1495

The county of Holland passes to the son of Emperor Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, Philip, later king consort of Castile. The following year, an alliance is formed between Naples, the Pope, Milan, Venice, and the emperor in order to defend Italy from Charles VIII of France. This marks the beginning of the highly destructive Italian Wars which last until 1559. At the same time, Maximilian is being pressed for reform by a group of princes which includes Frederick III of Saxe-Thuringen.

Maximilian I of Austria and the Holy Roman empire
The sole heiress of Burgundy, Mary, married Maximilian of Austria, who became Holy Roman emperor in 1493 while also personally ruling Belgium, Burgundy, the Netherlands, and Austria


The League of Cambrai is formed with France, Castile, Hungary, the Papal States, the Holy Roman empire, and Ferrara against Venice. Venice is defeated at Agnadello.


FeatureAn imperial circle ('Reichskreis') is a regional grouping of the imperial states of the Holy Roman empire. Although arranged as a means of organising a common defence policy and imperial tax collection, the circles are also used as a means of organisation in the imperial diet (see feature link). The prince-bishopric of Liège is arranged into the 'Westphalian Circle' from this date onwards.

1519 - 1556

Charles V

Charles I of Spain, II of Holland, I of Austria. Abdicated. Died 1558.


Charles V is the last emperor to be crowned by the Pope as emperor and king of Italy, the ceremony taking place at Bologna in Italy.

1520 - 1521

The bishopric of Courland is created a prince-bishopric of the Holy Roman empire in 1520. This is formalised in the following year but, largely due to Charles V, the Edict of Worms on 25 May 1521 condemns Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther as an outlaw and heretic. However, Martin Luther has already convinced many northern German leaders to adopt Protestantism, including Duke Philip of Hesse.

1524 - 1525

Despite some German princes embracing Protestantism (such as Duke Philip of Hesse in 1524), they still play a part in suppressing the German Peasants' War in which poorly-armed peasants strive for greater freedoms that appear to be in line with Protestant rhetoric. In the end they are no match for Germany's well-armed and battle-experienced nobility, and their cause is largely unrewarded.


The French are defeated at the Battle of Pavia, leaving Charles V dominant in Italy. Newly-installed Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan joins the League of Cognac against the emperor along with Florence, France, the Pope, and Venice. This backfires when the emperor takes military action against Milan.


Pope Clement has sided with France to ward off domination of the papacy by the Holy Roman empire. With the French having been defeated in Italy, and the Imperial/Spanish troops remaining unpaid, they rebel and sack Rome. Amongst the destruction wrought on the city, the tombs of Sixtus IV and Julius II are destroyed.


Charles V raises about 140 minor lordships and other states in Germany to the rank of imperial counties. They include among their number the new counties of Lippe, and many others.


Many of the empire's princes and lords are organised by Elector John Frederick I of Saxony and Duke Philip I of Hesse to form the Schmalkaldic League when meeting at the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia. Both have seen increasingly that there are moves by the Catholic leaders to provide a unified response to what they see as the Protestant 'threat', and they realise that the Protestant leaders need to be similarly unified in their response.

The Schmalkaldic League
The Schmalkaldic League was formed in 1531 during a meeting of German princes and dukes in the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia.


The duchy of Lorraine has gradually established itself as an important and largely independent holding during the course of the previous century or so. Since 1525 it has remained neutral in the ongoing conflicts between France and Germany whilst remaining staunchly Catholic in the face of the Protestant Reformation (and therefore an important and 'legal' voice in European politics). The Treaty of Nuremberg on 26 August establishes Lorraine's legitimate independence as a 'free and non-incorporable' protectorate of the Holy Roman emperor, transforming it from an imperial fief as long as it pays certain imperial taxes. The idea is that Lorraine will protect the empire's western border against French intransigence.


The duchy of Parma is created out of a portion of territory that had belonged to the duchy of Milan - an area to the south of the River Po that is centred around the city of Parma. The new duchy is for Pope Paul III's illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese. As the duchy's overlord, Charles V soon invests his own son with the title.

1546 - 1547

Charles V sees the tide of conversions to Protestant rites as a move by the many princes and lords of the empire to gain more autonomy from imperial governance. Many of them, organised by Elector John Frederick I of Saxony and Duke Philip I of Hesse, had formed the Schmalkaldic League when meeting at the town of Schmalkalden in Thuringia in 1531. Now that Charles has returned from his war in Italy, the two sides concentrate their forces, with Charles intent on destroying the Protestant league. Elector John is distracted by his cousin, Duke Maurice of Saxe-Meissen, invading his lands in Ernestine Saxony, and ultimately the league is defeated. John is captured and forced to sign the Capitulation of Wittenberg, losing both his status as an elector and some of his lands to Maurice.

1553 - 1555

The Italian War results in an invasion of Corsica in 1553 which disrupts Genoese rule of the island. French and Ottoman forces team up in the Mediterranean to disrupt coastal areas that are loyal to or controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor. The French are the driving force behind these operations in their attempt to gain control of Italy. They raid the coasts of Corsica, Elba, Naples, and Sicily. Then a force of French and Ottomans, together with Corsican exiles, capture the strategically important island, robbing the empire of a vital line of communications. Their fleets leave as winter approaches, with a fairly small garrison of 5,000 second line troops remaining behind. Genoa immediately organises a counter-invasion with 15,000 men, and much of Corsica is retaken in 1554, with the rest being gained in 1555.

1558 - 1564

Ferdinand I

Brother. Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria. King of Bohemia.


The Italian War ends with the signing of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis between England, France and Spain. Emmanuel Philibert regains his duchy of Piedmont and Savoy in full as part of the war's ending and he departs his post in the Spanish Netherlands to take up his duties. Corsica is restored to Genoa, while Spain is confirmed in its direct control of Milan, Naples, Presidi, Sardinia, and Sicily.

In the same year, the last German bishop of the Estonian bishopric of Ösel-Wiek sells the castle and the town of Kuressaare to the Danes, who also take Courland.

Map of German states AD 1560
Introduced in 1560, the system of imperial states replaced the now-outdated feudal system, with an imperial circle ('reichskreis') being a regional grouping of the imperial states (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1564 - 1576

Maximilian II

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria. King of Bohemia.


The German prince-bishops sell off the last of their land in the Baltics, including the bishopric of Ösel-Wiek.


Control of Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary are taken fully by the Habsburgs as Holy Roman emperors, although they still undergo a separate coronation to be confirmed as kings of Bohemia.

1576 - 1612

Rudolf II

Uncrowned. Archduke Rudolph V of Austria. King of Bohemia.


The county of Vaduz is elevated to a principality.

1612 - 1619


Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria. King of Bohemia.

1619 - 1620

At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War (which starts in 1618), Bohemia falls temporarily outside imperial control, before being fully absorbed into it the following year.

1619 - 1637

Ferdinand II

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria. King of Bohemia.

1630 - 1632

Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in summer 1630. As part of the military funding, tolls and food supplies secured in Swedish Prussia are pivotal assets. The first major victory of the Protestant forces in the war is at the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, which ensures that the northern German Protestant states will not be forced to reconvert to Catholicism. The forces of Sweden and Saxony force the Catholic League's line to collapse, and serious casualty figures are inflicted on the armies of the Holy Roman empire, Hungary and Croatia.

French troops during the Thirty Years War
The onset of the Thirty Years War was marked by the newly-elected Holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand II, imposing religious uniformity on all his lands, which meant that all Protestants would have to covert - an impossible demand

1637 - 1657

Ferdinand III

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria.


The near-constant warfare and rapid change brought about by the Reformation and its Papal response, the Counter Reformation, is finally ended by the Peace of Westphalia. Under its terms, which also wrap up the Thirty Years' War, Pomerania is carved up, with Sweden losing Further-Pomerania to Brandenburg-Prussia, while retaining Nearer-Pomerania. The northern part of the Netherlands emerges as an independent state under the house of Orange. The bitter Marburger Succession Conflict between Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt sees part of Hessen-Marburg ceded to Darmstadt to end the quarrel. Switzerland gains full independence from the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire.

1658 - 1705

Leopold I

Uncrowned. Archduke Leopold VIII of Austria.

1663 - 1664

The Fourth Austro-Turkish War ends in the Battle of Saint Gotthard on 1 August 1664 in which the Ottomans are defeated by Austrian troops under Raimondo Montecuccoli (with a company of 140 men being led by Count Herman Adolph of Lippe-Detmold and also the exiled Duke Charles V of Lorraine in Imperial service). The Ottomans are forced to agree to the Peace of Vasvár with Austria.


German traveller John Lederer is commissioned by the English governor of Virginia to explore the surrounding territory. Approaching one of the villages along the James River, he is welcomed with friendly volleys of firearms from the Native Americans. After leaving the chief Monacan settlement, Lederer proceeds to the main settlement of the Saponi people which is located in Charlotte County along the Roanoke River. Lederer writes: 'This nation is governed by an absolute monarch; the people of a high stature, warlike and rich. I saw great store of pearl unbored in their little temples, or oratories, which they had won amongst other spoyls from the Indians of Florida, and hold in as great esteem as we do'.

Battle of Zenta 1697
The Battle of Zenta in 1697 was a Habsburg and Holy League success against the Ottoman Turks in the Great Turkish War, with the Europeans being commanded by the brilliant Prince Eugene of Savoy


John III of Poland and Charles V of Lorraine lift the siege of Vienna on 12 September, with support from Elector John George III of Saxony. The victory ends Ottoman expansion in Europe by drawing a metaphorical line in the sand.

Jan Sobieski of Poland at the end of the siege of Vienna in 1683
Jan Sobieski is pictured here, having played a vital part in lifting the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 with perhaps the largest cavalry charge in history, consisting of 20,000 mounted men

1699 & 1712

The territories of the principality of Hohenems-Vaduz passes to the Liechtensteins when Hans-Adam I of that house is allowed to purchase from the Hohenems the tiny herrschaft ('lordship' in English) of Schellenberg in 1699 and the county of Vaduz in 1712. These two purchases are vital for Hans-Adam in that they are without any feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and suzerain emperor, so enabling his house the chance of finally acquiring a seat in the empire's diet (parliament). The principality is now a possession of the House of Liechtenstein.


The electorate of Brandenburg is elevated to a kingdom.

1702 - 1715

Spain is involved in the War of Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession. Lorraine is occupied during the war, forcing the ducal court to flee. The conclusion of the war sees Spain giving up Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) to Austria, and Sicily to the duchy of Savoy. The Papal States are forced to hand over the territories of Parma and Piacenza to Austria, a definite blow to the papacy's prestige. Philip, duke of Anjou, is recognised as the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, but only on the condition that the Bourbon crowns of Spain and France can never be united under a single ruler.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1705 - 1711

Joseph I

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria.

1711 - 1740

Charles VI

Uncrowned. Archduke Charles II of Austria.

1713 - 1715

The War of the Spanish Succession comes to an end with the signing of the Treaties of Utrecht. Neither the British nor the Dutch will allow the other to control the southern (formerly Spanish) Netherlands, which therefore become the Austrian Netherlands, with Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI from the House of Habsburg as sovereign.

The 'Pragmatic Sanction' is also issued by Charles (in 1713) to ensure that the throne and Habsburg hereditary possessions can be inherited by a daughter, under agreement with all the leading nations. Until now these German lands have been governed under Salic Law which ensures only male succession, but Charles is the last male Habsburg in the direct line so a change is essential.


The principality of Liechtenstein is granted for the new ruling house of the former county of Vaduz.

1733 - 1735

The War of the Polish Succession gains Naples and Sicily for the Bourbons of Spain. The Spanish Philip V reunites his possessions as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies and gives them to a younger son under an agreement that the kingdom will not be reunited with Spain. In exchange, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI gains the duchy of Parma in addition to his existing Italian possessions.

1740 - 1780

Maria Theresa

Heiress of Austria. Archduchess of Austria.

1740 - 1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is a wide-ranging conflict that encompasses the North American King George's War, two Silesian Wars, the War of Jenkins' Ear, and involves most of the crowned heads of Europe in deciding the question of whether Maria Theresa can succeed as archduke of Austria and, perhaps even more importantly, as Holy Roman Emperor. Austria is supported by Britain, the Netherlands, the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia, and Saxony (after an early switchover), but opposed by an opportunistic Prussia and France, who had raised the question in the first place to disrupt Habsburg control of Central Europe, backed up by Bavaria and Sweden (briefly). Spain joins the war in an unsuccessful attempt to restore possessions lost to Austria in 1715.

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

The War of Jenkins' Ear pitches Britain against Spain between 1739-1748. The Russo-Swedish War, or Hats' Russian War, is the Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia in 1741-1743. King George's War is fought between Britain and France in the French Colonies in 1744-1748. The First Carnatic War of 1746-1748 involves the struggle for dominance in India by France and Britain. Henry Pelham, leader of the English government in Parliament, is successful in ending the war, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Austria is ultimately successful, losing only Silesia to Prussia.


The Habsburgs gain parts of Little Poland and Red Ruthenia in southern Poland during the First Partition.

1742 - 1745

Charles VII

Uncrowned. Duke Charles Albert of Bavaria.

1745 - 1765

Francis I of Lorraine

Uncrowned. Grandson of Duke Charles V of Lorraine.

1765 - 1790

Joseph II

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria.


The French Revolution begins on 14 July 1789 with the storming of the Bastille prison during a popular uprising in Paris. Inspired by this, revolutionaries in the Austrian Netherlands oppose the Holy Roman emperor to found - by the end of the year - the independent 'United States of Belgium'.

The towns of Brussels, Diest, and Tienen (Brabant), Ghent (East Flanders), and Mons (Wallonia) fall to the rebels and they defeat Austrian forces in a number of small skirmishes. By December 1789, the Austrians, fully routed, withdraw to the fortified city of Luxembourg in the south, abandoning the rest of the territory to the patriots (patriot rulers of the region are shown in red). Brabant declares its own independence on 31 December.

Battle of Ghent, 1789
Along with the Battle of Turnhout on 27 October 1789, the Battle of Ghent on 13 November 1789 (shown here) was instrumental in forcing the Austrian governors of the southern Netherlands to flee Brussels while Austrian forces soon took refuge behind strong defensive walls in Luxembourg and also Antwerp

1790 - 1792

Leopold II

Uncrowned. Archduke of Austria. Governor of Milan. Died suddenly.

1792 - 1806

Francis II

Uncrowned. Archduke Francis of Austria. Last 'Holy Roman' Emperor. Became Francis I of Austria.

1792 - 1793

Following a declaration of war against republican France in 1792, the Habsburgs take part in the Second Partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1793.


Feature The Habsburgs gain Krakow and Little Poland during the Third Partition of Poland-Lithuania.


The Peace of Luneville compensates several German princes for losses of territory by assigning to them ecclesiastical land in Germany taken from the Pope.


The year sees the formal end of the Holy Roman empire (First Reich) as it is dissolved by Emperor Napoleon I of France (the Prussian-led Second Reich forms in 1871). The Habsburg emperors revert to their Austrian title, raising the former archduchy to the status of Austrian empire, as it still holds almost all its eastern territories.

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