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Heritability is not a philosophy: it is a theory of constitutional history, and its efficacy can be demonstrated through detailed examination of individual problems. For example, it should be possible to show that the Carolingians claimed the Frankish throne by right of inheritance from the Merovingians. Many difficulties beset that particular issue, which cannot be settled here in all its details, but it can at least be said that heritability allows a wide-open field of possible resolutions, a fact that is invariably overlooked by those who apply rigid modern notions of hereditary succession as the test of heritability.

More promising for the moment are problems of heritability in the claims to the throne of the first non-Carolingian kings of Germany. Probably the inherited right of Henry the Fowler (919-36) has already been resolved in the literature, while the inherited right of Konrad I (911-18) is within reach of a resolution. From Henry I descended the dynasty of the Ottos. The empire was renovated by Otto I in 962 and passed father-to-son to his son Otto II and grandson Otto III. Emperor Henry II (1002-24) descended agnatically from Henry I and obviously based his claim on a hereditary principle of succession.

In a series of studies initiated in 1980, attention began to be drawn not only to inherited right in the succession of German monarchs, but also to the rights of challengers in the succession disputes. In 1002 there were several competitors, but the succession was eventually resolved between two candidates: Henry, the later emperor, and Duke Hermann II of Swabia († 1003). A variety of sources could be juxtaposed to show that Emperor Otto I’s eldest son Liudolf had a daughter Richlint, who was the mother of Duke Hermann, and so the latter’s candidacy in 1002 was based on descent from Otto I in a closer relationship to the deceased Otto III than was the relationship of Henry II.

Instead of being taken on its merits, this outlook was initially calumniated by various scholars in the field. Many specious arguments were fashioned to thwart what seemed at the time a radical line of thought. Yet some determined that the notion of throne-right should be supported and developed (see literature here).

The test case is the imperial election of 1024. In that election, two candidates were singled out and votes were cast. They were the Salian princes Konrads the Elder and Younger, who were first cousins. Both the successful candidate – the later Emperor Konrad II – and his unsuccessful competitor descended from Emperor Otto I ’s daughter Liutgard.

The question is, why should the pool of candidates have been reduced only to those two, when in 1002 several prospective heirs had been considered and the result was determined by force of arms? Similarly, why should an election have been convoked for these candidates, when armed struggle continued to be a major factor in later succession disputes?

The answer lies simply in the circumstance that Konrad the Elder was married to a daughter of Duke Hermann of Swabia, one of the principal candidates in 1002, while Konrad the Younger’s mother was an elder daughter of that same duke (see table here). There were problems concerning the quality of inherited right which could only be resolved in a convention.

Among the historical processes of imperial succession a consideration of throne-right loomed large, hence all candidates to the throne present issues of constitutional history, and all candidacies should be weighed against each other, just as they were at the time.


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