The Holy Roman Empire was founded in 962 when Otto the Great, King of Germany and Italy or Lombardy was crowned Emperor. All Emperors since then were kings of Germany and Italy, and since 1032 kings of Arles or Burgundy also.

But I read that it was illegal for there to be any kingdoms (except for Bohemia) in the Holy Roman Empire.

However, according to Germanic law at that time, no kingdoms could exist within the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of the Kingdom of Bohemia.


Does anyone know if there actually was such a law?


Originally, there were seven electors of the Holy Roman Emperor, three ecclesiastical, and four temporal. These were called "prince-electors," and were the highest ranking dignitaries of the Holy Roman Empire other than the Emperor himself.

The three ecclesiastical electors were the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne. The four temporal electors were the heads of state of Bohemia, Brandenburg, Saxony, and the Palatinate. Of those, only the head of Bohemia was a "king," making Bohemia a kingdom. The head of Palatinate was a Count, of Brandenburg was a Margrave, and of Saxony was a Duke.

Much later, the heads of Brandenburg and Saxony also called themselves "kings." That is, the Elector of Brandenburg became "king of Prussia" after that domain merged with Prussia, while the Elector of Saxony also became King of Poland in a "personal union." But there were no "second" kingdoms totally within the Holy Roman Empire itself. And in the 17th century, Bohemia became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, part of which was not in the Holy Roman Empire.

  • This doesn't really answer the question,a bout if there was a law against it... All you are doing is citing the typical HRE Elector spiel. – FiringSquadWitness Sep 1 '16 at 22:51
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    @FiringSquadWitness: Even "laws" are made to be "gotten around." I told the story of why Bohemia was the sole kingdom applied in the first place, and how the other two countries finally "got around" it. I found out after posting the answer that the head of Bohemia was made a king by the Holy Roman Emperor, (HRE). So the later two "kingdoms" induced, or forced later HREs to acknowledge their kingships. Basically, laws are "made" when people have enough power to "make" them. – Tom Au Sep 2 '16 at 0:05

Not aware of any law per say, but note that the HRE itself technically was an elective monarchy. The electors would actually elect the King of the Romans rather than the Holy Roman Emperor:

The title was predominantly a claim to become Holy Roman Emperor, which also had a religious aspect in contemporary views of the Middle Ages and was dependent upon coronation by the Pope.

As for the Kingdom of Bohemia, you can think of it as a promotion for good services rendered:

The kingdom was formally established in 1198 by Přemysl Ottokar I, who had his status acknowledged by Philip of Swabia, elected King of the Romans, in return for his support against the rival Emperor Otto IV. In 1204 Ottokar's royal status was accepted by Otto IV as well as by Pope Innocent III. It was officially recognized in 1212 by the Golden Bull of Sicily issued by Emperor Frederick II, elevating the Duchy of Bohemia to Kingdom status.

Under these terms, the Czech king was to be exempt from all future obligations to the Holy Roman Empire except for participation in the imperial councils. The imperial prerogative to ratify each Bohemian ruler and to appoint the bishop of Prague was revoked. The king's successor was his son Wenceslaus I, from his second marriage.

With respect to "promoting" nobles to a new title, you may also find this related question of interest:

How were nobles 'promoted' in aristocracies?


I do not think, there was such a law, but the emperors did not have any interest in promoting their (potential) enemies within the Empire. Therefore it was easier for prince-elector of Brandenburg (or for duche of Savoy) to use the territorial gains outside of the borders of the HRE for proclaiming themselves kings of these territories.

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