Prince-elector

The prince-electors (German: Kurfürst (listen ), pl. Kurfürsten, Czech: Kurfiřt, Latin: Princeps Elector), or electors for short, were the members of the electoral college that elected the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The imperial prince-electors
left to right: Archbishop of Cologne, Archbishop of Mainz, Archbishop of Trier, Count Palatine, Duke of Saxony, Margrave of Brandenburg and King of Bohemia (Codex Balduini Trevirorum, c. 1340)
Choosing the king. Above: the three ecclesiastical princes choosing the king, pointing at him. Middle: the Count Palatine of the Rhine hands over a golden bowl, acting as a servant. Behind him, the Duke of Saxony with his marshal's staff and the Margrave of Brandenburg bringing a bowl of warm water, as a valet. Below, the new king in front of the great men of the empire (Heidelberg Sachsenspiegel, around 1300)

From the 13th century onwards, the prince-electors had the privilege of electing the monarch who would be crowned by the pope. After 1508, there were no imperial coronations and the election was sufficient. Charles V (elected in 1519) was the last emperor to be crowned (1530); his successors were elected emperors by the electoral college, each being titled "Elected Emperor of the Romans" (German: erwählter Römischer Kaiser; Latin: electus Romanorum imperator).

The dignity of elector carried great prestige and was considered to be second only to that of king or emperor.[1] The electors held exclusive privileges that were not shared with other princes of the Empire, and they continued to hold their original titles alongside that of elector.

The heir apparent to a secular prince-elector was known as an electoral prince (German: Kurprinz).