Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sigismund, King of the Romans and Emperor -Elect

Commonly the Emperors themselves have little to do with affairs in the Empire proper, preferring to administer those lands they control more completely beyond it's borders. The Emperor Charles IV both ruled the lands of Luxemburg and was King of Bohemia, he devoted much wealth and energy to that kingdom and particularly it's capital Prague, which (with it's famous University) became a major European centre of culture and learning. His son, Wenceslaus was also King of Bohemia and spent most of his time away from the German lands. He was the German overlord in name only as the lengths his father had been gone to so as to ensure his succession had so alienated the great cities of Germany, (the great lords habitually work to undermine the Emperor) that he was faced everywhere by riots and armed opposition. Wenceslas was eventually deposed by the Electors, who elected the Elector Palatinate of Saxony, Rupert to succeed him.

So followed a decade of German rule until Wenceslas's brother, Sigismund of Hungary, took over as Emperor-Elect* (neglecting to have his own brother reinstated instead. Sigismund is an active and intelligent man and a great ally of the Teutonic knights. However, the Emperor is constantly stymied by the great cities and powerful electors, churchmen and nobles and federations of lesser knights. The Bohemian revolt has in one sense undermined his power, removing as it does half of the lands he controls outright, in another sense it has moved Sigismund to the centre of German affairs once more. A militarily successful nation of heretics, given to raiding far a field and challenging the Imperial order is a major concern to every man in the Holy Roman Empire. This is a problem and opportunity for the Emperor-elect, the results he achieves, and how he achieves them, will be the key decider of whether he is yet another Emperor alienated from his own subjects or the strong leader of the German people.

The title "King of the Romans" is held by the individual chosen by the Electors to be the new Holy Roman Emperor. This is his sole Imperial (he may also have other titles, eg :"King of Hungary") title until such a time as he is actually crowned Emperor by the Pope. this may take some time to secure (Sigismund is as yet uncrowned for a decade) and requires the Emperor-elect to personally journey to Italy to have the Iron Crown placed upon his head. In order to reduce confusion, I use the term Emperor-elect (which didn't exist in the early 15th Century) rather than "King of the Romans".

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