Today in Catholic History – The End of the Holy Roman Empire

On 6 August 1806, the Emperor Francis II abdicated ending the Holy Roman Empire which had existed from the time of Otto I in 962.

After Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrian armies at the battles of Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, Francis II was forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805. This treaty required the Francis to cede much of his German territory, including Bavaria and Wurtemberg, to Napoleon and his allies. Napoleon would use this territory to form his Confederation of the Rhine.

While Francis II held the title of Holy Roman Empire, this empire was really understood as the German Empire and as a later letter from Napoleon to the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire noted, now that Bavaria and Wurtemburg as well as other fourteen other German states belonged to the Confederation of the Rhine, it was inappropriate to speak of the continued existence of a unified Holy Roman Empire. The end of the Empire did not cause much of a stir in Europe, Goethe noted that news of it concerned him less than an argument involving his coachman. Indeed, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire had been taking place for quite some time.

With his abdication, Francis II Holy Roman Emperor became Francis I Emperor of Austria.


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