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Holy Roman Empire

Imperium Romanum Sacrum
Heiliges Römisches Reich
Coat of arms of Maximilian II of Holy Roman Empire
Coat of arms of Maximilian II
The size of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1600, coloured purple over the present-day country borders.
The size of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1600, coloured purple over the present-day country borders.
Capital No official capital; Vienna (de facto)
Common languages Latin, Germanic, Romance and Slavic dialects
Roman Catholicism (emperor and other imperial princes)
Lutheranism and Calvinism (several imperial princes)
Government Elective monarchy
Legislature Reichstag
Historical era Middle Ages
• Otto I crowned
    Emperor of the Romans
2 February, 962 AD 962
• Conrad II assumes
    crown of Burgundy
• Peace of Augsburg
24 October 1648
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
East Francia
Middle Francia
Old Swiss Confederacy
Dutch Republic
Confederation of the Rhine
Austrian Empire
First French Empire
Kingdom of Prussia
United States of Belgium
Principality of Liechtenstein
The Holy Roman Empire should not be mistaken for the Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, or in the 15th century: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation) was a group of regions and free cities in central Europe which all came under the rule of an emperor who was elected by the princes and magistrates of the regions and cities within the empire. When Charlemagne died, his Frankish Empire was given to his children and divided into three different countries: West Francia, Lotharingia and East Francia. The Holy Empire started when Otto I of East Francia became Holy Emperor in 962, and it was ended by Napoleon in 1806. The emperors claimed to be heirs of Charlemagne and that the Empire dates from 800, when Charlemagne became Frankish Emperor.

In the 16th century the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) had to deal with the rebellion of the Frisians lead by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama. This lasted from 1515 until 1523.

In the 17th century the Empire was shattered by the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Nearly thirty percent of the population of the Empire was killed. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation lost parts of its territory.

Until the 13th century, the Holy Roman Empire was powerful. Later, all the duchies and counties inside the Empire started to get more power. At the end, the Emperors Had little real power any more, and the country existed only in name. The last emperor abolished the empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Voltaire, a French philosopher in the 18th century, once joked that the nation was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

The Empire was in fact Germanic and not Roman since it was mainly in the region's of present-day Germany and Austria. It was not really holy since after 1530, no emperors were crowned by the Pope; the last being Charles V. It was only really an Empire by name as the territories it covered were mostly independent themselves. The Empire had its own central government and armed forces that acted as one. It was ruled by the House of Habsburg before it fell in 1806. Napoleon forced the emperor to abdicate when France began invading the Holy Roman Empire during the First French Empire. The Emperor made himself emperor of Austria and ended the Holy Roman Empire.

The Empire was one of the rare countries in Europe that had an elective monarchy. This meant that the Emperor was chosen by a group of princes. Common practice was to just elect the deceased Emperor or Empress 's heir to the throne.

Imperial Circles-2005-10-15-en
A map of the empire.

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