Certainly, Frederick i — and his successor Frederick William i emphasized their new status and tried to free their lands from some formal restrictions.
Moreover, in retaining the advantages of existing relations, they accepted the price of remaining within established behaviour, and even in military matters, as we shall see, they avoided a breach with the empire. Fundamental to this constitution was the distribution of rights and privileges in a formal hierarchy which was never clearly nor logically related to material factors, like size of territory or population. Various emperors exerted influence by adjusting this structure to favour loyal or compliant princes.
By it was impossible for the emperor to make any significant change in the status of one prince without the agreement of the others, usually through the Reichstag. For a short introduction, see Peter H. Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire — 2nd edn. Basingstoke, Acquisition required recognition from the emperor, whose assent was also necessary to legitimate normal transitions in hereditary rule.
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By early modernity, emperors could not prevent sons following fathers in the hereditary principalities, but they could still delay formal enfeoffment, and thereby restrict the full exercise of territorial rights. Certainly, through the Peace of Westphalia sweden and France acquired formal, though in practice relatively weak, powers to intervene to preserve the constitutional status quo. However, these privileges had to be negotiated afresh for each subsequent acquisition, and while they prevented Prussian subjects prosecuting their king in the imperial courts, they also required the monarchy to establish its own court of appeal.
He now switched to less confrontational methods, including bribing judges. Frederick i and Frederick William i consistently backed their own subjects involved in cases against other rulers, and Prussia was permanently represented in Wetzlar, where the Reichskammergericht was based.
Acquisition of a royal crown further eroded the utility of an electoral title for Brandenburg. All three Protestant electors now had crowns, while the two Catholic secular electors of Bavaria and the Palatinate had failed to obtain one, despite considerable expenditure of blood and treasure during the War of the spanish succession — Husum, Kreis institutions offered larger principalities the chance to dictate the affairs of their weaker neighbours, but also raised the prospect of those smaller territories exerting influence through collective action.
Prior to , Brandenburg policy was one of obstruction, intended to prevent saxony from using the formal structure to dictate regional policy.
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Acquisition of Magdeburg in gave Brandenburg a share in the lower saxon Kreis directory, but all efforts to use this were blocked by resolute Hanoverian opposition. Hildesheim, —82 , ii. Both Brandenburg and the Palatinate came to see the Kreis structure as a convenient framework to manage their Westphalian interests, particularly once they patched up their long-standing dispute over conflicting territorial claims in the s. Written culture evolved to assist the established use of precedent in determining political legitimacy.
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As the religious reformers discovered during the reformation, writing things down could make differences clearer and hinder consensus. First, attempts to compel powerful imperial estates like Brandenburg to contribute their share of defence by fixing their responsibilities in formal agreements had unintentionally produced complex military arrangements that allowed the powerful to dodge their own obligations whilst bullying the weak into contributing more.
However, it did not use its troops to pursue objectives directly by force, unlike saxony, which was a full belligerent in the Great northern War —21 , or Bavaria, which joined France in opposing the empire in the War of the spanish succession. Providing auxiliaries to foreign powers was scarcely unusual, nor contrary to imperial law or interests, since these forces were fighting the French. For a more detailed breakdown of the growth in German army size, see the tables in Peter H.
Prussia did join the Great northern War briefly in For general German practice, see Peter H. Prussia was supposed to provide troops to the collective forces of each of the Kreise where it held territory. However, it was far from clear exactly how many men should be sent, since each Kreis adjusted its own quotas, often without full approval from the Reichstag. Prussia exploited the inevitable confusion, at times temporarily designating auxiliary or other troops as contingents with the imperial or Kreis forces.
A prince represented at the front by a large, consolidated body of troops was visibly more important than one whose units were dispersed in obscure garrisons.
He could also influence coalition policies and possibly extract additional political concessions by threatening to withdraw his force, or withhold it for an entire campaign, as in , when the elector Palatine put pressure on the emperor. Jahrhundert bis , 4 vols. Munich, , ii. For the attractions and pitfalls of subcontracting for the weaker partner, see Peter H. Prussia adhered quite closely to these requirements. For example, the necessary notifications Requisitoriales were sent to the relevant Westphalian territories in both the wars of spanish and Polish succession.
However, this failed to achieve the political concessions Frederick William i desired. All families played the same game, seeking advantageous marriages to continue their lineage, establish claims to additional territory, and, ideally, enhance their status through kinship with a more prestigious partner. Unlike even some comparatively minor families, like the Brunswick Guelphs, the Hohenzollerns had never provided a medieval German king or emperor.
Both Frederick i and Frederick William i married Hanoverian princesses, partly to foster friendship with this powerful neighbour. Prussia contained few other nobles who could be employed in a similar manner to advance interests across the empire. Paderborn, For the alliance, see loewe ed.
Prussia encouraged marriages between the Dohna and comital families like the solms, Wied, and Wittgenstein who were active in the regional politics of Westphalia and the rhineland. However, the Hohenzollerns were unable to attract counts or princes to their court. Georg Friedrich of Waldeck stands out in the court of the Great elector not only through his ability as a statesman, but as one of the very few imperial nobles who moved to Berlin.
Polish recognition of Prussian independence allowed the elector of Brandenburg to ennoble in his capacity as sovereign duke of Prussia after , but such titles lacked prestige or full recognition in the empire because the duchy of Prussia was beyond the imperial frontier.
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However, even these still lacked the status of imperial nobility. Meanwhile, the Reichshofrat received a flood of petitions from Hohenzollern subjects seeking imperial recognition for titles awarded since , but which were now exposed as illegitimate. Frederick William i again ignored the formal hierarchy and created his own nobles after , but these still lacked full legitimacy until Frederick ii secured imperial recognition of Prussian titles throughout the empire in Prussia was also constrained by the religious dimension to imperial politics.
Prussia acquired three former church lands through the Peace of Westphalia, but this treaty prohibited further secularization, while, as Protestants, the Hohenzollerns were personally ineligible for positions in the still Catholic imperial church.
Prussia had little to gain from pursuing the politics of religious radicalism which, in any case, had been discredited by the thirty Years War. Yet the corpus remained more than simply a forum to assert status, as suggested by one culturalist analysis. Jahrhunderts Frankfurt am Main, , 49— For the following see also Aretin, Altes Reich, ii.
Prussia secured parity in appointments to the imperial general staff in return for persuading the Protestants to drop this demand for other institutions. He alienated lutherans because he only secured safeguards from the Palatine elector for Calvinist rights. Cooperation with the Palatinate over a dispute in nassau-siegen further illustrates the difficulty of playing the religious card in imperial politics. Prussia and the Palatinate wanted the small Westphalian principality to pay its share the duchy of Calenberg usually known after its capital as Hanover was raised to an electorate in , but this status was only fully accepted by its peers in Frankfurt am Main, , iv.
Further details in Aretin, Altes Reich, ii. Prussia lost credit when its new king, Frederick William, crassly threatened reprisals against his own Catholic minority. Meanwhile, Prusso-Palatine cooperation collapsed as the War of the spanish succession ended, leaving the imperial commission split down confessional lines by At this point, however, sweden sued for peace in the Great northern War — Despite its considerable military power, Prussia was too weak to negotiate without saxon and Hanoverian cooperation.
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Protestant opinion, meanwhile, demanded a speedy resolution to the disputed directory because the elector Palatine had resumed persecution of his lutheran subjects in Prussia and Hanover tried to outbid each other in their extremism, but merely alienated the smaller Protestant imperial estates. Moreover, Habsburg rule in Hungary predated the evolution of more modern concepts of sovereignty, which slowly displaced the medieval ideals of universal monarchy. First, their political status was intimately connected to the empire, which was visibly declining within the evolving european order.
Bohemia had been elevated to a kingdom in the twelfth century at a time when the empire included not only a German, but also italian and Burgundian royal titles. Emanuel von Bayern und das Spanische Erbe Mainz, Gibbs, and H. More significantly, the Prussian title was a novelty, in contrast to the Polish and British crowns, which were accepted by all as valid. Frederick i received his title from emperor leopold, but crowned himself in a deliberately ostentatious coronation which was not repeated. While most european powers accepted the Prussian title by , several still objected.
Moreover, by claiming that Prussia was still under Polish suzerainty, it struck at the basis for a fully sovereign Prussian crown. Prussia had to settle for a swiss declaration including them in their neutrality. Most electors accepted the Prussian title by , with Bavaria and Cologne doing so in in return for Prussian support for their restoration after they lost their lands in the War of the spanish succession. Frankfurt am Main, —75 , i. A similar ambivalence is noted for Prusso-Hanoverian relations by schnath, Geschichte Hannovers, iii.
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