Final Light: A Carolingian Timeline

CHAPTER 1: The Death of a King
After lurking for so long in these forums, I've decided to make my own timeline. The style is obviously heavily inspired by Planet of Hats' amazing and awesome Al-Andalus timeline, and I thank him here for his contributions.
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"Right action is better than knowledge; but in order to do what is right, we must know what is right."
- Charlemagne (✝ 28 January 814 AD)




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Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)



Chapter 2
Charles the Bald and the destruction of his kingdom


Charles the Bald, youngest son of the last ruler of a united Frankish realm Louis the Pious, was in many ways a very important character in history. By a cruel twist of events, he was born when his older half-brothers had already been given
regna, sub-kingdoms, by his father. Louis, fearing an untimely death after narrowly avoiding it by saving himself from a collapsing roof in the palace in Aachen six years prior, created the Ordinatio Imperii, an imperial decree that should secure an orderly succession of his throne to his sons Lothair, Pepin, and Louis. As the pious protector of the universal church, he intended to create an indivisible empire to guard the indivisible church. Lothair, the oldest son, was promised the imperial crown while his two younger brothers, Pepin and Louis were given Aquitania and Bavaria as subordinate kingdoms respectively. Thus the proper course, Louis has decided, should be a rule under one emperor, Lothair, of the whole church; empire and church coincide, the empire is one because the church is one. Under the Ordinatio Imperii, Bernard of Italy was left with no added possessions and instead confirmed a vassalhood of his kingdom under Lothair’s future rule. Feeling his young rule threatened, Bernard plotted against his uncle to declare independence. The uprising was crushed, however, and Bernhard, who was initially condemned to death by the princes, was pardoned by Louis the Pious. Instead, Bernhard was to be blinded and he died in agony only two days after the initial process as a result of the procedure – for Louis, as a deeply religious man, this meant "a tangible moral burden".

The death of Louis’ most important adviser Benedict of Aniane in 821 AD, the loss of prestige due to the Penance of Attigny a year later and the consequences of the birth of Charles in 823 AD led to a deep personal and political crisis of this figure. New problems arose from Louis' second marriage with Judith, the daughter of the Swabian Count Welf I. His strong-minded and influential wife Judith pressured Louis to change the succession plans written down in the Ordinatio Imperii of 817 AD to include Charles. At the same time, there was discontent at the court over Judith's strong influence on the Emperor. So Louis sent on Lothair’s insistence his unpopular wife to Italy and expelled Abbot Wala of Corbie from the court in 829 AD, only to bring his wife back to Aachen in 834 AD after two unsuccessful attempts of his sons from his first marriage. Charles was temporarily forced to give up his claims in Alemannia and was sent to a monastery in Prüm during the age of unrest his father has caused, partly on his behalf.

During the last years of Louis’ reign, he created a new division plan for his sons in 837 AD which promised Charles rule over a new sub-kingdom in Frisia and an area located between the Maas and the Seine which sparked new revolts of his other sons who didn’t agree on splitting up their promised territories. The sudden death of Louis’ son Pepin in 838 AD, however, paved the way for a reasonably well-balanced tripartite division of the Reich under the three remaining sons Lothair, Louis the German and Charles. This delicate balance was confirmed in the Treaty of Verdun in 843 AD. Before this, however, Louis angered his son Louis the German, wanting to grant him only Bavaria as his dominion. The resistance of the son made a punitive expedition necessary, on whose return Louis the Pious died. On 20 June 840 AD, his last words were spoken on an island on the Rhine near Ingelheim: “Huz, huz!” - “Out, out!”. Each of the three new kings had scandalous and inconsistent rules over their parts of the Empire and would fight over the survival of their respective parts of the empire. By the time the empire passed to Lothair III, the Carolingian rule over western Europe had ultimately collapsed.

With the Battle of Fontenoy in 841 AD and the first Treaty of Verdun two years later, the unity of the Frankish Empire disintegrated into several areas of power. Although the actual text of the treaty is lost to history, one can reconstruct the territorial provisions quite accurately. Louis’ youngest son Charles the Bald received the kingdom of the West Franks consisting of the ancient kingdoms of Aquitania and Neustria, limited by the Meuse, the Saône, the Rhône and the Ebro River in Iberia. Charles was faced with many problems during his reign in West Francia, especially the ruling aristocracy proved to be not as cooperative as he thought: Charles the Bald was retreating from an unsuccessful campaign against the Bretons when he was compelled by his clerical and secular followers to sign a written contract in Coulaines near Le Mans at an imperial assembly. They aimed to protect their interests, but overall, a balance between the parties to the contract should be achieved. The Treaty of Coulaines limited the capabilities of Charles, for now, he can be held responsible by not only God but also those who honor him ("ut a quibus honorem suscipimus, eos iuxta dictum dominicum honoremus"). This means that the king, who was previously able to obey or refuse the advice of the fideles at his discretion, was now obliged to do so. The secular fideles on the other hand are now secured against the will of the king and his influence, something very unknown in the other parts of the former Carolingian Empire. The contract also established the hereditary nature of the fiefs, revoking certain decisions or removing some of his pesky vassals could only be done due to a breach of the law. It was a decisive step towards a more strengthened realm in an otherwise chaotic Europe, a move that would help him in his attempted acquisition of Aquitania from Pepin II, even though his affection for alcohol and loose living did erode his popularity inside the Aquitanian nobility for some years now, as seen with the occupation of Bordeaux by disgruntled citizen of his sub-kingdom.

Nominoë, Duke of Brittany since May 831 AD as he was appointed by Charles’ father during the general assembly of the Carolingian Empire in Ingelheim, was a strong advocate and ally for Louis the Pious. Even after his death and the subsequent destruction of the empire nine years later, he would initially stay loyal to Charles, it is very unlikely that Nominoë’s forces didn’t attend the Strasbourg Oaths as well. Only in 843, Nominoë was persuaded to attack West Francia and betray Charles, probably by Lambert II of Nantes who held life-long grief after Charles appointed his rival Renaud d’Herbauges as the new Count of Nantes, breaking his ambitions. Nominoë, still regarded as Tad ar Vro (“Father of the Nation”) in the Breton Kingdom to this day, will from there on continue to fight against Charles’ authority in various skirmishes like the Battle of Messax in the same year, supported by Emperor Lothair and his supporters.

Charles the Bald was, however, able to exchange oaths with Nominoë in the Summer of 846 AD, possibly after giving him the title of Duke, as pointed out by Prudentius of Troyes. Lambert II was removed from the Breton political scene for a year after this meeting as well, it was agreed upon to put him in power in Sens. But even this wouldn’t hinder him from letting his Bretons raid Neustrian territory, probably instigated by Lothair paying him to continue the war efforts even after the Treaty of Meerssen of February 847 AD. He and his troops terrorized Northern West Francia, invading important trade hubs such as Anjou. He only died in March 851 AD, after ravaging the countryside and successfully eliminating the majority of Charles’ authority over Rennes and Nantes after capturing Almaric, the new count of Nantes installed by Charles himself. His son, Erispoë, was quickly proclaimed the new leader of the Bretons, although his claim was almost immediately challenged by his nominal suzerain, Charles, who crossed the Vilaine with his forces. Fearing the threat he saw in Erispoë, he asked for the support of his half-brother Louis the German who was willing to lend him a small contingent of Saxon mercenaries. Both Erispoë and Charles only led a small army of only around 1000 and 4000 respectively, and while Charles does enjoy a numerical superiority, Erispoë’s forces were known for their mobility and tenacity, which will have a huge impact on the battle that is about to occur between the two.

The Bretons surprised the Saxon mercenaries with a javelin assault, forcing them to retreat behind the better armored Franks. The Franks suspected a melée to occur, but they were taken by surprise after the Breton forces attacked them from a distance with javelins which proved to be very effective against the slow Frankish line. This battle would drag on for hours and would cause many Frankish casualties, one of which would become one of the most important events of the 9th century and the life of Charles himself: It is not known whether or not Charles wore a chain coif, but he was grazed by a thrown javelin, leaving an open wound near his Adam’s apple as described by Lupus Servatus in one of his letters to Frankish secretary Felix of the English King Æthelwulf in 852 AD. He was forced to leave the battlefield of Jengland-Beslé, practically giving up his army to the Bretons who raided the camp after the departure of the king. While he survived the initial attempt on his life, modern historians like Eythór Jóhannesson (in “Disease and Death during Medieval Times”, University of Rebenburg Printing, AD 1989) or Joaquín Yñigo (in “Carolingian Influence on Hispania”, Bayonne Publishing Company, AD 1991) argue that his death one week later can be traced back to an organ failure that in turn resulted from a bacterial infection of his esophagus or larynx caused by the wound the javelin has created based on the description of a bloated throat during his last days on Earth. Truth is that Charles was still able to invite the victor Erispoë in Angers several days after the battle to discuss the terms of a truce, possibly in secret to quarantine himself from the public.

The Treaty of Angers was one of the last political acts of dying Charles and was intended to bring lasting peace between the Bretons and West Francia. Erispoë was granted not only Rennes and Nantes, but also the Pays de Retz to the South of Brittany, previously known as the Breton March which divided the two nations. He was possibly gifted with the title of rex britanniae and royal regalia such as robes as well, although this is controversial as the only evidence for this matter may be the misinterpretation of the usage of a royal seal that was granted to Erispoë. In return, according to the treaty, Charles will stand as the godfather of the baptism of Erispoë’s infant son Conan and Erispoë’s daughter Argantel will be married to Charles’ son Louis the Stammerer. Nonetheless, Erispoë would leave Angers before the banquet given in his honor was held, according to the Annals of Saint Bertin.

Charles would succumb to the wound and die on 29 August 851 AD in Angers. His decomposing body created a bad stench, forcing his bearers to hastily bury his corpse in the Abbey of Saint-Aubin of Angers, although his body was later on excavated and moved to the Basilica of St. Denis. It is thought that he attempted to create a division plan that prevented a total collapse of his young kingdom and hinder his elder half-brothers from taking too much influence on his infant sons Louis and Charles, but in the end, his efforts may have been done in vain.



SUMMARY:

851:
Charles the Bald dies shortly after the Battle of Jengland-Beslé. [PoD]
 
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CHAPTER 1.I: Lothair II and the Neustrian Kingdom
Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)


News of the surprising death quickly spread through the former Carolingian realm. Chaos quickly ensued: The missing division plan, Charles’ sons’ age that hinder them from exercising an important position in any form of government and Pepin II, the troublemaker of Southern Gaul who was arrested shortly before Charles’ passing by one of his rivals called Sans II Sancion and detained in Soissons, far away from his claimed Kingdom of Aquitania, didn’t help the already messy situation of Western Europe.

Louis the German, the ruler of East Francia, sent out his son Louis of Aquitania, as he will later be known, to the court of Bordeaux where nobles have grown disgruntled and resentful towards the rule of Charles, even before the succession crisis that will be caused by his early and untimely death. According to the Annals of Fulda, both Louis’ always dreamed of claiming the West Frankish throne. After hearing of the death of his brother, Louis pressured his oldest son who remained in Eastern Francia even after the initial call to go out now to claim the Aquitanian throne from any of Charles’ sons and Pepin II, to go out and claim the rich region. Louis II, having experienced many military clashes in his youth against the Slavic Obodrites and the various battles fought between his uncles, crossed into Gaul at the head of an army consisting of Thuringians, Bavarians, and Swabians, well-aware that this may be the golden opportunity he has hoped for. The Aquitanian Crisis would further heat up after Pepin II is able to flee from the monastery in Soissons after conspirators heard of the death of his long-time rival Charles the Bald and released him.​


Lothair, the ruler of Middle Francia, was preoccupied with the constant flood of Arabs and Normans attacking Italian and Frisian holdouts of his unstable realm respectively. He also had problems with the clergy which increasingly acted autonomously and the nobility which used force and terror to rule over their vassals, a method Lothair himself was known for. With the death of Charles the Bald a new chance to claim the regions up to and surrounding the Silva Carbonaria promptly emerged for him. But he feared that his brother Louis the German was already aware of this event, certainly changing some arrangements in the West to his favor. Intrigued by the possibilities and scared by the dangers lurking in the East, Lothair would eventually send out his second-oldest son, Lothair II (his older brother Louis of Italy, similar to his father, was already co-emperor at the time and was occupied with a voyage to Italy where he would meet and marry his future wife Engelberta of Parma in October 851 AD), to claim the throne of Western Francia or, at least, to create a Lotharingian regency in the name of one of Charles’ infant sons. Lothair Senior would also release Charles, Brother of Pepin II, to claim the Kingdom of Aquitania upon hearing of Louis’ march towards Limoges several weeks after the initial departure of Lothair II with a small army to meet Louis, the oldest son of Charles the Bald. Both Lothairs, however, didn’t expect that the powerful nobles and clerics of Neustria under the lead of aging Count Gauzbert of Maine already created a regency council for five-year-old Louis the Stammerer in Le Mans in early September 851 AD. The child Louis was anointed and crowned King of West Francia by Hincmar, archbishop of Reims and Joscelin, Bishop of Paris who is coincidentally also Count Gauzbert’s younger brother. Ambitious Lambert II who tried his luck in Maine and Anjou was angered to hear from the provisional council as his hopes of carving himself a new realm there was shattered by the nobles who have redrawn the map in their favour, enlarging counties like Maine which now included the city of Alençon and areas up to the Mayenne river to the South West. Erispoë (who let down Lambert before after signing the unofficial peace treaty of Angers by destroying his dreams of regaining control over Nantes and its surroundings) sent a messenger to Gauzbert’s council during the September of 851 AD to congratulate the new king and future husband of his daughter Argantel. All of this, however, went unnoticed to Lothair II who only heard of the illegitimate council (as he will call it in writing directed towards his father Lothair I) during his stay in Quierzy earlier this month.

During the chaos that ravaged through Aquitania, Lothair II discussed the possibilities of a potential regency under his name which found some supporters in Le Mans, including Lambert II who successfully rallied some nobles under Lothair’s banner. Gauzbert, eager to make West Francia independent from Carolingian influences with the help of the Bretons, resisted these offers, however, feeling empowered by the de facto alliance with Erispoë. Certain factions in the Breton court have emerged as a reaction to the approach of Erispoë towards the Frankish under the lead of Salaün, a nephew of Nominoë, and a fierce defender of Breton independence. They worry that the ruler of Brittany may sell his country, to the disadvantage of the potentes, for more influence in Carolingian affairs.


The chronology of the events following the initial entanglement of the various factions in West Francia is unknown and matter of academic discussion. Gauzbert, Count of Maine got killed by Lambert II in the outskirts of Le Mans while young Louis was suspiciously moved to Paris where Lothair II resided during the mess that was Neustria at this time. The murder of Erispoë was also attempted, but failed miserably, Salaün, the cousin of Erispoë which was behind the attack, was sentenced for treason to death, but was able to escape the punishment shortly after Christmas 851 AD. Afterward, he tried to get the support of the local nobles and clergy in an attempt to oust Erispoë himself. Salaün found a friend inside Lothair II who also wants Erispoë gone to remove any legitimacy of Louis the Stammerer as a potential king of West Francia. Furthermore, Hincmar of Rheims has switched sides and now supported the Lotharingian regency, what exactly moved the once avid supporter of Charles the Bald to abandon his son is lost to history. On 21 February 852 AD, the regency was confirmed with the Battle of Chartres, where a loyalist army under the head of Erispoë and Joscelin of Paris found itself attacked by Middle Frankish forces supported by Lambert II and some of his allies. Erispoë escaped the fate of Charles the Bald, but was forced to recognize Lothair’s supremacy with the Treaty of Quierzy which was not respected by Louis the German nor his son Louis of Aquitania, foreshadowing the events of the coming years. Louis the Stammerer, son of dead Charles, was not allowed to marry Argantel and was instead forced to marry an unnamed women of Burgundian descent which strengthened the relationship between West and Middle Francia. Lambert II was given Nantes and the Pays de Retz and was proclaimed Duke of Nantes, removing Amaury and any Breton influence from this region. Also, while Rorgon II of Maine was imposed as the new count of Maine, Robert the Strong, an ally of Lothair II during the chaos of Neustrian politics, was given the county of Anjou and was declared missus dominicus in Touraine and Maine. The Treaty of Quierzy, however, gave the potentes of Neustria new rights which accelerated the independence from the Carolingian crowns which would only further the initial problems of the empire.

In Brittany, a war between Erispoë and his cousin Salaün broke out, both claiming the dukedom for themselves. The “hidden king” of Brittany, as Salaün will be remembered, died in late March 852 AD, killed in an ambush conducted by Erispoë’s associates, leaving the throne for Erispoë (and his son Conan) who proclaimed the independence of the Bretons. Lothair II, unable to contest this proclamation, accepted this declaration.


Although the chaos of this era supports this common misconception, the outcome proves once again that war was rather uncommon, especially after the brutal battle of Fontenoye: Lothair and Lothair II agreed to the Treaty of Orléans after some veiled threats and diplomacy between the two brothers and cousins. Louis of Aquitania will be recognized as the king of Aquitania which excludes Poitou, Saintonge, and Angoumois while the remaining parts of West Francia were given Louis the Stammerer who acted under the “protection” of Lothair II, making him effectively the new king of West Francia, thus officially dissolving West Francia. The treaty also pointed out that if Louis the Stammerer died heirless, the realm would move to the hands of Lothair II. The aforementioned treaty was controversial, to say the least, Turpio of Angoulême, for example, would swear allegiance to Louis of Aquitania, although Angoulême was located inside the Neustrian Kingdom as historians will call the remnants of West Francia. Pepin II still claims the Aquitanian Kingdom for himself and is supported by Middle Francia with money and an army. And Louis of Aquitania and his father, Louis the German are trying to subdue the influence of the Lothairs by paying local nobles to pay allegiance to them instead to Lothair. But war was prevented again and again, especially after the various meetings between the Lothairs and Louis’ in Metz, Aachen or Rheims, the various letters sent by Pope Leo IV to ease the tensions were successful as well. Both the Vikings to the North and the West and the Saracens to the South forced the two new rulers of former West Francia to focus on those tasks instead of arguing about the infighting nobles along the Neustrian-Aquitanian border. The honores which are distributed among the upper class of the Carolingian society don’t seem to run out either, the West Frankish succession crisis saw many nobles being punished after defecting to the traitorous side of the conflict, therefore creating new empty thrones for ambitious and loyal counts to sit on. Thus one could argue that the initial idea of a Brüdergemeinschaft or a corpus fratrum, a brotherly cooperation between the Teilreiche, or in other words, the kingdoms produced by the division of the empire, was given as hoped in the original Ordinatio imperii by Louis the Pious.



SUMMARY:

851: Neustrian nobles are forming a regency council around Louis the Stammerer while Lothair II tries to place the regency under his control.
851: Gauzbert, Count of Maine and head of the regency, is killed by Lambert II of Nantes.
852: After the Battle of Chartres, the regency is confirmed to be lead by Lothair II by the Treaty of Quierzy and Orléans.
852: Erispöe is able to defeat Salaün, his son Conan is confirmed to be the heir to the practically independent Breton kingdom.
 
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This is a rather interesting idea of a timeline. Plus having more early medieval timelines is always good.

Though I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Rhomania will do differently in this timeline once you reach them.
 
This is a rather interesting idea of a timeline. Plus having more early medieval timelines is always good.

Though I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Rhomania will do differently in this timeline once you reach them.
Thanks! I always disliked the low amount of good timelines or even threads in general that covered one of the most important epochs of history (well, all epochs are equally important, but some epochs are more equal than others).
And don't worry, the Romans will be affected by the butterflies as well, quite soon in fact due to some changes in the Papacy and foreign policies of the Italian nations in Mezzogiorno, but that will be covered later on.
 
CHAPTER 1.II: Louis II and the Aquitanian Kingdom
Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press, (AD 1986)


The potentes of Aquitania welcomed the death of Charles and saw it like a new chance to free themselves from Carolingian control, although there had been no real consensus on who should become the new king of Aquitania. The Loyalists, a small minority of the nobles supported by the aforementioned Hincmar of Rheims and Sancho II of Gascony, wish to appoint Louis the Stammerer or Charles as their new king of Aquitania, much to the dismay of the larger German Faction of the court who embraced future Louis of Aquitania as the new king to leave the sphere of influence of the courts in Paris. The German faction was supported by the young Count of Poitiers, although Poitou was not considered to be part of Aquitania for almost two decades now, Ramnulf I, the archbishop of Bordeaux Adadelmus and the archbishop of Sens, Wenilo. Pepin II fell out of favor after his disastrous reign that led to the Loire Valley being occupied by the Normans. But there were also some nobles, like Aleran of Barcelona, who were so preoccupied with other threats that they left no statement, as Aleran and later his son Adalhelm, for example, have been trying to consolidate the territories of the Hispanic marches which were under a continuous attack of the third king of Hispania, Musa ibn Musa al-Qasawi. The powerful of Aquitania weren't known for having clear objectives, being obedient or for keeping their word, as both Pepin II and Charles the Bald were able to experience. When news of Louis’ march towards Limoges reached the city, chaos broke out. Even though many were enraged after the cruel misrule of Charles the Bald, many feared that Louis might be “too competent” which would disrupt the basic foundations of the power many Aquitanians of the higher classes enjoy. Especially the clergy would find itself in a dangerous situation fearing that the prerogative of the king might lead to an out-mustering of unfavorable bishops, similar to what was already happening in East Francia. Pope Leo IV wasn’t able to intervene in this conflict, as he was preoccupied with the continued feud between the Papal States and the Byzantine Empire and the attacks of the Saracens.

Things escalated in Aquitania with the arrival of Louis II in Limoges. He issued a royal decree in St. Martial’s Abbey, proclaiming himself the new king of Aquitania, with the assistance of various nobles, including Ramnulf I who was not only promised the return of Poitou into Aquitanian politics, but Louis II gave his word that the Duchy of Gascony would be given to him as well after their success at the removal of Sancho II of Gascony. Said Sancho II of Gascony, who repeatedly avoided capture by chieftain Musa, encouraged the nobles to take up their swords and fight against the German intruders, a legend that will shape the Aquitanian identity in the future. The Battle of Dordogne on 27 January 852 AD was a stalemate at first, but the more organized German mercenaries were able to push the Aquitanian forces back and thus won this battle for themselves, effectively leaving Aquitania for Louis. The battle was not as important as one might think, the majority of the smallish Aquitanian army already deserted after the initial attack of the Germans. Pepin II was unable to find any support of his claims south of the Loire, although Lothair II invited him to the court of Paris to discuss further actions against Louis II.

Sancho II of Gascony, loyal to Charles the Bald even after his death, would join Charles the Bald in the afterlife soon after his disaster at Dordogne. He suffered a horrible death near Bayonne, according to the Annals of Saint Bertin, similar to his brother Aznar Sánchez in 836 AD.

The Treaty of Orléans confirmed the already established German control of the Aquitanian region, with Louis II, now stylized Louis I of Aquitania as its head of state. Tensions continued to dominate between these relatives, however, Lothair I, for example, encouraged the Bulgars to make trouble on his brother’s kingdom to the East. Louis was not deterred, however, yet he still was not able to fully extend his control over the Slavic realms to the East (notably Great Moravia and the Obodrites). His son, Louis I of Aquitania had trouble to fully establish his grip on his kingdom, especially with the continued problems that arose from the Normans pillaging the coasts. One step to ensure the stabilization of Aquitania was to marry Hildsinde [1], the youngest daughter of deceased Gerard of Auvergne and sister of Count Ramnulf I of Poitiers, now also duke of Gascony, in 856 AD. One year later, his first legitimate child, a son named Louis, was born.

SUMMARY:

852:
Louis II [the Younger] arrives in Limoges and issues a royal decree to proclaim himself the new king of Aquitania. Various nobles and clerics opposing a German king are taking up their swords to fight against the German intruder.
852: The Battle of Dordogne proves to be a decisive defeat for the Aquitanian nobles, and the Treaty of Orléans confirms Louis II as Louis I of Aquitania to be the new king of Aquitania.
856: To legitimize his rule over Aquitania, Louis I of Aquitania marries Hildsinde, sister of Duke Ramnulf I of Gascony. One year later, a son named Louis is born.


FOOTNOTES
[1] Here we encounter our first problems with the lack of literary resources for this period. While Hildsinde's existence is pretty much confirmed by her OTL marriage to the Count of Saintes named Landeric, it is not 100% confirmed that she is, in fact, daughter of Gerard of Auvergne, although she is commonly attributed to him. For the sake of this timeline, we will assume that Hildsinde is the daughter of Gerard of Auvergne and therefore sister of Ramnulf I.
 
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CHAPTER 1.III: Moving the Powerful
Excerpt: A Shattered Continent: Europe, 800-1000 – Kamila Boutaris, Löthener Kulturverein (AD 1989)


THIRD CHAPTER: A DEAD KING AND HIS ROTTEN KINGDOM

The Death of Charles the Bald after he succumbed to the wounds he received during the Battle of Jengland-Beslé would prove to become one of the most significant events for the history of many West Frankish noble families, albeit for better or worse.

One of the great losers of the conflict that ensued were the Rorgonids, then under control of the elderly Count Gauzbert of Maine by that fateful year. Being one of the most powerful Frankish grandees, the Rorgonids enjoyed a very close relationship to the Carolingians under Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald. They were however in decline, his brother Rorgon I died in 839 AD leaving only very young heirs, and Gauzbert failed to prevent the Normans from raiding the county of Maine, the power base of the family. Additionally, the Rorgonids suffered from a decade old rivalry between them and the Widonids, in West Francia represented by Lambert II of Nantes. The latter will eventually kill him in an ambush outside of his residence near Le Mans, but only after the damage has been done: The Rorgonids were the main force behind the first regency behind Louis the Stammerer, son of Charles the Bald, and were therefore one of the main actors that lead to the destruction of West Francia. After Gauzbert’s murder in 851 AD, the Rorgonids and their descendants were degraded and are now lost to history, ultimately leading to the ascension of the Widonids in both Neustria and, later on, Italy. [1]

Another family affected by the unfortunate chain of events were the Hunfridings, of Alemannic origin, who rose to prominence in East Francia after Humfried III and his uncle Odalric revolted against Louis the German in the 850s. They fled to the court of Charles the Bald, but after the Battle of Jengland-Beslé the situation has changed for them. Initially supporting Gauzbert, they changed their bets by switching to Lothair II’s side of the succession crisis after Gauzbert was assassinated, being one of the few nobles to remain loyal even after the crisis was resolved after the Treaty of Quierzy and Orléans. Humfried was awarded the County of Lisieux in 852 AD to support local Bishop Airard of Lisieux’s efforts against the continued Norman incursions. His uncle Odalric, on the other hand, is installed as new count of Troyes in 853 AD after Odo I of Troyes rebelled against Lothair II after which he was deposed and his possessions confiscated, although Odo I of Orléans’ son William, cousin of Odo I of Troyes, is reinstalled as Count of Orléans in 865 AD and, with his help, Odo I of Troyes assassinated Odalric to recover his county a year later. [2]



~

FOOTNOTES
[1] The Rorgonids declined IOTL as well, quite quickly in fact. The much more important effect of this rapid decline is the growth of the Widonids under Lambert II of Nantes who will live a bit longer in this timeline. We know that Lambert II has a huge amount of both ambition and energy and he will prove to be a very dangerous man in the future.
[2] This seems like a very small detail, but this will butterfly away many things, not only in Neustria, but especially in Aquitania as well where Count Raymond I of Toulouse won’t be forced to abdicate from his large possessions in 862 AD, making his children a bit more important there. Another effect is that Aleran, Count of Barcelona will establish a local dynasty, the Aleranids, with his son Adalhelm as his successor in 852 AD. Adalhelm (de Laon IOTL) will pay homage to Louis I, thus providing help for Louis I to keep the Spanish March or Marca Hispanica under his control.
 
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this seems very intresting so far, what will be the goal of this timeline ?
There is no goal, if everything goes as hoped, the timeline will end with our current year. I just want to explore how important Charles the Bald was for the history of Europe and the world, the early medieval world is too often overlooked.
 
the timeline will end with our current year
Oh boy. Hope you don't overshoot it, because you'll have to be careful if you want to bring it to modern-day. This event is massively influential, and the farther you get from the pod, the more alien it will become. I hope that you keep it down to earth and don't end up with fantasy countries in our world. Don't misunderstand my concerns, it's just that this is a BIG P.O.D.
 
Oh boy. Hope you don't overshoot it, because you'll have to be careful if you want to bring it to modern-day. This event is massively influential, and the farther you get from the pod, the more alien it will become. I hope that you keep it down to earth and don't end up with fantasy countries in our world. Don't misunderstand my concerns, it's just that this is a BIG P.O.D.
Of course, the world will grow more and more weird, but this is exactly what I like about early alternate history! I'll always try to stay away from ASB, but there's a huge community to correct me on certain topics if I start to tell fairytales. I try to make my research as thorough as possible (alias, I try to read actual sources and not just wikipedia everything it up), but I am only human, I may make mistakes.
 
Its always grest to see another Early Medieval timeline on these boards. And I have to agree thst this period is one which is both essentially important to Western History, but which is criminally under represented here (but, then again, as the author of another Early Medieval timeline that ive been working on for years, I'm hardly impartial! :) )

I also love the amount of detail you are putting into this. I too try to rely on actual sources besides Wikipedia, when and wherever possible. May I ask which ones you are using currently?

On a side note, if you decide to explore any social history in this timeline in addition to political, I'd suggest looking up Chris Wickham, if you haven't already. I'm reading his "Early Medieval Italy: Central Power and Local Society 400 - 1000" for my own timeline (though he focuses mainly on the Lombard and Frankish eras, and my timeline relates to the Goths, there are still some importent trends he lays out that i need to be aware of) and it's a very well written work. I can't suggest it enough, and I want to follow up with some of his other works too.

On a final note: can't wait for Rollo to show up into this tempestuous scene :)
 
Its always grest to see another Early Medieval timeline on these boards. And I have to agree thst this period is one which is both essentially important to Western History, but which is criminally under represented here (but, then again, as the author of another Early Medieval timeline that ive been working on for years, I'm hardly impartial! :) )

I also love the amount of detail you are putting into this. I too try to rely on actual sources besides Wikipedia, when and wherever possible. May I ask which ones you are using currently?

On a side note, if you decide to explore any social history in this timeline in addition to political, I'd suggest looking up Chris Wickham, if you haven't already. I'm reading his "Early Medieval Italy: Central Power and Local Society 400 - 1000" for my own timeline (though he focuses mainly on the Lombard and Frankish eras, and my timeline relates to the Goths, there are still some importent trends he lays out that i need to be aware of) and it's a very well written work. I can't suggest it enough, and I want to follow up with some of his other works too.

On a final note: can't wait for Rollo to show up into this tempestuous scene :)
For the last chapters, I've been Rosamond McKitterick's work The Frankish Kingdom under the Carolingians, 751-987; History and Memory of the Carolingian World and Marios Costambeys' book with the similar name of Carolingian World. Especially McKitterick was useful in reconstructing the Carolingian political stage at the time, while Costambeys' looks into how the society and economy worked helped me later on. Would recommend all three of them, but in my honest opinion, Costambeys is a bit dry to read, but nonetheless very informative.
I'll do scientific and social history, once I've progressed far enough, but thank you very much for the recommendations, I'll look him up!
 
CHAPTER 1.IV: The Death of an other King
Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


Western Europe stabilized after the Treaty of Orléans, especially after Lothair II was able to quell the last revolts in late 853 AD. The uneasy peace, put under stress multiple times during the various actions of the four kings against each other, like Lothair II financing Boris I, khan of the Bulgarian Empire, and Rastislav of Moravia to raid East Francia under the control of Louis the German in 853 AD or how all four kings failed to combat the Norman threat. Louis the German’s predatory ambitions in the west which also found some audience in Aquitania where the potentes were disillusioned by the intrusive presence of both Peppin II and Charles the Bald, died down once his own kingdom of East Francia was threatened by internal conflict between various noble houses and the king’s sons themselves.

These four kings met for the third and last time in Besançon in Lotharingia in Spring 855 AD, to continue the system of “con-fraternal government” as Louis the Pious, father of Emperor Lothair I and Louis the German, grandfather of Lothair II and Louis of Aquitania, has originally intended with the Ordinatio imperii. By this point, the Carolingian empire has already dissolved into four areas of power, contesting against each other to increase the chances of survival for their kingdom and their very own sons. Therefore, it came as a surprise that Æthelwulf’s pilgrimage to Rome in the same year still took place, although Europe was in a deep crisis at the time. As King of Wessex, he set out to Rome, accompanied by his youngest son Alfred, and on the way, resided at the court of Lothair II in Paris, before arriving in the Papal State in early Summer 855 AD and staying there for six months. The usual exchange of gifts took place, although Æthelwulf, a pious man indeed, surprised even the Diocese of Rome itself with his large amount of gifts.

On his way back, he met Emperor Lothair I and joined him in a punitive expedition against the Normans in Lower Lorraine. Lothair I, who was in dire need of allies outside his son Lothair II and co-emperor Louis offered his youngest daughter Rotrude, a child perhaps five-teen years old at the time of the offer. Æthelwulf agreed to the offer, leading to one of the rare marriages of a Carolingian princess, since they were usually sent to monasteries.

Thus, Lothair I, having tried his best at keeping his kingdom and family above water, fell ill during the winter of 855 AD. Feeling that his last days on the mortal plane of existence have begun, Lothair I divided Middle Francia among his sons Louis, Lothair II, and Charles in January 856 AD. He officially abdicated with the Treaty of Liège which set the stage for his sons to become distinguishable characters in the following years. Lothair I, according to the Annals of Fulda, apparently considered a small concession for his nephews Louis the Stammerer or Charles the Child, the oldest sons of his deceased half-brother Charles the Bald. After the abdication, however, he retired to the Abbey of Liège where he died on 2 February 856 AD.

  • His oldest son Louis received the imperial crown and the kingdom of Italy, which included the cisalpine territories of the Italian peninsula.

  • Lothair II received the areas north of the Lyonnais in Middle Francia, his regency and control over Neustria at the time was not mentioned in the Treaty of Liège.

  • His youngest son Charles would be given the remainders: The Kingdom of Burgundy is carved out of the southern portions of the corpse that was Middle Francia.


Map I: The Carolingian Empire as of 856 AD [based of the map created by Furfur on Wikipedia.]

The death of Emperor Lothair I upset the balance of power in the empire in a new way: For the first time, the eldest Carolingian and the emperor were not the same person. The combination of proclaimed peaceful confraternity and underlying rivalry and tension which had characterized the period between 841-856 was thus replaced by an even more complex inter-generational conflict.



SUMMARY:

853:
The rebellion of Odo I of Troyes is quelled by Lothair II. Odalric, a Hunfriding, is installed as the new count of Troyes.
855: The Council of Besançon is held, with the four kings Lothair I, Lothair II, Louis the German and his son Louis of Aquitania attending to discuss matters of the Carolingian empire.
855: Æthelwulf, returning from his pilgrimage to Rome, marries Rotrude, daughter of Lothair I.
856: Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I dies. The Treaty of Liège splits Middle Francia among his sons creating an even more complex inter-generational conflict between the Carolingians.
 
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CHAPTER 1.V: The Aftermath
Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


The first serious disturbance of this new uneasy dynastic balance came in 857 AD; Louis the German and his son Louis of Aquitania launched an invasion of the newly established kingdom of Burgundy after a court in Arles invited this duo to depose the de-facto rule of governor Gerard de Roussillon, a veteran from the Battle of Fontenoy-en-Puisaye and loyal follower of Lothair I. Louis the German took a risky bet by invading the kingdom, he has hoped that the problems that arose from the death of his brother Lothair I would hinder Lothair II and Emperor Louis of Italy, plagued by the steady stream of Saracen and Norman attacks, not alien to his brother to the North, from intervening in this conflict. Lothair II in particular faced some difficulties ruling over his realm as the Scandinavians continued to raid the areas around the Seine and, worse still, a revolt directed against Lothair II’s regency in Neustria was brewing under the initials of Robert the Strong, Count of Maine, who perchance tried to weaken the Lotharingian branch of the Carolingians to expand his area of control. Placing the regency of Louis the Stammerer under someone else’s control was not unpopular after early 856 AD as, according to the few historic sources that have survived, Lothair II seemed to have done little for the government and defense of his large realm. Lothair II’s main focus after the death of his father was the annulment of the arranged marriage to Teutberga who was unable to bear children and to marry Waldrada, his mistress, instead. It seems that this was done for more personal than political reasons.

Therefore, on that fateful day in the warm summer of July 856 AD, the German army lead by East Frankish king Louis the German, entered the kingdom of Burgundy. The situation seemed hopeless, but indeed, those who are rallied by love instead of hate and greed had the upper hand in this conflict after all: For almost two years he fought in secular courts against the marriage, and in June 856 AD, he held an assembly of bishops and lords, most notably Archbishops Ghunter and Thietgaud, both related to Waldrada and two of the most important supporters of Lothair II, in Attigny. There, Hucbert, brother of Teutberga, took up arms on behalf of her. She was imprisoned and had to submit to an ordeal of boiling water, which had to be observed by Lothair’s allies. Thus, Teutberga died after the burns sustained by her attempt to reach into a pot of boiling water to retrieve an object, although modern historians doubt the official version as attested by Hincmar of Rheims, one of the loudest critics of Lothair II at the time, and imply that she was perhaps poisoned. Hence, Lothair II married Waldrada, without the consent of Louis the German or his son Louis in Aquitania, the faction that opposed the marriage the most. The marriage was confirmed with a letter by Pope Hadrian II [1], although this divorce would spark a huge controversy inside the clergy, leaving a huge impact on the works of Hincmar of Rheims (De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae), Adventius of Metz and Rudolf of Fulda (Annales Fuldenses). The divorce will be challenged only after Lothair’s death in 894 AD.

Furthermore, the potentes of Neustria and Lotharingia, in particular, the clergy and Lambert II, Duke of Nantes, declared their support of the Lotharingian regency, mainly because Lothair II proved to be less interventionistic than the Germans. Enthusiastic Lambert II was able to convince many of the North Aquitanian nobles to resist the call to arms of Louis of Aquitania as well, most notably Turpion of Angoumois who originally aligned himself to Louis of Aquitania before the jingoistic behavior of Louis and his elder brother Carloman displeased him. Ramnulf, a powerful noble from Poitou, and Robert, Count of Maine, however would swear allegiance to the East Frankish nobility and urged many to follow his advice. Additionally, Louis I of Aquitania would face some uprisings inside his realms partly caused by Charles, brother of Pepin II, partly by supporters of Charles the Child and partly by other disgruntled nobles angered by the continued Scandinavian threat, effectively forcing Louis to stay out of his father’s skirmish with the Lotharingians, bringing the odds back to Lothair’s favour. Followers of Pepin II and his brother Charles did not recognize the Treaty of Verdun and opposed the rule of the Aquitanian king for almost twenty years until Pepin finally died in 863 AD after denouncing Christianity and raiding the countryside with the Normans.

For that reason it was no surprise for many contemporaries that the Neustrian Succession Crisis was officially settled after the Battle at Étampois in early April 858 AD and the Treaty of Melun two weeks later, effectively deposing 10-year-old Louis the Stammerer in Neustria. He was sentenced for high treason and should have been blinded, only to be subjected to a mock execution and a last-minute pardon by Lothair II. The whereabouts of Robert the Strong are lost to history, although he was probably exiled to Aquitania or East Francia, a strong case can be made that he was appointed Count of Hochseeburg by Louis the German, but his support of Louis the Stammerer ended the young career of this ambitious man, one man whose descendants could have claimed the throne of West Francia and changed the course of history in another time. Lambert II on the other hand was rewarded for his bravery and was named missus dominicus by Lothair II and effectively gained control over the ancient ducatus Cenomannicus, a large duchy centered on Le Mans and corresponding to the ancient realm of regnum Neustriae. Lambert's rise came at the expense of the established remainders of the family of the Rorigonids and was designed to curb their regional power and to defend Neustria from Viking and Breton raids. This conflict would prove to be fatal for Lambert II however when he returned from Melun and seized fever. He was buried in Nantes where his son Lambert III was proclaimed Duke of the Franks, Marquis of Neustria, and Count of Nantes. The years ahead would prove his competence. The Treaty of Melun would also leave many potentes as vassals only in name as Lothair II wouldn’t be able to project their power into Neustria, a development only further accelerated by the rise of the Guidonids under Lambert III.

Nonetheless, not all is well in Lotharingia, as Louis the German was able to find an ally and friend in Hugh the Abbot from Auxerre and Girard, Abbot of Luxeuil, welcoming his army and declaring Southern Lotharingia to be part of the Kingdom of Burgundy which, according to the Courts of Arles and Lyon, are part of Louis the German’s domains. Louis’ goal in Lotharingia was to reinstall Louis the Stammerer as ruler of Neustria to lessen his nephew’s influence on his side of the Rhine. But things seemed to improve for the Kingdom of Burgundy as competent Count Gerard II of Vienne was able to expel the rebellious nobles in Arles and Lyon to Upper Burgundy where they enjoyed the protection of Louis’ forces. His job wasn’t done however as the Northmen would continue to raid Marselha and Tolon for the next few years.

The incompetence of Lothair II led many contemporaries to believe that Louis the German might be successful at restoring Charles the Bald’s sons Louis, Charles or even Carloman to one of the thrones Lothair II and Charles of Burgundy currently possess. Yet, history once again proves to be not that simple with the wonder of Mâcon of 859 AD.

SUMMARY:

855:
Pope Leo IV dies. The electorate’s first choice, the priest of St Mark’s, reluctantly ascends to the pontificate as Pope Hadrian II. He is seen as a compromise candidate to resolve the power struggle between the Carolingians under Louis of Italy and those loyal to the Papal State.
857: The German branch under Louis the German and his son Louis I of Aquitania invades the Kingdom of Burgundy after a court in Arles invited him to depose the de-facto rule of Gerard de Roussillon.
857: The death of Teutberga after her ordeal by boiling water led to the reluctantly accepted marriage between Lothair II and Waldrada, thus legitimizing his children. Lothair II will die heirless in a different world, in another time.
858: The Battle of Étampois and the following Treaty of Melun deposes young Louis the Stammerer, the only son of Charles the Bald who was able to secure a throne, and confirms the rule of Lothair II over Neustria. The Neustrian succession crisis ends, however many disaffected nobles continue to rebel against the incompetent Lothair II.
858: Lambert II of Nantes is named missus dominicus by Lothair II and is given the duchy of Maine, although he dies shortly after this royal charter. Lambert II's son Lambert III succeeds his father.
858: Louis the German invades Lotharingia and Neustria with a mercenary army hoping to restore Louis the Stammerer to the Neustrian throne.


FOOTNOTES
[1] The butterflies have reached Italy! This is the same guy as OTL conciliatory Hadrian II, he is however elected much earlier due to the vastly different political atmosphere in Rome thanks to the missing threat from West Francia. Butterflies... Butterflies never change...
 
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CHAPTER 1.VI: Italy, Burgundy and East Francia in the 9th century
Excerpt: A Short Introduction to the History of Gaul – Sébastien Allard, Société des Antiquaires, (AD 1931)

Between 840 and the 10th century, the Frankish episcopate, then the Pope, tried to mediate in the clashes between the Carolingian kings. In his memorandum De divortio Lotharii, Hinkmar remarked: "The empire came from different hands and was powerfully united in the hands of sole rulers; but it was disunited again by their own mistakes. The church now remains the only empire that is indivisible.”
The Church was thus forced to make the preservation of the unity of Christendom her own affair. So the Papacy became a power over the peoples in Western Europe. The reasons for this are multi-layered: The Carolingian kings focused on realizing their power politics and dynastic plans, and they were also busy looking for solutions to the numerous internal problems in their respective areas. The fight against invasions and rebellions of the ambitious nobility kept claiming their full attention.
We will now focus on the various areas of powers that resulted from the Treaty of Verdun and Liège.



ITALY UNDER LOUIS II


Description: Louis II of Italy


Under Lothair I, Louis II was crowned king of Italy and co-emperor by Pope Sergius II. He was an intelligent and energetic man who cared for and defended his kingdom and title of emperor zealously. In a time of grave agitation in the Italian cities, the new king made every effort to enforce the Carolingian law. Numerous traditional records show that he moved from county to county, proclaiming capitulars and conferring immunity privileges on monasteries, including San Salvatore in Brescia, where his sister Gisela was abbess.

As already mentioned, after a prolonged period of weakness, the pope was eager to consolidate his position, and sought close cooperation with the emperor. Pope Leo IV had the Aurelian wall restored, but to protect the borders of the Vatican from the attacks of the Saracens, he had to wall up the Civitas Leonina, close to the Castel Sant'Angelo. The effort was enabled by imperial support and the income of the papal domains.

When Pope Leo IV died in 855, the Roman residents almost unanimously elected young Pope Hadrian II as successor, while Anastasius, a close ally of Louis II, tried in vain to obtain the pontificate. Hadrian II only reluctantly accepted and filled his role as a compromise candidate between the aforementioned Carolingian faction and the Papal factions who wanted to see Benedict, cardinal-priest of the church of San Callisto, as the new pope. Louis II confined himself to tasking Arsenius and Anastasius, who had become abbot of Santa Maria in Trastevere, with the supervision of Hadrian. With Leo IV’s successor Hadrian II, Louis had a completely submissive pope. Hadrian was limping and he was neither respected nor strong-minded, but was a deeply religious man. His pontificate was marked by his approval of the marriage between Waldrada and Lothair II, the Photian schism and the ensuing Bulgarian crisis, but in Italy, Pope Hadrian II, on the other hand, constantly repeated the same praises of Louis II, who, according to Hadrian, sacrifices himself for the cause of Christ, who protected his kingdom and southern Italy against the infidel masses of the South.

Speaking of the South, the Papal State, the remaining Rhoman possessions in Calabria, Otranto, and Napoli, the later growing increasingly more autonomous, and the principalities of Benevento, Salerno and later Capua were threatened and already seriously harmed by the Saracen incursions. Called to the aid by the abbots, Louis II undertook a campaign in 851 AD, but he could not recapture his primary goal Bari. The dukes of Benevento and the monasteries had to buy themselves out of the raids by regular tributary payments. These raids and pillages were the key reason for Louis' absence during the invasion of Lotharingia and Burgundy by Louis the German whose main ambition was to expand his sphere of influence as far as possible. In the year 869, Louis II called all the free men of Italy to fight against the Saracens. The less well-off were deployed to guard the fortifications on the spot, and the rest were expected to be ready for one year. The Pope was asked to contribute some of the gifts that the Bulgarian Khan Boris I had sent him. In order to finally defeat the Saracens, he planned an alliance with Constantinople which only flourished under Emperor Bardas I [1].

Thus, Bari was finally freed on 7 July 872 by a coalition of Rhoman and Carolingian forces, although immediately after their victory, both factions claimed a major portion of the victory for themselves. Especially Bardas I was very proud of the victory achieved against the Mohammedans and wanted to renew the glory of Rome, which crippled under his predecessor Michael III. In a letter, Bardas I asked Louis II how he could call himself emperor of the Franks while only controlling a minor portion of it. Louis II answered by calling himself imperator augustus romanorum, crowned and anointed with the holy oil by the Pope himself. Louis probably assumed that his imperial title conferred him some sort of superiority over his relatives. There, Louis II undoubtedly fell for the illusions of grandeur, Louis II, the same man who was contemptuously referred to as imperator italiae by Hinkmar of Rheims.

Since Louis II failed to produce a male heir, the emperor's death on 13 October 875 at Pavia was considered by some chroniclers to be the end of an era and the beginning of a long era of suffering in Italy.



BURGUNDY UNDER CHARLES


Description: Gerhard of Vienne


King Charles of the Provençe was still a child in 856, the real master of the empire was his regent, Count Gerhard of Vienne, formerly Count of Paris, who had joined his brother-in-law Lothar I in 843. This important nobleman was married to Bertha, the daughter of Count Hugo of Tours, a member of the Etichonids. Gerhard possessed goods in Burgundy, in the Avalionais and especially the areas around Vézelay and Pothières. Similar to Louis II, he was a man gifted with intelligence and tackled the many problems of the small kingdom with great optimism and enthusiasm.
Gerhard fought the Normans with great vigor and finally forced them to leave the Rhône, the source of trade for Burgundy, once and for all, and was congratulated by Pope Hadrian II himself.
But Gerhard was not alone, he was supported by archbishop Ado of Vienne during the ousting of the Normans. He was very friendly to reforms and tried to revitalize the economy of the kingdom by reconstructing pillaged villages with financial help from St. Peter. Both of them also had to defend the kingdom of Provençe against Louis the German, who sensed a new opportunity to expand and invaded Burgundy on the pretext that the powerful Count Folcrat of Arles had called him to his aid. But Louis moved no further than Mâcon, due to continued desertions, the strong opposition of both the local nobility and especially the clergy under the lead of Hinkmar of Rheims, one of the most vociferous opponents of Louis the German, in Burgundy and Lotharingia and East Francia’s beginning dissolution.
But even this blessed duo which withstood the Norman and German invasion was not able to stop the destruction of the young kingdom of Burgundy: King Charles, a very sick man who suffered from epilepsy, died in 864 and left no heirs to the throne. The kingdom was split up among his relatives. Only centuries later, an entity resembling the kingdom of Burgundy would rise again.



EAST FRANCIA UNDER LOUIS THE GERMAN


Description: A 19th-century depiction of Louis the German.


East Francia, the kingdom of the Germans, did cover an area roughly stretching from the Rhine to the Elbe and from the Baltic Sea to the Bavarian and Swabian Alps. Louis’ kingdom, constantly threatened by the Slavs and the Scandinavians, was sparsely populated outside of the important cities near the Rhine.
A strong sense of tribalism was still prevailing in East Francia, especially in Saxony where Charlemagne left his mark during his conquest of the area. To further advance the Christianization and, consequently, integration of Saxony and the other regions of Germany, Louis set up many new bishoprics and monasteries, led by the many local nobles. This development would prove to be fatal, the many powerful families of East Francia, like the Luitpoldings, Brunonids, Popponids or the Alaholfings would use these new monasteries to appoint loyal allies which in turn secured their own power. This, of course, sparked a rivalry between many noble houses, the most famous one being the Conradine feud between the Popponids and Conradines.
Nonetheless, all in all, Louis the German was able to enforce his rule to a certain degree, but he oftentimes lacked the means to exercise his control. There were no missi, no general assemblies, and the counties were usually very large. Therefore, he relied on the church and the large abbeys, which formed downright monastic cities, examples being Fulda, St. Gallen or Reichenau.
His ambitions were great, however, but even greater were his failures in achieving them; the death of his half-brother Charles the Bald let to the creation of the kingdom of Aquitania, ruled by his second-oldest son Louis II, but he failed to capitalize on the unrest in Neustria and Lotharingia, leading to the catastrophe of Mâcon, where his disorganized army retreated without his king.
Thus, Louis the German having achieved not too little, but not too much, died in February 878 AD. Outliving his youngest son Charles, Louis was described during his last days by many contemporaries as “a visibly hurt old man who lived his last hours in agony, remembering his mistakes and asking for forgiveness by his relatives and God”.


FOOTNOTES
[1] Another cliffhanger left to be explained later on.
 
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CHAPTER 1.VII: A New Order
Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


The Wonder of Mâcon, although, contrasting the name, not a surprising or impossible event, saved the Lotharingian kingdoms. The Imperium Christianum no longer existed, the Empire of Charlemagne still less; the Frankish world was soon never again to know peace once the first major disruption to the dynastic balance occur. And yet it was still possible for the Franks to feel that they were one. In a famous letter to the Rhomans, Emperor Louis II of Italy, son of Lothair, gave proud expression to this: “In answer to your comment that we do not rule over all Francia, briefly, we do indeed so rule in as much as we hold what they hold who are of one flesh and blood with us”. The Rhomans, were, of course, right; but, significantly, Louis II should have defended himself in such terms. Significant also was the speed with which, not long afterward, four Carolingian rulers who heartily disliked each other still met each other in Besançon or Attigny to discuss the matters of their realms and how to combat the Norse and Saracens, exporting the defensive mechanisms imposed by the Neustrians on the Seine or the Edict of Auch from Aquitania in 865 AD and late 872 AD respectively. [...]

Although the above-mentioned attacks of the Arabs and Scandinavians in the Carolingian empire, a sense of peace between the four kingdoms returned, although the nobility and clergy are starting to take temporal matters to their own hands, especially in Francia Orientalis, East Francia, the counts of the various gaue, the German term for shires, are beginning to impose their power upon other counts, without the intervention of the now-aging King Louis the German.

In Italy, the political situation changed after Louis II of Italy, brother of Lothair II, returned to northern Italy from an unsuccessful revenge campaign against Benevento, where he caught a disease and died on 13 October 875, in Pavia. Since his marriage with Engelberga only brought up two daughters, the Italian branch of the Carolingians was thus eliminated. He appointed Carloman, the oldest son of Louis the German, as his successor, surprising both Lothair II who has hoped that his sons Hugh and Odo, born in 855 AD and 865 AD [1] respectively, may be proclaimed new kings of Italy, and the German branch of the Carolingians which was in the middle of a crisis as the sons of Louis the German were on the verge of rebellion against their father. Carloman is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Hadrian II on 3 December of the same year, only three weeks before Hadrian II’s death on 24 December 875. The ascension to the imperial throne was challenged by Lothair II, but was promptly resolved when Hadrian II and his successor Pope John VIII respected the testimony of Louis II and denied Lothair’s or his sons’ right to inherit the crown.

Where there is a success, there is also a failure, and hence, King Louis of East Francia, a man whose ambitions to reunite the remainders of the empire of his grandfather Charlemagne failed and whose reign was marked by a severe crisis, with the attempted East Frankish rebellion of his oldest son Carloman, as well as struggles to maintain supremacy over his realm, was struck by grief after his youngest son Charles [2] died after a heavy epileptic seizure, possibly brought on by the cold winter, and its complications in January 878 AD, as modern scholars have speculated based on the historical prescriptions of his death. His sorrow was great, according to the Annals of Fulda, and he died only mere weeks [3] after Charles, but only after abdicating as king of East Francia in favor of his son Carloman, already Holy Roman Emperor.

Louis I of Aquitania, tried to challenge Carloman’s rule over both Italy and East Francia by raising an army to invade Carloman’s Italian possessions, but the conflict was resolved when Lothair II and Papal delegates successfully mediated the conflict. The agreement laid down was that in the event of Carloman's death the Italian kingdom would revert to Louis while Germany shall be given to Arnulf, illegitimate son of Carloman, whose legitimization process will be supported by his brother’s rule in Italy and Aquitania. In a dire twist of cruel irony, Louis I whose sole hope was to outlive his older brother Carloman died when returning from the diet in St. Gallen in 878 AD. Thus did the year take the life of three men, a curse that would haunt the dynasty in the coming years. Louis I, a man of exceptional military talent, is succeeded by his twenty-one-year-old son Louis II in Aquitania.

Lothair II, less a ruler than a man with feelings for his wife Waldrada and his close family, reportedly was incapable of coherent speech for several days after hearing word that his brother has died, although this account may very well be quite exaggerated. Carloman, in the meantime, was trying his best to legitimize his only son Arnulf to make his succession in Germany possible, although Arnulf was already Duke of Bavaria and called filius regalis, regal son, by royal documents. His efforts are however blocked by Pope John VIII, a particularly obnoxious man, intensely annoying not only Carloman but Italian nobles as well, especially Guy II of Spoleto, a Widonid related to the duke of Maine Lambert III, whose ambitious plan of expanding Spoleto southwards has met resistance with Pope John VIII.

Although John VIII left a positive impact by supporting Methodius’ mission to the Slavs in Moravia and finishing the establishment of the archbishopric of Preslav in Bulgaria [4], his catastrophic dabbling in military affairs to oust the Saracens once and for all would drain the Papal treasury and would turn even the clergy against him. This would also inspire many nobles, among them Emperor Carloman who hopes that he might be able to legitimize his son before his death and a certain Guy II of Spoleto who aimed to expand his duchy of Spoleto to include some of the Papal territories. When Pope John VIII invited Guy II to a diet in Nonantola to discuss an alliance in order to combat the Saracen incursions, both Carloman and Guy II took the chance. Pope John VIII and the two conspirators were dining together, before during the end of the meal both Guy II and Carloman made an excuse to leave the room, when John VIII heard footsteps: there stood Guy II, with some eight of his friends. John VIII was hurled aside and was seriously wounded by a sword-thrust as he fell to the floor. One of the conspirators approached the dying pope, but had not the courage to kill him outright; it was left to another plotter to administer the coup de grâce. Thus was Pope John VIII the first pope to be murdered, but certainly not the last to suffer from this fate.

Carloman’s advisor in Italy, bishop Joannes II of Pavia, already having been closely wrapped up by Papal politics during the election of Pope John VIII, was afterward sent to Rome to deliver news of the sudden and tragic death of John VIII, and as his second and most important mission, to become one of the papabiles in Lazio in 880 AD. Joannes II, although send by Carloman, was a man of independent and deep thought and loyal only to God himself, as chroniclers have described him. Therefore, it came as no surprise that Joannes, although not descending from a Roman noble family, would ascend into the pontificate as Pope Boniface VI [5] in the same year, winning the bid against Leone III, bishop of Gaeta [6]. His election was controversial, to say the least, a bishop wasn’t expected to leave the office to move to another see.

Consequently, a new tripolar order began to arise in Western Europe, with Carloman as Holy Roman Emperor and king of East Francia and Italy, Louis II, a man of small stature, but by nature brave and impulsive, and with a certain generosity embedded into his heart, and Lothair II, while hopelessly incompetent, a capable placeholder for his more ambitious sons nonetheless. The general atmosphere of tension eased somewhat in 880 AD when the three kings met each other once again, this time in Straßburg, to publicly recognize each other’s positions and resolved to remain in peace. This time the rhetoric of fraternal (although Louis II is the nephew of Carloman who in turn is the cousin of Lothair II) solidarity was cemented by ostentatious political action, as Louis II consulted Carloman over the imprisonment of rebellious Fulgaud, viscount of Limoges, in 881 AD and the two kings indulged in some joint campaigning against the Vikings. Lothair II who is growing older by the day became more and more king of Neustria and Lotharingia only in name as the administrators alias the potentes of his large realm took over more daily tasks for the king, although Lothair, according to Hincmar of Rheims had the ambitions of reconquering the Burgundian kingdom from the Italians and Aquitanians, as proven by his daughter Bertha’s marriage to the powerful Count Theobald of Arles in 879 AD, the latter accepting the bride to increase his relations with the Lotharingians.

SUMMARY:

865:
Lothair II’s second son Odo is born.
875: Holy Roman Emperor and King of Italy Louis II dies. He is succeeded in both positions by Carloman I.
875: Pope Hadrian II dies. He is succeeded by Pope John VIII.
878: Charles [the Fat], son of Louis the German, dies.
878: King of East Francia Louis the German dies. He is succeeded by his oldest son Carloman I, already Holy Roman Emperor.
878: Louis I of Aquitania tries to challenge the supremacy of his older brother Carloman, but dies after returning from a mediation. His son Louis II succeeds him in Aquitania.
879: Theobald of Arles marries Bertha, son of Lothair II and Waldrada, to maintain his county’s connection to the Lotharingian branch.
880: Pope John VIII is assassinated after a scheme involving both Emperor Carloman and Guy II of Spoleto. He is succeeded by Pope Boniface VI.
881: Viscount Fulgaud of Limoges, son of Count Raymond I of Toulouse, is imprisoned after scheming against king Louis II of Aquitania.



FOOTNOTES
[1] Yes, the butterflies made OTL Gisela male! Godfrey of Frisia needs another wife to discard.
[2] OTL Charles the Fat who would inherit all of West, Middle, and East Francia without capitalizing on it. He suffered from epilepsy, a family syndrome, which already took the life of Charles of Burgundy, similar to the stroke which was prevalent especially in the German branch of the Carolingians.
[3] The butterflies enabled Louis the German to live a little bit longer, just enough to see his youngest son die. Louis the German, similar to OTL, initially started successfully, but under his reign and especially the reign of his grandson Arnulf would see the destabilization of East Francia into chaos. That he lived a bit longer only made it worse.
[4] Stay tuned.
[5] The first pope who didn’t ascend to papacy IOTL, although we have already skipped two very significant popes, namely Benedict III and St. Nicholas I whose impact was very important IOTL. Butterflies, butterflies.
[6] One of the minor impacts of the absence of OTL Pope Nicholas I was that OTL Pope Marinus I wasn’t ordained deacon by the former, therefore Marinus stays in Cerveteri ITTL, thus propelling another candidate, the bishop of Gaeta.
 
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