The Imperial Circles
© by V. Rozn (edited by Guy Stair Sainty)
ruling families whose territories were recognized as the Imperial Estates were
at the same time recognized as the Imperial Circle Estates (Reichskreisstände).
This status gave them the right to sit and vote in Circle Diets (Kreistage).
Originally the list of the Imperial Estates was the same as the list of the
Circle Estates, but gradually this was changed. The list of the Circle
Estates was more permanent.
the 18th century, when comital families became extinct their parts in curial
voices in Colleges of Counts in the Imperial Diet were excluded but a voice in
Circle Diets went to new owners of the territory. The constant divisions in
comital families were reflected differently in the Imperial Diet and in Circle
Diets. For example, the Hohenlohe family had only two voices in the Diet of the
Franconian Circle but six voices in the Franconian College of Imperial Counts;
The County of Schaumburg was represented with two voices in the Circle of Lower
Rhine-Westphalia, but with onlyone voice in the Westphalian College; Giech and
Hohenlohe inherited allodial lands of Wolfstein and thus obtained a voice in the
College of Franconian Counts. Bavaria acquired Landeshoheit over
Obersulzbürg-Pyrbaum and the voice of Wolfstein in the Bavarian Circle Diet.
Some Circles had benches or banks similar to those in the Imperial Diet.
of the new princely houses were not accepted in the Council of Princes of the
Imperial Diet before 1803. These houses had voices in the benches of Princes
of Circle Diets .
the Circle Diets a voices of a count was equal to a voice of a Prince. Thus,
small Estates played a more important role in Circle Diets than in the Imperial
Diet, where their influence was minimal.
There were a few houses that by the end of the 18th century still preserved their lands and the status of Imperial and Circle estates but did not have any sovereign power. For example the Counties of Stollberg, Wernigerode and Hohnstein, and the lands of the house of Schönburg were under foreign Landeshoheit, the county of Bentheim was mortgaged, and the county of Hallermund was under control of Brunswick-Hanover. By 1792 there were approximately 150 secular sovereign rulers with the full status of the Imperial Estate.
The major exception was the status of Kings of Bohemia, which position of
Elector of the Empire was suspended since the Hussite wars 1420-1433. So
Bohemia(Czechy), Moravia, Silesia,Lusatia were included in none of the Imperial
Circls. Other examples were Mömpelgard (owned by Württemberg) and Dyck(owned
 The extinct comital houses, which parts in curial voices in the Imperial Diet were excluded, but voices in Imperial Circle Diets were preserved : The extinct comital houses, which parts in curial voices in the Imperial Diet were excluded, but voices in Imperial Circle Diets were preserved
Hanau, Barby, Mansfeld, Hohenstein, Rantzau, etc.
Houses who had seats in benches of Princes of Imperial Circle diets, but had no seats in the Council of Princes of
Imperial Diet (before 1803):