Duchy of Swabia

Duchy of Swabia
Herzogtum Schwaben (de)
Ducatus Allemaniæ (la)
Stem duchy of East Francia (915–962)
and the Holy Roman Empire (from 962)

Coat of arms

Map showing Upper Burgundy (green) and the Duchy of Swabia (orange)
Capital Uncertain
Government Principality
Historical era Early Middle Ages
   Formed from stem
of Alamannia
  Duchy discontinued 1268
  Duchy resurrected for
    the Habsburgs

   Disestablished 1313
Preceded by
Succeeded by
County of Württemberg
Old Swiss Confederacy
Margraviate of Baden
Duchy of Burgundy
Fürstenberg (principality)
Today part of

The Duchy of Swabia (German: Herzogtum Schwaben) was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German kingdom, and its dukes were thus among the most powerful magnates of Germany.

Swabia takes its name from the tribe of the Suebi, and the name was often used interchangeably with Alemannia during the existence of the stem-duchy in the High Middle Ages.[1] Dwelling in the angle formed by the Rhine and the Danube, they were joined by other tribes, and were called Alamanni, until about the 11th century, when the form Swabia began to prevail.

The duchy was proclaimed by Burchard II in 917. Burchard had allied himself with king Conrad I and defeated his rivals for the rule of Alemannia in a battle at Wahlwies in 915.

The most notable family to hold Swabia were the Hohenstaufen, who held it, with a brief interruption, from 1079 until 1268. For much of this period, the Hohenstaufen were also Holy Roman Emperors.

The duchy persisted until 1268, ending with the execution of Conradin, the last duke of Swabia. Rudolph I of Germany in 1273 attempted to revive the title of duke of Swabia, bestowing it on his youngest son, the later Rudolf II, who passed it to his son John Parricida. John died without an heir, in 1312 or 1313, marking the end of the "revived" title.

The Margraviate of Baden detached itself from the duchy in the 12th century.


In 496 the Alamanni were defeated by King Clovis I, brought under Francia, and governed by dukes who were dependent on the Frankish kings. In the 7th century the people were converted to Christianity, bishoprics were founded at Augsburg and Konstanz, and in the 8th century abbeys at Reichenau Island and Saint Gall. The Alamanni had gradually thrown off the Frankish yoke, but in 730 Charles Martel again reduced them to dependence, and his son Pepin the Short abolished the tribal duke and ruled the duchy by counties palatine, or kammerboten.

At this time the duchy, which was divided into gaus or counties, took the shape which it retained throughout the Middle Ages. It was bounded by the Rhine, Lake Constance, the Lech River and the Duchy of Franconia. The Lech, separating Alamannia from the Duchy of Bavaria, did not form, either ethnologically or geographically, a very strong boundary, and there was a good deal of intercommunion between the two peoples. During the later and weaker years of the Carolingian Empire the counts became almost independent, and a struggle for supremacy took place between them and the Bishopric of Constance. The chief family in Alamannia was that of the counts of Raetia Curiensis, who were sometimes called margraves, and one of whom, Burchard I, was called duke of the Alaminnia. Burchard I was killed in 911, for which two counts palatine, Bertold and Erchanger, were accused of treason and put to death by order of the German king Conrad I.

In 917, Burchard II, son of Burchard I and count in Raetia Curiensis, took the title of duke, and was recognized as such by King Henry I, the Fowler in 919. In the Battle at Winterthur in 919, Burchard defended the Thurgau against the claims of Rudolf II of Burgundy. Rudolf had attempted to expand his territory by capitalising on the feud between the Ahalolfing and Burcharding dynasties. He occupied the palace at Zürich and marched into the Thurgau from there. He was defeated by Burchard near Winterthur and was forced to abandon Zürich, retreating beyond the Reuss.[2]

Burchard's position was virtually independent, and when he died in 926 he was succeeded by Herman, a Franconian noble, who married his widow. When Hermann died in 948 Otto the Great gave the duchy to his own son Liudolf, who had married Hermann's daughter Ida; but he reduced the ducal privileges and appointed counts palatine to watch the royal interests. Ludolf revolted, and was deposed, and other dukes followed in quick succession. Burkhard III, son of Burkhard II, ruled from 954 to 973, when he was succeeded by Ludolf's son, Otto, afterwards duke of Bavaria, to 982, and Conrad I, a relative of Duke Hermann I, until 997. Herman II, possibly a son of Conrad, succeeded, and, dying in 1003, was followed by his son Hermann III. During these years the Swabians were loyal to the kings of the Saxon house, probably owing to the influence of the bishops. Hermann III had no children, and the succession passed to Ernest II, son of his eldest sister Gisela and Ernest I, Margrave of Austria. Ernest I held the duchy for his son until his own death in 1015, when Gisela undertook the government, and was married a second time, to Conrad, duke of Franconia, who was afterwards the German king Conrad II. When Ernest came of age he quarrelled with his step-father, who deposed him and, in 1030, gave the duchy to Gisela's second son, Herman IV and then, on the death of Herman IV in 1038, to Henry, his own son by Gisela. In 1045 Henry, who had become German king as Henry III, granted Alamannia to Otto, grandson of the emperor Otto II and count palatine of the Rhine, and, in 1048, to Otto III, count of Schweinfurt. Rudolph, count of Rheinfelden, was the next duke, and in 1077 he was chosen German king in opposition to the emperor Henry IV, but found little support in Swabia, which was given by Henry to his faithful adherent, Frederick I, count of Hohenstaufen. Frederick had to fight for his position with Bertold, son of Duke Rudolph, and the duke's son-in-law, Bertold II, duke of Zahringen, to whom he ceded the Breisgau in 1096. Frederick II succeeded his father in 1105, and was followed by Frederick III, afterwards the emperor Frederick I. The earlier Hohenstaufen increased the imperial domain in Swabia, where they received steady support, although ecclesiastical influences were very strong. In 1152 Frederick I gave the duchy to his kinsman, Frederick, count of Rothenburg and duke of Franconia, after whose death in 1167 it was held successively by three sons of the emperor, the youngest of whom, Philip, was chosen German king in 1198. During his struggle for the throne Philip purchased support by large cessions of Swabian lands, and the duchy remained in the royal hands during the reign of Otto IV, and came to Frederick II in 1214. Frederick granted Swabia to his son Henry, and, after his rebellion in 1235, to his son Conrad, whose son Conradin, setting out in 1266 to take possession of Sicily, pledged his Swabian inheritance to Ulrich II, count of Wurttemberg. The duchy was ripe for dissolution and, after Conradin's death, in 1268, the chief authority in Swabia fell to the counts of Wurttemberg, the margraves of Baden, the counts palatine of Tübingen, the counts of Hohenzollern and others. Present day Count Francis E Phelps III (Guelph).

When the emperor Maximilian I divided the Holy Roman Empire into Imperial Circles in 1512, one, which was practically coterminous with the duchy, was called the Swabian Circle. The area, which was formerly Swabia, was covered by the County of Württemberg, the Margraviate of Baden and the western part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Although the name Swabia is occasionally used in a general way to denote the district formerly occupied by the duchy, the exact use of the name is now confined to the Bavarian Swabia Regierungsbezirk, with its capital at Augsburg.


Further information: List of Alamannic pagi

At the time of its formation in the 10th century, the duchy comprised the following provinces (pagi, gowe):[3]

Today in Germany
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Today in Austria

Also part of the duchy was Raetia Curiensis, not historically part of Alemannia, as Burchard II at the time of the proclamation of the duchy also held the title of count of Raetia Curiensis.


  1. "Germany, the Stem Duchies & Marches". Friesian.com. 1945-02-13. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  2. Bernd Schneidmüller, Die Welfen. Herrschaft und Erinnerung (819–1252). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2000, 82–83.
  3. G. Droysen, Allgemeiner Historischer Handatlas, Bielefeld / Leipzig, 1886, 22f.


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