Germany History - The Great Duchies

Germany History – The Great Duchies

In the general terror and disorder, the need to find in any case a protection and a leader, who would ensure defense from imminent enemies, and at the same time take direct care of local interests, finally produced in Germany the phenomenon of the rapid thinning out of class of free owners, and the gathering of minor lords around major ones with the bond of vassalage. The internal structure of the young kingdom, while its institutions were still in an embryonic state, collapsed in the violent development of a disintegrating feudalism, which was suffocating central monarchical power in the bud. The real active forces became the four great duchies of Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria and Swabia (the ancient southern Alamannia), which were constituted to the detriment of royal power and political influence of the Church, corresponding to the four major ethnic groupings of the Germanic peoples: concrete manifestation of regional particularisms, which the monarchy no longer had the capacity to contain, much less to resolve; awakening of the ancient Germanic traditions rooted in the gentilizî leaders, war leaders of their own tribe, which the Frankish monarchy had compressed, but not extinguished. The phenomenon took place more rapidly at the borders: that is, in Saxony and Bavaria; it took place between longer conflicts of rival families elsewhere.

According to searchforpublicschools, the Duchy of Bavaria stretched between the Alps and the Danube, from Enns to Lech. To the west of it, the Duchy of Swabia comprised the lands that had once formed the southern part of the Alamanni kingdom, the Alpine region of the Upper Rhine, the Upper Danube basin up to the Lech, a stretch of the Rhine region with a part of the Neckar valley on the right, up to the Vosges on the left of the river. North of Swabia and Bavaria, the Duchy of Franconia essentially corresponded to the basin of the Middle Rhine, with the Neckar, Main and Lahn valleys on the right, up to the lower Moselle and the Saar on the left of the river. And finally, in the north of Franconia, between the lower Rhine, the Elbe and the Saale, the Duchy of Saxony, more proud than the others of its ancient traditions of independence,

These four duchies were concrete entities, based on the particular languages, law and customs of the individual populations who inhabited the territory. The dukes who ruled them, intended to strip themselves of the quality of officers of the crown to assume that of true territorial princes, and to affirm the principle of inheritance, in the family, of dominion over the respective duchy. The counties persisted in the duchies that kept the name of marche at the borders, to which the margravî were in charge, with defense tasks, except to become the base of offensive operations against the barbarians: the Dania or Danish brand, against the Danes; of Thuringia or Sorabica or Sorabia against the Sorbs; the brand of Bohemia, against the Czechs; and, to protect Bavaria against Hungarians and Slavs, the eastern marches or of Austria, and of Carinthia. At the western edge of Germany, then, in the Meuse and Moselle valleys, another great duchy was constituted, that of Lorraine, the ancient northern Lotharingia, but with an ambiguous position with respect to the Germanic kingdom: at the beginning of the century. X Duke Raineri (900-circa 916) had oriented it towards France.

With the death of Ludovico the Child, the line of the German Carolingians was extinguished; it was natural that the crown should fall into the hands of the dukes, and become the object of their direct personal ambitions. In fact, the choice of Ludovico’s successor fell on a duke, moreover related on the maternal side to the Carolingians, Conrad of Franconia, who was elected in November 911 following agreements between Saxons and Franconi, under the auspices of Attone, archbishop of Mainz. The new king, as had already happened with Louis the Child, was consecrated in Forchheim (10 November) in a solemn religious ceremony, which showed the interest of the German Church in the things of the Crown, to hinder the ambitions of the dukes on it. The German bishops had not participated in Arnolfo’s proclamation twenty-five years earlier. And on them Conrad I relied in his short reign, without however succeeding, in his attempts to destroy, as illegitimate, the duchies, to overcome the irreducible desire for independence of the great feudatories. His decisive opponent was Henry Duke of Saxony, against whom the king fought to no avail. The serious penalties imposed against those who had opposed the royal power, by great ecclesiastics and laity, gathered in an assembly, from which however the Saxon bishops abstained, in Hohenaltheim in September 916, sounded almost derisive. Nor could Corrado withdraw Lorraine, where he led two unsuccessful expeditions (912, 913), under French influence. Meanwhile the Magyar scourge continued to rage as far as Sweden, Thuringia, Saxony: in 917 Alsace itself was overtaken by the destroying hordes. L’

Germany History - The Great Duchies

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