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Carolingian Empire

From Academic Kids

The term Carolingian Empire is sometimes used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the dynasty of the Carolingians.

When used, the term emphasizes on the coronation of Charlemagne as Emperor in 800 by Pope Leo III, although this did not actually constitute a new empire because both Charles as well as his ancestors had been rulers of the Frankish realm earlier. Because of this, most historians prefer to use the term "Frankish Kingdoms" or "Frankish Realm" to refer to the area covering parts of today's Germany and France from the 5th to the 9th century. The "Carolingian Empire" ended with the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles III the Fat in 888, although some Carolingians managed to gain the Imperial crown in later times.

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The Empire during the reign of Charlemagne (800 - 814)

The Empire of the Carolingians had been divided up into kingdoms ruled by various members of the Carolingian dynasty. From the inception of the Empire, these included: King Charles of Neustria (containing the Duchies of Frisia, Hesse, and Saxony), King Louis the Pious of Aquitaine, and King Pepin of Italy. Pepin died with an illegitimate son Bernard in 810, and Charles died without heirs in 811. Although Bernard succeeded Pepin as King of Italy, Louis was made co-Emperor in 813 and the entire Empire passed to him with Charlemagne's death in 814.

The Empire until the Treaty of Verdun (814 - 843)

Louis the Pious often had to struggle to maintain control of the Empire. King Bernard of Italy died in 818 in imprisonment after rebelling a year earlier, and Italy was brought back into Imperial control. Louis' show of penance for Bernard's death in 822 greatly reduced his prestige as Emperor to the nobility. Meanwhile in 817, Louis had established three new Carolingian Kingships for his sons of his first marriage: Lothar was made King of Italy and co-Emperor, Pepin was made King of Aquitaine, and Louis the German made King of Bavaria. His attempts in 823 to bring his fourth son (from his second marriage), Charles the Bald into the will was marked by the resistance of his eldest sons, and the last years of his reign was plagued by civil war.

Lothar was stripped of his co-Emperorship in 829 and was banished to Italy, but the following year his sons attacked Louis' empire and dethroned him in favour of Lothar. The following year Louis attacked his sons' Kingdoms, stripped Lothar of his Imperial title and granted the Kingdom of Italy to Charles. Pepin and Louis the German revolted in 832, followed by Lothar in 833, and together they imprisoned Louis the Pious and Charles. In 835, peace was made between the family and Louis was restored to the Imperial throne. When Pepin died in 838, Louis crowned Charles king of Aquitaine whilst the nobility elected Pepin's son Pepin II, a conflict which was not resolved until 860 with Pepin's death. When Louis the Pious finally died in 840, Lothar claimed the entire empire irrespective of the partitions.

The dispute sparked another war, this time with Charles and Louis the German allied against Lothar. After losing the Battle of Fontenay to his younger brothers, Lothar fled to his capital at Aachen and raised a new army. The new forces were inferior to that of the younger brothers, and following a meeting of the brothers in 842 on an island in the Saone River, the empire was partitioned in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun.

The Empire until the first lapse of the Holy Roman Empire (843 - 877)

Lothar received the Imperial title, the Kingship of Italy, and the territory between the Rhine and Rhone Rivers, collectively called the Central Frankish Realm. Charles was guaranteed the Kingship of all lands to the east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, which was called the Eastern Frankish Realm which was the precursor to modern Germany. Charles received all lands west of the Rhone, which was called the Western Frankish Realm.

Lothar retired Italy to his eldest son Louis II in 844, making him co-Emperor in 850. Lothar died in 855, dividing his kingdom into three parts: the territory already held by Louis remained his, the territory of the former Kingdom of Burgundy was granted to his third son Charles of Burgundy, and the remaining territory for which there was no traditional name was granted to his second son Lothar II, whose realm was named Lotharingia, or Lorraine.

Louis II, dissatisfied with having received no additional territory with his father's death, allied with his uncle Louis the German against his brother Lothar and his uncle Charles the Bald in 858. Lothar was reconciled with his brother and uncle shortly after, though Charles was so unpopular he could not raise an army to fight the invasion and fled to Burgundy, he was only saved when the bishops refused to crown Louis the German King. Charles the Bald invaded Charles of Burgundy's Kingdom in 860, but was repulsed. Lothar II ceded lands to Louis II in 862 for support of a divorce from his wife, which caused repeated conflicts with the Pope and his uncles. Charles of Burgundy died in 863, and his Kingdom was inherited by Louis II.

Lothar II died in 869 with no legitimate heirs, and his Kingdom was divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German in 870 by the Treaty of Meerssen. Meanwhile, Louis the German was involved with disputes with his three sons. Louis II died in 875, and named Carloman, the eldest son of Louis the German, his heir. Charles the Bald, supported by the Pope, was crowned both King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. The following year, Louis the German died. Charles tried to annex his realm too, but was defeated decisively at Andernach, and the Kingdom of the eastern Franks was divided between: King Louis III of Saxony, King Carloman of Bavaria and King Charles the Fat of Swabia.

The Empire until the death of Charles the Fat (877 - 888)

Charles the Bald died in 877 crossing the Pass of Mont Cenis, and was succeeded by his son, Louis the Stammerer as King of the Western Franks, but the title of Holy Roman Emperor lapsed. Louis the Stammerer was physically weak and died two years later, his realm being divided between his eldest two sons: Louis III gaining Neustria and Francia, and Carloman gaining Aquitaine and Burgundy. The Kingdom of Italy was finally granted to King Carloman of Bavaria, but a stroke forced him to abdicate Italy to his brother Charles the Fat and Bavaria to Louis of Saxony. Also in 879, Boso, Count of Arles founded the Kingdom of Lower Burgundy in the Provence.

In 881, Charles the Fat was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. Louis II of Saxony and Louis III of Francia died the following year. Saxony and Bavaria were united to Charles the Fat's Kingdom, and Francia and Neustria being granted to Carloman of Aquitaine. Lower Burgundy was also conquered by Carloman. Carloman died in a hunting accident in 884 after a tumultuous and ineffective reign, and his lands were inherited by Charles the Fat, effectively recreating the Empire of Charlemagne.

Charles, suffering what is believed to be epilepsy, could not secure the kingdom against Viking raiders, and after buying their withdrawal from Paris in 886 was perceived by the court as being cowardly and incompetent. The following year his nephew Arnulf of Carinthia, the illegitimate son of King Carloman of Bavaria, raised the standard of rebellion. Instead of fighting the insurrection, Charles fled to Neidingen and died the following year. The Empire of the Carolingians was divided: Arnulf maintained Carinthia, Bavaria, Lorraine and modern Germany, Count Odo of Paris was elected King of Western Francia (France), Ranulf II became King of Aquitaine, Italy to Count Berengar of Friuli, Upper Burgundy to Rudolph I, and Lower Burgundy to Louis the Blind, the son of Boso of Arles, King of Lower Burgundy.

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