The Kingdom of Germany or German Kingdom (Latin: regnum Teutonicorum "Kingdom of the Teutons", regnum Teutonicum "Teutonic Kingdom", regnum Alamanie) is a historical name sometimes used to denote the mostly Germanic-speaking East Francia, which was formed by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, and was ruled by the Frankish Carolingian dynasty until 911, after which the kingship was elective. The initial electors were the German rulers of the stem duchies, who generally chose one of their own. After 962, when Otto I was crowned emperor, East Francia formed the bulk of the Holy Roman Empire along with Italy; it later included Bohemia (after 1004) and Burgundy (after 1032).
Like medieval England and medieval France, medieval Germany consolidated from a conglomerate of smaller tribes, nations or polities by the High Middle Ages. The term rex teutonicorum ("king of the Germans") first came into use in Italy around the year 1000. It was popularized by the chancery of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy (late 11th century), perhaps as a polemical tool against Emperor Henry IV. In the twelfth century, in order to stress the imperial and transnational character of their office, the emperors began to employ the title rex Romanorum (king of the Romans) on their election (by the prince-electors, seven German bishops and noblemen). Distinct titulature for Germany, Italy and Burgundy, which traditionally had their own courts, laws, and chanceries, gradually dropped from use. After the Imperial Reform and Reformation settlement, the German part of the Holy Roman Empire was divided into Reichskreise (Imperial Circles), which effectively defined Germany against imperial territories outside the Imperial Circles: imperial Italy, the Bohemian Kingdom, and the Old Swiss Confederacy. Nevertheless, there are relatively few references to a German realm distinct from the Holy Roman Empire.
The eastern division of the Treaty of Verdun was called the regnum Francorum Orientalium or Francia Orientalis: the Kingdom of the Eastern Franks or simply East Francia. It was the eastern half of the old Merovingian regnum Austrasiorum. The "east Franks" (or Austrasians) themselves were the people of Franconia, which had been settled by Franks. The other peoples of East Francia were Saxons, Frisians, Thuringii, and the like, referred to as Teutonici (or Germans) and sometimes as Franks as ethnic identities changed over the course of the ninth century.
An entry in the Annales Iuvavenses (or Salzburg Annals) for the year 919, roughly contemporary but surviving only in a twelfth-century copy, records that Baiuarii sponte se reddiderunt Arnolfo duci et regnare ei fecerunt in regno teutonicorum, i.e. that "Arnulf, Duke of the Bavarians, was elected to reign in the Kingdom of the Germans". Historians disagree on whether this text is what was written in the lost original; also on the wider issue whether the idea of the Kingdom as German, rather than Frankish, dates from the tenth or the eleventh century; but the idea of the kingdom as "German" is firmly established by the end of the eleventh century.
Beginning in the late eleventh century, during the Investiture Controversy, the Papal curia began to use the term regnum teutonicorum to refer to the realm of Henry IV in an effort to reduce him to the level of the other kings of Europe, while he himself began to use the title rex Romanorum or King of the Romans to emphasise his divine right to the imperium Romanum. This title was employed most frequently by the German kings themselves, though they did deign to employ "Teutonic" titles when it was diplomatic, such as Frederick Barbarossa's letter to the Pope referring to his receiving the coronam Theutonici regni (crown of the German kingdom). Foreign kings and ecclesiastics continued to refer to the regnum Alemanniae and règne or royaume d'Allemagne. The terms imperium/imperator or empire/emperor were often employed for the German kingdom and its rulers, which indicates a recognition of their imperial stature but combined with "Teutonic" and "Alemannic" references a denial of their Romanitas and universal rule. The term regnum Germaniae begins to appear even in German sources at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Therefore, throughout the Middle Ages, the convention was that the (elected) king of Germany was also Emperor of the Romans. His title was royal (king of the Germans, or from 1237 king of the Romans) from his election to his coronation in Rome by the Pope; thereafter, he was emperor. After the death of Frederick II in 1250, the trend toward a "more clearly conceived German kingdom" found no real consolidation. The title of "king of the Romans" became less and less reserved for the emperor-elect but uncrowned in Rome; the emperor-elect was either known as German king or simply styled himself "imperator" (see the example of Louis IV below). The reign was dated to begin either on the day of election (Philip of Swabia, Rudolf of Habsburg) or the day of the coronation (Otto IV, Henry VII, Louis IV, Charles IV). The election day became the starting date permanently with Sigismund.
Ultimately, Maximilian I changed the style of the emperor in 1508, with papal approval: after his German coronation, his style was Dei gratia Romanorum imperator electus semper augustus. That is, he was "emperor elect": a term that did not imply that he was emperor-in-waiting or not yet fully emperor, but only that he was emperor by virtue of the election rather than papal coronation (by tradition, the style of rex Romanorum electus was retained between the election and the German coronation). At the same time, the custom of having the heir-apparent elected as king of the Romans in the emperor's lifetime resumed. For this reason, the title "king of the Romans" (rex Romanorum, sometimes "king of the Germans" or rex Teutonicorum) came to mean heir-apparent, the successor elected while the emperor was still alive.
The Archbishop of Mainz was ex officio arch-chancellor of Germany, as his colleagues the Archbishop of Cologne and Archbishop of Trier were, respectively, arch-chancellors of Italy and Burgundy. These titles continued in use until the end of the empire, but only the German chancery actually existed.
Carolingian age, 843–911
The tripartite division of the Carolingian Empire effected by the Treaty of Verdun was challenged very early on with the death of the Emperor Lothair I in 855. He had divided his kingdom of Middle Francia between his three sons and immediately the northernmost of the three divisions, Lotharingia, was disputed between the kings of East and West Francia. The war over Lotharingia lasted until 925. Lothair II of Lotharingia died in 869 and the Treaty of Meerssen (870) divided his kingdom between East and West Francia, but the West Frankish sovereigns relinquished their rightful portion to East Francia by the Treaty of Ribemont in 880. Ribemont determined the border between France and Germany until the fourteenth century. The Lotharingian nobility tried to preserve their independence of East of West Frankish rule by switching allegiance at will with the death of king Louis the Child in 911, but in 925 Lotharingia was finally ceded to East Francia by Rudolph of West Francia and it thereafter formed the Duchy of Lorraine within the East Frankish kingdom.
East Francia was itself divided into three parts at the death of Louis the German (875). Traditionally referred to as "Saxony", "Bavaria", and "Swabia" (or "Alemannia"), these kingdoms were ruled by the three sons of Louis in cooperation and were reunited by Charles the Fat in 882. Regional differences existed between the peoples of the different regions of the kingdom and each region could be readily described by contemporaries as a regnum, though each was certainly not a kingdom of its own. The common Germanic language and the tradition of common rule dating to 843 preserved political ties between the different regna and prevented the kingdom from coming apart after the death of Charles the Fat. The work of Louis the German to maintain his kingdom and give it a strong royal government also went a long way to creating an East Frankish (i.e. German) state.
Within East Francia were large duchies, sometimes called kingdoms (regna) after their former status, which had a certain level of internal solidarity. Early among these were Saxony and Bavaria, which had been conquered by Charlemagne. In German historiography they are called the jüngere Stammesherzogtümer, or "younger stem duchies", The conventional five "younger stem duchies" of the Holy Roman Empire are Saxony, Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia and Lotharingia. Thuringia, while one of the "old stem duchies", is not counted among the young stem duchies because it had been absorbed into Saxony in 908, before the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire.
The conventional term "younger" serves to distinguish them from the (poorly documented) duchies under the Merovingian monarchs. Herwig Wolfram (1971) denied any real distinction between older and younger stem duchies, or between the stem duchies of Germany and similar territorial principalities in other parts of the Carolingian empire:
I am attempting to refute the whole hallowed doctrine of the difference between the beginnings of the West-Frankish, "French", principautés territoriales, and the East-Frankish, "German," stem-duchies ... Certainly, their names had already appeared during the Migrations. Yet, their political institutional, and biological structures had more often than not thoroughly changed. I have, moreover, refuted the basic difference between the so-called älteres Stammesfürstentum [older tribal principality] and jüngeres Stammesfürstentum [younger tribal principality], since I consider the duchies before and after Charlemagne to have been basically the same Frankish institution ...
There has been debate in modern German historiography over the sense in which these duchies were "tribal", as in a people sharing a common descent ("stem"), being governed as units over long periods of time, sharing a tribal sense of solidarity, shared customs, etc. In the context of modern German nationalism, Gerd Tellenbach (1939) emphasised the role of feudalism, both of the kings in the formation of the German kingdom and of the dukes in the formation of the stem duchies, against Martin Lintzel and Walter Schlesinger, who emphasised the role of the individual "stems" or "tribes" (Stämme). The existence of a "tribal" self-designation among Saxons and Bavarians can be asserted for the 10th and 12th centuries, respectively, although they may have existed much earlier.
After the death of the last Carolingian, Louis the Child, in 911, the stem duchies acknowledged the unity of the kingdom. The dukes gathered and elected Conrad I to be their king. According to Tellenbach's thesis, the dukes created the duchies during Conrad's reign. No duke attempted to set up an independent kingdom. Even after the death of Conrad in 918, when the election of Henry the Fowler was disputed, his rival, Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria, did not establish a separate kingdom but claimed the whole, before being forced by Henry to submit to royal authority. Henry may even have promulgated a law stipulating that the kingdom would thereafter be united. Arnulf continued to rule it like a king even after his submission, but after his death in 937 it was quickly brought under royal control by Henry's son Otto the Great. The Ottonians worked to preserve the duchies as offices of the crown, but by the reign of Henry IV the dukes had made them functionally hereditary.
Saxons and Salians, 911–1125
Any firm distinction between the kingdoms of Eastern Francia and Germany is to some extent the product of later retrospection. It is impossible to base this distinction on primary sources, as Eastern Francia remains in use long after Kingdom of Germany comes into use. The 12th century imperial historian Otto von Freising reported that the election of Henry the Fowler was regarded as marking the beginning of the kingdom, though Otto himself disagreed with this. Thus:
From this point some reckon a kingdom of the Germans as supplanting that of the Franks. Hence, they say that Pope Leo in the decrees of the popes, called Henry's son Otto the first king of the Germans. For that Henry of whom we are speaking refused, it is said, the honor offered by the supreme pontiff. But it seems to me that the kingdom of the Germans — which today, as we see, has possession of Rome — is a part of the kingdom of the Franks. For, as is perfectly clear in what precedes, at the time of Charles the boundaries of the kingdom of the Franks included the whole of Gaul and all Germany, from the Rhine to Illyricum. When the realm was divided between his son's sons, one part was called eastern, the other western, yet both together were called the Kingdom of the Franks. So then in the eastern part, which is called the Kingdom of the Germans, Henry was the first of the race of Saxons to succeed to the throne when the line of Charles failed ... [western Franks discussed] ... Henry's son Otto, because he restored to the German East Franks the empire which had been usurped by the Lombards, is called the first king of the Germans — not, perhaps, because he was the first king to reign among the Germans.
In 1028, after his coronation as Emperor in 1027, Conrad II had his son, Henry III, elected King of Germany by the prince electors. When, in 1035, Conrad attempted to depose Adalbero, Duke of Carinthia, Henry, acting on the advice of his tutor, Egilbert, Bishop of Freising, refused to allow it, as Adalbero was a vassal of the King of Germany, not the Emperor. The German magnates, having legally elected Henry, would not recognise the deposition unless their king did also. After many angry protests, Conrad finally knelt before his son and pleaded for his desired consent, which was finally given.
- The Latin expression regnum Teutonicum corresponds to German-language deutsches Reich in literal translation; however, in German usage, the term deutsches Reich is reserved for the German national state of 1871–1945, see: Matthias Springer, "Italia docet: Bemerkungen zu den Wörtern francus, theodiscus und teutonicus" in: Dieter Hägermann, Wolfgang Haubrichs, Jörg Jarnut (eds.), Akkulturation: Probleme einer germanisch-romanischen Kultursynthese in Spätantike und frühem Mittelalter, Walter de Gruyter (2013), 68–98 (73f.).
- Len Scales (26 April 2012). The Shaping of German Identity: Authority and Crisis, 1245-1414. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-521-57333-7. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
- "a conglomerate, an assemblage of a number of once separate and independent... gentes [peoples] and regna [kingdoms]." Gillingham (1991), p. 124, who also calls it "a single, indivisible political unit throughout the middle ages." He uses "medieval Germany" to mean the tenth to fifteenth centuries for the purposes of his paper. Robinson, "Pope Gregory", p. 729.
- Müller-Mertens 1999, p. 265.
- Robinson, "Pope Gregory", p. 729.
- Cristopher Cope, Phoenix Frustrated: the lost kingdom of Burgundy, p. 287
- Bryce, p. 243
- Len Scales (26 April 2012). The Shaping of German Identity: Authority and Crisis, 1245-1414. Cambridge University Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-521-57333-7. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- See Gillingham, Kingdom of Germany, p. 8 & Reindal, "Herzog Arnulf".
- Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, pp. 290-2; Beumann, "Die Bedeutung des Kaisertums", pp. 343-7.
- Avercorn, "Process of Nationbuilding", p. 186; Gillingham, Kingdom of Germany, p, 8; Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, p. 291.
- Averkorn 2001, p. 187.
- "the Holy Roman Empire".
- Whaley, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, pp. 20–22. The titles in Latin were sacri imperii per Italiam archicancellarius, sacri imperii per Germaniam archicancellarius and sacri imperii per Galliam et regnum Arelatense archicancellarius.
- Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, pp. 290–91.
- glossed as "more recent tribal duchies" in Patrick J. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium (Princeont, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 44.
- Herwig Wolfram, "The Shaping of the Early Medieval Principality as a Type of Non-royal Rulership", Viator, 2 (1971), p. 41.
- "The stem duchy did not arise out of the will of the leaderless stem but rather out of the duke's determination to rule. The duke himself was the political organization of the hitherto unorganized and leaderless stem." Gerd Tellenbach, Königtum und Stämme in der Werdezeit des Deutschen Reiches, Quellen und Studien zur Verfassungsgeschichte des Deutschen Reiches in Mittelalter und Neuzeit, vol. 7, pt. 4 (Weimar, 1939), p. 92, quoted and translated in Freed, "Reflections on the Medieval German Nobility", p. 555.
- This thesis was popularised for English scholars by Geoffrey Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany, 2nd ed. (New York: 1947).
- That he claimed the whole, and not just Bavaria, has been doubted by Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance, p. 44.
- James Westfall Thompson, "German Feudalism", The American Historical Review, 28, 3 (1923), p. 454.
- Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, pp. 289–98.
- Mierow, The Two Cities, pp. 376–7.
- See Otto's list of emperors, Mierow, The Two Cities, p. 451.
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