Holy Roman Empire

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The Holy Roman Empire (HRE; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich (HRR), Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum (IRS), Italian: Sacro Romano Impero (SRI)) was a realm that existed for about a millennium in Central Europe, ruled by a Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes, especially under Habsburg rule. In its last centuries, its character became quite close to a loose union of territories.

In the empire's later years, its faltering cohesion, the fact that the Holy Roman Empire was populated primarily by Germans despite its official "Roman" title, and its claims to divinity and ancient Rome all became matters of ridicule. As the French Enlightenment writer Voltaire quipped, "This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire".[2]

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