Kingdom of Germany

The Kingdom of Germany grew out of East Francia in the tenth century. [Gillingham (1991), p. 124, calls it "a single, indivisible political unit throughout the middle ages"; Robinson, "Pope Gregory", p. 729.] The eastern partition of the Treaty of Verdun of 843 was never entirely Frankish and consisted of large populations of Saxons, Bavarii, Thuringii, and Alemanni. When the crown passed to a non-Frankish dynasty (the Liudolfings), the term "regnum Teutonicum" or "Teutonicorum" came into informal use.

By the High Middle Ages, the German character of the united stem duchies was generally recognised. As the other various states of the Carolingian then Holy Roman Empire removed themselves from its orbit, leaving solely Germany, her kings holding the imperial title and struggling for it, [Furhmann, "Quis Teutonicos", p. 348.] the German state became synonymous with the Empire and in the time of the Renaissance, the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" united the two concepts of empire and kingdom. In that sense, the German kingdom survived until the abdication of Francis II in 1806.

The term "rex Teutonicorum", or "king of the Germans", first came into recorded formal use during the Investiture Controversy perhaps as a polemical tool against the Emperor Henry IV by Pope Gregory VII in the late eleventh century. [Robinson, "Pope Gregory", p. 729.] 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" or "king of the Romans" on their election (by the prince-electors, seven German bishops and noblemen). The royal titles of Germany, Italy, and Burgundy, which traditionally had their own courts, laws, and chanceries, remained nominally with the Holy Roman Emperors until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 or the abdication of Francis II in 1806.


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") "sub anno" 919, roughly contemporary but surviving only in a twelfth century copy, record 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". [See Gillingham, "Kingdom of Germany", p. 8 & Reindal, "Herzog Arnulf".] Although some historians, such as Gillingham and Reindal, were sceptical about the contemporaneousness of this entry and more generally the 10th century German identity of the Kingdom, others such as Susan Reynolds and Beumann are less so and believe that the Kingdom had already taken its German identity, as opposed to eastern Frankish identity, by the 10th century. [Reynolds, "Kingdoms and Communities", pp. 290-2; Beumann, ""Die Bedeutung des Kaisertums", pp. 343-7.] However, there is general agreement that the German identity is firmly established by the eleventh century. [ Avercorn, "Process of Nationbuilding", p. 186; Gillingham, "Kingdom of Germany", p, 8; Reynolds, "Kingdoms and Communities", p. 291.]

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 king themselves, though they did deign to employ "Teutonic" titles when it proved 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 was often employed for 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" (literally "Kingdom of Germany") begins to appear in even German sources beginning in the fourteenth century.


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 the 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 (ie German) state.

tem duchies

One of the most controversial aspects of the development of medieval Germany is the creation of what in German historiography are called the "jüngeres Stammenherzogtum", or "younger stem (or tribal) duchies." They are contrasted with the "older" stem duchies of the Merovingian era, namely Bavaria, Alemannia, and Thuringia. Bavaria and Alemannia (as Swabia) formed two of the younger duchies, while Saxony and Franconia were two other new creations. Whether or not Lorraine, Thuringia, and Frisia were stem duchies in the ninth and tenth centuries is debated. Just exactly what a stem duchy was is debated by scholars and probably depended on the viewpoint of contemporaries. While the dukes preferred to see themselves as representatives of their tribes to the king, the royal court preferred to view them as the king's delegated authorities in the regions of the kingdom.

Bavaria and Saxony had very different histories, but each saw the rise of one family to ducal prominence in the final decades of the ninth century, while Alemannia and Franconia, whose histories were likewise very different, struggled under the infighting of families and factions vying for power and influence. In Bavaria the Liutpoldings and in Saxony the Liudolfings creating dynasties which were to rule until well into the tenth century, while Franconia never succeeded in establishing a dynasty and came under direct royal rule after the failed rebellion of its duke, Eberhard, in 938. Alemannia (Swabia) failed to develop into a hereditary duchy until the late tenth century and then never formed as strong a polity as the more established stem duchies. By the late twelfth century, the power of the stem duchies had been broken by the kings.

axons and Salians, 911–1125

The 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. [ Reynolds, "Kingdoms and Communities", 289-98] The 12th century imperial historian Otto von Freising reported that the election of Henry the Fowler was widely 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. [Mierow, "The Two Cities", pp. 376-7.]
It is here and elsewhere that Otto distinguishes the first German king (Henry I) and the first German king to hold imperial power (Otto I). [See Otto's list of emperors, Mierow, "The Two Cities", p. 451]

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.

ee also

*List of German monarchs



*Averkorn, Raphaela. [ "The Process of Nationbuilding in Medieval Germany. A Brief Overview."]
*Bernhardt, John W. "Itinerant Kingship and Royal Monasteries in Early Medieval Germany, c. 936–1075". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
*Beumann, H., "Die Bedeutung des Kaisertums für die Entstehung der deutschen Nation im Spiegel der Bezeichnungen von Reich und Herrscher", in "Nationes", 1 (1978), pp 317–366
*Fuhrmann, Horst. " [ "Quis Teutonicos constituit iudices nationum"? The Trouble with Henry.] " "Speculum", Vol. 69, No. 2. (Apr., 1994), pp 344–358
*Gillingham, John. "The Kingdom of Germany in the High Middle Ages (900–1200)". Historical Association Pamphlets, General Series, no. 77. London: Historical Association, 1971
*Gillingham, John. "Elective Kingship and the Unity of Medieval Germany". "German History", 9:2 (1991:June), pp. 124–135.
*MacLean, Simon. "Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century: Charles the Fat and the end of the Carolingian Empire". Cambridge University Press: 2003
*Mierow, Charles Christopher (tr.), "The Two Cities: A Universal Chronicle to the Year 1146 A.D., by Otto, Bishop of Freising", (Records of Western Civilization), New York: Columbia University Press, 2002
*Mitchell, Otis C. (1985). "Two German Crowns: Monarchy and Empire in Medieval Germany". Lima, Ohio: Wyndham Hall Press.
*Reindal, R., "Herzog Arnulf und das Regnum Bavariae", in "Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte", 17 (1954), pp 187–252
*Reuter, Timothy. "Germany in the Early Middle Ages, c. 800–1056". Longman, 1991.
*Reynolds, Susan, "Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900–1300", 2nd Ed., (Oxford, 1997)
*Robinson, I. S. " [ Pope Gregory VII, the Princes and the Pactum 1077–1080.] " "The English Historical Review", Vol. 94, No. 373. (Oct., 1979), pp 721–756
*Thompson, James Westfall. "Feudal Germany". 2 vol. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928

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