1648-1740 1792-1806

The Holy Roman Empire, 1740-1792

In the later 18th century, the Holy Roman Empire suffered three wars which saw Imperial princes on both sides of the conflict. The War of Austrian Succession (1741-1748) saw a number of German princes (Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia) contest Maria Theresia's claim to succeed her father. She held on to most of her inheritance, and the war had been decided in 1745. In the 7 Years War (1756-1763), isolated Prussia faced Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and nominally the Empire. The third war between Austria and Prussia was the War of Bavarian Succession (1778-1779), a war which ended without a battle being fought. Since 1740, the Austro-Prussian Dualism (of which the three wars aforelisted were facets) dominated the Holy Roman Empire.
Since 1663, the everlasting Imperial diet met at Regensburg, which thus had acquired the function of an Imperial capital - with the Emperors residing in Vienna. Regensburg was the seat of c. 70 embassies. Other Imperial institutions included the Reichskammergericht (Imperial High Court) in Wetzlar.
From 1742 to 1745, nominally, Karl Albert von Wittelsbach (Charles VII.) was Emperor, succeeded by Francis Stephen of (Habsburg-)Lorraine (1745-1765), who was succeeded by his son Joseph II. (1765-1790), who in turn was succeeded by his brother Leopold II. (1790-1792), former Grand Duke of Tuscany. Between 1745 and 1780, Maria Theresia, daughter of Emperor Charles V., wife of Francis Stephen and mother of both Joseph II. and Leopold II., made the political decisions. She focussed her main attention on the territories ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

Justinus Febronius (1748-1790, alias Johann Nikolaus von Hontheim, as auxiliary bishop of Trier; he had studied in Leuven) suggested the adoption of Gallicanism (Febronianism) in the Holy Roman Empire in a 1763 publication. A first attempt to claim the Gallican liberties for the Holy Roman Empire, at the Conference of Koblenz in 1769, failed; they were adapted in the Ems Congress of 1786, in the Ems Punctuation.

The German principalities were represented at the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) according to an old list, the matricle. Over time a number of territories had been partitioned on the occasion of an inheritance; this, however, did not alter the number of votes in the Reichstag. Thus the Imperial constitution treated these territories as units, despite political reality. This condition caused the respective dynasties to conclude treaties which foresaw, in the case of a male line ending, that the other branch(-es) of the family would inherit the territory of the line which went extinct.
In 1771, Baden-Baden went extinct, and the Margrave of Baden-Durlach reunited the Margraviate of Baden.

The Holy Roman Empire, because of its complex structure, was very difficult to reform; she failed to establish modern institutions, suffered from a lack of revenue. The Empire was elective and had a permanent diet, thus did not undergo a period of absolute rule.

Biography of Emperor Charles VII. (1742-1745), from German Embassy India
Article Reichstag, from Wikipedia
Article Febronianism, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Article Johannes Nicolaus von Hontheim, from Catholic Encyclopedia

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 6th 2003, last revised on November 12th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz