Hohenstaufen (hō´ənshtou´fən), German princely family, whose name is derived from the castle of Staufen built in 1077 by a Swabian count, Frederick. In 1079, Frederick married Agnes, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and was created duke of Swabia. The line of German kings and Holy Roman emperors began (1138) with Frederick's son Conrad III, who was succeeded by Frederick I, Henry VI, and Philip of Swabia. Their chief rivals were the Guelphs (see also Guelphs and Ghibellines), whose scion, Otto IV, was Holy Roman emperor from 1209 to 1215; but the Hohenstaufen heir, Frederick II, was elected king by a rival party in 1212. The most spectacular representative of the house, Frederick shifted the center of the family interests to Sicily and S Italy. His involvement in Italy brought him into conflict with the popes, who worked at bringing about the downfall of the house. Shortly after Frederick's death (1250) his son Conrad IV died and Conradin, the last legitimate Hohenstaufen, became titular king of Sicily; his uncle Manfred, an illegitimate son of Frederick II, seized the regency for him. Manfred's death (1258) and Conradin's execution (1268) ended the family power, and with the death of Frederick's illegitimate son Enzio (1272) the family became extinct. Memories of the German empire's greatness under the Hohenstaufen played a part in later German history and inspired legends such as that of the Kyffhäuser.
See T. F. Tout, The Empire and the Papacy, 918–1273 (8th ed. 1941); J. W. Thompson, Feudal Germany (1928, repr. 1962); G. Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany (2d rev. ed. 1966).