Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor

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Henry IV
Heinrich 4 g.jpg
Holy Roman Emperor
Reign5 October 1056 – 31 December 1105
Coronation31 March 1084
Old St. Peter's Basilica, Rome
PredecessorHenry III
SuccessorHenry V
King of Germany
ReignNovember 1053 – 31 December 1105
Coronation17 July 1054
Aachen Cathedral
PredecessorHenry III
SuccessorHenry V
King of Italy and Burgundy
Reign5 October 1056 – 31 December 1105
PredecessorHenry III
SuccessorHenry V
Born11 November 1050
Imperial Palace of Goslar, Saxony
Died7 August 1106(1106-08-07) (aged 55)
Liège, Lower Lorraine
SpouseBertha of Savoy
(m. 1066 – wid. 1087)
Eupraxia of Kiev
(m. 1089 – div. 1095)
IssueAgnes of Waiblingen
Conrad II of Italy
Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
HouseSalian dynasty
FatherHenry III
MotherAgnes of Poitou
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Henry IV (German: Heinrich IV; 11 November 1050 – 7 August 1106) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1084 to 1105, king of Germany from 1054 to 1105, king of Italy and Burgundy from 1056 to 1105, and duke of Bavaria from 1052 to 1054. He was the elder of the two sons of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Agnes of Poitou, his father died on 5 October 1056 and the six-year-old Henry was placed under his mother's guardianship. She made lavish grants to the German aristocrats to secure their support. Unlike her late husband, she could not control the election of the popes, thus the idea of the "freedom of the church" strengthened during her rule. Taking advantage of her weakness, Archbishop Anno II of Cologne kidnapped Henry in April 1062. Anno administered Germany until Henry came of age in 1065.

Henry decided to recover the royal estates that had been lost during his minority, he appointed low-ranking officials to carry out his new policies in Saxony and Thuringia. New royal fortresses were built and his officials ignored local customs and immunities. Henry crushed a riot in Saxony in 1069, and also overcame the rebellion of the Saxon aristocrat, Otto of Nordheim in 1071. Henry insisted on his royal prerogatives relating to the appointment of bishops and abbots, although the reformist clerics condemned this practice as a form of simony (a forbidden sale of church offices). Pope Alexander II blamed Henry's advisors for scandals over his appointments and excommunicated them in early 1073. Henry's conflicts with the Holy See and the German dukes weakened his position and the Saxons again rose up in the summer of 1074, he took advantage of a rift between the Saxon aristocrats and peasantry and forced the rebels into submission in October 1075.

Henry adopted an active policy in Italy, his activism alarmed Pope Gregory VII who threatened him of excommunication for simony. Henry persuaded the majority of the German bishops to declare the Pope's election invalid at their assembly at Worms on 24 January 1076. In response, the Pope excommunicated Henry and released his subjects of allegiance. To prevent the Pope from sitting in judgement on him at the German dukes and bishops' assembly, Henry went to Italy to meet with the Pope, he achieved his purpose on his "Road to Canossa", because Pope Gregory VII had no choice but to absolve him after he had humiliated himself. Henry's German opponents ignored his absolution and elected Rudolf of Rheinfelden king on 14 March 1077; the Pope was initially neutral in the two kings' conflict, enabling Henry to consolidate his position. Henry continued to appoint bishops and abbots, for which the Pope again excommunicated him on 7 March 1080. Most German and Lombardian bishops remained loyal to Henry and they elected an antipope, Clement III. Rudolf of Rheinfelden was deadly wounded in a battle and his successor, Hermann of Salm, could only exert royal authority in Saxony. From 1081, Henry launched a series of military campaigns to Italy and Clement III crowned him emperor in Rome on 1 April 1084.

After his return, Henry consolidated his rule in most part of Germany. Herman of Salm died and Henry pacified Saxony with the local aristocrats' assistance in 1088. Henry launched an invasion against his principal Italian opponent, Matilda of Tuscany, in 1089. Matilda convinced Henry's elder son, Conrad II, to rise up against Henry in 1093, her alliance with Welf I, Duke of Bavaria prevented Henry's return to Germany until 1096. In that year, Henry was reconciled with Welf I and Welf's German allies. After Clement III's death, Henry did not support the new antipopes, but he did not make peace with Pope Paschal II. Henry proclaimed the first Landfrieden (or imperial peace) which covered the whole territory of Germany in 1103, his younger son, Henry V, forced him to abdicate on 31 December 1105. He tried to regain his throne with the assistance of Lotharingian aristocrats, but he died of illnes without receiving absolution from his excommunication, his corps could be buried in a consecrated place only in 1111.

Early life[edit]

Born on 11 November 1050, Henry was the son of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, by his second wife, Agnes of Poitou.[1][2] Historians Ian S. Robinson and Boyd H. Hill propose that Henry was born in the imperial palace at Goslar,[1][2] his birth had been long-awaited, because his father had fathered four daughters, but his subjects were convinced that only a male heir could secure the "peace of kingdom" (as Hermann II, Archbishop of Cologne stated it in a sermon).[1][3] Henry was first named for his grandfather, Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor, but Abbot Hugh of Cluny, whom Henry III had appointed as his son's godfather, convinced the Emperor to give his name to his heir.[3] Henry's baptism was delayed, because Abbot Hugh could not immediately leave Cluny for Germany, but the ailing Henry III designated his infant son as his successor in Pöhlde (in Saxony) on Christmas 1050.[3][4] On this occasion, the Emperor also "caused many of the princes"—most probably the Saxon and Thuringian aristocrats—"to promise an oath of fidelity and submission"[citation needed] to Henry.[4]

Archbishop Hermann baptised Henry in Cologne on Easter day 1051;[1] the Emperor held a great assembly at Tribur in November 1051 to secure his son's succession.[5] The German princes who attended the meeting elected the one-year-old Henry king, but they stipulated that they would acknowledge him as his father's successor only if he acted as a "just ruler" during his father's lifetime.[5] Robinson supposes that the princes actually wanted to persuade Henry III to change his methods of government since the child king had no role in state administration.[6] About a month later (on Christmas 1052), the Emperor made Henry the duke of Bavaria.[3][6]

Archbishop Hermann crowned Henry king in Aachen on 17 July 1054.[6] Most probably on this occasion, Henry's two-year-old younger brother, Conrad, received Bavaria from their father;[6] when Conrad died in 1055, the Emperor gave Bavaria to Empress Agnes.[7] The Emperor betrothed Henry to Bertha of Savoy in late 1055,[8] her parents, Adelaide, Margravine of Turin, and Otto, Count of Savoy, controlled north-western Italy and the Emperor wanted to secure their alliance against the rebellious Duke of Lower Lorraine, Godfrey the Bearded.[8]

Henry III fell ill in late September 1056,[8] he commended Henry to Pope Victor II's protection when he was dying in the palace of Bodfeld.[9] The Pope persuaded all bishops and aristocrats who were also present at the Emperor's deathbed to confirm Henry's right to the throne;[10] the Emperor died on 5 October 1056.[10]


Under guardianship[edit]

At the age of six, Henry succeeded his father without opposition.[9][10] Pope Victor II convinced the German aristocrats to swear fealty to their young king and enthroned him in Aachen,[11][10] he also reminded them of their promise to consult Empress Agnes in case her son predeceased her and a successor had to be named.[12] Agnes was appointed to be her son's guardian, although she had been planning to enter a nunnery,[9] she was also responsible for her son's education along with a royal ministerialis (or unfree servant), Cuno.[13] She secured the most powerful aristocrats' support through lavish grants.[14] In early December, she was reconciled with Godfrey the Bearded; on Christmas Day, she made her late husband's other opponent, Conrad of the Ezzonen family duke of Carinthia.[15]

Agnes took full control of state administration as regent after Pope Victor II left Germany for Italy in early 1057,[16] she wanted to continue her late husband's policies and followed his confidants' advice,[17] but she paid little attention to Burgundy and Italy.[18] Her personal piety did not prevent her from controlling the appointment of bishops,[19] but she lost control over papal elections.[9] Henry had inherited his father's title of patrician of the Romans with the right to cast the first vote on the election of the popes, but the reformist concept of "freedom of the church" became dominant in Rome during his minority.[20] Pope Victor's successor, Stephen IX—who was Godfrey the Bearded's brother—was elected without royal intervention in early August 1057, because the reformist clerics wanted to prevent their opponents to instal their own candidate as pope.[21] Stephen IX sent two legates to Germany and Agnes confirmed the election.[21]

A group of Saxon aristocrats staged a plot against Henry, fearing that he would continue his father's oppressive policies after reaching the age of majority,[22] they convinced Otto of Nordmark, who had recently returned from exile, to mount a coup.[22] Henry's two relatives, Bruno II and Egbert I of Brunswick, attacked the conspirators and Bruno killed Otto, but he also was mortally wounded in the skirmish.[22]

Agnes appointed a wealthy aristocrat, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, to be duke of Swabia in 1057,[14][23] she also charged Rudolf with the administration of Burgundy, most probably because his extensive Burgundian domains enabled him to pacify the local nobles.[14][24] Godfrey the Bearded took possession of Spoleto and Fermo in the Papal States.[25] Rumours spread in Italy about his determination to seize the imperial crown with Pope Stephen IX's help, but the Pope died unexpectedly on 29 March 1058;[25] the Roman aristocrats placed one of their number, Giovanni, Cardinal Bishop of Velletri, on the papal throne, but the reformist clerics decided to elect Bishop Gerard of Florence pope.[20][25] They sent an envoy to Germany to seek royal support and Henry "having deliberated with the princes, designated" Gerard as pope in Augsburg on 7 June, according to the Annales Altahenses;[21] the bishop of Augsburg, Henry, had already emerged as the Empress's most trusted advisor, but the aristocrats despised him for his arrogance.[18][26]

King Andrew I of Hungary sent envoys to Germany in September 1058.[27] Emperor Henry III had launched two military campaigns against Hungary to enforce Andrew's swear of fealty, but both campaigns ended in failure.[5] Now the King wanted to secure his succession to his five-year-old son, Solomon, because he had earlier designated his brother, Béla, as his heir;[27] the Hungarian envoys and Henry's representatives concluded a peace treaty and Henry's eleven-year-old sister, Judith, was engaged to Solomon.[21][27]

The reformist clerics elected Bishop Gerard pope in Florence in December 1058,[21] he took the name Nicholas II and Godfrey the Bearded accompanied him to Rome.[21][28] Nicholas II's advisor, the reformist monk Hildebrand, was determined to strengthen the popes' autonomy;[29][30] the Pope held a synod in April 1059, because he wanted to approve the irregularities of his election.[31][32] The synod issued a decree which established the right of the cardinals to elect the popes.[33][34] Referring to Henry as "presently king and with the help of God emperor-to-be", the decree also confirmed the emperors' existing prerogatives over papal elections, but without specifying them.[35][36] A further decree prohibited lay investiture, but its scope was most probably limited to lesser church offices, because the European monarchs continued to appoint bishops without papal interference.[37][38] However, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida questioned the monarchs' right to participate in the appointments of bishops and abbots in his treatises against simony already in 1057-1058,[39][40][41] he especially condemned the prelates for receiving a ring and a crosier from the monarchs during their installation.[42]

A boy jumps from a ship to a river; a bearded bishop raises his arms
Henry jumps from Archbishop Anno II of Cologne's ship to the Rheine at Kaiserswerth in 1062

Andrew I of Hungary faced his brother's rebellion in 1060.[43] Agnes dispatched Bavarian, Saxon and Bohemian troops to Hungary to fight against Béla and his Polish allies, but the three armies did not coordinate their movements.[43] Béla inflicted a decisive defeat on his brother who died of his wounds.[43][27] Andrew's family fled to Germany and Béla was crowned king on 6 December.[27][43] After Béla's victory, the command of the German duchies along the Hungarian frontier had to be strengthened.[43] Agnes ceded Bavaria to a wealthy Saxon lord, Otto of Nordheim, and replaced Duke Conrad of Carinthia with Berthold of Zähringen in early 1061.[44]

The relationship between Pope Nicholas II and Germany became tense for unknown reasons in 1061.[45][46] A German synod sharply criticized the Pope and annulled his decrees.[31][46] After Pope Nicholas II died on 20 July 1061, the Roman aristocrats dispatched an embassy to Henry, asking him to exercise his prerogatives as patrician of the Romans to nominate a new pope.[46][34][47] Hildebrand, Peter Damian and other reformist clerics elected Anselm of Baggio, Bishop of Lucca, as the new pope on 30 September without Henry's confirmation.[48][46][49] Anselm took the name Pope Alexander II.[28][49] Henry convoked the Italian bishops to a synod to Basel,[28][50] he also attended the synod, wearing the insignia of his office of patrician.[50] For the Lombardian bishops who were hostile to the reformist clerics dominated the synod, it elected one of their number, Cadalus, Bishop of Parma, pope on 28 October.[50]

The schism—the election of two Popes—divided the German clergy, with some of the bishops supporting Cadalus (now known as Antipope Honorius II), others accepting Alexander II.[49] Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg was Honorius's most prominent supporter, while Archbishop Anno II of Cologne acknowledged Alexander as the lawful pope.[49] Empress Agnes supported Honorius, for which her advisors were excommunicated by Alexander;[32] the Empress's blatant favoritism for Bishop Henry of Augsburg and the complete failure of the Hungarian campaign had already compromised her prestige and the schism raised even more indignation.[51][52] Archbishop Anno, Egbert of Brunswick, Otto of Nordheim and other aristocrats who were discontented with her rule decided to deprive her of the regency.[53] Archbishop Anno equipped a ship "with admirable workmanship" and sailed down the Rhine to an island near the royal palace at Kaiserswerth in April 1062;[51][54] the ship fascinated Henry, so Anno could easily talk him into a visit on it.[51] As soon as Henry stepped on the board, the ship was unmoored.[51] Fearing that his captors want to murder him, Henry jumped to the river,[51][52] he almost drowned, but Egbert of Brunswick rescued him.[51] Henry was brought to Cologne.[51]

The "Coup of Kaiserswerth" ruined the Empress's self-confidence and she retired to her estates.[54][55] Anno replaced her as the head of the government and his new title of magister (or master) shows that he also took charge of Henry's education.[56] Anno appointed his kinsmen and his friends to the highest offices,[57] he also persuaded Henry to cede one-ninth of imperial income to him and his successors in Bremen.[58] Anno was determined to put an end to the schism.[13] In October 1062, the synod of the German bishops appointed his nephew, Burchard II, Bishop of Halberstadt, to start negotiations with Pope Alexander II.[59] In the same month, Peter Damian completed a treatise to defend the legality of Alexander II's election,[36] he emphasized that Henry's "right to participate in the papal elections ... is subject each time to reconfirmation by the pope".[36] Damian's argumentation implied that Henry only inherited a claim to the imperial prerogatives over papal elections, but he could forfeit this claim if he did not properly exercise his prerogatives.[36] Respect for the monarch also declined in Germany;[60] the retainers of Abbot Widerad of Fulda and Bishop Hezilo of Hildesheim ignored Henry's commands when an armed conflict broke out between them in his presence in a church in Goslar in June 1063.[60][61]

Béla I of Hungary wanted to make peace with Henry to secure his throne against his nephew, Solomon, who was staying in Germany.[62] Henry and his advisors (especially Otto of Nordheim), however, insisted on Solomon's restoration to the throne and German troops invaded Hungary in August 1063.[62][63] Henry participated in the military campaign as its nominal leader, thus gaining his first military experience.[62][63] Béla I died unexpectedly and the German army reached Székesfehérvár almost without meeting resistance.[63] Henry installed Solomon on the throne and attended the wedding of Solomon and Judith before returning to Germany.[62][64] Adalbert of Bremen who accompanied Henry to Hungary struck up a friendship with the young king,[62] he was mentioned as the King's "protector" in royal diplomas, showing that his position was equal to Anno's from 1063.[62]

Anno went to Italy to attend the synod of Mantua in May 1064;[65] the synod which had been convoked to put an end of the schism recognised Alexander II as pope.[65] The Pope pledged to crown Henry emperor and sent a legate to Germany to invite the young King to Rome.[66] Anno had played a decisive role at the synod, but Adalbert of Bremen took advantage of his absence to win more influence on Henry.[65][14] Modern scholars do not agree on Anno's role after his return to Germany, with some arguing that Adalbert ousted him from power,[67] others saying that Anno's position did not change before Henry reached the age of majority.[68]

First years of majority[edit]

Map of Central Europe
Map of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th and 11th centuries: Germany (blue), Italy (grey), Burgundy (orange to the West), Bohemia (orange to the East), Papal States (purple)

Henry was girded with a sword in token of his coming of age in Worms on 29 March 1065.[69] According to the contemporaneous Lampert of Hersfeld, Henry attacked Archbishop Anno of Cologne soon after the ceremony and only his mother could calm him down.[70] Lampert's report is not fully reliable, but Anno was ousted from Henry's court.[71] At Worms, Henry accepted Pope Alexander II's invitation to Rome.[66] Agnes of Poitou recovered his influence but she left Germany for Italy two months later.[72] After her departure, Archbishop Adalbert of Bremen took full control of state administration.[62] Henry's journey to Rome was postponed first till autumn, and then indefinetely, although the Pope needed Henry's presence to overcome his opponents.[14][73] Instead of travelling to Rome, Henry visited Burgundy in June 1065;[74] the Burgundian prelates and aristocrats' diplomas show that they regarded Henry's visit as the starting date of his reign in Burgundy.[74] From Burgundy, Henry went to Lorraine where he awarded Godfrey the Bearded with Lower Lorraine in October.[75][74]

Adalbert of Bremen, in concert with the King's young friend, Werner, seized Church property and took bribes for royal appointments, they persuaded the King to grant monasteries to the most powerful prelates and princes to appease their envy.[76] Adalbert also took advantage of his influence on the king during his feud with the Saxon aristocrats,[77] his attempts to take possession of Lorsch Abbey with force caused a scandal in late 1065, enabling Archbishops Siegfried of Mainz and Anno of Cologne to stage a plot against him.[78] Along with Otto of Nordheim, Rudolf of Rheinfelden and Berthold of Zähringen, they convinced Henry to dismiss Adalbert at an assembly at Trebur on 13 January 1066.[14][79] Anno of Cologne regained the King's favor, but thereafter no royal advisors could take full control of state administration.[80]

Henry fell so seriously ill that the aristocrats started to seek his successor in May 1066.[80][81] In a month, he recovered and married his bride, Bertha.[80][81] Before the end of the year, Prince Richard I of Capua invaded the Papal States and Agnes of Poitou returned from Rome to Germany to persuade her son to march to Italy.[82] Henry ordered the imperial troops to assemble at Augusburg in January 1067, but he dissolved his army after Godfrey the Bearded launched a counter-offensive against Richard I.[28][82]

Adalbert of Bremen's fall debilitated German control over the northern Slavic tribes;[83] the pagan Slavs attacked their Christian neighbors, killing many of them.[83] The Lutici also plundered Hamburg.[83] Henry invaded their lands over the river Elbe and defeated them in early 1069.[83][84]

Saxon Wars and Investiture Controversy[edit]

Large parcels of the royal demesne were distributed during Henry's minority and he decided to recover them around 1069;[85] the bulk of the royal estates used to be located in Saxony.[85] Henry sent Swabian ministeriales to the duchy to make investigations on property rights;[85][86] the appointment of non-native unfree officials offended the Saxons, especially because the new officials ignored their traditional civil procedures.[85][86] New castles were built in Saxony and Henry manned them with Swabian soldiers.[85][87] Similarly to his father, Henry spent more time in Saxony than in other parts of Germany and the Saxons were to accommodate him and his retainers;[88] the Thuringians were also outraged, because Henry supported Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz's claim to collect the tithes from them.[89] The Saxon Margrave of Lower Lusatia, Dedi I, was the first to rebel,[89] he claimed benefices that his wife's former husband, Otto I, Margrave of Meissen, had held, but Henry refused him in 1069.[89][90] Dedi approached the Thuringians for help, but after Henry's promise to confirm their exemption of tithes the Thuringians joined the royal army.[89] Henry invaded Dedi's domains and forced him into surrender.[89]

Otto of Nordheim held vast estates in Saxony.[85] An adventurous nobleman, Egeno, accused him of plotting against Henry's life and he was summoned to "purge himself of that charge in single combat" at an assembly in Goslar on 1 August 1070.[91] Suspecting that his case would not be fairly judged, Otto fled to Saxony.[85][92] A contemporaneous historian, Bruno the Saxon, stated that Henry had hired Egeno against Otto, but his account is biased.[92] Otto was outlawed and his benefices were confiscated, thus Bavaria returned to the Crown.[92] Henry invaded Otto's domains in Saxony, but Otto plundered the royal estates in Thuringia.[92] Ordulf, Duke of Saxony remained loyal to Henry, but his son and heir, Magnus, joined Otto's revolt,[93] they defeated Henry's Thuringian supporters at Eschwege on 2 September 1070.[94] Otto's son-in-law, Welf had inherited the large domains of the Elder House of Welf in Swabia and Bavaria.[93] To gain Welf's fealty, Henry ceded Bavaria to him on Christmas 1070.[90][94] Although Otto managed to capture Hasungen, most Saxon aristocrats remained loyal to Henry.[95] Without their support Otto and Magnus had to surrender and Henry placed them in the German princes' custody on 12 June 1071.[95]

Royal appointments to the highest Church offices were crucial elements of Henry's authority, because he could demand benefices for his supporters from the wealthy bishops and abbots, but the reformist clergy condemned this practise as simony;[96] when Henry appointed a Milanese nobleman, Gottfried, to the Archbishopric of Milan in 1070, Pope Alexander II excommunicated Gottfried for simony.[97][98] The reformist clerics of the local Pataria movement elected one of their number, Atto, archbishop in 1072, but the townspeople prevented Atto from taking possession of Milan.[99] A papal synod declared Atto as the lawful archbishop in 1072, but Henry achieved that Gottfried was consecrated, which caused a prolonged conflict with the popes;[99] the clerics of the Bishopric of Constance appealed to the Holy See to prevent the appointment of Henry's candidate, Charles of Magdeburg, to the episcopal see in 1070.[100] The Pope ordered Archbishop Siegfried to investigate the case at a synod.[100] At the synod, which assembled in Mainz in August 1071, Henry denied that Charles had bribed him, but admitted that his advisors may have received bribes from Charles.[100] Charles had no choice but to resign to avoid the charge of simony;[100] the monks of the Reichenau Abbey also sought the Pope's support to prevent Henry from appointing an abbot to their monastery.[101] Pope Alexander II summoned the German bishops who had been accused of simony or corruption to Rome.[96]

A bearded bald man before a bearded man who sits on a throne and wears a crown
Henry's brother-in-law, King Solomon of Hungary appeals to Henry for help

Henry released Otto of Nordheim in May 1072, but Magnus of Saxony remained imprisoned, strengthening the Saxons' views about Henry's tyrannical nature;[85][102] the appointment of low-ranking men to royal offices outraged the German aristocrats.[103] Rudolf of Rheinfelden and Berthold of Zähringen left the royal court, giving rise to rumours about an aristocratic plot against Henry.[103] Rudolf appealed to Agnes of Poitou, asking her to reconcile him with her son.[104] Agnes returned to Germany and Hugh of Cluny accompanied her,[105] she mediated a reconciliation between Henry and Rudolf in July 1072, but it proved temporary because Henry did not dismiss his advisors.[106] Rudolf and Berthold again withdraw to their duchies early in 1073, and Welf of Bavaria also left the royal court.[107] Agnes of Poitou who shared the dukes' negative views of Henry's advisors persuaded Pope Alexander II to excommunicate at least five of them in February 1073.[108][109] Henry did not break ties with his excommunicated advisors, thus breaking canon law.[110]

Pope Alexander died and the Romans proclaimed Hildebrand as his successor on 22 April 1073.[108][109] Hildebrand who assumed the name Gregory VII did not seek confirmation from Henry,[108][110] he did not challenge Henry's prerogatives, but he was convinced that a monarch who had regular contacts with excommunicated people could not intervene in Church affairs.[108][110] Henry's Italian chancellor, Bishop Gregory of Vercelli, and an assembly of the German bishops urged the King to declare Gregory VII's election invalid, but the German dukes and Godfrey the Bearded's influential widow, Beatrice of Tuscany, convinced him that he should seek a reconciliation with the Pope.[111]

Henry decided to punish Bolesław II, Duke of Poland, for his invasion of Bohemia in early 1073,[102] he ordered the Saxon aristocrats to assemble at Goslar on 29 June.[112] The Saxons refused to participate in the military campaign and requested Henry to redress their grievances, especially asking him to stay in Saxony less frequently,[113][114] they also accused Henry of debauchery and demanded that he should dismiss the "swarm of concubines with whom he slept".[115] Henry withdrew from Goslar to Harzburg without making any concessions.[113] Taking advantage of his withdrawal, Otto of Nordheim persuaded the assembled Saxons to take up arms for their liberties;[86][113] the Saxons marched to Harzburg, but Henry had fled to Eschwege.[113] The Thuringians and the Saxons concluded an alliance and captured Lüneburg.[116] To save the life of the commander of Lüneburg, Henry had to release Magnus of Saxony; the rebels acknowledged Magnus as the lawful duke of Saxony without seeking Henry's confirmation.[117] The German dukes and bishops failed to come to Henry's rescue, thus the rebels could attack the royal castles in Saxony and Thuringia.[118] Fearing that the rebellious Saxon bishops could win Pope Gregory VII over, Henry addressed a letter of penance to the Pope, admitting that he had been involved in simony,[119] he claimed that his youthful arrogance had been responsible for his sins and blamed his advisors for his simony.[120]

Siegfried of Mainz, Anno of Cologne, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, Berthold of Zähringen and other German aristocrats came to Gerstungen to start negotiations with the Saxon leaders in October 1073,[118] they tried to persuade Henry to redress the Saxons' grievances, but he was determined to crush the revolt.[118] A month later, Henry's servant, Regenger, informed Rudolf and Berthold that Henry was planning to murder them.[121] Regenger was ready to prove his words in a judicial duel, but he died unexpectedly in January 1074.[121] Henry who had just recovered from an illness moved to Worms;[121] the local bishop, Adalbert, denied his entry, but the townspeople rose up against the Bishop, forcing him to leave the town, and surrendered it to Henry.[121][122] The grateful Henry exempted the burghers of Worms of customs duties.[123]

Liemar, Archbishop of Bremen, Udo, Archbishop of Trier, and eight bishops came to visit Henry in Worms in early 1074,[121] their retainers and the Worms militia joined Henry to a new military campaign against the Saxon and Thuringian rebels.[124] The Thuringians had laid siege to Vokenroht (an unidentified royal fortress in Saxony) where Henry's pregnant wife was staying, but they allowed her to leave the fortress for Hersfeld Abbey.[124] Henry hurried to Hersfeld, but he soon realized that the rebels outnumbered his army and entered into negotiations with them,[124] his troops were unwilling to fight, forcing Henry to accept the rebels' principal demands in the Treaty of Gerstungen on 2 February.[124] He agreed to destroy his castles and to appoint only natives to offices in Saxony in return for the Saxon aristocrats' promise to raze their newly built fortresses.[125][126] On hearing the agreement, the Saxon peasants captured and destroyed Harzburg and desecrated the graves of Henry's younger brother and first-born son.[125][127] Henry regarded their brutal action as a violation of the treaty and the destruction of the royal graves also aroused public indignation.[90][128]

Ruined stone walls and a circular towr in a meadow
Ruins of Homburg Castle: Henry's army inflicted a decisive defeat on the Saxons near the castle in 1074

Pope Gregory VII appointed the cardinal bishops Gerald of Ostia and Hubert of Palestrina to start negotiations with Henry.[129] Agnes of Poitou accompanied the two legates to her son's court.[129] After Henry did a public penance for simony, the legates absolved him on 27 April 1074,[130] they convoked the German bishops to a synod to hear the case of Bishop Herman I of Bamberg who had been accused of simony, but eight prelates did not obey their summons.[130] Henry did not intervene in the conflict between the Pope and the German prelates, although many of them had always been his strong supporter.[120] Henry's brother-in-law, Solomon of Hungary, also sent envoys to Henry, seeking his assistance against his cousin, Géza (who was Béla I of Hungary's eldest son).[131] Géza had defeated Solomon on 14 March 1074, forcing him to take refuge in the fortresses of Moson and Pressburg (now Mosonmagyaróvár in Hungary and Bratislava in Slovakia, respectively).[132] Solomon promised to cede six castles to Henry and also to acknowledge his suzerainty in return for Henry's support to recover his country.[132] Henry invaded Hungary and marched as far as Vác, but he could not force Géza into surrender.[133]

The Pope addressed two letters to Henry on 7 December 1074.[134] In one of the letters, he asked Henry to compel the eight German prelates who had not obeyed his two legates' summons to attend a synod in Rome.[134] In the second letter, he informed Henry of his new plan about a military expedition to Jerusalem for the defence of the local Christian population;[135] the second letter also referred to Henry's role as protector of the Holy See,[136] but Gregory's plan to lead an armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land clearly ignored the traditional doctrine of the Two Swords,[137] the spiritual one being held by the popes, the secular one by the emperors. The Pope's relationship with the German bishops had become tense, because he was always willing to intervene in their conflicts with their clergy.[136] Gregory VII suspended five German bishops for disobedience at the synod of Lent in Rome in February 1075;[138] the Pope also threatened Henry's five advisors with excommunication, blaming them for the prolonged conflict over the archbishopric of Milan.[138] Both Henry and the German bishops wanted to avoid a conflict.[138] Archbishops Siegfied of Mainz and Liemar of Bremen travelled to Rome to start negotiations with the Pope,[138] they acknowledged the deposition of Hermann of Bamberg and the Pope appointed Siegfried to convoke the German bishops to a synod.[138]

Henry decided to invade Saxony[131] and promised amnesty and gifts to those who joined his military campaign.[90] Most German aristocrats and bishops hurried to Breitungen where the royal troops were assembling in June 1074.[139] Saxon nobles and prelates also deserted to the royal camp, thus Henry assembled a large well-equipped army,[139] he placed it under the command of Rudolf of Rheinfelden.[139] The royal army launched a surprise attack on the Saxons at Homburg Castle on 9 June.[140] Most Saxon noblemen could flee from the battlefield, but many of the commoner foot soldiers were slaughtered;[140] those who survived the massacre condemned the noblemen for their comrades' fate and their stories turned the Saxon peasantry against their lords.[140] Pope Gregory VII congratulated Henry for his victory, stating that the Saxons' defeat at Homburg was an act of "divine judgement".[141] In his response, Henry asked the Pope to keep their correspondence in secret, because he thought that most German dukes were keen to maintain the conflict between Henry and the Holy See.[141] However, he informed Godfrey the Hunchback, Duke of Lower Lorraine, of his correspondence with the Pope, suggesting that he did not take it seriously.[141]

Henry again invaded Saxony in autumn 1075.[142] On this occasion, Godfrey the Hunchback was the sole German duke to join his campaign, but the Saxons were unable to resist.[142] Otto of Nordheim convinced them to surrender unconditionally[125] to the King on 26 or 27 October.[142] Henry granted a pardon to Otto and returned his benefices, with the exception of Bavaria,[108] to him, but showed no mercy to other leaders of the rebellion,[143] they were imprisoned and their estates were confiscated.[144] Henry summoned the German dukes to Goslar to swear fealty to his two-year-old son, Conrad, as his successor during the Christmas celebration, but only Duke Vratislaus II of Bohemia obeyed his command.[145]

Road to Canossa[edit]

A crowned man on his knees before a woman and an abbot, each sitting on a throne
Henry begging Matilda of Tuscany and Hugh of Cluny in Canossa Castle

Henry knew that his dependence on Pope Gregory VII's benevolence weakened after his victory over the Saxons,[146][141] he sent Count Eberhard the Bearded to Italy, although Eberhard was one of his advisors whom the Pope had threatened of excommunication.[147] Eberhard outlawed the supporters of the Pataria movement (or Patarini) at the Lombardian magnates' assembly and demanded an oath of fealty from the Pope's vassal, Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia and Calabria.[147][148] Henry made one of his chaplains, Tedald, archbishop of Milan in clear contradiction to the Pope's former decisions.[149] Alarmed by Henry's acts, the Pope announced that he would excommunicate and deposite him unless he changes his policies.[150]

Henry regarded the Pope's words as the clear denial of his royal prerogatives,[148] he held a synod in Worms on 24 January 1076.[151] Two archbishop, twenty-four German bishops (two-thirds of the German episcopate), one Burgundian bishop, an Italian bishop and Godfrey the Hutchback attended the meeting.[152] At Henry's order, they declared the Pope's election invalid and demanded his abdication.[151][153] An assembly of the Lombardian bishops and aristocrats passed a similar resolution in Piacenza on 5 February.[154][155] Henry's most important ally, Godfrey the Hunchback was murdered on 22 February,[155] he hurried to Utrecht and granted Lower Lorraine to his son, Conrad, ignoring Godfrey the Hunchback's appointed heir, Godfrey of Bouillon.[156]

Pope Gregory VII was informed of the decisions of the two assemblies during the synod of Lent in Rome,[151] he excommunicated Henry and released his subjects from fealty in a public prayer addressed to Saint Peter.[154][151] The deposition of a monarch by a pope was unprecedented, but the Pope was convinced that Henry's extraordinary arrogance and his loyalty to his excommunicated advisors could not otherwise be punished.[157] On learning of the Pope's decision, Henry convoked a synod to Utrecht, but the local bishop, William I, was the only prelate to be willing to excommunicate the Pope.[158] Henry's chaplain, Gottschalk, also completed a letter to be circulated in Germany which emphasized that only God could judge a king;[159] the letter addressed the Pope as the "false monk, Hildebrand" and ended with the dramatical warning: "descend, descend!"[154] Two accidents occurred in succession which discouraged Henry's supporters: a fire after a struck by lightening destroyed the cathedral of Utrecht on 27 March, and William of Utrecht died suddenly on 27 April.[159] Henry attributed the two accidents to his sins, but he did not change his mind about Gregory VII.[159]

Henry's excommunication revitalized his opponents who regarded the two accidents as divine retribution for his acts;[146][159] the German prelates did not support the excommunicated king.[157] Bishop Hermann of Metz released the Saxon rebels who had been taken in his custody.[160] Bishop Burhard II of Halberstadt, who had been one of the leader of the Saxon revolt, escaped from captivity and returned to Saxony.[160] Two members of the House of Wettin, Theoderic and William, also returned from exile and rose up against Henry.[160] Ignoring Otto of Nordheim's advice, Henry invaded Saxony in August, but only Vratislaus II of Bohemia accompanied him,[161] their arrival provoked a general uprising and Henry was forced to flee to Bohemia.[161] The German aristocrats and prelates had a meeting at Trebur from 16 October to 1 November,[161] they started negotiations with Henry who was staying in Oppenheim on the other bank of the Rhine and persuaded him to accept the terms that Pope Gregory VII had set for him.[162] Henry was to promise to dismiss his excommunicated advisors and to acknowledge Gregory VII as the lawful pope, furthermore he was also to acknowledge the Pope's jurisdiction in his conflicts with the dukes and bishops,[162] they announced that they would elect a new king if Henry would unable to achieve his absolution before the anniversary of his excommunication.[163][164] They also invited Pope Gregory to Germany to hold an assembly in Augsburg on 2 February 1077.[164]

Henry moved to Speyer and lived there as a penitent.[165][166] Ignoring Gregory VII's protests, he decided to depart for Italy to receive an absolution from the Pope, because he wanted to prevent the Pope from hearing his case at an assembly dominated by his enemies.[165] Although the winter was unexpectedly severe, Henry, his wife and their retainers crossed the Mont Cenis pass in December.[167] On 25 January, they reached the Canossa Castle where the Pope had sought refuge, fearing that Henry came to Italy to capture him.[168] Henry was staying barefooted, wearing sackcloth at the castle for three days.[168] Matilda of Tuscany (who held the castle), Adelaide of Turin and Hugh of Cluny jointly convinced the Pope that he had no choice but to absolve Henry and his retainers.[168][169] Before receiving absolution, Henry had to pledge to accept the Pope's judgement in his conflict with his subjects and to grant a free pass to the Pope and his legates across the Alps.[170]

Civil war[edit]

Henry remained in Italy after his absolution and issued charters of grants to his Italian supporters, but he was not crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.[171] Henry's absolution surprised his German opponents, but they held an assembly at Forchheim, arguing that Pope Gregory VII had not restored their oaths of fealty to Henry.[172] Three archbishops, four bishops, three dukes and the Saxons' representatives who attended the assembly elected Rudolf of Rheinfelden king on 14 March 1078.[173][174] Although the papal legates who were present acknowledged Rudolf's election, Pope Gregory VII remained neutral,[175] he maintained that he was entitled to settle the dispute and informed both Henry and Rudolf that he would hear their case at an assembly in Germany.[175]

On hearing of the election of an antiking, Henry replaced Berthold of Zähringen with Liutold of Eppenstein as duke of Carinthia and awarded Sigehard, Patriarch of Aquilea, with Friuli.[176] Henry could only in theory reward his supporters with offices and estates, because they had to achieve their actual investment by force.[177] Henry also confiscated Swabia from Rudolf and Bavaria from Welf, placing both duchies under his direct control.[178] Most Bavarian aristocrats and bishops remained his loyal supporters during his war against Rudolf.[178] Before leaving Italy in April, Henry made his three-year-old son, Conrad, as his lieutenant, charging two excommunicated Italian prelates, Tedald of Milan and Denis of Piacenza, with Conrad's protection.[176] Being unable to prevent Henry's return, Rudolf of Rheinfelden had to move to Saxony, because the Saxons made up the bulk of his supporters.[179]

Henry visited Ulm, Worms, Nuremberg, Mainz, Strasbourg, Utrecht and Augsburg during the summer to demonstrate the full restoration of his royal authority,[180] he rewarded his supporters with estates confiscated from his opponents.[181] He regularly intervened in episcopal elections, appointing his own candidates to episcopal sees even if the local clergy had already elected a bishop.[182] Henry and Rudolf's armies approached each other for the first time near Würzburg in August, but Henry avoided battle, because his forces were outnumbered;[183] the aristocrats of both camps who wanted to restore peace agreed to hold a joint assembly in the absence of both kings at the Rhine in November, but Henry prevented them to start the negotiations with force.[184]

The papal legate, Cardinal Bernard, excommunicated Henry on 12 November 1077.[185][186] Henry sent Bishops Benno II of Osnabrück and Theoderic of Verdun to Rome to start negotiations with the Pope whose position in Italy had meanwhile weakened;[187] the Pope appointed a new legate who celebrated Easter along with Henry in Cologne on 8 April 1078, demonstrating that the Pope had not regarded Henry's excommunication valid.[187] Henry started negotiations with the Saxons, but he did not accept their demand for exchange of hostages.[188] In May, Henry invaded Lotharingia and forced Bishop Herman of Metz into exile, because the Bishop had warned him to follow the Pope's advice.[188] Berthold of Zähringen and Welf of Bavaria inflicted defeats on Henry's Swabian and Franconian supporters in the summer.[189] Rudolf of Rheinfelden hurried to Franconia, but he met with Henry and his army of 12,000 Franconian peasants at Mellrichstadt on 7 August;[189] the Battle of Mellrichstadt proved indecisive, because both Rudolf and Henry were forced to flee from the battlefield.[190]

A bearded middle-aged man dying on the soil before two bishops
Rudolf of Rheinfelden dying after losing his right hind in the Battle on the Elster in 1080

Pope Gregory VII prohibited all clerics from receiving royal appointments to bishoprics or abbies at a synod in Rome in November 1078;[191][192] the papal decree only threatened the clerics who had received royal investiture with excommunication, but it actually outlawed royal investiture.[192] Royal investiture was a basic element of royal administration, because Henry and his predecessors had granted large territories to the prelates in return for well-defined services;[193] the ring and crosier that the prelates received from the monarchs during their installation symbolized their mutual dependence.[193] Henry continued to appoint his candidates to the vacant episcopal sees and abbies, sometimes even against the will of the local clergy.[194] At the synod of Lent (in February 1079), Henry's opponents, Bishops Altmann of Passau and Herman of Metz, convinced the Pope to send new legates to Germany, but the Pope forbade his legates to pass judgement against the prelates who had been appointed by Henry.[195] Henry confiscated Rudolf of Rheinfelden's inherited Swabian estates and ceded them to Bishop Burchard of Lausanne in March.[196] In the same month, he made a wealthy local aristocrat, Frederick of Büren, duke of Swabia.[197][186] Frederick could take possession only of the lands north of the Danube, because Rudolf of Rheinfelden's son, Berthold, asserted his authority over the southern parts of Swabia.[198]

Henry met with the papal legates, Bishops Peter of Albano and Udalric of Padua, in Regensburg on 12 May 1079,[199] they convinced him to send envoys to Fritzlar to start negotiations with Rudolf of Rheinfelden with their mediation.[199] At the Fritzlar conference, the parties agreed to hold a new meeting at Würzburg, but Rudolf failed to appoint his representatives, because he thought that Henry had bribed the papal legates.[200] Henry launched an invasion of Saxony in August, but Rudolf persuaded the aristocrats in Henry's army to achieve Henry's consent to a truce.[200] Henry sent agents to Saxony and they convinced many Saxon leaders (including Magnus of Saxony) to desert the Antiking,[200] he also assembled troops from the German duchies, Burgundy and Bohemia and invaded Saxony in January 1080.[201] He could not surprise Rudolf who inflicted a defeat on Henry's army at Flarchheim on 27 January.[202] Rudolf could not take advantage of his victory, because the Saxons who had deserted him did not returned to his camp.[202]

Henry sent envoys to the synod of Lent to Rome and demanded Rudolf's excommunication from the Pope, hinting that he was ready to appoint an antipope to achieve his goal.[193][203] On 7 March 1080, the synod issued a new decree prohibiting lay investiture ordering the excommunication of the monarchs who had not abandoned this practice.[191][204] Pope Gregory VII excommunicated and deposed Henry and acknowledged Rudolf as the lawful king of Germany, claiming that Henry's former absolution had not annulled his deposition.[193][205] Before returning to Germany, Henry's envoys, Archbishop Liemar of Bremen and Bishop Rupert of Bamberg raised a rebellion against the Pope's principal Italian ally, Matilda of Tuscany, and secured the Lombardian aristocrats support for Henry.[206] A treatise published in Henry's defence emphasized Henry's hereditary claim to his realms;[206] the treatise, known as The Defense of King Henry, uses arguments based on Roman Law, showing that the Corpus Juris Civilis had already been studied in Italy.[206]

Henry's second excommunication was less harmful to his position than the previous ban,[207] he held a council in Mainz on 31 May 1080.[206] The nineteen German prelates and the German aristocrats who attended the council deposed Pope Gregory VII, labelling him as "the accused disturber of divine and human laws", and decided to hold a new synod to elect a pope.[206] Henry held a second synod in Brixen where nineteen Italian, seven German and one Burgundian prelates confirmed the deposition of the Pope on 25 June, accusing him of simony, heresy and a series of other sins;[193][208] the synod elected Archbishop Wibert of Ravenna pope.[209][210] Wibert assumed the name Clement III in reference to Pope Clement II (the first in the line of reformist popes to be elected through the intervention of Henry's father).[210] Henry returned to Germany and assembled his troops for a new invasion of Saxony;[211] the armies of Henry and Rudolf met at Hohenmölsen on 14 October 1080.[207][211] Henry's forces suffered a military defeat but won the battle with a strategic outcome: Rudolf was mortally wounded losing his right hand and died.[207][212] Henry took full advantage of the circumstances of Rudolf's death, describing it as a punishment for oath-breaking.[213] Henry started negotiations with the Saxon aristocrats, offering to appoint his son, Conrad, king of Saxony, but Otto of Nordheim persuaded his fellows to refuse the offer in December.[214]

Imperial coronation[edit]

A crowned man and a man who wears a tiara, each sitting on a throne with two armed men in the background
Henry IV (left) and Antipope Clement III (middle-right) during Henry's imperial coronation

Henry led a small army to Italy in March 1081,[215] he reached Rome without resistance on 21 May, because his Lombardian supporters had inflicted a defeat on Matilda of Tuscany's troops in the previous year.[216] The Romans, however, remained loyal to Pope Gregory VII and Henry withdrew from Rome to norhern Italy in late June,[217] he started negotiations with the envoys of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos about an alliance against Robert Guiscard.[218] He granted privileges to Lucca and Pisa, releasing them of the lordship of Matilda of Tuscany.[219] While he was away in Italy, the Saxons invaded Franconia and started negotiations with Henry's Swabian opponents.[220] Welf of Bavaria achieved that one of his kinsmen, Hermann of Salm, was elected king at a poorly-attended assembly of Henry's opponents early in August, but Otto of Nordheim paid homage to the new antiking only four months later.[209][221]

Henry lift Italy for Germany in the autumn of 1081, but he returned to Italy already in February 1082,[222] he laid siege to Rome, but he could not break the Romans' resistance.[223] After charging Wibert of Ravenna with the siege of Rome, Henry devastated the domains of Matilda of Tuscany and her supporters in the summer.[224] Rumours about Hermann of Salm's plans to invade Italy forced Henry to spend months in northern Italy, but the Antiking did not risk an Italian campaign.[225] Henry returned to the siege of Rome at the end of 1082.[225] Emperor Alexios sent 144,000 gold pieces to Henry in token of their friendship and Alexios promised further 216,000 gold pieces in return for his support against Robert Guiscard;[226] the Byzantine treasure enabled him to bribe Roman aristocrats.[227] His troops captured the Leonine City in Rome on 3 June 1083, but Pope Gregory VII continued to resist in the Castel Sant'Angelo.[228] Before he withdrew from Rome in early July, he concluded a secret treaty with the Roman aristocrats, who agreed that the quarrel between king and pope should be decided by a synod, and they bound themselves to induce Gregory to crown Henry as emperor or to choose another pope.[227]

Henry launched a military campaign against Robert Guiscard in February and March 1084.[229] During his absence, Wibert of Ravenna continued the negotiations with the Romans about their surrender.[230] Wibert convinced 12 or 13 cardinals to desert Pope Gregory VII and their example was soon followed by common clerics and papal officials.[231][232] Resistance against Henry collapsed and he entered Rome on 21 March.[231][229] A synod condemned Gregory VII for high treason and deposed him, but he did not surrender.[233] Wibert was installed as Pope Clement III and he crowned Henry emperor in the St Peter's Basilica on 1 April.[234][235] Henry stayed in the Lateran Palace for six weeks, but he left Rome before Robert Guiscard reached the town on 24 May.[236] Gregory VII was rescued, but Robert's troops destroyed Rome, outraging the Romans.[236] Gregory VII had to leave Rome for Salerno.[235][236] Henry ordered his Lombardian supporters to conquer Matilda of Tuscany's lands before he returned to Germany, but her army routed his allies in the Battle of Sorbaria on 2 July.[236]



Henry made a reformist cleric, Wezilo, archbishop of Mainz in October 1084,[237] he also achieved that his candidate to the see of Trier, Egilbert, was consecrated archbishop, although Egilbert's most suffragans denied to perform the ceremony.[237] Gregory VII again excommunicated Henry in late 1084, but many of Henry's German opponents come to pay homage to him as emperor at Cologne on Christmas.[238] Henry's supporters and opponents held a conference on the river Werra on 20 January 1085, but they could not reach a compromise.[239] Royal authority had dissappeared in Saxony during the civil war and the Saxon aristocrats had waged private wars against each other.[240] After the conference, the Saxons who remained hostile to Henry murdered Count Theoderic of Katlenburg and forced Udo of Rheinhausen, Bishop of Hildesheim to flee from Saxony, because the bishop and the count had entered into secret negotiations with Henry.[241] After Henry pledged that he would respect the Saxons liberties, Bishop Udo could convince many of the rebels to lay down their arms.[242]

The papal legate, Cardinal Odo of Ostia convoked the prelates who remained loyal to Pope Gregory VII to a synod to Quedlinburg.[243] On April 20 1085, the synod decreed that papal judgements could not be questioned and emphasized that the faithful could not make contact with those who had been excommunicated.[243] In response, Henry held a general assembly in Mainz in late April or early May.[242][244] Three or four archbishops, fifteen bishops and two dukes attended the synod where Antipope Clement III was also present;[245] the synod deposed the two archbishops and thirteen bishops who had failed to obey Henry's summons.[242][23] The prelates who replaced them were invested with the bishoprics by Henry, but many of the new bishops and archbishops (especially those who received Saxon dioceses) could not take possession of their sees;[245] the synod also established the "Peace of God" in Germany, prohibiting armed conflicts in the period of the main Christian festivals.[244][246] Vratislaus II of Bohemia who had always been Henry's loyal supporter was rewarded with the title of king during the synod.[247] Vratislaus' new title was a personal dignity, thus Henry and his successors could demand further services from Vratislaus' heirs in return for the royal title.[248]

Henry visited Lower Lorraine to put an end to a conflict between his two supporters, Bishops Theoderic of Verdun and Henry of Liège,[249] he granted the County of Verdun to Henry of Liège's kinsman, Godfrey of Bouillon and compensated Bishop Theoderic with estates confiscated from Matilda of Tuscany in June 1085.[250] Godfrey of Bouillon, however, soon laid claim to her former estates, thus peace was not restored in Lorraine.[250] Henry invaded Saxony, reaching as far as Magdeburg in July.[251] Herman of Salm, Hartwig, Archbishop of Magdeburg and the archbishop's three suffragans fled to Denmark and the Saxons paid homage to Henry.[251] In July, the Saxons rose up in a new rebellion, because Henry had denied to restore their confiscated estates and appointed new royal officials without consulting with the Saxon aristocrats;[252] the rebellion forced Henry to withdraw to Franconia and enabled Herman of Salm and the deposed bishops to return to Saxony.[252] Henry mustered a new army and invaded Saxony in January 1086, but the Saxons avoided a pitched battle and conflicts between his supporters prevented him from continuing the military campaign for more than two months.[253] Welf of Bavaria and other Bavarian and Swabian aristocrats besieged Henry in Regensburg in Easter, but Henry's supporters forced them to lift the siege.[254]

Henry's Bavarian, Swabian and Saxon opponents laid siege to Würzburg in July 1086, because the possession of the town could secure their uninterrupted communication.[254] Henry decided to force them to abandon the siege, but the rebels routed his army in the Battle of Pleichfeld on 11 August.[255] Before the battle, the Swabian rebels who regarded themselves as soldiers of a holy war had brought a tall cross to the battlefield.[256] Würzburg surrendered to the rebels, who restored Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg to his see, but they soon departed, enabling Henry to recapture Würzburg and to reinstate Adalbero's opponent, Bishop Meinhard.[256] Henry launched a military campaign against his enemies in Bavaria.[257] In an attempt to restore peace, Bavarian and Swabian aristocrats from both kings' camp held a joint conference in Oppenheim in February 1087, but Henry did not attend it,[257] he went to Aachen where his son, Conrad, was crowned his co-ruler on 30 May.[244][257] Mos probably on this occasion, Henry rewarded Godfrey of Bouillon with the Duchy of Lower Lorraine.[258]

A new joint conference of the German prelates and aristocrats assembled at Speyer in August 1087.[259] Henry's opponents were willing to pay homage to him provided that he had freed himself of his excommunication, but Henry refused them, maintaining that he had been unlawfully excommunicated.[259] Pope Gregory VII's successor, Pope Victor III, held a synod in Benevento around the same time;[259] the synod confirmed the excommunication of the Antipope, but passed no resolution about Henry, suggesting that the new Pope adopted a conciliatory policy.[259] A sudden illness prevented Henry from invading Saxony in October, but after his recovery he launched a military expedition against the Saxon rebels.[260] One of the rebel leaders, Egbert II of Brunswick, started negotiations about his surrender and Henry offered Meissen to him.[260] Henry's offer outraged Vratislaus of Bohemia who hold Meissen, but Egbert decided to continue the fight against Henry after two Saxon prelates, Hartwig of Magdeburg and Burchard of Halberstadt, promised the royal crown to him;[260] the two prelates could not keep their promises and Egbert swore fealty to Henry early in 1088.[261] Egbert's about-face and Burchard of Halberstadt unexpected death on 7 April 1088 accelerated the disintegration of the Saxon rebels' camp.[245][262] Hartwig of Magdeburg and his suffragans hurried to pay homage to Henry and prominent Saxon aristocrats followed them to Henry's court.[262] Henry appointed Hartwig of Magdeburg to be his lieutenant in Saxony.[263]

Abandoned by his principal allies, Hermann of Salm sought Henry's permission to leave Saxony for Lorraine where he died on 28 September 1088.[245][263] Egbert of Brunswick rose up in a new rebellion and defeated Henry's army near his castle of Gleichen on 25 December.[264] Egbert's estates were confiscated at an assembly of the German prelates and aristocrats in February 1089.[265] Henry who had been widowed went to Cologne to celebrate his marriage with Eupraxia of Kiev in the summer of 1089.[266] In the autumn, he returned to Saxony to prevent Egbert from attacking Hildesheim, but his last visit in the duchy ended without military engagement and Egbert continued to resist, but without support from other Saxon aristocrats.[265]

Return to Italy[edit]

Ruins of a stone tower on a hill
Ruins of Canossa Castle: its defenders defeated Henry's troops in 1092

Henry entered into negotiations with his Bavarian and Swabian opponents,[267] they were willing to surrender, but they demanded the deposition of Antipope Clement III.[267] Henry inclined to accept their offer, but his bishops dissuaded him, fearing that they were also dismissed after the Antipope's fall.[267] To prevent further negotiations between the Emperor and his opponents, Pope Urban II strengthened the alliance of his German and Italian supporters through the marriage of Welf of Bavaria's 18-year-old son, Welf the Fat, and the 43-year-old Matilda of Tuscany in the autumn of 1089;[267][268] the Pope had already persuaded Archbishop Anselm of Milan and most suffragan bishops in the Ravenna province to desert the Antipope.[269]

Henry decided to launch a new invasion of Italy;[269] the Jews of Speyer approached him around this time for the confirmation of their rights.[270] He summarized their liberties in a diploma, protecting them against physical assaults and prohibiting their forced baptism,[271] he issued a similar document about the liberties of the Jews of Worms.[272] Henry was often in need of cash and the two Jewish communities most probably paid a significant sum of money to him in return for their protection, according to Robinson.[273]

Henry invaded Matilda's domains in March 1090, forcing her to seek refuge in the mountains already in April;[269] the retainers of Henry's sister, Abbes Adelaide of Quedlinburg, killed Egbert of Brunswick in Saxony on 3 July 1090.[231][274] Henry allowed Egbert's brother-in-law, Henry the Fat, to take possession of Egbert's estates and made Henry the Fat his principal representative in Saxony.[274] Egbert's death put an end to Saxon opposition to Henry's rule, because Henry could secure Henry the Fat's loyalty with frequent land grants.[231][275] Henry continued his Italian campaign and captured Matilda's most fortresses north of the river Po by the end of 1091.[276] In June 1092, Henry crossed the Po and forced Matilda to start negotiations about her surrender, but she and her vassals refused to acknowledge Clement III as the lawful pope.[277] Henry laid siege to Canossa, but the garrison made a surprise attack on his army, forcing him to abandon the siege in October.[278]

Henry's Swabian opponents elected the late Berthold of Rheinfelden's brother-in-law, Berthold II of Zähringen their duke.[278] Berthold of Zähringen proclaimed himself the "vassal of St Peter".[279] Henry had to send his German troops back to Germany to fight against his opponents in Swabia and Bavaria,[279] he started negotiations with King Ladislaus I of Hungary about an alliance, but Welf I prevented their meeting.[279] Henry was forced to retreat to Pavia and Matilda's troops recaptured her fortresses.[280]

Family feuds[edit]

Three men, each wearing a crown, and three men, each holding a crosier
Henry and his two sons, Henry and Conrad (upper line)

Matilda of Tuscany and her husband managed to turn Henry's heir, Conrad, against him in the spring or summer of 1093.[279] Henry had Conrad captured, but he escaped to Milan.[280] According to Bernold of Constance, Henry tried to commit a suicide after his son's rebellion,[281] but Bernold most probably invented this story to make a comparison between Henry and King Saul.[282] Conrad's disloyalty aroused Henry's suspicion of his relatives and put his wife under strict supervision.[283] Four Lombardian towns (Milan, Cremona, Lodi and Piacenza) made an alliance with Matilda of Tuscany.[280] Henry fled to Verona, because its margrave, Henry of Eppenstein, and Henry's brother, Patriarch Udalric of Aquileia, remained his last supporters in Italy.[284] Henry's authority remained limited to northeastern Italy for years, because the troops of Matilda and Welf I prevented his return to Germany.[285][286]

Empress Eudoxia-Adelaide asked Matilda to help her to rescue from Henry.[283] Matilda sent a group of her retainers to Verona early in 1094,[286] they liberated the Empress and accompanied her to Tuscany.[286] She accused Henry of debauchery and rape in the presence of Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza in March 1095.[287][288] a month later, the Pope recognized Conrad as the lawful king.[281] However, the marriage of Matilda and her young husband broke down and Welf the Fat left Italy for Bavaria,[268][289] their separation came as a severe blow to the Pope, because Welf I of Bavaria entered into negotiations with Henry, although mutual distrust still prevented them from reaching an agreement.[290] Henry had a meeting with Doge Vitale Faliero in Venice in June 1095,[291] they renewed the commercial treaty between Italy and Venice and Faliero agreed to continue to pay a yearly tribute to the Emperor.[292]

Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in November 1095;[293][294] the council also prohibited the bishops and abbots to swear fealty to secular rulers.[295] The first crusader bands, composed mainly of commoners and impoverished knights, departed for the Holy Land early in 1096,[296] they attacked the towns along the Rhine and massacred thousands of Jews.[296][297] After the first pogroms, the Jews sent a letter to Henry, seeking his protection.[273] Henry ordered the German bishops, dukes and counts to protect the Jewish communities, but they could rarely prevent the fanatical mob from persecuting the Jews.[273][298] Henry offered an alliance to the new king of Hungary, Coloman, against Welf I in 1096, but Coloman could not wage war in Germany, because the first crusader bands had started pillaging Hungary.[291]


Welf of Bavaria's old father, Adalbert Azzo II of Este, mediated a reconciliation between his son and the Emperor early in 1096.[290] Henry restored Bavaria to Welf and Welf lifted the blockade of the Alpine passes, enabling Henry to return to Germany in May.[299] Aristocrats who had rebelled against Henry came to pay homage to him at assemblies held in Regensburg, Nuremberg and Mainz before the end of the year,[300] he allowed the Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity during the progroms to return to Judaism.[301][298] In early 1098, Berthold II of Zähringen was also reconciled with Henry, who exempted his domains of the jurisdiction of the dukes of Swabia and rewarded him with the hereditary title of duke.[302][300]

The German magnates and prelates deposed Henry's rebellious son, Conrad, and elected Conrad's 12-year-old brother, Henry V, as his father's co-ruler in Mainz in May 1098;[303][304] the younger Henry had to pledge that he would always submit himself to his father's authority.[305] While staying in Mainz, Henry ordered an investigation relating to the missing property of the Jews who had been murdered by the crusaders.[301] Several witnesses stated that Archbishop Ruthard of Mainz and his kinsmen had stolen its large portions.[301] Fearing of retribution, the Archbishop and his kinsmen fled to Thuringia and started plotting against Henry;[301][298] the Archbishop's absence enabled Henry to seize the revenues of the archdiocese.[301]

Bretislav II, Duke of Bohemia, came to meet with Henry in Regensburg at Eastertide 1099, because he wanted to alter the traditional order of succession to the Bohemian throne in favor of his brother, Bořivoj II.[306] Henry granted his request and confirmed Bořivoj's right to succeed Bretislav by investing him with a banner on 19 April;[307] the dukes of Bohemia had acknowledged the German monarchs' suzerainty, but a Bohemian duke was invested in the same manner as the rulers of the German duchies for the first time on this occasion.[307] The restoration of public order was one of Henry's principal goals during the next months,[308] he held assemblies at Bamberg and Mainz and ordered the (mainly Franconian and Saxon) magnates who attended the meeting to pursue robbers and thieves.[308]

Antipope Clement III died on 8 September 1100 and his cardinals elected Theoderic of Albano as his successor.[309] Henry's Italian supporters acknowledged Theoderic as the lawful pope, but Henry did not make contact with the new antipope;[303][308] the German prelates and aristocrats asked Henry to make efforts to restore the unity of the Church at their assembly in Mainz in December 1100.[309] Count Henry of Limburg captured properties of the Prüm Abbey;[310] the Emperor laid siege to Limburg, forcing the Count to surrender in May 1101.[311] The Emperor soon forgave Henry of Limburg for his rebellion and made him duke of Lower Lorraine before the end of the year.[311]

An assembly of the German leaders proposed Henry to make peace with Pope Urban II's successor, Paschal II in late 1101, but nothing proves that Henry followed their advice.[312] Pope Paschal II was determined to overcome Henry and ordered his legate, Bishop Gehard of Constance, to keep the resistance against the Emperor alive in Germany;[312] the papal synod repeated the ban on lay investiture and the bishops' oath of fealty to secular rulers early in Rome in 1102.[313] The synod also confirmed Henry's excommunication in the Lateran Basilica on 3 April.[303][314] Henry continued to appoint his own candidates to Church offices, but he also took action against advocates (lay protectors of Church officials) who abused their power.[315]

Robert II, Count of Flanders made an alliance with Bishop Manasses of Cambrai against Walcher whom Henry had appointed to be bishop of Cambrai.[316] Robert laid siege to Cambrai, but Henry came to Walcher's rescue, forcing Robert to lift the siege in October 1102.[316] Robert resumed the war on Walcher soon after Henry left Cambrai.[317] Henry held a general assembly in Mainz on 6 January 1103,[314] he proclaimed the Landfrieden (or imperial peace), prohibiting feuds and other acts of violence for the first time in the whole empire.[303][318] He threatened those who broke the peace with mutilation, without allowing the wealthy to pay penance.[318] Unconventionally in comparison with previous declarations of peace, Henry's Landfrieden ganted special protection not only to clerics, merchants and women, but also to Jews.[303][301]

Henry also announced that he was planning to launch a crusade to the Holy Land,[318] he addressed a letter to Hugh of Cluny, explaining his godfather that he intended to "make good the ruin of the Church, which was caused by us, through the restoration of peace and justice".[319] His correspondence with Hugh (who was Pope Paschal II's staunch supporter) suggests that Henry was seeking reconciliation, but Pope Paschal II was unwavering;[320] the Pope who regarded Henry as the "chief of the heretics" granted Robert II of Flanders and his knights the crusaders' spiritual privileges for their fight against the Emperor's enemies, promising the "remission of sins" to them.[314] Robert II, however, feared to lose his imperial fiefs and swear fealty to Henry in Liège on 29 June 1103.[317]


A Bavarian count, Sigehard of Burghausen, criticized Henry for his favoritism towards the Saxon and Franconian aristocrats at an imperial assembly in Regensburg in January 1104.[321] .[321] Sigehard had come to Regensburg accompanied by a large retinue, arousing Henry's suspicion that Sigehard was staging a plot.[321] After Sigehard dismissed his retainers, a band of ministeriales and burghers murdered him on 4 February;[322][323] the ministeriales most probably took revenge on Sigehard for his arbitration in a case relating their peers, but Sigehard's kinsmen and other aristocrats blamed Henry for his death, saying that Henry had failed to defend Sigehard.[303][324]

Archbishop Hartwig of Magdeburg died in autumn 1104,[325] his brother, Burgrave Herman of Magdeburg, and their nephew, Hartwig, departed for Henry's court, most probably to achieve the younger Hartwig's appointment to the archbishopric, but a Saxon count, Theoderic of Katlenburg, captured and imprisoned them for symony.[325] Henry launched a punitive campaign against Theoderic and his son accompanied him;[325] the military expedition came to an abrupt end, because the younger Henry unexpectedly deserted his father's camp and fled to Bavaria on 12 December.[325] Later, he stated that his father's failure to receive an absolution from the Pope had prompted his rebellion, but his nearly contemporaneous biography claims that he wanted to secure the aristocrats' support before his ailing father's death to avoid a succession crisis;[326] the discontented Bavarian aristocrats hurried to join the young Henry and Pope Paschal II absolved him from excommunication early in 1105.[327] Henry sent envoys to his son, but the young King refused to enter into negotiations with his excommunicated father.[327]

Most Swabian and eastern Franconian aristocrats joined the younger Henry's rebellion and he also secured the Saxons' support during a visit in Saxony in April 1105,[328] he launched a military campaign against Mainz to restore Archbishop Ruthard to his see in late June 1105, but his father's supporters prevented his crossing of the Rhine.[329] Henry expelled his son's troops from Würzburg in August, but his authority was quickly sinking,[330] his son took advantage of Frederick of Büren's death to take control of Swabia.[330] Leopold III, Margrave of Austria, and Bořivoj II, Duke of Bohemia, deserted the Emperor at Regensburg in late September, but Bořivoj soon repented his betrayal,[331] he supported Henry to flee from Regensburg to Saxony and his brother-in-law, Count Wiprecht of Groitzsch, accompanied Henry as far as Mainz in late October.[332] Already exhausted, Henry sent a letter to his son, requesting him "not to persist in his desire to depose him from the kingship", but his son did not want to reach a compromise.[333]

Henry moved from Mainz to Hammerstein, then to Cologne, but he decided to return to Mainz, because he wanted to defend himself at the German princes' assembly that his son had convoked;[333] the younger Henry arranged a meeting with his father at Koblenz and persuaded him to dismiss his retinue, promising a safe conduct to Mainz, on 21 December.[334][335] Ignoring his promise, the young King had Henry captured and brought to the castle of Böckelheim.[335] Henry was also forced to cede the royal insignia to his son.[334] For the burghers of Mainz remained loyal to Henry, his son held an assembly in Ingelheim.[335] Henry was taken to Ingelheim, but he could not defend his cause at a meeting dominated by aristocrats and prelates who were hostile to him.[335] Having no other choice, he abdicated in his son's favor on 31 December.[336] Later, he stated that he resigned only because of his "fears of imminent murder or execution".[337]

Last year[edit]

Henry was staying in Ingelheim after his abdiction, but his supporters warned him that his son had decided to imprison or execute him.[338] In early February 1106, he fled to Cologne where he was received by the townspeople with great respect,[338] he declined all ceremonies, demonstrating that he was doing penance for his sins.[338] His loyal supporter, Othbert, Bishop of Liège, made peace with Henry of Limburg to secure the Duke's support for the deposed Emperor.[338] Henry joined them at Liège and mediated a reconciliation between Henry of Limburg and Albert III, Count of Namur.[338] Robert II of Flanders also promised assistance to him.[338] Henry addressed a letter to Hugh of Cluny, offering to accept all his terms to achieve the lifting of his excommunication,[339] he also wrote letters to his son, the German princes and King Philip I of France and they clearly demonstrate that he was determined to regain his throne.[334]

Henry V invaded Lorraine, but his father's supporters routed his army at Visé on 22 March 1106.[334][339] Henry of Limburg and the burghers of Cologne and Liège jointly persuaded Henry to "resume the office of emperor".[340] Henry V laid siege to Cologne early in July, but he had to withdraw from the well-fortified town three or four weeks later.[340] Henry sent letters to the German princes, accusing his son of treachery and hypocrisy, but they remained loyal to Henry V.[341] Henry fell suddenly ill and died in Liège on 7 August.[342] On his deathbed, he had asked his son to pardon his supporters and to have him buried next to his ancestors in the Speyer Cathedral.[342]

Bishop Othbert buried him in the Liège Cathedral, but he was unearthed eight days later, because an assembly of the German princes had ruled that the excommunicated Emperor's body could not rest in a consecrated place,[342] his corpse was buried in an unconsecrated chapel near Liège, but on 24 August his son ordered a new exhumation because he wanted to execute Henry's last will.[343] The townspeople of Liège tried to prevent the transfer of Henry's corpse, but it was carried in a sarcophagus to Speyer;[343] the sarcophagus was placed in an unconsecrated chapel of the Speyer Cathedral on 3 September.[343] Five years later, Pope Paschal II granted a permission to Henry V to bury his father in the cathedral.[343] Henry was buried next to his father on 7 August 1111.[343]


Henry IV in later life displayed much diplomatic ability, his abasement at Canossa can be regarded as a move of policy to strengthen his own position at the cost of a token humiliation to himself. He was always regarded as a friend of the lower orders, was capable of generosity and gratitude, and showed considerable military skill and great chivalry.


Henry's first wife, Bertha of Savoy, was a year younger than Henry,[344] she was bought up along with his four sisters in Agnes of Poitou's court in Germany after their engagement.[8] After their marriage, Henry regularly mentioned her as "consort of our kingdom and our marriage-bed" in his diplomas.[345] However, Henry failed to refer to Bertha after 5 August 1068, showing that he had become estranged from his wife,[346] he stated that their marriage had not been consummated at an assembly of the German princes in Worms in June 1069.[345][81] He sought a divorce from Bertha and the assembly referred his request to a synod;[347] the synod was held at Frankfurt in early October, but without passing a ruling, because Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz sought Pope Alexander II's judgement.[347] Henry's request outraged the Pope and the papal legate, Peter Damian, made it clear that Henry would never be crowned emperor if he insist on divorcing his wife.[347] Henry obeyed and Bertha was again regularly mentioned in his diplomas from 26 October 1069.[347] Bertha died on 27 December 1087,[344] she had given birth to five children, but two of them—Adelaide and Henry—died in infancy.[344]

In 1089 Henry married Eupraxia of Kiev (crowned Empress in 1088), a daughter of Vsevolod I, Prince of Kiev,[349] and sister to Vladimir II Monomakh, prince of Kievan Rus.

In fiction[edit]


See also[edit]


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  348. ^ Morkinskinna records that Magnus III of Norwaywas much smitten” with “the emperor's daughter…with whom he had exchanged messages…Matilda”. No other reference to this alleged daughter has been found. Andersson, T. M. and Gade, K. E. (trans.) (2000) Morkinskinna (Cornell), 58, p. 307.
  349. ^ Brooke 1968, p. 145.


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Further Readings[edit]

External links[edit]

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 1050 Died: 1106
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry III
German King
Succeeded by
Conrad II (III)
King of Italy
King of Arles
Succeeded by
Henry V
Holy Roman Emperor
Preceded by
Conrad I
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Conrad II
Preceded by
Conrad II
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Otto II
Preceded by
Welf I
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Welf I