Henry the Lion (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Henry was the most important of the twelfth century German nobles who resisted the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor. He was also a leader in the movement to extend German colonization into Slavic territory.
Even kings considered themselves clients of Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria. He was a very capable and determined person, but these traits alone would not have made him one of the most important people of the age. The timing of his birth and the political conditions in Germany allowed him to attain a degree of power and influence seldom reached in the twelfth century by anyone without royal status. Between 1076, when Pope Gregory VII attempted to depose Emperor Henry IV, and Henry the Lion’s birth, the German nobility gained so much independence from the throne that the result was nearly anarchy. This situation had arisen because the emperors were distracted by the conflict with the papacy and because they had lost their struggle to make succession to the imperial throne hereditary. The conflict with the various popes required concentration on Italy rather than Germany, and the principle of election to the throne meant that feuds, granting of favors in return for electoral support, and uncertainty about the future created political instability. Enjoying freedom from imperial control, aggressive knights carved out domains for themselves and began to give themselves...
(The entire section is 2631 words.)
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