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The Holy Roman Emperor (German: Römischer Kaiser or Römisch-Deutscher Kaiser, Latin: Romanorum Imperator) was the elected monarch ruling over the many varying numbers of states making up the Holy Roman Empire — a Central European feudal state in existence from the Early Middle Ages (962) into the Early Modern period until its dissolution during the Napoleonic Wars (1806). The Empire, whose Emperor was crowned as King of the Romans was based upon the Germanic territories of the Emperor Charlemagne, and held by tradition to be his successors ruling its successor state.

By convention the first Emperor was taken to be the Saxon king Otto the Great, crowned as Emperor by Pope John XII on February 2, 962, although the Empire itself (as well as the style Holy Roman Emperor) did not come into use until some time later. Some have asserted that the first Emperor was Charlemagne (crowned in 800), but that claim was only made afterwards. Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the Popes up until the 16th century.

The Roman of the Emperor's title was a reflection of the translatio imperii (transfer of rule) principle that regarded the (Germanic) Holy Roman Emperors as the inheritors of the title of Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, a title left unclaimed in the West after the death of Julius Nepos in 480.

Coventions of the Title[]

From the time of Otto the Great onward, much of the former Carolingian kingdom of Eastern Francia became the Holy Roman Empire. The various German princes elected one of their peers as King of the Germans, after which he would (usually) be crowned as emperor by the Pope.

The title of Emperor (Imperator) carried with it an important role as protector of the Catholic Church, and women were ineligible to be crowned. As the papacy's power grew during the Middle Ages, Popes and emperors came into conflict over church administration. The most well-known and bitter conflict was that known as the Investiture Controversy fought during the 11th century between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII.


Successions to the kingship were controlled by a variety of complicated factors. Elections meant the kingship of Germany was only partially hereditary, unlike the kingship of France, although sovereignty frequently remained in a dynasty until there were no more male successors. Some scholars suggest that the task of the elections was really to solve conflicts only when the dynastic rule was unclear, yet the process meant that the prime candidate had to make concessions, by which the voters were kept on one's side; these were known as which were known as Wahlkapitulationen (election capitulations). The Electoral council was set at seven princes (three archbishops and four secular princes) by the Golden Bull of 1356. After 1438, the Kings remained in the house of Habsburg and Habsburg-Lorraine.

List of Emperors[]

This list includes all emperors, whether or not they styled themselves Holy Roman Emperor, from Otto the Great on. There are some gaps in the tally. For example, Henry the Fowler was King of Germany but not Emperor; Emperor Henry II was numbered as his successor as German King. The Guideschi follow the numeration for the Duchy of Spoleto.

Ottonian (Saxon) Dynasty[]

  • Otto I the Great, 962973.
  • Otto II, 973983.
  • Otto III, 9961002.
  • Henry II the Saint, 10141024 (enumerated as successor of Henry I who was German King 919936 but not Emperor.)

Salian (Frankish) Dynasty[]

  • Conrad II, 10271039 (enumerated as successor of Conrad I who was German King 911918 but not Emperor.)
  • Henry III, 10461056.
  • Henry IV, 10841105.

Henry V, 1111–1125[1]

Supplinburger Dynasty[]

  • Lothair III, 11331137 (enumerated as successor of Lothair II, who was King of Lotharingia 855869 but not Emperor.)

Staufen (or Hohenstaufen) Dynasty[]

  • Frederick I Barbarossa, 11551190.
  • Henry VI, 11911197.

House of Welf[]

  • Otto IV of Brunswick, 12091215.

Staufen (or Hohenstaufen) Dynasty[]

  • Frederick II, 12111250.

House of Luxembourg[]

  • Henry VII, 13121313.

House of Wittelsbach[]

  • Louis IV the Bavarian, 13281347.

House of Luxembourg[]

  • Charles IV, 13551378.
  • Sigismund, 1433 - 1437.

House of Habsburg[]

  • Frederick III, 14521493.