Bavaria, Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, Emperor Maximilian I, Franconia, Hohenstaufen Dynasty, Holy Roman Emperor, Holy Roman Empire, House of Habsburg, House of Hohenstaufen, House of Wittelsbach, King of the Romans, Kingdom of East Francia, Kingdom of Germany, Lotharingia (Lorraine), Saxony, Stem Duchy, Swabia (Alemannia).
I would like to briefly summarize not only the History of the Kingdom of East Francia but also it’s relevant and associated titles.
In 800 Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned “Emperor of the Romans” by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day. This Empire, which was to be a restart of the old Roman Empire, is known as the Carolingian Empire. When Emperor Charlemagne died in 814 he left this Empire fully intact to his son Louis the Pious.
However, upon Louis’s death in 840 he divided the empire amongst his three surviving sons. After a brief Civil War between the royal brothers, it lead to the signing of the Treaty of Verdun in 843 which effectively divided the Empire. The third son of Louis the Pious, known as Louis the German, inherited the eastern portion of the Empire, logically known as the Kingdom of East Francia.
After the Carolingian Dynasty died out in the Kingdom of East Francia, the elective monarchy became the possession of the Dukes of Saxony with Heinrich the Fowler as the first German elected King of East Francia.
When his son, King Otto I of East Francia, was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope John XII in 962 we see a transition from a Frankish Kingdom into a Germanic Kingdom, and from there the title of the monarch transitioned from King of East Francia to the King of Germany. Although as noted elsewhere in the series the title King of East Francia was still in usage for many many more years.
In other words, during the time of the Ottonian Dynasty there seems to be overlap with the titles “King of East Francia”, “King of Germany” and “King of the Romans” with these titles being used interchangeably, at least by modern historians.
Therefore, from the reign of King/Emperor Heinrich II the title King of the Romans was used by the German King following his election by the princes within the Empire, until he was crowned Emperor by the Pope.
In 1508, Emperor Maximilian I, adopted the title “Emperor Elect”, with papal approval, and dispensed with the Papal Coronation. Subsequent rulers adopted that title after their elections as kings. Using the title ” King of the Romans” became unnecessary due to the fact that the elected monarch did not need that title prior to a Papal Coronation that no longer existed.
At the same time, the custom of having the heir-apparent elected as “King of the Romans” in the emperor’s lifetime resumed. For this reason, the title “King of the Romans” (Rex Romanorum) came to mean heir-apparent, the successor elected while the emperor was still alive.
Thus far I have been mostly talking about titles. However, the Kingdom of East Francia was not just a title. The kingdom had borders and land associated with the titles. But with the transformation from a Frankish Kingdom to a Germanic Kingdom and later the Holy Roman Empire, what became of the land known as the kingdom of East Francia?
The Kingdom of East Francia consisted of a series of tribal regions known as the Stem Duchies.
A stem duchy meaning “tribe”, in reference to the Franks, Saxons, Bavarians and Swabians was a constituent duchy of the Kingdom of East Francia at the time of the extinction of the Carolingian dynasty (death of Louis the Child in 911) and through the transitional period leading to the formation of the Ottonian Empire or, the Holy Roman Empire.
The Carolingians had dissolved the original tribal duchies of the Empire in the 8th century. As the Carolingian Empire declined, the old tribal areas assumed new identities. The five stem duchies (sometimes also called “younger stem duchies” in contrast to the pre-Carolingian tribal duchies) were: Bavaria, Franconia, Lotharingia (Lorraine), Saxony and Swabia (Alemannia).
The Salian Emperors (reigned 1027–1125) retained the stem duchies as the major regions of the lands that compromised the Kingdom Germany or corresponding to the Kingdom of East Francia. The rest of the regions of the Holy Roman Empire lay outside the German territories which mainly consisted of Italian lands such as the Kingdom of the Lombards, also known as the medieval Kingdom of Italy.
As the stem duchies became increasingly obsolete during the early high-medieval period, under the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, specifically Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, who finally abolished the Stem Duchies in 1180 in favour of more numerous territorial duchies.
An example of the fate of one Stem Duchy, Swabia, mirrors the fate of many of the Stem Duchies. In the 13th century the Duchy of Swabia was in complete disarray, with its territories falling to the Wittelsbach, Württemberg, and Habsburg families. The main core territory of Swabia continued its existence as the County of Württemberg, which was raised to the status of a Duchy in 1495, which in turn became the Kingdom of Württemberg within 19th-century Germany.
With new territories rising from the ashes of the abolished Stem Duchies, these new territories became increasingly autonomous; and with that occurrence the Kingdom of East Francia can be considered to have drifted into the shadows of history by this time.
Nevertheless, there are relatively few references to a German kingdom distinct from the Holy Roman Empire.