The political evolution of the Carolingian Empire – Part 3: Fall from Grace

The Carolingian Empire meets its inevitable downfall, being shattered amongst feuding siblings.

In the course of this series, you will discover the political history behind one of the greatest empires Europe has ever seen.

Last time, we left off in the ascension to the Carolingian throne of Charlemagne’s son, Louis, as the “Roman Emperor” died in 813 C.E.

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 13

Coronation of Louis I “The Pious” .

From Les Grandes Chroniques de France.

As I said in the last article, in 812 C.E, at the Cathedral of Aachen, Loius, and his nephew Bernard swore to uphold the final division of the Carolingian Empire, the “Consensus fidelium,” that had Louis inherit almost all of the land and had Bernard inherit Italy.

However, this agreement did not last for long, and some years after the death of Charlemagne, Louis broke the oath by organizing his succession without recognizing Bernard as an independent ruler. The “Ordinatio Imperii.” promulgated, in 817 C.E, by Louis sought to promote stability within the Empire by favoring one son, Lothar, as his immediate successor, establishing him as Co-emperor, and giving his other sons sub-kingdoms, like Aquitaine and Bavaria. With this Louis sought to strengthen the empire by avoiding the “equal division” practice that ultimately put the Merovingians out of power.

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 14

The “Ordinatio Imperii” partition of the Empire and Bernard’s lands in Italy. Lothar (Lotario), Pipino (Pepin), Luís (Louis “The German”) and Bernard of Italy (Bernardo de Italia).

By V.A. Alvarez Palenzuela in Historia Universal De La Edad Media

Nevertheless, this edict would backfire as Louis left out his nephew, Bernard, of the Empire partition. Upon acknowledgment of the “Ordinatio Imperii” by Bernard, he started plotting his independence from his Uncle, but the latter discovered him and took immediate action marching onto Italy with is armies. Bernard felt intimidated by his Uncle’s power, and so he surrendered.

He was then taken to Aix-la-Chapel (Aachen) and condemned of treason, having his eyes gouged out. Bernard would not survive this, and his death would deeply mark Louis, which reflected later in his life, when, in 822 C.E, he did public penance for his crime, an act that deeply eroded the Emperor’s prestige.

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 15

The humiliation of Louis “The Pious” in 822.

By Paul Lehuger, Séc.XIX

The political agreement established by the “Ordinatio Imperii” would not last as Louis had a fourth child (Bastard) by the name of Charles (Later known as “The Bald”) in 820 C.E. This would change the partition of the Empire adding one more heir to whom should be attributed a territory.

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 16

Division of 829 C.E, which gave Charles the domain of Alemannia. Lothar (Lotario), Pipino (Pepin), Luís (Louis “The German”) and Charles (Carlos).

By V.A. Alvarez Palenzuela in Historia Universal De La Edad Media

However, the other sons (Lothar, Pepin, and Louis “the German”) didn’t like having their land taken away, and the relations between them and their father were deeply eroded causing several civil wars (830, 833, 834 C.E) and consequent redraws of the succession borders. Moreover, Pepin died in 838 and his realm, Aquitaine, was given to Charles, who was being favored by Louis “The Pious” over his conflicting brothers.

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 17

Division of the Empire upon Pepin’s death in 838. Lothar (Lotario), Luís (Louis “The German”) and Charles (Carlos).

By V.A. Alvarez Palenzuela in Historia Universal De La Edad Media

Different factions formed within the aristocracy, organizing themselves around the three brothers. So, when the impotent Louis I died in 840, the Empire was plunged into a dangerous civil war between the three siblings.

Charles allied himself with his brother Louis “The German” and defeated Lothar in the battle of Fontenoy in 841, culminating, a couple of years later, in the Treaty of Verdun, in 843 C.E, who once more redrawn the political borders, dividing the Carolingian Empire into West Frankia (Modern day France), East Frankia (Modern day Germany) and Middle Frankia (Low countries, Rhineland, Alsace, and Loraine, Switzsweland and Italy).

Political Evolution of the Carolingian Empire 18

Political borders drawn by the treaty of Verdun in 843. Note that Lothar has not only Italy but also domains between West and East Frankia, which are a little hard to identify on this map.

Lothar (Lotario), Luís (Louis “The German”) and Charles (Carlos).

By V.A. Alvarez Palenzuela in Historia Universal De La Edad Media

The treaty brought peace to the warring Carolingians, but it was not to stay, and soon the brothers were taking up arms against each other once more.

Division and conflict would irreversibly damage Imperial Unity and, despite a brief moment in Charles III ‘s (Charles “The Bald” son) reign when he managed to unify the shattered Frankish kingdoms, the Carlogian Empire was no more. Likewise, Even the Carolingian Dynasty would meet the same fate as it became extinct in the XI century when Louis V, King of France, died without heirs being replaced by Hugh Capet.

Ironically, the Carolingians fell victim to what led them to power in the first place: The division of their lands between their sons, which gradually eroded Imperial Unity, because it fomented conflict between the heirs. Nonetheless, the Carolingian marked the beginning of the process of renewal of Western Europe, which was continued by other dynasties, when they lost their power.

Nonetheless, the Carolingians marked the beginning of the process of renewal of Western Europe, which was continued by other dynasties, when they lost their power.

Furthermore, the treaty of Verdun was a defining mark of the political and cultural divisions between West and East Frankia, who are the backbone of the modern day nations of France and Germany.

Alas, this series on the political evolution of the Carolingian Empire has come to an end. Feel free to comment any thoughts, doubts or even criticism you want to have about it.

Thank You for your time!

Would you like to know more about the Carolingians? Click here and buy cheap books with free shipping!

 

Sources:

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide Fried, J. (2015). The Middle Ages. London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Palenzuela, V. A. (2002). Historia Universal De La Edad Media . Ariel.

Advertisements

One thought on “The political evolution of the Carolingian Empire – Part 3: Fall from Grace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s