The Holy Roman Empire

The House of Guelph

Coronation of Henry the Lion and Matilda of England

Coronation of Henry the Lion and Matilda of England

When Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, died without an heir, there was controversy about the succession. Frederick and Conrad, of the Hohenstauffen dynasty and Dukes of Swabia, were grandsons of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor and nephews of Henry V. As duke of Franconia, Conrad supported the unsuccessful candidacy of his brother, Frederick II, Duke of Swabia, for the kingship of Germany. Elected king of Italy in December 1127 AD, in opposition to Lothair III, Conrad acknowledged Lothair as emperor only in 1135.

The election of Lothair II, to the throne as Holy Roman Emperor, was supported by Henry “the Black”, Duke of Bavaria. Henry the Black belonged to the House of Guelph, descended from Welf, a ninth century Frankish count, through his son, Conrad of Auxerre. Welf was married to Hedwig of Saxony, who was descended from Saint Arnulf of the Franks, grandfather of Pippin II.[1] Welf’s other child, Judith of Bavaria, married Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, while his daughter Dhuoda, married Bernard of Septimania, the son of William of Gellone.[2] Conrad of Auxerre was the father of Guelph I, and his son, Eticho, married Judith of Wessex, daughter of Ethelwulf, the King of England, and granddaughter of Redburga, sister to William of Gellone.[3]

The House of Welf is the older branch of the House of Este, a dynasty whose oldest known members lived in Lombardy in the ninth century AD. For this reason, it is sometimes also called Welf-Este. Azo II of Este married Cunigonde of Bavaria, the daughter of Guelph II, and Judith of Luxemberg, daughter of Sainte Cunigunde’s brother Frederick of Luxembourg. Their son was Guelf IV, who inherited the property of the Elder House of Welf, and became duke of Bavaria in 1070 AD. He then married Judith of Flanders, the daughter of Baldwin IV of Flanders and Eleanor of Normandy, another daughter of Robert II Duke of Normandy, who was also the grandfather of William the Coqueror and William St. Clair.[4]

In 1089 AD, their son, Guelph V married countess Matilda of Tuscany.[5] Guelph V’s brother, however, Henry “the Black”, married Wulfhildis, the daughter of the last Billung duke of Saxony. The duchy of Saxony had originally belonged to the Saxon noble family of Billung, who at the same time were the Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. After the extinction of the male line of Billungs, the duchy was given to Lothar II, descended from Svyatoslav of Kiev, who then also became Emperor for a short time.[6]

The mother of Wulfhildis was Sophia of Hungary, whose father was Bela Arpad King of Hungary, the grandson of Michael Arpad, brother to Geza, while her grandmother was Katun Kometopoulos, daughter of Samuil, the Bogomil King of Bulgaria. When Henry the Black’s brother, Guelph V, died childless in 1120 AD, he succeeded him as Duke of Bavaria.

Albert I of Brandenburg

Albert I of Brandenburg

Henry the Black had intially shown his alliegience to his son-in-law Frederick II, Duke of Swabia, but switched his support, after Lothair promised that Gertrud, his only daughter and heir, would marry his son Henry X “the Proud” Duke of Bavaria and also of Saxony. After the death of the intervening king and emperor Lothar III, in 1137, Conrad became Conrad III of Germany. Henry the Proud had been the favoured candidate in the imperial election against Conrad III of the Hohenstaufen, but lost, as the other princes feared his power and temperament, and was dispossessed of his duchies by Conrad III.

Conrad III became Holy Roman Emperor in 1138, being the first of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, which was about to restore the glory of the Empire even under the new conditions of the 1122 Concordat of Worms. Conrad III was succeeded by Frederick I Barbarossa, the grandson of Henry IV, and whose mother, Judith of Bavaria, was descended from the Guilhemid Houses of Flanders and Normandy.

It was Babarossa who first called the Empire “holy”, and introduced the idea of the “Romanness” of the Empire, as an attempt to justify the Empire’s power independently of the now strengthened Pope. Barbarossa made several unsuccessful attempts to regain Italy.

The supporters of Frederick became known as Ghibellines. While campaigning in Italy to expand imperial power there, the Lombard League and its supporters became known as Guelphs, “Guelph” being most probably an Italian language form of Welf. Both Henry the Lion and Frederick Barbarossa were nevertheless descended from Henry the Black and Wulfhildis of Saxony. Henry the Lion was his son, while Frederick Barbarossa was the son of Henry the Lion’s sister, Judith of Brunswick, who married Frederick of Swabia.

Henry the Lion was both Duke of Bavaria and Duke of Saxony. He was the most powerful of the German princes of his time. At the height of his reign, Henry ruled over a vast territory stretching from the coasts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea to the Alps, and from Westphalia to Pomerania. He achieved this great power in part by his political and military acumen, in part through the legacies of his four grandparents.[7] He was the son of Henry the Proud, duke of Bavaria and Saxony, ad Gertrud, only daughter of Emperor Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Richenza of Nordheim, heiress to the Saxon territories of Nordheim and the properties of the Brunones, counts of Brunswick.

Henry’s father died in 1139, aged 32, when Henry was still a child. King Conrad III had dispossessed Henry the Proud, who had been his rival for the crown, of his duchies, and handed Saxony to Albert “the Bear”, and Bavaria to Leopold IV of Austria. Albert the Bear was himself a descendant of Dubrawka and Mieszko, and his mother was Eilika of Saxony, the sister of Wulfhildis.[8] Leopold IV’s father, Leopold III of Austria, also a descendant of Dubrawka[9], had married Agnes Salien, daughter of Henry VI Holy Roman Emperor. Leopold IV married Mary of Bohemia, daughter of Sobeslav and Adelheid Arpad.[10] Leopold IV’s sister Gertrud married Vladislav of Bohemia. Their son Friedrich King of Bohemia married Elizabeth Arpad.[11]

Henry the Lion, however, did not relinquish his claims to his inheritance, and Conrad returned Saxony to him in 1142 AD. In 1156 AD, Henry also reacquired Bavaria by a decision of the new Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Henry is the founder of Munich and Lübeck; he also founded and developed the cities of Stade, Lüneburg and Brunswick. In Brunswick, his capital, he had a bronze lion, the Lion of Judah, his heraldic animal. In 1168 AD, Henry married Matilda of Anjou, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Otto I Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria

Otto I Wittelsbach
Duke of Bavaria

However, when Henry had declined to participate in Frederick Babarossa’s Italian campaigns, after those expeditions ended in distasters, the furious Emperor retaliated by having Henry stripped of his lands. Henry the Lion was finally deposed as duke of Saxony, and Bavaria, which was awarded as fief to Otto I Herzog Duke of Bavaria of the Wittelsbach family, which ruled from 1180 to 1918.[12] Otto’s son Ludwig I of Bavaria was married to the daughter of Elizabeth Arpad, Ludmila of Bohemia.

When Frederick sent troops against Henry, his allies deserted him, and he finally had to submit in November 1181. He was exiled from Germany in for three years, stayed with his father-in-law, Henry II of England, in Normandy, before being allowed back into Germany in 1185. He was exiled again in 1188, and his wife Matilda died in 1189.

In 1189, when Fredrerick Barbarossa joined Richard the Lionhearted in the Third Crusade, during which he was killed. Henry returned to Saxony where he mobilized an army but Barbarossa’s son, Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, again defeated him. In 1194, with his end approaching, Henry made his peace with the Emperor, and returned to his much diminished lands, where he finished his days as the duke of Brunswick.

Despite these initial disputes, through intermarriage, the several lines of Henry the Lion, Otto I Duke of Bavaria, and Albert I “the Bear” Margrave of Brandenburg, were reuinted in the person of Frederick I Margrave of Brandenburg, from whom would emerge the bloodlines that would figure importantly in the intrigues of the occult undeground. The son of Albert I “the Bear” was Bernard III Duke of Saxony, who married Judith of Poland, the daughter of Mieszko III, and Elizabeth Arpad, granddaughter Geza Arpad and of Vladimir I of Kiev. Bernard’s son, Albert I of Saxony married Helene of Brunswick-Luneburg.[13] Their daughter, Helene of Saxony, married Friedrick III of Nurnburg, the son of Conrad III of Zollern.

Their great-grandson was Frederick I of Brandenburg. Frederick’s mother was Elisabeth Princess of Bayern-Landshut. Elisabeth’s mother was Mathilda of Wittelsbach, the daughter of Ludwig IV Holy Roman Emperor, who was the great-grandson of Henry the Lion. Ludwig’s mother was Matilda of Habsburg, daughter of Rudolf I of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick’s sons included John III the Alchemist.

Initially Burgrave of Nuremberg, Frederick was created margrave of Brandenburg. In 1320 the Brandenburg Ascanian line came to an end, and from 1323 until 1373, Brandenburg was under the control of the Wittelsbach family, better known as rulers of Bavaria, after it was initially lost to them from Henry the Lion. After a period of rule by the Imperial Luxembourg dynasty, however, the margravate was granted 1415 by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, to Frederick, becoming Elector of Brandenburg. and of the house of Hohenzollern, that would rule until the end of World War I.

The Habsburgs

Coat of Arms of the Habsburgs

In the thirteenth century, the Habsburg family began to extend its influence over Austria, ruled by the descendants of the Arpads, that governed as Margraves and and then Dukes. The Kings of Austria were descended from Frowiza, who was the child of Maria, daughter of Geza, and Otto the Doge of Venice. As the Habsburg continued their policy of acquisition through dynastic marriages with the houses of Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary, the double-headed eagle of the Seljuks became their heraldic symbol.

Bohemia was originally governed by the Premysl dynasty that intermarried with the Piasts. The first king of Bohemia was Boleslav I. His great-grandson Vratislav II, who became King of Bohemia in 1085 AD, married Swatawa Piast, the daughter of Casimir I, the great-grandson of Mieszko, and Dobronega, the daughter of Vladimir I, King of the Rus of Kiev, whose father was Svyatoslav, who originally conquered Kiev from the Khazars. His son, Vladislav II King of Bohemia married Gertrud of the Babenberg dynasty of Austria, descended from Frowiza.

Vladislav was succeeded by his son Ottokar I, who married Constance Arpad, daughter of Bela III Arpad, and Princess Marguerite of France. Marguerite was daughter to Louis VII King of France, who had formerly married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Costanza, from the Guilhemid dynasty of Castile. Ottokar’s son, Wenceslas King of Bohemia, married Kunigunde of Swabia, who was the daughter of Philip Hohenstauffen, Frederick Barbarossa’s son, and Irene of Constantinople.

In 1251 AD, their son, Ottokar II King of Bohemia, secured his election as duke of Austria, where he strengthened his position by marrying Margaret, the daughter of Leopold VI and Theodora. Theodora was the daughter of Isaak II Angelos, Byzantine Emperor, and Margaret Arpad, sister of Constance Arpad.[14]

Sigismund of Luxembourg, Holy Roman Emperor

Sigismund of Luxembourg
Holy Roman Emperor

Ottokar II was replaced by the Habsburg ruler Rodolf in 1273. However, Rudolf I’s son, Holy Roman Emperor Albert I, was assassinated in 1308, after which the title was denied the Habsburgs for more than a century. Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV of Luxemburg, then became King of Bohemia in 1348. He was born as Wenceslaus, but later changed his name to Charles at his confirmation. Charles’ mother was Elizabeth of Bohemia, the granddaughter of Ottokar II. Her mother was Jutta of Habsburg, daughter of Rudolf I. She married John of Luxemburg, son of Henry VII Holy Roman Emperor.

Charles IV’ son was Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Hungary and Bohemia, who, in 1431, commissioned the formation of the Order of the Dragon, to protect the royal family. Sigismund was a member of the Order of the Garder, and therefore, the dragon was allusion to the dragon slain by St. George. Included in the Order were a number of important vassals and nobles, like Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III Dracula, also known as “Count Dracula”, or Vlad “the Impaler” of Transylvania. The post-title “Dracul” was a reference to being invested with the Order of the Dragon.

Between 1349 and 1411, the Habsburgs also absorbed Moravia. At the end of the eighth century, Great Moravia, which encompassed Bohemia, Hungary, and several other states, had also fallen to the invading Magyars. Moravia then came under the rule of Boleslaus I of Poland between 999 and 1019, before becoming part of Bohemia in 1019. It was raised to the status of a Margrave in 1182, and shared its history with Bohemia, and came under the House of Luxembourg, when Charles IV became Margrave of Moravia in 1334.

Badge of the Order of the Dragon

Badge of the
Order of the Dragon

Vlad the Impaler, aka, "Dracula"

Vlad the Impaler
aka, "Dracula"

After Albert II, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and Duke of Austria, became Holy Roman emperor in 1438, the imperial office remained in Habsburg hands for the next four hundred years. Albert II’s father was the grandson of Albert III Duke of Austria, the son of Albert I Holy Roman Emperor. Albert III of Austria married Beatrix of Hohenzollern, the sister of Frederick I of Brandenburg. Their son was Albert IV of Austria, who married Joanna of Bavaria, the sister of Joanna of Bavaria, whose father was the brother of Matilda of Wittelsbach. Albert IV and Joanna’s son was Albert II Holy Roman Emperor.[15]

Albert II was succeeded by Frederick III Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick III was the son of Ernst II “the Iron” of Austria, a Habsburg and a member of the Order of the Dragon, and Cymburgis of Mosavia, from the Piast dynasty. Friedrich III was a member of the Order of the Garter, and married Eleanor de Aviz, Princess of Portugal, the daughter of Eleanor of Aragon, whose brother, Alfonso V King of Aragon and Naples, was a member of the Order of the Dragon.

The Houses of Aragon, like the houses of Castile and Sicily, derive from the Piast dynasty. The House of Castille is descended from Alfonso VII “the Emperor” of Galicia, Leon and Castile, and Richeza of Poland, the daughter of Wladislaw II of Poland, a descendant of Mieszko I, and Adelaide, the daughter of Michael Arpad.

The House of Aragon is descended from Bela III, King of Hungary. Bela III was descended and Vasul, the son of Michael Arpad and Adelaide the daughter of Mieszko King of Poland. Vasul married Katun Kometopoulos, the daughter of Samuil, the Bogomil King of Bulgaria. Bela III married Agnes of Chatillon, the granddaughter of Bohemund II Prince of Antioch. Their granddaughter, Yolande Arpad, married James I King of Aragon. When James’ father was slain, when he took up arms against the Albigensian crusade on behalf of the Cathars, James had been entrusted to Guillen de Monredon, head of the Templars in Spain and Provence.[16]

Alfonso VIII, grandson of Alfonso VII, married Eleanor of Anjou, daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their daughter, Blanche of Castile, married Louis VIII King of France. Their grandson was Charles II King of Jerusalem and Sicily, who married Maria of Hungary of the Arpad dynasty.

Queen Isabella of Spain

Queen Isabella of Spain

Sigismund had no children and adopted the son of Frederick III, Maximilian I, also member of the Order of the Garter, who became Holy Roman Emperor in 1493. Within only two or three generations, the Habsburgs were managing to secure an initially intermittent grasp on the imperial throne that would last for centuries. After the marriage of Maximilian I, with Mary, heiress of Burgundy in the Low Countries, and the marriage of his son Philip with Juana, heiress of Spain and its newly-founded empire, Charles V inherited an empire where “the sun does not set”.

In 1521, Maximilian’s grandson, Charles V, who had also been King Charles I of Spain, assigned the Austrian lands his brother and successor Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. Ferdinand was descended from Paloma, who belonged to the bin Yahya family, a Portuguese family of rabbis of Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages, and before that going back to the Exilarchs in Babylonia and Persia, members of which were prominent in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Paloma and Federico’s grandmother was the sister of Alfonso IV of Portugal, the Grand Master of the Knights of Christ. Paloma, married Federico of Castile.[17]

Prince Henry the Navigator, in his nautical school of Sagres, Portugal

Prince Henry the Navigator
in his nautical school of Sagres, Portugal

Federico’s grandmother was the sister of Alfonso IV of Portugal. Following their suppression elsewhere, the Templars did not go underground in Portugal, but merely changed their name to the Knights of Christ, and Alfonso IV, a descendant of Roger II Guiscard, became their first Grand Master. Alfonso IV initiated a policy of sending ships on long voyages out into the Atlantic. This tradition was continued by his great-grandson, Henri the Navigator, who became the order’s Grand Master, with the aim of finding a seaway to India round the southern tip of Africa. Henry the Navigator was the third son of John I of Portugal, the founder of the Aviz dynasty; and of Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt. Henry VI of England awarded him the Order of the Garter.[18]

Paloma and Federico’s granddaughter married John II King of Aragon, and their son was Ferdinand II of Spain, who, along with his wife Queen Isabella, sponsored Knight of Christ, Columbus, to sail to America. Isabella’s father, John I of Portugal, was a member of the Order of the Garter, as was her husband Ferdinand. Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter, Queen Juana married Phlip I Habsburg, King of Spain, and their son was Ferdinand I, also belonged to the Order. He succeeded to the title of King of Bohemia in 1526, and as Ferdinand I of the Holy Roman Empire in 1558.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V
Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand married Anna of the Jagellon dynasty, which descends from the Piasts, who between the fourteenth century and sixteeth century reigned, as grand dukes of Lithuania, kings of Poland, of Hungary and of Bohemia. Ferdinand gained the title of King of Hungary in 1526. Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and the founder of the dynasty in Poland, became king of Poland as Ladislaus II of Poland after converting to Christianity. He married Jadwiga of Poland, who is venerated by the Catholic Church as Saint Hedwig the Queen, patron saint of queens and united Europe. She was the youngest daughter of Louis I of the House of Angevin, King of Hungary and Poland, and of Elizabeth of Bosnia. Both Hedwig’s mother and Louis’s mother, Elisabeth, were descended from the House of Piast. Louis was the great-grandson of Charles II, King of Jerusalem and Sicily, and Maria of Hungary. He was the grandson of Charles Martel d’Anjou and Clemencia, the daughter of Rudolph I. He was the son of Charles Robert, King of Hungary, and Elizabeth, daughter of Vladislav II, and the sister of Casimir III king of Poland and the last Piast rulers.

But the Habsburgs split into two branches, being the Austrian Habsburgs and the Spanish Habsburgs. After 1556, the Austrian Habsburgs held the title of Holy Roman Emperors, as well as the Habsburg Hereditary Lands of Austria and Slovenia, as well as the Kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary, while the Spanish Habsburgs ruled over the Spanish kingdoms, the Netherlands, the Habsburgs’ Italian possessions, and, for a time, Portugal. Hungary, nominally under Habsburg kingship from 1526, was mostly under the turks of the Ottoman Empire for 150 years.

Genealogical Chart

The Stuarts, Sinclairs and the House of Guelph: The Combined Lineage, leading to the union of Elizabeth Stuart and Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate of the Rhine, and George I, first Hanoverian King of England.[PDF]



[1] James Allen Dow, “Robert (Count) de HESBAYE”.
[2]Dhuoda”, Catholic Encyclopedia.
[3] James Allen Dow. “Eticho (Ato) of BREISGAU”.
[4]The Peerage, “Guelph IV Herzog von Bayern”.
[5]Welf”, Wikipedia.
[6] Robert Brian Stewart, “Vladimir I Velikiy Svyatoslavich, Grand Prince of Kiev”.
[7]Heny the Lion”, Wikipedia.
[8] Robert Brian Stewart,“Otto "der Reiche", Graf von Ballenstedt”.
[9] Robert Brian Stewart, “Liutpold II “der Schöne”, Markgraf von Österreich
[10]The Peerage, “Leopold IV Herzog von Bayern”; Jirí Louda and Michael MacLagan, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, 2nd edition (London, U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1999), table 77.
[11]The Peerage,“Friedrich, King of Bohemia”. Jirí Louda and Michael MacLagan, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, 2nd edition (London, U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1999), table 77.
[12]The Peerage, “Otto I Herzog von Bayern”; John Morby, Dynasties of the World: a chronological and genealogical handbook (Oxford, Oxfordshire, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1989), page 139.
[13]The Peerage, “Helene von Sachsen”.
[14The Peerage, “Theodora of Constantinople”.
[15]The Peerage, “Albrecht IV Erzherzog von Österreich”.
[16]James I of Aragon”, Wikipedia.
[17] David Hughes, Davidic Dynasty.
[18] NNDB, “Henry the Navigator”.