Charles the Bald

Missing image
Charles the Bald - Detail from a painting in the First Bible of Charles the Bald, painted ca. 845-851, kept at the National Library of France

Charles the Bald (Charles I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Charles II) (French: Charles le Chauve) (823-877), Holy Roman Emperor and king of the West Franks, was the son of emperor Louis the Pious and his second wife Judith. He was born on 13 June 823, 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 (829), then the country between the Meuse and the Pyrenees (839), at the expense of his half-brothers Lothair and Louis the German led to a rising on the part of these two against the emperor.

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 Fontenoy-en-Puisaye on 25 June 841. In the following year, the two brothers confirmed their alliance by the celebrated oaths of Strassburg. The war was brought to an end by the treaty of Verdun in August 843. The settlement gave Charles the Bald the kingdom of the western Franks, which practically corresponded with what is now France, as far as the Meuse, the Sane and the Rhone, with the addition of the Spanish March as far as the Ebro. Louis received the eastern part of the old Empire, hence known as the East Frankish Empire. Lothair retained the imperial title and the central regions from Flanders through the Rhineland and Burgundy into northern Italy.

The first years of Charles' 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 (848), at Meerssen (851), and at Attigny (854). In 858, Louis the German, invited by disaffected nobles eager to oust Charles, invaded the western 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 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, 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 Meerssen (870) was compelled to share them with Louis the German.

Template:Kings of Western Francia Besides these family disputes, Charles had to struggle against repeated rebellions in Aquitaine and against the Bretons. Led by their chiefs Nomenoë and Erispoë, who defeated the king at Ballon (845) and Juvardeil (851), the Bretons were somewhat successful. Charles also fought against the Normans, who devastated the country in the north of Gaul, the valleys of the Seine and Loire, 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 tried to put a barrier in their way by having fortified bridges built over all the rivers.

In 875, after the death of the Emperor Louis II (son of his half-brother Lothair), Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII, traveled to Italy, receiving the royal crown at Pavia and the imperial insignia in Rome on (December 29). 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 (August 28, 876), Charles in his turn attempted to seize Louis' kingdom, but was decisively beaten at Andernach on October 8, 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, but this expedition was received with little enthusiasm by the nobles, and even by his brother-in-law Boso, who had been entrusted by Charles with the government of Lombardy, and they refused to join his army. At the same time Carloman, 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 at Brides-les-Bain, France, on the 5th or 6th of October 877.

Charles was succeeded by his son, Louis, the child of Ermentrude, daughter of Odo, Count of Orleans, whom Charles had married in 842 and who had died in 869. In 870 Charles had married Richilde, who was descended from a noble family of Lorraine, but none of the children he had with her played a part of any importance. Charles seems to have been 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, or of Hincmar of Reims.

Preceded by:
Louis I
King of Western Francia
Also Holy Roman Emperor
Succeeded by:
Louis II

de:Karl der Kahle

es:Carlos II el Calvo fr:Charles II le Chauve ja:シャルル2世 (西フランク王) nl:Karel de Kale pl:Karol II Łysy ro:Carol Nenfricatul


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