Henry IV (Holy Roman Empire)

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Henry IV, 1050–1106, Holy Roman emperor (1084–1105) and German king (1056–1105), son and successor of Henry III. He was the central figure in the opening stages of the long struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.


During his minority the papacy, the German nobles, and the high ecclesiastics greatly increased their power at the expense of the imperial authority. In 1062, Archbishop Anno of Cologne abducted Henry and assumed the regency, which had been held by Henry's mother, Agnes; Anno enriched his see from the royal lands and revenues. He allowed Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen to share the authority and plunder, and Adalbert soon became sole regent. Henry attained his majority in 1065, but Adalbert retained the regency until jealous nobles persuaded Henry to dismiss (1066) him.

Conflict with the Pope

Henry's first task after assuming control was to restore his authority in the duchies, especially in Saxony, where a revolt (1073) was subdued in 1075. He then turned his attention to Italy, where he sought to restore imperial authority; this provoked a conflict with the papacy. Henry disregarded the opposition of Pope Gregory VII to lay investiture and invested a new bishop of Milan. Gregory supported the previous bishop, who had been put in office by a revolutionary movement in the city, and threatened Henry with deposition. Henry summoned a council at Worms, which declared Gregory deposed (Jan., 1076).

Gregory, at a synod in Feb., 1076, declared Henry excommunicated and deposed and absolved his subjects of their oaths of fealty. A powerful coalition of German nobles, including the rebellious Saxons, agreed (Oct., 1076) not to recognize the king unless he obtained absolution by February; his fitness to rule was to be decided at a diet to be held at Augsburg under the chairmanship of the pope. To forestall the action of this diet, Henry crossed the Alps in the dead of winter to seek absolution. By his humiliation and penitence he moved the pope to grant him absolution at Canossa in Jan., 1077.

Despite the absolution, the rebel dukes were determined to depose Henry, and they elected Duke Rudolf of Swabia antiking, thus plunging Germany into civil war. Gregory remained neutral until Mar., 1080, when he renewed Henry's excommunication and deposition and recognized Rudolf's title. But Henry was now supported by a large party; German and Italian bishops joined him in declaring Gregory deposed and in electing an antipope, Clement III (see Guibert of Ravenna).

Rudolf died in 1080, and his supporters elected a Lotharingian count, Herman of Salm, to succeed him. By this time, however, the German revolt was practically broken, and in 1081 Henry carried the war into Italy. After several unsuccessful attempts he occupied Rome in 1084, installed Clement III as pope, and was crowned emperor. He retired before the advance of Gregory's Norman allies under Robert Guiscard, who rescued Gregory but plundered Rome. The Normans then withdrew from Rome, taking Gregory, who had gained the hatred of the Romans, with them.

In Germany, Henry broke (1088) the power of Herman, but his stubborn support of Clement III against Gregory's successors made his own family turn against him because they felt he was endangering the monarchy. When his son Henry (later Henry V) rebelled in 1104, only the Rhenish cities were loyal to the emperor. Trapped by a promise of conciliation, Henry IV was imprisoned and forced to abdicate (1105). In 1106, just before his death, he escaped and received considerable support. During his reign Henry was caught between the rising particularism of the princes and the reformist demands of a revivified papacy, but he managed to salvage enough of his father's legacy to make possible a restoration of imperial power under the Hohenstaufens.

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Henry IV

Henry IV (1050-1106) was Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany from 1056 to 1106. An able, ruthless, and secretive monarch, he led the empire into a disastrous confrontation with Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy.

Born in Goslar, Saxony, Henry IV was the only son of Emperor Henry III and Agnes of Poitou. His father died when he was only 6, and he had a long and difficult minority as king, since early in 1062 he was taken from his mother and raised by a bevy of quarreling, scheming bishops. In 1066 he came of age and began governing on his own. He was married twice, first to Bertha of Savoy and late in his reign, after her death, to Praxedis of Russia.

Henry attempted, initially, to reassert his father's old imperial rights throughout the empire and also to build up a new, strong imperial domain in Saxony. This led to serious uprisings in 1073 in which Saxons and southern German nobles combined against him. By 1075 he had suppressed these revolts, only to begin a quarrel with Pope Gregory VII over the imperial right to appoint or invest churchmen with their offices. Gregory and Church reformers claimed that neither rulers nor any other laymen could exercise this right—despite long precedent. Angry at Gregory's opposition to his appointing an archbishop of Milan, in 1076 Henry hastily summoned a council of German bishops who declared Pope Gregory deposed. Gregory answered by declaring Emperor Henry excommunicated and suspended from office.

This encouraged German nobles again to rebel and to summon the Pope to come to Augsburg and sit in judgment on their ruler. Fearing the results of such collaboration between the Pope and German magnates, Henry slipped through the Alpine passes and met Pope Gregory at Canossa in northern Italy in 1077, where, as a penitent, he prevailed upon the Pope to forgive him. This prevented Gregory, much against his will, from continuing to work with the German nobles against Henry, which, of course, was Henry's objective.

Despite lack of papal support, Henry's German opponents chose an antiking, Rudolf of Swabia. But Henry returned across the Alps and defeated him. Rudolf died soon thereafter, in 1080, and Henry reopened hostilities with Pope Gregory. Despite a renewal of his excommunication, he led another army into Italy and by 1084 had marched on Rome and set up an antipope there who crowned him emperor. Gregory was saved from capture only by a large Norman force, which rescued him at the cost of a severe plundering of the city of Rome itself. The Pope had to retire with the Normans south toward Naples and died in exile the following year.

After Gregory's death, Henry IV continued to resist the popes who were chosen as his successors and to set up antipopes of his own against them. In this he was relatively unsuccessful, since his papal opponents were men like Urban II, capable of rallying all Europe behind them in the First Crusade and similar enterprises. Henry also had much trouble due to opposition to his rule in both Germany and Italy, especially from his eldest son, Conrad, and from Duke Welf of Bavaria and Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Not until 1098 did the revolts they encouraged collapse, and soon afterward Conrad died. But Emperor Henry had to pay a heavy price to Saxon rebels and others to secure peace. Finally, in 1105, his second son and heir, later Henry V, joined his father's enemies, imprisoned him, and forced him to abdicate. Escaping in 1106, he had just defeated this ungrateful son when he died, leaving a weakened imperial power in Germany and the struggle with the papacy over investitures still unresolved.

Further Reading

There is an immense literature dealing with Henry IV. Among the more important accounts are those found in 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); and Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (1955; 2d ed. 1962). See also shorter accounts in Ralph H. C. Davis, A History of Medieval Europe (1957), and Christopher Brooke, Europe in the Central Middle Ages, 962-1154 (1964). □

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Henry IV (1050–1106) German King (1056–1106) and Holy Roman Emperor (1084–1106). Embroiled in the dispute with the papacy over the lay investiture of clerics, he deposed Pope Gregory VII and was in turn excommunicated by the Pope (1076). Rebellion in Germany weakened Henry's position. In 1077, he was forced to do penance at Canossa. In 1084, Henry captured Rome, deposed Gregory and set up an antipope, Clement III. In 1105 Henry's son, Henry V, deposed him.

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Henry IV, 1425–74, Spanish king of Castile and León (1454–74), son and successor of John II. His weakness opened the way to civil strife and anarchy. The Castilian nobles refused to recognize Henry's alleged daughter Juana la Beltraneja as his heiress and forced the king to designate first his half-brother Alfonso (d. 1468) and then his half-sister Isabella (later Isabella I) as his successor. After Isabella's marriage (1469) to Ferdinand of Aragón, however, Henry again recognized Juana. On Henry's death civil war broke out among the contenders for the succession.

See study by T. Miller (1972).