Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.: THE EMPIRE FROM 1250 TO 1500 - A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age
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IV.: THE EMPIRE FROM 1250 TO 1500 - Oliver J. Thatcher, A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age 
A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905).
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THE EMPIRE FROM 1250 TO 1500
Diet of Nürnberg, 1274.
When Rudolf was elected king in 1273, he found that he had a crown but no income. For during the interregnum (1254-73) the German princes, both lay and clerical, had seized all the crown lands and revenues. Rudolf was glad to be king, but his private income was not sufficient to support his new dignity. Besides, he was of a miserly disposition, and was bent on getting all out of the office that he could, or at least on making the office pay for itself. So he demanded the surrender of the lands and revenues which had been seized. But no one was willing to give them up. Since Rudolf was compelled to enter suit against each one, it was necessary to have some disinterested person to act as judge in all such cases. The diet decided that this office of judge belonged to the count palatine.
As soon as the judge was decided on, Rudolf asked what he should do in regard to these lands, and he was told that he must recover them. Ottokar, king of Bohemia, had himself been a candidate for the crown, and now refused to acknowledge the election of Rudolf. The diet decided what should be done in the matter, and instructed Rudolf how he should proceed against him.
Paragraphs 5-9 reveal to a certain extent the troubled condition into which Germany had been brought by the interregnum.
1. During the meeting of the diet at Nürnberg, the princes came together as a public court of justice, in the presence of the most serene lord, Rudolf, king of the Romans, and attended by a large following of counts and barons and a great multitude of nobles and common people. And first the king asked them for a decision on the following question: who should be judge in cases which involve imperial or fiscal property, and other offences against the king or the realm, and in which the king of the Romans makes accusation against a prince of the empire. It was decided by all the princes and barons who were present that the count palatine of the Rhine has, and has had from of old, the right to act as judge in cases where the emperor or king accuses a prince of the empire.
2. The aforesaid count palatine then took his place as judge and the king asked for a decision on this question: what might and should the king do in regard to the property, now held by others, which the former emperor Frederick [II] had held and possessed in peace and quiet before he was deposed by the princes, and in regard to other imperial property wrongfully withheld from the empire. It was decided that the king ought to lay claim to such property and recover it; and that if anyone should resist the king in his attempt to recover his own, he should use his royal power to overcome this illegal resistance to authority and to preserve the rights of the empire.
3. The king asked, in the second place, what the law was in the case of the king of Bohemia, who had wilfully allowed more than a year and a day to elapse from the day of the coronation [of Rudolf] at Aachen without seeking to be invested with his fiefs by the king of the Romans. It was decided by all the princes and barons that whenever anyone, by his own neglect or contumacy and without just excuse, failed to seek investiture of his fiefs within a year and a day, all his fiefs were forfeited by the mere lapse of time.
4. In the third place, the king asked them how he should proceed to punish the contumacy of the king of Bohemia. It was decided that the count palatine of the Rhine should send a freeman to summon the king of Bohemia to appear before the count palatine at a certain place and on a certain day, which should be six weeks and three days from the day when the decision was rendered, and to answer the accusation of contumacy brought against him by the king. If the freeman who was chosen to carry the summons swore that he did not dare appear before the king of Bohemia or enter his lands because he had good grounds to fear personal injury, it would then be sufficient for the diet to pass an edict summoning the king of Bohemia and for the count palatine to proclaim this summons publicly in the city or town of his that was nearest to the kingdom of Bohemia. To allow this matter to be settled in an orderly way, however, eighteen days in addition to the original six weeks and three days were to be allowed for the answer to the summons, so that the king of Bohemia should appear before the count palatine at Würzburg nine weeks from the 19th of November, that is, on the 20th of January; otherwise he should be proceeded against according to the law.
5. It was decided also that the king of the Romans ought to take cognizancce of all civil and criminal cases arising on and after the day of his coronation, and of all civil cases (i.e., those involving inheritances, fiefs, possessions, and property) arising even before his coronation, if they had not been settled by decision of the court, by compromise, or by some amicable agreement.
6. In regard to wrongs which date from the quarrel between the empire and the papacy in the days of the emperor Frederick (seizure of property, injuries, and damages committed by one party against the other), the king proposes to confer with the pope and to try to reach some agreement with him that shall be just to both parties.
7. The king urges and requests all those who have seized or burned or destroyed the property of others during the time from the death of emperor Frederick to the coronation of the king [i.e., Rudolf], to make compensation and come to some amicable agreement with those whom they have injured; and he also requests the injured not to refuse to accept such arrangement. If the parties cannot agree, the king will himself decide the cases. This does not refer, however, to public plunderers of churches and holy places, or to those who have made open war, all of whom are to be brought to justice immediately. Likewise all cases pending before the king or his officials ought to be settled within a reasonable time.
8. It was decided also that summonses and decrees issuing from the court or from royal officials should be written and sealed with the seal of the judges, and that such documents should be in themselves sufficient evidence of the fact of the summons without further proof, and that not more than six coins of Halle or their equivalent should be exacted for the serving of the summons.
9. The king also notified all advocates who had used their office as a pretext for oppression to come to some agreement with those whom they had injured, and not to exact or demand in the future more than is due from those for whom they act as advocates. Otherwise they will be brought to trial for their injustice.
10. He also decreed that phalburgii1 should not be allowed to live in any imperial city.
The German Princes Confirm Rudolf’s Surrender of all Imperial Claims in Italy, 1278-79.
Rudolf saw clearly that the policy which the German kings had followed with regard to Italy had led to their ruin. He determined to give up this fatal policy, and to devote himself to the acquisition of lands and power in Germany. Accordingly he acknowledged all the papal claims in Italy, thus surrendering all for which the emperors had fought for the last 200 years. Contenting himself with what seemed obtainable, he gracefully acknowledged the defeat and failure of his predecessors, and struck out a new policy for himself (see no. 150). The princes confirmed his agreement with the pope by this document. Notice that the princes use the figures of the two luminaries and the two swords, accepting the papal interpretation (see no. 114).
We, the princes of the empire, to all to whom these presents come. The holy Roman church has always borne a special love for Germany, and has given her a name which in secular affairs is above the name of every other power on earth [i.e., the name of the empire]; she has established the princes in Germany, like rare and beautiful trees in a garden, watering them with her special favor, and they [the princes], supported by the church, have brought forth wonderful fruit; namely, the ruler of the empire who is produced by the election of the princes. He [the emperor] is that lesser luminary in the firmament of this world which shines by the reflected light of the great luminary, the vicar of Christ. He it is who draws the material sword at the command of the pope, to support the spiritual sword which the shepherd of shepherds uses to guard his sheep, and he wields it to restrain and correct evil-doers and to aid the good and the faithful. Now we desire that all occasion of dissension and strife should be avoided, that the two swords should work together for the reformation of the whole world, and that we, the princes, who are bound to support both the church and the empire, should be recognized as lovers of peace. Therefore we approve and ratify all concessions, renewals, and new grants made by our lord Rudolf, by the grace of God king of the Romans, Augustus, to our most holy father and lord, pope Nicholas III, and to his successors, and to the Roman church; in particular, the fidelity, obedience, honor, and reverence to be paid to the popes and to the Roman church by the emperors and kings of the Romans; the possessions, honors, and dignities of the Roman church; including all the land from Radicofano to Ceperano, the march of Ancona, the duchy of Spoleto, the lands of the countess Matilda, the city of Ravenna, the Emilia, with the cities of Bobbio, Cesena, Forlimpopoli, Forli, Faenza, Imola, Bologna, Ferrara, Comacle, Adria, Gabello, Rimini, Urbino, Montefeltre, the territory of Balneum, the county of Bertinoro, the exarchate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, Massa Trabaria, and the adjacent lands of the church, with all the boundaries, territories, islands, land, and water, belonging to the aforesaid provinces, cities, territories, and places; also the city of Rome and the kingdom of Sicily, including its possessions on the mainland and on the island of Sicily; also Corsica and Sardinia, and all other lands and rights belonging to the church. . . .
Revocation of Grants of Lands Belonging to the Imperial Domain, 1281.
Rudolf’s efforts to secure the crown lands which had been seized during the interregnum (see introductory note, no. 146) were not successful. The princes often voted that he should recover them, but each one refused to give up those which he himself held. In spite of his continued efforts, Rudolf was unable to regain any large part of them.
We, Rudolf, by the grace of God, etc., by this document, declare and publicly proclaim that while we were holding court in a regular diet at Nürnberg, a decision was rendered and all our princes, nobles, and other faithful subjects who were present agreed to it. This decision was that all gifts of imperial lands and possessions confirmed or made in any way by Richard the king, or his predecessors in the Roman empire since the sentence of deposition was passed on Frederick II shall be invalid, and are hereby revoked, except those that shall be approved by a majority of the electoral princes.
An Electoral “Letter of Consent,” 1282.
The power of the electors as well as the weakness of the crown after 1273 are shown by the fact that the electors compelled the king to secure their express and written consent before taking any important action. By this means the electors hoped to control the policy of the king and to make their own positions secure. If what the king proposed to do was not to their interest, they made him pay well for their consent. We give here an interesting example of these “letters of consent.”
Werner, by the grace of God archbishop of Mainz, etc. Desiring always to comply promptly with the wishes of our most serene lord, Rudolf, king, etc., we entirely and freely give him our permission to grant as a fief the villages of Lenkersheim, Erlebach, and Brucke, with all their belongings, to Frederick, the burggrave of Nürnberg, whenever he wishes.
Letter of Rudolf to Edward I, King of England, Announcing his Intention of Investing his Sons with Austria, etc., 1283.
Rudolf’s chief policy was the aggrandizement of his family. By all possible means he endeavored to acquire lands in such a way that they would remain in the possession of his family, no matter who should be elected as his successor. This document is interesting as throwing light on his ambitious foreign relations, but it is still more important because it speaks of a great event in the good fortunes of the Hapsburg house, namely: the acquisition of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia, the territorial basis for its future greatness. See no. 110, for the origin of the duchy of Austria.
To the magnificent prince, Edward, by the grace of God king of England and our dearest friend, Rudolf, by the same grace king of the Romans, Augustus, a perpetual increase of love and friendship. Although the Emperor of the eternal empire, the creator of all things, has stricken our heart with an incurable wound in the death of our beloved son Hartmann, by whose marriage our two houses were to be bound together in an eternal bond of friendship, yet, for our part, his death has not put an end to our friendship for you, as we are eager to demonstrate in every way. Therefore we have thought it right to inform you that we are prospering in all things, and have been successful in securing the consent of the electors to our plans for raising our sons to the rank of princes and investing them with the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia.
Decree against Counterfeiters, 1285.
Since so many individuals, cities, and monasteries had the right to coin money, it was impossible to keep effective control of the coinage. It was inevitable that it would in the course of time be debased. During the interregnum this abuse seems to have grown rapidly.
Rudolf, etc., to all the faithful subjects of the holy Roman empire to whom these presents come, grace and every good thing. In the court over which we presided, held at Mainz on the day of the blessed Virgin Margaret, we asked the princes, counts, nobles, ministerials, and other faithful subjects of our empire who were present, what should be the penalty for coiners of false money, for those who pass false money or knowingly have it in their possession, and for the lords who protect such persons in their castles. It was decided that the coiner of false money should be decapitated; that he who passed false money or knowingly had it in his possession should lose his hand, and that the lord who protected a coiner of false money should suffer the same penalty as the coiner.
The Beginning of the Swiss Confederation, 1290.
The Swiss confederation had its beginning in the following league which the three forest cantons, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, made in 1290. It is in itself, however, a renewal of a still older league, the history of which is unknown to us. This document reveals the fact that these cantons were not entirely independent, but were subject to some external power. For instance, they did not choose or create their own judges, but received them from some one whom they recognized as their lord. The next document, no. 152 a, shows that unfree men, probably ministerials, had been put over them as judges.
In the name of the Lord, amen. It is a good thing for the public utility if communities agree to preserve order and peace. Therefore let all know that the men of the valley of Uri, and the community of the valley of Schwyz, and the commune of those who live within the mountains of the lower valley [Unterwalden], considering the dangers that threaten them, and in order to be better able to defend themselves and their possessions, have, in good faith, promised mutually to assist each other with aid, counsel, and support, and with their persons as well as their possessions, with all their power and with their best effort, within the valley and without, against each and all who may try to molest, harm, or injure any of us in our persons or in our possessions. Each commune promised to aid the others whenever it should be necessary, and at its own expense to assist the others in repelling the attacks of their enemies and in avenging their injuries. The three cantons took oath that they would do these things without treachery.
We hereby renew the ancient agreement which has existed among us. (1) Each man, according to his condition, shall be bound to obey his lord and to serve him in the proper manner. (2) We unanimously promise, decree, and ordain that in the aforesaid valleys we will not receive any judge who has bought his office in any way, or who is not an inhabitant of the valley. (3) If a dispute arises among us, the more prudent among us shall meet and settle it as seems best to them. If anyone refuses to accept their decision we will all assist in enforcing it. (4) Above all, we decree that whoever treacherously and without good reason kills another shall be taken and put to death, unless he can prove his own innocence and a grave offence of the other. If the murderer runs away, he shall never be permitted to return to the valley. All who receive or protect such a malefactor shall be driven out of the valley until the people agree to permit them to return. (5) If anyone, by day or night, secretly and maliciously burns the house of another, he shall never again be regarded as a citizen of the valley. And if anyone protects or defends such a malefactor within the valley, he shall make proper satisfaction to him whose house was burned. (6) If anyone seizes the property of another, his own possessions, if they are in the valley, shall be seized for the purpose of rendering just satisfaction to him whose property was taken. (7) No one shall take the property of another as a pledge [security], unless he is bondsman for him, or the latter is clearly his debtor, and then only with the special permission of the judge. (8) Each one must obey his judge, and, if necessary, must tell the name of the judge before whom he must answer. (9) If anyone resists the decision of the judge and thereby causes damage to another, we are all bound to assist in compelling him to make proper satisfaction to him whom he has injured. (10) If war [feud] or a quarrel arises between any of us, and one of the parties refuses or neglects to secure its justice or to render satisfaction, we are all bound to defend the other party.
As an evidence that these statutes shall be binding forever this present document was made at the request of the aforesaid inhabitants and sealed with the seals of the three communities.
Done in the year of our Lord 1290, at the beginning of August.
Edict of Rudolf, Forbidding Judges of Servile Rank to Exercise Authority in Schwyz, 1291.
The free peasants of the Swiss cantons had a serious ground of complaint in the fact that feudal lords made use of their ministerials in the administration of justice. Being themselves freemen, the peasants of Schwyz objected to being tried and judged by men of unfree rank, as the ministerials were. See nos. 296 and 297.
Rudolf, by the grace of God king of the Romans, Augustus, to all the freemen of Schwyz, his beloved subjects, grace and every good thing. We regard it as unfitting that any person of servile condition should be made a judge over you. Therefore, by our royal authority expressed in this letter, we decree that no one of servile condition shall ever in the future exercise the authority of a judge over you.
Concessions of Adolf, Count of Nassau, to the Archbishop of Cologne in Return for his Vote, 1292.
Candidates for the royal crown in Germany were compelled to practise bribery in the most open and shameless manner. Each elector was determined to get as much as he could for his vote, in one way or another, and so demanded a great variety of things from the candidate. We give the agreement which Adolf, count of Nassau, was compelled to make with the archbishop of Cologne in 1292. Of course he had to pay, or at least promise to pay, something to each of the other electors. An analysis of each paragraph will make clear the advantages which the archbishop sought to obtain from Adolf in return for his vote.
The archbishop of Cologne had followed a policy of territorial expansion. The great commercial interests of his city made it desirable that it should control the water-way to the sea and, if possible, a part of the coast-line. So Siegfried attempted to get possession of the Iands which lay to the north and northwest, between Cologne and the sea. This brought him into conflict with the dukes of Brabant, and led to a war. In the battle of Worringen, June 6, 1228, the archbishop was defeated, taken prisoner, and held as a captive for eleven months. During his captivity his enemies took many of his possessions from him. In addition to these misfortunes the people of Cologne rebelled against him, and seized his castles, lands, and revenues. When he was finally released from captivity, he found himself in a bad plight. He was without troops, his castles were either destroyed or in the hands of his enemies, and the gates of his city were closed against him. This explains many of the things which he demanded of Adolf.
Otto “with the arrow,” the margrave of Brandenburg (d. 1309), received his title in a curious way. He made war on the archbishop of Magdeburg, and in a battle was struck on the head with an arrow. The point of the arrow could not be removed, but remained in his head for more than a year. On this account he was afterward called Otto “with the arrow.”
We, Adolf, by the grace of God count of Nassau, etc. Long before the empire was made vacant by the death of Rudolf, king of the Romans, we had vowed to God to go on a crusade, if it were possible, and to render a pleasing service to God for the remission of our sins. Now we could do much more for the honor of God and the recovery of the holy land, if we, although unworthy, were elected king of the Romans. Since our reverend father, Siegfried, archbishop of Cologne, is laboring for our election and will vote for us, of our own free will and accord we promise and bind ourselves by our word of honor and by our oath to do the following things:
(1) If we are elected king of the Romans, we will protect and defend the church and all ecclesiastical persons in all their rights and liberties, and if damage is done them, we will endeavor to make it good. And we promise this especially of the church of Cologne, which has now for a long time been suffering from her heavy losses and misfortunes.
(2) Even if the other electors do not vote for us, we will accept the election at the hands of the archbishop of Cologne, and we will never give up the right to the crown which his vote gives us.
(3) And because the empire cannot prosper if the holy church of Cologne, which has suffered so many losses and misfortunes, is not first restored by the aid of the empire, we promise and of our own free will and accord bind ourselves by our word of honor and by our oath that if the archbishop votes for us, we will surrender to him and to his successors and to the church of Cologne the fortresses and strongholds, Cochem, Wied, Landskrone, Sinzig, Duisburg, and Dortmund, in order that he may better defend and preserve the right of the realm and of the empire in those parts, and also the rights of the church of Cologne, against their enemies and opponents. We will free these places from the claims of those who now hold them, and we will give them, with all their rights, income, jurisdiction, tolls, and belongings, to be held and possessed by the said archbishop and his successors and the church of Cologne as long as we live. And we will never demand them, or any part of their income, of the archbishop as long as we live. We grant all their income, tolls, and profits during our reign to the archbishop in return for his services in holding them against our enemies and those of the empire. We reserve for ourselves only the free right to enter the said places whenever it may be necessary.
(4) The said archbishop and the church of Cologne had pawned their castles, Leggenich, Wied, Waldenburg, Rodenburg, and Aspel, to count Adolf de Monte for a certain sum of money in order to liberate the archbishop from captivity; but the Roman church had ordered the said count under threat of excommunication and interdict to restore freely and entirely the said castles to the archbishop and his church and had commissioned Rudolf, the late king of the Romans, to see that he did so. We promise therefore that we will compel count Adolf and his heirs to surrender the said castles and the village of Deutz to the archbishop and his church without any loss and without the payment of any money.
(5) We also promise to restore to the said archbishop the advocacy and jurisdiction in Essen, and the manors of Westhoven, Brakel, and Elnenhorst, and we guarantee to him the peaceable possession of them.
(6) We also promise to maintain the archbishop and his successors in the possession of the castles Wassenberg and Leidberg, and we will aid them against the duke of Brabant and the count of Flanders and all others who may attempt to invade and seize these possessions.
(7) If the archbishop or his successors and the church of Cologne wish at their own expense to rebuild the castles, Worringen, Ysenburg, Werl, Minden, Ravensberg, Volmarstein, Hallenberg, and the other castles of the church of Cologne which were destroyed during the captivity of the archbishop, we promise to resist all violence offered them while doing so, and we will use our royal power against those who try to prevent them from rebuilding them.
(8) We also promise to confirm the archbishop in the possession of the tolls at Andernach and Rheinberg, and we will renew all the grants which have been made by emperors and kings to the said church.
(9) We also promise to restore to the archbishop and the church of Cologne the castle and possessions at Zelten, of which the archbishop was deprived during his captivity by the count of Veldenz.
(10) We also promise to compel the citizens of Cologne to make the proper satisfaction to the archbishop and the church of Cologne for their offences against the archbishop. They have now been excommunicated a year and a day and their offence is notorious, and if they do not make the proper satisfaction to the archbishop, we will, at the request of the archbishop and the church of Cologne, proscribe the citizens and confiscate their property. And we will labor with all our might and at our own expense to aid the archbishop and his successors and the church of Cologne against the citizens and all who aid them. We will not cease to make war on them nor will we make a peace, truce, or agreement with them without the consent of the archbishop, and in such matters we will follow his wishes.
(11) We also promise that if the citizens submit to the archbishop, or are subjected by him, we will not in any way interfere in the affairs of the city, nor will we require an oath of fidelity and homage from the citizens, because the city belongs completely to the archbishop and he has jurisdiction over it in all matters both spiritual and temporal.
(12) We also promise to renew and confirm to the archbishop and the church of Cologne their protection of the monastery of Corvey, which was granted them by Rudolf, king of the Romans, and we will recover for the church of Corvey all the castles and strongholds which have been violently taken from her.
(13) We promise to give the archbishop and the church of Cologne 25,000 silver marks toward defraying the necessary expenses which he and the church of Cologne are bound to have in performing the services which they owe to the empire.
(14) In order to secure the observance of these promises, we agree to get the castles, Nassau, Dillenburg, Ginsberg, and Segen, with the full consent of count Henry, his wife, and his brother, Emicho, and also Braubach, Rheinfels, Limburg, and the castle and town of Velmar, with the consent of their lords and their heirs, and we will put all these places into the hands of the archbishop, his successors, and the church of Cologne, to be held at our expense. We will name fifty nobles and knights as good and legal security, and if the archbishop wishes, we will go into Bonn with these fifty nobles within fifteen days, and we will not leave Bonn until each and all of these promises have been fulfilled, or security given that they will be fulfilled to the satisfaction of the archbishop.
(15) We also agree that if we act contrary to these our promises, or fail to give the archbishop security, we shall thereby be deposed and we shall lose the kingdom to which we have been elected, and in that case we will renounce all claims upon the realm which we acquired by the election. And the electors shall proceed to elect another king, if the archbishop thinks it best.
(16) We will not demand the coronation, or consecration, or installation, in Aachen from the archbishop, nor in any way trouble him about it until we have given him full security that we will do all that we have promised.
(17) We likewise cancel the debt which the archbishop owes us on account of the tolls at Andernach, which he had pawned to us.
(18) We further promise to call before our court the trial which is pending between the archbishop and the count of Nassau for the recovery of losses and damages, and we will decide it according to the desire of the archbishop.
(19) We also promise to seek the favor and friendship of Otto “with the arrow,” the margrave of Brandenburg, for the archbishop and the church of Cologne, as well as the favor of count Otto of Everstein.
(20) If the children of the late William, brother of Walram, who is now count of Jülich, bring suit or make war on the present count, Walram, for the possession of the county and other possessions, we will assist count Walram. And we will aid him against the duke of Brabant, the count of Flanders, and others who may make war on him.
(21) We will give the said count Walram the town of Düren as long as we live.
(22) The office of Schultheiss of Aachen, with all the rights of that office, we will give to whomsoever the archbishop may choose.
(23) Rudolf, king of the Romans, was in debt to the father of the said count, Walram, and had given him his note. In regard to this debt we will consult our friends and the archbishop, and we will do what is right and in some way satisfy the count.
(24) We also promise that so long as we live we will be favorable and friendly to the archbishop and the church of Cologne, and we will aid them against their enemies, and, without the consent of the archbishop and his successors, we will never take the counts of Monte and Marka, or the duke of Brabant, or other enemies of the church of Cologne into our counsel and confidence.
(25) In testimony of this we have affixed our seal to this writing.
(26) We, John, lord of Limburg; Ulric, lord of Hagenau; Godfrey of Merenberg, and John of Rheinberg, at the command of count Adolf, have sworn and promised that we will compel the said count Adolf to fulfil each and all of these promises without treachery and fraud. And we have affixed our seals to this document.
(27) Besides we, Adolf, promise under threat of the aforesaid punishments, that we will not enfeoff anyone with the duchies of Austria and Limburg, which have reverted to the crown, nor will we make any disposition of them without the express and written consent and permission of the archbishop.
The Archbishop of Mainz is Confirmed as Archchancellor of Germany, 1298.
The archbishop of Mainz had long been the archchancellor of Germany, but nearly all the duties of the office were performed by others. Although his office had become a sinecure, he wished to retain it, because of the dignity which the title gave him, as well as the income of it. The archbishop of Mainz had been a determined opponent of the Hapsburg party in 1292, and again in 1298, when Adolf was deposed, he was not at first favorable to the candidacy of Albert. He may have feared that Albert, in a spirit of revenge, would attempt to deprive him of his office, or at least of some of its perquisites.
Albert, by the grace of God, king, etc. We remember with gratitude how ably and faithfully Gerhard, the venerable archbishop of Mainz, labored to elect us king and supported us after we were elected. For this we surely ought not only to protect him and his church in their liberties, rights, and prerogatives, but also to show him still greater kindness and favors. We therefore declare that the aforesaid archbishop and all his successors in the archbishopric are and ought to be archchancellors of the holy empire in Germany. And we faithfully promise and bind ourselves by this document to maintain, defend, and protect the said archbishop and his successors in the rights, honors, dignities, and liberties which belong to them because of their office as archchancellor. That is, they shall always receive a tenth of all the money which we collect from the Jews, and they shall always appoint the chancellor to take their place [and do the work of their office], and they shall have all the profits accruing from this office, whether the said archbishops are actually present at our court or not.
Declaration of the Election of Henry VII, 1308.
This document shows the last step in the election of a German king. After all the electors had discussed the candidates and expressed their choice, the count palatine of the Rhine may be said to have cast the vote of the whole body of electors for the candidate upon whom they had agreed.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen. The kingdom and the empire of the Romans having become vacant by the death of Albert, king of the Romans, of blessed memory, notices were sent to all who have the right to vote in the election of a new king of the Romans, and on the day set all those who have any part in it were present and agreed to proceed to the election. And after each of the electors had declared his choice it appeared that all had given their votes for Henry, count of Luxemburg, agreeing upon him and naming him as king-elect, because they were confident from what they knew of his merits and his fidelity that he would defend and foster the holy Roman and universal church in her spiritual and temporal interests and would govern wisely the empire with the aid of God. Now, therefore, I, Rudolf, count palatine of the Rhine, for myself and my coelectors, by the authority which they have specially conceded to me do elect this Henry, count of Luxemburg, king of the Romans, advocate of the holy Roman and universal church, and defender of widows and orphans, and I invoke upon him the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The Supplying of the Office of the Archchancellor of Italy, 1310.
The archbishop of Cologne as archchancellor of Italy wished to enjoy the honors and revenues of his office, but the work connected with it was done by some one else. For some reason he did not wish to go into Italy with the king. So Henry VII confirmed him in his rights, and excused him from accompanying him.
Henry, by the grace of God king of the Romans, Augustus, to all present and future subjects of the holy Roman empire, grace and every good thing. . . . Henry, venerable archbishop of Cologne, archchancellor of the empire for Italy and our very dear prince, has excused himself from accompanying us across the Alps, whither, God willing, we are shortly going, because he is so occupied with our affairs here and with the interests of the empire and of his own church. Therefore, at his request, we have appointed a suitable person to accompany us in his place, and to exercise the office of chancellor in Italy for him, guarding the seals and performing such other duties as the office may require. We have also granted to the archbishop as a special grace, because of his conspicuous merits, that the honor, authority, and profits of the office shall belong entirely to him and to his church of Cologne. He whom we have put in charge of the office shall perform the duties of the chancellor in Italy in the place of the archbishop, and all persons shall obey him in all matters regarding the rights and revenues belonging to the archbishop of Cologne and shall appear before him at the accustomed place and time.
The Law “Licet Juris” of the Diet of Frankfort, August 8, 1338.
John XXII had declared, in his struggle with Ludwig the Bavarian, that he had the right to confer the imperial crown, and to administer the empire during a vacancy. His broad claims offended the German people and led to a spirited but brief exhibition of national sentiment. The electors met at Rense, 1338, and emphatically declared that the imperial crown was not in any way dependent on the will of the pope, but that he whom they elected king of Germany was thereby made emperor without any action on the part of the pope. A few days later a diet was held at Frankfort, and the decision of the electors at Rense was enacted as a law. But it must be said that the electors themselves nullified it by appealing to the pope for aid when they deposed Ludwig and elected Charles IV (1346-7).
Both the canon and the civil law declare plainly that the dignity and authority of the emperor came of old directly from the Son of God, that God has appointed the emperors and kings of the world to give laws to the human race, and that the emperor obtains his office solely through his election by those who have the right to vote in imperial elections [the electors], without the confirmation and approval of anyone else. For in secular affairs he has no superior on earth, but rather is the ruler of all nations and peoples. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ has said: “Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” Nevertheless, certain persons, blinded by avarice and ambition, and totally ignorant of the Scriptures, have distorted the meaning of certain passages by false and wicked interpretations, and on this basis have attacked the imperial authority and the rights of the emperors, electors, and other princes and subjects of the empire. For they wrongfully assert that the emperor derives his position and authority from the pope, and that the emperor elect is not the real emperor until his election is confirmed and approved, and he is crowned by the pope. These false and dangerous assertions are clearly the work of the ancient enemy of mankind, attempting to stir up strife and discord, and to bring about confusion and dissensions among men.
In order to prevent this we now declare by the advice and with the consent of the electors and other princes of the empire, that the emperor holds his authority and position from God alone, and that it is the ancient law and custom of the empire that he who is elected emperor or king by the electors of the empire, thereby becomes true king and emperor of the Romans, and should be obeyed by all the subjects of the empire, and has full power to administer the laws of the empire and to perform all the functions of the emperor, without the approval, confirmation, authorization, or consent of the pope or any other person.
Therefore, we decree by this perpetual edict that the emperor elected by the electors or a majority of them is to be regarded and considered by all to be the true and lawful emperor, by reason of the election alone; that he is to be obeyed by all subjects of the empire; and that he has, and all must hold and assert that he has, the complete imperial power of administration and jurisdiction. If anyone contradicts these decrees and decisions or any one of them, or agrees with those who contradict them, or yields obedience to the commands, letters, or instructions of opponents of these decrees, we hereby deprive him and declare him to be deprived, by virtue of his act and of this law, of all fiefs which he holds of the empire, and of all favors, jurisdiction, privileges, and immunities which have been granted to him by us or by our predecessors. Moreover, we declare that he is guilty of offence against the majesty of the emperor, and subject to the penalties incurred by this offence.
The Diet of Coblenz, 1338.
Chronicle of Flanders. (French.)
The name of the empire was still something to conjure with, although it was little more than a name. Not only had the emperors long since ceased to exercise any authority over the nations of Europe, but they had also become mere figure-heads in Germany and Italy. Ludwig of Bavaria was not only cowardly and ineffectual, but he was also without the means necessary to secure a vigorous forcible government in Germany. Even the thought of his disposing of the French crown, or interfering effectively in the affairs of France, was absurd. These two documents show that the idea of the worldwide empire lived on, and illustrate the way in which otherwise sensible men could make use of it when it suited their purpose. Edward III, who was just beginning the Hundred Years’ War, was seeking allies against France. In securing an alliance with the emperor and the appointment as imperial vicar in the Netherlands, his purpose was to acquire the right to call on the nobles of that territory to aid him in his war.
How the emperor, wearing the imperial insignia, held a diet.
The Saturday before the Nativity of our Lady, in September of the year of grace 1338, the electoral princes of Germany came together at Coblenz, and there they held a diet, placing the emperor, Ludwig of Bavaria, upon a throne twelve feet high. The emperor wore a robe of changeable silk, and over it a mantle, and broad fanons on his arms. He wore a stole, crossed on his breast like that of a priest and richly embroidered with his arms; and on his feet he wore shoes made of the same cloth as his robe. On his head he wore a round mitre surmounted by a heavy golden crown; the crown was covered with flowers worked in gold, and in the front was a cross of gold which overtopped the flowers. He wore white silk gloves on his hands and precious rings on his fingers. In his right hand he held a golden globe surmounted by a cross, and in his left a sceptre. At the right of the emperor sat the margrave of the East Mark and of Meissen, to whom the emperor gave the globe to hold. The king of England sat beside the emperor on a lower throne, clad in a scarlet robe, on the breast of which a castle was embroidered. At the left of the emperor sat the margrave of Jülich, to whom the emperor gave the sceptre to hold. Two steps below the emperor sat the electoral princes of the empire. Sire de Kuck, representing the duke of Brabant, stood behind the emperor, about two feet above him, holding a naked sword. And the emperor, seated on the throne and holding a diet, proclaimed to all by the words of his own mouth that he had created the king of England his vicar and lieutenant.
Chronicle of Henry Knyghton.
See introductory note to no. 158.
When the emperor learned of the approach of king Edward, he set out from his place to meet him, and after travelling four days he met him near Coblenz, receiving him there with great honor. Two richly decorated thrones were set up in the market-place, and on these the emperor and the king sat. There were present in attendance four dukes, three archbishops, six bishops, and thirty-seven counts, besides a great number, estimated by the heralds at 17,000, of barons, baronets, knights, and others. The emperor held in his right hand the imperial sceptre, and in his left the golden globe as a symbol of world-wide authority. A certain knight held a drawn sword above his head. And the emperor in the presence of the people gathered there proclaimed to all the crimes, disobedience, and wickedness of the king of France. And after he had declared that the king of France had broken his faith to the emperor, he published a decree of forfeiture against him and his followers. Then the emperor made king Edward his vicar and gave him authority over the land from Cologne to the sea, presenting him with a charter of this in the sight of all the people.
On the next day the emperor and the king of England and their nobles assembled in the cathedral, and the archbishop of Cologne said mass. And after mass the emperor and all his nobles swore to aid the king of England and to maintain his quarrel against the king of France with their lives for seven years, if the war between the said kings should last so long. They also swore that all the nobles in the territory from Cologne to the sea would come at the summons of the king of England to join him in an attack upon the king of France at any place and at any time set by him. If any one of them should fail to obey the king of England in these matters, all the other nobles of northern Germany would attack and destroy him. These affairs having been arranged and settled, the king of England received the grant of authority and returned to Brabant.
The Golden Bull of Charles IV, 1356.
Various things had led the emperors to follow the policy of conferring crown rights upon their princes. In order to carry out their Italian policy the Hohenstaufen had sacrificed the power of the crown in Germany (see nos. 110-112, 136, 138, 139), and after the interregnum the electors pillaged the crown at every opportunity (see nos. 149, 153). The result was that the crown was stripped of authority, while the princes had developed almost complete sovereignty in their lands. Charles IV, in the Golden Bull, attempted to fix as in a constitution the actual rights and status of the princes. He saw that Germany was no longer a monarchy, but a federation of princes.
Although from 1273 the number of electors was fixed at seven, it was not always clear who these seven were. Thus in 1313 two men claimed to possess the electoral vote of Saxony, and two others, that of Bohemia. Charles IV made provisions to prevent the recurrence of such a situation by attaching the electoral vote to the possession of certain lands (see chaps. VII, XX, and XXV).
Charles IV was himself king of Bohemia, and, knowing that it was hopeless to attempt to restore the German kingship, he exerted himself in the Golden Bull to secure for Bohemia all the advantages possible.
(Published at Nürnberg, January 10, 1356.)
ESCORT AND SAFE-CONDUCT FOR THE ELECTORS.
1. We decree and determine by this imperial edict that, whenever the electoral princes are summoned according to the ancient and praiseworthy custom to meet and elect a king of the Romans and future emperor, each one of them shall be bound to furnish on demand an escort and safe-conduct to his fellow electors or their representatives, within his own lands and as much farther as he can, for the journey to and from the city where the election is to be held. Any electoral prince who refuses to furnish escort and safe-conduct shall be liable to the penalties for perjury and to the loss of his electoral vote for that occasion.
2. We decree and command also that all other princes who hold fiefs from the empire by whatever title, and all counts, barons, knights, clients, nobles, commoners, citizens, and all corporations of towns, cities, and territories of the empire, shall furnish escort and safe-conduct for this occasion to every electoral prince or his representatives, on demand, within their own lands and as much farther as they can. Violators of this decree shall be punished as follows: Princes, counts, barons, knights, clients, and all others of noble rank, shall suffer the penalties of perjury, and shall lose the fiefs which they hold of the emperor or any other lord, and all their other possessions; citizens and corporations shall also suffer the penalty for perjury, shall be deprived of all the rights, liberties, privileges, and graces which they have received from the empire, and shall incur the ban of the empire against their persons and property. Those whom we deprive of their rights for this offence may be attacked by any man without appealing to a magistrate, and without danger of reprisal, for they are rebels against the state and the empire, and have attacked the honor and security of the prince, and are convicted of faithlessness and perfidy.
3. We also command that the citizens and corporations of cities shall furnish supplies to the electoral princes and their representatives on demand at the regular price and without fraud, whenever they arrive at, or depart from, the city on their way to or from the election; those who violate this decree shall suffer the penalties described in the preceding paragraph for citizens and corporations. If any prince, count, baron, knight, client, noble, commoner, citizen, or city shall attack or molest in person or goods any of the electoral princes or their representatives, on their way to or from an election, whether they have safe-conduct or not, he and his accomplices shall incur the penalties above described, according to his position and rank.
4. If there should arise any enmity or hostility between two electoral princes, it shall not be allowed to interfere with the safe-conduct which each is bound to furnish to the other on the occasion of the election, under penalty of being declared guilty of perjury, and being deprived of his vote for that occasion, as described above.
5. If any other princes, counts, barons, knights, clients, nobles, commoners, citizens, or cities are at war with any electoral prince or princes, they shall nonetheless be bound to furnish to them and their representatives escort and safe-conduct for the journey to and from the election, under the same penalties. In order to render the observance of the above demands more certain, we desire and instruct all electoral and other princes, and all counts, barons, nobles, cities, and corporations to bind themselves by oaths and written promises to observe them. If anyone refuses to do this, he shall incur the penalties above described, according to his rank and station.
6. If any electoral prince violates any of the above or following laws of the empire, he shall be excluded by his fellow-electors from their body, and shall be deprived of his vote and his electoral dignity, and of his right to hold fiefs of the empire. If any other prince of any rank or station, or any count, baron, or noble who holds fiefs of the empire, or any of their successors to their fiefs, is guilty of a similar crime, he shall not be invested with the fiefs which he holds of the empire, nor be able to receive a fief from any other lord, and he shall incur the above penalties, according to his rank.
7. The above rules apply to escorts and safe-conduct in general, but we have thought it well to indicate also the neighboring lands which should furnish escort and safe-conduct in each separate case to each elector.
8. To the king of Bohemia, the chief cup-bearer of the empire, the following should furnish escort and safe-conduct: the archbishop of Mainz, the bishops of Bamberg and Würzburg, the burggrave of Nürnberg, etc.
9. To the archbishop of Cologne, archchancellor of the empire for Italy, the archbishops of Mainz and Trier, the count palatine of the Rhine, the landgrave of Hesse, etc.
10. To the archbishop of Trier, archchancellor of the empire for Gaul and the kingdom of Arles, the archbishop of Mainz, the count palatine of the Rhine, etc.
11. To the count palatine of the Rhine, the archbishop of Mainz.
12. To the duke of Saxony, archmarshall of the empire, the king of Bohemia, the archbishops of Mainz and Magdeburg, the bishops of Bamberg and Würzburg, the margrave of Meissen, the landgrave of Hesse, the abbots of Fulda and Hersfeld, the burggrave of Nürnberg, etc. These shall also furnish escort and safe-conduct to the margrave of Brandenburg, the archchamberlain of the empire.
13. We wish and command that each electoral prince should give due notice to those from whom he intends to require safe-conduct, of his journey and of the route by which he intends to go; and he should make a formal demand upon such persons for safe-conduct, in order that they may be able to make fitting preparations.
14. The above decrees concerning safe-conduct are to be understood to mean that any person, whether expressly named or not, from whom safe-conduct is demanded on the occasion of the election, must furnish it in good faith within his own lands, and as much farther as he can, under the penalties described above.
15. It shall be the duty of the archbishop of Mainz to send notice of the approaching election to each of the electoral princes by his messenger bearing letters patent, containing the following: first, the date on which the letter should reach the prince to whom it is directed; then the command to the electoral prince to come or send his representatives to Frankfort on the Main, three months from that date, such representatives being duly accredited by letters bearing the great seal of the prince, and giving them full power to vote for the king of the Romans and future emperor. The form of the letter of notification and of the credentials of the representatives are appended to this document, and we hereby command that these forms be used without change.
16. When the news of the death of the king of the Romans has been received at Mainz, within one month from the date of receiving it the archbishop of Mainz shall send notices of the death and of the approaching election to all the electoral princes. But if the archbishop neglects or refuses to send such notices, the electoral princes are commanded on their fidelity to assemble on their own motion and without summons at the city of Frankfort within three months from the death of the emperor, for the purpose of electing a king of the Romans and future emperor.
17. Each electoral prince or his representatives may bring with him to Frankfort at the time of the election a retinue of 200 horsemen, of whom not more than 50 shall be armed.
18. If any electoral prince, duly summoned to the election, fails to come or to send representatives with credentials containing full authority, or if he or his representatives withdraws from the place of the election before the election has been completed, without leaving behind substitutes fully accredited and empowered, he shall lose his vote in that election. . . .
THE ELECTION OF THE KING OF THE ROMANS.
1. (Mass shall be celebrated on the day after the arrival of the electors. The archbishop of Mainz administers this oath, which the other electors repeat:)
2. “I, archbishop of Mainz, archchancellor of the empire for Germany, electoral prince, swear on the holy gospels here before me, and by the faith which I owe to God and to the holy Roman empire, that with the aid of God, and according to my best judgment and knowledge, I will cast my vote, in this election of the king of the Romans and future emperor, for a person fitted to rule the Christian people. I will give my voice and vote freely, uninfluenced by any agreement, price, bribe, promise, or anything of the sort, by whatever name it may be called. So help me God and all the saints.”
3. After the electors have taken this oath, they shall proceed to the election, and shall not depart from Frankfort until the majority have elected a king of the Romans and future emperor, to be ruler of the world and of the Christian people. If they have not come to a decision within thirty days from the day on which they took the above oath, after that they shall live upon bread and water and shall not leave the city until the election has been decided.
4. Such an election shall be as valid as if all the princes had agreed unanimously and without difference upon a candidate. If any one of the princes or his representatives has been hindered or delayed for a time, but arrives before the election is over, he shall be admitted and shall take part in the election at the stage which had been reached at the time of his arrival. According to the ancient and approved custom, the king of the Romans elect, immediately after his election and before he takes up any other business of the empire, shall confirm and approve by sealed letters for each and all of the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, the privileges, charters, rights, liberties, concessions, ancient customs, and dignities, and whatever else the princes held and possessed from the empire at the time of the election; and he shall renew the confirmation and approval when he becomes emperor. The original confirmation shall be made by him as king, and the renewal as emperor. It is his duty to do this graciously and in good faith, and not to hinder the princes in the exercise of their rights.
5. In the case where three of the electors vote for a fourth electoral prince, his vote shall have the same value as that of the others to make a majority and decide the election.
THE LOCATION OF THE SEATS OF THE ARCHBISHOPS OF TRIER, COLOGNE, AND MAINZ.
In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, amen. Charles by the grace of God emperor of the Romans, Augustus, and king of Bohemia. . . . To prevent any dispute arising between the archbishops of Trier, Mainz, and Cologne, electoral princes of the empire, as to their priority and rank in the diet, it has been decided and is hereby decreed with the advice and consent of all the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, that the archbishop of Trier shall have the seat directly opposite and facing the emperor; that the archbishop of Mainz shall have the seat at the right of the emperor when the diet is held in the diocese or province of Mainz, or anywhere in Germany except in the diocese of Cologne; that the archbishop of Cologne shall have the seat at the right of the emperor when the diet is held in the diocese or province of Cologne, or anywhere in Gaul or Italy. This applies to all public ceremonies: court sessions, conferring of fiefs, banquets, councils, and all occasions on which the princes meet with the emperor for the transaction of imperial business. This order of seating shall be observed by the successors of the present archbishops of Cologne, Trier, and Mainz, and shall never be questioned.
THE LOCATION OF THE SEATS OF THE ELECTORAL PRINCES.
1. In the imperial diet, at the council-board, table, and all other places where the emperor or king of the Romans meets with the electoral princes, the seats shall be arranged as follows: On the right of the emperor, first, the archbishop of Mainz, or of Cologne, according to the province in which the meeting is held, as arranged above; second, the king of Bohemia, because he is a crowned and anointed prince; third, the count palatine of the Rhine; on the left of the emperor, first, the archbishop of Cologne, or of Mainz; second, the duke of Saxony; third, the margrave of Brandenburg.
2. When the imperial throne becomes vacant, the archbishop of Mainz shall have the authority, which he has had from of old, to call the other electors together for the election. It shall be his peculiar right also, when the electors have convened for the election, to collect the votes, asking each of the electors separately in the following order: first, the archbishop of Trier, who shall have the right to the first vote, as he has had from of old; then the archbishop of Cologne, who has the office of first placing the crown upon the head of the king of the Romans; then the king of Bohemia, who has the priority among the secular princes, because of his royal title; fourth, the count palatine of the Rhine; fifth, the duke of Saxony; sixth, the margrave of Brandenburg. Then the princes shall ask the archbishop of Mainz in turn to declare his choice and vote. At the diet, the margrave of Brandenburg shall offer water to the emperor or king, to wash his hands; the king of Bohemia shall have the right to offer him the cup first, although, by reason of his royal dignity, he shall not be bound to do this unless he desires; the count palatine of the Rhine shall offer him food; and the duke of Saxony shall act as his marshal in the accustomed manner.
THE RIGHTS OF THE COUNT PALATINE AND OF THE DUKE OF SAXONY.
1. During the vacancy of the empire, the count palatine of the Rhine, archseneschal of the empire, by reason of his principality and office, shall exercise the authority of the future king of the Romans in the Rhine lands, in Suabia, and in the region of the Frankish law; this includes the right to present to ecclesiastical benefices, to collect revenues and incomes, to invest with fiefs, and to receive the oath of fidelity in the name of the emperor. All of these acts, however, must be confirmed and renewed by the king of the Romans after he is elected. The count palatine shall not have the right to invest the princes of the empire with fiefs which are called Fahnlehen,1 the investiture and conferring of which is reserved to the king of the Romans in person. The count palatine is expressly forbidden to alienate or mortgage the imperial lands during the period of his administration. The duke of Saxony, archmarshal of the holy empire, shall exercise the same authority during the vacancy of the empire for the region of the Saxon law, under the same conditions as expressed above.
2. The emperor or king of the Romans must appear before the count palatine of the Rhine, when he is cited by anyone, but the count palatine shall try such cases only at the imperial diet when the emperor or king is present.
(Repeats the statements about the priority of the king of Bohemia among the secular princes.)
THE SUCCESSION OF THE ELECTORAL PRINCES.
1. . . . It is known and recognized throughout the world, that the king of Bohemia, the count palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Saxony, and the margrave of Brandenburg, by virtue of the principalities which they possess, have the right to vote in the election of the king of the Romans along with their coelectors, the ecclesiastical princes, and that they with the ecclesiastical princes are the true and legal electoral princes of the holy empire. In order to prevent disputes arising among the sons of these secular electoral princes in regard to the electoral authority and vote, which would be productive of delays dangerous to the state and other evils, we have fixed the succession by the present law which shall be valid forever. On the death of one of the secular electoral princes his right, voice, and vote in the election shall descend to his first-born son who is a layman; if the son has died before this, to the son’s first-born son who is a layman. If the first-born lay son of the elector has died without legitimate lay sons, by virtue of the present law the succession shall go to the elector’s next oldest lay son and then to his heirs, and so on according to the law of primogeniture. In case the heir is under age the paternal uncle of the heir shall act as guardian and administrator until the heir comes of age, which shall be, in the case of electoral princes, at eighteen years. Then the guardian shall immediately surrender to him the electoral vote and authority and all the possessions of the electorate.
2. When any electorate falls vacant for lack of heirs, the emperor or king of the Romans shall have the power to dispose of it, as if it reverted to the empire, saving the rights, privileges, and customs of the kingdom of Bohemia, according to which the inhabitants of that kingdom have the right to elect their king in case of a vacancy.
THE IMMUNITY OF THE KINGDOM OF BOHEMIA AND ITS INHABITANTS.
Our predecessors, the emperors and kings of the Romans, have conceded to our ancestors, the kings of Bohemia, and to the kingdom and crown . . . that no prince, baron, noble, knight, client, citizen, or other person of the kingdom, of any station, dignity, rank, or condition, should be cited, haled, or summoned before any tribunal outside of the kingdom, or before any judge except the king of Bohemia and the judges of his court. We hereby renew and confirm this privilege, custom, and concession by our royal authority and power, and decree that no one of the aforesaid, prince, baron, noble, knight, client, citizen, or peasant, or any other person, shall be required to appear or answer before any tribunal outside of the kingdom of Bohemia, in any case, civil, criminal, or mixed. . . .
MINES OF GOLD, SILVER, AND OTHER METALS.
We decree, by this present law, that our successors, the kings of Bohemia, and all the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, shall hold and possess with full rights, all mines of gold, silver, tin, copper, iron, lead, or other metals, and all salt works, both those already discovered and those which shall be discovered in the future, situated within their lands, domains, and dependencies. They shall also have authority to tax Jews, the right to collect tolls already in force, and all other rights which they or their predecessors have possessed to the present day.
1. We also decree that our successors, the future kings of Bohemia, shall possess and exercise in peace the rights of coinage of gold and silver, in all parts of their dominions and of the lands belonging to their subjects, in such form and manner as they may determine: a right which is known to have belonged to our predecessors, the former kings of Bohemia.
2. We also grant to the future kings of Bohemia forever the right to buy, purchase, or receive as gift or in payment, any lands, castles, possessions, or goods from any princes, magnates, counts, or other persons; such lands and property to remain, however, in their former legal status, and to pay the customary dues and services to the empire.
3. We extend this right by the present law to all the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, and to their legal heirs, under the same conditions and form.
THE IMMUNITIES OF THE PRINCES.
1. We decree also that no count, baron, noble, vassal, burggrave, knight, client, citizen, burgher, or other subject of the churches of Cologne, Mainz, or Trier, of whatever status, condition or rank, shall be cited, haled, or summoned to any authority before any tribunal outside of the territories, boundaries, and limits of these churches and their dependencies, or before any judge, except the archbishops and their judges. . . . We refuse to hear appeals based upon the authority of others over the subjects of these princes; if these princes are accused by their subjects of injustice, appeal shall lie to the imperial diet, and shall be heard there and nowhere else. . . .
2. We extend this right by the present law to the secular electoral princes, the count palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Saxony, and the margrave of Brandenburg, and to their heirs, successors, and subjects forever.
ASSEMBLIES OF THE PRINCES.
. . . It has been decided in the general diet held at Nürnburg with the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, and other princes and magnates, by their advice and with their consent, that in the future, the electoral princes shall meet every year in some city of the empire four weeks after Easter; this year they are to meet at that date in the imperial city of Metz; on that occasion, and on every meeting thereafter, the place of assembling for the following year shall be fixed by us with the advice and consent of the princes. This ordinance shall remain in force as long as it shall be pleasing to us and to the princes; and as long as it is in effect, we shall furnish the princes with safe-conduct for that assembly, going, staying, and returning. . . .
THE REVOCATION OF PRIVILEGES.
We hereby decree and determine that the liberties, jurisdiction, rights, honors, and authority of the electoral princes, ecclesiastical or secular, or of any one of them, ought not to be and shall not be in any way diminished by any privileges or charters of rights, graces, immunities, customs, etc., granted or to be granted by us or our predecessors to any person of whatsoever rank, station, or dignity, or to any city, town or territory, even if it is expressly stated in such privileges and charters that they are not revocable. In so far as any such privileges do diminish the liberties, jurisdiction, rights, honors, or authority of the said electoral princes, we hereby revoke them and decree by our imperial authority that they are to be regarded as revoked and void.
THE FORFEITING OF FIEFS.
In many regions it is becoming the practice for vassals and feudatories to renounce and resign verbally and without due notice the fiefs and benefices which they hold of their lords, and then to declare themselves free from their allegiance and to seize the fiefs under pretext of war. Therefore we decree hereby that such renunciation shall not be valid unless it is genuine and made with the condition that the fiefs and benefices shall revert immediately to the lords from whom they are held; those who have renounced their allegiance shall never disturb or molest their lords in the possession of these fiefs. Any subject violating this decree shall lose his fiefs and benefices, shall be branded with infamy, and placed under the imperial ban; no one shall ever give him a fief or a benefice, and any grant or investiture made to him shall be void.
We reprobate, condemn, and declare void all detestable and illegal conspiracies, confederations, and societies, which are or shall be made by cities or by persons of any rank or station, under color of any pretext whatever, inside or outside of cities, between city and city, person and person, or city and person, without the consent of the lords of the persons or territories; for it is well known that such conspiracies are declared illegal and void by the laws of our predecessors, the august emperors. We except from this condemnation such confederations and leagues as are entered into by princes, cities, and others for the preservation of the peace of their lands; these shall remain in force until we have decreed otherwise. If any person shall violate this decree and the ancient laws against conspiracies, besides incurring the regular penalties he shall be branded with infamy and shall be fined ten pounds of gold; cities and corporations guilty of a similar crime shall be fined 100 pounds of gold, half of which shall go to the imperial treasury, and half to the lord of the district, and they shall be deprived of the liberties and privileges which they have received from the empire.
The complaint has frequently been made of late that certain citizens and subjects of princes, barons, and other lords, in order to escape from their proper subjection, have had themselves received as citizens in other cities, and thus, while dwelling in the lands, cities, towns, or regions of the lords whom they have deserted, they claim to enjoy the liberty and immunity of the other cities, and to be freed from the lord’s authority, because of that citizenship; these are the persons who are called in the vulgar tongue in Germany “pfahlburghers.” Now since fraud and deceit cannot constitute a legal defense for any one, we hereby decree by our imperial authority and by the advice of the electoral princes, ecclesiastical and secular, that from this day forth within all the lands of the empire such citizens shall not enjoy the rights and liberties of the cities, unless they have actually moved into them and established their homes there, making their real residence and domicile in the cities and bearing their share of the debts, burdens, and municipal taxes. If any such persons are or shall be admitted into cities contrary to this edict, the admission shall be void of effect, and the persons shall not profit by the laws and liberties of those cities, in spite of any laws, privileges, and customs to the contrary, all of which, as far as they contradict this decree, we declare to be void; and the lords shall retain their rights over the persons and goods of their subjects who have deserted them in this manner. Those who receive the subjects of other lords on these terms contrary to our law, and who do not drive them away within one month after receiving notice of their presence, shall be fined for each such violation, 100 pounds of gold, half of which shall go to the imperial treasury and half to the lords of the deserters.
RENUNCIATION OF ALLEGIANCE.
If any person renounces his allegiance or alliance without due notice and in a place where he does not have his residence, even if he thinks he has just grounds, we declare that he shall not have the right to inflict injury or violence upon those from whom he has in this manner withdrawn. And since fraud and deceit cannot constitute legal defence, we hereby declare that renunciation of this sort from the society or association of any lord or person shall not be valid, and may not be used as pretext for making war, unless the renunciation has been announced to those who are concerned personally or publicly in the place where they have their regular residence, three full days before, and the notification can be proved by good witnesses. Whoever shall make war on another without making renunciation in this form, shall be branded with infamy, just as if he had never made any renunciation, and he shall be punished as a traitor by all judges. We forbid and condemn also all unjust wars and strife, all unjust burning, wasting, and rapine, all unusual and unjust tolls and exactions for safe-conduct, under penalties fixed by the laws of the empire.
FORM OF THE LETTER OF NOTIFICATION.
“To you, the illustrious and magnificent margrave of Brandenburg, archchamberlain of the holy empire, our fellow-elector and dear friend, we give notice by these presents of the approaching election of the king of the Romans, and we summon you according to the duty of your office to come to that election at the regular place within three months from — — (date), or to send one or more representatives or agents with sufficient authority, in order to consider with your fellow-electors and agree upon the choice of a king of the Romans and future emperor; to remain there until the election is completed; and to do such other things as are required by the laws of the empire in this matter. Otherwise, in spite of your absence, we shall proceed with our fellow-electors to carry out the aforesaid business, as the authority of the imperial laws empowers us.”
FORM OF THE CREDENTIALS FOR REPRESENTATIVES OR AGENTS OF THE ELECTORAL PRINCES, SENT IN THEIR BEHALF TO THE ELECTION.
We (name), by the grace of God (title), (office) of the holy empire. Be it known to all by these presents . . . that we have constituted our faithful subjects (names) our true, legal, and special representatives and agents, to treat with our fellow-princes and electors, ecclesiastical and secular, and to agree and decide with them concerning a suitable person to be elected king of the Romans; to be present, deliberate, name, consent to, and elect the king of the Romans and future emperor in our name and for us; and to take the necessary, due, and accustomed oaths upon our soul, in regard to the aforesaid things; to appoint substitutes to do any and all things which may be necessary, useful, or convenient to the aforesaid consideration, nomination, deliberation, and election, and to do anything which we would be able to do if we were present in person at the election, even if these things be special and peculiar things not mentioned specifically in the above. We will accept and ratify everything done by the aforesaid representatives or their substitutes.
THE UNITY OF THE ELECTORAL PRINCIPALITIES.
It is known that the right of voting for the king of the Romans and future emperor inheres in certain principalities, the possessors of which have also the other offices, rights, and dignities belonging to these principalities. We decree, therefore, by the present law that the electoral vote and other offices, dignities, and appurtenances shall always be so united and conjoined that the possessor of one of these principalities shall possess and enjoy the electoral vote and all the offices, dignities, and appurtenances belonging to it, that he shall be regarded as electoral prince, that he and no other shall be accepted by the other electoral princes and admitted to participation in the election and all other acts which regard the honor and advantage of the holy empire, and that no one of these rights, which are and ought to be inseparable, shall ever be taken from him. And if through error or by any other means any decision or sentence is issued by any judge against the present law, it shall be void.
THE PRECEDENCE AMONG THE ARCHBISHOPS.
We have defined above the location of the seats of the ecclesiastical electors in the council, at the table, and on other occasions, when the emperor meets with the electoral princes, but we have thought it well to indicate also the order of precedence in procession and march. Therefore we decree by the present imperial edict that whenever the emperor or king of the Romans meets with the electoral princes, and the insignia are borne before him in procession, the archbishop of Trier shall march directly before the emperor or king, no one being between them except the bearers of the insignia; and when the emperor or king marches without the insignia the archbishop shall immediately precede him. The other two archbishops [of Mainz and Cologne] shall march on either side of the archbishop of Trier, their position on the right or the left being determined by the region in which the ceremony is held, as described above.
THE ORDER OF PRECEDENCE AMONG THE SECULAR ELECTORAL PRINCES, AND THE BEARERS OF THE INSIGNIA.
We also determine by the present decree the precedence among the secular electoral princes as follows: When the electoral princes march in procession with the emperor or king of the Romans in any of the ceremonies of the imperial diet and the insignia are borne before him, the duke of Saxony shall precede the emperor or king, marching between him and the archbishop of Trier, and bearing the imperial or royal sword; the count palatine of the Rhine shall march at the right of the duke of Saxony with the imperial globe, and the margrave of Brandenburg at the left with the sceptre; the king of Bohemia shall follow immediately behind the emperor or king.
BENEDICTIONS OF THE ARCHBISHOPS IN THE PRESENCE OF THE EMPEROR
When the mass is celebrated in the presence of the emperor or king, the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, or any two of them, being present, the archbishops shall perform the services on the different days in turn in the order of their consecration, each one on his day officiating in the confession which is said before the mass, in the presenting of the gospel to be kissed, in the giving of peace after the Agnus Dei, in the benedictions after the mass and before meals, and in returning thanks after meals. Each archbishop on his day should invite the other archbishops to participate in the services, to set a good example to men by honoring one another.
(Published at Mets. December 25, 1356.)
1. If any person shall have joined in a conspiracy or taken oath to join in a conspiracy with any other persons, princes, knights, or private persons, to slay one of the electoral princes of the holy empire, he shall be judged guilty of offence against the majesty of the emperor, and shall be executed, and all his goods shall be forfeited to the royal treasury; for we regard the electoral princes as members of our own body, and visit offences against them with the same severity as against ourself. [The rest of the chapter is devoted to the effects of the confiscation and attainder upon children and heirs of criminals, etc.]
If it is proper that the integrity of the ordinary principalities should be preserved, for the better securing of justice and peace for the subjects, it is even more important that the great principalities of the electoral princes should be kept intact in their domains, honors, and rights. Therefore we determine and decree by this imperial edict that the lands, districts, fiefs, and other possessions of the great principalities, namely, the kingdom of Bohemia, the palatinate of the Rhine, the duchy of Saxony, and the mark of Brandenburg, should never under any circumstances be separated, divided, or dismembered. In order that they may be preserved in their integrity, the first-born son in each case shall succeed to them, and shall exercise ownership and dominion in them, unless he be incapacitated for ruling by reason of imbecility, or other notorious defect. In that case, he shall not be allowed to inherit, but the succession shall go to the nearest male lay heir on the paternal side.
1. On the day of the imperial diet, all the electoral princes shall proceed to the imperial palace about the first hour, and shall assist the emperor or king in donning the insignia; then they shall proceed on horseback to the place of the diet with the emperor or king, preserving the order of precedence indicated above. The archchancellor of the kingdom in which the diet is held shall bear the seals of the empire or kingdom upon a silver staff; the secular princes shall bear the sceptre, globe, and sword, as indicated above; the German and Lombard crowns shall be borne, in this order, by princes of inferior rank named for this office by the emperor, immediately before the archbishop of Trier, who precedes the emperor, now wearing the imperial crown.
2. The empress or queen, clad in her insignia, shall also proceed to the place of the diet with her officials and ladies, taking her place behind the emperor or king and behind the king of Bohemia, who follows immediately after the emperor or king.
THE OFFICES OF THE ELECTORAL PRINCES AT THE DIET.
1. After the emperor or king is seated on his throne, the duke of Saxony shall appear before the place of the diet on horseback with a silver staff and a silver measure, each of the value of twelve marks in silver, and shall fill his measure with oats from a heap that has been placed before the building in which the diet is held. This heap of oats shall be as high as the breast of the horse on which he rides. He shall then give this measure of oats to the first servant that approaches. Then he shall thrust his staff into the heap of oats and go away, and the vice-marshal, the count of Pappenheim, or in his absence the marshal of the court, shall distribute the oats. After the emperor or king has taken his place at the table the ecclesiastical electors, supported by other prelates, shall stand before the table and one of them shall pronounce the blessing, according to the order of precedence established above; after the benediction the chancellor of the court shall present the seals to the archbishops, and they shall bear them to the emperor, all three touching with their hands the staff on which they are suspended, the archchancellor of the kingdom in which the diet is held marching in the middle and the other two on either side of him. They shall lay the seals reverently before the emperor or king, who shall immediately return them to the archbishops. The archchancellor of the kingdom in which the diet is held shall wear the great seal of the empire about his neck during the dinner and until he returns to his abode. The staff, which shall be of silver of the value of twelve marks, and the seals, shall be handed over to the chancellor of the court. The archbishop who bears the great seal shall return this also to the chancellor of the court by one of his own servants, mounted on a horse which shall be presented to the chancellor of the court as a perquisite of his office and as a token of the love of the archchancellor.
2. The margrave of Brandenburg, the archchamberlain of the empire, shall approach on horseback, bearing water in silver basins of the value of twelve marks, and a beautifully embroidered napkin, and shall dismount and offer the emperor or king water to wash his hands.
3. The count palatine of the Rhine shall approach on horseback, bearing four silver dishes, each of the value of three marks, filled with food, and shall dismount and carry them in and place them on the table before the emperor or king.
4. Then the king of Bohemia, the archccupbearer of the empire, shall ride up, bearing a silver cup or goblet, of the value of twelve marks, filled with wine and water mixed, and shall dismount and offer the goblet to the emperor or king to drink.
5. When the offices have been performed by the secular electoral princes, the vice-marshal, the count of Falkenstein, shall receive the horse and the silver basins of the margrave of Brandenburg; the master of the kitchen, the count of Nortemberg, shall receive the horse and the dishes of the count palatine of the Rhine; the vice-cupbearer, the count of Limburg, shall receive the horse and the goblet of the king of Bohemia; the vice-marshal, the count of Pappenheim, shall receive the horse, the staff, and the measure of the duke of Saxony. If these officials are not present, the ordinary officials of the court shall receive these gifts in their places.
(Description of the banqueting table, etc.)
1. We have learned from records and traditions, that it has been the custom in the past to hold the election of the king of the Romans in Frankfort, the coronation in Aachen, and the first diet in Nürnberg; therefore we decree that in the future these ceremonies shall be held in these places, unless there shall be some legitimate obstacle. . . .
THE RIGHTS OF THE OFFICIALS OF THE COURT WHEN THE PRINCES OF THE EMPIRE RECEIVE THEIR FIEFS.
(Requiring the secular electors to learn the Italian and Slavic languages.)
160 a and 160 b.
The Acquisition of the Mark of Brandenburg by the Hohenzollern Family, 1411.
The Cities of the Mark Make Complaints to Sigismund, 1411. (German.)
The importance of the acquisition of the mark of Brandenburg by a member of the Hohenzollern family could not at that time have been foreseen. The mark, being a great sandy marsh, did not seem a valuable possession, and the nobles, especially the great von Quitzow family, were devastating it with their feuds. The cities, here as everywhere else in Germany, were for order and peace. It seems to have been due in part to their complaints and appeals to Sigismund that he chose the able and vigorous Frederick of Hohenzollern, burggrave of Nürnberg, as governor of the mark. This was an important event in the fortunes of the Hohenzollern family. Frederick and his successors managed their affairs so well that Brandenburg became the basis on which the power of the family was built up.
In the same year that Jost, the margrave, died, the king of Hungary, Sigismund, who had been elected king of the Romans, sent messengers to the cities of the old and new marks to Magdeburg and ordered them to come to Berlin on the Sunday of Midlent to hear his will concerning them. The king’s representatives, John Waldaw, præpositus of the church at Berlin, and Wend von Eylenburg, met the aldermen of the cities at Berlin at the appointed time and asked them: “Since Jost, the margrave, is dead and the king is the hereditary lord of the land, are you willing to recognize his lordship over you and to support him?” And the aldermen answered him that they were. The cities and the nobles of the land were then ordered to come to Hungary and do homage to the king on the next St. Walpurgis day (May 1). The cities sent representatives from among their aldermen, but none of the nobles of the land came except Jaspar Gans von Putlitz. They did homage to the king and remained with him so long that they did not reach home until St. James’s day (July 25). They complained to the king about the wretched condition of the land and its troubles, and especially about the von Quitzows and certain other nobles and their supporters who controlled the land by means of the castles of which they had got possession, and who were doing great damage to the land and were carrying on war with the neighboring lords and their lands. They besought the king to take measures to prevent such war, violence, and damage. The king then said to the aldermen that he himself could not come into the mark because he had been chosen king of the Romans, and he must therefore endeavor to rule the realm and to restore unity to the church [i.e., end the schism]; but he would send them a governor who would be able to help them. He then named the noble prince, Frederick, burggrave of Nürnberg, as the governor of the mark. This rejoiced the aldermen very much and restored their confidence. They were well pleased, and left the king and joyfully returned home.
Sigismund Orders the People of the Mark to Receive Frederick of Hohenzollern as their Governor, 1412. (German.)
We, Sigismund, etc. Dear and faithful subjects: We hereby inform you again that we have made the noble Frederick, burggrave of Nürnberg, our dear uncle, counsellor, and prince, the head and governor of the whole mark of Brandenburg. We have given him letters to that effect. And when your representatives came to Ofen and did homage to us on behalf of the nobles and cities of the mark we orally commanded them to receive the said Frederick. Therefore we again strictly command you to receive him without any delay or opposition and to render him the homage which you owe us as your hereditary margrave, and pay homage to him according to the instructions which are contained in the letters which we have given him. He will confirm and renew all your liberties, rights, good customs, and charters, and preserve their validity just as I have done. Given at Ofen, 1412, etc.
[1 ] For the meaning of this term see no. 139, paragraph 10.
[1 ] In the investiture of a vassal with a fief certain symbols were used. Among other articles that were used in this way when investing the secular tenants-in-chief was the spear, to which it became customary to affix a small standard or flag, as a symbol of the regalia which were conferred with the fief. Eventually this was the only symbol used in such cases, and hence the secular fiefs which were held directly from the king came to be called “Fahnlehen,” or “flag fiefs.”