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Golden Bull

Golden Bull

Golden Bull, term translated from the Latin bulla aurea and generally referring to a bull (edict) with a golden seal. Golden bulls were promulgated by medieval Byzantine rulers and by Western European monarchs, for example, by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (Golden Bull of 1213) and by King Andrew II of Hungary (Golden Bull of 1222). However, the term is most frequently used in reference to the Golden Bull of 1356, issued by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Mindful of the dissension caused by the disputed imperial election of his predecessor, Louis IV, Charles IV devised a series of detailed procedural regulations intended to prevent similar controversies. The measures were discussed and approved at the imperial diets of Nuremberg and Metz (1355-56). The "king of the Romans" was thereafter to be elected only by the majority vote of seven electoral princes (see electors). By omitting any mention of the papacy, the document virtually nullified papal claims to intervene in or to confirm an election. The electoral right was to descend by male primogeniture in the henceforth indivisible lay electorates (except in Bohemia, where the crown was elective). The Golden Bull sanctioned a long-developing trend against a centralized empire and gave the electors a constitutional basis on which to consolidate their holdings into sovereign states. It granted them regalian rights over coinage, mining, and the judiciary; conspiracy against them was to be considered lese-majesty. In codifying the princes' independence of imperial jurisdiction, the Golden Bull of 1356 set the constitutional form of the Holy Roman Empire, which with but a few modifications, survived until the empire's dissolution in 1806.
A Golden Bull or chrysobull was a golden ornament representing a seal (a bulla aurea or "golden seal" in Latin), attached to a decree issued by Byzantine Emperors and later by monarchs in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The term was originally coined for the golden seal itself but came to be applied to the entire decree. Such decrees were known as golden bulls in western Europe and chrysobullos logos, or chrysobulls, in the Byzantine Empire (χρυσός, chrysos, being Greek for gold).

Golden bulls originated in the Byzantine Empire, for which they served as a particularly important diplomatic tool. The empire's official ideology rested on the idea that the Byzantine Emperor was chosen by God to be the ruler of the world's only legitimate empire. The Byzantines were remarkably successful in persuading other states to accept this, presenting golden bulls as acts of imperial grace but using them as de facto treaties without having to admit that foreign powers had any equal standing. They were also a useful means of enabling the empire to maintain the fiction that even humiliating concessions to powerful neighbours were really nothing of the sort.

For nearly eight hundred years, they were issued unilaterally, without obligations on the part of the other party or parties. However, this eventually proved disadvantageous as the Byzantines sought to restrain the efforts of foreign powers to undermine the empire. During the 12th century, the Byzantines began to insert into golden bulls sworn statements of the obligations of their negotiating partners.

Other European monarchs adopted golden bulls in imitation of the Byzantines, but used them much more sparingly. The exceptional nature of non-Byzantine golden bulls gave them a much higher profile than either the Byzantine originals or ordinary proclamations. Notable golden bulls included:

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