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The imperial ban (Template:Lang-de) was a form of outlawry in the Holy Roman Empire. At different times, it could be declared by the Holy Roman Emperor, by courts like the Vehmgericht or the Reichskammergericht, or by the Reichstag.
People under imperial ban, known as Geächtete (from about the 17th century, colloquially also as Vogelfreie, lit. "free as a bird"), lost all their rights and possessions. They were legally considered dead and anyone was allowed to rob, injure or kill them without legal consequences. The imperial ban automatically followed the excommunication of a person, as well as extending to anyone offering help to a person under the imperial ban.
Those banned could reverse the ban by submitting to the legal authority. The Aberacht, a stronger version of the imperial ban, could not be reversed.
The imperial ban was sometimes imposed on whole Imperial Estates. In that case, other estates could attack and possibly conquer them. For the banned state that meant that they would lose their Reichsunmittelbarkeit and in the future have a second overlord in addition to the emperor.
Famous people under the imperial ban included:
- 1180 Henry the Lion for refusing military support to Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, against the cities of the Lombard League.
- 1225 Count Frederick of Isenberg for killing his uncle Engelbert II of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne.
- 1235 King Henry (VII) of Germany for the rebellion against his father Emperor Frederick II.
- 1276 King Ottokar II of Bohemia for capture imperial lands , Rudolph I.
- 1309 John Parricida for the murder of his uncle King Albert I of Germany.
- 1415 Frederick IV, Duke of Austria was banned on March, 30th 1415 for aiding the flight of Antipope John XXIII from the Council of Constance.
- 1512 and 1518 Götz von Berlichingen, first time for robbery, second for kidnapping.
- 1521 Martin Luther and his supporters for spreading heretic beliefs and splitting the church.
- 1546 John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony and Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse as leaders of the Schmalkaldic League.
- 1566 Wilhelm von Grumbach for insurgency.
- 1621 Frederick V, Elector Palatine as well as his backers Prince Christian I of Anhalt-Bernburg and Georg Friedrich of Hohenlohe-Neuenstein-Weikersheim for the assumption of power in Bohemia.
- 1706 Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, and Joseph Clemens, Elector of Cologne, for supporting France in the War of the Spanish Succession (reversed 1714)
- 1793 Georg Forster for collaboration with the French Republic.