Conrad II (circa 990 - June 4, 1039) was the son of count Henry of Speyer. He was elected king in 1024 and crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on March 26, 1027, the first member of the Salian Dynasty.
During his reign, he proved that the German monarchy had become a viable institution. Survival of the monarchy was no longer dependent on contracts between sovereign and territorial nobles.
Conrad grew up poor by the standards of the nobility and was raised by the bishop of Worms and was reputed to be prudent and firm out of consciousness of deprivation. In 1016 he married Gisela of Swabia, a widowed duchess. Both parties claimed descent from Charlemagne and were thus distantly related. Strict canonists took exception to the marriage and emperor Henry II used these findings to force Conrad into temporary exile. They became reconciled and upon Henry's death in 1024 Conrad appeared as candidate before the electoral assembly of princes at Kamba in the Rhineland. He was elected by the majority and was crowned king in Mainz on September 8, 1024.
The Italian bishops paid homage at Conrad's court at Constance in June 1025, but lay princes sought to elect William III (V), Duke of Aquitaine, as king instead. However early in 1026 Conrad went to Milan, where archbishop Ariberto crowned him king of Italy. After overcoming some opposition of the towns Conrad reached Rome, where Pope John XIX crowned him emperor on Easter, 1027.
He formally confirmed the popular legal traditions of Saxony and issued new constitutions for Lombardy. In 1028 at Aachen he had his son Henry elected and anointed king of Germany. Henry married Cunigunde or Gunhilda, daughter of King Canute the Great of England, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. This was an arrangement that Conrad had made many years ago, when he gave Canute the Great parts of northern Germany to administer. Henry, the later Emperor Henry III, became chief counsellor of his father.
Conrad campaigned against Poland in 1028 and forced Mieszko II, son and heir of Boleslaus I, to make peace and return land that Boleslaw I had conquered from the empire during his father's reign. At the death of Henry II the bold and rebellious Duke of Poland Mieszko II had tried to throw off vassalage, but then submitted and swore to be emperor Conrad's faithful vassal. Mieszko II quit being self-anointed king and returned to being duke of Poland.
When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died on February 2, 1032, he bequeathed his kingdom, which combined two earlier kingdoms of Burgundy, to Conrad. Despite some opposition, the Burgundian and Provencal nobles paid homage to Conrad in Zurich in 1034. This kingdom of Burgundy, which under Conrad's successors would become known as the Kingdom of Arles, corresponded to most of the southeastern quarter of modern France and included western Switzerland, the Franche-Comté and Dauphiné. It did not include the smaller Duchy of Burgundy to the north, ruled by a cadet branch of the Capetian King of France. (Piecemeal over the next centuries most of the former Kingdom of Arles was incorporated into France - but King of Arles remained one of the Holy Roman Emperor's subsidiary titles until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.)
Conrad upheld the rights of the valvassores (knights and burghers of the cities) of Italy against Archbishop Aribert of Milan and the local nobles. The nobles as vassal lords and the bishop had conspired to rescind rights from the burghers. With skillful diplomacy and luck Conrad restored order. He went on to southern Italy, to Salerno and Anversa and appointed Richer from Germany as abbot of Monte Cassino.
During the return trip to Germany an epidemic broke out amongs the troops. Conrad's daughter-in-law and stepson died. Conrad himself returned safely and held several important courts in Solothurn, Strasbourg and in Goslar. His son Henry was invested with the kingdom of Burgundy.
A year later in 1039 Conrad fell ill and died in Utrecht.
Depictions of Conrad II:
- Basilica of Aquileia (Italy). Apse fresco (ca.1031) showing emperor Conrad II, his wife Gisela of Swabia and Patriarch Poppone of Aquileia.
|Preceded by: |
|King of Germany |
Also Holy Roman Emperor
|Succeeded by: |