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A member of one of two great factions in Italian medieval politics, traditionally supporting the Pope against the Holy Roman emperor (supported by the Ghibellines). The name comes through Italian Guelfo from Middle High German Welf, the name of the founder of one of the two great rival dynasties in the Holy Roman Empire, a princely family of Swabian origin from which the British royal house is descended through George I.

The name Welf is believed to have been adopted into political use in Italy from its reputed use as a war cry (at the battle of Weinsburg in 1140) by partisans of Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria, who belonged to this family, and fought against the Emperor Conrad III; it was thus adopted as a name for the adversaries of the Hohenstaufen emperors.

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