Friday, February 6, 2015

Genealogies. And The Imperial Election Of 1519

I was going to write a post about the election of the King of the Romans in 1519, which was in effect the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles I of Spain was elected Emperor Charles V. Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England also competed for the Imperial crown. The question I was going to examine was: how serious a challenge was either of them to Charles? I have often heard and read that the election was very close and that both Francis and Henry had come very close to becoming Emperor. But I suspect that the closeness of the election, the uncertainty of the outcome, has been greatly exaggerated by recent historians. If we examine the Empire as a continuously-existing entity from Ad 800 until 1918, we see that every single Emperor belonged either to the Carolingian, Saxon, Salian, Supplinburg, Hohenstaufen, Welf, Luxumbourgian, Wittelsbach, or Habsburg dynasty.

One standard objection would be that I had left out the Guideschi, Bosonid and Unruoching dynasties who ruled, with one brief interruption by a Carolingian, between 894 and 924, between the main run of the Carolinginas and the beginning of the Saxon dynasty, but I'm counting the Guideschis, Bosonids and Unruochings as Carolingians. Yes, they were based in Italy, not Germany, but they all also happen to be direct descendants of Charlemagne.

In fact, ALL of the Emperors up until 1918 were direct descendants of Charlemagne.

Another objection here is that the Holy Roman Empire is said to have ceased to be in 1806, when Emperor Francis II surrendered to Napoleon and gave up the Imperial crown. I'm saying that the Austrian Empire which Francis formed in 1804, and which lasted until 1918 when Charles I abdicated, is the same Empire, with a rather minor change of status in some German territories, with the cessation of some formalities having to do with the Vatican while the close political connection between Empire and Vatican was uninterrupted, and with the open acknowledgement that the Empire was the hereditary preserve of the Habsburgs, which it had already been for centuries. Historians will say I'm mistaken. Let them say it. I'm saying that from 1440 to 1918, one family, the Habsburg, ruled the Empire, except for three years, from 1742 to 1745, when a close cousin of theirs from the house of Wittelsbach was the Emperor Charles VII.

And, let me just repeat it, all of the Emperors were directly descended from Charlemagne.

That was going to be today's blog post, but when researching the topic I can across the assertion, published in the Atlantic in 2002, that everyone in the world is descended from Nefertiti and Confucius, and everyone of European ancestry is descended from Muhammad and Charlemagne.

That kinda knocked this whole joint sideways for a while. Then I thought: Is that true?

Then I thought: if it actually is true, and every single person of European descent who was not a direct descendant of Charlemagne had died off by 2002, that would still be a very different thing than saying that every single person of European descent who was not a direct descendant of Charlemagne had died off by 1519. If it is true, it would still not mean that Henry VIII and Francis I were descendants of Charlemagne.

And even if they were descendants of Charlemagne, that still wouldn't mean that anyone knew it in 1519. Okay, apparently Francis was and knew that he was, but it had been over 500 years since his ancestors had included any rulers of Germany. Any ancestral claims Henry VIII had to Germany were even more remote. Charles' grandfather Maximilian, on the other hand, had been Holy Roman Emperor until his death earlier in 1519.

I'm saying that, in spite of the procedure of seven electors choosing each Emperor, and despite the 13th-century aberration of the very un-German Richard of Cornwall having been elected by them as King of the Romans, and the only slightly more German Alfonso X of Castile being elected as anti-King during Richard's reign -- at that time, being elected King of the Germans was still far from a guarantee that one would be crowned Emperor, and neither Richard nor Alfonso ever came close to the Imperial crown -- in spite of that aberration, and despite all the formal protestations that the Emperor's crown was not hereditary, it looks extremely hereditary to me.

And furthermore, I also think that the nice-sounding cliche about the Holy Roman Empire having been neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, is false. It was very holy and Roman in the sense of having been very Catholic, and it always was an empire it the sense of a monarch -- practically always German -- having ruled people of foreign tongues and ethnicities, pretty much always directly against their will. Charles V wasn't German? His grandfather the Emperor Maximilian certainly was, and his brother, whom he made Emperor Ferdinand I by his abdication in 1556, is very rarely not considered German. The fact that Charles was born and raised in Burgundy and was King of Spain for three years before succeeding his grandfather as Emperor is scarcely a hiccup in the Germanness of the ruling house of the Empire. The Electors -- all German -- all knew who Charles' grandfather had been. They would have seriously considered selling the Empire to the King of France or the King of England? I suppose we can never really know what they did or didn't seriously consider, but I can't imagine them having done such a thing.

Now -- every single man, woman and child on the face of the Earth is directly descended from Nefertiti? What about the Australian aborigines?

I realize that i have a very weak grasp of the fundamentals of genealogy and of biology in general. I think I'm much stronger when it comes to European dynasties. I'd be very glad if someone wanted to weigh in on the extent of Nefertiti's, Muhammed's and Charlemagne's DNA.

PS, 8 Sep 2017: Richard Dawkins, in The Ancestor's Tale, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2004, estimates that the most recent ancestor of all present-day human beings lived "probably tens of thousands of years ago, and at most hundreds of thousands." p 55. Dawkins discusses the evidence which led him to this conclusion on pp 36-55. The illustration on p 37 shows an estimate of 30,000 years ago. Nefertiti was born less than 3400 years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment