Germany History – The Constitutional Evolution Towards a Confederation of Principles Part IV

The desertion of the three ecclesiastical princes was a prelude to that of the lay princes. When on 17 July 1245 Innocent IV had solemnly pronounced the deposition of Frederick II in the council of Lyons, and invited the Germanic princes to elect another sovereign, Henry Raspe, the Landgrave of Thuringia, who in the spring of 1242 the procurator of the Empire in Germany, he was elected antiré by the three Rhenish archbishops (Veitshochheim near Würzburg, May 22, 1246). The best support for the Swabian party now came from cities such as Cologne, Worms, Speyer, Regensburg: Frederick II’s political system had changed from the ground up. The fight could not be said to be decided, because neither Henry Raspe (died February 16, 1247), nor the new antiré William, Count of Holland (elected in Worringen near Cologne on October 3, 1247; crowned in Aachen on the 1stNovember 1248) succeeded in establishing themselves beyond the lower Rhine region, when the Swabian party suddenly lost its leaders: Frederick II, who died on 13 December 1250; his son Corrado IV, first for his descent to Italy in the autumn of 1251, then for his death near Melfi (21 May 1254).

According to Microedu, the political disorientation of Germany increased in the following period, which went down in history with the name of the great interregnum, since, if there were no kings, they lacked the recognition of most of Germany, and even the princes neglected the common interests, taking care only to draw for the benefit of their dominions the greater consequences of the concessions obtained by Frederick II. Then there was an event which seemed to have brought about a turning point in the constitutional history of Germany: the intervention of cities in the protection of common interests. Already in 1226 a league had been formed between some Rhenish cities, and in 1246 a league of Westphalian cities had arisen; on 13 July 1254 the Rhenish cities formed a federative bond among themselves for the defense of internal peace, and William of Holland supported their action. In 1255 the representatives of the cities appeared alongside those of the feudal classes; d ‘ on the other hand the members of these also joined the league. But the crisis following the death of William of Holland (January 28, 1256) cut off the interesting evolution, which led the cities to compete in the government of the state. When the princes split into two parties, they elected two kings, Richard of Cornwall (13 January 1257) and Alfonso X king of Castile (theApril), both related by women to the Hohenstaufen, the cities left without consequences the solemn declaration of March 17 and August 1256, which would recognize only a unanimously elected king, and also divided according to their own advantage. of selfish interests. The league failed the test of fire, and fell apart. Of the two kings, Alfonso X was never seen in Germany either; Richard, made only fleeting appearances there, and died far away on 2 April 1272. The calculation that had guided the princes in the choice of the two foreign princes, that is, to give the crown to those who, due to their own weakness and distance of interests, would not have could have hindered their personal ambitions, it was correct. The Wittelsbachs and Ottokar of Bohemia especially earned it. The first, to the Palatinate of the Rhine and to the Duchy of Bavaria they united the Duchy of Swabia by investiture of Richard; and, on the death of the unhappy Conrad of Hohenstaufen (1268), they also bought the allodial possessions of the ancient imperial family. Ottokar II of Bohemia, whose father (died in 1230) had obtained the hereditary title of king from Philip of Swabia in 1198, which Frederick II had confirmed to him in 1212, now obtained (1262) from Richard the confirmation of the duchies of Austria and of Styria, where the house of the Babenbergs was extinct (1246), and which, moreover, had already done so for some time (1251, 1260). In addition, the Bohemian king was also called heir in Carinthia and Carniola by the last duke, who took over in 1269. In Germany, abandoned to unbridled selfishness, private wars raged, Landfriede here and there banned. Meanwhile, France undermined German influence in the regions on the western frontier. To the south-west, the Angevin occupation of Provence (1246) also opened up Italy to French penetration, breaking the barrier that Conrad II had tried to establish by making the kingdom of Burgundy his own. To the northwest, France attracted the imperial fiefs of the counts of Flanders into its sphere of action, intervening as arbitrator together with Pope Gregory IX in the struggles for their succession (1244-1256).

However, in the general anarchy produced by the anti-Swabian wars and the interregnum, some elements had also been fixed, which will characterize the history of Germany in the following period: the identification, among the principles, of a minority intended to predominate in matters of government, and that for the moment he concretizes his eminent position in making himself the arbiter of the choice of the sovereign; the establishment, in the lower strata of the feudal classes, of that spirit of robbery and violence in the knightly class, which will be the cause of so much misery for Germany; the development of municipal autonomies; and, above all, the great phenomenon of German expansion in the northern and eastern regions.

Germany History - The Constitutional Evolution 4