Mapping the events to unite the Holy Roman Empire

Deleted member 92195

Hi all,

I the aim of this discussion is to map out of all the events in the Holy Roman Empire's history where it could have united and analyse why the plan or event did not materialize in the empire uniting and through this which ones had the best chance by comparing and contrasting them with one another. There is a little problem because the HRE empire existed from 800/962–1806 depending on which event you believe in, that is enormous span in history.

I will start with an obvious one I know of, a discussion will take place around why the HRE did not pull off and how the HRE would look if it did, but if anyone knows of any plans, events where the HRE could have united, write it in. (Read text below)

Depends on what your definition of centralization is. The last chance of anything similar to France would be the Thirty years war, but the last chance of a Federated Empire similar to that of the German Empire would be the Austrian Succession war. Before the Austrian succession war the Empire was more or less unified under the Habsburg dynasty; Prussia and Friedrich the Great's betrayal of Maria Theresa was quite shocking and permanently divided the Empire between Austria and Prussia. The rest of the century up to the Revolutionary wars was dominated by the rivalry between the two great powers. So having Austria beat Prussia means no divided Germany and ensures an eventual unification/centralization under the Habsburgs.

I know that the Thirty year's war occurred because Habsburg Monarchy had become too powerful and this was the reason the French got involved. Let's just say the Habsburg win, how are they going to unite HRE and what type of monarchy will it be.

In comparison, the quote above explains that the Austrian war of succession spilt Germany in two between Austria and Prussia and uniting became that much more difficult. In this scenario, lets say Austria wins Prussia in the succession war. Again how will Austria unite HRE, will it be Austria's influence, like Prussia's in 1871 that will lead to unification. I can imagine it will be a lot more complicated than this.

Whilst not uniting HRE, Henry IV's Erbreichsplan aimed to create a hereditary monarchy and remember that in 1194, the HRE was obviously more united than in the 1700s and with a hereditary monarchy one would think that it would eventually lead to unification. (See the plan below)



"Henry, who had been crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1191, was known for being highly aggressive in guarding and expanding the rights of the imperial crown. In 1194 he also invaded the Kingdom of Sicily and conquered it from its king, William III. That same year his wife Constance gave birth to a son, Frederick II, who would, if all went well, inherit both the Imperial title and the Kingdom of Sicily. It was Henry's dream to have the Empire and Sicily permanently unified under the House of Hohenstaufen.[1]

Unfortunately for Henry's plans, however, the Empire was an elective monarchy, meaning that the Hohenstaufens' hold on the imperial title depended on a favorable election by the princes after the death of every Emperor. The dynasty's hold on the empire could never be secure as long as the princes controlled the electoral process. Henry was aware of developments in other European countries such as France, where the principle of hereditary monarchy was firmly established and the strength of the crown was increasing. Henry ultimately decided on pursuing a way to change the imperial title into a hereditary one, and attempted to gain the support of the princes of the Empire.

The secular princes, for their part, feared Henry's extensive powers. Although hereditary succession for princes (Leihezwang) had become customary within the Empire, it was still not a formal right and on multiple occasions Henry refused to enfeoff the direct heir of a deceased prince with the latter's territory (the most notable example of this being Henry's seizure of the Margraviate of Meissen in 1195 as a vacant fief after the death of Albrecht the Proud, rather than enfeoffing Albrecht's brother Dietrich I with the margraviate).[2] As a result, the princes were nervous about their rights of inheritance and were willing to grant certain concessions to the Emperor in exchange for the preservation of these rights.

The Plan:

After his capture of Sicily in 1194 Henry was busy organizing for a possible crusade and negotiating over the election of his son Frederick as his successor within the Empire. The secular princes in the meantime made their desire for hereditary imperial fiefs, and for the recognition of the capacity for inheritance by the female line as well, known.[3] By agreeing to consider these demands Henry was able to gain the acceptance by a majority of the secular princes for the idea of hereditary monarchy. Henry also bought the support of the ecclesiastical princes by announcing that he would be willing to give up the right of jus spolii, which had for years been used against Church lands.

Despite the high degree of support he had from the secular and ecclesiastical princes for the idea, however, Henry was unable to secure an agreement in writing. The first obstacle to the plan was the Archbishop of Cologne, Adolf of Altena.[3] Besides being opposed towards Henry's rule in general, Adolf was unwilling to give up the significant level of influence that his position traditionally held over the imperial election. When he aroused the resistance of several Saxon and Thuringian princes against the Emperor, Henry realized that he would be unable to establish hereditary monarchy without resistance.

Henry next turned to the papacy, hoping that if he could get the support of the pope that the matter would be settled. Pope Celestine III, however, had many reasons to oppose such a plan, including the classic papal opposition to the expansion of Imperial power in Italy. Henry tried to compromise with Celestine, offering to meet several papal demands and probably offering a financial incentive. Ultimately the pope decided that the hazards of a hereditary monarchy were too great and refused to support Henry.

Henry now found his campaign to turn his office into a hereditary one stalled. He gave up on his plans for the time being, in the meantime securing the election of Frederick as King of the Romans in late 1196. Over the next year he was bogged down by a revolt in Sicily and preparations for the Crusade, when he suddenly died in September 1197. His death put a definitive end to his plans for hereditary Imperial succession; the issue was quickly forgotten as the Empire quickly descended into civil war between Philip of Swabia and Otto IV. Henry's attempts to turn the Imperial title into a hereditary one were ultimately futile, and the Holy Roman Empire remained an elective monarchy all the way up until its dissolution in 1806."

It seems that this plan was down to more about diplomacy than war, Archbishop of Cologne, Adolf of Altena and Pope Celestine III. An assassination of Adolf would be a start but how, if any, will a united HRE in this circumstance differ from the Habsburg uniting the HRE through complete dominance from winning the thirty years war and if so, why would the HRE be different.
An HRE that is not suffering from civil war in the early 13th century could stand up as a significant obstacle to Philip Augustus' ambitions as King of France, which creates a large set of butterflies. Perhaps a longer-lived Angevin Empire?

Deleted member 92195

In order for Austria to be a position to unite the HRE, Wilhelm Reinhard von Neipperg must win the Battle of Mollwitz, where both Austria and more importantly young Frederick I made crucial mistakes. So crucial in fact that he almost got himself killed.

"Schwerin, the Prussian military commander under Frederick, now advised Frederick II to leave the battlefield because it looked as though the Prussian army was about to be defeated, and the king heeded this warning. Abandoning the field, he was nearly caught and almost shot."

If he is caught or shot then this will most definitely have a moral effect on the troops, if they catch wind of it, they may still win if they do not.

From 1741 until the French Revolution nothing will happen but then Napoleon comes along and if all goes the same, the really interesting bit is the Congress of Vienna: (see below) this will not happen:


I remember reading somewhere that the Austrians refused to have the Austrian Netherlands at the Congress of Vienna returned to them, (most industrialized area in the world) in return for Lombardy. So you may get a mixture of the above image and the below images depending on the situation and everything else.

Europe 1700.png

However, on the other hand, the Allies were willing to give Napoleon in the Frankfurt Proposals her 'natural borders' and even if Napoleon does loose one could see France having this border as a counterweight to Austria.


As for the Habsburg uniting HRE, that is going to take some hard thinking and another post, regards.