The Holy Roman Empire, HRE, The Empire†, Germania, is a composite federation of various independent states, cities, bishoprics, duchies, principalities and petty kingdoms. It comprises a huge area of central Europe, the Italian peninsula and the eastern Baltic coastline. Denmark borders it to the North, to the West are the various states of Francia and Aragon, to the South, Venice, to the East; Poland-Lithuania and Hungary. It also incorporates three detached areas that only sometimes fall under its writ: the Swiss Confederation, Livonia and Prussia.
Each state or league has their own capital, though Frankfurt hosts the Imperial Diet and is usually recognised as the Imperial capital.
The total combined population is estimated at around 170.5 million.
The Empire has no official language, though political discussions are usually conducted in German. Amongst the main languages spoken in the empire are: various varieties of German, various dialects of Italian, Romansch, Dutch, Frisian, French, Occitan, Czech, Pommersk, Ranish, Sorbian, Slovene, Prussian, Latvian, Livonian and Estonian.
Various currencies are used within the Empire including the Danish Krona, Luxembourg Guilder, Austrian Mark, Bohemian Crown, Milanese Florin and Swiss Mark. The Cologne Mark used to be a common currency but declined in use as the larger states found it expedient to mint their own coinage. Moves to re-unify the currencies, or at least provide a common one for the smaller central German states, have begun in various City Leagues and minor states, who have begun issuing 'Imperial Marks' (HRM).
†It should not be confused with the Byzantine Empire which still refers to itself as 'The Roman Empire'.
The Holy Roman Empire was created after the German King Otto defeated the Magyars at Lechfeld, then inherited the crown of Italia through marriage. He was crowned by the pope in 962 marking the beginning, or at least a refounding, of the Holy Roman Empire.
The electorate system slowly developed as nobles demanded more control over the succession. Disputes with the pope led to a parade of anti-kings and anti-popes, numerous interregnums and a slow erosion of Imperial power, especially in Italia. This led many states to consolidate their own power. Each of the leading temporal states, alongside the front rank ecclesiastic states were given electoral votes in return for their support in the emperor's wars.
A return to strong rule came in the late 1200s with the fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and a more fluid 'best candidate' system. William of Holland succeeded in bringing much of Pomerania back into the imperial fold but fell short of vassalising Hungary. Sixty years later Olaf of Viken proved himself even better, a furious legacy of war which not only returned Italia to Imperial authority, but brought Prussia and Livonia into the fold, and sowed the seeds for the almost permanent defeat of France during the Bar War (see Joanna of Wantzenau).
Thereafter the Empire's borders have remained virtually stable. Small losses for Arles were more than offset by the gains of Anglia and Luxembourg in the north-west and the expansion to include the entire Italian peninsula.
The general trend over the history of the empire has been for the temporal estates to slowly divide and multiply as inheritances, and religious conflict within the families, split the estates. Since the mid 1700s however this has been reversed as the states consolidate their holdings and division has been avoided as much as possible.Civil wars were common occurrences, often accompanying the death of an incumbent emperor as the various candidates jockeyed for position, or succession struggles over the lands of an extinct ruling house. However, the Empire was unprepared for the advent of Lutheranism and other protestant creeds as it fundamentally divided the member states. Those Protestants to the north slowly coalesced into the Schmalkaldic League, later to split off into a separate empire encompassing Scandinavia as well as much of Lutheran Germany.
The Fifty Years War (1618-1668) was the defining conflict of the 17th century. Religious inflexibility in the Empire put the Austrian emperors in a head on collision with the Lutheran Schmalkaldic Empire and their Danish emperor. As the conflict progressed it sucked in more and more neighbouring countries and as the theatres of war multiplied so it destroyed a vast swath of previously rich cities and productive farmland. The Treaty of Copenhagen changed little on the ground but granted full religious freedom to the empire's subjects. Within 50 years Austria was tilting toward Protestantism and at war with its recent ally Luxembourg.
Austria's wars against Hungary, Luxembourg and Kalmar would dominate the empire's life for the next two centuries. Slowly however, the empire turned its attentions from fighting itself to fighting other European nations looking to prey upon it. Thanks to this the Empire has enjoyed a near century of internal peace during which time various member states have slowly risen to become industrial powers, though short-sightedness prevented many from enjoying the first fruits of the Industrial Revolution.
The lands as a rule have their own heads of state, governments and laws. The independent cities have the Emperor as their head of state, though in practice most belong to Leagues with an elected or semi-elected head. Many of the smaller states delegate their foreign policy to the Imperial Chancellery.
Various other European countries own areas that are technically part of the Empire. Denmark holds Pomerania, Gothenland holds Pomerelia, Svealand and Tver administer various parts of Livonia. Aragon governs Sardinia and Sicily. Participation in the Imperial Diet from representatives from those areas is limited and tends to only happen when those countries require something. They do not as a rule fly the Imperial flag in their territories except during the Imperial coronation week.
The current head of the Empire is Emperor William III. The title is largely ceremonial and what little power remains in the position is chiefly exercised to break deadlocks in the Imperial Diet or guide the delegates towards matters of importance. An Imperial chancellor, currently Johannes Oberst, is appointed by the Emperor to act as his moth-piece in the Diet and as a go-between amongst the hundreds of individual sovereign lords.
Emperors are elected following a brief meeting of the electoral college. In the unlikely event of a deadlock in voting in theory the Pope has the deciding vote. However, Protestant member states have long argued that this breaches the terms of the Peace of Augsburg and would probably disregard the pope's ruling if it was ever exercised. Since the mid-1700s it has been traditional to tactically vote against the Luxembourgoise candidate and then sort out the election once they are out of the running. During the past century or so, as the real power of the Imperial office has waned, it has become more common to elect elderly members of the German dynasties, almost as a reward for their career so far.
|Archbishopric of Mainz-Wurzberg-Bamburg|
|Archbishopric of Cologne||Archbishop August Kreuzberg|
|Principality of Utrecht||Queen Charlotta of Luxembourg|
|Kingdom of Bohemia||King Leopold VII of Austria|
|Electorate of Brandenburg||Prince-Elector Ernst III|
|County-Palatine of the Rhine||Count-Palatine Charles VI William|
|Electoral Saxony||Prince-Elector Ludwig V|
|Principality of Prussia||Prince Olaf VII of Prussia|
|Kingdom of Flanders||Queen Charlotta of Luxembourg|
|Grand Duchy of Milan||Grand Duke Matteo III of Milan|
|Kingdom of Arles||King Frederick XVI of Arles|
|Kingdom of Luxembourg||Queen Charlotta of Luxembourg|
|Duchy of Pomerania||King Christopher X of Denmark|
|Kingdom of Bavaria||King Ludwig VII of Bavaria|
|Grand Duchy of Hesse-Kassel||Grand Duke William VII Philip|
|Archbishopric of Salzburg||Archbishop Sigismund VI|
|Principality of Regensburg||Princess Theresa of Regensburg
currently a minor and therefore Regensburg's vote is temporarily suspended
|Margravate of Baden|
|Kingdom of Wurttemburg||King Karl II Alexander|
There are 2 further electors who have only rarely used their vote:
|Archbishopric of Riga||Petor Ulmanis|
|Bishopric of Basel||Jakobus Geroldseck
forbidden by the terms of the Peace of Milan to use his vote in anything other than a deadlock
Lesser States of the Holy Roman Empire
Many of the smaller member states are officially termed 'Lesser States'. This includes a wide selection of often tiny lordships, principalities, bishoprics, imperial cities and communes. In return for Imperial protection and freedom from the threat of annexation they forgo any right to their own army or foreign office. As a rule any immediate state of the HRE can become a 'Lesser State'.
Whilst the public enjoy the spectacle of an Imperial election it is undeniable to many that the pageantry has become an anachronism, especially as it can lead to lengthy deadlocks (such as the 10 month long election of William III) leaving the Imperial government rudderless. Reformers would like to see the title of 'Elector' be stripped of its actual power and the decision be handed to the Diet as a whole.
The Imperial Diet is currently severely split over the secularisation of the numerous ecclesiastic lands. Though generally well-governed many of their subjects would prefer a more democratic system of government which they hope will allow the territories to catch up with their neighbours in terms of living standards. By and large the church governments are happy to relinquish temporal power in return for the safe-guarding of certain rights and privileges. What to do with the successor states is less certain however. The Diet is divided into three factions. The 'Imperial' faction that would like the estates to become directly attached to the Imperial office. There is the 'Local' faction which would like each territory to govern itself under an elected government like the city leagues. And finally the 'Ducal' faction which would see the lands shared out and incorporated into the lands of their neighbours.
This 'Ducal' faction would also like to see the designation of 'Lesser States' to be removed and their lands ceded to their neighbours, if only to reduce the bureaucracy.