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Although this series was to track the history of the Kingdom of East Francia and we’ve been recently focusing on how the Carolingian Kingdom of East Francia transitioned into a Germanic Kingdom. With that change the title of the King, prior to being crowned Emperor once the Ottonian Dynasty were granted the imperial title, was known as King of Germany or King of the Romans.

Although it is beyond my original intent of this series to continue to discuss the later usage of the title “King of the Romans” I will mention how the usage of that title evolved.

The title Romanorum Rex King of the Romans ceased to be used for ruling kings after 1508, when the Pope Julius II permitted King Maximilian I to use the title of Electus Romanorum Imperator (“elected Emperor of the Romans”) after he failed in a good-faith attempt to journey to Rome. This ended the centuries-old custom that the Holy Roman Emperor had to be crowned by the Pope.

Emperor Maximilian I

Maximilian’s predecessor Friedrich III was the last to be crowned Emperor by the Pope in Rome.

At this time Maximilian also took the new title “King in Germania” (Germaniae rex), but the latter was never used as a primary title.

Maximilian’s titles at this time were: by God’s grace Elected Roman Emperor, always Augustus, in Germany, of Hungary, Dalamatia, Croatia etc King […]”

After the death of Maximilian I his paternal grandson, Charles of Burgundy in 1519, inherited the Habsburg monarchy. Charles also became King Carlos I of Spain in 1516. Charles was also the natural candidate of the electors to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.

Pope Clement VII

He defeated the candidacies of Elector Friedrich III of Saxony, King François I of France, and King Henry VIII of England. According to some, Charles became emperor due to the fact that by paying huge bribes to the electors, he was the highest bidder.

Charles won the crown on June 28, 1519. On October 23, 1520, he was crowned in Germany and some ten years later, on 24 February 24, 1530, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the last emperor to receive a papal coronation.

Beginning with his brother and successor, Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, the rulers of the Empire no longer sought the Imperial coronation by the Pope and styled themselves “Emperors” without Papal approval, taking the title as soon as they were crowned in Germany or, if crowned in their predecessor’s lifetime, upon the death of a sitting Emperor.

Emperor Charles V

Heirs designate

As I mentioned previously the Holy Roman Empire was an elective monarchy. No person had an automatic legal right to the succession simply because he was related to the current Emperor. However, the Emperor could, and often did, have a relative (usually a son) elected to succeed him after his death.

With the Emperor no longer needing the title “King of the Romans” now that a Papal Coronation had become obsolete, the Emperor’s newly elected heir apparent henceforth bore the title “King of the Romans”.

During the Middle Ages, a junior King of the Romans was normally chosen only when the senior ruler bore the title of Emperor, so as to avoid having two, theoretically equal kings.

Only on one occasion (1147-1150) was there both a ruling King of the Romans (King Conrad III) and a King of the Romans as heir (Heinrch Berengar).

The election was in the same form as that of the senior ruler. In practice, however, the actual administration of the Empire was always managed by the Emperor (or Emperor elect), with at most certain duties delegated to the heir.