Friday, June 2, 2017

How About Restoring the Holy Roman Empire?

The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, the First Reich, was the central political entity of the western world for a great many centuries and, as we have talked about before, has been in the mind of many people, most often Catholics, in particular in terms of comparing and contrasting it with the European Union. As I have stated before, the EU is nothing at all even close to what the First Reich had been, however, for those who claim that the European Union should be embraced as a modern-day version of the Holy Roman Empire, my response is simple; why not just restore the Holy Roman Empire itself? Such a thing is hardly likely in this day and age and yet, it is no more unlikely than the restoration of any other monarchy which I will not relent in pressing for. Additionally, it is not as though it would be fundamentally impossible to restore the First Reich in terms of the modern European political map as the First Reich was itself a rather malleable thing, which is probably why it was able to endure for so long.

The body that eventually became known as the Holy Roman Empire existed long before the actual term itself came into common usage and originated in a sort of effort by Pope St Leo III and the Frankish king Charlemagne to revive the Western Roman Empire but in a very different form, with a different basis and a largely different population, certainly a different ruling class, than the original Roman Empire. It was always a somewhat amorphous thing, during the reigns of particularly powerful emperors it was a definite empire but in the intervals between such monarchs was often more like a confederation of loosely aligned minor states. As the name suggests, certainly from the time of Emperor Otto the Great, it was a German-dominated entity and the core of it, the heartland of it, was what is today Germany. However, it was also seen as a unifying force for all of Western Europe or all of Christendom. The Emperor did not directly rule over all the countries of Christendom, indeed he did not directly rule all of the Empire itself exactly but he was supposed to be the senior monarch of Christendom, higher in status than the kings of France or England. He could not command them, but the idea was that he should be treated with all due respect as their senior.

Now, should all of this sound too frightfully Roman Catholic for Protestant monarchists, remember that at the end of the Holy Roman Empire the Protestants were a well established and accepted force within the empire and several of the Prince-Electors were Protestants, though in a rather odd turn of events one of those Protestant electors was a Catholic. There was even a Protestant caucus within the Reichstag. In the last shuffling of the deck before the First Reich was dissolved, the Prince-Electors were: The Prince-Archbishop of Regensburg, the King of Bohemia, the King of Bavaria, the King of Saxony, the King of Prussia (Elector of Brandenburg), the King of Great Britain (Elector of Hanover), the King of Wurttemberg, the Grand Duke of Baden, the Elector of Hesse-Kassel and the Grand Duchy of Wurzburg (who later became the Grand Duke of Tuscany, long after the Empire was gone). Obviously, things had changed a great deal from the, not original but early and long lasting official organization of the empire as the Kingdom of Germany, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Burgundy (Arles) which didn’t actually exist most of the time and the Kingdom of Bohemia. All of these were kingships held by the Emperor and, originally, there were supposed to be no other kings within the empire besides the emperor himself. That, of course, changed when the Elector of Brandenburg became the “King in Prussia” and later the “King of Prussia”.

The point is that the Holy Roman Empire was changeable and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it could be reconstituted today with the restoration of monarchies across Europe. In other words, one would not have to dethrone some monarchs, restore others and reset everything in order to accomplish a restoration. This is one of the differences between the actual Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire of the German People. The original Roman Empire had a long history of its own going back through the Roman Republic to the ancient Roman kings. There was a specific political system in place with a specific procedure for becoming Emperor of the Romans who ruled “SPQR” which was in the name of the, “Senate and the People of Rome”. What was or what became the Holy Roman Empire began with the coronation of Charlemagne as “Emperor of the Romans” by Pope St Leo III on Christmas Day 800 AD. This meant that the Pope had claimed for himself the authority to choose the emperor, unlike the old system in which the Pope was simply called upon to bless the Emperor of Rome who had come to power in the usual way. More significantly to how history unfolded of course, he also reserved the right to remove the Emperor. What the Pope gives, the Pope can also take away which was no doubt one reason why most emperors ultimately found they could get along just fine without being crowned by the Pope.

In a modern restoration of the Holy Roman Empire, one could have electors such as Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, Prince Donatus of Hesse, Archduke Karl of Austria, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke Franz of Bavaria, Prince Alexander or Prince Rudiger of Saxony (I’m not going to get into that dispute here), Margrave Maximilian of Baden, Duke Carl of Wurttemberg and others. The others are where there could be some trouble. The clerical electors could prove problematic, one reason being that the Catholic Church in modern times has not exactly been zealously pro-monarchy and, assuming old attitudes prevail though they probably don’t, the lay electors might object to having churchmen involved in the election of the emperor given that the Church, under St Pius X, abolished any imperial involvement in the election of the pope after Emperor Franz Joseph last used his veto power. However, it is nothing that could not be worked out.

There is also the issue that the Grand Duke of Wurzburg, as mentioned, later became the Grand Duke of Tuscany which, as we know, was abolished with the incorporation of Tuscany into the Kingdom of Italy and we are not supposed to be robbing anyone of their throne or re-drawing the map of Europe to do this remember. Personally, I’d be fine with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany being restored, along with others, within the Kingdom of Italy. However, if old customs are to be kept to, the Grand Duke of Tuscany would have to finally declare his nationality once and for all. You see, when the Italians began to get really forceful about not wanting to be ruled by foreigners, supporters of the Grand Duke (and those like him) were quick to say that these cadet branches self-identified as Italians or more precisely Tuscans or Florentines or whatever you wish to call them (either sounds odd in English) but, when it came to the Holy Roman Empire, again, despite what some have claimed about the mentality of people prior to the French Revolution, nationality was important and the leaders of the empire would be expected to object to an elector who is not a German. In the old days the King of Bohemia (before they were Habsburg) was sometimes challenged as an elector on the grounds that he was not German and thus had no business taking part in who would be Emperor over the German nation. Depending on how the clerical electors are reconstituted, it might also be possible to simply replace the Grand Duke with a clerical elector as the Bishopric of Wurzburg is still around today.

There might also be some objections to the Grand Duke of Baden and King of Wurttemberg both being electors given that these are, in modern Germany, part of the same state and we are not supposed to be re-drawing the map here. However, as these things have been done in the past, the Grand Duchy of Baden could be restored within the Kingdom of Wurttemberg and his vote could be given to some other prince of the German states. One could go back to an earlier, smaller roster of electors, none of this was ever set in stone. The “Golden Bull” of Emperor Charles VI was supposed to do something of the sort but, obviously, changes were made right up to the very end of the existence of the Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, the Hessians insisted on keeping their electoral title even after the empire was no more, simply because it was more prestigious than what they had otherwise. All of that could be worked out as some electors were lost and others were raised to the status. There were rules for all of this but all those rules could be changed and were. It was not even set in stone that the electors had to choose a candidate from among their own number, hence King Francis I of France and King Henry VIII of England once threw their proverbial hats in the ring. At one point it was not even considered beyond the realm of possibility that there might be a Protestant emperor. He would not be crowned by the Pope and thus would remain “Emperor-Elect” officially but then, that came to be standard procedure as well.

None of this is absolutely impossible. However, the biggest problem with restoring the Holy Roman Empire is, to my mind, undoubtedly the current mindset of modern Europe. Restoring the empire would be a comparatively small matter, indeed some maintain that Emperor Franz II had no power to dissolve the empire and so it still exists but is simply dormant, awaiting the election of a new emperor. The issue that should give traditional monarchists some pause about this is who would be elected, what would this revived empire really look like considering the values that prevail in Europe, the modern Catholic Church and the Protestant churches that the electors belong to. The motivations that those in power had in the past are not the motivations that those in power have today and my biggest concern with a revived Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation would be what torrent of changes it would immediately be subjected to and I can think of nothing more frightening the possibility that the electors might choose to “make a statement” with their vote. Even if they stuck to tradition and elected Archduke Karl of Austria, I would still fear what the threat of being unpopular might prompt him to do. However, at the end of the day, whatever they came up with would almost have to be a considerable improvement over what exists at the moment.

This points to the reason why I tend to get rather frustrated with people who tend to blame all problems on modern monarchs and who complain that if only they would act like the monarchs of old, everything would be better. I am afraid not, that is not how it works. A modern Holy Roman Empire would not be the same as the historic Holy Roman Empire. People create societies, cultures and so on and as people change, the societies they create change. The First Reich was essentially the Catholic German empire. The Second Reich was a Protestant-run German empire in which religious differences were not of paramount importance. The Third Reich, well, that is a rather long story but it was a reflection of its time and I think it is significant that while the current political masters want Germans to forget the First Reich, want Germans to forget the Second Reich, they *never* want Germans to forget the Third Reich, it is too important for them and their hold on power.

Personally, I tend to look back with more longing on the Roman Empire of Constantine and Theodosius than I do the Roman Empire of Otto and Frederick. However, the core, the spirit if you like, the “idea” of this Roman Empire is something the modern masters of the planet do not want us to remember or work to revive. The Holy Roman Empire hardly, if ever, worked the way the ideal was supposed to. However, that very ideal, that very vision, of western, European, Christian monarchies all in harmony, all pulling in the same direction with varying degrees of local autonomy terrifies the sort of rulers the world has today. Yes, powers such as France, Spain, Britain even largely Italy and so on were outside of it but the ideal was that they would all see themselves as being on the same team, this “team” known as Christendom, synonymous with “western civilization”. That is something worth considering, worth trying to work out, worth trying to strive for.


  1. Their Excellencies Voderholzer and Hoffman certainly aren't the worst clerical electors you could find in Germany (not by a long shot).

    I also recently read an essay about the religious reason to look to restore the HRE.

  2. Maybe you could use fake news to expand upon what the policies of a restored HRE might be?


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