Supplementary Appendix 113.2

The Election of the Emperor in Frankfurt am Main [*]

When the time for the election is at hand, the electors proceed to compose the capitulation, to the observance of which the emperor is to swear at his election. When this is adjusted, a day is appointed for the election, and the magistracy, burghers, and military, receive directions from the Electoral College to take measures for the security of the said college and their attendants, and to remove all strangers out of the city. On the day of election the gates are kept shut, the keys delivered to the electors or their deputies, and brought into the election-room.

Early in the morning all the bells are rung for an hour, and the citizens drawn out under arms. The marshal assembles the electors. They meet in the council-chamber in their electoral robes, and, accompanied by the deputies of the absent electors, go in procession, if the election happens to be at Frankfort, to the church of St. Bartholomew, which is fitted up for the occasion.

When mass is ended (during which the Protestant electors generally retire), the electors and the deputies of the absentees take an oath to choose him who appears the fittest person; whereupon they repair to the sacristy. Before they proceed any further, all the electors or their deputies agree to abide by the majority of votes, and in particular the temporal electors or their deputies promise to observe the capitulation, should the choice fall upon them or their principals.

The Elector of Mentz collects the votes in the same order as if all the electors were present, and gives his the last. He who has the most votes is declared Emperor; but whoever is chosen is obliged to swear and subscribe to the capitulation, either in person or by his ambassador plenipotentiary, who generally attends as an electoral deputy.

In this last case the Emperor elect is nevertheless bound under his hand and seal to the observance of the capitulation, and must in person swear to the same before he can be crowned. He then appoints a day for the coronation, which according to the Golden Bull ought to take place at Aix-la-Chapelle, but has for a long time been performed at the place of election. The Imperial regalia, kept partly at Aix and partly at Nuremberg, are removed in proper time to the place of coronation.

On the day appointed for the coronation [here: 14 July 1792] the Emperor elect makes a pompous entry into the city where it is to take place. Attended by the temporal electors and the deputies of the absentees, he proceeds to the church, where he is received by the spiritual electors. During mass, he swears to preserve the Catholic and Apostolic faith, to protect the church and its servants, to administer justice impartially, to maintain and recover the privileges and estates of the Empire, to relieve the poor, the widows, and orphans, and to pay due respect to the Pope.

The elector then asks the by-standers whether they will be subject to him as their sovereign, establish his authority, and pay due obedience to it; which is answered in the affirmative. Thereupon the Emperor kneels down on the lowest step of the altar, and receives the benediction.

He is afterwards undressed to be anointed. The electoral deputies step forward, and the Elector of Brandenburg, with the help of the Emperor’s officers of state, takes off his robes. The consecrator anoints the Emperor with the sign of the cross, on the forehead, the breast, between the shoulders, in the neck, the palm of the hand, and elbow of the right arm, and lastly in the palms of both hands, with these words: “I anoint thee King, with the holy oil, in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.” —

The Emperor is then dried with white wool by some ecclesiastical assistants, and conducted by all the electors except the consecrator, into the conclave, and invested with the Imperial insignia. He is then reconducted to the altar, when he kneels down, and the consecrator pronounces a prayer over him.

Thereupon the sword of Charles the Great is given him, a ring put on his finger, the sceptre and Imperial apple are handed to him (which he soon returns), and the crown is placed on his head by all the three spiritual electors [the Archbishop of Mainz, Karl Theodor von Dalberg; the Archbishop of Trier, Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal; and the Archbishop of Cologne, Maximilian]; when he again takes the usual oath on the Bible of Aix to protect the church, preserve the privileges of the Empire, and to reverence the papal chair.



Being again conducted to his place, he kisses the Gospels, and after putting off the crown, receives the sacrament in both kinds, whilst mass is performed. When that is over the crown is replaced, he is led to the throne; and finally, Te Deum is sung, amidst the ringing of all the bells, and the discharge of 100 pieces of Cannon. While the spiritual electors put on their electoral robes, he dubs some knights. He is then attended by all the electors on foot over the newly-erected wooden bridge, which is covered with cloth, and conducted to the town house of Frankfort, amidst the ringing of bells and discharge of Cannon. [Wooden bridge at right.]


He walks in the Imperial robes, with the crown on his head. The rest of the regalia is carried by the electors and deputies.

By virtue of a decree of the year 1657, either the Elector of Mentz or Cologne performs the ceremony of anointing the Emperor.

When the Emperor has reached the town-house, he is served at dinner by counts of the Empire. The electors, but not the deputies of the absent ones, dine in the same apartment with the Emperor, and each has a separate table, while the people drink their fill of red and white wine from a fountain constructed for the occasion. The Empresses are sometimes crowned at the same time; but this depends entirely on the pleasure of the Emperor.


[*] Jakob Gottlieb Isaak Boetticher, A Geographical, historical, and political Description of the Empire of Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Prussia, Italy, Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia, trans. from the German (London 1800), 42–44. See the supplementary appendix on the political organization of Germany in the late eighteenth century for the contextual discussion surrounding this account.

Illustrations in order: lithograph by Franz Wolf after Johann Nepomuk Hoechle from the series Hauptmomente aus dem Leben Sr. Majestät Franz I. (1835); engraving by Georg Vogel after A. Gabler (Nürnberg 1792); from Anton Ziegler, “Franz II. als römisch-deutscher Kaiser (Als Erbkaiser von Oesterreich der Erste.): Fortsetzung Im Jahre 1792,” Gallerie aus der österr. Vaterlandsgeschichte in bildlicher Darstellung … , aus der Epoche des Habsburg. Hauses bis zum Regierungsantritte Kaiser Ferdinand I. (Vienna 1837), unpaginated article. Back.

© 2014 Doug Stott