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Golden Bull of 1356

Golden Bull of 1356

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The Golden Bull of 1356 was a decree issued by the Reichstag
Reichstag (Holy Roman Empire)
The Imperial Diet was the Diet, or general assembly, of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire.During the period of the Empire, which lasted formally until 1806, the Diet was not a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of the realm...

assembly in Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 headed by the Luxembourg
House of Luxembourg
The House of Luxembourg was a late medieval German dynasty, which between 1308 and 1437 ruled the Holy Roman Empire, twice interrupted by the rivaling House of Wittelsbach.-History:...

 Emperor Charles IV
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV , born Wenceslaus , was the second king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and the first king of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor....

 that fixed, for a period of more than four hundred years, important aspects of the constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

al structure of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. It was named the Golden Bull
Golden Bull
A Golden Bull or chrysobull was a golden ornament representing a seal , 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...

for the golden seal it carried.

Background


According to the written text of the Golden Bull of 1356, "We have promulgated, decreed and recommended for ratification the subjoined laws for the purpose of cherishing unity among the electors, and of bringing about a unanimous election, and of closing all approach to the aforesaid detestable discord and to the various dangers which arise from it." After the long-time struggle of his predecessor Louis IV
Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV , called the Bavarian, of the house of Wittelsbach, was the King of Germany from 1314, the King of Italy from 1327 and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1328....

 with antiking
Antiking
An Antiking is a would-be king who, due to succession disputes or simple political opposition, declares himself king in opposition to a reigning monarch. Antikings are more often found in elected monarchies than in hereditary monarchies like those of England and France; such figures in hereditary...

 Frederick the Fair, Charles IV felt that it was necessary to change the current system of electing the "King of the Romans
King of the Romans
King of the Romans was the title used by the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire following his election to the office by the princes of the Kingdom of Germany...

". He thought that without this new decree the world would never be rid of envious and ambitious politicians.

The Golden Bull explicitly named the seven Kurfürsten or prince-elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

s who were to choose the King of the Romans, who would then usually be crowned Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 by the pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 later. The seven prince-electors were, "Three prelates were archchancellors of Germany (Mainz), Gaul and Burgundy (Trier), and Italy (Cologne) respectively : the Bohemia
Kingdom of Bohemia
The Kingdom of Bohemia was a country located in the region of Bohemia in Central Europe, most of whose territory is currently located in the modern-day Czech Republic. The King was Elector of Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806, whereupon it became part of the Austrian Empire, and...

 cupbearer, the Palsgrave seneschal, Saxony
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

 marshal, and Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

 chamberlain." Consequently, the Bull speaks of the , the "king to be promoted emperor" — although the distinction between the two titles would become increasingly irrelevant (and virtually nonexistent after Maximilian I
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

 had renounced his coronation as Emperor in 1508).

Even though the practice of election had existed earlier and most of the dukes named in the Golden Bull were involved in the election, and although the practice had mostly been written down in an earlier document, the Declaration of Rhense
Declaration of Rhense
The Declaration of Rhense was a decree of the Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire issued in 1338 and initiated by the Baldwin of Luxembourg, the Archbishop of Trier and brother of the later Emperor Henry VII.-Background:...

 from 1338, the Golden Bull was more precise in several ways. For one, the duke
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

doms of the Electors were declared indivisible
Primogeniture
Primogeniture is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings . Historically, the term implied male primogeniture, to the exclusion of females...

, and succession was regulated for them to ensure that the votes would never split. Secondly, the Bull prescribed that four votes would always suffice to elect the new King; as a result, three Electors could no longer block the election, and the principle of majority
Majority rule
Majority rule is a decision rule that selects alternatives which have a majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including the legislatures of democratic nations...

 voting was explicitly stated for the first time in the Empire. Finally, the Bull cemented a number of privileges for the Kurfürsten to confirm their elevated role in the Empire. It is therefore also a milestone in the establishment of largely independent states in the Empire, a process to be concluded only centuries later, notably with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October of 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the...

.

Procedures


The bull regulated the whole election process in great detail, listing explicitly where, when, and under which circumstances what should be done by whom, not only for the prince-elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

s but also (for example) for the population of Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

, where the elections were to be held, and also for the counts of the regions the prince-electors had to travel through to get there. The decision to hold the elections in Frankfurt, reflected a traditional feeling dating from East Frankish days that both election and coronation ought to take place on Frankish soil. However, the election location was not the only specified location, they specified that the coronation would take place in Aachen, and Nuremberg would be the place where the first diet of a reign should be held. The elections were to be concluded within thirty days; failing that, the bull prescribed that the prince-electors were to receive only bread and water until they had decided:

But if they shall fail to do this within thirty days, counting continuously from the day when they took the aforesaid oath: when those thirty days are over, from that time on they shall live on bread and water, and by no means leave the aforesaid city unless first through them, or the majority of them, a ruler or temporal head of the faithful shall have been elected, as was said before.
Chapter 2, §3. The city referred to, emboldened here, is Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

.


Besides regulating the election process, the chapters of the Golden Bull contained many minor decrees. For instance, it also defined the order of marching when the emperor was present, both with and without his insignia
Insignia
Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

. A relatively major decision was made in chapter 15, where Charles IV outlawed any and , meaning in particular the city alliances (Städtebünde), but also other communal leagues that had sprung up through the communal movement in mediæval Europe. Most Städtebünde were subsequently dissolved, sometimes forcibly, and where refounded, their political influence was much reduced. Thus the Golden Bull also strengthened the nobility in general to the detriment of the cities.

The Pope
Pope Innocent VI
Pope Innocent VI , born Étienne Aubert; his father was Adhemar Aubert seigneur de Montel-De-Gelas in Limousin province. His niece was Catherine Aubert, Dame de Boutheon, also the wife of Randon II baron de Joyeuse; she is La Fayette's ancestor...

's involvement with the Golden Bull of 1356 was basically nonexistent, which was significant in the history of relations between the Popes and the Emperors. When Charles IV laid down procedure for electing a King of the Romans, he didn't mention anything about receiving papal confirmation of the election. However, Pope Innocent VI
Pope Innocent VI
Pope Innocent VI , born Étienne Aubert; his father was Adhemar Aubert seigneur de Montel-De-Gelas in Limousin province. His niece was Catherine Aubert, Dame de Boutheon, also the wife of Randon II baron de Joyeuse; she is La Fayette's ancestor...

 did not protest this because he needed Charles’s support against the Visconti
House of Visconti
Visconti is the family name of two important Italian noble dynasties of the Middle Ages. There are two distinct Visconti families: The first one in the Republic of Pisa in the mid twelfth century who achieved prominence first in Pisa, then in Sardinia where they became rulers of Gallura...

. Pope Innocent continued to have good relations with Charles IV after the Golden Bull of 1356 until the Pope's death in 1362.

The Habsburg dynasty, long-time rivals of the Luxembourgs, got nothing from the decree of the Golden Bull. Therefore Duke Rudolf IV of Austria
Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria
Rudolf IV der Stifter was a scion of the House of Habsburg and Duke of Austria and Duke of Styria and Carinthia from 1358, as well as Count of Tyrol from 1363 and first Duke of Carniola from 1364 until his death...

 gave order to draw up the Privilegium Maius
Privilegium Maius
The Privilegium Maius was a medieval document dated 1358/59, forged at the behest of Duke Rudolf IV of Austria , a scion of the House of Habsburg. It was essentially a modified version of the Privilegium Minus issued by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1156, which had elevated the former March of...

, a fake document meant to empower the Austrian
Archduchy of Austria
The Archduchy of Austria , one of the most important states within the Holy Roman Empire, was the nucleus of the Habsburg Monarchy and the predecessor of the Austrian Empire...

 rulers on a par with the Prince-electors. On the other hand the Wittelsbachs were invested with the electoral dignity twice, both as Counts Palatine of the Rhine and as Margraves of Brandenburg at that time. Nevertheless the Golden Bull caused a conflict between Emperor Charles IV and the Wittelsbach dukes Louis V
Louis V, Duke of Bavaria
Louis V, Duke of Bavaria, called the Brandenburger was Duke of Bavaria and as Louis I also Margrave of Brandenburg and Count of Tyrol. Louis V was the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV and his first wife Beatrix of Świdnica...

 and Stephen II of Bavaria
Stephen II, Duke of Bavaria
Duke Stephen II of Bavaria , after 1347 Duke of Bavaria. He was the second son of Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian by his first wife Beatrix of Świdnica and a member of the Wittelsbach dynasty.-Biography:During the reign of Emperor Louis IV his son Stephen served as vogt of Swabia and Alsace...

 since also the Bavaria
History of Bavaria
The history of Bavaria stretches from its earliest settlement and its formation as a stem duchy in the 6th century through its inclusion in the Holy Roman Empires to its status as an independent kingdom and, finally, as a large and significant Bundesland of the modern Federal Republic of...

n branch of the dynasty got nothing.

External links


Literature

  • Bryce, James, The Holy Roman Empire (London: The Macmillan Company, A New Edition, 1978), 243.
  • Chambers. D.S., Popes, Cardinals and War (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), 28.
  • Renouard, Yves, The Avignon Papacy 1305-1403 (Connecticut : Archon Books, 1970), 127.
  • Heer, Friedrich, trans. Janet Sondheimer, The Holy Roman Empire (New York: Federick A. Praeger Publishers, 1968), 117.