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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, 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 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 ...
such as Imperial cities, prince-bishoprics and secular principalities, and individuals such as the
Imperial knights The Free Imperial knights (german: link=no, Reichsritter la, Eques imperii) were free nobles of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of terr ...
, were declared free from the authority of any local lord and placed under the direct ("immediate", in the sense of "without an intermediary") authority of 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 ...
, and later of the institutions of the Empire such as 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 ...
('), the Imperial Chamber of Justice and the
Aulic Council The Aulic Council ( la, Consilium Aulicum, german: Reichshofrat, literally meaning Court Council of the Empire) was one of the two supreme court The supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a govern ...
. The granting of immediacy began in the Early Middle Ages, and for the immediate bishops, abbots, and cities, then the main beneficiaries of that status, immediacy could be exacting and often meant being subjected to the fiscal, military, and hospitality demands of their overlord, the Emperor. However, with the gradual exit of the Emperor from the centre stage from the mid-13th century onwards, holders of imperial immediacy eventually found themselves vested with considerable rights and powers previously exercised by the emperor. As confirmed by 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 ...
in 1648, the possession of imperial immediacy came with a particular form of territorial authority known as territorial superiority (''german: Landeshoheit'' or '' la, superioritas territorialis'' in documents of the time). In today's terms, it would be understood as a limited form of sovereignty.


Gradations

Several immediate estates held the privilege of attending meetings of the ' in person, including an individual vote ('): * the seven
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 designated by 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
* the other
Princes of the Holy Roman Empire Prince of the Holy Roman Empire ( la, princeps imperii, german: Reichsfürst, cf. ''Fürst'') was a title attributed to a hereditary ruler, nobleman or prelate recognised as such by the Holy Roman Emperor. Definition Originally, possessors o ...
** secular:
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,
Margrave Margrave was originally the medieval 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 ...
s,
Landgrave Landgrave (german: Landgraf, nl, landgraaf, sv, lantgreve, french: landgrave; la, comes magnus, ', ', ', ', ') was a noble title Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility Nobility is a social class normall ...
s, ''et al.'' ** 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,
Prince-Abbot A Prince-abbot (german: Fürstabt) is a title for a cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, ...
s and Prince-Provosts. They formed the
Imperial Estates 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 ...
, together with 99 immediate counts, 40
Imperial prelate Weissenau abbey, circa 1625 Princely abbeys (german: Fürstabtei, ''Fürststift'') and Imperial abbeys (german: Reichsabtei, ''Reichskloster'', ''Reichsstift'', ''Reichsgotthaus'') were religious establishments within the Holy Roman Empire T ...
s (abbots and abbesses), and 50 Imperial Cities, each of whose "banks" only enjoyed a single collective vote ('). Further immediate estates not represented in the ' were the
Imperial Knight The Free Imperial knights (german: link=no, Reichsritter la, Eques imperii) were free nobles of the Holy Roman Empire, whose direct overlord was the Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor. They were the remnants of the medieval free nobility (''edelfrei ...
s as well as several abbeys and minor localities, the remains of those territories which in the
High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical c ...
had been under the direct authority of the
Emperor An emperor (from 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 a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
and since then had mostly been given in pledge to the princes. At the same time, there were classes of "princes" with titular immediacy to the Emperor which they exercised rarely, if at all. For example, the Bishops of
Chiemsee Chiemsee () is a freshwater lake in Bavaria Bavaria (; German language, German and Bavarian language, Bavarian: ''Bayern'' ), officially the Free State of Bavaria (German and Bavarian: ''Freistaat Bayern''; ), is a Landlocked country, landlock ...
,
GurkGurk may refer to: * Gurk (river), in Austria * Gurk, Carinthia, a town in Austria * Eduard Gurk (1801–1841), Austrian painter * Krka (Sava), a river in Slovenia * Roman Catholic Diocese of Gurk, in Austria See also

* Krka (disambiguation) ...
, and
Seckau Seckau ( sl, Sekava ) is a Marktgemeinde in the state of Styria, Austria. It is situated near Knittelfeld. It is known for the Benedictine Order, Benedictine Seckau Abbey, once the seat of the Diocese, bishopric Graz-Seckau. See also *Diocese of Gr ...
(Sacken) were practically subordinate to the prince-bishop of Salzburg, but were formally princes of the Empire.


Advantages and disadvantages

Additional advantages might include the rights to collect
taxes A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accord ...

taxes
and tolls, to hold a
market Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finland and Sweden Art, entertainment, and media Films *Market (1965 film), ''Market'' (1965 ...
, to mint coins, to
bear arms The right to keep and bear arms (often referred to as the right to bear arms) is a right for people to possess weapons A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm ...
, and to conduct
legal proceedingsLegal proceeding is an activity that seeks to invoke the power of a tribunal in order to enforce a law. Although the term may be defined more broadly or more narrowly as circumstances require, it has been noted that " e term ''legal proceedings'' inc ...
. The last of these might include the so-called ' ("blood justice") through which capital punishment could be administered. These rights varied according to the legal patents granted by the emperor. As pointed out by
Jonathan Israel Jonathan Irvine Israel (born 26 January 1946) is a British writer and academic specialising in Dutch history, the Age of Enlightenment and European Jews. Israel was appointed as Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies at t ...
, the Dutch province of
Overijssel Overijssel (, ; nds, Oaveriessel ; german: Oberyssel) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnati ...

Overijssel
in 1528 tried to arrange its submission to
Emperor Charles V Charles V, german: Karl V, it, Carlo V, nl, Karel V, la, Carolus V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator Romanoru ...

Emperor Charles V
in his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor rather than as his being the
Duke of Burgundy Duke of Burgundy (french: duc de Bourgogne) was a title used by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy The Duchy of Burgundy (; la, Ducatus Burgundiae; french: Duché de Bourgogne, ) emerged in the 9th century as one of the successors of the an ...
. If successful, that would have evoked Imperial immediacy and would have put Overijssel in a stronger negotiating position, for example given the province the ability to appeal to the
Imperial DietImperial Diet means the highest representative assembly in an empire, notably: * Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) * Diet of Japan, Has been going on since 1889 (1889 ...
in any debate with Charles. For that reason, the Emperor strongly rejected and blocked Overijssel's attempt. Disadvantages might include direct intervention by imperial commissions, as happened in several of the southwestern cities after the
Schmalkaldic War The Schmalkaldic War (german: link=no, Schmalkaldischer Krieg) refers to the short period of violence from 1546 until 1547 between the forces of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (simultaneously King Charles I of Spain), commanded by t ...
, and the potential restriction or outright loss of previously held legal patents. Immediate rights might be lost if the Emperor and/or the Imperial Diet could not defend them against external aggression, as occurred in the
French Revolutionary wars The French Revolutionary Wars (french: Guerres de la Révolution française) were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted French First Republic, France against Gr ...
and the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
. The
Treaty of Lunéville The Treaty of Lunéville was signed in the Treaty House of Lunéville on 9 February 1801. The signatory parties were the French First Republic, French Republic and Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. The latter was negot ...
in 1801 required the emperor to renounce all claims to the portions of the Holy Roman Empire west of the
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many s ...

Rhine
. At the last meeting of the Imperial Diet ( de , Reichsdeputationshauptschluss) in 1802–03, also called 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 ...
, most of the free imperial cities and the ecclesiastic states lost their imperial immediacy and were absorbed by several dynastic states.


Problems in understanding the Empire

The practical application of the rights of immediacy was complex; this makes the history of the Holy Roman Empire particularly difficult to understand, especially for modern historians. Even such contemporaries as
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) 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 citizens of G ...
and
Fichte Johann Gottlieb Fichte (; ; 19 May 1762 – 29 January 1814) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Meta ...
called the Empire a monstrosity. Voltaire wrote of the Empire as something neither Holy nor Roman, nor an Empire, and in comparison to the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
, saw its German counterpart as an abysmal failure that reached its pinnacle of success in the early Middle Ages and declined thereafter. Prussian historian
Heinrich von Treitschke
Heinrich von Treitschke
described it in the 19th century as having become "a chaotic mess of rotted imperial forms and unfinished territories". For nearly a century after the publication of James Bryce's monumental work ''The Holy Roman Empire'' (1864), this view prevailed among most English-speaking historians of the
Early Modern period The early modern period of modern history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, adve ...
, and contributed to the development of the theory of the German past. A revisionist view popular in Germany but increasingly adopted elsewhere argued that "though not powerful politically or militarily, he Empirewas extraordinarily diverse and free by the standards of Europe at the time". Pointing out that people like Goethe meant "monster" as a compliment (i.e. 'an astonishing thing'), ''
The Economist ''The Economist'' is an international weekly newspaper A weekly newspaper is a general-news or current affairsCurrent affairs may refer to: Media * Current Affairs (magazine), ''Current Affairs'' (magazine), a bimonthly magazine of cult ...
'' has called the Empire "a great place to live ... a union with which its subjects identified, whose loss distressed them greatly" and praised its cultural and religious diversity, saying that it "allowed a degree of liberty and diversity that was unimaginable in the neighbouring kingdoms" and that "ordinary folk, including women, had far more rights to property than in France or Spain". Furthermore, the prestige of the Emperor among the German people outweighed his lack of legal and military authority. One need find no better proof of this than the fact that the constitution of Germany remained little changed for centuries, with hundreds of tiny enclaves co-existing peacefully with much larger and often greedy and militaristic neighbors. Only external factors in form of the French military aggression during the Thirty Years' War and the Revolutionary period served to alter Germany's constitution. Napoleon's overthrow of the Empire in favor of his puppet
Confederation of the Rhine The Confederated States of the Rhine, simply known as the Confederation of the Rhine, was a confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common act ...
was a deep moral blow to many Germans. The cringing attitude of the princes and their avaricious behavior during the mediatizations embarrassed the people and, however much they despised the Empire's weakness, it was still a great and old symbol of Germany. Such symbolism was revived in 1848, when the so-called Provisional Central Power of Germany chose 6 August 1848, the 42nd anniversary of the end of the Empire, as the day the soldiers of Germany should swear oaths of loyalty to the new situation (see Military Parade of August 6th), as well as the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
of 1871.


See also

*
Free Imperial City In the Holy Roman Empire, the collective term free and imperial cities (german: Freie und Reichsstädte), briefly worded free imperial city (', la, urbs imperialis libera), was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that ...
*
German mediatization 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 ...
*
Imperial Abbey Weissenau abbey, circa 1625 Princely abbeys (german: Fürstabtei, ''Fürststift'') and Imperial abbeys (german: Reichsabtei, ''Reichskloster'', ''Reichsstift'', ''Reichsgotthaus'') were religious establishments within the Holy Roman Empire T ...
*
Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire) The Imperial Diet ( la, Dieta Imperii Comitium Imperiale; german: Reichstag) was the deliberative body of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not a legislative body in the contemporary sense; its members envisioned it more like a central forum where it ...
*
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 ...
*
Imperial Village The Imperial Villages (''Reichsdörfer'', singular ''Reichsdorf'') were the smallest component entities of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex ...
*
List of states of the Holy Roman Empire This list of states which were part of the Holy Roman Empire includes any territory ruled by an authority that had been granted imperial immediacy, as well as many other feudal entities such as lordships, sous-fiefs and allodial fiefs. The Hol ...
*
Tenant-in-chief In medieval 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 th ...


References


Citations


Sources

* * Bryce, James (1865). ''Holy Roman Empire''. London. * Sheehan, James (1989). ''German History 1770–1866''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. {{DEFAULTSORT:Imperial Immediacy Legal history of the Holy Roman Empire