Statehood was normally attached to a particular territory within the Empire, but there were some reichsständische Personalisten, or Imperial Stately Personalists. Originally, the Emperor alone could grant statehood, but in 1653, several restrictions on the Emperor's power were introduced. The creation of a new state required the assent of the College of Electors and of the College of Princes (see Reichstag below). The ruler was required to agree to accept imperial taxation and military obligations. Furthermore, the state was required to obtain admittance into one of the Imperial Circles. Theoretically, personalist states were forbidden after 1653, but exceptions were often made.
Once a territory attained statehood, it could lose the attribute under very few circumstances. A territory ceded to a foreign power ceased to be a state; furthermore, a mediatized state (that is, a state that came to be under the authority but not the sovereignty of a foreign power) could lose statehood. From 1648 onwards, inheritance of the state was limited to one family; a territory inherited by a different family ceased to be a state unless the Emperor explicitly allowed otherwise. Finally, a territory could lose statehood by being subjected to the imperial ban (the most notable example involved the Count Palatine of the Rhine, who was banned in 1621 for his participation in the Bohemian Revolt).
Imperial States enjoyed several rights and privileges. Rulers had autonomy insofarasmuch as their families were concerned; in particular, they were permitted to make rules regarding the inheritance of their states without imperial interference. They were permitted to make treaties and enter into alliances with other Imperial States as well as with foreign nations. The electors, but not the other rulers, were permitted to exercise certain regalian powers, including the power to mint money, the power to collect tolls and a monopoly over gold and silver mines.
Votes were held in right of the states, rather than personally. Consequently, an individual ruling several states held multiple votes; similarly, multiple individuals ruling parts of the same state shared a single vote. These rules were not formalized until 1582; prior to this time, when multiple individuals inherited parts of the same state, they sometimes received a vote each. Votes were either individual or collective. Princes and senior clerics generally held individual votes (but such votes, as noted above, were sometimes shared). Prelates without individual votes were classified into two benches — the Bench of the Rhine and the Bench of Swabia — each of which enjoyed a collective vote. Similarly, Counts and Lords were grouped into four benches with a collective vote each — the Bench of Wetterau, the Bench of Swabia, the Bench of Franconia and the Bench of Westphalia.
No elector ever held multiple electorates; nor were electorates ever divided between multiple heirs. Hence, in the Council of Electors, each individual held exactly one vote. Electors who ruled states in addition to their electorates also voted in the Council of Princes; similarly, princes who also ruled comital territories voted both individually and in the comital benches. In the Reichstag in 1792, for instance, the Elector of Brandenburg held eight individual votes in the Council of Princes and one vote in the Bench of Westphalia. Similarly, among ecclesiastics, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order held one individual vote in the Council of Princes and two in the Bench of the Rhine.
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