Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Printed version of the abdication of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor

The dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire occurred de facto on 6 August 1806, when Emperor Francis II abdicated his title and released all imperial states and officials from their oaths and obligations to the empire. Although the abdication was considered legal, the dissolution of the imperial bonds was not and several states refused to recognise the end of the empire at the time.[1]

With his victory over Austria at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805, the French Emperor Napoleon I "transformed himself from the guarantor of the Reich to the arbiter of its fate." The subsequent Peace of Pressburg (26 December) created deliberate ambiguities in the imperial constitution. Bavaria, Baden and Württemberg were to have plénitude de la souveraineté (full sovereignty) while remaining a part of the Conféderation Germanique (Germanic Confederation), a novel name for the Empire.[2] Likewise, it was left deliberately unclear whether the Duchy of Cleves, the Duchy of Berg and the County of Mark—imperial territories transferred to Joachim Murat—were to remain imperial fiefs or become part of the French Empire. As late as March 1806, Napoleon was uncertain.[3]

The Free Imperial Knights, who had survived the attack on their rights in Rittersturm of 1803–04, were subject to a second attack and a spate of annexations by those states allied to Napoleon in November–December 1805. In response, the knights' corporation (corpus equestre) dissolved itself on 20 January 1806. With the dissolution of the Empire, the knights ceased to be either free or imperial and were at the mercy of the newly sovereign states.[3][4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Gagliardo 1980, p. 281.
  2. ^ Whaley 2012, pp. 634–35.
  3. ^ a b Whaley 2012, p. 637.
  4. ^ Godsey 2004, p. 145.


  • Epstein, Klaus (1966). The Genesis of German Conservatism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Burgdorf, Wolfgang (2012). "'Once we were Trojans!' Contemporary Reactions to the Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation". In Robert J. Evans; Peter H. Wilson (eds.). The Holy Roman Empire, 1495–1806: A European Perspective. Leiden: Brill. pp. 51–76.
  • Forrest, Alan; Wilson, Peter H., eds. (2009). The Bee and the Eagle: Napoleonic France and the End of the Holy Roman Empire. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Gagliardo, John G. (1980). Reich and Nation: The Holy Roman Empire as Idea and Reality, 1763–1806. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Godsey, William D. (2004). Nobles and Nation in Central Europe: Free Imperial Knights in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Whaley, Joachim (2012). Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, Volume II: The Peace of Westphalia to the Dissolution of the Reich, 1648–1806. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, Peter H. (2006). "Bolstering the Prestige of the Habsburgs: The End of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806". The International History Review. 28 (4): 709–36. doi:10.1080/07075332.2006.9641109.
  • Wilson, Peter H. (2016). Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.