The region known as the Holy Roman Empire emerged from the coronation of Charlemagne as emperor by Pope Leo III in 800, though some scholars argue that it came later with the coronation of Otto I, king of Germany, as emperor by Pope John XII in 962. The Ottonian era in particular is known for the powerful and active imperial women that ruled during this period. Initially composed of the kingdoms of Germany and Italy from 962, the kingdom of Bohemia was added in 1002 and the kingdom of Burgundy in 1032. The Ottonians were succeeded by the Salians and then the Hohenstaufens, who continued a series of elective monarchy. Reform through the later medieval and into the early modern period took place largely under the aegis of the Hapsburgs, at points coming under the control of the kings of Spain. Imperial power began to decline in the seventeenth century, and was further weakened by succession disputes across its states in the eighteenth century. The empire dissolved on 6 August 1806 when Francis II abdicated following a defeat by Napoleon.
You can find out more about some of the female rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and its states below!
- Adelheid (Holy Roman Empire, 931-999)
- Matilda (Holy Roman Empire, 1102-1167)
- Kunigunda Slavonia (Bohemia, c. 1245-1285)
- Isabella of Portugal (1503-1539)
- Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (1687-1757)
- Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780)
Jestice, Phyliss G. Imperial Ladies of the Ottonian Dynasty: Women and Rule in Tenth-Century Germany. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018
Keller, Katrin. “Gender and Ritual: Crowning Empresses in the Holy Roman Empire.” German History 37.2 (2019): 172–85
Maclean, Simon. Ottonian Queenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017
Nash, Penelope. “Empress Adelheid’s Vulnerabilities as Mother and Ruler.” In Royal mothers and their ruling children. Wielding political authority from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era, edited by Carey Fleiner and Elena Woodacre, 127-148. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015
Nash, Penelope. Empress Adelheid and Countess Matilda: Medieval Female Rulership and the Foundations of European Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
Patrouch, Joseph. Queen’s Apprentice: Archduchess Elizabeth, Empress María, the Habsburgs, and the Holy Roman Empire, 1554–1569. Leiden: Brill, 2010
Uitz, E., B. Patzold, and G. Beyreuther, Herscherinnen und Nonnen: Frauengestalten von der Ottonenzeit bis zu den Staufen. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1990
Verbanaz, Nina. “A ‘Necessary Companion’: The Salian Consort’s Expected Role in Governance.” In Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving beyond the Exceptionalist Debate, edited by Heather J. Tanner, 177-197. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.