Henry III (Holy Roman Empire)

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Henry III

Henry III (1017-1056) was Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany from 1039 to 1056. The medieval empire is generally considered to have attained its greatest power and solidity during his reign.

The only son of Conrad II, the first Salian emperor, Henry was designated by his father to be co-king of Germany in 1028. He was made Duke of Swabia in 1038, and on the death of his father the following year he succeeded as emperor. Within Germany itself Henry III weakened the power of the great nobles by ruling most of the great tribal duchies directly—with Lorraine as the only major exception. He also won effective overlordship of Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary, and in Hungary he actually had his own candidate, Peter, placed on the throne. He intervened in Italy as well, where he not only controlled the north and the region around Rome but in 1046 recognized the Norman Guiscards as dukes of Apulia. Concerned with keeping the peace within his empire, he personally proclaimed the Peace of God from the pulpit of the Cathedral of Constance in 1043.

Henry's most controversial actions involved his dealings with the Church and especially the papacy. He was well educated and pious like his namesake, the emperor Henry II, and a patron of the arts as well. Unlike his father, Conrad II, however, he was actively involved in Church reform, especially in reorganizing monasteries and removing unworthy clerics. It was this interest which led to his intervention in papal affairs.

The papacy had fallen upon evil days, with three popes, each claiming the office and all tainted with scandal. Angered at this, Henry in 1046 entered Italy and at a synod held in Sutri deposed all three popes—Sylvester III, Gregory VI, and Benedict IX—and selected a pope of his own, Clement II. After the death of Clement, Henry appointed still another pope, Leo IX, who was his friend and cousin Bishop Bruno of Toul, a Lorrainer. It was this pope who surrounded himself with northern and Tuscan reformers and started freeing the papacy from secular control and thus began to establish the popes as leaders of the entire Western Church. It was Henry III, therefore, who unwittingly laid the foundations of a papal reform with which his successors had to cope. He also failed to build up in Germany itself any institutions of government or an imperial domain upon which later German emperors could rely for strength.

During his reign Henry III dominated much of eastern Europe, kept Germany peaceful, controlled much of Italy, and intervened almost as head of the Church in papal affairs. Yet his power was more superficial than it appeared, and his policies within both the empire and the Church were to lead to a crisis for his son and successor, Henry IV.

Further Reading

For the era of Henry III see Gerd Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (trans. 1940); Geoffrey Barraclough, Origins of Modern Germany (1946; 2d rev. ed. 1966); Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (1955; 2d ed. 1962); and Jeffrey Russell, Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages (1965). □

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Henry III, 1017–56, Holy Roman emperor (1046–56) and German king (1039–56), son and successor of Conrad II. He was crowned joint king with his father in 1028, and acceded on Conrad's death in 1039. Under Henry III the medieval Holy Roman Empire probably attained its greatest power and solidity. In 1041, Henry defeated the Bohemians, who had been overrunning the lands of his vassals, the Poles, and compelled Duke Bratislaus I of Bohemia to renew his vassalage. Although several expeditions to Hungary against the raiding Magyars failed to establish his authority in that country, Henry was able in 1043 to fix the frontier of Austria and Hungary at the Leitha and Morava rivers, where it remained until the end of World War I. In the West, Henry attempted with some initial success to control particularist tendencies among the duchies. The dukes of Saxony and Lorraine (Lotharingia) offered the most resistance. In Saxony, Henry managed to avert rebellion, which, however, erupted after his death. On the death of Duke Gozilo of Lorraine (1044), Henry divided the duchy between the duke's two sons. Duke Godfrey, the elder, who received Upper Lorraine, organized numerous revolts against Henry; in 1047–50 the counts of Holland and Flanders (Lower Lorraine) joined in the revolt. Godfrey was successively defeated, imprisoned, restored, and expelled again. He went to Italy (1051), where he married (1054) Marchioness Beatrice of Tuscany, mother of Matilda; Godfrey used his Tuscan position to bolster his strength in Germany, and Henry was unable to subdue him. Despite his political involvement Henry made religious matters his prime concern and supported monastic reform movements, including the Cluniac order. He branded as simony the customary payments made to the king by new bishops and in 1046 undertook to reform the church. Descending into Italy, he had three rival claimants to the papacy set aside at the synods of Sutri and Rome and was accorded the decisive vote in papal elections. The four German popes named by Henry (including Leo IX) renewed the strength of the papacy, which was to prove the nemesis of his successors. On his death his wife Agnes of Poitou assumed the regency for his infant son, Henry IV.

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Henry III, 1379–1406, Spanish king of Castile and León (1390–1406), son and successor of John I. His marriage (1388) to Catherine, daughter of John of Gaunt, ended a long dynastic conflict. Henry consolidated royal authority against the nobles. He also sent a fleet that destroyed (1400) Tétouan in N Africa, dispatched envoys to Timur, and sponsored the colonization of the Canary Islands. He was succeeded by his son John II.

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Henry III (1017–56) German King (1039–56) and Holy Roman Emperor (1046–56). He succeeded his father, Conrad II. Imperial power reached its zenith in his reign as he subdued rebellious vassals in Saxony and Lorraine, and compelled the rulers of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, as well as the s Italian princes, to pay him homage.