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electors,in the history of the Holy Roman EmpireHoly Roman Empire,
designation for the political entity that originated at the coronation as emperor (962) of the German king Otto I and endured until the renunciation (1806) of the imperial title by Francis II.
..... Click the link for more information. , the princes who had the right to elect the German kings or, more exactly, the kings of the Romans (Holy Roman emperors). Until the reign (1493–1519) of Maximilian IMaximilian I,
1459–1519, Holy Roman emperor and German king (1493–1519), son and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. As emperor, he aspired to restore forceful imperial leadership and inaugurate much-needed administrative reforms in the increasingly
..... Click the link for more information. , however, an elected king was traditionally crowned by the pope before he was called emperor. Initially the electors merely confirmed hereditary succession. After the death of Henry VHenry V,
1081–1125, Holy Roman emperor (1111–25) and German king (1105–25), son of Henry IV. Crowned joint king with his father in 1099, he put himself at the head of the party desiring reconciliation with the pope and, with the approval of Pope Paschal II,
..... Click the link for more information. in 1125 without direct heirs, the electors set aside the principle of hereditary monarchy, thus strengthening their elective rights. In succeeding years, particularly after the death of Frederick IIFrederick II,
1194–1250, Holy Roman emperor (1220–50) and German king (1212–20), king of Sicily (1197–1250), and king of Jerusalem (1229–50), son of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI and of Constance, heiress of Sicily.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1250, contests between rival claimants further enhanced the electoral principle. Originally all the princes served as electors, but gradually the right devolved upon a few preeminent princes. After 1257 the number of electors was narrowed to seven, but there was no agreement as to who they were. The frequency of contested elections led Charles IVCharles IV,
1316–78, Holy Roman emperor (1355–78), German king (1347–78), and king of Bohemia (1346–78). The son of John of Luxemburg, Charles was educated at the French court and fought the English at Crécy, where his father's heroic death made
..... Click the link for more information. to issue (1356) the Golden Bull (so called because of its golden seal), which regulated the procedure of elections and coronations and confirmed the electoral rights of the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, the king of Bohemia, the count palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Saxony, and the margrave of Brandenburg. The Golden Bull also imposed the laws of primogeniture and entail on the electoral territories. The electors, who became almost sovereign rulers, formed one of the three colleges of the imperial dietdiet,
parliamentary bodies in Japan, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, the Scandinavian nations, and Germany have been called diets. In German history, the diet originated as a meeting of landholders and burghers, convoked by the ruler to discuss financial problems.
..... Click the link for more information. . They served as a counterforce to imperial absolutism, even though after 1438 only members of the house of HapsburgHapsburg
, ruling house of Austria (1282–1918). Rise to Power
The family, which can be traced to the 10th cent., originally held lands in Alsace and in NW Switzerland. Otto (d.
..... Click the link for more information. were chosen emperor. The composition of the electors was changed in 1623 when Ferdinand IIFerdinand II,
1578–1637, Holy Roman emperor (1619–37), king of Bohemia (1617–37) and of Hungary (1618–37); successor of Holy Roman Emperor Matthias.
..... Click the link for more information. transferred the vote of the count palatine to the duke of Bavaria in order to punish Frederick the Winter KingFrederick the Winter King,
1596–1632, king of Bohemia (1619–20), elector palatine (1610–20) as Frederick V. The Protestant diet of Bohemia deposed the Roman Catholic King Ferdinand (Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II) and chose Frederick as king.
..... Click the link for more information. ; however, at the Peace of Westphalia (1648) an eighth vote was created for the count palatine. In 1692 a ninth vote (formally recognized, 1708) was created for Hanover; thus the kings of England became (1714) electors. In 1803 Emperor Napoleon I of France radically altered the list of electors. The electoral function disappeared with the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.
in a number of bourgeois states (USA, France, Finland, the Federal Republic of Germany, India, and others), people who have the right to vote in indirect elections.
Electors may be elected only to carry out this function (for example, in the USA, the presidential election is carried out by electors who are chosen exclusively to vote for one of the candidates for the presidency), or they may be electors because of the post they hold (for example, the members of the general councils in France, who are electors ex officio in elections to the senate). The institution of electors permits significant distortion of the voters’ will in the interests of one of the competing parties. There were electors in pre-revolutionary Russia in elections of deputies to the State Duma.
(German, Kurfürsten), in the Holy Roman Empire, princes who from the 13th century exercised the right to elect the king or emperor.
The original electors were the archbishops of Trier, Cologne, and Mainz, the secular princes of Saxony, Brandenburg, and the Palatinate, and the King of Bohemia. The rights and special privileges of the electors were given legal form in the Golden Bull of Charles IV (1356). In the Reichstag the electoral college formed the first curia. In 1623 the rights of electorship were transferred from the Palatinate to Bavaria (in 1648 the Palatinate again acquired these rights). In 1692, Hanover also became a member of the electoral college (formalized in 1708), and in 1803 Württemberg, Baden, Hesse-Kassel, and Salzburg were added. With the dissolution of the Empire in 1806 the electoral college ceased to exist, although the title of elector was retained by the rulers of Hesse-Kassel until 1866.