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Conrad II (c. 989/990 – June 4, 1039), also known as Conrad the Elder and Conrad the Salic, was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1027 until his death in 1039. The first of a succession of four Salian emperors, who reigned for one century until 1125, Conrad ruled the kingdoms of Germany (from 1024), Italy (from 1026) and Burgundy (from 1033).

The son of Franconian count Henry of Speyer (also Henry of Worms) and Adelaide of Metz of the Matfriding dynasty, that had ruled the Duchy of Lorraine from 959 until 972, Conrad inherited the titles of count of Speyer and Worms during childhood after his father had died around the year 990. He extended his influence beyond his inherited lands, as he came into favor of the princes of the kingdom.

In 1016 Conrad married the twice widowed duchess Gisela of Swabia, daughter of Duke Herman II of Swabia who, in 1002, had unsuccessfully claimed the German throne upon Emperor Otto III’s death, and had lost the election to Emperor Heinrich II. Gisela had first been married to Count Bruno I of Brunswick the same year.

Following Bruno’s death around 1010, Gisela had married Ernst I of the House of Babenberg. Through this marriage, Ernst I inherited the Duchy of Swabia upon the death of Gisela’s brother Duke Herman III of Swabia in 1012. The marriage produced two sons: Ernst II and Herman. After the death of Ernst I in 1015, Emperor Heinrich II named Ernst II as Duke of Swabia.

As Gisela’s new husband, Conrad hoped to serve as regent for his minor stepson in the administration of the duchy, seeing it as an opportunity to increase his own rank and subsequently make a claim for his own duchy. Emperor Heinrich II blocked this attempt by placing the guardianship of Ernst II, and regency over Swabia, in the hands of Archbishop Poppo of Trier in 1016. This action further strained the already rough relationship between the imperial House of Otto and the Salian family.

On September 4, 1024, the German princes gathered at Kamba, a historical name for an area on the east banks of the Rhine opposite the modern German town of Oppenheim. Now the location of Kamba is marked with a small equestrian statue of Conrad II. The chronicler and Conrad’s chaplain, Wipo of Burgundy, attended the meeting and documented the event. Archbishop Aribo presided over the assembly.

Conrad presented himself as a candidate for election, as did his younger cousin Conrad. Both were descendants of Emperor Otto I by their common grandfather Otto of Worms, son of Liutgarde, one of Otto’s daughters. Although further members of the Ottonian dynasty existed, none were seriously considered eligible.

The Duchy of Saxony adopted a neutral strategy while the Duchy of Lorraine favored the younger Conrad. A majority of the assembled princes favored the elder Conrad, as the father of a seven-year-old son implied a more stable dynastic future for the kingdom. As president of the assembly, Archbishop Aribo cast the first vote and supported the elder Conrad. He was joined by the other clerics in support of him. The secular dukes then cast their votes for the elder Conrad as well. Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne, Duke Gothelo I of Lower Lorraine and Duke Friedrich II of Upper Lorraine did not support him.

Conrad was crowned King of Germany by Archbishop Aribo in Mainz Cathedral on September 8, 1024 at the age of 34. To mark his election, Conrad commissioned the construction of Speyer Cathedral, near his ancestral home of Worms. Construction began in 1030. Archbishop Aribo, as archbishop of Mainz, was already the chancellor of Germany. Conrad wanted to reward the archbishop for his electoral support, so he made Aribo chancellor of Italy as well, making Aribo the second most powerful man in the Holy Roman Empire as the imperial chancellor.

Aribo refused to crown Conrad’s wife Gisela as queen as their marriage violated canon law. Conrad refused to accept Archbishop Aribo’s position. Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne saw the situation as an opportunity to restore his relationship with the king, after refusing to support Conrad’s election, and he crowned Gisela queen on September 21, 1024. The political reorientation of Pilgrim also weakened the opposition towards the new king.

On March 26, 1027, Pope John XIX crowned Conrad and his wife Gisela as Emperor and Empress, respectively, in Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The event lasted seven days and was attended by Conrad’s son and heir Heinrich; Canute the Great, King of the English, Denmark and Norway; Rudolph III of Burgundy and around 70 senior clerics, including the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, Trier, Magdeburg, Salzburg, Milan and Ravenna.

Rudolph III of Burgundy’s attendance suggested surprisingly good relations between Burgundy and the Holy Roman Empire. During the festivities a power struggle between the archbishops of Milan and Ravenna ensued and was settled in favor of Milan. Subsequently, Conrad left Rome and toured south to receive homage from the Southern Italian principalities of Capua and Salerno and the Duchy of Benevento.