Imperial Vicar

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Augustus the Strong - in his capacity as imperial vicar, he raised the baronial family of those at Hoym to the rank of imperial count in 1711.

As Reich Vicars ( vicarius imperil or provisor imperil ) were referred to in the Holy Roman Empire , the acting head that for the period between the death of the emperor or king and the election or coronation of a successor ( interregnum continued the current business).

Territorial jurisdiction of the imperial vicars

For Germany, in 1356, the Golden Bull finalized an earlier regulation on imperial administration by the secular electors : The electors of Saxony shared the imperial vicariate with the Rhineland Count Palatine . Thereafter, the Elector Palatinate was imperial vicar for the areas under Frankish law and the Elector of Saxony for the areas under Saxon law . The borders between these areas, especially in the regions of Hesse , Jülich-Kleve-Berg , Liège and East Frisia , were controversial until 1750. The King of Bohemia and the Archduke of Austria even refused to recognize any vicar over them.

In the Old Kingdom there were imperial vicars for the German and Italian areas as well as for the Arelat . The imperial vicariate over imperial Italy , the occupation of which the popes temporarily claimed as their right, was disputed between the dukes of Savoy and Mantua . The emperors also temporarily appointed imperial vicars for individual regions within imperial Italy, for example the Visconti in Milan and the Gonzaga in Mantua began to rule over their communes as imperial vicars, which they then became signories and finally hereditary duchies (as ensigns of the empire). In 1624 the office of general commissioner or plenipotentiary was created for imperial Italy , which in fact took over the original tasks of the imperial vicariate, which had only been a titular vicariate since Charles IV .

The House of Savoy carried the title of Prince and Permanent Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire even after the end of the Old Empire in 1806 and integrated it into the Sardinian and Italian royal titles . It existed until the abolition of the monarchy in 1946 .

Competencies of the imperial vicars

The imperial vicars had all imperial rights except for the granting of flag loans and the sale of imperial property . The competencies of the imperial vicars included in particular the continuation of the current business of the emperor or king, court jurisdiction , the collection of taxes, legitimations, emancipations, the granting of privileges and investiture in imperial fiefs , with the exception of flag and scepter fiefs , which also included the imperial principalities belonged. In addition, they were allowed to raise their rank in the imperial nobility (elevations in the imperial nobility, imperial knights , imperial barons , imperial counts and imperial princes), exercised the jurisdiction of the king / emperor and were involved in the confirmation of church benefices . They were not allowed to dispose of the imperial property ; nor were the electoral capitulation bound of the previous ruler. The vicars often used their privileges to raise loyal vassals or at least willing to pay them or even their mistresses to the nobility, which is why a particularly large number of nobility diplomas were issued in times of interregnum. After his election, the new king had to confirm the decisions of the vicars retrospectively, which he was urged to do by his election surrender. However, the Reichshofrat occasionally overturned the decisions of the vicars.

Changes due to the dispute over the Palatinate electoral dignity

The double portrait of Elector Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz and his wife Anna Maria Luisa de 'Medici by Jan Frans van Douven from 1708 refers to the title of Imperial Vicar claimed by the Palatinate Elector through the depiction of the imperial crown in the center of the picture.

At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War, Elector Friedrich V of the Palatinate lost the dignity of imperial vicar for the areas under Franconian law together with the Palatinate electoral vote and the dignity of the ore truchess to the elector of Bavaria . However, the Electoral Palatinate, which was restored in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, already claimed the Palatinate electoral dignity and the dignity of vicar for itself in the interregnum of 1657/58, but this was not done by the Arch Chancellor , the Archbishop of Mainz, nor by the Electorate of Saxony, the Spa of Bavaria and the later elected Emperor Leopold I. was recognized. Only when the Elector of Bavaria had fled Germany in the course of the War of the Spanish Succession and was declared imperial , the Elector of the Palatinate (which had fallen to the Catholic line Pfalz-Neuburg in 1685 ) was able to exercise the imperial vicariate in 1711. His successor signed a contract with his Wittelsbach cousins ​​in Bavaria in 1724, which provided for the joint exercise of the imperial vicariate, but this was not accepted by the Reichstag . In 1745 an agreement was reached to alternately exercise the imperial vicariate, with Bavaria being allowed to go first. Emperor Franz I recognized this regulation after his election and was confirmed by the Reichstag in 1752. After the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty died out in 1777, both electoral dignities and thus also the vicar dignities fell back to the Palatinate line that now ruled Bavaria.

Unaffected by this dispute, the Imperial Vicariate for the territories under Saxon law was exercised by the Electors of Saxony without interruption until the end of the Holy Roman Empire . Saxon vicariate coins in gold and silver provide extensive evidence of all vicariate cases of the Saxon electors. The vicariate coins from the Electorate of the Palatinate were minted to a much lesser extent, as the Palatinate and Bavaria could not keep up with the silver-rich Saxon electors.


During the frequent absence of Emperor Frederick II in the empire, he appointed so-called Reichsgubernators as deputy and guardian for his sons Heinrich (VII.) And Conrad IV .

See also


  • Adalbert Erler : Reichsverweser. In: Concise dictionary on German legal history . Volume 4. 1st edition Erich Schmidt, Berlin 1990, Col. 806 f.
  • Marie-Luise Favreau-Lily: Imperial rule in late medieval Italy. To the handling of the imperial vicariate in the 14./15. Century. In: Sources and research from Italian archives and libraries 80, 2000, pp. 53–116 ( online )
  • Marie-Luise Heckmann: Deputy, co-ruler and substitute ruler. Regents, governors-general, electors and imperial vicars in Regnum and Imperium from the 13th to the early 15th centuries (studies on the Luxembourgers and their time 9). 2 volumes. Fahlbusch, Warendorf 2002.
  • Wolfgang Hermkes: The imperial vicariate in Germany. Imperial vicars after the death of the emperor from the golden bull to the end of the empire (studies and sources on the history of German constitutional law 2). CF Müller, Karlsruhe 1968.
  • Walther Lammers : Imperial Vicariate. In: Concise dictionary on German legal history. Volume 4. 1st edition Erich Schmidt, Berlin 1990, Col. 807-810.


  1. ^ Lienhard Buck: The coins of the Electorate of Saxony 1763 to 1806 . Berlin 1981, p. 200
  2. Florian Runschke: The General Commissariat in Italy from 1624-1632. Mission, work and acceptance of the first two incumbents . In: Sources and research from Italian archives and libraries 99, 2019, p. 214 ( online ).
  3. ^ Royal Styles> Italy> Titles of the king of Italy. In:
  4. ^ Walther Haupt : Sächsische Münzkunde . Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1974, p. 167