Germany History – The Feudal Revenge Against the Hereditary Monarchy and the Struggle for Investitures (1056-1125) Part I

According to Answermba, Henry II had taken care to have his son recognized as his successor as soon as he was born (1050); three years later Henry IV had been elected from the Tribur diet (November 1053) and crowned in Aachen (July 17, 1054). But as soon as Germany found itself in the hands of a weak regency government, led by a woman, the widowed empress Agnes, and by a bishop, Henry of Augusta, the high secular and ecclesiastical feudality moved to the rescue against the monarchy, to deprive it of the hereditary character, which it had now acquired, and to claim for itself the widest autonomies; and at the same time against the reforming currents, advocated by the regent, which damaged his material interests, and against the class of the minor nobility and the ministeriales, on which the crown rested, and from whose ranks he drew officers and advisers. It was first the conquest of the great duchies. The Burgundian count Rudolf of Rheinfelden had Swabia (1057); the Swabian Count Bertoldo of Zähringen Carinthia with the March of Verona (1061); the Saxon count Otto of Nordheim in Bavaria (1061), while the Billung dynasty in Saxony opposed the coveted increase in temporal assets to Archbishop Adalbert of Bremen. Immediately after was the struggle, especially between the bishops, to conquer the government of the regency, in which Annone, archbishop of Cologne, who succeeded in removing Agnes (1062), then (1064) Adalbert of Bremen, prevailed, but was at his vault overthrown by a coalition of great clergymen and laity led by Annone and Otto of Nordheim (January 1066).

What forces would have faced, siding behind the king or behind the feudal opposition? To the original triple division, founded on the right to bear arms, which distinguished the ancient Germans into the three social classes of serfs, semi-free and free, eminent, among the latter the nobles (adalingi), had replaced, with the development of feudalism, a much more complex variety of classes, based on land ownership and personal relationships. In the rural population there were still quite numerous men of free status, but with a tendency to descend to get confused with those of unfree status (“the air of the countryside makes servants”). These latter were either free of the person, but linked to the lands worked, and kept to certain benefits towards the gentlemen land (censuales), or servants, bound to also master with the person, among which we had come elevating, until distinguished from they, those assigned to the direct service of the lord, and above all of the king, as administrators and as soldiers, the so-called ministeriales. The rural population will give aid to the king as well as to the feudal opposition, in the first phase of the struggle, then above all the king will try to lean on it. His ministeriales will definitely stand for the kings. Raised above the original servile condition, by virtue of the military posts and the political, civil and administrative offices entrusted to them by the sovereign, they have become, or are in the process of becoming, by his action, members of the small nobility and the class chivalrous, and only with the help of the king could they hope to keep the positions reached and overcome them again. The king could also count on the lesser nobility and on the knights of feudal origin, because he was their natural guardian in front of the great ones. A precious ally of the king will be a new force, that of the cities, which then began to flourish, and where the tendency of the social classes was in the opposite sense that in the countryside: the non-free were rising up to mingle with the free (“the air of the cities makes you free “). The cities especially from the crown could hope for the privileges necessary to favor the development of their industries and their traffic. With the feudal opposition, the great ones in general, the so-called ones, will line up against the king principes laici and ecclesiastici, in their various gradations, naturally with greater or lesser compactness according to personal and current events and interests. In the first place the dukes, typical representatives of the ancient independence of the major Germanic ethnic groups, whose noble origins on the basis of the election of the respective grouping were still felt in the demand of the Bavarian nobles, that the king consulted them for the appointment of their dukes. Then came the accounts, among which the accounts of the frontier marches, or margravî (Markgrafen), and those who ruled more extensive territories, and which in the following century will begin to distinguish themselves from the others with the title of langravî (Landgrafen). A special position had the palatine counts (Pfalzgrafen), one for each of the four properly German duchies, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, and Bavaria, which theoretically continued to carry out judicial and, in the dominions of the crown, administrative functions, as royal offices of control to the dukes, but which in reality s’ they too started to transform themselves into territorial lords. The most important was the Count Palatine of Franconia – where no dukes had been appointed, and therefore the country depended directly on the crown – based in Aachen, and with the title of Count Palatine of Lorraine, later changed into that of Count Palatine of the Rhine. At the head of ecclesiastical feudality were the archbishops and abbots. They owed their temporal fortunes to the king, who had thus counted on procuring their aid against the great laymen.

Germany History - The Feudal Revenge Against the Hereditary Monarchy 1