This is the main page for the list of States which were part of the Holy Roman Empire, as alphabetized in the adjacent template, at any time within the empire's existence between 962 and 1806.
In the 18th century the Holy Roman Empire consisted of over 1800 separate immediate territories governed by distinct authorities. In 1792 there were approximately 150 secular territorial rulers with the status of Imperial Estate.
Whilst any such list could never be truly definitive, nevertheless the list (accessible by the template at the top of this article) attempts to be as comprehensive as possible.
It is not limited to feudal entities that possessed Reichsunmittelbarkeit, that is, under direct authority of the Holy Roman Emperor, but includes quite some other lordships, sous-fiefs and allodial fiefs.
|Aust||Austrian Circle||EL||Council of Electors, the exclusive elite formally electing the Holy Roman Emperor|
|Bav||Bavarian Circle||EC||Spiritual Bench of the Council of Princes (individual voice)|
|Burg||Burgundian Circle||PR||Secular Bench of the Council of Princes (individual voice)|
|El Rhin||Electoral Rhenish Circle||RP||Rhenish prelates (Council of Princes)|
|Franc||Franconian Circle||SP||Swabian prelates (Council of Princes)|
|Low Rhen||Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle||FC||Franconian counts (Council of Princes)|
|Low Sax||Lower Saxon Circle||SC||Swabian counts (Council of Princes)|
|Upp Rhin||Upper Rhenish Circle||WE||Westphalian counts (Council of Princes)|
|Upp Sax||Upper Saxon Circle||WT||Wetterau counts (Council of Princes)|
|Swab||Swabian Circle||RH||Rhenish Bench of the Council of Imperial Cities|
|None||"Circle-free"||SW||Swabian Bench of the Council of Imperial Cities|
Note that in the "Circle" column, "n/a" denotes a state that had ceased to exist before the Reichsreform.
Other abbreviations used in the list are:
|Co.||Countship (sometimes also called county)|
|RA||Reichsabtei (Imperial abbacy, a monastery enjoying Reichsunmittelbarkeit)|
An Imperial Circle (in German Reichskreis, plural Reichskreise) was a regional grouping of states of the Holy Roman Empire, primarily for the purpose of organising a common defence and of collecting imperial taxes, but also as a means of organisation within the Reichstag (Imperial Diet).
An Imperial State or Imperial Estate (German singular: Reichsstand, plural: Reichsstände) was an entity in the Holy Roman Empire with a vote in the Reichstag or Imperial Diet. Several states had no seats in the Empire, while some officials (such as the Hereditary Usher) were non-voting members; neither qualified as Imperial States.
In the Holy Roman Empire, an imperial free city (German: freie Reichsstadt) was a city formally responsible to the emperor only — as opposed to the majority of cities in the Empire, which belonged to a territory and were thus governed by one of the many princes (Fürsten) of the Empire, such as dukes or prince-bishops. Free cities also had independent representation in the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire.
. An immediate city, abbey or territory was under the direct authority of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Imperial Diet, without any intermediary Liege lord(s). Advantages were that reichsfrei regions had the right to collect taxes and tolls themselves, and held juridical rights (including the Blutgericht, 'high' justice including capital punishment) themselves. De facto Reichsfreiheit corresponded to a semi-independence with a far-reaching autonomy.
In 1495, an attempt was made at a Reichstag in the city of Worms to give the disintegrating Holy Roman Empire a new structure, commonly referred to as Imperial Reform (in German: Reichsreform).
An Imperial State or Imperial Estate (German singular: Reichsstand, plural: Reichsstände) was an entity in the Holy Roman Empire with a vote in the Reichstag or Imperial Diet.
defined broadly, is the annexation of one monarchy by another monarchy in such a way that the ruler of the annexed state keeps his or her noble title, and sometimes a measure of power. Thus, for example, when a sovereign county is annexed to a larger principality, its reigning count might find himself subordinated to a prince, but would nevertheless remain a count, rather than be stripped of his title.
A Prince of the Empire is any ruling Prince whose territory is a member of the Holy Roman Empire (not only German-speaking countries, but also many bordering and extensive neighbouring regions) and entitled to a voting seat (or in a collective voting unit, such as the Grafenbank) in Imperial Diet or Reichstag.
A Prince-abbott is a cleric who is a prince of the church (like a prince-bishop) in the sense of an ex-officio temporal lord of a feudal entity, known as prince-abbacy or abbey-principality, in an area that is ruled by the head of an abbey. The designated abbey may be a monastery or a convent. Thus, because of the possibility of it being a convent, an abbey-principality is one of the few cases in which the rule can be restricted to female incumbents, styled princess-abbess. In many cases they were prince of the empire of a Reichsabtei in or near Germany, with a seat in the Reichstag (imperial diet).
A Prince-Bishop is a bishop who is a territorial prince of the church on account of one or more secular principalities, usually pre-existent nobiliary titles held concurrently with their inherent clerical office. If the see is an archbishopric, the correct term is prince-archbishop; the equivalent in the regular clergy is a prince-abbot.
The prince-electors or electoral princes of the Holy Roman Empire (German: sing. Kurfürst, pl. Kurfürsten) were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Holy Roman Emperors.
Secularization is a process of transformation as a society slowly migrates from close identification with the local institutions of religion to a more clearly separated relationship. In this context, often referring to the transfer of Prince-Bishoprics to the control of lay rulers.
In the "Notes" column, it is interesting to show, in capsule form, the a) territorial development of the different states or polities (acquisition or loss of possessions, union of rulers or dynasties, etc.); b) royal or noble dynasties, including their various branches, which ruled over territories or polities; c) transmission of succession rights (marriage, female succession, conquest, cession, pledge, etc.); d) attributes of "statehood" (right to mint coins, holding markets and fairs, entering into treaties and pacts, appointment of civil officials, etc.) and e) the size of territory and population of the various polities whenever data is available.
The following excerpt from François Velde's Unequal and Morganatic Marriages in German Law provides an excellent overview on what a "State of the Empire" is.
"The special status of these families manifested itself in the constitution of the Empire as it evolved in the 16th c. (Please see first a general presentation of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire.) To the status of territorial ruler corresponded a seat and vote in one of the colleges of the Reichstag, the Imperial Diet. In the late 16th c., the multiplication of votes due to territorial fragmentation led to reforms. After the Diet held at Augsburg in 1582, the list of votes remained fixed, notwithstanding further territorial divisions. Furthermore, the right to vote became attached to a land, rather than to a person or family (of course, land was inheritable within families). A member of the Diet with seat and vote (individual or shared) was called a Reichsstand, or state of the Empire.
"At some point (Abt 1911, 103 n2 cites various possible dates, from the turn of the 16th c. to 1653 to the 18th c.), the definition of Hochadel became congruent with being a Reichsstand (adjective: reichsständisch). The reason is that the Emperor, as 'fons nobilitatium,' had the power to create new princes, counts and barons of the Empire, a power which he began to use more frequently. The existing princes, counts and barons were obviously loathe to see the value of their title diminished. The members of the Diet complained and, after 1582, it became the rule that such new princes and counts would not of right have a seat at the Diet. Furthermore, in 1653 the Electoral Capitulation included strict rules on the process by which the Emperor could create new states of the Empire. In particular, any new member had to possess an immediate territory of sufficient size, and had to be accepted by his peers (princes or counts).
"Thus a distinction emerged between families that were part of the Diet in 1582 : the 'old princely' and 'old comital' (altfürstliche, altgräfliche) families — families who were admitted to the Diet between 1582 and 1803:
the 'new princely' (neufürstliche) and 'new comital' (neugräfliche) families — families or individuals who received the title of Reichsfreiherr, Reichsgraf or Reichsfürst but were not admitted to the Diet.
"Only the first two groups were part of the Hochadel. Those in the third group were titular counts and princes but in no way accepted as part of the Hochadel.
"Thus it would seem that having a seat and vote in the Reichstag would be a clear criterion for belonging to the Hochadel. But there were further complications:
"In principle, the possession of a territory was a pre-condition for admission in the Diet. However, in the second half of the 18th century a number of counts sat on the counts' benches without any such territory. They were called "personalists" because they had been admitted on a personal basis (ad personam), and some jurists did not consider them to be part of the upper nobility (for example, Pütter 1795, 143).
"Possession of a large immediate territory was a condition for entry, but not a condition for remaining in the Diet. It happened that territories became subjected to another state of the Empire, thus losing immediate status; yet the owner remained in the Diet.
"Consequently, whereas, in the 16th century, it was fairly easy to say who was in the upper nobility and who wasn't, it had become more difficulty by the turn of the 19th century.
"Three concepts came into play:
"The three were 'usually' related, in that the sovereign of a territory was a state of the Empire, and a state of the Empire usually had sovereignty over an immediate territory; but there were exceptions both ways. Various authors emphasized one or a combination of these elements. Thus, Runde (1791) required all three; Pütter emphasized sovereignty; Gönner and Leist emphasized seat and vote at the Diet (in distinction with the imperial knighthood, see below). Among 19th century authors, the main division was between those who required all three criteria , and those who considered Reichsstandschaft to be the sole criterion (Hohler, Klüber, Zoepf, Rehm).
"Using the second, slightly broader concept, at the end of the 18th century the high nobility consisted of those families which had seat and vote at the Imperial Diet, with title of either prince or count (the last baronial family died out in 1775), numbering about 25 princely (fürstliche) and 80 comital (gräfliche) families."
The following lists are going to be included into the table above.