Charles the Bald

Charles the Bald

Overview

Charles the Bald Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 (875–877, as Charles II) and King of West Francia (840–877, as Charles II, with the borders of his land defined by the Treaty of Verdun, 843), was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 by his second wife Judith
Judith, daughter of Welf
Queen Judith , also known as Judith of Bavaria, was the daughter of Count Welf and a Saxon noblewoman named Hedwig, Duchess of Bavaria...

.

He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

, when his elder brothers were already adults and had been assigned their own regna, or subkingdoms, by their father.
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Timeline

841   In the Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye, forces led by Charles the Bald and Louis the German defeat the armies of Lothair I of Italy and Pepin II of Aquitaine.

842   Charles the Bald and Louis the German swear the Oaths of Strasbourg in the French and German languages.

845   The first King of all Brittany, Nominoe defeats the Frankish king Charles the Bald at the Battle of Ballon near Redon.

851   Erispoe defeats Charles the Bald near the Breton town of Jengland.

864   The Edict of Pistres of Charles the Bald orders defensive measures against the Vikings.

 
Encyclopedia

Charles the Bald Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 (875–877, as Charles II) and King of West Francia (840–877, as Charles II, with the borders of his land defined by the Treaty of Verdun, 843), was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 by his second wife Judith
Judith, daughter of Welf
Queen Judith , also known as Judith of Bavaria, was the daughter of Count Welf and a Saxon noblewoman named Hedwig, Duchess of Bavaria...

.

Struggle against his brothers


He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

, when his elder brothers were already adults and had been assigned their own regna, or subkingdoms, by their father. The attempts made by Louis the Pious to assign Charles a subkingdom, first Alemannia and then the country between the Meuse
Meuse
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse.-History:Meuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 and the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 (in 832, after the rising of Pepin I of Aquitaine
Pepin I of Aquitaine
Pepin I was King of Aquitaine.-Biography:He was the second son of Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye....

) were unsuccessful. The numerous reconciliations with the rebellious Lothair and Pepin, as well as their brother Louis the German
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

, King of Bavaria, made Charles's share in Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 and Italy only temporary, but his father did not give up and made Charles the heir of the entire land which was once Gaul and would eventually be France. At a diet
Diet (assembly)
In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries.-Etymology:...

 near Crémieux
Crémieux
Crémieux may refer to:* Adolphe Crémieux, French lawyer and statesman* Hector-Jonathan Crémieux, French playwright and librettist* The residents of Crémieu, a town near Lyon, France, known as Crémieux....

 in 837, Louis the Pious bade the nobles do homage to Charles as his heir. This led to the final rising of his sons against him and Pepin of Aquitaine died in 838, whereupon Charles received that kingdom, finally once and for all. Pepin's son Pepin II
Pepin II of Aquitaine
Pepin II, called the Younger , was King of Aquitaine from 838 as the successor upon the death of his father, Pepin I. Pepin II was eldest son of Pepin I and Ingeltrude, daughter of Theodobert, count of Madrie...

 would be a perpetual thorn in his side.

The death of the emperor in 840 led to the outbreak of war between his sons. Charles allied himself with his brother Louis the German to resist the pretensions of the new emperor Lothair I, and the two allies defeated Lothair at the Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye on 25 June 841. In the following year, the two brothers confirmed their alliance by the celebrated Oaths of Strasbourg. The war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Verdun
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

 in August 843. The settlement gave Charles the Bald the kingdom of the West Franks, which he had been up till then governing and which practically corresponded with what is now France, as far as the Meuse
Meuse
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse.-History:Meuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, the Saône
Saône
The Saône is a river of eastern France. It is a right tributary of the River Rhône. Rising at Vioménil in the Vosges department, it joins the Rhône in Lyon....

, and the Rhône
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

, with the addition of the Spanish March as far as the Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

. Louis received the eastern part of the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

, known as the East Francia and later Germany. Lothair retained the imperial title and the kingdom of Italy (medieval)
Kingdom of Italy (medieval)
The Kingdom of Italy was a political entity under control of Carolingian dynasty of Francia first, after the defeat of the Lombards in 774. It was finally incorporated as a part of the Holy Roman Empire in 962....

. He also received the central regions from Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 through the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 and Burgundy as king of Middle Francia
Middle Francia
Middle Francia was an ephemeral Frankish kingdom created by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which divided the Carolingian Empire among the sons of Louis the Pious...

.

Reign in the West


The first years of Charles's reign, up to the death of Lothair I in 855, were comparatively peaceful. During these years the three brothers continued the system of "confraternal government", meeting repeatedly with one another, at Koblenz
Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

 (848), at Meerssen
Meerssen
Meerssen is a place and a municipality in southeastern Netherlands.-History:The Treaty of Meerssen was signed in Meerssen in 870. The Treaty of Meerssen was an agreement of the division of the Carolingian Empire by the surviving sons of Louis I, Charles II of the West Franks and Louis the German...

 (851), and at Attigny
Attigny, Ardennes
Attigny is a commune on the river Aisne in the arrondissement of Vouziers in the département of Ardennes in the Champagne-Ardenne region in northern France.-Councils of Attigny:In 765, St...

 (854). In 858, Louis the German, invited by disaffected nobles eager to oust Charles, invaded the West Frankish kingdom. Charles was so unpopular that he was unable to summon an army, and he fled to Burgundy. He was saved only by the support of the bishops, who refused to crown Louis the German king, and by the fidelity of the Welfs, who were related to his mother, Judith. In 860, he in his turn tried to seize the kingdom of his nephew, Charles of Provence
Charles of Provence
Charles of Provence was the Carolingian King of Provence from 855 until his early death in 863.Charles was the youngest son of Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I and Ermengarde of Tours....

, but was repulsed. On the death of his nephew Lothair II in 869, Charles tried to seize Lothair's dominions, but by the Treaty of Mersen (870) was compelled to share them with Louis the German.

Besides these family disputes, Charles had to struggle against repeated rebellions in Aquitaine and against the Bretons
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

. Led by their chiefs Nomenoë
Nominoe, Duke of Brittany
Nominoe was the first Duke of Brittany from 846 to his death. He is a sort of Breton pater patriae and to Breton nationalists he is known as Tad ar Vro ....

 and Erispoë
Erispoe, Duke of Brittany
Erispoe was Duke of Brittany from 851. After the death of his father Nominoe, he led a successful military campaign against the Franks, culminating in his victory at the Battle of Jengland...

, who defeated the king at the Battle of Ballon
Battle of Ballon
The Battle of Ballon took place on 22 November 845 between the forces of Charles the Bald, king of West Francia, and Nominoë Duke of Brittany. Nominoë was appropriating border territory and opposing Charles' attempt to impose Frankish authority...

 (845) and the Battle of Jengland
Battle of Jengland
The Battle of Jengland took place on 22 August 851, between the Frankish army of Charles the Bald and the Breton army of Erispoe, Duke of Brittany...

 (851), the Bretons were successful in obtaining a de facto independence. Charles also fought against the Vikings, who devastated the country of the north, the valleys of the Seine
Seine
The Seine is a -long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre . It is navigable by ocean-going vessels...

 and Loire
Loire
Loire is an administrative department in the east-central part of France occupying the River Loire's upper reaches.-History:Loire was created in 1793 when after just 3½ years the young Rhône-et-Loire department was split into two. This was a response to counter-Revolutionary activities in Lyon...

, and even up to the borders of Aquitaine. Several times Charles was forced to purchase their retreat at a heavy price. Charles led various expeditions against the invaders and, by the Edict of Pistres
Edict of Pistres
The Edict of Pistres or Edictum Pistense was a capitulary promulgated, as its name suggests, at Pistres on 25 July 864...

 of 864, made the army more mobile by providing for a cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 element, the predecessor of the French chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

 so famous during the next 600 years. By the same edict, he ordered fortified bridges to be put up at all rivers to block the Viking incursions. Two of these bridges at Paris saved the city during its siege of 885–886
Siege of Paris (885-886)
The Siege of Paris of 885 to 886 was a Viking siege of Paris, then capital of the kingdom of the West Franks. It was, in hindsight, the most important event of the reign of the Emperor Charles the Fat and a turning point in the fortunes of the Carolingian dynasty and the history of France.The...

.

Reign as emperor


In 875, after the death of the Emperor Louis II
Louis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis II the Younger was the King of Italy and Roman Emperor from 844, co-ruling with his father Lothair I until 855, after which he ruled alone. Louis's usual title was imperator augustus , but he used imperator Romanorum after his conquest of Bari in 871, which led to poor relations with Byzantium...

 (son of his half-brother Lothair), Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII
Pope John VIII
Pope John VIII was pope from December 13, 872 to December 16, 882. He is often considered one of the ablest pontiffs of the ninth century and the last bright spot on the papacy until Leo IX two centuries later....

, traveled to Italy, receiving the royal crown at Pavia
Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 and the imperial insignia in Rome on 29 December. Louis the German, also a candidate for the succession of Louis II, revenged himself by invading and devastating Charles' dominions, and Charles had to return hastily to Francia. After the death of Louis the German (28 August 876), Charles in his turn attempted to seize Louis's kingdom, but was decisively beaten at Andernach
Andernach
Andernach is a town in the district of Mayen-Koblenz, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, of currently about 30,000 inhabitants. It is situated towards the end of the Neuwied basin on the left bank of the Rhine between the former tiny fishing village of Fornich in the north and the mouth of the...

 on 8 October 876.

In the meantime, John VIII, menaced by the Saracens, was urging Charles to come to his defence in Italy. Charles again crossed the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, but this expedition was received with little enthusiasm by the nobles, and even by his regent in Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

, Boso
Boso of Provence
Boso was a Frankish nobleman from the Bosonid-family, who was related to the Carolingian dynasty, who rose to become King of Provence ....

, and they refused to join his army. At the same time Carloman
Carloman of Bavaria
Carloman was the eldest son of Louis the German, king of East Francia , and Hemma, daughter of the count Welf...

, son of Louis the German, entered northern Italy. Charles, ill and in great distress, started on his way back to Gaul, but died while crossing the pass of Mont Cenis
Mont Cenis
Mont Cenis is a massif and pass in Savoie in France which forms the limit between the Cottian and Graian Alps.A road over the pass was built between 1803 and 1810 by Napoleon...

 at Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains is a commune in the Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France.It was an Olympic Village for the 1992 Winter Games....

, on 6 October 877.

According to the Annals of St-Bertin, Charles was hastily buried at the abbey of Nantua, Burgundy because the bearers were unable to withstand the stench of his decaying body. He was to have been buried in the Basilique Saint-Denis and may have been transferred there later. It was recorded that there was a memorial brass there that was melted down at the Revolution.

Charles was succeeded by his son, Louis
Louis the Stammerer
Louis the Stammerer was the King of Aquitaine and later King of West Francia. He was the eldest son of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans. He succeeded his younger brother in Aquitaine in 866 and his father in West Francia in 877, though he was never crowned Emperor...

. Charles was a prince of education and letters, a friend of the church, and conscious of the support he could find in the episcopate against his unruly nobles, for he chose his councillors from among the higher clergy, as in the case of Guenelon of Sens, who betrayed him, and of Hincmar of Reims.

Baldness


It has been suggested that Charles' nickname was used ironically and not descriptively; i.e. that he was not in fact bald, but rather that he was extremely hairy. In support of this idea is the fact that none of his enemies commented on what would be an easy target. However, none of the voluble members of his court comments on his being hairy; and the Genealogy of Frankish Kings, a text from Fontanelle dating from possibly as early as 869, and a text without a trace of irony, names him as Karolus Caluus ("Charles the Bald"). Certainly, by the end of the 10th century, Richier of Reims and Adhemar of Chabannes refer to him in all seriousness as "Charles the Bald".

An alternative or additional interpretation is based on Charles' initial lack of a regnum
Regnum
Regnum may refer to:* The inheritable power to govern in Ancient Rome * Kingdom * Regnum news agency, a Russian news agency* Regnum Online, a computer game...

. "Bald" would in this case be a tongue-in-cheek reference to his landlessness, at an age where his brothers already had been sub-kings for some years.

Marriages and children


Charles married Ermentrude
Ermentrude of Orléans
Ermentrude of Orléans was Queen of the Franks by her marriage to Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia. She was the daughter of Odo, Count of Orleans and his wife Engeltrude....

, daughter of Odo I, Count of Orléans
Odo I, Count of Orléans
Odo I was the Count of Orléans following the final deposition of Matfrid until his own deposition a few years later....

, in 842. She died in 869. In 870, Charles married Richilde of Provence
Richilde of Provence
Richilde of the Ardennes was the second consort of Charles the Bald, King and Emperor of the Franks. By her marriage, she became Queen of the West Franks, and then Empress of the Franks...

, who was descended from a noble family of Lorraine
Lorraine (province)
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....

.

With Ermentrude
Ermentrude of Orléans
Ermentrude of Orléans was Queen of the Franks by her marriage to Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia. She was the daughter of Odo, Count of Orleans and his wife Engeltrude....

:
  • Judith (844–870), married firstly with Ethelwulf of Wessex
    Ethelwulf of Wessex
    Æthelwulf, also spelled Aethelwulf or Ethelwulf; Old English: Æþelwulf, meaning 'Noble Wolf', was King of Wessex from 839 until his death in 858. He is the only son who can indisputably be accredited to King Egbert of Wessex. He conquered the kingdom of Kent on behalf of his father in 825, and was...

    , secondly with Ethelbald of Wessex
    Ethelbald of Wessex
    King Æthelbald of Wessex or Ethelbald was King of Wessex from 858 to 860. He was the second of the five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex and Osburh....

     (her stepson) and thirdly with Baldwin I of Flanders
  • Louis the Stammerer
    Louis the Stammerer
    Louis the Stammerer was the King of Aquitaine and later King of West Francia. He was the eldest son of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans. He succeeded his younger brother in Aquitaine in 866 and his father in West Francia in 877, though he was never crowned Emperor...

     (846–879)
  • Charles the Child
    Charles the Child
    Charles the Child was the King of Aquitaine from October 855 until his death in 866...

     (847–866)
  • Lothar (848–865), monk in 861, became Abbot of Saint-Germain
  • Carloman
    Carloman, son of Charles the Bald
    Carloman was the youngest son of Charles the Bald. Destined from childhood to life in a monastery, Carloman revolted against his father and was subsequently imprisoned in Senlis. Under orders from Pope Adrian II, Charles freed his sons, obliging them to follow him in his expedition against Girart...

     (849–876)
  • Rotrud (852–912), a nun, Abbess of Saint-Radegunde
  • Ermentrud (854–877), a nun, Abbess of Hasnon
  • Hildegard (born 856, died young)
  • Gisela (857–874)


With Richilde:
  • Rothild (871–929), married firstly to Hugues, Count of Bourges and secondly to Roger, Count of Maine
  • Drogo (872–873)
  • Pippin (873–874)
  • a son (born and died 875)
  • Charles (876–877)

Ancestry





See also