Dissolution of the Holy Roman EmpireFrancis II, Holy Roman EmperorThe Princes of the Holy Roman EmpireOutcomeDissolution of the Holy Roman Empire; succeeded chiefly by the Confederation of the Rhineand then the German ConfederationThe House of Habsburg-Lorraine continues to rule as Emperors of Austria and Kings ofHungaryThe German Question, concerning the possibility of German unification; eventually resultingin the formation of the German EmpireThe dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire occurred de facto on 6 August 1806, when thelast Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, abdicated his titleand released all imperial states and officials from their oaths and obligations to the empire.Since the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire had been recognized by Western Europeansas the legitimate continuation of the ancient Roman Empire due to its emperors having beenproclaimed as Roman emperors by the papacy. Through this Roman legacy, the Holy RomanEmperors claimed to be universal monarchs whose jurisdiction extended beyond theirempire's formal borders to all of Christian Europe and beyond. The decline of the HolyRoman Empire was a long and drawn-out process lasting centuries. The formation of the firstmodern sovereign territorial states in the 16th and 17th centuries, which brought with it theidea that jurisdiction corresponded to actual territory governed, threatened the universalnature of the Holy Roman Empire.The Holy Roman Empire by the time of the 18th century was widely regarded bycontemporaries, both inside and outside the empire, as a highly "irregular" monarchy and"sick", having an "unusual" form of government. The empire lacked both a central standingarmy and a central treasury and its monarchs, formally elective rather than hereditary, couldnot exercise effective central control. Even then, most contemporaries believed that theempire could be revived and restored to glory. The Holy Roman Empire finally began its trueterminal decline during and after its involvement in the French Revolutionary Wars and theNapoleonic Wars.Although the empire defended itself quite well initially, war with France and Napoleonproved catastrophic. In 1804, Napoleon proclaimed himself as the Emperor of the French,which Francis II responded to by proclaiming himself the Emperor of Austria, in addition toalready being the Holy Roman Emperor, an attempt at maintaining parity between Franceand Austria while also illustrating that the Holy Roman title outranked them both. Austria'sdefeat at the Battle of Austerlitz in December 1805 and the secession of a large number ofFrancis II's German vassals in July 1806 to form the Confederation of the Rhine, a Frenchsatellite state, effectively meant the end of the Holy Roman Empire. The abdication inAugust 1806, combined with a dissolution of the entire imperial hierarchy and itsinstitutions, was seen as necessary to prevent the possibility of Napoleon proclaiminghimself as Holy Roman Emperor, something which would have reduced Francis II toNapoleon's vassal.