Germany in High Middle Ages

Professor Phillip Daileader of The College of William and Mary tells us about why Germany became a weak empire in the high middle ages (1000-1300 AD).

This is meaningful to me because the Danish crown was affected by this weakness. The king of Denmark was at times a vassal of the Holy Roman emperor. For example, Christian I, the first Oldenburg king, elected in 1457 AD, obtained license to manage Holstein as count from his relative the German overlord. But he had great latitude in governing the area. By the time of Christian III of Denmark the province of Holstein had a duke. Christian III was made Duke of Holstein because the Germans were too weak to impose greater control. Christian III became king of Denmark in 1536.

This affected our family because the Duke’s home had a church and our ancestors were his family priests. Loyal to the king they became Lutheran’s and helped spread the reformation throughout Scandinavia.

But the home of the royal family began in 1230 with Valdemar II. Valdemar I had become an increasingly powerful Danish king partly because of the weakness of the central authority of the Holy Roman emperor after the Investiture crisis which began around in the 1140’s AD. This crisis led to 50 years of conflict between the emperor and the vatican which led to a very strong aristocracy in germany. The aristocrats enslaved their peoples into serfdom. This system lasted for hundreds of years.

This is the subject of professor Daileader’s lecture for lessons 22 and 23 in his Great Course “The High Middle Ages”. It may help to explain the rise of Danish power in the face of otherwise powerful neighbors.

I have been trying to study Danish history to explain events in our family. And I know little of German history or eastern european history in general. So it is with great interest that professor Daileader touches upon this subject.

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