1902 Encyclopedia > Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
(972-1024)




HENRY II. (972-1024), Holy Roman emperor, was born in 972. He was the son of Henry the Wrangler, duke of Bavaria, a grandson of King Henry I. In 995 he succeeded to the duchy of Bavaria, and six years afterwards went to Rome with the young emperor Otto III., to whom he rendered important services. When Otto III. died, Henry, as the chief surviving representa-tive of the house of Saxony, took possession of the insignia of the empire, and was crowned German king at Mainz on the 7th of June 1002, Encouraged by disturbances in Germany, a rebellious party of nobles in northern Italy raised Margrave Harduin of Ivrea to the throne of Lombardy; but Henry advanced against them, and, like his immediate predecessors, made himself master of the iron crown. His most determined enemy during the greater part of his reign was Boleslaus II. of Poland, This ambitious and strong-willed prince annexed Bohemia, and during the king's absence in Italy broke into Lusatia and Meissen. Henry hurried back, defeated Boleslaus in 1005, and granted Bohemia in fief to Jaromir, son of the previous duke. Boleslaus, however, continued the war, which was not ended till 1018, when Henry was obliged to conclude peace on terms that were much more favourable to the Poles than he would have voluntarily granted. In the midst of this struggle he had to make war on Adalbero, his wife's brother, who seized the archbishopric of Treves, and was protected in his claim by another brother of the empress, the duke of Bavaria. Both were overcome and deprived of their dignities, although Bavaria was ultimately restored to the elder of the two brothers. Henry also put down rebellions in Flanders and Meissen, and he concluded an important treaty with Rudolf III. of Burgundy, whereby after Rudolf's death the country was to be united to Germany. In 1013 Henry went for the second time to Italy, where Harduin had again raised himself to the throne. The usurper was displaced, and in 1014 Henry was crowned emperor at Rome by Benedict VIII., whom he had con-firmed in the papal see in opposition to the antipope Gregory. At the request of Benedict the emperor returned to Italy in 1022 in order to drive back the Greeks, who were steadily pressing northwards. In this enterprise he associated himself with the Normans, who thus became one of the most important factors in the political life of Italy. Henry's health, which was always feeble, rapidly declined after this third visit to his southern dominions, and in 1024 he died. He was canonized by Pope Eugenius III., and at a later time his wife, Cunigunde, was also ranked among the saints. It was natural that they should be thus honoured, not only because of their fervent piety, but because the church has rarely had a more splendid bene-factor than Henry II., whose ruling policy was to balance the power of the great nobles by increasing that of the spiritual princes. He also founded the bishopric of Bam-berg, which was placed under the immediate jurisdiction of the pope, and to which he left by will all his treasures and his magnificent allodial possessions.

See Hirseh, Jahrbucher des Deutschen Reichs unter Heinrich II. (Berlin, 1862-75).







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