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Although the Holy Roman Empire was famous for being a loose confederation of largely independent feudal lords, it nevertheless possessed institutions akin to a unified state even near the end of its life.

Each ecclesiastical Prince-Elector was also chancellor of one of the Empire's kingdoms (Germany, Italy and Arles). Additionally, the Archbishop of Mainz was ex-officio Archchancellor of the Empire, the second highest post of the Holy Roman Empire under the Emperor.

Wikipedia mentions that the Archchancellor exercised government functions such as calling an imperial election, and notes that his 'political role' is considerable without elaborating. My question is, what other functions besides calling an election, if any, did the Archchancellor serve?

What de jure powers/duties did the Archchancellor have in theory? And What powers or roles did the Archbishop of Mainz play in reality?


I've now gathered that the Archancellor serves a few more functions in Imperial governance:

  • appointing the Vice-Chancellor, who presides in the Reichshofrat (The Aulic Council)
  • chairing the plenary sessions of the Reichstag
  • formulating the Reichstag's legislative agenda
  • receiving the Reichstag's delegates
  • drafting the proposals submitted to the Reichstag
  • accrediting foreign ambassadors to the Holy Roman Empire

These would seem to be most of the formal functions that the Archancellor wielded, although I'm sure the office had more powers formal or informal that I haven't discovered. Moreover its unclear how these powers were exercised in, and affected, the HRE at large, especially in the later centuries.

I assume there would be more sources available in German, but unfortunately I can't understand them.

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I think you should post your edit as an answer (answering your own question is perfectly fine). – Yannis Jun 18 '14 at 10:22
I concur with @Yannis, this looks like an answer more than like an edit. I understand you wanted more, but half an answer is better then none. – o0'. Jul 15 '15 at 21:32
(and if you want more, after you convert your edit into an answer, you can still post a bounty. No reason to "accept" your answer if it doesn't fully satisfy you, but it's still an answer nonetheless) – o0'. Jul 15 '15 at 21:33
@Semaphore did you ever decide if you were satisfied with your answer? German historian Peter Claus Hartmann's work would be a good resource on the Archchancellor's clerical responsibilities. Specifically, Cultural History of the Holy Roman Empire from 1648 to 1806: Constitution, Religion and Culture – Kanapolis Sep 22 '15 at 17:15
@Kanapolis Thanks for the recommendation, I will check that out. I'm not satisfied with what I've found so far, although I've read some more since my edit and I think I'll write it up as an answer at some point. – Semaphore Sep 22 '15 at 17:52

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