Imperial Council

The Imperial Court is one of the few constitutional institutions that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation produced at the imperial level in the early modern period. Its geographical catchment area stretched over large parts of Europe: from northern Germany to Italy, from Alsace to Bohemia. Located at the imperial court and staffed and maintained solely by the emperor, the Imperial Court Council fulfilled three main functions:

  1. As the highest court of the empire, it was responsible for suits against imperial sovereigns and appeals against judgments of territorial courts, as well as for suits for breach of the peace, denial or delay of justice, and for nullity appeals.
  2. As an imperial authority, the Imperial Court primarily dealt with feudal and privilege matters. In addition, it dealt with a wide variety of requests to the imperial head, for example for the confirmation of wills and contracts, the appointment of guardians or the legitimation of illegitimate births, as well as requests from individuals for protection and assistance.
  3. As a body of the imperial council staffed with lawyers knowledgeable and experienced in imperial law, the head of the empire consulted the Imperial Court Council or individual members of it for an expert opinion on questions of legal relevance.


Most of the archive of the Imperial Court Council is located in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (HHStA) at Minoritenplatz in Vienna. The files contain a wealth of information on the legal history and general history of Austria, the Empire and Europe. The KRGÖ has set itself the task of collaborating with the HHStA in researching and indexing this archival treasure.