1556-1648 1740-1792

The Holy Roman Empire, 1648-1740

The TREATY OF WESTPHALIA had ended the 30 Years' War; the Dutch Republic and Switzerland were recognized as independent and left the Holy Roman Empire, The Habsburg territories in the Alsace were ceded to France and also lost to the Empire. The Treaty of Westphalia restored the balance of powers between the Catholic and Protestant camps; now, Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism were accepted religions. The Habsburg dynasty held on to Bohemia. Bavaria held on to the (originally Palatinian) Electorate, which meant that now there were 8 electors, the King of Bohemia, the Dukes of Saxony, Brandenburg, Bavaria, the Count Palatine, the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz and Trier. In 1692, the Duke of Hannover was elevated elector, raising the number of electors to nine.

During the reign of French King Louis XIV. (1661-1715), the Holy Roman Empire faced the threat of French expansionism, accompanied by a French diplomacy stirring up trouble for the Habsburg dynasty. The Empire was at war with France 1674-1679 (Dutch War of Louis XIV.), 1689-1697 (War of the Grand Alliance), 1702-1714 (War of Spanish Succession). In case of the other Imperial wars during that period (War against Sweden, 1675-1679; War against the Ottoman Empire 1683-1699), French diplomacy was involved.
Imperial wars were decided upon by the Imperial diet. Yet, the Emperor, in his function as Emperor, lacked the revenue to raise and maintain an army. Any Imperial force consisted of the forces the principalities contributed, foremost of the Austrian and Brandenburgian troops, with Saxony, Württemberg, Hessen-Kassel, Hannover, Bavaria etc. contributing contingents.
Following the Treaty of Nijmegen 1679, relations between the Emperor and Brandenburg deteriorated, and paralyzed the ability of the Empire to stand up to French expansion. While there formally was no war, France, in her infamous REUNION policy, annexed Imperial territory. The city of Strassburg (Alsace) surrendered to France in 1681. In 1683 the Emperor faced an Ottoman army laying siege to his residence of Vienna, from the French perspective a welcome distraction. Cooperation between Austria and Brandenburg was essential for the Holy Roman Empire's ability to defend herself. In 1689, the Ottoman threat had been fended off, and the Empire could again stand up to the French.
In 1701 Emperor Leopold I. rewarded Duke Elector Frederick III. of Brandenburg for his loyalty by elevating him King Frederick I. in Prussia. Under French King Louis XV., the Empire fought nother war against France, the War of Polish Succession (1733-1738). During the war, Bavaria and the Archbishop of Cologne sided with the French, and therefore were banned.

Since 1663 the Imperial diet resided in Regensburg. As it was not dissolved until 1803, it is referred to as the immerwährender Reichstag (everlasting diet). The Habsburg dynasty held on to the Imperial throne. Emperor Ferdinand III. (1637-1657) was succeeded by Leopold I. (1658-1705), Joseph I. (1705-1711) and Charles VI. (1711-1740).
In 1666, Samuel Pufendorf wrote De Statu Imperii Germanici (on the State of the German Empire), in which he questioned the institution; it was published in Amsterdam, and banned by the Imperial diet.

The smaller and medium-size German states depended on the Empire to defend them against French aggression. A number of fortresses therefore, although originally constructed by territorial lords, practically became Imperial fortresses - Mainz being the most important example.

Geschichte, from Festung Mainz, in German
Article Peace of Westphalia, from Wikipedia; from EB 1911
Article Treaty of Utrecht 1713, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Treaty of Westphalia, from Avalon Project

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 7th 2003, last revised on November 12th 2004

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