Emperor Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire

Instructor: Mollie Madden
Henry IV was the Holy Roman Emperor in the 11th century. He tried to make the Holy Roman Empire a unifying force in Europe, which brought him into conflict with the Pope.


Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry IV, HRE

Henry IV (c. 1056-1106) was the Holy Roman Emperor. He was born around 1050 and became King of the Romans at the age of 6 or 7 (the medieval sources aren't all in agreement about when he was born), an age when we usually send our children to first or second grade. His mother served as regent for a brief time, but the king was a vulnerable child. And, in fact, a group of conspirators kidnapped the boy and took him to Cologne, where he lived under the supervision of Anno, the archbishop of Cologne. As a boy he developed a willful and headstrong personality. He officially took the throne at the age of fourteen.

As a monarch Henry IV was particularly interested in expanding the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. He fought several wars, including wars against the Saxons, in Italy, and within his own lands. Henry's conflict with the papacy led some supporters of the pope to approach the emperor's son and encouraged him to rebel. In his final campaign in 1106 he defeated his son's army, fell ill, and nine days later died at age 56. He married twice and had three surviving children.

The Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire was located in central Europe and was one of the kingdoms that replaced the Carolingian Empire during the tenth century. However, it wasn't a kingdom like France or England. The Holy Roman Empire was instead made up of many small and large territories, each with its own ruler who wanted as much independence as possible. Henry IV, like his predecessors, wanted to reestablish imperial unity in Europe. This brought the emperors and their imperial project into direct conflict with the papacy because popes like Gregory VII (d. 1085) held that the church was the highest unifying power in Europe. The emperors also tried to extend their power in Italy, where the papacy was a significant political power and popes were political leaders. Unsurprisingly, this caused significant conflict.

Pope Gregory VII
Gregory VII

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