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The Imperial Diet ( la, Dieta Imperii Comitium Imperiale; german: Reichstag) was the deliberative body of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
. It was not a
legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure i ...
in the contemporary sense; its members envisioned it more like a central forum where it was more important to negotiate than to decide. Its members were the
Imperial Estate An Imperial State or Imperial Estate ( la, Status Imperii; german: Reichsstand, plural: ') was a part of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex o ...
s, divided into three colleges. The
diet Diet may refer to: Food * Diet (nutrition) In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for #Health, health or #Weight management, weight-mana ...
as a permanent, regularized institution evolved from the ''
Hoftag A ''Hoftag'' (pl. ''Hoftage'') was the name given to an informal and irregular assembly convened by the King of the Romans King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his ...
e'' (court assemblies) of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
. From 1663 until the end of the empire in 1806, it was in permanent session at
Regensburg Regensburg or is a city in eastern Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen River, Regen rivers. It is capital of the Upper Palatinate subregion of the state in the south of Germany. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regens ...

Regensburg
. All Imperial Estates enjoyed immediacy and, therefore, they had no authority above them besides the
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
himself. While all the estates were entitled to a seat and vote, only the higher temporal and spiritual princes of the College of Princes enjoyed an individual vote (''Virilstimme''), while lesser estates such as imperial counts and imperial abbots, were merely entitled to a collective vote (''Kuriatstimme'') within their particular bench (''Curia''), as did the free imperial cities belonging to the College of Towns. The right to vote rested essentially on a territorial entitlement, with the result that when a given prince acquired new territories through inheritance or otherwise, he also acquired their voting rights in the diet. In general, members did not attend the permanent diet at Regensburg, but sent representatives instead. The late imperial diet was in effect a permanent meeting of ambassadors between the estates.


History

The precise role and function of the Imperial Diet changed over the centuries, as did the Empire itself, in that the estates and separate territories gained more and more control of their own affairs at the expense of imperial power. Initially, there was neither a fixed time nor location for the Diet. It started as a convention of the
duke Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a , or of a member of , or . As rulers, dukes are ranked below s, s, s, s, and sovereign s. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes ...

duke
s of the old
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
tribes that formed the
Frankish kingdom Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankland, or Frankish Empire, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent ...

Frankish kingdom
when important decisions had to be made, and was probably based on the old Germanic law whereby each leader relied on the support of his leading men. For example, already under Emperor
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
during the
Saxon Wars #REDIRECT Saxon Wars#REDIRECT Saxon Wars The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the thirty-three years from 772, when Charlemagne Charlemagne (; ) or Charles the Great or ''Carolus'', whence in English or in German (for ...
, the Diet, according to the
Royal Frankish Annals The ''Royal Frankish Annals'' (Latin: ''Annales regni Francorum''), also called the ''Annales Laurissenses maiores'' ('Greater Lorsch Annals'), are a series of annals composed in Latin in the Carolingian dynasty, Carolingian Francia, recording y ...
, met at
Paderborn Paderborn () is a city in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, capital of the Paderborn (district), Paderborn district. The name of the city derives from the river Pader (river), Pader and "born", an old German term for the source of a river. ...

Paderborn
in 777 and officially determined laws concerning the subdued
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
and other tribes. In 803, the Frankish emperor issued the final version of the
Lex Saxonum The ''Lex Saxonum'' are a series of laws issued by Charlemagne Charlemagne (; ) or Charles the Great or ''Carolus'', whence in English or in German (for this individual, specifically ''Karl der Große''). The French form and the Italian ...
. At the Diet of 919 in
Fritzlar Fritzlar () is a small Germany, German town (pop. 15,000) in the Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse, north of Frankfurt, with a storied history. The town has a medieval center ringed by a wall with numerous watch towers ...

Fritzlar
the dukes elected the first
King of the Germans King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple i ...
, who was a Saxon,
Henry the Fowler Henry the Fowler (german: Heinrich der Vogler or '; la, Henricus Auceps) (c. 876 – 2 July 936) was the Duke of Saxony This article lists dukes, electors, and kings ruling over different territories named Saxony from the beginning of the ...

Henry the Fowler
, thus overcoming the longstanding rivalry between Franks and Saxons and laying the foundation for the German realm. After the conquest of
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...
, the 1158
Diet of Roncaglia The Diet of Roncaglia, held near Piacenza, was an Imperial Diet, a general assembly of the nobles and ecclesiasts of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethn ...
finalized four laws that would significantly alter the (never formally written)
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
of the Empire, marking the beginning of the steady decline of the central power in favour of the local dukes. The
Golden Bull of 1356 The Golden Bull of 1356 (, , , ) was a decree issued by the Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), Imperial Diet at Diet of Nuremberg, Nuremberg and Metz (Diet of Metz (1356/57), Diet of Metz, 1356/57) headed by the Emperor Charles IV, Holy Roman Emp ...

Golden Bull of 1356
cemented the concept of "territorial rule" (''Landesherrschaft''), the largely independent rule of the dukes over their respective territories, and also limited the number of electors to seven. The Pope, contrary to modern myth, was never involved in the electoral process but only in the process of ratification and coronation of whomever the Prince-Electors chose. Until the late 15th century the Diet was not actually formalized as an institution. Instead, the dukes and other princes would irregularly convene at the court of the Emperor. These assemblies were usually referred to as ''
Hoftag A ''Hoftag'' (pl. ''Hoftage'') was the name given to an informal and irregular assembly convened by the King of the Romans King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his ...
e'' (from German ''Hof'' "court"). Only beginning in 1489 was the Diet called the ''Reichstag'', and it was formally divided into several ''collegia'' ("colleges"). Initially, the two colleges were that of the
prince-elector The prince-electors (german: Kurfürst pl. , cz, Kurfiřt, la, Princeps Elector), or electors for short, were the members of the that elected the of the . From the 13th century onwards, the prince-electors had the privilege of who would ...
s and that of the other dukes and princes. Later, the imperial cities, that is, cities that had
Imperial immediacy Imperial immediacy (german: Reichsfreiheit or ') was a privileged constitutional and political status rooted in German feudal law under which the Imperial estate An Imperial State or Imperial Estate ( la, Status Imperii; german: Reichsstand, plu ...
and were oligarchic republics independent of a local ruler that were subject only to the Emperor himself, managed to be accepted as a third party. Several attempts to reform the Empire and end its slow disintegration, notably starting with the Diet of 1495, did not have much effect. In contrast, this process was only hastened with the
Peace of Westphalia The Peace of Westphalia (german: Westfälischer Friede, ) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück Osnabrück (; wep, Ossenbrügge; archaic ''Osnaburg'') is a city in the ...
of 1648, which formally bound the Emperor to accept all decisions made by the Diet, in effect depriving him of his few remaining powers. From then to its end in 1806, the Empire was not much more than a collection of largely independent states. Probably the most famous Diets were those held in Worms in 1495, where the
Imperial Reform Imperial Reform ( la, Reformatio imperii, german: Reichsreform) is the name given to repeated attempts in the 15th and 16th centuries to adapt the structure and the constitutional order (''Verfassungsordnung'') of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy ...
was enacted, and
1521 1521 ( MDXXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday A common year starting on Tuesday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or year) is a that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a , a month) adde ...

1521
, where
Martin Luther Martin Luther (; ; 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citiz ...

Martin Luther
was banned (see
Edict of Worms The Diet of Worms of 1521 (german: Reichstag zu Worms ) was an Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), imperial diet (a formal deliberative assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire called by Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V and conducted in ...
), the Diets of
Speyer Speyer (, older spelling ''Speier'', known as ''Spire'' in French and formerly as ''Spires'' in English) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate (german: Rheinland-Pfalz, ) is a western state State may refer to: Arts, ent ...

Speyer
1526 Year 1526 ( MDXXVI) was a common year starting on Monday A common year starting on Monday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or year) is a that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a , a month) ...
and
1529 __NOTOC__ Year 1529 ( MDXXIX) was a common year starting on Friday A common year starting on Friday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or year) is a that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a ...
(see
Protestation at Speyer On April 19, 1529, six Fürst, princes and representatives of 14 Imperial Free City, Imperial Free Cities petitioned the Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), Imperial Diet at Speyer against an Reichsacht, imperial ban of Martin Luther, as well as ...
), and several in
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local East Franconian dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants ...

Nuremberg
(
Diet of Nuremberg The Diets of Nuremberg, also called the Imperial Diets of Nuremberg, took place at different times between the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It beg ...
). Only with the introduction of the
Perpetual Diet of Regensburg Perpetual, meaning " eternal", may refer to: * Perpetual bond, a bond that pays coupons forever * Perpetual curacy, a type of Christian priesthood * Perpetual Entertainment, an American software development company * Perpetual Limited, an Australian ...
in 1663 did the Diet permanently convene in a fixed location. The Imperial Diet of Constance opened on 27 April 1507; it recognized the unity of the Holy Roman Empire and founded the Imperial Chamber, the empire’s supreme court.


Participants

From 1489, the Diet comprised three colleges:


Electors

The
Electoral College An electoral college is a set of Voting, electors who are selected to elect a candidate to particular offices. Often these represent different organizations, political parties or Legal entity, entities, with each organization, political party or ...
(''Kurfürstenrat''), led by the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz in his capacity as
Archchancellor An archchancellor ( la, archicancellarius, german: Erzkanzler) or chief chancellor was a title given to the highest dignitary of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) w ...
of
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...
. The seven Prince-electors were designated by the Golden Bull of 1356: * three ecclesiastical
Prince-Bishop A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some Secularity, secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or Hochstift, prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his ...
s, ** the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz as Archchancellor of Germany ** the Prince-Archbishop of Cologne as Archchancellor of
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...
** the Prince-Archbishop of Trier as Archchancellor of
Burgundy Burgundy (; french: link=no, Bourgogne ) is a historical territory and a former administrative region Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organizati ...

Burgundy
*four secular Princes, ** the
King of Bohemia of the King of the Romans King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population choo ...
as Archcupbearer ** the
Elector of the Palatinate Elector may refer to: * Prince-elector or elector, a member of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Holy Roman Emperors * Elector, a member of an electoral college ** Confederate elector, a member of ...
as Archsteward (''Erztruchsess'') ** the
Elector of Saxony The Electorate of Saxony (german: Kurfürstentum Sachsen, also ') was a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (news ...
as
Archmarshal
Archmarshal
** the
Margrave of Brandenburg Margrave was originally the Middle ages, medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire or of a monarchy, kingdom. That position became hereditary in certain Feuda ...
as Archchamberlain The number increased to eight, when in 1623 the
Duke of Bavaria The following is a list of rulers during the history of Bavaria. Bavaria was ruled by several dukes and Monarch, kings, partitioned and reunited, under several dynasty, dynasties. Since 1949, Bavaria has been a democratic States of Germany, sta ...
took over the electoral dignity of the Count Palatine, who himself received a separate vote in the electoral college according to the 1648
Peace of Westphalia The Peace of Westphalia (german: Westfälischer Friede, ) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück Osnabrück (; wep, Ossenbrügge; archaic ''Osnaburg'') is a city in the ...
(''Causa Palatina''), including the high office of an Archtreasurer. In 1692 the
Elector of Hanover The Electorate of Hanover (german: Kurfürstentum Hannover or simply ''Kurhannover'') was an Electorate of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic comp ...
(formally Brunswick-Lüneburg) became the ninth Prince-elector as Archbannerbearer during the
Nine Years' War The Nine Years' War (1688–1697), often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg, was a conflict between France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a ...
. In the
War of the Bavarian Succession The War of the Bavarian Succession (; 3 July 1778 – 21 May 1779) was a dispute between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and an alliance of Electorate of Saxony, Saxony and Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia over succession to the Electorate of Bavaria a ...
, the electoral dignities of the Palatinate and
Bavaria Bavaria (; German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language ...
were merged, approved by the 1779
Treaty of Teschen The Treaty of Teschen (german: Frieden von Teschen, i.e., "Peace of Teschen"; french: Traité de Teschen) was signed on 13 May 1779 in Teschen, Austrian Silesia, between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia, which officially ...

Treaty of Teschen
. The
German Mediatisation German mediatisation (; german: deutsche Mediatisierung) was the major territorial restructuring that took place between 1802 and 1814 in Germany and the surrounding region by means of the mass mediatisation and secularisation of a large number ...
of 1803 entailed the dissolution of the Cologne and Trier Prince-archbishoprics, the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz and German Archchancellor received—as compensation for his lost territory occupied by
Revolutionary France The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a spanning and in the and the , and s. Its ...
—the newly established
Principality of Regensburg The Principality of Regensburg (german: Fürstentum Regensburg) was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in W ...
. In turn, four secular princes were elevated to prince-electors: * the Duke of Salzburg * the
Duke of Württemberg A duke (male) can either be a monarch ranked below the emperor, king, and grand duke ruling over a duchy or a member of Royal family, royalty or nobility, historically of highest rank, below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes ...
* the
Margrave of Baden The Margraviate of Baden (german: Markgrafschaft Baden) was a historical territory of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in ...
* the
Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel Landgrave (german: Landgraf, nl, landgraaf, sv, lantgreve, french: landgrave; la, comes magnus, ', ', ', ', ') was a noble title used in the Holy Roman Empire, and later on in its former territories. The German titles of ', ' ("margrave"), a ...

Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel
These changes however had little effect, as with the abdication of
Francis II
Francis II
as Holy Roman Emperor the Empire was dissolved only three years later.


Princes

The college of
Imperial Princes Imperial is that which relates to an empire, emperor, or imperialism. Imperial or The Imperial may also refer to: Places United States * Imperial, California * Imperial, Missouri * Imperial, Nebraska * Imperial, Pennsylvania * Imperial, Texas * ...
(''Reichsfürstenrat'' or ''Fürstenbank'') incorporated the
Imperial Count Imperial Count (german: Reichsgraf) was a title in the Holy Roman Empire. In the medieval era, it was used exclusively to designate the holder of an imperial county, that is, a fief held directly (Imperial immediacy, immediately) from the emperor ...
s as well as immediate lords,
Prince-Bishop A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some Secularity, secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or Hochstift, prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his ...
s and Imperial abbots. Strong in members, though often discordant, the second college tried to preserve its interests against the dominance of the Prince-electors. The House of Princes was again subdivided into an ecclesiastical and a secular bench. Remarkably, the ecclesiastical bench was headed by the—secular—
Archduke of Austria Austria was ruled by the House of Babenberg until 1246 and by the House of Habsburg The House of Habsburg (; ; alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English; german: Haus Habsburg, es, Casa de Habsburgo, hu, Habsburg-család), also House of Aust ...
and the Burgundian duke of the
Habsburg Netherlands Habsburg Netherlands ( nl, Habsburgse Nederlanden; french: Pays-Bas des Habsbourg), in Latin referred to as Belgica, is the collective name of Renaissance period fiefs in the Low Countries held by the Holy Roman Empire's House of Habsburg. T ...
(held by
Habsburg Spain Habsburg Spain is a contemporary historiographical term referred to the Spain of the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700) when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg (also associated with its role in the history of Central and Eastern ...
from 1556). As the Austrian
House of Habsburg The House of Habsburg (), alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English (german: Haus Habsburg ; es, Casa de Habsburgo ; hu, Habsburg-család), also known as the House of Austria (german: link=no, Haus Österreich; es, link=no, Casa de Austria), ...
had failed to assume the leadership of the secular bench, they received the guidance over the ecclesiastical princes instead. The first ecclesiastical prince was the
Archbishop of Salzburg The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg ( la, Archidioecesis Salisburgensis) is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria. The archdiocese is one of two Austrian archdioceses, serving alongside the Roman Catholic A ...
as ''
Primas Germaniae Primas Germaniae is a historical title of honor A title of honor or honorary title is a title bestowed upon individuals or organizations as an award in recognition of their merits. Sometimes the title bears the same or nearly the same name as ...
''; the Prince-Archbishop of Besançon, though officially a member until the 1678
Treaty of Nijmegen The Treaties of Peace of Nijmegen ('; german: Friede von Nimwegen) were a series of treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international ...
, did not attend the Diet's meetings. The ecclesiastical bench also comprised the
Grand Master Grandmaster or Grand Master may refer to: People * Grandmaster Flash, Joseph Saddler (born 1958), hip-hop musician and disc jockey * Grandmaster Melle Mel, Melvin Glover (born 1961), hip-hop musician * "Grandmaster Sexay", nickname for profession ...
and ''Deutschmeister'' of the
Teutonic Knights The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (official names: la, Ordo domus Sanctae Mariae Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum; german: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem), commonly known ...
, as well as the
Grand Prior Prior (or prioress) is an ecclesiastical {{Short pages monitor