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Nominally, the order of the Electoral college was fixed in 1356 with a golden bull and once more recorded in this combination in 1489. The Bull dictated 7 Electors. One of those Electors was the King of Bohemia, next to the Palatine, Saxony, Brandenburg, Cologne, Trier, and Mainz.1 Later more electors would appear, but for the longest time, this was the setup.

When in 1526 the King of Bohemia died, the crown and title of arch-cupbearer fell to the Habsburgs in the person of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. This Archduke then would become elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1531. The crown of Bohemia and the one of the HRE would stay with the Habsburgs for a very long time, and even when Rudolph II was cut to size by his brother and future successor Mathias, he retained Bohemia as the last personal land. Yet again, Mathias would get the crown of Bohemia, then that of Rome and the Imperial crown in quick succession,

As the Elector for Bohemia and highest ranking person, it would be assumed that the various Habsburg monarchs were present in the election of themselves as Emperor and even should have cast the first vote while the Reichserzkanzler, the Archbishop of Mainz, would cast the last.

However, I fail to find literature that depicts the role of the Elector for Bohemia in the setting of a Reichstag, as in outside of an imperial election. For example, Litzenberger describes vividly how the Archbishops, Palatine, Saxony, and Brandenburg quibble over topics, but never mentions Bohemia - only the imperial crown.2

Was the King of Bohemia, when he was also the Emperor, actually allowed to take part in the meetings of the Electoral College during a Reichstag? Or does the position of Emperor result in the seat of the Elector for Bohemia staying vacant? Was there another reason, such as that the Bohemian Crown wasn't vested with part in the Electoral College?


1 - Wilson, Peter H: From Reich to Revolution – German History 1558-1806 (European History in Perspective, 15), London 2004, p.35 - 43.
2 - Litzenberger, Andrea: Kurfürst Schweikard von Kronenberg als Erzkanzler: Mainzer Reichspolitik am Vorabend des 30 Jährigen Kriegs (1604-1619), Stuttgart, 1985.

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    I remember reading that the King of Bohemia was a "only-half" member of the Reich. He only acted as a Elector when electing the Roman King/Emperor, but not in the daily business. But I don't know if this was only for modern times, when the King of Bohemia most times also was Emperor or if this is an older tradition.
    – K-HB
    Mar 6, 2023 at 21:03
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    @K-HB THAT is somethign that I read somewhere too, but can't cite memory... if you find a source that is credible that would be perfect.
    – Trish
    Mar 6, 2023 at 21:07
  • You seem to think that there might be some onus of impartiality on the HRE Electors. Not only is this not true - it is the opposite of being true. The Electors are there not to be any sort of judge or jury, but to represent their own interests. A Board of Directors if you will, tasked with electing the successor to the current emperor (ie King of the Romans); so when the current Emperor was also an Elector, he gained additional influence over that selection. Nov 6, 2023 at 13:45
  • @PieterGeerkens No, that was not what I said, or tried to imply. It is simply the question of how many votes are there, boiling down to the point if Bohemia is part of the electoral college or not. I do not try to ask anything about impartiality or such. The question is just that of 7 vs 6 voting members on the Reichstag. And as K-HB showed: it was 6.
    – Trish
    Nov 6, 2023 at 14:23

2 Answers 2

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The answer is divided: Since before the begin of the Habsburger reign over Bohemia in 1526 till 1708 the King of Bohemia had no vote at the Reichstag. In 1708 the ambassador of the King of Bohemia, Emperor Joseph I., took his place in the Kurfürstenrat (Electoral college) at the Reichstag (Perpetual Diet in Regensburg).

In that time there were multiple ambassadors of the person of the Emperor at the Reichstag in Regensburg:

  • the Prinzipalkommissar with his Konkommissare in place of the Emperor as the chairman of the Reichstag. As the Prinzipalkommissar (list) a imperial prince was sent: most times a prince-bishop or in later times a member of the house of Thurn und Taxis.
  • the Direktorialgesandte in place of the Erzherzog von Österreich (Archduke of Austria). He chaired the Reichsfürstenrat (Imperial Princes) together with the prince-archbishop of Salzburg (or his ambassador).
  • since 1708: the ambassador in place of the King of Bohemia (list). He took place in the Kurfürstenrat.

The relation between Bohemia and the Reich was complicated and changed over time. There is a 700-pages doctoral thesis on this topic: Alexander Begert: Böhmen, die böhmische Kur und das Reich vom Hochmittelalter bis zum Ende des Alten Reiches. Studien zur Kurwürde und staatsrechtlichen Stellung Böhmens, 2003.

In the review of Anna Ohlidal it is said on our topic (DeepL-translation):

Politically, Bohemia also withdrew from imperial affairs under the Jagiellons, while the imperial institutions continued to strive for Bohemia's integration and participation for a long time to come. It was not until 1519 that the electors resigned and were no longer willing to accept Bohemia as a partner in electoral politics; the Bohemian electorate practically came to a standstill and Bohemia was de facto no longer a membrum imperii. For the first century of Habsburg rule in Bohemia (1526-1612), Begert notes an unchanged situation, but at the same time proves that the question of whether Bohemia was a fiefdom or an independent empire was answered by the Habsburgs with remarkable flexibility, depending on the political situation. This is further emphasized by a comparison with Lorraine and Burgundy and their separation from the empire.

In addition to the 15th century, the almost one hundred years from Matthias' accession to power to the Electoral College (1611-1708) form the second major focus of the work: Begert sees a new era in the history of the Bohemian Electoral College dawning with Matthias, as the Bohemian king now sought admission to all electoral consultations as a matter of principle, even if he was initially unsuccessful. With Matthias, the Bohemian king's formal protests against his exclusion from these consultations began, which gradually led to a renewed rapprochement with the Electoral College. Under Ferdinand III, participation in all matters relating to changes to the Golden Bull was enforced, and Leopold I succeeded in extending the Bohemian king's right to inspect the electoral capitulation. However, the Habsburgs used their electoral rights as the electors had feared in previous centuries: namely to protect the interests of the empire and the dynasty. Finally, Begert sees the negotiations on the Readmission from 1692 onwards as a prime example of the "abandonment of corporate electoral interests in favor of individual interests" (p. 477).

The last chapter is dedicated to the period from the successful Readmission in 1708 to 1806, whereby Begert emphasizes that the enormous wealth of previously unprocessed source material actually offers enough material for another dissertation. Starting from the observation that the Bohemian electorate had been fully recognized since 1708 and that all electoral rights, including participation in the electoral capitulation negotiations, were undisputed, Begert limits himself to examining selected individual problems such as the right of deputation. He concludes with the thesis that - apart from the ceremonial consequences - the actual benefit of the long-desired readmission should be regarded as small. The behavior of the Habsburgs with regard to the mandatory payment of imperial taxes is striking proof that Vienna only wanted to assume rights with the Readmission, but no obligations. The Readmission had neither brought Bohemia any significant advantages nor any symbolic or real profit to the Empire, nor had it brought about any change in the assessment of Bohemia's feudal position.

In the article of Walter Fürnrohr, Die Vertreter des habsburgischen Kaisertums auf dem Immerwährenden Reichstag, Teil II, the political implications of the readmission are explained. Fürnrohr seems to rate the readmission as more important than Begert:

Before that the Emperor had to rely on hearsay about the discussions of the Emperor. The Habsburger were only able to convince the Electors and Princes because of a lucky political situation. With the new Electroal dignity of the Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Hannover, 1692) an additional Protestant entered the Electoral college. With the readmission of the Bohemian vote the Catholic majority was restored.

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    Since before the begin of the Habsburger reign over Bohemia in 1526 till 1708 the King of Bohemia had no vote at the Reichstag. - is this citeable from the Begert article?
    – Trish
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:30
  • @Trish I did not read the book of Begert, only the review I cited in the answer. And the first sentences say this. (Maybe they had in the first decades a vote, but did not use it; I have no idea of the legal reasoning. Anyhow when the Habsburger wanted to use their vote in the 17th century, the others did not allow it.)
    – K-HB
    Nov 5, 2023 at 20:28
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The Emperor, like other members of the Reichstag or Imperial Diet, would be present in person or send an accredited representative to the meetings.

In 1663 the i Imperial Diet met at Regensburg and never dissolved, the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg. Since rulers of states couldn't spend all their time at Regensburg, they sent representatives to the Perpetual Diet.

Previously, the Diet had been convened in different cities but, beginning in 1594, it met only in the town hall in Regensburg. On 20 January 1663, the Diet convened to deal with threats from the Ottoman Empire (the Turkish Question).[2] Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the Holy Roman Emperor had been formally bound to accept all decisions made by the Diet. Hence, out of fear that the Emperor would disregard the Diet's role by not calling sessions,[4] it never dissolved and became a perpetual diet. Therefore, no final report of its decisions, known as a Recess, could be issued, and that of the preceding diet, issued in 1654, was dubbed the Youngest Recess [de].[5] From 1663 until the 1684 Truce of Ratisbon (a former name of Regensburg in English), the diet gradually developed into a permanent body.[2]

In addition to envoys who represented the Imperial Estates in the Diet, Regensburg had around 70 representatives (Komitialgesandtern or Comitia) from foreign states. The Emperor was represented by a Principal Commissioner (Prinzipalkommissar), a position that accrued to the Thurn und Taxis family from 1748.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_Diet_of_Regensburg

So after about 1663, the deliberations of the College of Electors in the Diet would be carried by representatives of the Electors (including the Emperor as King of Bohemia) instead of by the Electors in person.

After about 1663 the Electors would only meet in person to elect an Emperor.

The Emperor would always have a representative at the diet when he was not there in person, to present him as the holder of his various principalities which had votes, and as Elector of Bohemia, and as Emperor.

So possibly after 1663 all mention of the Elector of Bohemia's representative would describe him as the Emperor's representative, since the position of Emperor was the highest position in the Empire, and since everyone knew that the Emperor's representative was also the representative of the King and Elector of Bohemia, the Archduke of Austria, the Duke of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, etc.

That is my guess.

Possibly an expert on Holy Roman Empire history will give a more authoritative answer.

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