Souphanouvong, Prince, 1909-95, Laotian government official; half brother of Prince Souvanna Phouma. Although a member of Laos's royal family, he was an active nationalist and fought the French as a member of the pro-Communist Pathet Lao. After Laos gained independence, he joined (1958) a coalition cabinet. Arrested after rightists took power in 1959, he escaped in 1960 to lead the Pathet Lao forces in opposition. He was a Pathet Lao delegate to the Geneva Conference on Laos (1961-62), and in the resulting coalition government he was vice premier and minister of economic planning. When the coalition fell to renewed fighting (1963), Souphanouvong rejoined the Pathet Lao. In 1973, an agreement was reached with Souvanna Phouma ending the fighting, and a new coalition government was formed (1974) with Souphanouvong heading an advisory body. When the Pathet Lao came to power as a result of the North Vietnamese victory in Vietnam in 1975, Souphanouvong became president of Laos. He resigned in 1986.
Souvanna Phouma, Prince, 1901-84, government official of Laos. Of royal descent, he was trained as an engineer. From 1950 he held a variety of key government posts, including the premiership (1951-54, 1956-58, and 1960). Caught between U.S. and Vietnamese attempts to control Laos from 1954-75, he attempted to foster compromise. He led the neutralist government from 1960 to 1962, and after the Geneva Conference on Laos he assumed (1962) the offices of premier and minister of defense in the short-lived coalition with the Communist Pathet Lao. Continuing as premier, he later took on additional cabinet posts. In 1973, despite right-wing opposition, he signed an agreement to end fighting between government and Communist Pathet Lao troops. Continuing as premier, he later took on additional cabinet posts. In 1974 he formed a new coalition government with the Pathet Lao, in which his half brother Souphanouvong, leader of the Pathet Lao, was included. He retired after the 1975 takeover by the Pathet Lao, although he remained an adviser to the new government.
Prince, Hal (Harold Smith Prince), 1928-, American theatrical producer and director, b. New York City. After working as an assistant stage manager, Prince became at 26 the coproducer of Pajama Game, a major Broadway musical of 1954. He followed this with many more successful productions, including Damn Yankees (1955), West Side Story (1957), Fiorello! (1961), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). Among the shows that he has both produced and directed in collaboration with Stephen Sondheim are Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), and Sweeney Todd (1979). He also directed Phantom of the Opera (1986) and Parade (1998).

See his autobiography, Contradictions (1974).

Prince, Morton, 1854-1929, American physician, b. Boston, M.D. Harvard, 1879. He specialized in neurology and abnormal psychology as a physician in Boston and as a teacher at Tufts (1902-12) and Harvard (1926-28). Founder (1906) and editor of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, he was a leading investigator of the pathology of mental disorders. Prince also founded (1927) and directed the Harvard Psychological Clinic, where he was succeeded by his assistant Henry A. Murray. His writings include The Dissociation of a Personality (1906), and The Unconscious (1914).
Prince, Thomas, 1600-1673: see Prence, Thomas.
Prince, Thomas, 1687-1758, American clergyman, scholar, and historian, b. Sandwich, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1709. From 1709 to 1717 he was abroad; he studied in London and preached at a Congregationalist chapel in Suffolk. Returning (1717) to Massachusetts, he became copastor (1718) of Old South Church in Boston, a position he held until his death. He bequeathed to his church his large and excellent library; during the British occupation of Boston, some of the volumes were destroyed, but the many books and manuscripts that were preserved are now in the Boston Public Library. Prince published a number of sermons, A Vade Mecum for America: A Companion for Traders and Travelers (1732), and Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs … the New England Psalm-Book Revised and Improved (1758), but he is best remembered for his informative Chronological History of New England (Vol. I, 1736; Vol. II entitled Annals of New England, 1755). Designed by its author to cover the years 1602 to 1730, the annals are carried only to Aug. 5, 1633. An edition of his history published in 1852 has a memoir of Prince by S. G. Drake.
Poniatowski, Józef Anton, Prince, 1763-1813, Polish general and marshal of France; nephew of Stanislaus II. He fought (1792) the Russians in the campaign preceding the second Polish partition and in the insurrection led (1794) by Thaddeus Kosciusko. He became minister of war of the grand duchy of Warsaw set up by Napoleon I and in 1809 led the Polish troops in Napoleon's campaign against Austria. He again commanded under Napoleon in the Russian campaign of 1812. In the battle of Leipzig he covered the withdrawal of the French troops; then, cut off from aid, he plunged his mount into a river and was drowned.
Bezborodko, Aleksandr Andreevich, Prince, 1747-99, Russian statesman. He became secretary of petitions under Catherine II in 1775 and from 1780 served as head of the department of foreign affairs. During Catherine's reign foreign policy was determined largely by the empress, and Bezborodko generally went along with her schemes. He devised an imaginative plan for the partition of the Ottoman Empire between Russia and Austria that fitted well with Catherine's unfulfilled dream of a new Byzantine Empire. He encouraged Catherine to participate with Austria and Prussia in the last two partitions of Poland (1793, 1795), by which Russia obtained Lithuania, Courland, and the W Ukraine. After Catherine's death (1796) her son, Paul I, made him grand chancellor, with virtual control of Russian foreign affairs. He held this post until his death.
Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, Prince, 1886-1934, son of Robert, last duke of Parma. While serving as an officer in the Belgian army, he was the intermediary for his brother-in-law, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, in Charles's secret attempt to negotiate peace with the Allies in 1917. The effort came to nothing, but in Apr., 1918, the French government, in retaliation for attacks made by the Austrian foreign minister Czernin, published a letter written by Charles to Sixtus. The letter justified French claims to Alsace-Lorraine, and its publication caused acute embarrassment to the Austrian government.
Saionji, Kimmochi, Prince, 1850-1940, Japanese statesman. He took part in the Meiji restoration, then spent 10 years in France, absorbing many democratic ideas. In 1882 he accompanied his friend and patron, Prince Ito, to Europe to study foreign governments. He served in several cabinets under Ito and was president of the privy council (1900-1903). He succeeded Ito as president of the Seiyukai party in 1903 and, as Ito's protégé, was prime minister (1906-8, 1911-12). He retired from party politics in 1914 and refused to form a cabinet in 1918, but in 1919 he headed the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. As a genro [elder statesman] he continued to enjoy tremendous prestige and influence until his death. He escaped assassination in the military coup of Feb., 1936.
Menshikov, Aleksandr Danilovich, Prince, 1672?-1729, Russian field marshal and statesman. Of lowly origin, he became an intimate companion of Peter I (Peter the Great), and after the death of François Lefort (1699) he was the czar's chief adviser. Despite his vices, Menshikov proved an able military commander and was created prince and later field marshal. Menshikov was successively governor of Schlüsselburg, St. Petersburg, and Estonia. He energetically carried out Peter's reforms, but he was notorious for his financial misdeeds. Peter's second wife, Catherine (see Catherine I), had previously been Menshikov's mistress, and she continued to look out for his interests. Upon Peter's death (1725), Menshikov helped her to accede to the throne, and he was the real ruler during her reign. Although his administration was efficient, it was also high-handed, and his enemies were legion. Shortly after the accession (1727) of the child czar, Peter II, Menshikov was removed from office through the intrigues of Count Osterman and others. He died in exile in Siberia. Several of his descendants held high posts in the empire.
Rupert, Prince, 1619-82, count palatine of the Rhine. Born in Prague, he was the son of Frederick the Winter King, elector palatine and king of Bohemia, and Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. Rupert grew up in the Netherlands and studied at Leiden. Active in the later part of the Thirty Years War against the Holy Roman Empire, he was at the siege of Breda (1637) and was taken prisoner (1638). Released in 1641, he went to the aid of his uncle, King Charles I of England, in the civil wars. Despite his youth Rupert became an outstanding royalist general. His cavalry was generally successful, and he was created earl of Holderness and duke of Cumberland. Despite his defeat at Marston Moor (1644) he was made a general of the king's army. However, Rupert's support of peace proposals and his surrender of Bristol (1645) to Sir Thomas Fairfax resulted in his dismissal by the king, and in 1646 he was ordered to leave England. He went to France, soon became reconciled with Charles, and commanded a fleet assisting the king's forces in Ireland. After the triumph of Parliament over the monarchy, Rupert went (1654) to Germany, where he remained until the Restoration of the Stuart kings under Charles II (1660). Returning to England, he became a privy councillor to Charles II, and, as an admiral, played an important part in the Dutch Wars. A man of many artistic and scientific interests, Rupert also took part in colonial and commercial schemes, notably in the ventures of the Hudson's Bay Company.

See biographies by E. Scott (1899), B. Fergusson (1952), F. Knight (1967), and C. Spencer (2008).

Pozharski, Dmitri Mikhailovich, Prince, 1578-1642, Russian hero. During the "Time of Troubles" (1598-1613), when various pretenders vied for the Russian throne, he fought against the Poles, who, taking advantage of unstable political conditions, had invaded Russia. In 1611 he took command of a national militia formed on the initiative of the merchant Kuzma Minin of Nizhny Novgorod. With his improvised army he marched on Moscow (1612) and drove out the Poles, ending the effort of King Sigismund III to subjugate Russia. Pozharski summoned a representative assembly, which in 1613 elected Michael Romanov czar.
Troubetzkoy, Paul, Prince, 1866-1938, Russian sculptor, b. Italy. The son of a Russian nobleman and an American woman, Troubetzkoy worked in Russia, France, Italy, and the United States. His sculpture was influenced by the impressionism of Rodin. Troubetzkoy's finest portraits and animal sculptures date from the early 1900s. Among his illustrious sitters were Tolstoy, Rodin, Anatole France, and George Bernard Shaw. An equestrian portrait is in the Detroit Institute of Arts, and other works are in many major collections.
Barclay de Tolly, Mikhail, Prince, 1761-1818, Russian field marshal, of Scottish descent. He gained prominence in the Napoleonic Wars, became minister of war in 1810, and commanded the Russian forces against Napoleon in 1812. His policy of continuous retreat into the heart of Russia and his defeat at Smolensk (Aug. 17-18) resulted in his being replaced by Kutuzov, but his successor, recognizing the soundness of the strategy, followed the same policy. After Kutuzov's death (1813) he again commanded the Russian forces and distinguished himself at Leipzig and in the capture of Paris.
Gorchakov, Aleksandr Mikhailovich, Prince, 1798-1883, Russian diplomat. After serving (1854-56) as ambassador at Vienna, he became Alexander II's foreign minister and chancellor (1867). His wit and oratorical gifts made him known as a brilliant diplomat. Gorchakov's chief aim was to nullify the Treaty of Paris that closed the Crimean War (1854-56) and to find allies against Austria and England, who had been mainly responsible for the treaty, which thwarted Russian expansion in SE Europe. A rapprochement with France failed when Napoleon III gave diplomatic support to the Poles in their rebellion (1863) against the Russians. Gorchakov maintained neutrality in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) in return for Bismarck's support of Russian intervention in Poland. He unilaterally ended (1870) the limitations imposed in the Treaty of Paris on Russia's Black Sea fleet. He attended the Congress of Berlin (1878), where most advantages gained in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 were lost. From 1879, N. K. Giers guided Russian foreign policy, and in 1882, Gorchakov resigned.
Gorchakov, Mikhail Dmitreyevich, Prince, 1793-1861, Russian general. He served in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, the suppression of the Polish insurrection (1830-31), and the campaign in Hungary (1849). In 1853 he became chief of staff of the Russian army. He succeeded A. S. Menshikov as Russian commander in chief in the Crimean War and heroically defended Sevastopol.
Iwakura, Tomomi, Prince, 1825-83, Japanese statesman. A court noble, he supported the Meiji restoration and became a minister of state (1871-83). In 1871 he headed a mission to Europe and the United States that failed to secure abolition of the unequal treaties but brought back much useful information on foreign institutions and technology. He returned to Japan in 1873 to forestall the threat of war with Korea. From 1873 until his death Iwakura, a conservative, was a leader of the moderate political forces.
Kropotkin, Piotr Alekseyevich, Prince, 1842-1921, Russian geographer and anarchist. He came from a wealthy princely family and as a boy was a page to the czar. Repelled by court life, he obtained permission to serve as an army officer in Siberia, where his explorations and scientific observations established his reputation as a geographer. After returning to European Russia, he became an adherent of the Bakuninist faction of the narodniki and engaged in clandestine propaganda activities until arrested in 1874. Two years later he escaped to Western Europe, where he worked with various anarchist groups until his imprisonment in France (1883). Pardoned in 1886, partly as the result of the popular clamor for his release, he moved to England and spent the next 30 years mainly as a scholar and writer developing a coherent anarchist theory. In his most famous book, Mutual Aid (1902), he attacked T. H. Huxley and the Social Darwinists for their picture of nature and human society as essentially competitive. He insisted that cooperation and mutual aid were the norms in both the natural and social worlds. From this perspective he developed a theory of social organization—in Fields, Factories and Workshops (1898) and elsewhere—that was based upon communes of producers linked with each other through common custom and free contract. Returning to Russia following the February Revolution of 1917, he attempted to engender support for a continued Russian effort in World War I and to combat the rising influence of Bolshevism. Following the Bolshevik triumph in the October Revolution (1917), he retired from active politics. Consistently nonviolent in his anarchist beliefs, Kropotkin, as both thinker and man, was admired and acclaimed by many far removed from anarchist circles.

See his Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899, repr. 1989).

Bagration, Piotr Ivanovich, Prince, 1765-1812, Russian general in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He fought under Field Marshal Suvorov in the Italian and Swiss campaigns of 1798-99 and at Austerlitz, Eylau, and Friedland. In 1808 he captured the Aland Islands from Sweden; in 1809 he fought against the Turks in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-12; and in 1812 he commanded an army against Napoleon and was mortally wounded at Borodino.

The Prince-Electors (or simply Electors) of the Holy Roman Empire (German: Kurfürst (), pl. Kurfürsten, Princeps Elector) were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Holy Roman Emperors.

The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an electoral prince (Kurprinz). The dignity of Elector was extremely prestigious and second only to King or Emperor, far exceeding such offices as count, duke and archduke.


The Holy Roman Empire was in theory an elective monarchy, but from the 15th century onwards the electors often merely formalised what was a dynastic succession within the Austrian House of Habsburg, with the title usually passing to the eldest surviving son of the deceased Emperor. Despite this, the office was not legally hereditary, and the heir could not title himself "Emperor" without having been personally elected.

Formally they elected a King of the Romans, who was crowned in Germany but became Holy Roman Emperor only when crowned by the pope. Charles V was the last to be a crowned Emperor; his successors were all Emperors by election (erwählter Römischer Kaiser; electus Romanorum imperator) only.

Electors were among the princes of the Empire, but they had privileges in addition to their electoral ones which were disallowed to their non-electoral brethren. Although in principle not a title of nobility (and thus held in addition to such feudal titles as Duke, Margrave, or Count Palatine) the dignity of Elector was extremely prestigious.

At least from the 13th century there were seven electors, including three spiritual ones — the Archbishop of Mainz, the Archbishop of Trier, and the Archbishop of Cologne — and four lay ones — the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg. The last three were also known as the Elector Palatine, the Elector of Saxony, and the Elector of Brandenburg respectively.

Other electors were added in the 17th century and include the Duke of Bavaria (referred to as the Elector of Bavaria - replacing the Count Palatine of the Rhine, who was of the same family but had lost his title temporarily during the Thirty Years' War) and the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (the Elector of Hanover), which eventually included three Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain (George I, II and III) until the institution ended in 1806 under Napoleon Bonaparte— while the line became the King of Hanover when they regained their lands after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.

During the reorganization of the Empire in 1803, several new electors were created, but they never participated in an election; the Holy Roman Empire was abolished three years later (August 6, 1806) by an edict of Emperor Francis II, under pressure from Napoleon and several other German princes (including some of the Electors). After or just before the dissolution of the Empire, the Electors of Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony and eventually Hanover took the title of "King" of their principalities, while the King of Prussia extended his royal title to cover his domains in Brandenburg, in addition to the lands he held as king outside the imperial border. The Electors of Regensburg, Würzburg, and Baden became Grand Dukes; the Elector of Hesse kept his Electoral title.

Etymology of Kurfürst

The German word Kur- is related etymologically to the English word choose (cf. Old English ceosan [tʃeozan], participle coren 'having been chosen' and Gothic kiusan). The s/r interchange of the Germanic verb conjugation has been regularized in English, though German retains the r in Kur-. There is also a modern German verb küren which means 'to choose' in a ceremonial sense. Fürst is German for 'prince,' but while German distinguishes between the head of a principality (der Fürst) and the son of a monarch (der Prinz), English uses prince for both concepts. Fürst itself is related to English first and is therefore the 'foremost' person in his realm.


The German practice of electing monarchs began when ancient Germanic tribes formed ad hoc coalitions and elected the leaders thereof. Elections were irregularly held by the Franks, whose successor states include France and Germany. The French monarchy eventually became hereditary, but the German monarchy continued to remain elective. While all free men originally exercised the right to vote in such elections, suffrage eventually came to be limited to the leading men of the realm. In the election of Lothar II in 1125, a small number of eminent nobles chose the monarch and then submitted him to the remaining magnates for their approbation. Soon, the right to choose the monarch was settled on an exclusive group of princes, and the procedure of seeking the approval of the remaining nobles was abandoned. The college of electors was mentioned in 1152 and again in 1198. A letter of Pope Urban IV suggests that by "immemorial custom", seven princes had the right to elect the King and future Emperor. These were:

The three Archbishops oversaw some of the richest and most powerful sees in Europe, while the four Dukes controlled ancient Frankish territory and held important hereditary offices. The seven (Palatinate, Brandenburg, Saxe-Wittenberg, Bohemia, Mainz, Trier, Cologne) have been mentioned as the vote-caster setting in the election of 1257 that resulted in two kings becoming elected.

The Palatinate and Bavaria were originally held by the same individual, but in 1253, they were divided between two members of the Wittelsbach dynasty. The other electors refused to allow two princes from the same dynasty to have electoral rights, so a heated rivalry between the Count Palatine and the Duke of Bavaria arose. Meanwhile, the King of Bohemia, who held the ancient imperial office of Arch-Cupbearer, asserted his right to participate in elections, but was challenged on the grounds that his kingdom was not German, though usually he was recognized, instead of Bavaria which after all was just a younger line of Wittelsbachs.

Already the declaration at Rhense in 1338 by six electors had the effect that election by all or the majority of the electors automatically conferred the royal title and rule over the empire, without papal confirmation. The Golden Bull of 1356 finally resolved the disputes among the electors; under it, the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, as well as the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg held the right to elect the King.

The college's composition remained unchanged until the 17th century. In 1621, the Elector Palatine, Frederick V, came under the imperial ban after participating in the Bohemian Revolt (a part of the Thirty Years' War). The Elector Palatine's seat was conferred on the Duke of Bavaria, the head of a junior branch of his family. Originally, the Duke held the electorate personally, but it was later made hereditary along with the duchy. When the Thirty Years' War concluded with the Treaty of Münster (also called the Peace of Westphalia) in 1648, a new electorate was created for the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Since the Elector of Bavaria retained his seat, the number of electors increased to eight; the two Wittelsbach lines now sufficiently estranged so as not to pose a combined potential threat.

In 1692, as a result of the inheritance of the Palatinate by a Catholic branch of the Wittelsbach family, which threatened to upset the religious balance of the College of Electors, the number of electors was increased to nine, with a seat being granted to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, who became known as the Elector of Hanover (the Reichstag officially confirmed the creation in 1708). In 1706, the Elector of Bavaria and Archbishop of Cologne were banned during the War of the Spanish Succession, but both were restored in 1714 after the Peace of Baden. In 1777, the number of electors was reduced to eight when the Elector Palatine inherited Bavaria.

Many changes to the composition of the college were necessitated by Napoleon's aggression during the early 19th century. The Treaty of Lunéville (1801), which ceded territory on the Rhine's left bank to France, led to the abolition of the archbishoprics of Trier and Cologne, and the transfer of the remaining spiritual Elector from Mainz to Regensburg. In 1803, electorates were created for the Duke of Württemberg, the Margrave of Baden, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), and the Duke of Salzburg, bringing the total number of electors to ten. When Austria annexed Salzburg under the Treaty of Pressburg (1805), the Duke of Salzburg moved to the Grand Duchy of Würzburg and retained his electorate. None of the new electors, however, had an opportunity to cast votes, as the Holy Roman Empire was abolished in 1806, and the new electorates were never confirmed by the Emperor.

Rights and privileges

Electors were among the rulers of the States of the Empire, but enjoyed precedence over the other princes. They were, until the 18th century, exclusively entitled to the style Durchlaucht (Serene Highness). In 1742, the electors became entitled to the superlative Durchläuchtigste (Most Serene Highness), while other princes were promoted to Durchlaucht.

As rulers of States of the Empire, the electors enjoyed all the privileges of the other princes, including the right to enter into alliances, autonomy in relation to dynastic affairs and precedence over other subjects. The Golden Bull recognised certain additional rights belonging to the electors. For instance, electors were granted a monopoly over all mines of gold, silver, and other metals within their territories, to tax Jews, to collect tolls, and to mint money; these powers belonged to the Emperor in the other territories, and princes who wrongly assumed them could be deprived of their status. Thus, the electors were among the most powerful princes in the Empire. Electors also enjoyed several judicial powers within their territories. Their subjects could be not be tried in the imperial courts, and appeal from their courts lay only in cases where denial of justice was claimed.

After the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in August 1806, the electors continued to reign over their territories, many of them taking higher titles. The Dukes of Bavaria, Württemberg, and Saxony made themselves Kings, as did the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, who was already King of Great Britain; meanwhile, the Margrave of Baden elevated himself to the Grand-Ducal dignity. The Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, however, retained the meaningless title "Elector of Hesse", thus distinguishing himself from other Hessian princes (the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg). In 1866, however, the Elector of Hesse was dethroned under Otto von Bismarck's plan for German Unification.


The electors, like the other princes ruling States of the Empire, were members of the Reichstag, which was divided into three collegia: the Council of Electors, the Council of Princes, and the Council of Cities. In addition to being members of the Council of Electors, several lay electors were therefore members of the Council of Princes as well by virtue of other territories they possessed. In many cases, the lay electors ruled numerous States of the Empire, and therefore held several votes in the Council of Princes. In 1792, the King of Bohemia held three votes, the Elector of Bavaria six votes, the Elector of Brandenburg eight votes, and the Elector of Hanover six votes. Thus, of the hundred votes in the Council of Princes in 1792, twenty-three belonged to electors. The lay electors therefore exercised considerable influence, being members of the small Council of Electors and holding a significant number of votes in the Council of Princes. The assent of both bodies was required for important decisions affecting the structure of the Empire, such as the creation of new electorates or States of the Empire.

In addition to voting by colleges or councils, the Reichstag also voted on religious lines, as provided for by the Peace of Westphalia. The Archbishop of Mainz presided over the Catholic body, or corpus catholicorum, while the Elector of Saxony presided over the Protestant body, or corpus evangelicorum. The division into religious bodies was on the basis of the official religion of the state, and not of its rulers. Thus, even when the Electors of Saxony were Catholics during the eighteenth century, they continued to preside over the corpus evangelicorum, since the state of Saxony was officially Protestant.


The individual chosen by the electors assumed the title "King of the Romans", though he actually reigned in Germany. The King of the Romans became Holy Roman Emperor only when crowned by the Pope. On many occasions, a Pope refused to crown a king with whom he was engaged in a dispute, but a lack of a papal coronation deprived a king of only the title Emperor and not of the power to govern (cf Declaration at Rhense). The Habsburg dynasty stopped the practice of papal coronations. After Charles V, all individuals chosen by the electors were merely "Emperors-Elect".

The electors were originally summoned by the Archbishop of Mainz within one month of an Emperor's death, and met within three months of being summoned. During the interregnum, imperial power was exercised by two imperial vicars. Each vicar, in the words of the Golden Bull, was "the administrator of the empire itself, with the power of passing judgments, of presenting to ecclesiastical benefices, of collecting returns and revenues and investing with fiefs, of receiving oaths of fealty for and in the name of the holy empire". The Elector of Saxony was vicar in areas operating under Saxon law (Saxony, Westphalia, Hanover, and northern Germany), while the Elector Palatine was vicar in the remainder of the Empire (Franconia, Swabia, the Rhine, and southern Germany). The Elector of Bavaria replaced the Elector Palatine in 1623, but when the latter was granted a new electorate in 1648, there was a dispute between the two as to which was vicar. In 1659, both purported to act as vicar, but the other vicar recognised the Elector of Bavaria. Later, the two electors made a pact to act as joint vicars, but the Reichstag rejected the agreement. In 1711, while the Elector of Bavaria was under the ban of the Empire, the Elector Palatine again acted as vicar, but his cousin was restored to his position upon his restoration three years later. Finally, in 1745, the two agreed to alternate as vicars, with Bavaria starting first. This arrangement was upheld by the Reichstag in 1752. In 1777 the question became moot when the Elector Palatine inherited Bavaria. On many occasions, however, there was no interregnum, as a new king had been elected during the lifetime of the previous Emperor.

Frankfurt regularly served as the site of the election from the fifteenth century on, but elections were also held at Cologne (1531), Regensburg (1575 and 1636), and Augsburg (1653 and 1690). An elector could appear in person or could appoint another elector as his proxy. More often, an electoral suite or embassy was sent to cast the vote; the credentials of such representatives were verified by the Archbishop of Mainz, who presided over the ceremony. The deliberations were held at the city hall, but voting occurred in the cathedral. In Frankfurt, a special electoral chapel, or Wahlkapelle, was used for elections. Under the Golden Bull, a majority of electors sufficed to elect a king, and each elector could cast only one vote. Electors were free to vote for whomsoever they pleased (including themselves), but dynastic considerations played a great part in the choice. Electors drafted a Wahlkapitulation, or electoral capitulation, which was presented to the king-elect. The capitulation may be described as a contract between the princes and the king, the latter conceding rights and powers to the electors and other princes. Once an individual swore to abide by the electoral capitulation, he assumed the office of King of the Romans.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, princes often acted merely to confirm hereditary succession in the Saxon (Ottonian) and Franconian (Salian) dynasties, whereas beginning from the actual forming of the prince-elector class, elections became less secure (wit the election of 1125), though the Staufen dynasty managed to get its sons formally elected in their fathers' lifetimes almost as a formality. After these lines ended in extinction, the electors began to elect kings from different families so that the throne would not once again settle within a single dynasty. For some two centuries, the monarchy was elective both in theory and in practice; the arrangement, however, did not last, since the powerful House of Habsburg managed to secure succession within their dynasty during the fifteenth century. All kings elected from 1438 onwards were from among the Habsburg Archdukes of Austria (and later Kings of Hungary and Bohemia) until 1740, when the archduchy was inherited by a woman, Maria Theresa. A representative of the House of Wittelsbach became elected for a short period of time, but in 1745, Maria Theresa's husband, Francis I of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, became King; all of his successors were also from the same family. Hence, for the greater part of the Empire's history, the role of the electors was largely ceremonial.

High offices

Each elector held a "High Office of the Empire" and was a member of the (ceremonial) Imperial Household. The three spiritual electors were all Arch-Chancellors (Erzkanzler, archicancellarius): the Archbishop of Mainz was Arch-Chancellor of Germany, the Archbishop of Trier was Arch-Chancellor of Burgundy, and the Archbishop of Cologne was Arch-Chancellor of Italy. The other offices were as follows:

Augmentation Imperial office German Latin Elector
Arch-Butler or Arch-Cupbearer Erzmundschenk Archipincerna King of Bohemia
Arch-Seneschal or Arch-Steward Erztruchseß Archidapifer Elector Palatine to 1623
Elector of Bavaria, 16231706
Elector Palatine, 170614
Elector of Bavaria, 17141806
Arch-Marshal Erzmarschall Archimarescallus Elector of Saxony
align="center" Arch-Chamberlain Erzkämmerer Archicamerarius Elector of Brandenburg
Arch-Treasurer Erzschatzmeister Archithesaurarius Elector Palatine, 16481706
Elector of Hanover, 171014
Elector Palatine, 171477
Elector of Hanover, 17771814
Arch-Bannerbearer Erzbannerträger Archivexillarius Elector of Hanover, 170810 and 171477

When the Duke of Bavaria replaced the Elector Palatine in 1623, he assumed the latter's office of Arch-Steward. When the Count Palatine was granted a new electorate, he assumed the position of Arch-Treasurer of the Empire. When the Duke of Bavaria was banned in 1706, the Elector Palatine returned to the office of Arch-Steward, and in 1710 the Elector of Hanover was promoted to the post of Arch-Treasurer. Matters were complicated by the Duke of Bavaria's restoration in 1714; the Elector of Bavaria resumed the office of Arch-Steward, while the Elector Palatine returned to the post of Arch-Treasurer, and the Elector of Hanover was given the new office of Archbannerbearer. The Electors of Hanover, however, continued to be styled Arch-Treasurers, though the Elector Palatine was the one who actually exercised the office until 1777, when he inherited Bavaria and the Arch-Stewardship. After 1777, no further changes were made to the Imperial Household; new offices were planned for the Electors admitted in 1803, but the Empire was abolished before they could be created.

Many High Officers were entitled to use augmentations on their coats of arms; these augmentations, which were special marks of honour, appeared in the centre of the electors' shields (as shown in the image above) above the other charges (in heraldic terms, the augmentations appeared in the form of inescutcheons). The Arch-Steward used gules an orb Or (a gold orb on a red field). The Arch-Marshal utilised the more complicated per fess sable and argent, two swords in saltire gules (two red swords arranged in the form of a saltire, on a black and white field). The Arch-Chamberlain's augmentation was azure a sceptre palewise Or (a gold sceptre on a blue field), while the Arch-Treasurer's was gules the crown of Charlemagne Or (a gold crown on a red field). As noted above, the Elector Palatine and the Elector of Hanover styled themselves Arch-Treasurer from 1714 until 1777; during this time, both electors used the corresponding augmentations. The three Arch-Chancellors and the Arch-Cupbearer did not use any augmentations.

The electors discharged the ceremonial duties associated with their offices only during coronations, where they bore the crown and regalia of the Empire. Otherwise, they were represented by holders of corresponding "Hereditary Offices of the Household". The Arch-Butler was represented by the Butler (Cupbearer) (the Count of Althann), the Arch-Seneschal by the Steward (the Count of Waldburg), the Arch-Chamberlain by the Chamberlain (the Count of Hohenzollern), the Arch-Marshal by the Marshal (the Count of Pappenheim), and the Arch-Treasurer by the Treasurer (the Count of Sinzendorf).

See also


  • Bryce, J. (1887). The Holy Roman Empire, 8th ed. New York: Macmillan.
  • "Germany." (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press.

External links

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