Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor

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Otto IV of Brunswick (1175 – May 19, 1218) was one of two rival kings of the Holy Roman Empire from 1198 on, sole king from 1208 on, and emperor from 1209 on. The only king of the Welf dynasty, he incurred the wrath of Pope Innocent III and was deposed in 1215.



Early Life

Otto was the third son of Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria and Saxony, and Matilda Plantagenet.[2] His exact birthplace is not given by any original source.[3][4]

He grew up in England[5] in the care of his grandfather King Henry II. Otto became a friend of Richard I of England, who attempted to make him Earl of York in 1190, and, through marriage, king of Scotland. Both attempts failed, and so in 1196, he was made Count of Poitou. He participated in the war against France on the side of Richard.

Conflict with Philip of Swabia

After the death of Emperor Henry VI, the majority of the princes of the Empire, situated in the south, elected Henry’s brother, Philip, Duke of Swabia, king in March 1198, after receiving money and promises from Philip in exchange for their support.[6] Those princes opposed to the Staufen dynasty also decided, on the initiative of Richard of England, to elect instead a member of the House of Welf. Otto's elder brother, Henry, was on a crusade at the time, and so the choice fell to Otto. The papacy meanwhile, under Innocent III, determined to prevent the continued unification of Sicily and the Holy Roman Empire under one monarch[7] seized the opportunity to extend its influence at the expense of the vulnerable empire and proceeded to move heaven and earth on behalf of Otto, whose family had always been opposed to the house of Hohenstaufen.[2] Otto himself also seemed willing to grant any demands that Innocent would make. The confusion in the Empire allowed Innocent to drive out the imperial feudal lords from Ancona, Spoleto and Perugia, who had been installed by Emperor Henry VI.[8] At the same time, Innocent encouraged the cities in Tuscany to form a league, called the League of San Genesio or the Tuscan League against German imperial interests in Italy, and they placed themselves under Innocent’s protection.[8]

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