In 911, following the death of Louis the Child, the Carolingian dynasty ceased to reign in East Francia, and kingship became elective. The first rulers of the German kingdom were elected from the so-called “stem duchies”, which had emerged during the Frankish period, and sometimes were also called kingdoms – Saxony, Bavaria, Swabia, Franconia and Lotharingia (Lorraine). The borderlands of the German kingdom were known as “marches”, which were ruled by margraves. The first elected ruler of the German Kingdom was Conrad I, who had ruled the Duchy of Franconia. Conrad’s successor, Henry I (r. 919–36) was Duke of Saxony, and he became powerful enough to name his son, Otto I (r. 936–73) as his successor. Otto and his Saxon successors encouraged eastward expansion and colonization, extending German rule into Poland and Bohemia. In 962 Otto was crowned King of the Romans, and was henceforth known as Holy Roman Emperor. After the death of the last Saxon ruler in 1024 the crown passed to the Salian dynasty (1024–1125), rulers of the Duchy of Franconia. The investiture crisis during the rule of the Salian King Henry IV (r. 1056–1106) was an attempt by a reformist pope to curtail the German kings’ rights to appoint high officials in the German church (the practice of lay investiture), which were being resisted by elements of the German nobility who wanted to limit the absolutism of imperial rule. As feudalism became more established, local German rulers were acquiring large territories and military retinues, and the most powerful dukes were increasingly called princes. They and their vassals were outside the control of the monarchy, which was losing its ascendancy and increasingly reliant on the support of competing aristocratic factions.
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