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King of the Romans: Wikis


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King of the Romans (Latin: Romanorum Rex) was the title used by the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire following his election to the office by the highest rank of Imperial nobility.

Under normal circumstances, this election was followed by a coronation, almost always performed in Rome and usually by the Pope; the coronation conferred the title of Romanorum Imperator "Emperor of the Romans". The King of the Romans was therefore considered Imperator futurus ("Emperor to be"), and had all the privileges and duties of Holy Roman Emperor, but not the title.

However, due to the unstable politics of both Germany and Italy, 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 achieved the journey to Rome at all, and therefore remained Kings of the Romans for their entire period in office.

The title came into common use in the in the 11th century, during the 28-year period from 1056 to 1084 in the reign of King Henry IV, when he ruled the Empire but had not yet been crowned by the Pope. With reference to the ruler of the Empire, it passed out of use after 1508, when the Pope granted then-King Maximilian I the title of Electus Romanorum Imperator ("elected Emperor of the Romans"); thenceforward the elected rulers of the Empire used the title "Emperor" without undertaking the journey to Rome, and only one, Charles V, was crowned by the Pope.

The title was not, however, abandoned altogether. It was also used when the ruler of the Empire had a designated heir who was elected during the ruler's lifetime as "King of the Romans", a nominal title with no real power attached to it, though the Emperor might delegate some duties to his heir.


Ruling Kings

"King of the Romans" was the title of the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, before he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by the Pope. The Holy Roman Empire included several kingdoms, including the Kingdom of Germany, Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Arles, and later the Kingdom of Bohemia at different points of history; the title "King of the Romans" did not refer directly to any of these, but instead implied continuity with the claims to universal sovereignty ascribed to the Roman Empire.

Before the King of the Romans could be crowned, he first had to be elected by the German nobility as King of the Germans (Rex Teutonicorum). The elections were normally held in the city of Frankfurt, and originally all German noblemen present could vote. From 1356 on the procedure was made more exclusive, and only seven Prince-electors had the right to vote. After being elected, the new king could be crowned King of the Germans in Aachen by an archbishop. The final step to become Emperor of the Romans was to travel to Rome and be crowned Emperor by the pope. Not all Kings of the Romans made this step, sometimes because of hostile relations to the current Pope, at other times because the pressure of business at home, or warfare in Germany or Italy, made it impossible for the King to make the journey.

The title Rex Romanorum was used occasionally by the Ottonian rulers and especially by Emperor Henry II to highlight the Roman nature of their Empire, which was contested by the Byzantine Emperors.

Rex Romanorum became the standard title under the Salian King Henry IV during the Investiture Controversy. Pope Gregory VII insisted on using the title Rex Teutonicorum to counter Henry's imperial claims. As King, Henry was the Imperator futurus but at that point he had not been crowned Emperor. In reaction to Gregory's usage, Henry made Rex Romanorum his standard title until he was crowned Emperor in 1084.

Henry's successors imitated this practice, and were called Rex Romanorum before and Imperator Romanorum after their Roman coronation.



The following were Kings of the Romans who ruled or claimed to rule the Empire without subordination to another ruler, but who had not been crowned Emperor or claimed the title without coronation.

House King Became King Ceased to be King Other
Date Reason
Otto III 983 996 crowned Emperor
Henry II 1002 1014 crowned Emperor
Salian Conrad II 1024 1027 crowned Emperor
Henry III 1039 1046 crowned Emperor
Henry IV 1056 1084 crowned Emperor
Rival claimants Rudolf 1077 15 Oct 1080 died
Hermann 6 Aug 1081 28 Sept 1088 died
Conrad 1093 27 Jul 1101 died
Salian Henry V 1105 1106 in opposition to Henry IV
1106 1111 crowned Emperor
Supplinburg Lothair III 1125 1133 crowned Emperor
Hohenstaufen Conrad III 1127 1135 in opposition to Lothair
1138 1152 died
Frederick I (Barbarossa) 1152 1155 crowned Emperor
Henry VI 1190 1191 crowned Emperor
Frederick II 1197 1197 abdicated
Philip 1198 1208 died
Welf dynasty Otto IV 1198 1208 in opposition to Philip
1208 1209 crowned Emperor
Hohenstaufen Frederick II 1212 1220 crowned Emperor
Rival claimants Henry Raspe 1246 1247
William of Holland 1247 1256
Hohenstaufen Conrad IV 1250 1254 died
Great Interregnum Richard of Cornwall 1257 1272
Alfonso of Castile 1257 1275
Habsburg Rudolph I 1273 1291 died
Nassau Adolph 1292 1298 deposed and killed
Habsburg Albert I 1298 1308 died
Luxembourg Henry VII 1308 1312 crowned Emperor
Habsburg Frederick the Fair 1314 1322 opposed to Louis IV
1326 1330 jointly with Louis IV
Wittelsbach Louis IV 1314 1328 crowned Emperor
Luxembourg Charles IV 1346 1347 opposed to Louis V
1347 1355 crowned Emperor
Wenceslaus 1378 1400 deposed
Wittelsbach Rupert 1400 1410 died
Luxembourg Jobst of Moravia 1410 1411 died opposed to Sigismund
Sigismund 1410 1411 second election opposed to Jobst
1411 1433 crowned Emperor
Habsburg Albert II 1438 1439 died
Frederick III 1440 1452 crowned Emperor
Maximilian I 1493 1508 assumed Imperial title

Heirs designate

The Holy Roman Empire was an elective monarchy. No person had a right to succeed to the Imperial throne simply because of a blood relationship with the current ruler of the Empire. However, the ruler could pursue the election of his heir (usually a son) as King, who would then succeed him after his death. This junior King then bore the title "King of the Romans". It was not necessary, though it was usual, for the senior ruler to hold the Imperial title; on one occasion (1147-1150) there was both a ruling King of the Romans (King Conrad III) and a King of the Romans as heir (Henry Berengar). However, the actual rule was always held by the senior King or Emperor.

After 1508, the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire (with one exception) no longer sought a coronation by the Pope and instead took the title electus Romanorum Imperator "elected Emperor of the Romans", and also added the new title "King in Germany". They were, however, always referred to as "Emperor", not "King". The title "King of the Romans" henceforth referred uniquely to the elected heir.

From 1520 to 1740 the Imperial title was in fact, though by no means in law, an exclusive Habsburg possession. This meant that the title King of the Romans was frequently held by the Habsburg heir-apparent.

The Emperors Joseph I and Charles VI only produced daughters, and consequently there was no male Habsburg heir to be elected as King of the Romans. Charles VI named his eldest daughter, Maria Theresa of Austria heir to the hereditary Habsburg domains; however, the title of King of the Romans remained unfilled. After Charles' death in 1740, the Electors chose (1742) the Elector of Bavaria as the new Emperor, Charles VII, and a lengthy war ensued. After Charles VII's death in 1745, Maria Theresa's husband Francis Stephen, was elected Emperor; in 1764, in a resumption of tradition, he had his eldest son, Joseph, elected King of the Romans. However, Francis died a year later, and Joseph became Emperor. Due to Joseph's lack of sons, the swift death of his brother and successor (Leopold II), and the problems facing Leopold's son, Francis I, no other Habsburg after Joseph was ever elected King of the Romans prior to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.


The following were subordinate kings to another Holy Roman Emperor (usually, but not always, their father) for the dates specified.

Name Date acceded Date relinquished Reason Relation Reigning Emperor
Otto II 961 7 May 973 succeeded as King (Emperor 967) son Otto I
Henry III 1028 4 June 1039 succeeded as King (Emperor 1046) son Conrad II
Henry IV 1053 5 October 1056 succeeded as King (Emperor 1084) son Henry III
Conrad 1087 April 1098 deposed son Henry IV
Henry V 6 January 1099 1105 succeeded as King (Emperor 1111) son Henry IV
Henry Berengar 30 March 1147 1150 died son Conrad III
Henry VI 1169 10 June 1190 succeeded as King (Emperor 1191) son Frederick I
Frederick II 1196 28 September 1197 succeeded and abdicated (via regency) 1197
elected King (with opposition) 1212
Emperor 1220
son Henry VI
Henry (VII) 1220 4 July 1235 deposed son Frederick II
Conrad IV 1237 13 December 1250 succeeded as King son Frederick II
Wenceslaus 10 June 1376 29 November 1378 succeeded as King son Charles IV
Maximilian I 16 February 1486 19 August 1493 succeeded as King (Emperor 1508) son Frederick III
Ferdinand I 5 January 1531 3 May 1558 succeeded as Emperor brother Charles V
Maximilian II 28 November 1562 25 July 1564 succeeded as Emperor son Ferdinand I
Rudolph II 27 October 1575 12 October 1576 succeeded as Emperor son Maximilian II
Ferdinand III 22 December 1636 15 February 1637 succeeded as Emperor son Ferdinand II
Ferdinand IV 31 May 1653 9 July 1654 died son Ferdinand III
Joseph I 23 January 1690 5 May 1705 succeeded as Emperor son Leopold I
Joseph II 27 March 1764 18 August 1765 succeeded as Emperor son Francis I

First French Empire

When Napoleon I of France had a son and heir, Napoleon II, he revived the title as King of Rome, styling his son as such. The boy was often known colloquially by the title throughout his short life, although after 1815 he was more commonly referred to as the Duke of Reichstadt.


This article uses material translated from the corresponding article in the German-language wikipedia, which, in turn, cites a source that contains further references:

  • H. Beumann: Rex Romanorum, in: Lexikon des Mittelalters (Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 9 vols., Munich-Zurich 1980-98), vol. 7, col. 777 f.

See also


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