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Holy Roman EmpireTimeline: Knightfall
Heiliges Römisches Reich
Imperium Romanum Sacrum
OTL equivalent: Holy Roman Empire
|Capital||no official capital; imperial seat cities varied throughout history|
|Other cities||Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt|
|Official languages||German, Latin, Italian, Czech, Polish, Dutch, French, Frisian, Slovene, Sorbian and others|
|-||Otto I is crowned Emperor of the Romans||2 February 962|
The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in central Europe during the medieval period, and one of the largest medieval kingdoms of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was centered around the kingdom of Germany, but also included the kingdom of Bohemia, the kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.
The Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800, in which he received the title of Roman Emperor in Western Europe, after three centuries of inactivity. Charlemagne's descendants ruled over his empire until 888, when a civil war erupted among several rulers of Italy, which would not end until 924 with the death of the last claimant, Berengar. The title was used again in 962, when Otto I was crowned emperor, and began a continuous succession for centuries to come.
- Main Article: Carolingian Empire
On 25 December 800 the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, reviving the tradition of the Western Roman Empire, which had collapsed four centuries earlier. After the death of Charlemagne the imperial title was fiercely contested between the rulers of Western and Eastern Francia, with Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat, of west and east respectively, holding the title during their lifetimes. With the death of Charles the Fat in 888, the Carolingian Empire was largely broken, and the title of empire went largely vacant. During this period of infighting in the Carolingian Empire, the papacy retained its right to bestow the imperial title, and gladly crowned whichever Italian ruler was able to protect the Papal States from attack. The title was not revived again until Otto I in 962, who proclaimed himself the successor to Charlemagne, and would lay the foundations for the Holy Roman Empire.
High Middle Ages
By the start of the tenth century the region of East Francia had begun to degrade to its earlier autonomous stem duchies, and this period saw the reemergence of Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony, and Lotheringia. After the death of Louis the Child in 911, rather than turning to the ruler of West Francia to reestablish control over the east, the rulers of East Francia elected to select one of their own dukes, Conrad of Francia, as king of East Francia. On his death bed Conrad yielded the crown to his rival Henry the Fowler of Saxony, who was formally elected at a diet in Fritzlar in 919. Under Henry the Germans would successfully defeat the Magyars at the Battle of Riade in 933, and a lasting truce would be established.
In 936 Henry died, and his descendants, the Luudolfing or Ottonian dynasty, would succeed him as ruler of the eastern kingdom for the next century. Henry's own son, Otto, was elected king in Aachen in 936, overcoming a series of revolts from his older brothers and several dukes in support of their rule. Under Otto many ducal positions would be appointed, as would bishops in administrative affairs. During this period the kingdom possessed no permanent kingdom, and each king traveled across his realm to issue orders and settle disputes. Despite this, each king usually held one city as his preferred court, and in Otto's case, he established the city of Magdeburg as his court. The dukes of the kingdom continued to exercise their right to elect the next king, although incumbent rulers usually had their sons elected during their lifetime, ensuring that the crown remained within their family.
In 955 Otto won a decisive German victory against the Magyars, ending their position as the dominant military force in Europe, and halting their expansion west. Earlier in 951 Otto had also come to the aid of Adelaide, the widowed queen of Italy, taking control over Italy by marrying the queen and defeating her enemies. Following his immense success in central Europe and Italy, Pope John XII crowned Otto emperor in 962, viewed as the successor to Charlemagne, and in turn the Roman Empire. The following year, now intertwined in the politics of the Italian Peninsula, Otto deposed the current pope and installed Pope Leo VIII.
The rise of Otto and his descendants as proclaimed successors to the Roman emperors caused renewed conflict between the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople. This matter was made worse when Otto's son, Otto II, adopted the title imperator Romanorum, which provoked the Byzantines further. Otto II sought to establish positive relations with the east, and formed martial ties by marrying the Byzantine princess Theophanu. Otto was succeeded by his son, Otto III, who spent his rule focusing his attention on the Italian Peninsula. Otto III died young in 1002, and was succeeded by his cousin Henry II, who primarily shifted the empire's attention from Italy to Germany. Gregory V became the first German pope in 996, however the rule of a foreign pope and papal officials led to a revolt among the Roman nobles, led by Crescentius II. The city of Rome was briefly held by Antipope John XVI, before being captured by the Holy Roman Emperor. Henry II was succeeded in 1024 by Conrad II, the first emperor of the Salian Dynasty. Conrad's election was fiercely debated among the dukes and nobles of the empire, who eventually developed the collegiate of electors for future elections.
During the High Middle Ages in the Holy Roman Empire, ecclesiastical offices were often filled by the emperor, and bishops were often considered for administrative positions within the empire. In the wake of the Cluniac Reforms, a series of changes within the Western Church focusing on the restoration of traditional monastic life, the involvement of the emperor in church capabilities was becoming increasingly inappropriate in the eyes of the papacy. Pope Gregory VII became largely opposed to these practices, and his pressure on the emperor Henry IV led to the Investiture Controversy. Henry IV disapproved of the pope's interference in his empire, and called for his bishops to excommunicate the pope. In exchange the pope excommunicated Henry IV, declared the emperor deposed, and dissolved any oaths of loyalty made to Henry. With no political support in his favor, Henry IV was forced to make a trek to Canossa in 1077, where he was able to lift his excommunication at the price of humiliation by the pope.
Following the supposed deposing of Henry IV, the German states elected a new king, Rudolf of Swabia. When Henry returned to Germany he was able to defeat Rudolf, but was soon met with renewed excommunication and continued rebellion, even among his own sons. In 1122 Henry's second son, Henry V, was able to reach an agreement between the Pope and the bishops of the empire, at the Concordat of Worms. The empire retained its political power, however the conflict with the papacy ended the emperor's power in regards to church matters. During this time the Pope and many German princes also emerged as important players in the political system of Europe.
Henry V died in 1125, and the princes of the Holy Roman Empire chose not to elect the next of kin in the Salian Dynasty, but rather Lothair, Duke of Saxony. In an effort to check royal power within the empire, when Lothair died of old age in 1138, the princes chose to elect Conrad III of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, rather than Lothair's own preferred heir and powerful son-in-law, Henry of the Proud of the Welf family. Conrad was the grandson of Emperor Henry IV and the nephew of Emperor Henry V, and was a valid candidate for election, however this move led to over a century of conflict between the two houses. Emperor Conrad managed to oust the Welfs from their possessions, before his death in 1152. Conrad's nephew, Frederick I "Barbarossa", succeeded him as emperor, and established peace with the Welf, restoring his cousin Henry the Lion to a portion of the family's former possessions.
Under Frederick I, the empire increasingly relied on ministerialia, formerly non-free service men, who Frederick found more reliable than the armies of the dukes. This new class of men used for war services, led to the formation of the knights, another basis of imperial power. The emperor also established a new mechanism for peace within the empire, known as the Landfrieden, in an attempt to abolish private feuds between the dukes of the empire, and tie the subordinates of the emperor to a legal system of jurisdiction, including the public prosecution of crimes. During this time the empire experienced a large boom in population, and led to the creation of several new cities, spearheaded by both the emperor and the dukes of the empire alike. Whereas older cities were primarily formed on the foundations of formerly Roman settlements and older bishoprics, the cities of this period were founded for strategic of economic purposes. Similarly, during this period the German princes facilitated an eastward migration of Germans into previously uninhabited or West Slavic lands east of the Holy Roman Empire. The movement of German farmers, traders, and craftsmen expanded the empire's borders, growing to include Silesia and Pomerania.
In 1158 Frederick I held an imperial assembly on the fields of Roncaglia, where he reclaimed imperial rights in reference to Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis, proclaiming legislation in regards to tariffs, public roads, coinage, collective of punitive fees, the investiture, and the seating of office holders, all based primarily on Roman Law. In foreign affairs, initially Frederick turned his attention to Italy, where he often clashed with increasingly powerful and free-minded cities, such as Milan. Frederick supported a papal candidate who was only elected by a minority, against Pope Alexander III, renewing conflict between the papacy and the emperor. In 1177 the emperor made peace with Alexander III, after supporting a series of antipopes.
Frederick I repeatedly defended Henry the Lion against rival princes or cities, such as Munich and Lübeck, but in return received minimal support from the duke. During a conflict in Italy the emperor called on Henry for military aid, and when Henry refused, the emperor returned to Germany and opened proceedings against the duke. A public ban followed, and all of Henry's lands were confiscated in 1190. That same year the elderly Holy Roman Emperor responded to the call to arms issued by the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and joined King Richard I of England and King Philip II Augustus of France in the Third Crusade. Frederick led a massive German army across Anatolia, but drowned on route to the holy land in Asia Minor on 10 June 1199.
Frederick I was succeeded by his son Henry VI, and during his reign the Hohenstaufen dynasty would reach its most powerful existence. Henry added the Norman Kingdom of Sicily to his domains, after holding Richard the Lionheart captive, and aimed to establish a hereditary monarchy in the empire when he died in 1197. Henry's unexpected death led to the German princes electing Frederick I's younger son Philip of Swabia and Henry the Lion's son Otto of Brunswick, creating a dual monarchy, while Henry VI's son Frederick, previously elected during Henry's lifetime, grew into adulthood. During the dual monarchy both Philip and Otto competed for complete control of the imperial throne, ending in Philip's murder in 1208. Otto prevailed as emperor, until he also set his ambitions on the Kingdom of Sicily.
The now adult Frederick II marched against Otto, supported by Pope Innocent III, who feared a union between the Empire and Sicily diminishing his power in the Italian Peninsula. Otto was defeated, and immediately Frederick ended his promise of keeping the realms separate, reserving real political power of Sicily for himself, despite designating his son Henry as King of Sicily. Having defeated Otto, Frederick was officially crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1220. The emperor's concentration of power in Central Europe led to the pope excommunicating the ruler soon after, and in response Frederick II launched the Sixth Crusade in 1228, hoping to fulfill his promise to the pope. The crusade ended in a temporary restoration of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and Frederick II returned to Europe victorious.
Frederick II spent much of his early rule concentrating his efforts on establishing a modern, centralized state in Sicily, often at the expense of Germany. Frederick's absence from Germany, and his continued issuing of privileges to Germany's many secular and ecclesiastical princes, repealed a number of imperial laws in favor of extending local autonomy.
While Frederick was in the Holy Land, his regent Rainald of Spoleto, led an attack against Marche and the Duchy of Spoleto, and in 1229 Pope Gregory IX recruited an army under John of Brienne to invade southern Italy. After overcoming initial resistance at Montecassino, the Pope's army reached Aquilia. In June 1229 Frederick II arrived in Brindisi from the Holy Land, and quickly engaged against the papal army to recover his Italian territory. The rebels in his territory were pursued and defeated, although Frederick took care to not cross into papal territory. At the Treaty of San Germano in the summer of 1230, the emperor met with Pope Gregory IX and made some concessions to the church in Sicily, as well as issuing the Constitutions of Melfi, in an attempt to solve the administrative problems that the war had highlighted.
Also during Frederick's absence, his son Henry VII had managed to provoke discontent among the German princes, through his aggressive policies. Henry had been forced to agree to a complete capitulation at Worms, which deprived the emperor of much of his sovereignty in Germany. When Frederick returned to Germany, he was also compelled to sign this agreement in 1232. The following year the emperor's attempts to restore imperial authority in northern Italy and Lombardy, at the time with papal assistance from Pope Gregory IX, backfired and problems again arose in Lombardy. At the same time Henry returned to his aggressive policies in Germany, against his father's will. Frederick marched into Italy, and was promptly excommunicated by Gregory IX, but faced opposition from his son Henry, who was now in revolt. Henry attempted to muster forces in Germany, at the same time asking the Lombard cites to block the Alpine passes into Italy. In response Frederick returned to Germany in May 1235, meeting his son that July in Worms. Henry was convinced to renounce the crown and all his lands, before being imprisoned by his father.
Frederick II had now established peace north of the Alps, and established an army of German princes to march back into Lombardy and suppress the cities in rebellion against the empire, despite papal attempts to end the conflict diplomatically. When a rebellion arose in Austria under Frederick II, Duke of Austria, the emperor was forced to divert some of his forces east and enter Austria. With the Austria duke defeated, in Vienna Frederick had his son Conrad appointed the title of King of the Romans, before he returned to Italy.
Negotiations between the imperial forces, the Lombard cities, and the Pope soon broke down, and Frederick invaded Lombardy from Verona, where in November 1237 he won a decisive victory against the Lombard League at the Battle of Cortenuova. Frederick held a large triumph in celebration at Cremona, in the manner of an ancient Roman emperor, complete with the captured carroccio of the enemy and an elephant. Requests for peace were rejected, including large sums of money in exchange for peace form Milan. Instead Frederick demanded total surrender, which provoked further resistance from Milan, Brescia, Bologna, and Piacenza. At the Siege of Brescia Frederick was forced to withdraw, at the same time preventing attempts by the Lombards to capture him.
In early 1239 Gregory IX excommunicated the emperor while he held court in Padua, and in response the emperor expelled the Franciscans and Dominicans from Lombardy, and elected his son Enzo as Imperial vicar for Northern Italy. The Duchy of Spoleto, Romagna and Marche, all nominally territory of the Papal States, was seized by Enzo, while Fredrick announced his intentions to destroy the Republic of Venice after they had sent a small fleet of ships against him in Sicily. Frederick next marched into Tuscany, where he marched in triumph through the streets of Foligno and Viterbo, before finally determining to march against Rome and restore the ancient empire that had once governed over the entire region. After a long siege at Rome Frederick proved unsuccessful, and broke his siege to return south. Peace negotiations were inconclusive, and the emperor sacked the papal possession of Benevento as he marched south.
After the fall of Ferrara, Frederick returned to the north of Italy and captured Ravenna, followed by the city of Faenza following another long siege. Attempts by the Pope to call a resolving council for the matter failed, and at the Battle of Meloria cardinals and church officials en route to Rome from Genoa were captured by Pisa. Again Frederick attacked the city of Rome directly, leaving behind much of Umbria in ruin, including the city of Grottaferrata. Pope Gregory IX died on 22 August 1241, and Frederick purposely withdrew his forces as a sign that his feud extended only against the previous pope, not against the church itself. The already established relationship between the papacy and the empire remained cold however, and a back and force conflict ensued into 1242.
Late Middle Ages