From the Emperor’s Desk: I have deleted my original blog entry for the origins of the Holy Roman Empire and will expand on it as a series.
Shortly after the Battle of Austerlitz where the French Army of Emperor Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia, 16 German states joined together in a confederation on July 26, 1806, with the signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine. The founding members of the confederation were German princes of the Holy Roman Empire. They were later joined by 19 others states, altogether ruling a total of over 15 million subjects.
This Confederation granted a significant strategic advantage to the French Empire on its eastern frontier by providing a separation between France and the two largest German states, Prussia and Austria (which also controlled substantial amounts of non-German lands).
The “Protector of the Confederation” was a hereditary office held by Napoleon, the Emperor of the French. On August 1, the members of the confederation formally seceded from the Holy Roman Empire, and on August 6, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, Holy Roman Emperor Franz II declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved and he abdicated his Imperial title and released all imperial states and officials from their oaths and obligations to the empire.
Franz II, who had proclaimed himself Emperor of Austria in 1804 by consolidating the hereditary lands of the Habsburg dynasty, continued as Emperor of Austria. The Confederation of the Rhine lasted from 1806 to 1813.
Thus ended this noble Empire. But it leads me to a question.
I have written about the ending of the Holy Roman Empire before, and instead of rehashing this topic I would like to touch upon another interesting and related topic, and it is one that is debated by historians, namely, when did the Holy Roman Empire actually begin?
Generally two events in history are where historians pinpoint the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.
The first event occrred on December 25, 800, when Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne (Charles I the Great) as Roman Emperor, reviving the Imperial title in Western Europe, more than three centuries after the fall of the ancient Western Roman Empire in 476.
The Imperial title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was contested by the rulers of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian claimant, Berengar I, in 924.The Carolingian Empire is considered the first phase in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.
The second event that historians mark as the possible starting point for the Holy Roman Empire is when the Imperial title was revived yet again when Otto I, the Great, Duke of Saxony and King of East Francia was crowned Roman Emperor on February 2, 962 by Pope John XII in Rome. Otto considered himself as the successor of Charlemagne and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries.
Which event created the Holy Roman Empire, the coronation of Charlemagne or Otto? That is the topic of this blog series.