Cologne ~ Imperial Free City


COLOGNE, Imperial Free City.   KÖLN.

Cologne _ Köln

Cologne _ Köln (Photo credit: eLKayPics)

German city on the lower Rhine, originally the Roman town of Colonia Agrippina, which as the Empire declined became the capital of the Kingdom of the Riparian Franks, outsiders who had crossed into the lands of the enfeebled Empire. Clovis brought the Riparian Kingdom within his own Salian Frankish realm in the early 6th century.

Cologne was the seat of one of the three Rhenish Archbishop-Electors and was one of the great commercial centres of medieval Germany. It became one of the leading members of the Hanseatic League and made itself largely independent of the Archbishop, though it was not until 1474 that it was recognised as an Imperial Free City. The City was a member of the Lower Rhenish & Westphalian Imperial Circle and belonged to the Rhenish Bank of the Imperial Cities in the Reichstag (Imperial Diet).

The city was occupied by France in 1794 and in 1798 joined the new department of the Roer. In 1815 it was placed in the Kingdom of Prussia, belonging to the Rheinprovinz after its formation in 1824.

Since 1946 Köln has been a Stadtkreis and the administrative centre of the southernmost Regierungsbezirk named after it in the Land of Nordrhein-Westfalen. It is easily the largest city in an industrial Land of several large cities, half as much again as Essen and not too far off double the size of Düsseldorf, the capital of the Land, but Cologne had been devastated by bombing during the Second World War and the British had set up the headquarters of their zone in the rather less devasted Düsseldorf.

The British occupiers had trouble with Cologne in the first autumn of occupation. The mayor, appointed by the Americans when they seized the city, was a relic, almost seventy years old, whose public service dated back to the Wilhelmine era. He was recalcitrant in carrying out the orders of the local British military commander, who sacked him and banned him from political activity there. He could not even go to see his sick wife in a Cologne hospital until other British officers got that particular ban lifted. As the deposed mayor was Konrad Adenauer, the future Federal Chancellor, the ham-fisted dismissal was not soon forgotten.

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