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Desiderius

Desiderius

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Desiderius was the last king of the Lombard Kingdom
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 of northern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 (died c. 786). He is chiefly known for his connection to Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, who married his daughter and conquered his realm.

Rise to power


Desiderius Romae was originally a royal officer, the dux Langobardorum et comes stabuli, "constable and duke of the Lombards," an office apparently similar to the contemporaneous Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 office of dux Francorum. King Aistulf
Aistulf
Aistulf was the Duke of Friuli from 744, King of Lombards from 749, and Duke of Spoleto from 751. His father was the Duke Pemmo.After his brother Ratchis became king, Aistulf succeeded him in Friuli. He succeeded him later as king when Ratchis abdicated to a monastery...

 made him duke of Istria
Istria
Istria , formerly Histria , is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Bay of Kvarner...

 and Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 and he became king after the death of Aistulf in 756. At that time, Aistulf's predecessor, Ratchis
Ratchis
Ratchis was the Duke of Friuli and King of the Lombards . His father was Duke Pemmo. His Roman wife was Tassia. He ruled in peace until he besieged, for reasons unknown, Perugia. Pope Zachary convinced him to lift the siege and he abdicated and entered, with his family, the abbey of Montecassino...

, left his monastic retreat of Montecassino
Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about southeast of Rome, Italy, c. to the west of the town of Cassino and altitude. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944...

 and tried to seize the kingdom, but Desiderius put his revolt down quickly with the support of Pope Stephen II
Pope Stephen II
Pope Stephen II was Pope from 752 to 757, succeeding Pope Zachary following the death of Pope-elect Stephen. Stephen II marks the historical delineation between the Byzantine Papacy and the Frankish Papacy.-Allegiance to Constantinople:...

. At his coronation, Desiderius promised to restore many lost papal towns to the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

, in return for the papacy's endorsement of his claim. Conflict with the Holy See under Pope Stephen III
Pope Stephen III
Pope Stephen III was pope from August 1 or August 7, 768 to January 24, 772. He was a native of Sicily.He came to Rome during the pontificate of Gregory III and gradually rose to high office in the service of successive popes....

 arose, for Stephen opposed Charlemagne's marriage to Desiderius' daughter. Desiderius ceased delivery of the towns after only a few.

Seeking, like his predecessors, to extend the Lombard power in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, he came into collision with the papacy and the southern duchies. In the same year Desiderius associates to his kingdom the son Adelchis. Alboin, the duchy of Benevento
Duchy of Benevento
The Duchy and later Principality of Benevento was the southernmost Lombard duchy in medieval Italy, centred on Benevento, a city central in the Mezzogiorno. Owing to the Ducatus Romanus of the popes, which cut it off from the rest of Lombard Italy, Benevento was from the first practically...

 and Liutprand, that of Spoleto
Duchy of Spoleto
The independent Duchy of Spoleto was a Lombard territory founded about 570 in central Italy by the Lombard dux Faroald.- Lombards :The Lombards, a Germanic people, had invaded Italy in 568 and conquered much of it, establishing a Kingdom divided between several dukes dependent on the King, who had...

 were coaxed by Pope Stephen to commend themselves to the Franks and thus separate themselves again from monarchy. They then placed themselves under the protection of Pippin (Lat. Pipinus), the king of Franks. In 758, Duke Liutprand of Benevento
Liutprand of Benevento
Liutprand was the duke of Benevento from the death of his father Gisulf II in 749 until his own deposition. He reigned under the regency of his mother, Scauniperga, who supported King Aistulf, until 756....

 attained his majority and rebelled. Desiderius defeated him and granted his duchy to one Arechis
Arechis II of Benevento
Arechis II was Duke of Benevento, in southern Italy, from 758 until his death....

, tying the duchy more closely to 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...

 than it had been since Grimoald's
Grimoald I of Benevento
Grimoald I was duke of Benevento and king of the Lombards .Born probably before 610 to Duke Gisulf II of Friuli and the Bavarian princess Ramhilde, daughter of Duke Garibald I of Bavaria, he succeeded his brother Radoald as duke of Benevento...

 time. In that same year, Desiderius deposed Alboin of Spoleto
Alboin of Spoleto
Alboin was the Lombard Duke of Spoleto from 757 to 758. He was chosen to be duke by the Spoletan nobility without the assent of the king.While Pope Stephen II was working to give the kingdom into the hands of Desiderius, he also worked to give the homage of the Duchies of Benevento and Spoleto to...

 and exercised himself the ducal powers there.

Appointing Antipope Phillip


Desiderius seized a priest named Phillip from the Monastery of St Vito. One July 31, 768 he summarily appointed him pope. Antipope Philip
Antipope Philip
Antipope Philip was pope for only one day . The subject of others' intrigues rather than active on his own account, he was a chaplain in a monastery at Rome. The sometime papal Chancellor, Christophorus, had sought Lombard help to depose Pope Constantine II, who was the candidate of the military...

 was never recognized nor gained a significant following so he left the same day and returned to his monastery where he was never heard from or seen again.

Relations with Charlemagne


Stephen III opposed Charlemagne's marriage to Desiderius' daughter, Desiderata, in 768, but by his death in 772, he had made peace with the Lombards. The new pope, Adrian I
Pope Adrian I
Pope Adrian was pope from February 1, 772 to December 25, 795. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.Shortly after Adrian's accession the territory ruled by the papacy was invaded by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Adrian was compelled to seek the assistance of the Frankish king...

, however, implored the aid of Charlemagne against him, for the marriage of dynasties was dissolved by Charlemagne's repudiation of Desiderata in 771. Charles sent her back to her father. Moreover, Gerberga
Gerberga, wife of Carloman I
Gerberga was the wife of Carloman I, King of the Franks, and sister-in-law of Charlemagne. Her flight to the Lombard kingdom of Desiderius following Carloman's death precipitated the last Franco-Lombard war, and the destruction of the Lombard Kingdom.Very little is known of Gerberga...

, the widow of Charlemagne's brother Carloman, sought the protection of the Lombard king after her husband's death in 771; and — probably in return for the insult Charlemagne had given to the Lombards by rejecting Desiderata — Desiderius recognised Gerberga's sons as lawful heirs, and attacked Pope Adrian for refusing to crown them kings and invaded the Pentapolis. The embassies of Adrian and Desiderius met at Thionville
Thionville
Thionville , is a commune in the Moselle department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. The city is located on the left bank of the river Moselle, opposite its suburb Yutz.-Demographics:...

 and Charlemagne favoured the pope's case.

Such was the position when Charlemagne and his uncle Bernard led troops across 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....

 in 773. The Lombards were severely defeated at Mortara (Ara Mortis) and soon besieged in their capital of Ticinum
Ticinum
Ticinum was an ancient city of Gallia Transpadana, founded on the banks of the river of the same name a little way above its confluence with the Padus ....

, the modern 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...

. Desiderius' son Adelchis
Adalgis
Adalgis was the son of Desiderius and the prince of the Langobards or Lombardia in Italy. After his father was defeated by Charlemagne in Pavia in 774, Adalgis took refuge in Byzantium...

 was raising an army at Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

, but the young prince was chased to the Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 littoral and fled to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 when Charlemagne approached.

The siege lasted until June 774, when, in return for the lives of his soldiers and subjects, Desiderius surrendered and opened the gates. Desiderius was exiled to the abbey of Corbie
Corbie
Corbie is a commune of the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:The small town is situated up river from Amiens, in the département of Somme and is the main town of the canton of Corbie. It lies in the valley of the River Somme, at the confluence of the River Ancre. The town...

, where he died, and his son Adelchis spent his entire life in futile attempts to recover his father's kingdom. Some sources state that the king and his family were banished to a monastery at Liège, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. Desiderius died sometime around 786.

The name Desiderius appears in the romances of the Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 period. Charlemagne took the title rex Langobardorum, the first time a Germanic king adopted the title of a kingdom he had conquered.

Family


He married Ansa (or Ansia) and, as well as a son, had four daughters:
  • Anselperga
    Anselperga
    Anselperga was the eldest daughter of Desiderius, King of the Lombards, and Ansa. She was the second Abbess of San Salvatore e Santa Giulia, which her parents had formed in Brescia from the union of San Michele e San Pietro with San Salvatore e Santa Maria....

     (or Anselberga), abbess of San Salvatore
  • Adelperga
    Adelperga
    Adelperga was the daughter of Desiderius, King of the Lombards, and his wife Ansa.Desiderius arranged a strategic marriage between his daughter and the Duke of Benevento, Arechis II, to secure his power in Italy...

     (or Adelberga), married Arechis II of Benevento
    Arechis II of Benevento
    Arechis II was Duke of Benevento, in southern Italy, from 758 until his death....

  • Liutperga
    Liutperga
    Liutperga was the daughter of Desiderius, King of the Lombards, and Ansa. She was the wife of Tassilo III, the last Agilolfing Duke of Bavaria....

     (also Liutpirc or Liutberga), married Tassilo III of Bavaria
    Tassilo III of Bavaria
    Tassilo III was duke of Bavaria from 748 to 788, the last of the house of the Agilolfings.Tassilo, then still an infant, began his rule as a Frankish ward under the tutelage of the Merovingian Mayor of the Palace Pepin the Short after Tassilo's father, Duke Odilo of Bavaria, had died in 747 and...

  • Desiderata, married Charlemagne in 770, divorced in 771
  • Adelchis
    Adalgis
    Adalgis was the son of Desiderius and the prince of the Langobards or Lombardia in Italy. After his father was defeated by Charlemagne in Pavia in 774, Adalgis took refuge in Byzantium...

     (or Adalgis), patrician in Constantinople
    Constantinople
    Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...