Holy Roman Empire

Article

August 15, 2022

The Holy Roman Empire, as it appears in most French-speaking sources, is a political grouping, now extinct, of lands in Western, Central and Southern Europe, founded in the Middle Ages and called from the 16th century to the 18th century Holy Roman Empire of the Teutonic Nation (in Latin: Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Teutonicae) or Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation (in German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation). It is also sometimes called "First Reich" (Erstes Reich) or "Old Empire" (Altes Reich), to differentiate it from the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) founded in 1871. But the Germanic reference which tends to identify it with German history is not present in the history books of other countries: it is called in English Holy Roman Empire, in Latin Sacrum Imperium Romanum, in German Heiliges Römisches Reich , in Italian Sacro Romano Impero, in Dutch Heilige Roomse Rijk and in French Holy Roman Empire (abbreviated SER): its sovereigns sported the title of “Emperor of the Romans”. This denomination, present from its foundation in the 10th century and until its abolition at the beginning of the 19th century by Napoleon I, expresses the claim to succeed, through the Western Empire of the Carolingians, to the Roman Empire; the adjective Saint, attested in 1157, was added during the reign of Frederick Barbarossa to express the divine right presiding over the enthronement of emperors. It was under the dynasty of the Ottonians, in the 10th century, that the Empire was formed from the former Carolingian East Francia. The designation Sacrum Imperium is attested for the first time in 1157, and the title Sacrum Romanum Imperium appears around 1184, to be used definitively from 1254. The complement Deutscher Nation (in Latin Nationis Teutonicae, in French “de [ the] Teutonic Nation”) was added in the 15th century. The extent and borders of the Holy Empire have been considerably modified over the centuries. At the time of its greatest extension, the Empire included almost all the territory of present-day Central Europe, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland as well as parts of France and Italy. . Its history and civilization are therefore a heritage shared by many current European states. The modern era marks for the Empire the structural impossibility of conducting offensive wars, of extending its power and its territory. Therefore, its main missions are the defense of the law and the preservation of peace. The Empire must ensure political stability and the peaceful resolution of conflicts by stemming the dynamics of power: it offers protection, to the subjects against the arbitrariness of the lords, and to the less important orders against any infringement of the law committed by the more important orders. important and by the Empire itself. From 1648, neighboring states are constitutionally integrated as imperial states; the Empire then also fulfills this function of peace in the constellation of European powers. From the middle of the 18th century, the Empire could no longer protect its members from the policy of expansion of internal and external powers. This is one of the causes of its collapse. The Napoleonic conquests and the creation of the confederation of the Rhine demonstrate the weakness of the Holy Empire. The Holy Roman Empire disappeared on August 6, 1806 when Emperor Francis II laid down his crown to become Emperor of Austria and, as Ferdinand Lot wrote, August 6, 1806, the date of abandonment by Francis II as Emperor of the Romans can be considered the legal death certificate of the Roman Empire.

Nature of empire

Due to its foundation in a pre-national context and its supranational character, the Holy Emp