- "It is your selfish desire to shun the power that makes you the best candidate."
- —Kurt Helborg to the to-be-elected Karl Franz
Despite being technically both the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the Imperial military, the Emperor is not by any means an absolute ruler. He has to share much of his power, influence and responsibilities with the powerful Elector Counts.
Upon the death of an Emperor the throne does not automatically pass to his heir. An election is held with 15 Electors, 10 of which are Elector Counts. The heir of the deceased Emperor is an obvious candidate; under normal circumstances he will be supported by the friends and allies of his predecessor. Therefore a dynastic succession is a strong possibility. However the heir may lose the election due to personal enmities, political maneuvering or his or her own personal failings.
Nearly all of the Emperors were chosen from among the Elector Counts and in many ways being Emperor means being but the "first among equals." The Emperor is the recognised leader of the Elector Counts, who are themselves powerful and independent nobles. Many matters are debated between the Emperor and the Counts on an equal standing and then agreed upon, and the outcome is not always as the Emperor wants.
The Emperor's power is severely limited by his inability to enforce his edicts within the semi-independent provinces that comprise the Empire. Far from the capital and within their own provinces, the Elector Counts rule as they see fit and they can choose to largely ignore Imperial edicts and decrees.
Furthermore, the Empire is not a centralised state, but a feudal confederacy. The Emperor does not control the entire military of the Empire and he does not receive all, or even the majority, of its taxes. His revenues and other resources are collected from his own province and his own personal treasury will pay the military units under his direct control.
Each of the Elector Counts collects taxes from his respective province and will spend his wealth as he sees fit. He will recruit and pay his own provincial army, which is far more loyal to its local ruler than to the distant Emperor. Depending upon the wealth of the province, a wealthy Elector Count may even be able to afford to recruit a larger army than the Emperor.
A wise Emperor will realise that trying to subdue the Elector Counts through threats and/or force is a very dangerous task, all too likely to result in open rebellion against Imperial authority and a civil war that may cost the Emperor his crown. Gaining the respect and loyalty of the Elector Counts of the Empire through example and fair leadership tends to be the best policy.
The Elected Emperors (1 to 1152 IC)
|Sigmar||1 - 50||Reikland||Founder of The Empire.|
|Hedrich||51-100||[Note 2]||Received the Runefangs and distributed them amongst the Elector Counts.|
|Fulk||100 - ?||Wissenland||Moved the capital to Nuln as a symbol of support of the Cult of Sigmar.|
|Hündrod the Furious||c.322||unknown||Killed Mascar, the Great Dragon, in the Drakwald|
|Sigismund II||501 - 510||Averland||Ruled from Altdorf. Absorbed Marienburg into The Empire.|
|Siegfried the Lawgiver||510 - 557||Averland||Moved the capital to Nuln again|
|Siegfried I||667 - 732||unknown||A corrupt Emperor who rode a dragon. Died at the Battle of Fates and was burned by his own mount.|
|Jürgen the Opulant||c. 900||Possibly Drakwald||N/A.|
|Ludwig the Fat||c. 1000||Drakwald||Established The Moot.|
|Boris Goldgather||1053 - 1115||Corrupt Emperor who died of the Black Plague.|
|1124 - 1152||Middenland||Unites The Empire to defeat the Skaven.|
Age of Three Emperors (1152 to 2304 IC)
|Wilhelm||1359 - 1375||Stirland||unknown|
|Frederik III||c. 1448||Stirland||Sent Knights to the Great Crusades|
|Sigismund IV||1979 - ???||Reikland||Emperor during the siege of Altdorf of Waaagh! Gorbad! Slain in combat.|
|Magritta||c. 2000||Marienburg||Last Elected Empress. She was refused the crown by the Grand Theogonist.|
|Ottilia I||1360 - ???||Talabecland||First self-proclaimed Ottilian Emperor|
|Frederik V||c. 1550||Emperor when Middenheim had a self-proclaimed Emperor|
|Horst the Cautious||c 1750||Refused to make war on Nuln Emperors. Talabheim rebelled and now theres two Ottilian Emperors.|
|Helmut II||1750 - ???||Launched a coup against Horst the Cautious. He becomes the Ottilian Emperor of Talabheim.|
|Ottilia IV||c. 2100||Emperor during the Battle of Four Armies|
|Heinrich||1547 - ???||First self-proclaimed Wolf Emperor.|
|Gerhardt Meister||c. 1707||Rival of the elected Emperor Sigismund IV|
|Mannfred Todbringer||c. 2000||Is the grandfather of the current Elector Count of Middenheim, Count Boris Todbringer.|
|Magritta||1979 - ???||The self-proclaimed Empress of Marienburg|
|Helmut||c. 2100||Father of Helmar, killed and turned into a Zombie by Konrad von Carstein.|
|Helmar||2100 - ???||Emperor who released his father's spirit and killed Konrad von Carstein|
|Emperor Siegfried||c. 2000||N/A|
|Ludwig||c. 2051||Father of Lutwik, endured the Siege of Altdorf by Vlad von Carstein|
|Lutwik||??? - 2100||was killed by assassins after the Battle of Four Armies by agents of Ottilia IV|
Elected Emperors (2304 IC to Present)
|Magnus the Pious||2304 - 2369||Nuln||Victor at the battle at the gates of Kislev. Founded the Colleges of Magic.|
|Leopold||2369 - ?||Stirland||Grandfather of Dieter IV.|
|Dieter IV||2411 - 2429||Incompetent Emperor who sold Marienburg's independence.|
|Wilhelm III||2429 - ?||Reikland||Established the current royal line.|
|Mattheus II||?||Father of Luitpold I|
|Luitpold||? - 2502||Father of Karl Franz.|
|Karl Franz||2502 - incumbent||Current Emperor of the Empire.|
Emperors without clear dates of reign or provenance
|Wilhelm I||unknown||unknown||Early Emperor that was buried in Altdorf. Was reanimated by Vlad von Carstein during the End Times.|
|Carolus||1937||unknown||Was poisoned by Constant Drachenfels during a banquet|
|Beatrice the Monumentally Cruel||Unknown; sometime before Magnus the Pious||Unknown||Saw many folk in Reikland become outlaws in order to escape rapacious religious persecution|
The following individuals have the right to vote for the next Emperor upon the death of the incumbent, but only one of the Elector Counts can become Emperor.
- The Elector Count of Averland
- The Elector Count of Hochland
- The Elector Count of Middenland
- The Elector Count of Nordland
- The Elector Count of Ostland
- The Elector Count of Ostermark
- The Elector Count of Reikland
- The Elector Count of Stirland
- The Elector Count of Talabecland
- The Elector Count of Wissenland
- The Grand Theogonist of Sigmar
- The two Arch Lectors of Sigmar
- The High Priest of Ulric
- The Elder of The Moot
- Note 1: Tome of Salvation states that Siegrich was from Averland, while the WFRP 4th Edition rulebook states that he was from Stirland.
- Note 2: The WFRP 4th Edition rulebook states that he was from Reikland, while other sources state that he was from Wissenland.
- The Prince of Altdorf (Novel) by Andy Hall
- Tome of Salvation (RPG), pp. 17, 19
- Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition) pg. 16
- Sigmar's Heirs (RPG), pp. 15-17
- Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (7th Edition) pg. 14