Holy Roman Emperors

Crown of the Holy Roman Empire - 10th century
Only nine noble dynasties produced Holy Roman Emperors in nearly nine centuries. This, however, is not related to the system of hereditary succession as elsewhere in Europe because all Holy Roman Emperors first had to be elected Kings of the Romans by the prince-electors and then receive a papal coronation (until 1493). All rulers of the Holy Roman Empire were elective monarchs although the prince-electors typically followed the principle of hereditary succession by electing male members from the same family until the male line did not become extinct.

Rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and the Imperial Title

Holy Roman Emperors were the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and all of them were at the same time also elected Kings of the Romans (or Kings of Germany). However, not all Kings of the Romans held the Imperial title which could have been received only from the Pope (although the coronation ceremony was not always performed by the Pope personally) until the mid-16th century. Then the Imperial title became elective and did not require papal coronation nor papal consent. From Maximilian II (ruled 1562-1576) until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806, the Kings of Germany designated themselves as elected Holy Roman Emperors. They were elected by the prince-electors but the Imperial title became de facto hereditary within the House of Habsburg from Maximilian I (ruled 1493-1519) onward. The Holy Roman Empire, however, legally remained an elective monarchy until 1806.

The First Holy Roman Emperor - Charlemagne or Otto the Great?

There is some confusion about who was the first Holy Roman Emperor. The title is sometimes used in relation to the Carolingian emperors starting with Charlemagne (ruled 768-814) who was crowned Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) by Pope Leo III in Rome in 800. The custom of traveling to Rome to receive the papal coronation was adopted by Charlemagne’s successors as well as the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and for that reason some historians view Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor.

Most historians do not consider the Carolingian rulers as Holy Roman Emperors because the Holy Roman Empire was formed only after the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire from its eastern portion. The continuity of Emperors in former East Francia starts with Otto the Great (ruled 937-973), while his coronation by Pope John XII in Rome on February 2, 962, is traditionally viewed as the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire. The list of Holy Roman Emperors therefore starts with Otto the Great, not Charlemagne. However, the first “Holy” Roman Emperor was technically Frederick I Barbarossa (ruled 1155-1190) because the term sanctum (i.e. holy) was first used in 1157.

List of Holy Roman Emperors

Otto the Great (King of the Romans 936-973, Holy Roman Emperor from 962)

Otto the Great, also known as Otto I was one of the most powerful rulers in Europe in the Early Middle Ages. He succeeded his father Henry I (the Fowler) as King of Germany in 936 and by the time Pope John XII asked him for military assistance against Berengar of Friuli, he had consolidated his authority in Germany by crushing the rebellious dukes, extended his influence over Burgundy and eliminated the Magyar threat to his kingdom. He invaded Italy in 961 and defeated Berengar one year later when the Pope crowned him Emperor of the Romans. Like Charlemagne, Otto the Great managed to gain recognition of his Imperial title from the Byzantine Empire, and promoted culture and learning initiating the so-called Ottonian Renaissance.

Learn more about Otto I.

Otto II (crowned Joined Holy Roman Emperor in 967, sole Emperor 973-983)

Otto II, the son of Otto the Great was crowned joined Emperor in 967 but he assumed power only after his father’s death in 973. He pursued his father’s policy and further strengthened the Imperial authority in Germany, however, his campaigns against the Saracens in Italy were taken advantage by the Slavic tribes who recaptured the territory between the rivers of Oder and Elbe. He died in 983 while planning another campaign against the Saracens.

Otto III (King of the Romans 983-1002, Holy Roman Emperor from 996)

Otto III, the son of Otto II was at the time of his father’s death only 3 years old and the regency was assumed by his mother Theophanu. He assumed personal rule in 994 and shortly thereafter invaded Italy on appeal of Pope John XV to suppress a revolt in Rome. However, the Pope had died by the time he reached the city. Otto installed his cousin, Bruno of Carinthia as Pope Gregory V who crowned him Holy Roman Emperor on May 21, 996. Two years later he achieved election of his friend Gerbert of Aurillac as Pope Sylvester II and settled in Rome. He dreamt of making Rome the seat of a revived Roman Empire in the West but a rebellion against him and Pope Sylvester II forced him to flee the city in 1001. He died while planning an attack on Rome in 1002 without a male heir.

Henry II (King of the Romans 1002-1024, Holy Roman Emperor from 1014)

Henry II (the Saint), the cousin of Otto III was the last Holy Roman Emperor from the Ottonian or Saxon dynasty and the only German King to be canonized. As a deeply religious man, Henry II took the ecclesiastical matters and state-church relations very seriously. He helped the bishops extend their temporal power and founded the Diocese of Bamberg which became the center of art and scholarship. However, he was no saint as his rule was dominated by warfare. With his death in 1024, the Ottonian dynasty became extinct, while the German throne passed to the Salian dynasty.

Conrad II (King of the Romans 1024-1039, Holy Roman Emperor from 1027)

Conrad II was the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Salian dynasty. He was elected King of the the Romans in 1024 and crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1027. Like his predecessor, he campaigned against Poland and captured Lusatia in 1031. His greatest achievement was incorporation of Burgundy into the Holy Roman Empire in 1033 according to the agreement made between Rudolph III of Burgundy and Henry II in 1016. But in contrary to the Ottonian Emperors, Conrad II favored small nobility over clergy.

Henry III (King of the Romans 1028-1056, Holy Roman Emperor from 1046)

Henry III, crowned joint King of Germany with his father Conrad II in 1028 became sole king on his father’s death in 1039. He defeated the rebels in Saxony and Lorraine, and established his influence in Poland, Bohemia, Hungary and Italy. His interference in the papal affairs, however, caused major problems to his successors. He had appointed four popes including Pope Leo IX who initiated the reforms that enabled his successors to free themselves from the secular control and claim the temporal power over the entire Western Christendom.

Henry IV (King of the Romans 1056-1106, Holy Roman Emperor from 1084)

Henry IV, the son and successor of Henry III was only 6 years old on his father’s death in 1056. His mother Agnes of Poitou acted as regent until 1066 when he was declared at age. Henry’s reign was troubled by uprisings of the rebel dukes and above all – the quarrel with the Papacy over the right to appoint the church officials which came to be known as the Investiture Controversy and severely weakened the Imperial power. In 1084, Henry invaded Italy, deposed Pope Gregory VII and installed an antipope who crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. However, the opposition against him in Germany continued and in 1105 he was forced to abdicate and leave the throne to his son Henry V who joined the rebel dukes.

Henry V (King of Romans 1099-1125, Holy Roman Emperor from 1111)

Henry V assumed power from his father with the papal support in 1106, however, the Investiture Controversy continued. In 1110, he invaded Italy, forced Pope Paschal II to crown him Holy Roman Emperor and accept his “settlement“ of the Investiture Controversy. But as soon as he released the Pope, the latter repudiated the agreement. The quarrel with the Papacy was finally resolved with the Concordat of Worms in 1122, however, Henry’s authority was severely weakened and the prince-electors refused to accept his candidate for the throne. Henry V died childless in 1125 and the Salian line of Holy Roman Emperors came to an end.

Lothair III (King of the Romans 1125-1137, Holy Roman Emperor from 1133)

The election of Lothair III of Supplinburg, Duke of Saxony was a major departure from the system of hereditary succession because the prince-electors rejected Frederick II, Duke of Swabia who was Emperor Henry V’s nephew and designed heir. Frederick II, Duke of Swabia and his brother Duke Conrad of Franconia campaigned against Lothair III but the two brothers were forced to submit to the Emperor by 1135.

Lothair died two years later while returning from a campaign against the Normans in Italy. He had only one daughter, Gertrude whom he married to his designated successor Henry the Proud. However, the prince-electors once again refused the Emperor’s succession plan and chosen Duke Conrad of Franconia who acceded to the throne as Conrad III.

Frederick I Barbarossa (King of the Romans 1152-1190, Holy Roman Emperor from 1155)

Frederick I Barbarossa was the second King of the Romans and the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Hohenstaufen dynasty. His predecessor and uncle, Conrad III (ruled 1137-1152) never made it to Rome to receive papal coronation due to the civil war between the Welf and Hohenstaufen families in southern Germany which later spread into Italy.

As a descendant of the rival Welf and Hohenstaufen families, Frederick I Barbarossa managed to end the conflict between the families which enabled him to concentrate on Italy. However, he failed to assert his authority in the Italian Peninsula due to resistance of north Italian cities joined into the Lombard League and the Papacy. In 1089, he took up the cross and went on the Third Crusade but he drowned in the Saleph River in southeastern Turkey in 1190 before reaching the Holy Land.

Henry VI (King of the Romans 1190-1197, Holy Roman Emperor from 1191)

Henry VI was the second son of Frederick I Barbarossa and succeeded his father after his death in 1190. His marriage to Constance of Sicily enabled him to incorporate the Kingdom of Sicily into his Empire in 1194, however, his attempt to make the Imperial crown hereditary was unacceptable for the German princes as well as for the Papacy which felt threatened by an eventual expansion of the Imperial power to Italy.

Otto IV (King of the Romans 1198-1214, Emperor 1209-1215)

Frederick II, the son and heir of Henry VI was at the time of his father’s death in Sicily, while the German princes elected two rival kings – Otto IV of Brunswick and Philip of Swabia (the brother of Emperor Henry VI). Otto IV managed to gain recognition as King of Germany after Philip’s death in 1208 and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Innocent III one year later. His attempt to seize the Kingdom of Sicily from Frederick II, however, disturbed the Pope who prompted the German princes to support Frederick II. The only Holy Roman Emperor from the Welf dynasty lost the German throne after the defeat against Frederick’s ally Philip II of France at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. One year later, the Pope deposed him as Emperor.

Frederick II (King of the Romans 1212-1250, Holy Roman Emperor from 1220)

Frederick II was crowned King of Germany in 1212 and re-crowned after the defeat of Emperor Otto IV by Philip II of France at Bouvines in 1214. However, he did not receive the Imperial coronation until promising to go on the Crusade in 1220. He kept on postponing his departure to the Holy Land which earned him excommunication in 1227. He finally took up the cross in 1228, persuaded the Egyptian sultan to cede Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth to the Christians, and crowned himself King of Jerusalem in 1229. The Pope lifted excommunication one year later but the struggle between the Emperor and Papacy continued, and seriously weakened both the Imperial power and papal prestige.

Henry VII (King of the Romans 1308-1313, Holy Roman Emperor from 1312)

Henry VII was the first King of the Romans as well as the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Luxembourg dynasty. He was the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire to be crowned Emperor after nearly one century from the last Imperial coronation in Rome (his predecessor Frederick II was crowned Emperor in 1220). However, the coronation ceremony was performed by the papal legate in the Church of St. John Lateran because his opponents occupied the St. Peter’s Basilica. The greatest achievement of his short rule was the arrangement of marriage between his son John and Elizabeth of Bohemia by which he secured the Bohemian inheritance for the House of Luxembourg.

Louis IV (King of the Romans 1314-1347, Holy Roman Emperor from 1328)

Louis IV, called the Bavarian was the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Wittelsbach dynasty. He defeated his rival Frederick the Fair from the House of Habsburg in 1322, however, Pope John XXII refused to acknowledge his election and excommunicated him in 1324. Louis invaded Italy in 1326, entered Rome in 1328 and had himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the representatives of the Roman people rather than the Pope whom he later declared deposed for heresy. He reconciled with the Habsburgs but the German princes, dissatisfied with both his domestic and foreign policy elected Charles IV from the Luxembourg family as a rival king in 1346. An inevitable civil war was prevented by Louis’ sudden death one year later.

Charles IV (King of the Romans 1346-1378, Holy Roman Emperor from 1355)

Charles IV was the second Holy Roman Emperor from the Luxembourg dynasty. He was elected a rival king to Louis IV in 1346, while the sudden death of his opponent one year later facilitated his re-election as King of the Romans in 1349. Charles’ rule was marked by strengthening of the Imperial authority although the Gulden Bull (promulgated in 1356) increased the electors’ power by giving them virtual independence from the Imperial authority. However, the Golden Bull also set the standards for the electoral system that remained in force until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

Charles IV worked hard on strengthening of his dynasty through his skillful diplomacy and a network of marriages between the members of the Luxembourg dynasty and the most powerful European families. In 1355, he was crowned King of Italy but did not try to assert his authority in the Italian Peninsula. He only traveled to Rome to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor and returned to Prague which he had made the Imperial capital, and the cultural and intellectual center of Europe. The last years of his rule were marked by a revolt of the cities and the Western Schism.

Sigismund (King of the Romans 1410-1437, Holy Roman Emperor from 1433)

Sigismund who succeeded his brother Wenceslaus (King of Germany 1376-1400, King of Bohemia 1378-1419) was the last Holy Roman Emperor from the Luxembourg dynasty. By the time he was elected King of the Romans, he was already King of Hungary which was threatened by the Ottoman Turks.

Sigismund put a lot of effort in ending the Western Schism hoping to organize a Crusade against the Ottomans. The Council of Constance (1414-1418) ended the Western Schism, however, the Christian aid in the form of a Crusade never arrived, while the execution of Jan Hus at Constance prevented him from winning the Bohemian crown after Wencheslaus’ death in 1419. The Czechs who considered him responsible for Hus’ execution rebelled (Hussite Wars) against him and it was not until 1436 when he was finally crowned King of Bohemia. He died in 1437 without a male heir and the House of Luxembourg became extinct. Sigismund’s only daughter Elizabeth of Bohemia married Albert, Duke of Austria (the later Albert II of Germany) by which the crowns Germany, Hungary and Bohemia passed to the House of Habsburg.

Frederick III (King of the Romans 1440-1493, Holy Roman Emperor from 1452)

Frederick III was the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Habsburg dynasty and the last Emperor to be crowned in Rome. He succeeded his deceased cousin Albert II of Germany as King of the Romans, while Albert’s son Ladislaus the Posthumous who was born four months after his father’s death succeeded him as Duke of Austria (1440), King of Hungary (1444) and King of Bohemia (1453). Frederick acted as a guardian to Ladislaus and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1452 but he was unable to establish himself as Ladislaus’ regent.

Bohemia and Hungary were after Ladislaus’ death in 1457 captured by George of Podebrady and Matthias Corvinus, respectively. The latter also forced Frederick III out of Austria but the Emperor recovered his hereditary lands after Matthias’ death in 1490. Although he failed to incorporate Ladislaus’ lands into the Holy Roman Empire, he managed to gain the Low Countries (present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and part of northern France) for the House of Habsburg by marrying his son Maximilian to Mary of Burgundy, the heiress of the Duchy of Burgundy.

Maximilian I (King of the Romans 1486-1519, Holy Roman Emperor from 1493)

Maximilian I, the son and successor of Frederick III introduced new “standards“ in Imperial coronation. He did not travel to Rome to receive papal coronation after his father’s death but he declared himself elected Holy Roman Emperor by which he made the Imperial title elective. His example was followed by all his successors, except for Charles V.

Maximilian failed to gain the Burgundian inheritance in Italy as well as to defeat the rebellious Swiss cantons. However, he laid the foundation for the future rise of the House of Habsburg as one of the most powerful European dynasties through “clever“ policy of marriages. By marrying his grandson and granddaughter to daughter and son of Ladislaus II of Hungary and Bohemia, he assured his successors both the Hungarian and Bohemian throne as well as influence in central Europe. The third marriage he arranged for his son Philip the Handsome (he married him to Joanna of Castile, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) extended the Habsburg domain to Spain including Spanish possessions in Italy and the Americas.

Charles V (1519-1556)

Maximilian I was succeeded by his grandson Charles V, King of Spain (from 1515) who united the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Spain including the latter’s domains in Italy and overseas colonies. Although he was elected Holy Roman Emperor, he also received papal coronation in 1530 and became the last Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by the Pope.

Charles V spent most of his reign struggling with France over Italy, while the costs of his engagement in the Italian Wars provoked a rebellion in Spain. His main failure, however, turned out to be Germany as he was not able to stop the spread of Reformation nor limit the independence of the princes. He also failed to achieve a decisive victory over France but he had weakened it to the extent that it was not able to challenge the House of Habsburg until the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

He refused to accept the Peace of Augsburg (1555) which granted religious freedom to the Lutherans and abdicated in 1556 leaving Spain, the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Naples to his son Philip II. The Imperial crown went to his brother Ferdinand I who was elected King of the Romans in 1531.

Ferdinand I (1558-1564)

Charles V left the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand I in 1556 but he was not formally elected Holy Roman Emperor until 1558. Ferdinand’s rule was marked by a reconciliatory policy towards the Protestants and concessions to the powerful German princes. This enabled him to secure the succession for his son Maximilian II although the agreement he made with Charles V in 1551 granted the Imperial throne to Charles’ son Philip.

Maximilian II (1564-1576)

Maximilian II succeeded his father Ferdinand I as Holy Roman Emperor on the latter’s death in 1564. Although he sympathized with the Protestants, he remained neutral in religious matters. His personal beliefs also did not prevent him from sending his son Rudolph to Spain to receive a solid Catholic education to leave the door open for an eventual succession in Spain. He did nothing to push the Ottomans from central Europe and rather bought himself peace by paying tribute for Hungary. Shortly before his death, he got involved in the rivalry for the Polish throne and died while planning to invade Poland.

Rudolph II (1576-1612)

Maximilian II was succeeded by his eldest son Rudolph II, known as a great patron of arts and occult sciences as well as an ineffective ruler. Many historians consider him responsible for the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) because he failed to end the religious conflicts in the Holy Roman Empire. His political incompetence along with worsening of his mental health made him very unpopular, while his conflict with the Ottoman Empire called the Long War (1593-1606) provoked a revolt of his Hungarian subjects in 1604. Rudolph was compelled to hand over the Hungarian affairs to his brother Matthias who gradually gained control over the entire Empire. By 1611, Rudolf was left only with the Imperial title. He died childless one year latter.

Matthias (1612-1619)

Matthias succeeded his brother Rudolph II as Holy Roman Emperor after the latter’s death in 1612 although he became de facto ruler of the Holy Roman Empire one year earlier. Matthias’ rule was troubled by the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics, while his conciliatory policy was opposed by the Catholic Habsburgs. The aging Emperor was unable to prevent the rise of the Catholic fraction of the Habsburg dynasty, most notably his brother Maximilian III, Archduke of Austria. The latter had secured the succession for their cousin Ferdinand (the later Ferdinand II) whose ultracatholicism provoked a rebellion in Bohemia in 1618 which was the immediate cause of the Thirty Years’ War.

Ferdinand II (1619-1637)

The rule of Ferdinand II was dominated by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). He was a devoted Catholic which probably would not cause him problems if he had not strongly supported Anti-Protestant Counter-Reformation. As a result, the Bohemian nobles rebelled, deposed him as King of Bohemia and elected Frederick V (called the Winter King) in 1619. Frederick defeated the Bohemian rebells with an aid of the Catholic League and won back Bohemia in 1620 but the opposition of the Protestant nobles continued and led to outbreak of one of the most devastating wars in European history.

The first decade of the war was relatively successful for Ferdinand. The supreme commander of the Imperial army, Albert von Wallenstein and the Catholic League defeated the Danes in 1629. Encouraged by the military success, Ferdinand II issued the Edict of Restitution which revoked the Peace of Augsburg and ordered return of Catholic properties that have been secularized since 1555. This move outraged the Protestant dukes and provoked the Swedish intervention in the war.

A series of defeats and the French entry into the war forced the Emperor to sign the Peace of Prague (1636) by which he re-established the Peace of Augsburg and ended the civil war in the Holy Roman Empire. The Thirty Years’ War, however, continued.

Ferdinand III (1637-1657)

Ferdinand III who succeeded his father Ferdinand II as Holy Roman Emperor in 1637 also inherited the Thirty Years’ War which turned into a disaster after his accession to the throne. Unable to defeat his enemies, he was forced to accept the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. He had to recognize independence of the Netherlands and Switzerland, cede territories in Alsace and Lorraine to France, cede West Pomerania to Sweden and recognize the sovereignty of the German states which limited the Habsburg power to their hereditary lands. During the last years of his rule, he focused on securing the succession for his son Leopold I.

Leopold I (1658-1705)

Leopold I managed to restore the Habsburg power by eliminating the Ottoman threat in the east and the French in the west. He repulsed the Ottoman attack on Vienna in 1683, recaptured the entire Hungary from the Ottomans by 1699, restored the Imperial authority in Germany and formed the Grand Alliance which defeated France under Louis XIV in the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697). In 1701, he became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession against France which also dominated the rule of his successor.

Joseph I (1705-1711)

Leopold I was succeeded by his eldest son Joseph I who was crowned King of the Romans as early as 1690. His brief rule was dominated by the War of the Spanish Succession in which he achieved several important victories against France. His second major concern was a rebellion in Hungary which prevented him from fully concentrating on the struggle against Louis XIV of France. He put down the Hungarian revolt only a few days before his death. He died from smallpox in Vienna on April 17, 1711, aged 32.

Charles VI (1711-1740)

Joseph I was succeeded by his brother and the claimant to the Spanish throne, Charles VI. The latter continued the fight for the Spanish succession, however, England withdrew its support after he had been elected Holy Roman Emperor. In 1714, Charles was forced to cede the Spanish throne to Philip, Duke of Anjou but he received most of the Spanish possessions in Italy and Low Countries. With the Treaty of The Hague that ended the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720), he gained Sicily from Savoy in exchange for the island of Sardinia.

The Emperor achieved a major success against the Ottoman Turks in 1718 but he lost all his territorial gains during the Russo-Austrian-Turkish War (1735-1739). In 1733, he once again got involved in war against France and Spain, this time over the Polish succession. With the Treaty of Vienna that was signed in 1738, he recognized the French candidate for the Polish throne in return for the Duchy of Parma and international recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heiress.

Charles VII (1742-1745)

Charles Albert, Prince-elector of Bavaria and son-in-law of Emperor Joseph I refused the Pragmatic Sanction on the death of Charles VI in 1740. He allied himself with France and Spain, and had himself elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1742 becoming the second and the last Emperor from the Wittelsbach dynasty. However, the supporters of Maria Theresa refused to recognize him as Emperor and overran his lands shortly after his coronation. He fled to Frankfurt where he stayed nearly three years without any control over the Empire. He returned to Bavaria after the outbreak of the Second Silesian War (1744-1745) and died a few months later.

Francis I (1745-1765)

Francis I, Duke of Lorraine (from 1729-1735), Grand Duke of Tuscany (from 1737) and the husband of the heiress of the deceased Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa was the first Holy Roman Emperor from the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. He was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1745, however, he governed very little. De facto ruler was his wife, Empress Maria Theresa who bore him 16 children.

Joseph II (1765-1790)

Francis I was after his death in 1765 succeeded by his eldest son Joseph II, however, he had little authority as his mother and co-ruler Maria Theresa continued to govern the Holy Roman Empire until her death in 1780. As a proponent of enlightened absolutism, Joseph II carried out a series of far-reaching reforms the most notable of which were the abolishment of serfdom and proclamation of religious toleration granting religious freedom to all non-Catholics in the Habsburg dominions. However, the opposition to his reforms and failed campaign against the Ottoman Empire forced him to repeal many of his reforms in the last years of his rule.

Leopold II (1790-1792)

Joseph II died childless in 1790 and was succeeded by his brother Leopold II. Although he ruled only two years, he managed to put down the rebellion in the Austrian Netherlands (modern Belgium), and capture Belgrade and Wallachia from the Ottoman Empire. He also concluded an alliance with the Prussian king which foresaw a military intervention against France.

Francis II (1792-1806)

Francis II, the eldest son and successor of Leopold II was the last Holy Roman Emperor and the first Emperor of Austria (1804-1835). His rule as Holy Roman Emperor was dominated by the French Revolutionary Wars and later by the Napoleonic Wars. He joined the coalition against the Revolutionary France shortly after his accession to the throne but after the devastating defeat of the Third Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Austerlitz, Francis II was forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg (1805) which de facto dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. From 1806 onwards, he used Francis I of Austria as his only title.


As Emperor of Austria, Francis continued to support the opposition against the Napoleonic France despite the fact that he had married his daughter Marie Louise to Napoleon in 1810. He once again joined the coalition against France in 1813 and played an important role in Napoleon’s final defeat. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Austria emerged as one of the leading European great powers, while the House of Habsburg-Lorraine continued to rule the Empire of Austria (from 1867 known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) until the end of World War I in 1918.