Territories of the Holy Roman Empire
© by V. Rozn (edited by Guy Stair Sainty)
the 18th century the Holy Roman Empire (Heiliges römisches Reich)
consisted of over 1800 separate territories governed by distinct authorities.
These were defined as immediate (unmittelbar) to the Roman Emperor(German:Römischer
Kaiser; Latin:Romanorum Imperator). A duke, a city council, a bishop,
a count or a knight could own the possession of this Imperial immediacy (Reichsunmmitelbarkeit).
The Imperial immediacy gave their owners the territorial lordship (Landeshoheit),
which resembled sovereignty of an independent state. Officially, this
sovereignty was limited because all immediate territories were under the formal
suzerainty of the Empire. Most of these immediate territories were tiny and
belonged to the Imperial Knighthood (Reichsritterschaft).
Imperial Knights had grouped themselves into three Knightly Circles (Ritterkreise):
these were Swabia, Franconia and the Rhine, and consisted of 14 Cantons. The
Imperial knights had a special status in the Empire. They did not pay imperial
taxes and had no representation in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Thus
the Imperial knights were not recognized as the Imperial Estates (Reichsstände).
status of the Imperial Estate (Reichsstandschaft) was attached to the
Imperial immediate territories, which paid the imperial taxes through one of 10
Imperial Circles (Reichskreise) and gave their owners the right to vote
in the Imperial Diet.
of the Empire
the 16th century Roman Emperors started to grant titles of Imperial Prince (Reichsfürst)
and Imperial Count (Reichsgraf) to families that owned no Imperial
immediacy. But these family did not have the status of Imperial Estate and were
not included in the High Nobility (Hochadel).
There were also several immediate territories (Jever, Kniphausen, Schaumburg an der Lahn, Landskron, Mechernich, Pirmont bei Karden, Rheda, Stein, Schauen etc) that were attached to neither Imperial Circles nor Knightly Circles and were not represented in the Imperial Diet.