Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Seating plan for an inauguration of the Imperial Diet in the Regensburg Town Hall from a 1675 engraving: Emperor and Prince-electors at the head, secular Princes to the left, ecclesiastical to the right, deputies of Imperial Cities in the foreground.

The Imperial Diet (Latin: Dieta Imperii or Comitium Imperiale; German: Reichstag) was the Diet, or general assembly, of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire and emerged from the earlier informal assemblies, known as Hoftage.

During the period of the Empire, which lasted formally until 1806, the Diet was not a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of the realm. More precisely, it was the convention of the Imperial Estates, legal entities that, according to feudal law, had no authority above them besides the Holy Roman Emperor (or King of the Romans) himself. The deputies convened occasionally at different cities, until in 1663 the Perpetual Diet was established at the Regensburg city hall.

History[edit]

The precise role and function of the Imperial Diet changed over the centuries, as did the Empire itself, in that the estates and separate territories gained more and more control of their own affairs at the expense of imperial power. Initially, there was neither a fixed time nor location for the Diet. It started as a convention of the dukes of the old Germanic tribes that formed the Frankish kingdom when important decisions had to be made, and was probably based on the old Germanic law whereby each leader relied on the support of his leading men. For example, already under Emperor Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars, the Diet, according to the Royal Frankish Annals, met at Paderborn in 777, and the Diet of Aix in 802/803 officially determined the laws concerning the subdued Saxons and other tribes.

At the Diet of 919 in Fritzlar the dukes elected the first King of the Germans, who was a Saxon, Henry the Fowler, thus overcoming the longstanding rivalry between Franks and Saxons and laying the foundation for the German realm. After the conquest of Italy, the 1158 Diet of Roncaglia finalized four laws that would significantly alter the (never formally written) constitution of the Empire, marking the beginning of the steady decline of the central power in favour of the local dukes. The Golden Bull of 1356 cemented the concept of "territorial rule" (Landesherrschaft), the largely independent rule of the dukes over their respective territories, and also limited the number of electors to seven. The Pope, contrary to modern myth, was never involved in the electoral process but only in the process of ratification and coronation of whomever the Prince-Electors chose.

"Here I stand": Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521
19th-century painting by Hermann Wislicenus

However, until the late 15th century, the Diet was not actually formalized as an institution. Instead, the dukes and other princes would irregularly convene at the court of the Emperor; these assemblies were usually referred to as Hoftage (from German Hof "court"). Only beginning in 1489 was the Diet called the Reichstag, and it was formally divided into several collegia ("colleges"). Initially, the two colleges were that of the prince-electors and that of the other dukes and princes. Later, the imperial cities, that is, cities that had Imperial immediacy and were oligarchic republics independent of a local ruler that were subject only to the Emperor himself, managed to be accepted as a third party.

Several attempts to reform the Empire and end its slow disintegration, notably starting with the Diet of 1495, did not have much effect. In contrast, this process was only hastened with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which formally bound the Emperor to accept all decisions made by the Diet, in effect depriving him of his few remaining powers. From then to its end in 1806, the Empire was not much more than a collection of largely independent states.

Probably the most famous Diets were those held in Worms in 1495, where the Imperial Reform was enacted, and 1521, where Martin Luther was banned (see Edict of Worms), the Diets of Speyer 1526 and 1529 (see Protestation at Speyer), and several in Nuremberg (Diet of Nuremberg). Only with the introduction of the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg in 1663 did the Diet permanently convene in a fixed location.

Participants[edit]

Since 1489, the Diet comprised three colleges:

Electors[edit]

The Electoral college (Kurfürstenrat), led by the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz in his capacity as Archchancellor of Germany. The seven Prince-electors were designated by the Golden Bull of 1356:

The number increased to eight, when in 1623 the Duke of Bavaria took over the electoral dignity of the Count Palatine, who himself received a separate vote in the electoral college according to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia (Causa Palatina), including the high office of a Archtreasurer. In 1692 the Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hannover) became the ninth Prince-elector as Archbannerbearer during the Nine Years' War.

In the War of the Bavarian Succession, the electoral dignities of the Palatinate and Bavaria were merged, approved by the 1779 Treaty of Teschen. The German Mediatisation of 1803 entailed the dissolution of the Cologne and Trier Prince-archbishoprics, the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz and German Archchancellor received—as compensation for his lost territory occupied by Revolutionary France—the newly established Principality of Regensburg. In turn, four secular princes were elevated to prince-electors:

These changes however had little effect, as with the abdication of Francis II as Holy Roman Emperor the Empire was dissolved only three years later.

Princes[edit]

The college of Imperial Princes (Reichsfürstenrat or Fürstenbank) incorporated the Imperial Counts as well as immediate lords, Prince-Bishops and Imperial abbots. Strong in members, though often discordant, the second college tried to preserve its interests against the dominance of the Prince-electors.

The House of Princes was again subdivided into an ecclesiastical and a secular bench. Remarkably, the ecclesiastical bench was headed by the—secular—Archduke of Austria and the Burgundian duke of the Habsburg Netherlands (held by Habsburg Spain from 1556). As the Austrian House of Habsburg had failed to assume the leadership of the secular bench, they received the guidance over the ecclesiastical princes instead. The first ecclesiastical prince was the Archbishop of Salzburg as Primas Germaniae; the Prince-Archbishop of Besançon, though officially a member until the 1678 Treaty of Nijmegen, did not attend the Diet's meetings.

The ecclesiastical bench also comprised the Grand Master and Deutschmeister of the Teutonic Knights, as well as the Grand Prior of the Monastic State of the Knights Hospitaller at Heitersheim. The Prince-Bishopric of Lübeck remained an ecclesiastical member even after it had turned Protestant, ruled by diocesan administrators from the House of Holstein-Gottorp from 1586. The Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück, according to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia was under alternating rule of a Catholic bishop and a Lutheran bishop from the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg.

Each member of the Princes' College held either a single vote (Virilstimme) or a collective vote (Kuriatstimme). Due to the Princes, their single vote from 1582 strictly depended on their immediate fiefs; this principle led to an accumulation of votes, when one ruler held several territories in personal union. Counts and Lords only were entitled to collective votes, they therefore formed separate colleges like the Wetterau Association of Imperial Counts and mergers within the Swabian, the Franconian and the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circles. Likewise, on the ecclesiastical bench, the Imperial abbots joined a Swabian or Rhenish college.

In the German Mediatisation of 1803, numerous ecclesiastical territories were annexed by secular estates. A reform of the Princes' college was however not carried out until the Empire's dissolution in 1806.

Cities[edit]

The college of Imperial Cities (Reichsstädtekollegium) evolved from 1489 onwards, it contributed greatly to the development of the Imperial Diets as a political institution. Nevertheless the collective vote of the cities initially was of inferior importance until a 1582 Recess of the Augsburg Diet. The college was led by the city council of the actual venue; with the implementation of the Perpetual Diet in 1663, the chair passed to Regensburg.

The Imperial cities also divided into a Swabian and Rhenish bench. The Swabian cities were led by Nuremberg, Augsburg and Regensburg, the Rhenish cities by Cologne, Aachen and Frankfurt.

For a complete list of members of the Imperial Diet from 1792, near the end of the Empire, see List of Reichstag participants (1792).

Religious bodies[edit]

After the Peace of Westphalia, the Reichstag would no longer vote by college on religious matters. Instead, the Catholic and Protestant states in the Empire would discuss the matter separately and then negotiate an agreement with each other. The Catholic body, or corpus catholicum, was headed by the Archbishop of Mainz.

The Protestant body, or corpus evangelicorum, was headed by the Elector of Saxony. Although the Electors of Saxony were Catholic after 1712, they continued to head the corpus evangelicorum, as the Electorate of Saxony remained Protestant. On each topic, Saxony would speak first, then Brandenburg-Prussia and Hanover, followed by the remaining states in order of size. When all the states had spoken, Saxony would weigh the votes and announce a consensus.[1]

Collection of records[edit]

After the formation of the new German Empire in 1871, the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences started to collect imperial records (Reichsakten) and imperial diet records (Reichstagsakten). In 1893 the commission published the first volume. At present the years 1524–1527 and years up to 1544 are being collected and researched. A volume dealing with the 1532 Diet of Regensburg, including the peace negotiations with the Protestants in Schweinfurt and Nuremberg, by Rosemarie Aulinger of Vienna was published in 1992.

Locations of Imperial Diets[edit]

Note: this list is incomplete
Year Place President Theme
754 Quierzy-sur-Oise Pepin the Short Donation of Pepin to Pope Stephen II
777 Paderborn Charlemagne First Diet on Saxon soil, Duke Widukind refused to appear
782 Lippspringe Charlemagne Division of Saxony into Gaue under Frankish Grafen (counts)
788 Ingelheim am Rhein Charlemagne Deposition of Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria
799 Paderborn Charlemagne Charlemagne clears with Pope Leo III his installation as Emperor
806 Diedenhofen Charlemagne Division of the Carolingian Empire among Pepin of Italy, Charles the Younger and Louis the Pious
817 Aachen    
826 ?   Invitation of the Sorbs;
829 Worms    
831 Aachen    
835 Diedenhofen Louis the Pious  
838 Speyer Louis the Pious  
872 Forchheim Louis the German  
874 Forchheim Louis the German Discussion and regulation of inheritance
887 Tribur    
889 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia  
892 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia Preparing a War against the Slavs
896 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia  
903 Forchheim Louis the Child Execution of the Babenberg Rebel Adalhard
907 Forchheim Louis the Child Council about the Magyar attacks
911 Forchheim   Election of Conrad of Franconia King
914 Forchheim Conrad of Franconia War against Arnulf I of Bavaria
919 Fritzlar    
926 Worms Henry the Fowler  
952 on the Lech meadows near Augsburg Otto I the Great  
961 Forchheim Otto I the Great  
967 Ravenna Otto II  
972 Quedlinburg    
976 Regensburg    
978 Dortmund Otto II War against France in the Autumn
983 Verona   Election of Otto III
985     End of the usurpation of Henry the Wrangler
993 Dortmund Otto III  
1030 Minden Conrad II  
1066 Tribur    
1076 Worms Henry IV  
1077 Augsburg    
1098 Mainz Henry IV.  
1105 Ingelheim Henry IV.  
1119 Tribur Henry IV.  
1122 Worms Henry V  
1126 Speyer Henry V  
1146 Speyer Conrad III Decision to participate in the Second Crusade
1147 Frankfurt Conrad III
1152 Dortmund/Merseburg Frederick I Barbarossa  
1154 Goslar  
1157 Bisanz Frederick I Barbarossa  
1158 Diet of Roncaglia near Piacenza Frederick I Barbarossa  
1165 Würzburg Frederick I Barbarossa  
1168 Bamberg Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI  
1178 Speyer Frederick I Barbarossa  
1180 Gelnhausen Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI Investiture of the Archbishop of Cologne with the Duchy of Westphalia
1181 Erfurt Henry VI Exile of Henry the Lion
1188 Mainz Henry VI  
1190 Schwäbisch Hall Henry VI Abolishment of the Duchy of Lower Lorraine
1193 Speyer Henry VI  
1196 Frankfurt Henry VI  
1205 Speyer Philip of Swabia  
1213 Speyer Frederick II Frederick has his uncle, Philip of Swabia, who was murdered 1208 in Bamberg, interred in the Speyer cathedral
1235 Mainz Frederick II  
1273 Speyer Rudolf I  
1287 Würzburg Adolf  
1309 Speyer Henry VII
1338 Frankfurt    
1379 Frankfurt    
1356 Nuremberg Charles IV Issuance of the Golden Bull
1384 Speyer    
1389 Eger Wenceslaus Peace of Eger
1414 Speyer Sigismund
1444 Speyer Frederick III
1487 Speyer Frederick III
1487 Nuremberg Frederick III  
1488 Esslingen Frederick III Formation of the Swabian League
1495 Worms Maximilian I Imperial Reform; Common Penny in the wake of the Swabian War
1496/97 Lindau    
1497/98 Freiburg    
1500 Augsburg    
1505 Cologne   Arbitration ending the War of the Succession of Landshut
1507 Konstanz    
1512 Trier/Cologne   10 Imperial Circles
1518 Augsburg    
1521 Worms Charles V Diet of Worms, ban of Martin Luther, Edict of Worms
1522 Nuremberg I    
1522/23 Nuremberg II    
1524 Nuremberg III    
1526 Speyer I   Diet of Speyer (1526) Suspension of the Edict of Worms
1529 Speyer II   Diet of Speyer (1529), Reinstatement of the Edict of Worms, Protestation at Speyer. Proclamation of the Wiedertäufermandat condemning Anabaptists
1530 Augsburg   Diet of Augsburg presentation of the Augsburg Confession
1532 Regensburg Ferdinand I Constitutio Criminalis Carolina
1541 Regensburg    
1542 Speyer    
1542 Nuremberg    
1543 Nuremberg    
1544 Speyer    
1548 Augsburg   Augsburg Interim
1550/51 Augsburg    
1555 Augsburg   Peace of Augsburg
1556/57 Regensburg    
1559 Augsburg    
1566 Augsburg    
1567 Regensburg    
1570 Speyer   The infantry of the Empire gained a comprehensive military code
1576 Regensburg    
1582 Augsburg    
1594 Regensburg    
1597/98 Regensburg    
1603 Regensburg    
1608 Regensburg    
1613 Regensburg    
1640/41 Regensburg    
1653/54 Regensburg Ferdinand III. The Youngest Recess (Jüngster Reichsabschied / recessus imperii novissimus)
1663–1806 in the Reichssaal
of the Regensburg town hall
as the Perpetual Diet
   

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kalipke, Andreas (2013). "The Corpus Evangelicorum". In Coy, Marschke, and Sabean. The Holy Roman Empire, Reconsidered. Berghahn. pp. 228–247. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Peter Claus Hartmann: Das Heilige Römische Reich deutscher Nation in der Neuzeit 1486–1806. Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-15-017045-1.
  • Axel Gotthard: Das Alte Reich 1495–1806. Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-15118-6
  • Edgar Liebmann: Reichstag. In: Friedrich Jaeger (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit, Bd. 10: Physiologie-Religiöses Epos. Stuttgart 2009, str. 948-953, ISBN 3-534-17605-7
  • Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger: Des Kaisers alte Kleider. Verfassungsgeschichte und Symbolsprache des Alten Reiches. München 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57074-2
  • Helmut Neuhaus: Das Reich in der frühen Neuzeit (Enzyklopädie Deutscher Geschichte, Band 42). München 2003, ISBN 3-486-56729-2.
  • Heinz Angermeier: Das alte Reich in der deutschen Geschichte. Studien über Kontinuitäten und Zäsuren. München 1998, ISBN 3-486-55897-8

External links[edit]