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The Imperial Assembly of the Holy Roman Empire

Last updated : Jan 12, 2011

The High Nobility of the Holy Roman Empire

In the Middle Ages, there was no clear stratification of nobility in the Holy Roman Empire. One side effect of the Imperial Reform, which began in 1495, was the establishment of three noble groups: the High Nobility, the Imperial Knighthood, and the Territorial Nobility. The Imperial constitution defined the context that made the High Noble families distinct from other groups: they possessed both the Imperial immediacy and the Status of the Imperial Estate. All sovereign houses, which ruled in various German lands in the 19th and 20th centuries, descended from the High Nobility of the Holy Roman Empire

The Institutions of the Holy Roman Empire

"Like the constitutions of virtually all states large or small before the end of the eighteenth century, that of the Holy Roman Empire did not consist of a single document, however long, drafted in a few weeks, months, or even years by men of a single generation. It was the cumulative product of a centuries-long history, in which the slow and unspectacular growth of unwritten practices into habits, and of these into "traditions,” took their place alongside formally enacted and celebrated statutes, peace treaties, written and unwritten promises, assurances, and oaths to form a vast and complicated body of public law. Never subjected to formal collation or codification except in the privately initiated works of scholars and teachers of public law, the imperial constitution, so defined, was vague and even contradictory in many particulars." [1: p.16].

The Holy Roman Empire (das Heilige Römische Reich / Sacrum Romanum Imperium) was officially an elective monarchy headed by the Roman Emperor-King in Germany (Römischer Kaiser, zu allen Zeiten Mehrer des Reichs, König in Germanien / Romanorum Imperator semper Augustus, ac Rex Germanie). By its end in 1806, the Empire had become a loose confederation of over 1800 autonomous territories. Since the 13th century the central Imperial government grew weak, and local authorities gradually established real political control over their territories known as Territorial Supremacy / Overlordship (Landeshoheit). Territorial Supremacy could belong to a duke, a bishop, a count, a city council, an abbess, a knight, or any other local authority that possessed the Imperial immediacy (Reichsunmmittelbarkeit), the direct jurisdiction of the Empire. The only feudal overlord of an Imperial immediate territory was the Roman Emperor. The right of Territorial Supremacy carried many attributes of sovereignty; however, governments of immediate territories legally recognized the Imperial suzerainty (N.1).

In the course of the Imperial Reform, which began in 1495, the Matricul System was introduced as method for assessing the fiscal obligations of Imperial immediate territories. The Imperial Matricul (Reichsmatrikel) listed all immediate territories and their tax obligations to support common needs including Imperial military contingents. This financial contribution gave a very important privilege to each local authority mentioned in the Matricul, the status of the Imperial Estate (Reichsstandschaft). This status was associated with the right to sit and vote in the Imperial Assembly / Diet (Reichstag). Most nobles in the Empire belonged to the Territorial Nobility (Landsadel, landsässigen Adel), a group that had neither Imperial immediacy nor the status of the Imperial Estate. The Imperial Knighthood (Reichsritterschaft) was a noble group that enjoyed Imperial immediacy and the right of Territorial Supremacy in their possession. However, the Imperial Knights did not have the status of the Imperial Estate because they paid no Imperial taxes (N.2). The Imperial immediate families, which had the status of the Imperial Estate, constituted the High Nobility (Hochadel) of the Holy Roman Empire (N.3).

By the end of the 16th century, many immediate territories had disappeared from in the Imperial Matricul: the Swiss lands lost their connections with the Empire (N.4a), France annexed some Imperial lands (N.4b); secular rulers annexed ecclesiastical possessions during the Church Reformation (N.4c); some immediate territories were annexed to other territories, when their ruling families became extinct (N.4d). In the 17th-18th centuries, new Imperial immediate territories were added, mostly, when a territorial ruler ceded some of his possessions with the right of Territorial Supremacy to another person (N.5). In several cases, the Emperors converted an immediate possession of an Imperial Knight to a territory with the fiscal obligations to the Empire (N.6).

1. "The agreements reached in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster in 1648 formally opened the second epoch. Perhaps the most striking immediate result of these treaties was their confirmation and clarification of the rights of territorial supremacy for the estates of the Empire. Territorial supremacy, originally a collection of individual rights bestowed by the Emperor on particular estates, now became a unified, comprehensive, and independent authority, no longer exercised as a delegated power but accepted as an inalienable attribute of sovereignty. It is important to note, however, that his supremacy was still a limited superior authority in law: for the Westphalian Settlement left certain Imperial institutions, including the Reichstag, intact." [4: p.12].

2. The Imperial Knights grouped themselves into three Knightly Circles (Ritterkreise): of Swabia, Franconia, and the Rhine. These Knightly Circles consisted of 14 Cantons.

3. By the end of the 18th century, some High nobles had lost Territorial Supremacy in their territories. E.g. in 1740, all of the lands of the House of Schönburg came under the Territorial Supremacy of Electoral Saxony. Howerever, the Counts and Prince of Schönburg continued to vote in the College of the Wetterau Counts in the Imperial Assembly.

4. The immediate territories that disappeared from in the Imperial Matricul:
a. E.g., Geneva, Lausanne, Wallis, Schaffhausen, St.Gallen, Kreuzlingen, Einsiedeln, Dissentis, etc.
b. Metz, Toul, Verdun, etc.
c. E.g., Saalfeld, Maulbronn, Königsbronn, etc.
d. E.g., Hoorn, Wunstorf, Plesse, Gera, Beuchlingen, Bitsch, Ruppin, Schaumberg (in Austria), Bergen, Haag, Leissnigk, Landsberg, Losenstein, etc.

5. E.g., the King of Denmark ceded the right of Territorial Supremacy in Barmstedt to the Counts of Rantzau.

6. E.g., in 1791, the Imperial Knight of Sickingen was admitted to the College of Swabian Counts in the Imperial Assembly.

The Imperial Circles

In 1500, the immediate territories, which paid Imperial taxes, were grouped on a regional basis into six Imperial Circles (Reichskreise) to oversee the selection of judges into the Imperial Chamber Court. In 1512, four new Imperial Circles were added, and ten Imperial Circles remained with largely unchanged borders to the end of the 18th century (N.1). The Imperial Circles were charged with many important functions including the allocation of quotas under the Matricular system.

"In 1681, the Reichstag agreed to entrust the Circles with the responsibility for organizing and maintaining the Imperial Army." [4: p.15].

The local authority that possessed a territory included in an Imperial Circle as a rule had the Status of the Imperial Circle Estate (Reichskreisstandschaft) with the right to sit and vote in the Circle Assembly / Diet (Kreistag) (N.2).

1. a. When the system of Imperial Circles was established, the position of the King of Bohemia as Imperial Elector had been suspended since the Hussite wars 1420-1433. Thus, the Bohemian Crown Lands: Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia, Glatz, etc. were included in no Imperial Circle.
b. There were several Imperial immediate territories that were included neither in any Imperial Circle nor in any Knightly Circle (Dyck, Fagnolle, Homburg, Jever, Kniphausen, Montbéliard / Mömpelgard, Rheda, Saffenburg, Schaumburg [im Rhein-Lahn-Kreis], etc.).

2. There were "personalists" in the Circle Assembles:
a. The Princes of Thurn-Taxis had a vote in the Circle Assembly of the Electoral Rhine. They contributed money to the Circle as persons because they possessed no immediate territory in the Circle.
b. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Counts of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Virneburg and of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort shared a vote in the Bench of Counts & Lords of the Circle Assembly of Franconia. When the Count of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort received the title of Imperial Prince, he also acquired an additional vote in the Bench of the Secular Princes of the Circle Assembly as personalist.

The Imperial Assembly

The High Nobles of the Holy Roman Empire were represented in the Imperial Assembly. The Assembly was the advisory and legislative body of the Empire. Originally, the Emperors convoked Imperial Assemblies at irregular intervals. In 1663, the delegates of the Assembly in Regensburg refused to disband after disposing current business, and the Imperial Assembly remained in the permanent session until the end of the Empire. The Imperial Assembly consisted of three Councils / Colleges of Electors, of Princes and of the Imperial Cities (Reichsstädte).

Initially, many princes claimed the right to elect a head of the Empire. However, the Golden Bull of 1356 restricted this right to seven ecclesiastical and secular princes, which were called Princes-Electors (Kurfürsten). According to the Golden Bull, the Council of Electors consisted of three ecclesiastical and four secular members. At the end of the 18th century, there were eight Princes-Electors (N.1). They enjoyed precedence over the other Imperial Estates and additional judicial powers within their territories. It was legally prohibited to have more than one Electoral vote for a person; and an Electoral vote could not be shared by several persons.

The Council of Princes (Fürstenrat) consisted of two benches / banks. The Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order and the Order of St. John, archbishops, bishops, abbots, etc. sit and voted in the Ecclesiastical (Geistlichebank) bench. Hereditary rulers sit and voted in the Secular / Lay (Weltlichebank) bench (N.2). In the Council of Princes, greater ecclesiastical and secular Imperial Estates had individual voices (Virilstimmen). Lesser estates were grouped in six colleges, and each college had a collective, so-called curial voice (Kuriatstimme) in the Council. Lesser secular estates voted in the Colleges of Imperial Counts (Reichsgrafenkollegium) of Wetterau, Swabia, Westphalia and Franconia, lesser ecclesiastical estates voted in the Colleges of the Prelates of Swabia and the Rhine.

Originally, a hereditary ruler had only one voice in the Council of Princes, and when he divided his possessions, each of his heirs voted separately. This started to change after 1582. The votes in the Council of Princes became associated with territories rather than individual rulers. When multiple heirs divided a territory, they shared its vote. When a person acquired a secular territory whose previous ruler had a voice in the Council of Princes, he could claim the corresponding voice (N.3). There was no restriction to own more that one vote in the Council of Princes, and some rulers accumulated several voices (N.4).
Secular rulers who had acquired individual voices in the Council of Princes by the beginning of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), belonged to the most prestigious noble group called the Ancient Princely Houses (Altfürstliche Häuser). As a rule, the Ancient Princely Houses possessed big secular territories in the Empire, and had their Princely rank recognized by the end of the 15th century (N.5). The Houses, which received individual voices in the Council since 1653 were called the New Princely Houses (Neufürstliche Häuser) (see Appendix 1).
In 1641, Emperor Ferdinand III attempted to give three new individual voices to the Prince of Hohenzollern, the Prince of Eggenberg, and the Prince of Lobkowitz. This met opposition of the Imperial Assembly because the Eggenbergs and the Lobkowitzs were representatives of the Austrian Territorial nobility who had no right of Territorial Supremacy in their possessions. The Imperial Assembly introduced a strict requirement to for new members of the Council of Princes: they were obliged to acquire immediate territories in the Imperial Circles (N.6).
An acquisition of a Immediate territory represented in an Imperial Circle, in most cases gave the right to vote in the Assembly of the corresponding Circle. A person, who acquired the territory, had the right to be accepted as a member of the Council of Princes or a College of Counts (N.7). in 17th-18th centuries, several Territorial Noble families acquired Imperial imperial territories represented in Imperial Circles, and in this way they received the status of the Imperial Estate (N.8).
Despite the requirement, several persons, who possessed no such territories, were admitted to the Council of Princes. They were called Personalists, because they were immediate as persons, not as owners of immediate territories in Imperial Circles (N.9).

1. Original members of the Council of Electors: the Archbishops of Mainz, of Trier, of Cologne; the King of Bohemia; the Duke of Saxony-Wittenberg, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the Count Palatine of the Rhine. During the Thirty Years war (1618-1648) Friedrich V, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was deprived his status of Elector, and it went to the Dukes of Bavaria. After the war the eighth Electorate was created and given to Friedrich V's son (1648). In 1692, the Duke of Brunswick-Hanover became the ninth member of the Council. In 1777, the Bavaria ruling House became extinct, and Karl-Theodor, Count Palatine of the Rhine, inherited Bavaria, and electoral votes of Bavaria and the Palatinate were merged.

2. a. The Archduke of Austria and Duke of Burgundy voted in the Ecclesiastical bench.
b. The Abbots of St.Blasien voted in the Counts of Swabia for Bondorf.
c. In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia secularized several archbishoprics and bishoprics and assigned them to secular rulers: Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Minden and Kammin to Brandenburg; Schwerin and Ratzenburg to Mecklenburg; Hersfeld to Hesse-Kassel; Bremen and Verden to the King of Sweden. The corresponding voices were transferred to the Secular bench of the Council of Princes.

3. "The Diet though neither the reason nor exact circumstances which occasioned it appear, seems, in 1582, to have laid down an entire new rule for the future. Instead of the number of the secular votes being, as formerly, uncertain, and sometimes more or less, according to the number of reigning Princes in a family, as only the persons present were reckoned, more regard was afterwards paid to the territories than to the persons themselves; and the number of votes afterwards always continued, as it happened accidentally to be at the Diet in 1582. If at that time there were several lines, the same number of votes were to be given in future, though they became altogether extinct, as in the case of the House of Brunswick-Luneburg, which was then divided into the lines of Calenberg, Zelle, Wolfenbuttel, and Grubenhagen. Two of the these lines were soon afterwards extinct, yet the votes have been still continued in the College of the Princes. If, on the other hand, a territory, in 1582, had only one Sovereign, and he left several sons, who divided again, still there remained but a single vote. This was the case with the House of Anhalt; as Prince Joachim Ernest, in 1582, was in possession of all Anhalt. In 1586, in his four sons founded the reigning branches of Dessau, Bernburg, Cothen, and Zerbst; yet, notwithstanding this, they reserved but a single vote. If the owners of a territory likewise were all extinct, after the year 1582, and it came to another Prince, the former vote was still continued; as was the case directly afterwards with the Princely Counts of Henneberg in 1583, who at that time became extinct, and since that, with Pomerania, Leuchtenberg, and several other countries. Instead of which, the votes of all countries, the owners of which died before the year 1582, no longer exist; as in the instances of Carinthia, Stiria, Carniola, Teck, and innumerable other counties." [2: volume II; p.15-16].

4 a. E.g., at the end of the 18th century, George III, King of Great Britain and Elector of Hanover, had one voice in the Council of Electors, six individual voices in the Council of Princes, and three shares of the curial voice of the Counts of Westphalia;
b. Christian-Albrecht (+1695) had one individual voice in the Ecclesiastical bench of the Council of Prince as Bishop of Lübeck (evangelical); he also had another individual voice in the Secular bench as Duke of Holstein-Gottorp.

5. a. The Ancient Princely Houses were Wittelsbach (Bavaria and the Palatinate), Welf (Brunswick), Lorraine, Ascania (Saxony-Lauenburg and Anhalt), Habsburg (Austria and Burgundy), the Franconian Hohenzollern (Brandenburg, Ansbach and Bayreuth), Pomerania, Brabant (Hesse), Zähringen (Baden), Savoy, Mecklenburg, Wettin (Saxony-Wittenberg), Leuchtenberg, Oldenburg (Holstein), Württemberg and Arenberg.
b. The House of Arenberg possessed a relatively small immediate territory and was elevated to the rank of Imperial Prince only in 1576. The Prince of Arenberg received an individual voice in the Council of Princes in 1580.

6. "With respect of the new votes which to have been introduced, Ferdinand III had already declared at the Diet in 1641, that he had admitted the three new Princes, of Hohenzollern, Eggenberg, and Lobkowitz, to a seat and voice in the College of the Princes; but he was not able at that time to accomplish his design, because it was objected against the two last, by the Electors and Princes, that they were merely subjects of Austria, and were in possession of no lands immediately held of the Empire; and neither contributed to the common necessities of the Empire, as members of a Circle, nor to any Circle itself; without which conditions, no vote could be admitted in the College of Princes. It was now urged, that these conditions were complied with; upon which the three new Princes above mentioned were admitted into the College, June 30, 1653" [2: volume II; p.266].
"All this was repeated likewise in the Recess of the Empire (1654); but with this additional reservation, << that those persons who were now admitted into the College of Princes, without having previously fulfilled what was absolutely requisite, particularly by procuring territories immediately held of the Empire, were admitted for this time only, on account of their personal merit; and that their admission should by any means tend to the prejudice of any one, or be established as precedent; and that the seat and voice should not descend to their heirs or successors, notwithstanding they might in future be provided with such estates which were held immediately of the Empire, and were suitable to the rank of Princes" [2: volume II; p.267].

7. a. Greater rulers, who had individual voices in the Council, were not always interested in curial votes: e.g., Electoral Saxony did not exercised his right to vote for Barby, Hesse-Darmstadt for Hanau-Lichtenberg, Hesse-Kassel for Hanau-Münzenberg, Württemberg for Justingen, etc.
b. There was not always a direct correspondence between votes in Imperial Circle Assemblies and the Imperial Assemblies: e.g.,
- the Hohenlohe family had only two voices in the Assembly of the Franconian Imperial Circle but six voices in the Franconian College of Imperial Counts;
- the County of Schaumburg was represented with two voices in the Assembly of the Imperial Circle of Lower Rhine-Westphalia, but only with one voice in the Westphalian College of Imperial Counts;
- the County of Sayn was represented with one voices in the Assembly of the Imperial Circle of the Lower Rhine-Westphalia, and with two voices in the Westphalian College of Imperial Counts;
c. In 1722, the Counts of Hillesheim acquired the Imperial immediate territory of Reipoltskirchen. The Counts voted in the Circle Assembly of the Imperial Circle of the Upper Rhine, nevertheless they had no representation in the Imperial Assembly.

8. a. In some cases, territorial nobles married representatives of the High Nobility and inherited their possessions:
- Rietberg by the Princes of Kaunitz;
- Sayn by the Burgraves of Kirchberg-Farnroda;
- Mylendonk by the Counts of Ostein;
- Limpurg by the Counts of Pückler;
- Wiesentheid by the Counts of Schönborn;
- Blankenheim & Gerolstein by the Counts of Sternberg;
- Gronsfeld by the Counts of Törring-Jettenbach, etc.

9. a. The Princes of Portia and Piccolomini were admitted to the Council of Princes with individual voices but never acquired any immediate territories.
b. In the Colleges of the Imperial Counts of Swabia and Franconia, there were several Personalists who belonged to the Imperial Knighthood (e.g., Giech, Neipperg, Rechberg, etc.).
c. The Duke of Württemberg ceded the territory of Welzheim with the right of Territorial Supremacy to Count Friedrich-Wilhelm of Grävenitz, who was admitted to the Assembly of the Imperial Circle of Franconia and the College of the Franconian Counts of the Imperial Assembly. When the new Duke of Württemberg confiscated Welzheim, the family of Grävenitz retained the status of the Imperial Estate and voted in the College of the Franconian Counts as Pesonalists.

Inheritance in the Noble Families

There were two major types of inheritance laws in the High noble families of the Empire. The laws of the first type prescribed that only the male members of a noble family had the right to inherit lands. Women inherited the lands only, if the last male representative of their family had died. According to the inheritance laws of the first type, an Imperial immediate territory was a common property of a noble family. Every male member of the family could claim a share in the common inheritance. Sometimes the family members ruled jointly. But, in most cases, the male members divided the family's possessions (N.1). The Imperial Constitution prohibited only the division of a land associated with the Electoral dignity.

In the Western part of the Empire another type of inheritance laws allowed women inherited lands despite the existence of male representatives of their families (N.2).

After the 15th century, ruling houses in the Empire began to introduce Primogeniture, the right of the firstborn son to inherit the entire possession. The Imperial immediate territories were not divided among multiple heirs any more.
After the introduction of Primogeniture, some territorial rulers granted to their younger sons territories without the rights of Territorial Supremacy known as appanages / apanages

1."Thus, partible inheritance was one way of expressing the role of the dynasty as a whole in its lands many of Germany's princes preferred that their sons rule their dynasty's lands jointly. Partition was recommended only should collective government prove unworkable." [5: p.21].

"With few exceptions, German princely houses large and small divided and redivided their resources throughout much of the early eighteenth century, several dynasties were never able to reassemble their public lands, let alone private holdings" [5: p.10].
"The drawbacks to partible inheritance seem many, the advantages few. ... And yet, close examination suggests several reasons why the custom endured long beyond the Middle Ages. It solved certain practical problems. If a dynasty's holdings were extensive, partible inheritance was a way of keeping their administration within the family. ...
Territorial divisions were considered a way of keeping peace among the male members of a dynasty." [5: p.14-15].
"... the premise that a territorial inheritance belongs to a dynasty collectively gives rise syllogistically to the conclusion that all members of that house are entitled to a part of that inheritance." [5: p.20].
"Closely tied to the idea of dynastic possessions as collective familial possessions was that of the equality of all legitimately born princes in any given house. " [5: p.21].
"... many of Germany's princes preferred that their sons rule their dynasty's lands jointly. Partition was recommended only should collective government prove unworkable." [5: p.21].

2. For example, Lorraine, Arenberg, the Mark, Sayn, Gemen, etc.

3 a. "... partible inheritance had deep and sturdy roots in German constitutional theory, political usage, and even in the human heart. " [5: p.24].
"The conduct of public affairs allowed no room for sentiment or tradition. ... Such views were obviously congenial to the consolidation of princely power through the introduction of primogeniture. ... There was a way to substitute equity for equality with appanages. In this procedure cadet princes were given allowances and territorial livings but no effective role in government." [5: p.51].
b. Many High Noble Houses had appanage branches: Weissenfels, Merseburg and Zeitz of the Electoral Saxony; Schwedt of Brandenburg; Philippsthal of Hesse; Hoym of Anhalt, Biesterfeld and Weissenfels of Lippe; Sonderburg of Holstein; Köstritz of Reuss, etc.

The Imperial Titles of Territoria Dominion

In the Holy Roman Empire the titles of territorial dominion did not provide any additional rights to noble families. Nevertheless, titles were always prestigious because they were associated with a greater political standing. Since the 10th century, when the Empire consisted of several tribal duchies, Duke (Herzog / Dux) was the highest non-royal title of territorial dominion (N.1). It was followed by the titles of Margrave (Markgraf / Marchio) (N.2), Landgrave (Landgraf / Landgravius) (N.3) and Count Palatine (Pfalzgraf / Comes Palatinus) (N.4). The bearers of these titles usually had the rank of Imperial Prince (Reichsfürstenstand). In the Middle Ages, there was no clear legal definition of the term Prince. It was used mostly as a rank rather than a title of territorial dominion (N.5). Medieval chronicles and documents used Princes when they talked about influential ecclesiastical and secular rulers with big territorial possessions. In the 16th century, Prince (Fürst / Princeps) was finally added in the hierarchy of the Imperial titles of territorial dominion below the title of Duke. Some lesser Imperial immediate rulers bore the title of Count (Graf / Comes) (N.6). In the Middle Ages, the Roman Emperors rarely granted new titles of territorial dominion, and most nobles were simply called Lords (Herren / Domini ). Then all titled nobles in the Empire owned Imperial immediate lands.

Since the 16th century, the number of grants of Imperial titles of territorial dominion began to increase manyfold. The Roman Emperors, like other European monarchs of the same period, bestowed Imperial titles to noble families of all categories, and this diminished the prestige associated with the titles. The level of devaluation of an Imperial title was related to its position in the hierarchy of the Imperial titles.

The title of Imperial Baron (Reichsfreiherr), the lowest in the hierarchy, was granted to a relatively large number of Territorial nobles and Imperial knights.

The title of Imperial Count (Reichsgraf), was ranked above Imperial Baron. Most High nobles were Counts. However, there were many grants of this title to distinguished representatives of the Territorial Nobility.

The title of Imperial Prince (Reichsfürst) retained its original high standing. It was granted to representatives of all noble groups for very important services to the Empire and the Emperors. The title was one of the prerequisites to receive an individual voice in the Imperial Assembly. The Roman Emperors granted the title of Imperial Prince either to all members of a noble family or only to its head (the primogeniture grant).

There were only a few Imperial grants of the most prestigious title of Duke (N.7).

By the end of the Empire, all members of the High Nobility had at least the title of Count (N.8).

As an additional favor to its owner, the Roman Emperors might elevate an Imperial immediate territory to the rank of County (Grafschaft), Princely County (gefürsteten Grafschaft), Princely Landgraviate (gefürsteten Landgrafschaft), Principality (Fürstentum) or Duchy (Herzogtum) (see Appendix 2).

1. By the end of the 13th century there were several secular duchies: Bavaria (Bayern), Saxony (Sachsen), Lorraine (Lothringen), Brabant, Limburg, Brunswick (Braunschweig), Lüneburg and Pomerania (Pommern). The Duchies of Franconia (Franken) and Westphalia-Angaria (Westfalen-Engern) belonged to ecclesiastical rulers. In 14th-15th centuries, the Roman Emperors granted the Ducal title to several German lands: Gelderland / Geldern (1339), Mecklenburg (1348), Jülich (1356), Luxembourg (1354), Berg (1380), Cleves /Kleve (1417), Holstein (1474) and Württemberg (1495).
2. The immediate Margraviates in the Empire: Brandenburg, Misnia (Meissen), Lusatia (Lausitz), Baden, Hochberg, Moravia, Burgau, Antwerp, Istria, Pont-à-Mousson, Nomeny, etc.
3. The Landgraviates in the Empire: Thuringia (Thüringen), Hesse (Hessen), Alsace (Elsass), Lusatia (Lausitz), Sausenberg, Leuchtenberg, Leiningen, the Baar, Stühlingen, Klettgau, Tübingen, Nellenburg, Breisgau, Ortenau, etc.
4. In the 14th century, there were only three Counties Palatinate in the Empire: of the Rhine, of Saxony and of Burgundy.
5. For example, the titles of the Princes of Anhalt, Wenden, and Rügen were used as titles of territorial dominion.
6. In the 18th century, there were several High Noble Houses that traced their origin from ancient comital families: Castell, Fürstenberg, Hohenzollern, Holstein-Oldenburg, Leiningen, Limburg-Styrum, Mansfeld, the Mark, Montfort, Nassau, Schwarzburg, Ortenburg, Öttingen, Sayn-Wittgenstein, Solms, Stolberg-Wernigerode, Waldeck, Württemberg, etc.
b. Some families received the title of Count through marriages: e.g., Götterswick (1421 in Bentheim), Runkel (in 1462 in Wied and in 1475 in Leiningen-Westerburg), Reifferscheidt (in 1416/1455 in the Lower Salm), Stein (in "the Forest and the Rhine Counties,” and in the Upper Salm).

7. The Roman Emperors granted the title of Duke only to the Ancient Princely Houses:
a. in 1644, to the Prince of Arenberg (who had been Duke of Aerschot);
b. in August 1806, to the Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg (who had used the title of Duke of Saxony, Angaria & Westphalia);

8. a. The grants of the title of Count to Imperial immediate families:
- in the 15th century, Hanau (1429), Isenburg-Büdingen (1442), Hohenlohe (1450), Manderscheid (1457), etc.
- in the 16th century, Lippe (1529), Erbach (1532), Hohenems (1560), Schwarzenberg (1599), etc.;
- in the 17th century, Waldburg (1628), Königsegg (1629), Reuss (1673), Schönburg (1700), etc.
b. In the 17th-18th centuries, several noble families had been granted Imperial titles by the time they entered the ranks of the High Nobility.


1. Gagliardo, John G. Reich and nation : the Holy Roman Empire as idea and reality, 1763-1806 (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1980).
2. Pütter, John Stephen. An historical development of the present political constitution of the Germanic Empire (London : 1790; 3 vols).
3. Wines, Roger Andrew. The Franconian Reichskreis and the Holy Roman Empire in the War of the Spanish Succession (New York : Columbia University, 1961; Thesis).
4. Vann, James A., Rowan, Steven W. The Old Reich: Essays on German Political Institutions, 1495 -1805 (Bruxelles : La librairie encyclopedique, 1974).
5. Fichtner, Paula Sutter. Protestantism and Primogeniture in Early Modern Germany (New Haven; London : Yale University Press, 1989).

Appendix 1. The New Princely Houses

Admissions in the Council of Princes with an individual voices since 1653:

Eggenberg (in 1717, the voice became extinct);

Salm (in 1738/1739, the voice passed to Salm-Hoogstraten);
Piccolomini (in 1656, the voice became extinct);
Nassau-Hadamar & Nassau-Siegen (the voice passed to Nassau-Diez);
Nassau-Dillenburg & Nassau-Diez;

Portia / Porcia (in 1665, the voice became extinct);

East Frisia (in 1744, the voice passed to Electoral Brandenburg);
Fürstenberg-Heiligenberg (in 1716, the voice passed to Fürstenberg-Mösskirch);


Waldeck-Eisenberg (in 1692, the voice became extinct);

Churchill-Marlborough (in 1714, the voice became extinct) (N.2);

Lamberg (in 1714, the voice became extinct) (N.2);



The Imperial immediate territories that the New Princely Houses acquired in Imperial Circles to meet the admission requirements:
- Gradisca in the Imperial Circle of Austria by Eggenberg;
- Sternstein in the Imperial Circle of Bavaria by Lobkowitz;
- Tarasp in the Imperial Circle of Austria by Dietrichstein;
- Thengen in the Imperial Circle of Swabia by Auersperg;
- Leuchtenberg in the Imperial Circle of Swabia by Lamberg;
- Mindelheim in the Imperial Circle of Swabia by Churchill-Marlborough;
- Schellenberg-Vaduz in the Imperial Circle of Swabia by Liechtenstein;
- Eglingen, and then Sheer-Friedberg in the Imperial Circle of Swabia by Thurn-Taxis.

By the time of their death, the Princes of Piccolomini and Portia had not acquired any immediate territory and their voices became extinct.

1. After the extinction of the House of East Frisia, its possessions and voice in the Council passed to the Elector of Brandenburg;

2. During the War of the Spanish succession Elector and Duke of Bavaria was banned by the Roman Emperor. His possessions, the Landgraviate of Leuchtenberg and the Lordship of Mindelheim, were given to allies of the Emperor. The family of Lamberg received Leuchtenberg (1708). The Lambergs, which belonged to the Austrian territorial nobility, were made Imperial Princes in 1707 and were admitted to the Council in 1709 as Langraves of Leuchtenberg.
John Churchill received Mindelheim and an individual voice in the Council of Princes. John Churchill was a British nobleman that had been made Duke of Marlborough. After the War both Leuchtenberg and Mindelheim went back to Electors-Dukes of Bavaria. Bavaria received back the voices of Leuchtenberg in the Imperial Assembly and in the Circle of Bavaria, and the voice of Mindelheim in the Circle of Swabia. The lordship of Mindelheim lost its voice in the Imperial Assembly. Bavaria restored the individual voice of Mindelheim in the Council of Princes only in 1803.

Appendix 2. The Elevation of the Imperial immediate territories

- in 1436, the Counties of Cilli and Ortenburg to Principality;
- in 1495, the Lordship of Steinfurt to County (for the Bentheim house);
- in 1532, the Lordship of Erbach to County;
- in 1538, the Lordship of Zimmern to County;
- in 1576, the County of Arenberg to Princely County;
- in 1623, the County of Hohenzollern to Princely County;
- in 1624, the Lordship of Neustadt to the Princely County of Sternstein (for the Lobkowitz house);
- in 1628, the Lordship of Wolfegg to County (for the Waldburg house);
- in 1628, the Lordship of Zeil to County (for the Waldburg house);
- in 1628, the Lordship of Segenberg to County (for the Waldstein/Wallenstein house);
- in 1629, the Lordship of Königsegg to County;
- in 1641, the Lordship of Neustadt to the Princely County of Sternstein (for the Lobkowitz house);
- in 1643, the Lordship of Esterau to the County of Holzapfel / Holzappel;
- in 1644, the Princely County of Arenberg to Duchy;
- in 1650, the Lordship of Barmstedt to the County of Rantzau;
- in 1664, the Lordship of Thengen to Princely County (for the Auersperg house);
- in 1664, the County of Arenberg to Duchy;
- in 1664, the County of Fürstenberg to Princely County;
- in 1665, the Lordship of Thannhausen to County (for the Sinzendorf house);
- in 1671, the County of Schwarzenberg to Princely Landgraviate;
- in 1679, the Lordships of Winneburg and Beilstein to County (for the Metternich house);
- in 1685, the Lordships of the family of Geyer-Giebelstatt to County;
- in 1689, the County of Klettgau to Princely Landgraviate (for the Schwarzenberg house);
- in 1710, the County of Schwarzburg to Principality;
- in 1719, the Lordship of Schellenberg and County of Vaduz to the Principality of Liechtenstein;
- in 1757, the County of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg to Principality;
- in 1770, the Lordship of Fagnolles to County (for the Ligne house);
- in 1772, the County of Hohenlohe-Neuenstein to Principality;
- in 1774/1777, the Counties of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst to the Duchy of Oldenburg (for the Holstein-Gottorp house)
- in 1785, the Lordships of Scheer and County of Friedberg to the Princely County of Friedberg-Scheer (for the Thurn-Taxis house);
- in 1803, the Lordships of Babenhausen, Boos and Ketterhausen to the Principality of Babenhausen (for the Fugger house);
- in 1803, the Lordship of Ochsenhausen to Principality (for the Metternich house);
- in 1804, the Lordship of Egloff to Principality of Windisch-Graetz;
- in 1804, the Lordship of Edelstetten to Princely County (for the Esterházy of Galántha house);
- in 1804, the Lordships of Krautheim and Gerlachsheim to Principality (for the Salm-Reifferscheidt house);
- in 1805, the Lordship of Umpfenbach to Princely County (for the Trauttmansdorf house);
- in April 1806, the Principality of Anhalt-Bernburg to Duchy.