What description of the medieval German polity would be taxonomically convincing in our present state of knowledge? To find in the sources some equivalent of ‘state’ and ‘nation’ is not easy, but the labels ‘kingdom’ and ‘Empire’ are well grounded: regnum of the East Franks from the ninth century, regnum Teutonicorum from the eleventh, and Henry VII addressed as rex Alamannie by his father’s chancery in 1231.1Romanum imperium was in literary use, as in Gerbert of Aurillac’s letters or the Vita Heinrici Quarti. It was fitfully in chancery usage in the eleventh century, and habitually in Frederick Barbarossa’s diplomas. But what sort of kingdom and Empire are being advertised in tandem? Some reverence for Frankish tradition; the immediate diplomatic geometry of the Papacy, the East Frankish kingdom, and the Lombard royal inheritance; and the capacity of Otto the Great for political innovation — all these motivated the restoration of the neo-Roman western Empire in 962.
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