Duchy of Swabia

Last updated
Duchy of Swabia

Herzogtum Schwaben(de)
Ducatus Allemaniæ(la)
Arms of Swabia.svg
Staufer arms (13th century)
Duchy of Swabia locator map (1004).svg
The Duchy of Swabia within the German Kingdom around the start of the 11th century
Alamannien Hochburgund ca 1000.png
Map showing the territories of Upper Burgundy (green) and the Duchy of Swabia (orange)
Historical era Early Middle Ages
 Duchy discontinued
 Duchy resurrected for the Habsburgs

Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Alamannia
County of Württemberg Wuerttemberg Arms.svg
Old Swiss Confederacy Early Swiss cross.svg
Margraviate of Baden Coat of arms of Baden.svg
Duchy of Burgundy Old Arms of the Dukes of Burgundy.svg
County of Hohenzollern Wappen Hechingen.svg
County of Fürstenberg Wappen Zaehringer.png

The Duchy of Swabia (German: Herzogtum Schwaben) was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German kingdom. It arose in the 10th century in the southwestern area that had been settled by Alemanni tribes in Late Antiquity.


While the historic region of Swabia takes its name from the ancient Suebi, dwelling in the angle formed by the Rhine and the Danube, the stem duchy comprised a much larger territory, stretching from the Alsatian Vosges mountain range in the west to the right bank of the river Lech in the east and up to Chiavenna (Kleven) and Gotthard Pass in the south. The name of the larger stem duchy was often used interchangeably with Alamannia during the High Middle Ages, [1] until about the 11th century, when the form Swabia began to prevail. [2]

The Duchy of Swabia was proclaimed by the Ahalolfing count palatine Erchanger in 915. He had allied himself with his Hunfriding rival Burchard II and defeated King Conrad I of Germany in a battle at Wahlwies. The most notable family to hold Swabia were the Hohenstaufen, who held it, with a brief interruption, from 1079 until 1268. For much of this period, the Hohenstaufen were also Holy Roman Emperors.

After a centuries-long struggle with the House of Zähringen, the Margraviate of Baden detached itself from the Swabian duchy in the 12th century. The remaining duchy persisted until 1268, ending with the execution of the last Hohenstaufen duke Conradin. Count Rudolf of Habsburg, elected King of the Romans in 1273, attempted to revive the Swabian ducal title, bestowing it on his youngest son, the later Duke Rudolf II of Austria, who passed it to his son John Parricida. John died without an heir, in 1312 or 1313, marking the end of the "revived" title.



In 496 the Alamanni tribes were defeated by King Clovis I, incorporated into Francia, and governed by several duces who were dependent on the Frankish kings. In the 7th century the people converted to Christianity, bishoprics were founded at Augsburg and Constance, and in the 8th century notable abbeys at Reichenau Island and Saint Gall. [2]

The Alamanni in the 7th century retained much of their former independence, Frankish rule being mostly nominal, but in 709, Pepin of Herstal conquered the territory and in 730 his son Charles Martel again reduced them to dependence. [2] The so-called Blood Court at Cannstatt in 746 marked the end of the old stem duchy, and the Alamanni now came fully under Frankish administration. Charles' son Pepin the Short abolished the tribal duke and ruled Alamannia by counts palatine, or Kammerboten. [2] King Charlemagne married the Alamannian princess Hildegard of the Vinzgau in 771.

Formation of a new duchy

At this time the duchy, which was divided into numerous Gaue (counties), took the shape which it retained throughout the Middle Ages. It stretched south of Frankish Austrasia (the later Duchy of Franconia) along the Upper Rhine, Lake Constance, up the High Rhine, and down the Danube to the Lech tributary. The Lech, separating Alamannia from the Duchy of Bavaria in the east, did not form, either ethnologically or geographically, a very strong boundary, and there was a good deal of intercommunion between the two peoples. [2]

By the 843 Treaty of Verdun, Alamannia fell to East Francia. During the later and weaker years of the Carolingian Empire the counts became almost independent, and a struggle for supremacy took place between them and the Bishops of Constance. [2] From about 900, two chief dynasties emerged: the Hunfriding counts in Raetia Curiensis (Churrätien) and the Ahalolfings ruling the Baar estates around the upper Neckar and Danube rivers. Their members were sometimes called margraves and sometimes, as in the case of Rudolf of Rhaetia, dukes. Finally, the Hunfriding count Burchard I was called dux of Alamannia. However, he was killed in 911, for which two Swabian counts palatine, Bertold and Erchanger, were accused of treason. Erchanger proclaimed himself duke in 915, but was put to death by order of the German king Conrad I [2] two years later.

Upon Erchanger's execution, Burchard II, son of the late Burchard I and count in Raetia Curiensis, took the title of duke. Burchard secured his rule by defending the Thurgau region against the claims of King Rudolph II of Burgundy in the 919 Battle of Winterthur. Rudolph II had attempted to expand his Upper Burgundian territory up to Lake Constance by capitalising on the feud between the Ahalolfing and Hunfriding dynasties. He occupied the palace at Zürich and marched into the Thurgau from there. He was defeated by Burchard near Winterthur and was forced to abandon Zürich, retreating beyond the Reuss. [3] Duke Burchard's rule subsequently was acknowledged as such by the newly elected king Henry the Fowler.

Younger stem duchy

Stem duchies of the German kingdom 919-1125, by William R. Shepherd: Swabia in light orange Central Europe, 919-1125.jpg
Stem duchies of the German kingdom 919-1125, by William R. Shepherd: Swabia in light orange

Burchard's position was virtually independent, and when he died in 926 he was succeeded by Hermann, a Franconian noble, who married his widow. [2]

When Hermann died in 948 Otto the Great gave the duchy to his own son Liudolf, who had married Hermann's daughter Ida; but he reduced the ducal privileges and appointed counts palatine to watch the royal interests. Liudolf revolted, and was deposed, and other dukes followed in quick succession. Burchard III, son of Burchard II, ruled from 954 to 973, when he was succeeded by Liudolf's son, Otto, afterwards duke of Bavaria, to 982, and Conrad I, a relative of Duke Hermann I, until 997. Hermann II, possibly a son of Conrad, succeeded, and, dying in 1003, was followed by his son Hermann III. During these years the Swabians were loyal to the kings of the Saxon house, probably owing to the influence of the bishops. Hermann III had no children, and the succession passed to Ernest II, son of his eldest sister Gisela and Ernest I, Margrave of Austria. Ernest I held the duchy for his son until his own death in 1015, when Gisela undertook the government, and was married a second time, to Conrad, duke of Franconia, who was afterwards the German king Conrad II. When Ernest came of age he quarrelled with his step-father, who deposed him and, in 1030, gave the duchy to Gisela's second son, Hermann IV and then, on the death of Hermann IV in 1038, to Henry, his own son by Gisela. In 1045 Henry, who had become German king as Henry III, granted Alamannia to Otto, grandson of the emperor Otto II and count palatine of the Rhine, and, in 1048, to Otto III, count of Schweinfurt. Rudolph, count of Rheinfelden, was the next duke, and in 1077 he was chosen German king in opposition to the emperor Henry IV, but found little support in Swabia, which was given by Henry to his faithful adherent, Frederick I, count of Hohenstaufen. [2]

Staufer period

Frederick had to fight for his position with Bertold, son of Duke Rudolph, and the duke's son-in-law, Bertold II, duke of Zahringen, to whom he ceded the Breisgau in 1096. Frederick II succeeded his father in 1105, and was followed by Frederick III, afterwards the emperor Frederick I. The earlier Hohenstaufen increased the imperial domain in Swabia, where they received steady support, although ecclesiastical influences were very strong. In 1152 Frederick I gave the duchy to his kinsman, Frederick, count of Rothenburg and duke of Franconia, after whose death in 1167 it was held successively by three sons of the emperor, the youngest of whom, Philip, was chosen German king in 1198. During his struggle for the throne Philip purchased support by large cessions of Swabian lands, and the duchy remained in the royal hands during the reign of Otto IV, and came to Frederick II in 1214. Frederick granted Swabia to his son Henry, and, after his rebellion in 1235, to his son Conrad, whose son Conradin, setting out in 1266 to take possession of Sicily, pledged his Swabian inheritance to Ulrich II, count of Württemberg. The duchy fell into abeyance after Conradin's death in 1268. [2]

Post-ducal Swabia

When the emperor Maximilian I divided the Holy Roman Empire into Imperial Circles in 1512, one, which was practically coterminous with the duchy, was called the Swabian Circle. The area, which was formerly Swabia, was covered by the County of Württemberg, the Margraviate of Baden and the western part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Although the name Swabia is occasionally used in a general way to denote the district formerly occupied by the duchy, the exact use of the name is now confined to the Bavarian Swabia Regierungsbezirk, with its capital at Augsburg. [2]

See also


  1. "Germany, the Stem Duchies & Marches". Friesian.com. 1945-02-13. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Swabia". Encyclopædia Britannica . 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 176.
  3. Bernd Schneidmüller, Die Welfen. Herrschaft und Erinnerung (819–1252). Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2000, 82–83.

Related Research Articles

Hohenstaufen Medieval German royal dynasty

The Hohenstaufen, also called Staufer, was a noble dynasty of unclear origin that rose to rule the Duchy of Swabia from 1079 and to royal rule in the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages from 1138 until 1254. The most prominent kings Frederick I (1155), Henry VI (1191) and Frederick II (1220) ascended the imperial throne and also ruled Italy and Burgundy. The non-contemporary name is derived from a family castle on the Hohenstaufen mountain at the northern fringes of the Swabian Jura near the town of Göppingen. Under Hohenstaufen reign the Holy Roman Empire reached its greatest territorial extent from 1155 to 1268.

Ottonian dynasty Saxon dynasty of German monarchs (919–1024)

The Ottonian dynasty was a Saxon dynasty of German monarchs (919–1024), named after three of its kings and Holy Roman Emperors named Otto, especially its first Emperor Otto I. It is also known as the Saxon dynasty after the family's origin in the German stem duchy of Saxony. The family itself is also sometimes known as the Liudolfings, after its earliest known member Count Liudolf and one of its primary leading-names. The Ottonian rulers were successors of the Germanic king Conrad I who was the only Germanic king to rule in East Francia after the Carolingian dynasty and before this dynasty.

Conrad I of Germany King of East Francia

Conrad I, called the Younger, was the king of East Francia from 911 to 918. He was the first king not of the Carolingian dynasty, the first to be elected by the nobility and the first to be anointed. He was chosen as the king by the rulers of the East Frankish stem duchies after the death of young king Louis the Child. Ethnically Frankish, prior to this election he had ruled the Duchy of Franconia from 906.

Swabia Cultural, historic and linguistic region of Germany

Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany. The name is ultimately derived from the medieval Duchy of Swabia, one of the German stem duchies, representing the territory of Alemannia, whose inhabitants interchangeably were called Alemanni or Suebi.

The Dukes of Swabia were the rulers of the Duchy of Swabia during the Middle Ages. Swabia was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German kingdom, and its dukes were thus among the most powerful magnates of Germany. The most notable family to rule Swabia was the Hohenstaufen family, who held it, with a brief interruption, from 1079 until 1268. For much of this period, the Hohenstaufen were also Holy Roman Emperors. With the death of Conradin, the last Hohenstaufen duke, the duchy itself disintegrated, although King Rudolf I attempted to revive it for his Habsburg family in the late-13th century.

Frederick I was Duke of Swabia from 1079 to his death, the first ruler from the House of Hohenstaufen (Staufer).


Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Germanic Alemanni peoples after they broke through the Roman limes in 213. The Alemanni expanded from the Main River basin during the 3rd century, raiding Roman provinces and settling on the left bank of the Rhine River beginning in the 4th century.

Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria German duke

Arnulf, also known as the Bad or the Evil, a member of the Luitpolding dynasty, held the title of Duke of Bavaria from about 907 until his death in 937.

Conrad, called the Red, was Duke of Lorraine from 944 until 953. He became the progenitor of the Imperial Salian dynasty.

Berthold II, Duke of Carinthia Duke of Carinthia

Berthold II, Duke of Carinthia, also known as Berthold I of Zähringen, was a progenitor of the Swabian House of Zähringen. From 1061 until 1077, he was the Duke of Carinthia and Margrave of Verona.

Henry III, called the Younger, a member of the Luitpolding dynasty, was the first Duke of Carinthia from 976 to 978, Duke of Bavaria from 983 to 985 and again Duke of Carinthia from 985 to 989.

Erchanger was the duke of Swabia from September 915 to his death. He was the son of Berthold I, count palatine of Swabia, who is sometimes called Erchanger as well, in which case the duke is Erchanger II. His mother was Gisela, daughter of Louis the German and his family is known as the Ahalolfinger.

Burchard II was the Hunfriding Duke of Swabia and Count of Raetia. He was the son of Burchard I of Swabia and Liutgard of Saxony.

Burchard I, a member of the Hunfriding dynasty, was a Duke of Alamannia from 909 until his death. He also held the title of a margrave of Raetia Curiensis, as well as count in the Thurgau and Baar.

Conrad I, Duke of Carinthia duke of Carinthia from 1004

Conrad I, a member of the Salian dynasty, was Duke of Carinthia from 1004 until his death.

Hermann of Salm German anti-king

Herman(n) of Salm, also known as Herman(n) of Luxembourg, the progenitor of the House of Salm, was Count of Salm and elected German anti-king from 1081 until his death.

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Queen of Germany Queen consort of Germany

Elisabeth of Bavaria, a member of the House of Wittelsbach, was Queen consort of Germany from 1246 to 1254 by her marriage to King Conrad IV of Germany.

Cunigunde of Swabia, a member of the Ahalolfing noble family, was Margravine of Bavaria until 907 by her first marriage with Margrave Luitpold and German queen from 913 to 918 by her second marriage with King Conrad I, the first and sole ruler of the Conradine dynasty.

Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor 10th century Ottonian Holy Roman Emperor

Otto I, traditionally known as Otto the Great, was German king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. He was the oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda.

Matilda of Swabia duchess consort of Carinthia and Upper Lorraine (c. 988–1032)

Matilda of Swabia, a member of the Conradine dynasty, was Duchess of Carinthia by her first marriage with Duke Conrad I and Duchess of Upper Lorraine by her second marriage to Duke Frederick II. She played an active role in promoting her son, Duke Conrad the Younger, as a candidate for the German throne in 1024 and to this end corresponded with King Mieszko II of Poland.