The royal Throne of Charlemagne in Aachen Cathedral

King of the Romans (Latin: Rex Romanorum; German: König der Römer) was the title used by the king of East Francia following his election by the princes from the reign of Henry II (1002–1024) onward.

The title originally referred to any German king between his election and royal coronation until he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. The title was also used to designate the successor to the throne elected during the lifetime of a sitting Emperor. From the 16th century onwards, as German kings adopted the title of Emperor-elect and ceased to be crowned by the Pope, the title continued to be used solely for an elected successor to the throne during his predecessor's lifetime.

The actual title varied over time. During the Ottonian period, it was King of the Franks (German: König der Franken, Latin: Rex Francorum), from the late Salian period it was King of the Romans (German: König der Römer, Lat.: Rex Romanorum). In the Modern Period, the title King in Germania (German: König in Germanien, Lat.: Germaniae Rex) came into use. Finally, modern German historiography established the term Roman-German King (Römisch-deutscher König) to differentiate it both from the classical Roman Emperor as well as from the modern German Emperor.

Ruling kings

History and usage

Main article: History of Germany

Further information: Frankish Empire and Germanic peoples

The territory of East Francia was not referred to as the Kingdom of Germany or Regnum Teutonicum by contemporary sources until the 11th century. During this time, the king's claim to coronation was increasingly contested by the papacy, culminating in the fierce Investiture Controversy. After the Salian heir apparent Henry IV, a six-year-old minor, had been elected to rule the Empire in 1056 he adopted Romanorum Rex as a title to emphasize his sacred entitlement to be crowned Emperor by the Pope. Pope Gregory VII insisted on using the derogatory term Teutonicorum Rex ("King of the Germans") in order to imply that Henry's authority was merely local and did not extend over the whole Empire. Henry continued to regularly use the title Romanorum Rex until he finally was crowned Emperor by Antipope Clement III in 1084. Henry's successors imitated this practice, and were also called Romanorum Rex before and Romanorum Imperator after their Roman coronations.

Medieval practice

Detail of the imperial coronation mantle, drawing from 1857

Candidates for the kingship were at first the heads of Germanic stem duchies. As these units broke up, rulers of smaller principalities and even non-Germanic rulers were considered for the position. The only requirements generally observed were that the candidate be an adult male, a Catholic Christian, and not in holy orders. The kings were elected by several Imperial Estates (secular princes as well as Prince-Bishops), often in the imperial city of Frankfurt after 1147, a custom recorded in the Schwabenspiegel code in about 1275.

Originally all noblemen present could vote by unanimous acclamation, but later a franchise was granted to only the most eminent bishops and noblemen, and according to the Golden Bull of 1356 issued by Emperor Charles IV only the seven Prince-electors had the right to participate in a majority voting as determined by the 1338 Declaration of Rhense. They were the Prince-Archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Cologne as well as the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Saxon duke, and the Margrave of Brandenburg. After the Investiture Controversy, Charles intended to strengthen the legal status of the Rex Romanorum beyond Papal approbation. Consequently, among his successors only Sigismund and Frederick III were still crowned Emperors in Rome and in 1530 Charles V was the last king to receive the Imperial Crown at the hands of the Pope (in Bologna). The Golden Bull remained effective as constitutional law until the Empire's dissolution in 1806.

After his election, the new king would be crowned as King of the Romans (Romanorum Rex), usually at Charlemagne's throne in Aachen Cathedral by the Archbishop of Cologne in a solemnly celebrated ceremony. The details of Otto's coronation in 936 are described by the medieval chronicler Widukind of Corvey in his Res gestae saxonicae. The kings received the Imperial Crown from at least 1024, at the coronation of Conrad II. In 1198 the Hohenstaufen candidate Philip of Swabia was crowned Rex Romanorum at Mainz Cathedral (as was King Rupert centuries later), but he had another coronation in Aachen after he had prevailed against his Welf rival Otto IV.

At some time after the ceremony, the king would, if possible, cross the Alps, to receive coronation in Pavia or Milan with the Iron Crown of Lombardy as King of Italy. Finally, he would travel to Rome and be crowned Emperor by the Pope. Because it was rarely possible for the elected King to proceed immediately to Rome for his crowning, several years might elapse between election and coronation, and some Kings never completed the journey to Rome at all. As a suitable title for the King between his election and his coronation as Emperor, Romanorum Rex would stress the plenitude of his authority over the Empire and his warrant to be future Emperor (Imperator futurus) without infringing upon the Papal privilege.

Not all Kings of the Romans made this step, sometimes because of hostile relations with the Pope, or because either the pressure of business at home or warfare in Germany or Italy made it impossible for the King to make the journey. In such cases, the king might retain the title "King of the Romans" for his entire reign.

Later developments

Armor of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, created when he was still King of the Romans in 1549.
Coronation of Archduke Joseph as King of the Romans in the Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew in Frankfurt, 3 April 1764

The title Romanorum Rex ceased to be used for ruling kings after 1508, when the Pope 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. At this time Maximilian also took the new title "King in Germania" (Germaniae rex, König in Germanien), but the latter was never used as a primary title.[1]

Maximilian's titles read, in part: "Maximilian von Gots genaden erwelter Romischer Romischer kayser, zu allen zeiten merer des Reichs, in Germanien zu Hungern, Dalmatien, Croatien etc. kunig […] ("Maximilian, by God's grace Elected Roman Emperor, always Augustus, in Germany, of Hungary, Dalamatia, Croatia etc King […]"[2]

Beginning with 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.

Heirs designate

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. This elected heir apparent 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 (Henry Berengar). This practice continued from the 16th century onwards as the rulers of the Empire assumed the title "Emperor elect" without Imperial coronation by the Pope. The title of a King of the Romans now exclusively refers to the elected successor during his predecessor's lifetime.

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.

King of Rome

When Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, had a son and heir, Napoleon II (1811–32), he introduced the title as King of Rome (Roi de Rome), styling his son as such at birth. The boy was often known colloquially by this title throughout his short life. However, from 1818 onward, he was styled officially as the Duke of Reichstadt by his maternal grandfather, Emperor Francis I of Austria.


Further information: List of German monarchs and List of Holy Roman Emperors

The following list shows all individuals bearing the title "Kings of the Romans". The regnal dates given are those between a king's election as "King of the Romans" and either becoming Emperor or ending their reign by deposition or death. Ruling kings are coloured in yellow, while those whose claim to the throne failed to achieve widespread support are coloured in pink. Individuals that bore the title "Kings of the Romans" solely as heirs designate are coloured in silver. '* ' indicates that the king in question was elected in his predecessor's lifetime.

King Kingship begins Kingship ends Notes
Henry II 1002 1014 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 1002–1024
Conrad II 1024 1027 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 1024 – 4 June 1039
Henry III 1028* 1046 crowned Emperor * elected as son and heir of Emperor Conrad II
effective rule: 4 June 1039 – 5 October 1056
Henry IV 17 July 1054* 1084 crowned Emperor * elected as son and heir of Emperor Henry III
effective rule: 5 October 1056 – 31 December 1105
Rudolf of Rheinfelden 25 May 1077 15 October 1080 killed in battle Anti-king to Henry IV
Hermann of Salm 6 August 1081 28 September 1088 killed in battle Anti-king to Henry IV
Conrad (III) 30 May 1087* 1098 deposed * elected as son and heir of Emperor Henry IV
rebelled in 1093 and was deposed
Henry V 6 January 1099* 13 April 1111 crowned Emperor * elected as son and heir of Emperor Henry IV
rebelled in 1105 and deposed his father
effective rule: 31 December 1105 – 23 May 1125
Lothair III 13 September 1125 4 June 1133 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 13 September 1125 – 4 December 1137
Conrad III 1127 1135 renounced claim Anti-king to Lothair III
7 March 1138 15 February 1152 died Effective rule: 7 March 1138 — 15 February 1152
Henry Berengar 30 March 1147 1150 died elected as son and heir of King Conrad III, predeased his father
Frederick I Barbarossa 4 March 1152 18 June 1155 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 4 March 1152 – 10 June 1190
Henry VI 15 August 1169* 15 April 1191 crowned Emperor * elected as son and heir of Emperor Frederick I
effective rule: 10 June 1190 – 28 September 1197
Frederick II 1196* 28 September 1197 claim ignored * elected as son and heir of Emperor Henry VI
Philip of Swabia 8 March 1198 21 June 1208 murdered elected in opposition to Otto IV
effective rule: 8 March 1198 – 21 June 1208
Otto IV 9 June 1198 21 October 1209 crowned Emperor in opposition to Philip until 1208, opposed by Frederick II after 1212
effective rule: 9 June 1198 – 5 July 1215
Frederick II 5 December 1212 22 November 1220 crowned Emperor elected in opposition to Otto IV
effective rule: 5 July 1215 – 26 December 1250
Henry (VII) April 1220* 2 July 1235 deposed * elected as son and heir of Emperor Frederick II, later deposed by his father
Conrad IV February 1237* 21 May 1254 died * elected as son and heir of Emperor Frederick II
effective rule: 26 December 1250 – 21 May 1254
Henry Raspe 22 May 1246 16 February 1247 died Anti-king to Fredrick II
William of Holland 3 October 1247 28 January 1256 died Anti-king until 21 May 1254
Richard of Cornwall 13 January 1257 2 April 1272 died Elected in opposition to Alfonso X of Castile
Alfonso X of Castile 1 April 1257 1275 renounced claim Elected in opposition to Richard of Cornwall
Rudolf I 29 September 1273 15 July 1291 died
Adolph of Nassau 5 May 1292 2 July 1298 killed in battle
Albert I 24 June 1298 1 May 1308 murdered Originally elected in opposition to Adolf of Nassau
Effective rule: 2 July 1298 – 1 May 1308
Henry VII 27 November 1308 29 June 1312 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 27 November 1308 – 24 August 1313
Louis IV 20 October 1314 17 January 1328 crowned Emperor Elected in opposition to Frederick the Fair
Effective rule: 20 October 1314 – 11 October 1347
Frederick the Fair 19 October 1314 28 September 1322 captured Elected in opposition to Louis IV
5 September 1325 3 January 1330 died Ruled jointly with Louis IV
Charles IV 11 July 1346 5 April 1355 crowned Emperor Originally elected in opposition to Louis IV
Effective rule: 11 July 1346 – 29 November 1378
Günther von Schwarzburg 30 January 1349 24 May 1349 died Elected in opposition to Charles IV
Wenceslaus 10 June 1376* 20 August 1400 deposed * elected as son and heir of Emperor Charles IV
Effective rule: 29 November 1378 – 20 August 1400
Rupert of Palatinate 21 August 1400 18 May 1410 died
Sigismund 10 September 1410
21 July 1411
3 May 1433 crowned Emperor Elected in opposition to Jobst of Moravia, then unanimously elected again
effective rule: 10 September 1410 – 9 December 1437
Jobst of Moravia 1 October 1410 8 January 1411 died Elected in opposition to Sigismund
Albert II 18 March 1438 27 October 1439 died
Frederick III 2 February 1440 16 March 1452 crowned Emperor Effective rule: 2 February 1440 – 19 August 1493
Maximilian I 16 February 1486* 4 February 1508 assumed title of Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Frederick III
Effective rule: 19 August 1493 – 12 January 1519
introduced the title Rex in Germania.[1]
Ferdinand I 5 January 1531* 27 August 1556 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as brother and heir of Emperor Charles V
Effective rule: 27 August 1556 – 25 July 1564
Maximilian II 28 November 1562* 25 July 1564 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Ferdinand I
Effective rule: 25 July 1564 – 12 October 1576
Rudolph II 27 October 1575* 12 October 1576 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Maximilian II
Effective rule: 12 October 1576 – 20 January 1612
Ferdinand III 22 December 1636* 15 February 1637 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Ferdinand II
Effective rule: 15 February 1637 – 2 April 1657
Ferdinand IV 31 May 1653 9 July 1654 died * elected as son and heir of Emperor Ferdinand III, predeceased his father
Joseph I 23 January 1690 5 May 1705 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Leopold I
Effective rule: 5 May 1705 – 17 April 1711
Joseph II 27 March 1764 18 August 1765 succeeded as Emperor elect * elected as son and heir of Emperor Francis I
Effective rule: 18 August 1765 – 20 February 1790

See also


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  1. ^ a b Elisabeth Rothmund: Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672). Kulturpatriotismus und deutsche weltliche Vokalmusik. "Zum Auffnehmen der Music, auch Vermehrung unserer Nation Ruhm", 2004, p. 79; H. Weisert: Der Reichstitel bis 1806. In: Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde 4 (1994), 441–513 (p. 449).
  2. ^ Ernest Troger, Georg Zwanowetz (ed.): Neue Beiträge zur geschichtlichen Landeskunde Tirols. Festschrift für Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Huter anlässlich der Vollendung des 70. Lebensjahres. Wagner, Innsbruck 1969, p. 269.