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The Elder House of Welf was a dynasty of European rulers in the 9th through 11th centuries to 1055. It consisted of two groups, a Burgundian group and a Swabian group. It is disputed whether the two groups formed one dynasty or whether they shared the same name by coincidence only.

Burgundian group

The older of the two groups was the Burgundian group. Its oldest known member was Welf, the first Count of Altdorf. He was mentioned in 819 as father of Judith (not to be confused with Welf I of the Swabian group). The younger sons of the first count of Altdorf, Conrad and Rudolf accompanied their sister to the court of her husband, Louis the Pious, where their ambitious spirit maintained their hereditary rank, and where they shared the happy, as well as the adverse fortunes of that sister. When Judith was surprised and confined by her stepsons, her brothers were shaven as priests; but even in this degraded state, they claimed and obtained permission to stand beside the throne, as priests of the blood-royal.

Conrad had two sons: Conrad II, who succeeded him; and Hugh, from his church preferment, styled the Abbot. He is traditionally given a third son, Welf I of the Swabian group.

Conrad II succeeded his father in the dignity of Count of Paris, and recovered the estates of his grand-uncle Otkarius, in the province of Burgundy. He left an only son Rudolph, who assumed the royal crown, at the abbacy of St Maurice en Valaismarker, in 888, and whose independence being confirmed by two victories over Arnulf, the emperor, was at last acknowledged, in a general diet of the German empire. His son, Rudolph II succeeded to this new-formed state, which included the French or western part of Switzerlandmarker, Franche Comtémarker, Savoy, Dauphiné, Provence, and the country between the Rhinemarker and the Alps, and was known as the kingdom of Burgundy. He twice attempted the conquest of Italy, and for a period of three years, governed in that kingdom.

His son and successor, Conrad III, reigned upwards of fifty-six years, from 937 to 993, and enjoyed the friendship and support of the Saxon emperors. Otto I married his sister Adelaide, and she was the mother of Otto II, and the grandmother of Otto III. Conrad was succeeded by his son Rudolph III, surnamed the Lossy, who dying in 1032 without issue, the sovereignty of the kingdom of Burgundy devolved as a fief or legacy to his nephew Conrad of Swabia, who was elected emperor in 1024. With Rudolph, this branch became extinct in the male fine.

The last member of the Burgundian group was King Rudolph III of Burgundy, who died childless in 1032.

Swabian group

The oldest known member of the Swabian group was Welf I, a count in Swabia who was first mentioned in 842. According to legend, Welf I was a son of Conrad, son of Welf, the ancestor of the Burgundian group. This relationship is considered probable because both Conrad and Welf I were counts of Linzgaumarker and Alpgau. The relationship between Welf I and all later members of the Swabian group (Welf, Duke of Carinthia, and his relatives, who were counts of Altdorfmarker) is, again, known only through legend.

The Elder House of Welf became extinct when Welf, Duke of Carinthia, died childless in 1055. The property of the House of Welf was inherited by the elder branch of the House of Este that came to be known as the younger House of Welf, or House of Welf-Este.

Notable members of the Burgundian group

Notable members of the Swabian group


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