On July 13th, 1024 Emperor Henry II died without an heir. not only that, but his family has so comprehensively died out, there is not a single descendant in the male line left. Fear of unrest and civil war grips the inhabitants of the empire.
An election is called for early September, as quickly as such things could be organised in the 11th century. The upper echelons of society debate a long list of candidates before agreeing on a shortlist of just two, both named Konrad, both from the same clan of Salian Franks.
Medieval imperial elections have little in common with today’s elections. there are no set rules about the electors, the purpose is not to determine the will of the people but to unveil the will of God. Decisions are unanimous, mainly because dissenters leave before the votes are cast.
Ultimately Konrad the elder (1024-1039) a giant of a man at 2m tall is elected. He appears in all and everything the opposite of his predecessor. But that may be just appearance…
The century of Salian rule from 1024 to 1125 is the crucial turning point not just for German, but for European history more generally. It is in this period that the Investiture Controversy pits Popes against Emperors. The dispute is nominally about the role secular powers play in the selection of bishops and abbots. But in reality, it is about much more than that. It is about whether the monarch acts as the representative of God, or as mere mortal, subject to Papal authority. It is about whether Europe becomes a coherent political entity ruled by an all-powerful emperor or whether it becomes a fragmented system of interlocking states, cities, and lordships under a parallel church infrastructure. It is about whether Europe becomes a uniform society or the diverse structure that will give birth both to endless warfare and misery as well as the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment (to name just a few). move from the unexpected election of Konrad II to his son Henry III becoming the undisputed senior ruler in Western Europe. The backlash against the emerging command monarchy culminates in Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow outside the Castle of Canossa begging Pope Gregor VII to receive him back into the mother church.
KOnrad II (1024-1039)
The founder of the Salian dynasty was an unlikely contender to become king .He had been de facto disinherited by his grandfather who passed the leadership of the family to his uncle and later his cousin. What rescued him was his marriage to the beautiful and ambitious Gisela who brought resources and connections into the marriage. He was elected against the odds in 1024 and managed to establish his rule quickly, achieving an imperial coronation in Rome in 1027. From then on he ruthlessly expanded direct royal control, not only over the imperial church, but also over duchies, counties and abbeys. He developed the concept of the res publica, the state, being separate from and above the person of the king/emperor. He led a successful foreign policy that brought the Kingdom of Burgundy into the empire and broke the threat of a powerful Poland.