Imperial Estate

An Imperial State or Imperial Estate (Latin: Status Imperii; German: Reichsstand, plural: Reichsstände) was a part of the Holy Roman Empire with representation and the right to vote in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Rulers of these Estates were able to exercise significant rights and privileges and were "immediate", meaning that the only authority above them was the Holy Roman Emperor. They were thus able to rule their territories with a considerable degree of autonomy.

Seating order of the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg (1663 engraving)
Map of the Holy Roman Empire in 1400

The system of imperial states replaced the more regular division of Germany into stem duchies in the early medieval period. The old Carolingian stem duchies were retained as the major divisions of Germany under the Salian dynasty, but they became increasingly obsolete during the early high medieval period under the Hohenstaufen, and they were finally abolished in 1180 by Frederick Barbarossa in favour of more numerous territorial divisions. From 1489, the imperial Estates represented in the Diet were divided into three chambers, the college of prince-electors (Kurfürstenkollegium/den Kurfürstenrat), the college of imperial princes (Reichsfürstenrat) and the college of imperial cities. Counts and nobles were not directly represented in the Diet in spite of their immediate status, but were grouped into "benches" (Grafenbänke) with a single vote each. Imperial Knights had immediate status but were not represented in the Diet.


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