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The German Mediatisation was the series of mediatisations and secularisations that occurred in Germanymarker in 1795–1814, during the latter part of the era of the French Revolution and then the Napoleonic Era.

Mediatisation was the process of annexing the lands of one sovereign monarchy to another, often leaving the annexed some rights. Secularisation was the redistribution to secular states of the secular lands held by an ecclesiastical ruler such as a bishop or an abbot.

Following the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, due to the equal heritage splitting prescribed by Salic Law, and the rise of feudalism, much of Europe had been reduced to an array of small, independent statelets. Successive Kings of Germany and Holy Roman Emperors vested temporal authority on many bishoprics, abbacies and convents, and also granted free city rights to many cities and villages throughout Germany. Unlike Western European states like Great Britainmarker, Francemarker, or Spainmarker, the German kings were unable to coalesce their realms into a fully centralised kingdom, so over the course of centuries Germany had come to consist of no less than 300 independent states.


The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (formally the Hauptschluss der außerordentlichen Reichsdeputation, or "Principal Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation") was a resolution passed on 25 February 1803 by the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) of the Holy Roman Empire. It proved to be the last significant law enacted by the Empire before its dissolution in 1806.

Based on a plan agreed in June 1802 between Francemarker and Russiamarker, and broad principles outlined in the Treaty of Lunéville of 1801, the law established a major redistribution of territorial sovereignty within the Empire, to compensate numerous Germanmarker princes for territories to the west of the Rhinemarker that had been annexed by France as a result of the wars of the French Revolution.

The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss was ratified unanimously by the Reichstag in March, 1803, and was approved by the emperor, Francis II, the following month. However, the emperor made a formal reservation in respect of the reallocation of votes within the Reichstag, as the balance between Protestant and Catholic states had been shifted heavily in the former's favour.

The redistribution was achieved by a combination of two processes: secularization of ecclesiastical principalities, and mediatization of numerous small secular principalities and free cities.


From the re-establishment of the Holy Roman Empire by the Salian and Saxonmarker Emperors in the 10th and 11th centuries, the feudal system had turned Germany and northern Italy into a vast network of small statelets, each with its own specific privileges, titles and autonomy. To help administer Germany in the face of growing decentralisation and local autonomy following the rise of feudalism, many bishoprics, abbacies and convents throughout Germany were granted temporal estates and noble titles—such as prince, duke, or count—by successive Holy Roman Emperors. The personal appointment of bishops by the Holy Roman Emperors had sparked the investiture controversy, and in its aftermath the emperors were unable to use the bishops for this end. Following this, the bishops and abbots had begun to run their newfound realms as a temporal lord as opposed to a spiritual lord. The endemic corruption and decadence that followed had led to the falling from grace of the Ecclesiastical rulers, and eventually led to the Protestant Reformation. The Counter-Reformation re-established the relevance of the Prince-Bishops, as they had become known, but by the end of the Thirty Years' War and the Peace of Westphalia, the new system whereby the inhabitants of a state were expected to follow the religion of the ruler left the Prince-Bishops again obsolete.

In 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte of France defeated the armed forces of the Holy Roman Emperor and by the Treaty of Campo Formio annexed all the lands of the Holy Roman Empire west of the Rhinemarker River. The Holy Roman Emperor was bound by duty to compensate the now stateless monarchs who lost their lands to grant them new estates. The only available lands were those held by the Prince-Bishops, so they were secularised and dispersed amongst the monarchs of Germany.

The ecclesiastical states were generally annexed to neighbouring secular principalities. Only three survived as non-secular states: the Archbishopric of Regensburg, which was raised from a bishopric with the incorporation of the Archbishopric of Mainz, and the lands of the Teutonic Knights and Knights of Saint John. Also of note is the former Archbishopric of Salzburg, which was secularised as a duchy with an increased territorial scope, and was also made an electorate.

Monasteries and abbeys lost their means of existence as they had to abandon their land and closed in large part.

Secularised states

Bishops and Archbishops

Abbeys, Convents and Provostries


Although the number of German states had been steadily decreasing since the Thirty Years' War, there still remained approximately 200 states by the advent of the Napoleonic Era. The defeat of the First Coalition resulted in the secularisation of the ecclesiastical states and the annexation by France of all lands west of the Rhine. Also in 1803, most of the free cities in Germany were mediatised. On 12 June 1806, Napoleon established the Confederation of the Rhinemarker to help secure the eastern border of France. On 6 August 1806, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II declared the Empire abolished. In order to gain the support of the more powerful German states, it was announced that all states that joined could mediatise neighbouring states.

Before the Battle of Waterloomarker and the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena, the Congress of Vienna was held from 1814 to 1815 by the Great Powers to re-establish the old borders of Europe. It was decided that the mediatised monarchs, free cities and secularised states would not be recreated, but instead the monarchs of the mediatised states were to be considered equal to the remaining sovereign monarchs, and they would receive compensation for their loss. As it was left to each of the remaining states to compensate them, and they had no authority to complain to if they weren't fairly reimbursed, many of the monarchs never received their supposed due.

Mediatisation transferred sovereignty of small secular states to their larger neighbours. In addition to numerous principalities, all but a handful of the Imperial cities were also annexed to their neighbours.

Mediatised monarchies

As the Houses of Ostein, Sinzendorf and Wartenberg became extinct after the mediatisation but before 1830, they are not always counted among the Mediatised Houses. For varying reasons, Aspremont-Lynden, Bentinck, Bretzenheimmarker, Limburg-Styrum and Waldeck-Limpurg are also sometimes disincluded. Hesse-Homburg was never considered sovereign by Hesse-Darmstadtmarker and therefore was not technically mediatised, and Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) was annexed into the Kingdom of Westphalia but later had its sovereignty restored. The Schönburgsmarker had been mediatised to the Elector of Saxonymarker in the 18th Century and were only counted amongst the Mediatised Houses at the Electors' insistence.

Abolished Free and Imperial Cities

Most of the mediatisations occurred in 1806 after the creation of the Confederation of the Rhinemarker. The later mediatisations were: Arenberg (annexed to France in 1810, and not re-established in 1814); Isenburg and Leyen (mediatised in 1814 by the Congress of Vienna for being too close to Napoleon); Salm (several states of Salm survived to 1811 and 1813); and Stolberg (annexed by Prussia in 1815).

Also mediatised 1806–14 were several states created by Napoleon for his relatives and close allies. These include:

The only free cities in Germany not abolished 1803 were:


The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss brought about a massive change to the political map of Germany. Literally hundreds of states were eliminated, with only around forty surviving. A number of the surviving states made significant territorial gains (most notably Baden, Bavaria, and Hesse-Darmstadtmarker); and Baden, Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), and Württemberg gained status by being made electorates (to replace three that had been lost in the changes). Of the imperial cities, only Augsburgmarker, Bremenmarker, Frankfurt am Mainmarker, Hamburgmarker, Lübeckmarker, and Nurembergmarker survived as independent entities.

While many families' territories were mediatized, they maintained their status as sovereign houses, meaning that Germany became a place where European royals searched for spouses in order to maintain dynastic legitimacy via marriages of equal rank. Not all German princes were mediatized. However, the abundance of German princes with dynastic status in the fractured territory of modern Germany meant that by the beginning of the 20th century, Romania, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, the UK, Bulgaria, all had monarchs that (technically) were members of German royal houses (Romania: Hohenzollern; Greece and Denmark: Glücksburg; Portugal, Belgium, the UK, and Bulgaria: Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). Similarly, German princesses married into European royal families scattered throughout the continent.

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The principle that allies of Napoleoncould expect to make gains in both territory and status was also established, and was to be repeated on a number of occasions in the following years. The changes of 1803 were also a factor in the end of the Empire in 1806.

See also


  • Heinz Gollwitzer, Die Standesherren. Die politische und gesellschaftliche Stellung der Mediatisierten 1815-1918, Stuttgart 1957 (Göttingen ²1964).

External links

Area and population losses or gains (rounded)
2000 km²

140.000 people
12.000 km²

600.000 people
10.000 km²

600.000 people
14.000 km²

850.000 people
450 km²

30.000 people
2.000 km²

240.000 people
400 km²

30.000 people
1500 km²

120.000 people

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