List of states in the Holy Roman Empire

This list of states in the Holy Roman Empire includes any territory ruled by an authority that had been granted imperial immediacy, as well as many other feudal entities such as lordships, sous-fiefs, and allodial fiefs.

Historical evolution of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire was a complex political entity that existed in central Europe for most of the medieval and early modern periods and was generally ruled by a German-speaking Emperor. The states that composed the Empire, while enjoying a form of territorial authority called Landeshoheit that granted them many attributes of sovereignty, were never fully sovereign states in the sense that term is understood presently.[1]

In the 18th century, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of approximately 1,800 such territories, the majority being tiny estates owned by the families of Imperial Knights.[2] This page does not directly contain the list but discusses the format of the various lists and offers some background to understand the complex organisation of the Holy Roman Empire. The lists themselves can be accessed via the alphabetical navigation box below; each letter will lead the reader to a page on which states of the Empire that began with that letter are listed.

Table of states edit

While any such list could never be definitive, the list attempts to be as comprehensive as possible. It is sorted alphabetically and split into separate articles linked below. There is also a separate list of Free Imperial Cities and a list of participants in the Imperial Diet as of 1792.

Key edit

  • The "Circle" column shows the Imperial Circle (Reichskreis) that the state belonged to.
  • The "Bench" column shows where the state was represented in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag).
Circles Benches
Aust Austrian EL Council of Electors, the exclusive elite formally electing the Holy Roman Emperor
Bav Bavarian EC Spiritual Bench of the Council of Princes (individual voice)
Burg Burgundian PR Secular Bench of the Council of Princes (individual voice)
El Rhin Electoral Rhenish Circle RP Rhenish prelates (Council of Princes)
Franc Franconian SP Swabian prelates (Council of Princes)
Low Rhen Lower Rhenish-Westphalian FC Franconian counts (Council of Princes)
Low Sax Lower Saxon SC Swabian counts (Council of Princes)
Upp Rhin Upper Rhenish WE Westphalian counts (Council of Princes)
Upp Sax Upper Saxon WT Wetterau counts (Council of Princes)
Swab Swabian RH Rhenish Bench of the Council of Imperial Cities
None "Circle-free" SW Swabian Bench of the Council of Imperial Cities

Note that in the "Circle" column, "n/a" denotes a state that had ceased to exist before the Reichsreform.

Other abbreviations used in the list are:

Definition of terms edit

  • Hochstift: the territory ruled by a bishop as a prince.
  • Imperial Abbey (Reichsabtei): an abbey with imperial immediacy. Its head was a Reichsabt, literally 'Imperial Abbot' or 'Abbot of the Empire'. A monastery with similar status was a Reichskloster.
  • Imperial Circle (Reichskreis, plural Reichskreise): a regional grouping of states of the Holy Roman Empire, primarily for the purpose of organising a common defence and of collecting imperial taxes, but also as a means of organisation within the Imperial Diet.
  • Imperial Diet (Reichstag): the parliament of the Holy Roman Empire. The same name was used in the North German Confederation and in Germany until 1945.
  • Imperial Estate (Reichsstand, plural Reichsstände): an entity in the Holy Roman Empire with a vote in the Imperial Diet. Several states had no seats in the Empire, while some officials (such as the Hereditary Usher) were non-voting members; neither qualified as Imperial States.
  • Imperial Free City (freie Reichsstadt): a city formally responsible to the emperor only – as opposed to the majority of cities in the Empire, which belonged to the territory of one of the many princes (Fürsten) of the Empire, such as dukes or prince-bishops. Free cities also had independent representation in the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Imperial immediacy (Reichsfreiheit or Reichsunmittelbarkeit; adjectives reichsfrei, reichsunmittelbar) was a privileged feudal and political status, a form of statehood within the Holy Roman Empire. The ruler of an immediate city, abbey or territory had no overlord other than the Holy Roman Emperor and the Imperial Diet. Immediate states had the right to collect taxes and tolls themselves, and held juridical rights (including the Blutgericht, 'high' justice including capital punishment) themselves. De facto, immediacy corresponded to a semi-independence with a far-reaching autonomy.
  • Imperial Reform: In 1495, an attempt was made at a Diet in the city of Worms to give the disintegrating Holy Roman Empire a new structure, commonly referred to as Imperial Reform (in German: Reichsreform).
  • Imperial State (Reichsstand, plural Reichsstände): an entity in the Holy Roman Empire with a vote in the Imperial Diet.
  • Kleinstaaterei is a German word mostly used to describe the territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighboring regions during the Holy Roman Empire (especially after the end of the Thirty Years' War). It refers to the large number of nearly sovereign small and medium-sized secular and ecclesiastical principalities and free imperial cities, some of which were little larger than a single town or the surrounding grounds of the monastery of an Imperial abbey.
  • League of cities is Military alliance and mutual assistance strengthened the position of imperial cities, especially during the interregnum period of the 13th to 14th century.
  • Mediatization is the loss of imperial immediacy through annexation by a larger state. A mediatized lord lost most of his power over his former territory, but retained his title and most of his personal privileges.
  • Prince of the Empire: any ruling Prince whose territory is a member of the Holy Roman Empire (not only German-speaking countries, but also many bordering and extensive neighbouring regions) and entitled to a voting seat (or in a collective voting unit, such as a Grafenbank) in the Imperial Diet.
  • Prince-abbot (Fürstabt) or prince-abbess (Äbtissin): an abbot or abbess with the rank of prince. Prince-abbots (but not prince-abbesses) had a seat and vote on the Ecclesiastical Bench of the College of Ruling Princes of the Imperial Diet, where they sat alongside the prince-bishops.
  • Prince-bishop (Fürstbischof): a bishop with the rank, ex officio, of prince (Fürst). As a prince, he was the temporal ruler of a Hochstift; as a bishop, he exercised the spiritual duties of an ordinary bishop over his diocese, which was always larger than his Hochstift. Prince-bishops had seat and voice on the Ecclesiastical Bench of the College of Ruling Princes of the Imperial Diet. Nearly all the bishops of the Holy Roman Empire outside the Habsburg lands were prince-bishops.
  • Prince-elector or electoral prince (Kurfürst, pl. Kurfürsten): a member of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Holy Roman Emperors.
  • Secularization: the transfer of property from ecclesiastical to civil possession or use.[3]

Notes column edit

The "Notes" column shows, in capsule form,

  • the territorial development of the different states or polities (acquisition or loss of possessions, union of rulers or dynasties, etc.);
  • the royal or noble dynasties, including their various branches, which ruled over territories or polities;
  • the transmission of succession rights (marriage, female succession, conquest, cession, pledge, etc.);
  • the attributes of "statehood" (right to mint coins, holding markets and fairs, entering into treaties and pacts, appointment of civil officials, etc.); and
  • the size of territory and population of the various polities whenever these are available.

Estate of the Empire (Reichsstand) edit

The following excerpt from François Velde's Unequal and Morganatic Marriages in German Law provides an excellent overview on what an Estate (or State) of the Empire is.[4] For his purpose, the author deals only with the hereditary territorial rulers but it should be remembered that the Estates also included a substantial number of non-hereditary territorial rulers such as the ecclesiastical states (prince-bishoprics and imperial abbeys) and free imperial cities.

The special status of these families manifested itself in the constitution of the Empire as it evolved in the 16th c. To the status of territorial ruler corresponded a seat and vote in one of the colleges of the Reichstag, the Imperial Diet. In the late 16th c., the multiplication of votes due to territorial fragmentation led to reforms. After the Diet held at Augsburg in 1582, the list of votes remained fixed, notwithstanding further territorial divisions. Furthermore, the right to vote became attached to a land, rather than to a person or family (of course, land was inheritable within families). A member of the Diet with seat and vote (individual or shared) was called a Reichsstand, or state of the Empire.

At some point (Abt 1911, 103 n2 cites various possible dates, from the turn of the 16th c. to 1653 to the 18th c.[5]), the definition of Hochadel became congruent with being a Reichsstand (adjective: reichsständisch). The reason is that the Emperor, as "fons nobilitatium," had the power to create new princes, counts and barons of the Empire, a power which he began to use more frequently. The existing princes, counts and barons were obviously loath to see the value of their title diminished. The members of the Diet complained and, after 1582, it became the rule that such new princes and counts would not of right have a seat at the Diet. Furthermore, in 1653 the Electoral Capitulation included strict rules on the process by which the Emperor could create new states of the Empire. In particular, any new member had to possess an immediate territory of sufficient size, and had to be accepted by his peers (princes or counts).

Thus a distinction emerged between

  1. families that were part of the Diet in 1582: the "old princely" and "old comital" (altfürstliche, altgräfliche) families
  2. families who were admitted to the Diet between 1582 and 1803: the "new princely" (neufürstliche) and "new comital" (neugräfliche) families
  3. families or individuals who received the title of Reichsfreiherr, Reichsgraf or Reichsfürst but were not admitted to the Diet

Only the first two groups were part of the Hochadel. Those in the third group were titular counts and princes but in no way accepted as part of the Hochadel.

Thus it would seem that having seat and vote in the Reichstag would be a clear criterion for belonging to the Hochadel. But there were further complications:

  • In principle, the possession of a territory was a pre-condition for admission in the Diet. However, in the second half of the 18th century a number of counts sat on the counts' benches without any such territory. They were called "personalists" because they had been admitted on a personal basis (ad personam), and some jurists did not consider them to be part of the upper nobility (e.g., Pütter 1795, 143).
  • Possession of a large immediate territory was a condition for entry, but not a condition for remaining in the Diet. It happened that territories became subjected to another state of the Empire, thus losing immediate status; yet the owner remained in the Diet.

Consequently, whereas, in the 16th century, it was fairly easy to say who was in the upper nobility and who wasn't, it had become more difficult by the turn of the 19th century.

Three concepts came into play:

  1. immediacy (Reichsunmittelbarkeit),
  2. sovereignty over a territory (Landeshoheit),
  3. a seat and vote at the Imperial Diet (Reichsstandschaft).

The three were "usually" related, in that the sovereign of a territory was a state of the Empire, and a state of the Empire usually had sovereignty over an immediate territory; but there were exceptions both ways. Various authors emphasized one or a combination of these elements. Thus, Runde (1791) required all three; Pütter emphasized sovereignty; Gönner[6] and Leist[7] emphasized seat and vote at the Diet. Among 19th century authors, the main division was between those who required all three criteria, and those who considered Reichsstandschaft to be the sole criterion (Hohler, Klüber, Zoepf, Rehm).

Using the second, slightly broader concept, at the end of the 18th century the high nobility consisted of those families which had seat and vote at the Imperial Diet, with title of either prince or count (the last baronial family died out in 1775), numbering about 25 princely (fürstliche) and 80 comital (gräfliche) families.

Grouped lists edit

The following lists are going to be included into the table above.

Ecclesiastical orders edit

Livonian territories edit

Territories of old princely families edit

Italian territories edit

Territories of new princely families edit

Religious leagues edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Gagliardo, G., Reich and Nation, The Holy Roman Empire as Idea and Reality, 1763–1806, Indiana University Press, 1980, p. 4-5.
  2. ^ Gagliardo, p. 12-13.
  3. ^ Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1989
  4. ^ François Velde: Unequal and Morganatic Marriages in German Law. 2004–2007. Retrieved 2012 October 09.
  5. ^ Abt, Emil. Mißheiraten in den deutschen Fürstenhäusern unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der standesherrlichen Familien. Heidelberg, 1911. Carl Winter. (Diss.)
  6. ^ Gönner, Nikolaus Thaddäus. Teutsches Staatsrecht. Landshut : Krüll, 1804. §74.
  7. ^ Leist, Justus Christoph. Lehrbuch des Teutschen Staatsrechts. Göttingen : Schneider, 1803. §32.

Further reading edit

In English edit

  • The Arenberg Archives and Cultural Centre. "The Dukes of Arenberg". [1]. Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  • Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture. "aeiou: The Annotable, Elektronic, Interactive, Osterreich (Austria), Universal Information System". [2]. Retrieved June 23, 2006.
  • "Austrian and German Mediatized Houses, 1871–1919". [3]. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
  • "Braunschweig – Brunswick. A history". [4]. Retrieved July 6, 2006.
  • Cahoon, Benjamin M. (2000–2006). "Europe Index" in [5]. June 26, 2006.
  • Dotor, Santiago (2004). "Historical Flags (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)" in FOTW: Flags of the World Web Site. [6]. Retrieved July 3, 2006.
  • "Freiburg's History for Pedestrians" (2006). [7]. Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  • Graz, Thomas. "Thomas's Glassware Tour to Central Europe: Old Glasses from Old Europe" in German History Ring. [8]. Retrieved June 20, 2006.
  • Hilkens, Bob (2000). "States and Regents of the World: An Alphabetical Listing of States and Territories and their Regents in the 19th and 20th Centuries". [ Retrieved June 27, 2006.
  • "History of the House of Sayn". [9]. Retrieved July 13, 2006.
  • Kane, Ed (2000). "Castle Directory: Alphabetical Listing of German Castles and Fortifications". [10] Archived February 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 28, 2006.
  • The History Files: Kingdoms of Europe. Retrieved July 9, 2006 (Updated February 25, 2007).
  • "Lippe(-Detmold): Chronology of Lippe" in [11]. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  • Martinsson, Örjan. "Historical Atlas: Europe". [12]. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
  • "Medieval German Counties". [13]. Retrieved July 9, 2006.
  • "Milestones in Pomeranian History, with particular attention to Lauenburg and Buetow". [14]. Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  • Pantel, Mike (2000). "The History of Baden-Wurttemberg". [15]. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  • Principality of Liechtenstein. "Liechtenstein at a Glance: History". [16]. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  • Reitwiesner, William Addams (1998). "One of the major questions about the Mediatized Houses is the word 'Mediatized'. What does it mean?". [17]. Retrieved July 1, 2006.
  • Rozn, Val (1999–2003). "The German Reigning Houses: Titles, territories, regnal chronologies". [18]. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  • Rozn, Val (2002). "The Imperial Nobility and the Constitution of the Holy Roman Empire". [19]. Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  • Rozn, Val (2002). "The Last Years of the Ancient Empire". [20]. Retrieved June 24, 2006
  • Sainty, Guy Stair. "European Royal Houses". [21]. Retrieved June 23, 2006.
  • Sainty, Guy Stair. "The Knights of Saint John in Germany". [22]. Retrieved July 1, 2006.
  • "Schaumburg-Lippe" in [23]. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  • "Sovereigns in Germany". [24]. Retrieved June 22, 2006.
  • Voss, Hans Peter. "History of Schleswig Holstein". [25]. Retrieved July 3, 2006.

In other languages edit

  • Bursik, Heinrich (1998). "Die Herrschaft Hohenberg und die Markgrafschaft Burgau". [26]. For Google-translated English version [27]. Retrieved July 9, 2006.
  • "Das Fürstenhaus Bentheim-Tecklenburg". [28]. For Google-translated English version, see [29]. Retrieved July 11, 2006.
  • Höckmann, Thomas (2006). "Territorial arrangement of North Rhine-Westphalia 1789". (Translation from the original in German through Google Search). [30][permanent dead link]. (Excellent articles and links about the States of the Holy Roman Empire). Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  • "Mittelalterliche Genealogie im Deutschen Reich bis zum Ende der Staufer". [31]. Retrieved June 23, 2006.
  • Ortwein, Friedrich J. "Die Herren zu Rappoltstein" (The Lords of Rappoltstein)". [32][permanent dead link]. (For English translation: [33]). Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  • "Die Reichsstände". [34]. Retrieved July 8, 2006.
  • Wember, Heinz. "Die Genealogie (Genealogy) von Montfort: Bludenz, Bregenz, Feldkirch, Heiligenberg, Herrenberg, Langenargen, Pfullendorf, Rheinegg, Rothenfels, Sargans, Tettnang, Tosters, Tübingen, Vaduz, Wasserburg, Werdenberg, Zollern". [35]. Retrieved June 23, 2006.
  • List of imperial circles of 1532
  • List of states of the Holy Roman Empire of 1521

Maps and illustrations edit

  • Höckmann, Thomas (2006). "Historical maps – Germany at the end of the 18th century". [36]. Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  • Westermann, Großer Atlass zu Weltgeschichte (in German; exquisite detailed maps)

External links edit