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The Holy Roman Empire, (which Nazis refer to as the First Reich; the second being the German Empire of 1871-1918, the third Nazi Germany), was a political situation brought about by Charlemagne. Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the Romans in 800 by Pope Leo III, but normally used the title "King of the Franks". The "Holy Roman Empire" is considered to have been founded by Otto I in 862, but this title was not used for it until 1254.

You will often hear historians referring to the Holy Roman Empire as "Germany", but the term "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" was not used until the 15th century, by which time the Empire had lost most of its possessions in Italy. At its height the Empire owned Germany, Austria (after the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded, the descendants of the last Emperor continued to be "Emperors of Austria"), Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, eastern France, northern Italy and western Poland.

Unusually in these times, the Emperor was elected from the 12th century onwards by the most powerful of the Princes in the Empire. As can be seen from the list below, despite the fact the position was not hereditary, it usually stayed within the same families for extended periods. The most notable of these families is the house of Habsburg, which was perhaps the dominant ruling family of Europe for many centuries.

It was Voltaire who famously said the Holy Roman Empire was "neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire."

List of Holy Roman Emperors

At times, two people claimed the title. These are denoted by the Rival next to their names. Most Holy Roman Emperors were also Kings of Germany, and this is noted next to them also. Interregnum means "between Kings".

Carolingian Dynasty
Charlemagne, 800-814
Louis the Pious, Louis I of France and of Germany, 814-833 and 834-840
Lothar I, Holy Roman Emperor, 833-834 and 840-855
Louis the German, Louis II of Germany, 855-875
Charles the Bald, Charles II France, 875-877
Charles III, Holy Roman Emperor, the Fat of France (as Charles II) and Germany, 881-887

Italian Successions
Guido of Spoleto, or Wido, 891-894
Lambert of Spoleto, 894-896, and on restoration 896-898
Arnulf of Carinthia, 896
Louis III, Holy Roman Emperor, 901-905
Berengar of Friuli, 911-924

Ottonian Saxon Dynasty
vacant, 924-962
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, (the Great), king of Germany 936-973, emperor 962-973
Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor, (the Red), king and emperor 973-983
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, king 983-1002, emperor 996-1002
Henry I, Holy Roman Emperor from Saxony, king of Germans 1002-1024, emperor 1014-1024

Salian Frankish Dynasty
Conrad II, king 1024-1027, emperor 1027-1039
Henry II, king Henry III of Germany 1039-1046, emperor 1046-1056
Empress Agnes, regent 1056-1068
Henry IV, king 1056-1084, emperor 1084-1105
Henry V, king 1105-1125, emperor 1111-1125

Supplinburger
Lothar II, Holy Roman Emperor, king 1125-1133, emperor 1133-1137

Staufen or Hohenstaufen
Conrad III, king 1138-1152
Frederick I Barbarossa, king 1152-1155, emperor 1155-1190
Henry VI, king 1190-1191, emperor 1191-1197
Philip of Swabia, king 1198-1208

Welfs (Guelphs)
Otto IV of Brunswick, king 1208-1209, emperor 1209-1215

Staufen (Hohenstaufen)
Frederick II, emperor 1211-1250
William of Holland (1247-1256) Rival
Conrad IV, (1250-1254)

Interregnum (1254-1273)

Richard (1257-1272) Rival
Alfonso X of Castile, (1257-1275) Rival
Rudolph I of Habsburg, (1273-1291)
Adolf of Nassau, (1292-1298)
Albert I of Habsburg, (1298-1308)

Luxemburg
Henry VII of Luxemburg, (1308-1313)

Wittelsbach Dynasty
Louis IV Wittelsbach, (1314-1346)
Frederick III (1314-1326) Co-regent

Luxemburg
Charles IV of Luxemburg, (1346-1378)
Wenzel of Luxemburg, (1378-1400)
Ruprecht III Wittelsbach of Palatinate, (1400-1410)
Sigismund of Luxemburg, (1410-1437)

House of Habsburg
Albert II of Habsburg, (1438-1439)
Frederick III, (1440-1493)
Maximilian I, (1493-1519)
Charles V, (1519)-1556)
Ferdinand I, (1556-1564)
Maximilian II, (1564-1576)
Rudolf II Habsburg, (1576-1612)
Matthias, (1612-1619)
Ferdinand II, (1619-1637)
Ferdinand III, (1637-(1657)
Leopold I, (1658-1705)
Joseph I, (1705-1711)
Charles VI, (1711-1740)

Interregnum (1740-1742)

House of Wittelsbach
Charles VII Albert, (1742-1745)

Habsburg-Lotharingen
Francis I, (1745-1765)
Joseph II, (1765-1790)
Leopold II, (1790-1792)
Francis II, (1792-1806)