THE Empire was no nearer unity than before. The Emperor, thanks to his peculiar relationship to the Papacy, could not be a national German monarch, and the doctrine of election made the Imperial seat the prize of contending families. Thus the growth of nationalism in Germany takes peculiar forms. It is not German in the modern sense, although its manifestations are German. The noble houses gradually become transformed into territorial princes, and instead of a German patriotism we find that particularism, Franconian, Bavarian, Swabian, Saxon, which has imposed to this day an obstacle to the realisation of a truly German state. Germany was a land of independent countries nominally bound together in the Empire, actually developing each on its own lines. Worse still, the Empire was not homogeneous. It included Czechs, Poles and other Slavs in the East; Dutchmen, Flemings and others in the West. In the West geography was to settle the issue; in the East politics. The king, often a German, of the non-German territories could aspire to the Empire and therefore had some reason to deprecate attempts to cut adrift from it; on the other hand, there was the persistent tendency, strongest naturally in a non-German monarch, to assert complete independence. The tendency was particularly strong in the Slav peoples, who felt already the menace of the German drang nach Osten (" drive to the East "), and were prepared to assert the claims of their own culture.

In these troubled waters the able diplomatists of Rome could fish. We have already dealt with the investiture quarrel, a quarrel in which the essential disunity of the Empire was the Church's best ally. It could, if faced with the threat of an anti-Pope, reply with the threat of an anti-Emperor; it claimed the right to recognise independence by recognising an individual as king and sending him crown and blessing. In 1077 Henry IV., who submitted at Canossa, found himself faced with Rudolf, a great Swabian noble, as rival to the Imperial title. Sixty years later, the House of Hohenstaufen, which after an interval succeeded to the Empire, was in turn challenged by the Duke of Bavaria. The rivalry between all the German nobles culminates in the long rivalry of the houses of the Wells and the Weiblingens, the Guelfs and Ghibellines of the older histories.1

The great period of the emperors of the House of Hohenstaufen was due to the fact that the first Emperor of the line, Frederick I, surnamed Barbarossa by the Italians, united Welf and Weiblingen in his own person. The effect of the new unity in Germany was ruined, however, by the Emperor's attempt to restore the old empire by conquering Italy. The old kingdom of the Lombards, of which the Ottos had been kings, had gone, and in their place had arisen the communes of Northern Italy under local leaders. They were bitterly hostile to the idea of a restoration of Imperial, or rather German, domination, and formed the Lombard League, which defeated Frederick at Legnano in 1176.

Guelf and Ghibelline acquired new meaning. The Guelf stood for the freedom of Italy; the Ghibelline sought peace, order, and unity under the Empire, and as things were, the anti-Ghibelline Papacy assumed the curious role of the champion of Italian liberty. The Papacy won the first round, and the only success of the Empire was the acquisition by marriage of the old Norman kingdom of Sicily by Henry VI. (1165-97). Frederick II., the grandson of Frederick I., carried his predecessor's dream still further. Lord of Sicily, he dreamed of an Italian monarchy which, had it been achieved, would have made short work of the temporal power of the Pope, now not inconsiderable in Italy. The Papacy excommunicated him and backed the Lombard League against him. It failed to have Frederick deposed, but after his death in 1250 it summoned a French prince who exterminated the house and ended the dream of an Italian kingdom. There was from 1256 to 1273 no emperor at all.