After the demise of the German Carolingian house with the death of Louis the Child, Duke Conrad of Franconia was elected (911) German king as Conrad I, but was unable to keep the royal crown in his family. As a result of the rebellion of Duke Eberhard, King Otto I seized the duchy in 939 and partitioned it; vast territories passed to the loyal clergy, notably to the bishops of Würzburg and Bamberg and to the abbot of Fulda.
Two nominal duchies—that of Western or Rhenish Franconia and that of Eastern Franconia—emerged. Rhenish Franconia, which gave the empire the Franconian or Salian dynasty (1024–1125; Conrad II, Henry III, Henry IV, and Henry V), broke up into the free cities of Frankfurt and Worms, the ecclesiastical states of Mainz and Speyer, the Rhenish Palatinate, the landgraviate of Hesse, and other territories. Eastern Franconia, which Emperor Henry V had awarded to his nephew Conrad of Hohenstaufen in 1115, came increasingly under the control of the bishops of Würzburg, who were given legal title by Emperor Frederick I in 1168.
The title of duke of Franconia fell into disuse until it was again assumed (15th cent.) by the bishops of Würzburg, who continued to use it until their bishopric was secularized at the beginning of the 19th cent. The margraviates of Ansbach and Bayreuth, under the Franconian branch of the house of Hohenzollern, were the main secular territories in Eastern Franconia. The division (16th cent.) of the Holy Roman Empire into circles resulted in the creation of the Franconian circle, which included the bishoprics of Würzburg and Bayreuth, the free imperial city of Nuremburg, and the margraviates of Ansbach and Bayreuth. Most of Eastern Franconia passed to Bavaria between 1803 and 1815, and in 1837 King Louis I of Bavaria revived the name Franconia by creating the administrative districts of Lower, Middle, and Upper Franconia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.