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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    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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    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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    CHAPTER 1.VIII: Hastein and the Emirate
  • Excerpt: Origin and Destruction of the Neustrian Kingdom – Florian Rexroth, Mortenauer Verlag, (AD 1836)


    The Wonder of Mâcon of 859 AD would prove to be the turning tide of the so-called “shadow rule” of Louis the German in Upper Burgundy, although many modern historians argue that the name “Wonder of Mâcon” may be misleading as it was not exactly a singular moment that defined the retreat of Louis the German and his personally lead army from Mâcon back to the other side of the Rhine.

    The continued desertions, the strong opposition of the local clergy and nobility of Lotharingia and the disaffected East Frankish potentes who will summon him only shortly after his retreat may have persuaded Louis to tactically retreat from this fruitless campaign to depose sick Charles of Burgundy and Gerard II of Vienne. Fact is that only with the Treaty of Baden-Baden both Louis’ recognized the rule of Charles of Burgundy over his kingdom and Lothair II’s right to inherit it in exchange for the integration of Transjurania to East Francia and minor border concessions for both the Kingdoms of Italy and Aquitania. Indeed, the best agreement Louis the German could have achieved in the face of his situation! [1] Charles of Burgundy would prove to continue to be childless, although it is not known whether Charles of Burgundy suffered from epilepsy since his early childhood or if it only developed in his last years as ruler of Burgundy, but his reign would be remembered as one led by a sick, incapacitated man rather than an underage one. He died on Christmas Eve 864 AD and, with him, the Kingdom of Burgundy died as well.

    The Division of Auxerre, named after the city of Auxerre where the treaty was approved by both Lothair II, his brother and Emperor Louis II of Italy and Louis the German, would be the final blow to Burgundy, dissolving it and split between the four Carolingian kingdoms.

    With this council of Auxerre, some sort of uneasy peace was able to return to the continent, although many problems stayed the same: To the south, the barbarian Saracens from Ifriquiya and al-Andalus continued to raid Italy and Hispania while the savage Scandinavians from the North raided the coasts of Germany, Neustria, and Aquitania as far south as Qadis as seen with the brute beast that was Hastein in 876 AD! [2]


    + + +


    Excerpt: The Normans – Guðbergur Pálsson, Skálholt University Press, (AD 1978)


    Just at the time that the Norwegians in Éire began losing some of the advantages of mobility so too did the Danish groups in Francia. By the late 850s the Viking forces were so numerous and so well-established in the main river valleys of Neustria, that it actually became way easier to contain them. The chaos that followed the early death of Charles the Bald made it easier for many Normans to raid and settle the coastal monasteries and villages which lacked any protection of some sort of temporal power. The appointment of Humfried to become Count of Lisieux in northern Neustria, however, brought back some sort of stability in the areas around the Seine; and the need for the individual Norman leaders to maintain their followers by providing them with profits meant that one group was indeed willing to fight another Norman group, as long as the drawee was able to pay them.

    Additionally, the fact that by this time their marauds had been going on for 20 years had also limited the degree of loot easily available to the Normans: some monasteries and larger settlements in the more vulnerable areas appear to have been abandoned, and Norman slaving and ransom-seeking techniques were by now all too well known. Therefore, in 858 one group of Danes established in the Seine agreed to fight for Lothair II against Louis the German, and in 862 Lothair was able to use others then controlling the river Seine to attack the main base of those in the Somme. By such risky maneuvers and also the deployment of new tactics, such as the establishment of fortified bridges across vulnerable rivers in 863 AD, the Neustrians made Viking operations less profitable and more dangerous.

    It is therefore hardly coincidental that from this point onwards the Norman attacks on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, East Francia and Aquitania intensified, while those in Neustria decreased.


    Description: Viking Leader Hastein during his raid against Luna in Italy in 859 AD.

    One particularly Norman marauder named Hastein was discretely being financed by the old duke of Britanny named Erispöe to raid the Neustrians in Rouen. Hastein, however, proposed to raid Châteauneuf-sur-Sarthe instead, which was too close to the Breton Duchy, according to Erispöe, and would break the state of peace that the Bretons and Carolingians enjoyed. He backed out of the deal, which in turn enraged Hastein. Hastein ordered his fleet of 62 ships in 866 AD to raid Vannes and kills Erispöe in an ambush, but are nonetheless defeated the next day by Breton forces led by the new Duke Conan of Britanny. The current allowed Hastein to sail south.

    He reached the kingdom of Aquitania, not prepared for Viking incursions outside the river Garonne and was only driven out in 872 AD after having besieged both Bordeaux and Bayonne. Louis I of Aquitania, already facing the threat of resentful nobles who might turn against him passed the Edict of Auch in 870 which ought to create a large force of cavalry upon which Louis could call as needed. He ordered all men who had horses or could afford horses to serve in this army as cavalrymen. Hastein was thus defeated north-east of Bayonne during the Battle of Saint-Martin in Seignaux. His remaining ships sail towards the Bay of Biscay to raid the kingdom of Pamplona. But he changed course to raid the neighboring kingdom of León instead, probably after hearing from the small settlement of Santiago de Compostela where pilgrims are flocking to see the shrine dedicated to St. James.

    Having raided monasteries near Oviedo, Hastein is then bribed by King Alfonso III of Asturias who was already preoccupied with a Basque uprising to the East and the continued Umayyad raids to the South to attack the European emirate itself. Hastein and his brother Björn initially declined the offer, but after having gotten supplies in manpower returning from Dublin, the Norman marauder set out in 874 AD to raid one of the most important Andalusian ports, Qadis.

    Hastein's fleet of now almost 80 Viking ships, according to the, admittedly sometimes unreliable, chroniclers of this age, carrying hundreds of men, entered the outskirts of the city in March and proceeded to raid the countryside. The troubled Umayyad Emir of Cordóba Muhammed I assembled a smaller army in response, but as the Vikings defeated one division, comprising half of the army, the remaining forces retreated. The Vikings reached Qadis at the end of the month of October. After plundering and occupying the city in 876 AD, the Vikings withdrew when they had been paid a large ransom. This catastrophic experience was not caused by the lack of Umayyad manpower, but rather the unwillingness of Berber tribes to support the emirate against the Normans. The period of relief for the Umayyads was short-lived, in the following years the raiders from Neustria turned their attention elsewhere after failing to stay inside the Seine for longer periods, some of which sailed southwards to raid Aquitania and Iberia; the others returned either to Scandinavia or the British Isles or set out to raid Lower Lorraine and the German kingdom.

    SUMMARY:

    859:
    The Wonder of Mâcon. Lothair II is able to expel Louis the German from his domains. The Treaty of Baden-Baden confirms Lothair’s right to inherit Charles of Burgundy’s kingdom.
    863: Decline of Viking raids in Neustria after the deployment of new defensive measures.
    864: Epileptic Charles of Burgundy dies. His kingdom is split between his relatives with the Treaty of Auxerre in 865 AD.
    866: Elderly Erispöe allies himself with Hastein, a Viking marauder, but backs out of the deal after Halstein proposed to raid Châteauneuf-sur-Sarthe. Enraged, Hastein and his forces raid Vannes and are able to kill Erispöe in an ambush, but are defeated the following day by Breton forces. The current allowed the Vikings to sail south.
    872: Two years after the Edict of Auch was passed, Hastein is defeated in Aquitania and flees to raid the kingdom of Pamplona instead.
    874: King Alfonso III of Asturias bribes Hastein to raid the Umayyad Emirate.
    876: The Sack of Qadis. Hastein is able to besiege and occupy the port city of the troubled Umayyad Emirate and only left after a huge ransom was paid, paving the way for a larger Norman presence in the Alboran Sea which would raid the Muslim coastlines for the next decade.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Actually, no. Louis the German’s East Francia was initially one of the most stable states that resulted from the death of Louis the Pious, but as he grew older, more and more nobles and clerics limited his power, similar to OTL. By this point ITTL, Louis the German feared that the Lotharingian branch of the Carolingians may, in fact, root out his kingdom and put it under their sphere of influence.
    [2] Some people are biased. Rexroth is biased.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.IX: Lotharingia, Neustria and Aquitania in the 9th century
  • Excerpt: A Short Introduction to the History of Gaul – Sébastien Allard, Société des Antiquaires, (AD 1931)

    AQUITANIA UNDER LOUIS I


    Description: A 14th-century representation of a discussion between Louis I, in the gray suit, and Lambert III of Maine who wears a crown and the fleurs-de-lys, a symbol of the Neustrian aristocracy, foreshadowing the things to come.


    Unlike his relatives, Louis I probably never considered the Carolingian dominions after the Battle of Fontenoye as a singular unit, thus he rarely cared about the meetings in Besançon or Attigny which sought to continue some sort of con-fraternal government as envisioned by his grandfather Louis the Pious. Instead, he tried his best at his fortification, both literal and metaphorical, of his rule to let his relatives know that this is his own kingdom, a kingdom which should pass down to his son Louis IV or, in Aquitania, Louis II.
    During the fight against his rival Pippin II of Aquitaine and the Normans, Louis I could count on several followers. These included his welcoming brother-in-law Ramnulf I and Count Raymond I of Toulouse, two powerful men who saw Louis I as a useful alternative to Pippin and especially to the deceased Charles the Bald. The young king was aware, however, that he had to come to terms with the other potentes of the country.
    Louis swore to continue to respect the treaty of Coulaines which Charles the Bald concluded with the magnates of West Francia, but this wasn’t enough as the potentes of Aquitania were very power-hungry, unreliable and quarrelsome. With courage, cleverness, and agility Louis nonetheless fought on all fronts, despite the apostasy of nobles and clerics, and despite the invasions of the Normans which would climax with Hastein’s invasion in 870. Louis’ Edict of Auch, reforming the military of Aquitania and giving birth to the prominent Aquitanian cavalry which would come in use almost immediately against the Normans and his relatives. This Edict of Auch would also see the first subtle attempts at centralizing the rule of Aquitania by declaring his son Louis II co-regent, effectively monopolizing coin minting and the prohibition of the construction of forts without the approval of the king himself.

    To gain allies inside various parts of his kingdom, he transferred extensive powers of command to reliable nobles, from whom he could at least increase loyalty. During these difficult years, the division of Aquitania into smaller areas of powers began, especially with noble houses of the Ramnulfids in Gascony and Raymondians in Toulouse and Septimania. The latter was successfully able to expand his areas of control by marriage and conquest to include Limoges, Rouerge, Albi, Toulouse, and Nîmes becoming the most powerful duke of Aquitania in a matter of years. However, after his death in 870, his small kingdom inside a kingdom was split up among his sons Bernard II, Fulgaud and Aribert with his third-oldest son Odo dying before his father’s death. Fulgaud, in particular, was a very ambitious noble who hated the interventions of the German king in Aquitanian internal matters with passion. He schemed an assassination plan, some modern scholars suggest that the Ramnulfids in Gascony might have helped, which spectacularly fails: His plot was discovered weeks in advance, and he was swiftly imprisoned and executed under Louis’ only surviving son Louis II in 881 AD. Louis I, having pursued the iron crown of the Lombards for the past few years, reached an agreement with his brother Carloman that the crown would pass to him once he inevitably dies. In a cruel twist of irony, Louis I perished after a short illness he caught while returning from the council of Nice, only one year before the Saracens ravaged the city in 880 AD. The crown of Aquitania passed down to Louis II without much trouble, many nobles noticing that Louis II is much quieter than his predecessor, later on, earning him the suffix of Louis II the Lazy, although he will be the one who almost gained the imperial title.


    LOTHARINGIA-NEUSTRIA UNDER LOTHAIR II


    Description: King Lothair II

    Even with his regency over Neustria, Emperor Lothair I thought that it was better for his son’s political relations to the Mediterranean counties to marry Teutberga in 855. Yet, it can’t be stressed out enough that the first few years of his reign were occupied with Lothair’s efforts to divorce the infertile Teutberga, sister of the Count of Arles, and to instead marry his mistress Waldrada. Therefore, Lothair II as a ruler didn’t leave much of an impact initially. Neustria, by far not the richest of the six Carolingian kingdoms, was ravaged by the Viking pillages and the only ambitious counts that wanted to change the status quo were the Widonids or Guidonids, loyal allies of Lothair II which reigned in Neustria as the de-facto viceroys during the absence of Lothair II who usually resided in Aachen or other Lotharingian cities. That constellation also explains why the Widonids refused to exploit the shifting alliances of the decades after 856. The Widonids needed a strong state, for their landholding was extended across so much of the North that only the state could guarantee the peace that they needed to keep it all. Not much has therefore changed in Neustria.

    Only with his father’s death in 856 and the forced divorce of his wife Teutberga in 857, things started to move in the united kingdom of Lotharingia-Neustria. For the first time, Lothair II was not occupied with petty disputes with his uncle in Francia, his cousin in Aquitania, his brothers in Italy and Burgundy, or the clergy, in particular, Hinkmar of Rheims, inside his kingdom. The marriage of Waldrada was officially recognized by the Pope, who could challenge it now? Outside of the hot debates between abbots and bishops, his first son Hugh, born in 855, was now legitimized, as was his second son Odo in 865, both legal claimants to the throne of Lotharingia and Neustria.

    One of his first acts in Neustria was to divide the area between the Seine and Loire among some rulers. This policy was urgently needed because Lothair II had to fight here against the Normans and Bretons. The history of the Norman invasions can not be described in detail here, but it must be remembered that since the middle of the century the kingdom has been regularly attacked by these pirates, the family who gained the most was unsurprisingly the aforementioned Widonid house.

    Since 856, the incursions have taken on a new dimension. In 858, the Normans succeeded in capturing Abbot Louis of Saint-Denis, who was, through his mother, Rotrud, a grandson of Charlemagne. For his ransom, an enormous sum had to be raised. Lothair II besieged the island of Oscellus, one of the largest Viking footholds in Neustria, but could not conquer it, because his uncle Louis the German had invaded both Burgundy and Lotharingia. The Norman invasions caused panic everywhere, causing monks to flee laden with treasures and relics, and forced the rulers to levy extraordinary taxes to pay the tribute. But two certain counts, Balduin I of Flanders and Humfrid of Lisieux, would rise to prominence during their defense against the Normans, Balduin I being granted for his outstanding achievements several counties in Flanders and Toxandria, creating the title of Margrave of Flanders for him.

    The Bretons, on the other hand, had never really accepted the Carolingian rule. Louis the Pious had made some punitive expeditions and even nominated the Breton Duke Nominoë as a missus. Nominoë was able to exploit the change of throne and the fratricide in order to become independent and to form an alliance with the Widonids, to whom the Breton Mark had been entrusted under Charles the Bald. But Nominoë's son Erispöe was able to defeat Charles the Bald during the Battle of Jengland-Beslé where Charles the Bald was wounded and later on, died. With the Treaty of Angers, Erispöe’s daughter Argantel and Charles’ son Louis the Stammerer were to be married in order to initiate a rapprochement between these two sides, but Lothair II, regent of Louis the Stammerer canceled the marriage and instead married Louis the Stammerer to an unnamed Burgundian noblewoman, to force Louis into his sphere of influence. The Bretons could not strike back however as a civil war between Erispöe and his cousin Salaün broke out over the control of Brittany, establishing some weird state of peace between the two nations.

    Lothair II was during the times of peace not the greatest, but not the worst statesman, building several monasteries and abbots to appease the clergy while granting several newly created titles among his loyal allies. He also was an exceptional mediator between two parties, even mediating between Louis I and his brother Carloman to prevent a war over Italy between the two. But outside these minor victories, Lothair II tried to be a role model for a good father and husband for his family.

    Many modern scholars view his reign as some sort of placeholder for his more profiled sons Hugh and Odo, the former becoming a very ruthless and unforgiving man by his father’s death in 894 AD, while his younger brother Odo was gifted with intelligence and piety. With Lothair II’s death, a tumultuous chapter ends, only to herald a new era of chaos.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.X: The Fate of the Charles' Children
  • What ultimately happened to the sons of Charles the Bald?
    Wanted to explain it later on, but might as well do it now. Most of the children and her wife will ultimately share the same fate, as usual in the Carolingian dynasty.

    • Ermentrude of Orléans. She was around twenty-eight years old when her husband died. As a widow, she ultimately lost her position in the West Frankish court and was sent to the Avenay Abbey, an abbey she enjoyed close relations with during her reign as the wife of King Charles the Bald, where she, as a pious woman, eventually became an abbess. She died around 869, similar to OTL.
    • Judith of Flanders. She was around eight years old when her father died. As a female orphan, she also had practically no choice, but to pursue a religious career. She quickly found herself in Chelles Abbey, where her quite strong character of OTL was trimmed down a little bit. She would become an abbess in 861 as well and enjoy a close letter-relationship with her mother. She died in 875, lived a little bit longer as IOTL, probably due to a less action-rich life for her. Her absence in royal politics and intrigues would change the fate of Wessex and Flanders forever, you will see soon why.
    • Louis the Stammerer. Louis would be the only child of Charles who would see any sort of kingship transferred to them. He was a five-year-old boy who was set up to become a puppet king in Neustria, first under the Rorgonids with the quite powerful and ambitious Count Gauzbert of Maine as its head of his regency, until the aforementioned Treaty of Quierzy and Treaty of Orléans which would see the change of the regency towards a Widonid-dominated one under the control of Lothair II. Once he (and Robert the Strong for that matter) was deposed, however, he was tonsured and sent to an abbey as well. There are still some nobles who would like to see the return of Louis to temporal politics, but the world is cruel, but, on the bright side, he wouldn't fall ill due to his attempt at halting Viking campaigns and would only die in 890 as the Bishop of Auxerre. Not that bad.
    • Charles the Child. Similar to Louis, he was quickly sent away to a monastery. But, unlike Louis, he was a bit more ambitious. A lot more, in fact. Charles would follow OTL Carloman's way to power, being tutored by abbot Wulfad, then becoming deacon and abbot of some monasteries of North-eastern Neustria. As he would grow older, he became more disgruntled about his stripped away inheritance and gathered a following among the potentes against Lothair II. He would however never even try to attack Lothair II's rule and was instead rewarded, probably with some help of Bishop Hincmar of Laon, the county of Laon in 871, resigning from the episcopal world to regain his worldly powers. From there on, not much happened to him as he died in 883, with a son named Louis I of Laon, continuing a minor branch of the Carolingian dynasty in Laon. His strong-willed character which he would prove IOTL with repeated actions against his father and his followers in Aquitaine would prove to be quite useful ITTL, and he would avoid being accidentally struck down by a sword in 860s, a nice butterfly. Charles I of Laon would be the only child to hold any temporal powers ITTL.
    • Lothair the Lame. Sadly, not much could be done about his physical deformities. He would be sent to a monastery even before the PoD and would probably die around the same time as in OTL, that is, in 865.
    • Carloman. His ambitions would bear no fruits ITTL as well, as his older siblings all have no or only little power to deal with. He would become the successor to Adventius, Bishop of Metz and die around 890, the PoD would butterfly his blinding as well.
    The children born after 851 are butterflied away.
     
    CHAPTER 1.XI: Hugh the Cruel and Bruno the Warrior
  • Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


    The reign of Lothair II was exceptionally long and, unlike his relatives to the South and the East, he was not prone to strokes, sudden fevers or mysterious hunting accidents after returning from longer campaigns. If that saved his united kingdom of Neustria and Lotharingia is still discussed among modern scholars.

    As already stated, Lothair II was engaged in the process of annulling his first marriage with Teutberga throughout the first years of his reign. Under these circumstances, he could not earnestly care for the administration of his realm in Lotharingia and Neustria, but left a free hand to the secular and episcopal magnates, which the nobility used to split abbeys and episcopal territories among themselves. But with the death of Teutberga in 857 AD would prove to be the turning point of his reign, finally legitimizing his former bastard son Hugh. Another son, Odo, was born in 865 AD.

    But he abdicated in 894 AD and died at the respectable age of 59 after his health steadily declined, probably due to cancer, as modern historians now suggest. In Carolingian tradition, his realm of Lotharingia-Neustria was split up among his sons, with Hugh being granted Neustria while his brother Odo received Lotharingia.

    Hugh’s reign was short and bloody, earning him the nickname “Hugh I the Cruel”. Not much can be said about him and his short reign of just a little bit over two years, but Neustrian chroniclers described him as austere and virtuous, but without “piety and the love of God and Christ”. He tried to enforce strict discipline on the nobles and clerics of Neustria, punishing any who tried to circumvent the authority of Hugh I. He also poisoned his wife Itta, daughter of Lambert III of Maine and Adelaide of Paris [1], a Widonid, after she turned out to be not as fond of him as expected and, as if it wasn’t bad enough for Hugh, infertile as well. This very questionable act promptly turned the most powerful nobles against him. He tried to suppress the opposition, but he was killed in an ambush involving both Lambert III and his own brother Odo I in 896 AD who, according to contemporaries, “did not love his brother as brother, but rather as a rival”. Thus Odo I assumed the throne of Neustria as well, reuniting Lotharingia with the short-lived independent Neustrian kingdom, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Widonid’s strong support of Odo I.

    Odo I shortly before his father’s death married Théodrate of Troyes [2], a strong-willed woman whose influence on the courts of Aachen and Le Mans was noticeable. She adviced her husband, a well-educated man, on the matters of state, for example, jointly denying any sort of intervention in both Italy and Francia after Carloman’s death in 896 AD. Since Carloman had no legitimate son, Odo I and Louis II alone were entitled to inherit the crown. Louis the Pious had already thought of such a case in 817 in the ordinatio imperii: If one of his sons died without a legitimate successor, his kingdom should go to one of the surviving brothers. But since Carloman was king and emperor, succession had to be prepared for both offices. Therefore Louis II followed the events south of the Alps with great attention, Francia on the other hand, didn’t interest him as much. Arnulf’s legitimacy is denied by the Saxon stem duchy ruled by the Brunonids who instead proclaimed Bruno I, the duke of Saxony, as the new king of the Germans while the House of Bonifacii and its head, Adalbert II the Rich of Tuscany, the Spoletan Widonid dukes, this time headed by Lambert who was at the time still trying to convince Pope Boniface VI to crown him emperor, and a certain margrave named Berengar of Friuli who was distantly related to the Carolingian dynasty, all denied Louis II of Aquitania’s claims to the crown of Italy.

    Louis II would eventually succeed in persuading Adalbert II to switch his allegiance and rally for his cause and in 897 AD, after his initial success in 896 AD where he was able to occupy Pavia, Berengar of Friuli was taken hostage by seventeen year-old Hugh of Provence [3], a Bosonid, and gets blinded after renouncing all his claims. He was however allowed to continue to rule Friuli.

    The stage was set. Everything seemed perfect. Louis II marched from Florence towards Siena to reach Rome where he was expected to be crowned by Pope Boniface VI who, during the conflict, ensured the neutrality of the church.
    The Pope was able to make this remarkable step back because like his predecessors John VIII and Hadrian II, he believed that he could crown anyone on his own initiative. Besides, he sought a candidate for the throne, who was powerful enough to protect the Papal States from the Saracens.

    But Louis II and his small contingent were surprised by an ambush orchestrated by Lambert, the aforementioned duke of Spoleto. The Battle of the Via Cassia was disastrous for the Aquitanian faction.

    Being outnumbered almost two to one, Louis II is forced to take up a defensive position in an area surrounded by woods and marshy terrain. Lambert of Spoleto, however, prepared this attack days in advance and surprised Louis II with Italian mercenaries which attacked from the woods. Louis II’s army suffered heavy losses and was eventually routed, and during the fierce hand-to-hand-combat, margrave Adalbert II was surrounded and imprisoned. Standing with a dwindling group of survivors, Louis II quickly surrendered.

    Both Adalbert II and Louis II were eventually released from their imprisonment, but only after they swore an oath of loyalty to the new king of Italy and Emperor Lambert I, the first non-Carolingian Holy Roman emperor.

    The civil war in Francia, between Arnulf, the illegitimate son of Carloman, and Bruno I of Saxony was still taking place, although hostile contact between the two sides was decreasing due to a particularly harsh winter and the Conradine feud leaving Franconia in turmoil. Meanwhile, Arnulf’s health was steadily decreasing. A Magyar raid sponsored by Emperor Lambert I would further distract him.

    The Magyars who arrived in 895 AD in the Carpathian basin are enlisted to raid Bavaria. They overran Styria and Carinthia all the way to Salzburg. Arnulf tried to assemble a large army against the Magyars and confronted them near the Danube River. Daunted at the strong force, Árpád, head of the confederation of the Hungarian tribes, offered to make peace and restore much of what they've taken, if they are permitted to leave Bavaria unmolested. Arnulf, seeing no way he could survive a battle against the Magyars and the Saxons, agrees. The Magyars leave to raid Lambert’s kingdom instead. This wouldn’t be witnessed by Arnulf however. He died after a second stroke in 899 AD.

    Bruno I used this event to proclaim himself as the new king of East Francia. A grave mistake for the Brunonids as Odo I would use this chance to claim the kingdom for his six-year-old son Lothair III. After consulting both Théodrate and a council of nobles and clerics, including Lambert III’s son Wipert I of Maine, he would muster a large army to invade Francia in 900 AD.


    Description: A 13th-century depiction of the "warriorking" Bruno I of Saxony.

    Odo I crossed the Rhine at Cologne in April. He was welcomed by archbishop Hermann I, an Ezzonid and loyal to the Lotharingian kings. He sent out messengers to the dukes of Francia in order to persuade him to join his campaign against the Saxons and reminded them of their obligation as good Christians to support the rightful king instead of the usurper Bruno I. After resupplying in Cologne, he moved along the Rhine and layed siege to Kaiserswerth where the brother and pretender as the current count of Keldachgau Erenfried I, Adolph, was residing. He swore allegiance to Bruno I who promised him the counties along the right bank of the Rhine. The siege was successful, earning Odo I some new allies along the Frankish counties along the Rhine. In June, he moved north in order to encounter Bruno’s forces in a battle.

    After minor skirmishes, the large and decisive Battle of Greven, a minor village near the Münstersche Aa, was fought between the Saxon and Lotharingian army. The Lotharingians stayed there and met up with a small scouting garrison when they were attacked by the Saxons with a small banner depicting archangel Michael, the standard of the kings of Francia [4]. The Saxons rode out with the best cavalry available to attack the flanks, but the Lotharingian struck the weakened left of the Saxons to route them. As they fled, the Saxons suffered heavy casualties, to such a degree, that Bruno I was forced to “abdicate” from the Frankish throne and proclaimed Odo I to be the new king of Francia. This was not recognized by the other German dukes initially but after the powerful Babenbergs in Franconia offered Johanna, daughter of Adalbert, Duke of the Franconians, as the new wife of Lothair III, his rule was increasingly more accepted throughout the kingdom and he was officially anointed with the holy oil by the archbishops of Mainz and Cologne in 902. Meanwhile, Louis, son of Arnulf, was installed to become the new duke of Bavaria under the regency of Luitpold, margrave of Bavaria. When Odo I returned to Aachen, his wife Théodrate surprised him with a new-born second son, Pepin, younger brother of Lothair III and his sister Béatrice.

    Thus Odo I controlled a territory stretching from the Bay of Borgneuf to the Elbe river. This development surprised many contemporary and modern scholars, especially the Lotharingian potentes, who accused Odo I of having pacted with a "foreigner", the Babenbergs. But, in fact, this kind of politics was quite commonplace among the Carolingian rulers. As in the 9th century with the dissolution of West Francia, the potentes changed their allegiance without hesitation. Just as the vassals of Charles the Bald had gone over to Louis the German or Lothair I and had paid homage to them, so did the Frankish think only of their own advantage when they entered the realm of a rex Francorum, only too willing to leave it once the next opportunity arrives. In 902 Odo I met with the increasingly disgruntled nobles and clerics of Lotharingia, who felt left out in the cold during Odo’s adventures to Neustria and Francia, in Visé on the Meuse and gave them increased sovereignty over Lorraine. The Edict of Visé would soon spread to Francia and Neustria as well, beginning a process which would see the power of the kings increasingly limited, in favor of noble houses which already owned larger estates, like the Widonids in Neustria or the Babenberger and Brunonids of Francia, and archbishoprics in all three subkingdoms. That being so, there was no reason to challenge the kingship of Odo I anymore. The potentes need the king to legitimize their rule over their counties, while the king needs the potentes to legitimize his own rule over them and to administer the growing territories of Odo I. This edict would lay the foundations of the emerging feudal system of the empire.

    SUMMARY:
    893:
    Odo I marries Théodrate of Troyes.
    894: King Lothair II dies. He is succeeded by his sons Hugh and Odo in Neustria and Lotharingia respectively.
    895: The Magyars arrive in the Carpathian basin.
    896: Hugh the Cruel is killed after a scheme involving both Lambert III of Maine and Hugh’s younger brother Odo I of Lotharingia. Odo I is proclaimed king of Neustria, reuniting Lothair II’s kingdom.
    897: Berengar of Friuli is captured and blinded by Hugh of Provence.
    897: Lambert III of Maine dies. He is succeeded as Marquis of Neustria and Duke of Maine by his son Wipert I of Maine.
    898: The Battle of the Via Cassia. Lambert, Duke of Spoleto, surprises King Louis II of Aquitania and Margrave Adalbert II of Tuscany with an ambush where both are imprisoned. Lambert is proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor and king of Italy in Rome, both Adalbert II and Louis II are forced to swear an oath of loyalty to the new emperor.
    898: Emperor Lambert I enlists the support of the Magyars to raid Bavaria to prevent Arnulf from claiming the Italian throne. They are however stopped near Salzburg and raid Croatia and Italy instead.
    899: Arnulf, already incapacitated by a stroke, dies, never controlling the entirety of East Francia. The Brunonids lead by Bruno who escaped an early death in 880, are elected by other East Frankish nobles King of East Francia as Bruno I of Germany which is denied by both Pope Boniface VI, Emperor Lambert I of Italy and Odo I.
    900: The Kingdom of Francia is invaded by King Odo I to claim it on behalf of his infant son Lothair III.
    901: Battle of Greven. The Brunonids are defeated, Bruno I abdicates in favor of Odo I and Lothair III, the former being crowned king of Francia one year later.
    902: Edict of Visé. Concessions are made to the potentes of Lotharingia.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Who would marry Louis the Stammerer IOTL.
    [2] Same name as IOTL, but a different person with a different personality ITTL.
    [3] Similar to [2], don’t be confused, he may have the same name as Hugh of Provence, but he is nonetheless a different man, a less ambitious one.
    [4] OTL the banner depicting archangel Michael was used as a German Imperial banner until the 11th century.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XII: The Rise of Lothair III and the Regnum Lotharii
  • Excerpt: The Carolingian World and how it functioned – Godwin Albertsson, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1899)


    An idea can hold a people together and sustain it. A shared political memory and an inspiring history of the Franks as the center of the world, such as is presented in the Annales regni francorum and disseminated from the royal court may have done much to buttress Carolingian rule. Recalled past experience and shared images of the past are the kinds of memories that have special importance for the constitution of social groups. During this time, the process of fusion between the different ethnic groups also began to bear fruit. Although the individual tribes each retained their own rights and identity, they were under the same state authority.

    The comites employed in each larger county and dukedom were representatives of the royal authority. They work as points of contact between the minor nobles and the king, provided for the jurisprudence and levied taxes. As will be shown, the nobility became the major power factor of Neustria, Lotharingia and Francia; a political tradition evolved which mixed the Roman senator culture and the role of the Frankish tribal leaders: Odo I and his wife Théodrate of Troyes would invite the local nobles to their residence in order to inform themselves over the state of the empire and to get advice on issues concerning the lower levels of the aristocracy. Marriage relations were concluded between the relevant families as well, the members of the imperial aristocracy sought royal service, and some sons were even sent to the court when they entered adulthood. A sprawling bureaucratic empire started to emerge with the ascension of Odo I.

    But this didn’t mean that his rule was very efficient as his reign was kindly ignored in some regions. Although Odo I and his successors had supreme jurisdiction in judicial matters, made legislation, led the army, and protected the holy faith and the people of Neustria and Francia, his authority was entirely dependent on the loyalty of his subjects. The emerging feudal system provided the Frankish king, and the secular or ecclesiastical magnates of the empire for that matter as well, with income and the basis of an army, as vassalage included military service in order to protect the fiefs.

    Adalhelm II of Troyes who inherited Meaux by his uncle Herbert II of Meaux, soon to claim the entirety of the modern region of the Champagne [1], was one of the most prominent early vassals who would go through a commendation ceremony once Adalhelm inherited the County of Vermandois through his maternal uncle Herbert II of Vermandois in 905 AD. He would swear allegiance to Odo I by kneeling bareheaded and weaponless in front of the king. The lord, in turn, grasped the vassal's hands between his own, showing he was superior in the relationship, a symbolic act known variously as the immixtio manuum (Latin), or Handgang (in most German dialects). The act of homage was then completed.

    This development towards a feudal system would take place in Italy and Aquitania as well, although in a much slower pace due to the cultural impact of the Romans and the lack of clan or tribal identities which were prevalent in Francia and Neustria. Especially in Aquitania where the nobles traditionally held a stronger power, the king was oftentimes forced to be the one to listen to the demands of the potentes, not the other way around. Louis II, suffering from the complications of a wound suffered during the Battle of the Via Cassia, would die aged forty-four at Tolon in 909 with only three daughters and a stillborn son, although another son, Rudolph, born from an unnamed concubine would survive into adulthood.



    + + +


    Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


    Consequently, Odo I did what he had done in Neustria and Francia before and marched from Le Mans towards Limoges to proclaim himself the new king of Aquitania. He was supported by the Dukes of Gascony and Toulouse, but both the Bosonids of Provence and the Auvergnat dukes were not as fond as him as he would have liked. But he was nonetheless anointed king by archbishop Adelbert of Bordeaux and Bishop Adalard of Clermont in 910, having crowned Lothair III co-ruler in all of his kingdoms after the unfortunate death of Pepin after a roof collapsed in the church of Le Mans killing his young son and bishop Aiglibert.

    Now, the Carolingian Empire was almost reunited, lacking only Italy and the title of Holy Roman Emperor. But this development overstretched the forces of Odo I and he lacked the authority to enforce his rule in the more far-flung provinces like Thuringia. He used the missi dominici which disappeared from the political stage after Charles the Bald passed away in 851 in order to re-enforce his claim of authority in the more rebellious provinces.

    Odo’s last years have been troubled by his declining mental health, eventually earning him the suffix “the Mad”: Although having suffered from minor periods of insanity and being often distracted by recurring headaches and attacks of physical weakness, perhaps caused by a trauma of his early years before the death of his son, Odo suffered from a prolonged episode of severe depression after the event. The strain of all of his activity in his sub-kingdoms caused a mental breakdown after which he was declared insane by a council convened by mourning Théodrate and her oldest son Lothair III. He was essentially forced to abdicate in 911, with his youngest son and co-king succeeding him in all positions. Odo I would never recover from his breakdown and would die soon after in 913.

    Lothair III, because of his tender age of only seventeen, would be surrounded by many advisors and scholars, like abbot, and later bishop, Hermann of Metz who later on wrote a biography on his oftentimes quite turbulent life. Nonetheless, the first act of Lothair III, king of Aquitania, Neustria, Lotharingia, and Francia was to ensure the loyalty of his vassals. Thus he travelled from Limoges where he summoned most major Aquitanian nobles to swear allegiance to him, to Le Mans, then to Aachen and Straßburg and then back to Metz in order to do the same in the other subkingdoms, a process which took two years in which he reorganized much of the larger territories like the Margraviate of Lotharingia stretching from the North Sea to the Alpes and splitting them in two, Upper and Lower Lorraine, given to Rudolph I, an illegitimate son of former king Louis II of Aquitania, and Erenfried I of Keldachgau, one of his father’s most loyal subject of the area, respectively, establishing the dynasties of the Rudolphings and the Ezzonids.

    During his voyage across the kingdom, not unlike his great-great-great-grandfather Charlemagne whose legacy still lived on, he married Johanna of Franconia, a member of the ascending Babenberg dynasty of Francia Orientalis, renowned for her beauty across the Carolingian empire. This wasn’t as much of a marriage of love than a political marriage to strengthen the Carolingian grip on the more rebellious Germanic provinces of the East where the Roman influence on tribal culture wasn’t given.

    Meanwhile, Guy IV of Spoleto was crowned Emperor by Pope Boniface VI after Lambert I’s death in 900 at Rome. Although his rule seemed stable at first, with the death of Pope Boniface VI in 905 and the ascension of Pope Celestine II, formerly Archbishop Deodato I of Gaeta and a devout defender of the authority of St. Peter, renounced the anointment of Guy IV and declared his rule to be illegitimate on the basis of the accusation of incest with his sister Rotlind [2]. This lead to a period of confusion on the Italian peninsula which was only aggravated by the end of the Beneventan Civil War which saw no victor and was only finished when Pope Boniface VI offered himself to mediate in this conflict. That being so, Atenulf I, Lombard prince of Capua, failed to conquer the Duchy of Benevento, thus shattering his ambitions of a united Lombard Mezzogiorno. Radelchis II, prince of Benevento, who counted on the help of the Byzantines, was able to defend his principality with the additional help of Norman mercenaries. The Byzantines offered a strategic alliance to Atenulf I nonetheless who directed a new campaign against the Saracens who denies any cooperation with “Roman pretenders”. The Saracens have established themselves on the banks of the Garigliano River. From here, Arab warbands launched frequent raids in Campania.

    Italy descended into chaos when three Popes, Pope Celestine II, Sixtus IV, and Sergius III died in the same year, only for the fourth pope, Benedict III to die a year later in 914. Benedict III whose reign was not impactful was succeeded by Pope Hadrian III who finally restored order in the Lateran. When Guy IV was assassinated at Siena in 914 by Adalbert II, the same one who would have supported Louis II of Aquitania years prior, the iron crown and the imperial title were left unclaimed as the Italian statelets used this opportunity to sort some rivalries out, with the margraves of Ivrea and Friuli trying to return to the spotlight of the Cisalpine kingdom. The same Adalbert II, interested in the survival of his own dynasty in Tuscany would invite Lothair III, who had reunited most of the Carolingian Empire by now, to finally take the title of Emperor of the Romans.

    Lothair III meanwhile celebrated the birth of his first daughter Adeltrud, the younger sister of his son Charles, in Metz. Lothair III was considered one of the most courageous and fearless of his kin and was appointed as a military commander when he became a young adult, learning all the art of war tactics very quickly in his youth. As a military commander, his first military victory resulted after campaigning Slavic Invasions of the Germanic Kingdom in 909. Once Lothair III became king and married Johanna of Franconia in the same year, he continued his efforts of watching over the army, and later the entire empire, as a cautious, yet capable administrator. But most of all, he was a warrior king. He immediately prepared a force to restore order in Italy. His order.

    SUMMARY:

    900:
    Emperor Lambert I passes away and is succeeded by his oldest son Guy IV.
    902: The Beneventan Civil War ends with no real victors. The Principalities of Benevento, Salerno and Capua are forced to recognize each other’s independence after Papal intervention.
    905: Pope Boniface IV passes away and is succeeded by Pope Celestine II who would renounce the anointment of Guy IV, after he increasingly ignored the authority of the church.
    909: King Louis II of Aquitania passes away. With no son to succeed him, Odo I would be invited by the Ramnulfids of Gascony and the Raymondians of Toulouse to take the Aquitanian Crown.
    909: Lothair III marries Johanna of Franconia, daughter of Adalbert I of Franconia.
    910: Odo I’s youngest son Pepin is killed by a collapsing roof in Le Mans.
    910: Odo I is proclaimed to be King of Aquitania in Limoges. Lothair III is proclaimed a co-ruler in all sub-kingdoms.
    911: Odo I is forced to abdicate in favor of his only surviving son Lothair III after his declining mental health rendered him incapable to rule.
    912: The Margraviate of Lotharingia is split. The Ezzonids and Rudolphings receive Lower and Upper Lorraine respectively.
    912: Lothair III’s oldest son Charles IV is born.
    913: Pope Celestine II passes away and is succeeded by Sixtus IV, Sergius III and Benedict III who would all die in the period of a year.
    914: Pope Hadrian III and Adalbert II of Tuscany invite Lothair III to restore the Kingdom of Italy after Guy IV is assassinated.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] The establishment of the County and later Dukedom of Champagne was essentially a result of successful marriage policies established by the Counts of Troyes, Vermandois, and Meaux, predating the PoD and would have continued even with the Lotharingian supremacy over the region. The only change is, that the County of Troyes would develop to become the main county of the Champagne ITTL and that we have butterflied away the Bivinids in this region, thus accelerating the process a tiny bit. The Widonids in Maine have found one of their first serious rivals.
    [2] A very popular accusation in the medieval era of Europe which, by the way, was also used by Lothair II against his first wife Teutberga in order to divorce her. A very effective way to defame someone, especially effective if the accused one is unpopular.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XIII: The Battle of Santa Fiora
  • Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


    In early spring of 915, Lothair III left his wife and his two children in Metz to ride with an Aquitanian cavalry force accompanied by German and Neustrian mercenaries towards Arles where he would encounter Bivin of Burgundy [1] to resupply in the Provence and to prepare the invasion of Lombardy, where one pretender king named Ottwin I of Ivrea emerged. He also met the count of the Auvergne, William I, who once again payed homage to the king and offered his assistance in the conflict with a small mercenary force he has created, roughly summing up to more than a hundred men from the Limousin and the areas surrounding Clermont. This small gesture was kindly accepted by Lothair III who, on 17 April, set out to finally invade the Cisalpine territories of the former Carolingian empire, together with the aforementioned Bivin and William.

    He was at first welcomed in Saluzzo by the Count of Auriate named Rodulf or Rodolfo, an elderly man in his sixties. According to Piedmontese legends, he advised Lothair III to rest there for some nights which was quickly denied by the king who would “only rest once the castle of Pavia and the blessing of Saint Peter is protecting him”. Then, according to the Annals of St. Bertin, “there was a great earthquake, and in [Saluzzo] there was a great fire. Behold, how a great a matter a little fire kindleth!” Although the historical accuracy of the Annals’ descriptions are very questionable, at least the fire was also mentioned in the Bishopric of Pavia which called it “wrath of God”. Thus, Lothair III only narrowly avoided a disaster [2]. Lothair III arrived in Pavia and received the royal coronation as the king of Italy without any opposition there in June 915. But he would leave the city to capture his two main rivals in Italy, two men named Ottwin and Unroach.

    Meanwhile, Margrave Ottwin of Ivrea [3] and Margrave Unroach IV of Friuli [4] returned from a victory near Trieste against a Magyar contingent lead by Zoltán of Hungary which set out to raid the region. The Battle of Aurisina of 914 was an Italian victory against the warrior state which just finished its conquest of the Carpathian Basin. When they were informed of the death of Emperor Guy IV of Spoleto, these two margraves set up a base of operation in Verona. From there, they would try to claim the imperial title, although both Ottwin and Unroach could not have been more different persons. Unroach was accused by contemporaries and modern scholars alike to be cursed with a particular incompetent nature, having never won a single battle in his campaign once Ottwin, the “brighter” part of this duo, left him to defend a fortress or one of the many important roads between the large population centers of early medieval Italy, bar one particular defense of Vicenza in 916 which is only known because of a letter of a local monastery directed at Lothair III where a man named Leo complained about the damages the village had to suffer from Unroach’s heavy-handed approach to driving out the Carolingian forces. Ottwin I, on the other hand, was different, to say the least. While there were some disagreements between the two men, Ottwin was able to make the decisions that would influence their entire campaign against the Carolingians and Tuscans and was the mind behind the alliance. He was celebrated as an intelligent man with a tendency to enforce a bit of mercy and justice among the captured Carolingian and allied troops he encountered near Pisa, just as he did with a small Tuscan army of around a hundred soldiers near Gropparello. These Tuscan soldiers would change sides to support the cause of Ottwin out of sheer thankfulness as pointed out by the Bishop of Piacenza Guido I in his memoirs.

    Especially Ottwin was able to gain traction among minor nobles and clerics opposing both Tuscany and Carolingia as Lothair’s realm was increasingly known in the countless Italian bishoprics. But Unroach would prove to be a capable stumbling block on which Ottwin would prove to fail.

    Lothair’s forces met up in Santa Fiora in Tuscany with the Ivrean-Friulian Coalition on the king’s way to Rome to receive the imperial crown of the Romans. Count Ildebrando III of Aldobrandeschi was taken hostage by Unroach IV two weeks before the arrival of both Lothair III. Prior to the actual Battle of Santa Fiora in March 916, there were negotiations between the two sides mediated by Bishop Bonizone of Tuscania. The bishop attempted on behalf of Pope Hadrian III to broker a truce between Lothair III and Unroach IV, with Ottwin I or any of his representatives still on their way to meet Lothair. The Carolingians offered to hand over all of the war booties they had taken on their raids throughout Italy, as well as a five-year truce with the imperial title being given to no one, essentially establishing an interregnum for the crown. Unroach, who believed his force could easily overwhelm the Carolingian despite the absence of Ottwin I, declined their proposal. Unroach IV instead suggested releasing Ildebrando III, a man with no real connection to the Carolingian Empire, its rulers or any of its policies, once Lothair III would give the Lombard Iron Crown to him and leave Italy, forever. This was flatly rejected by both Lothair III and Bishop Bonizone. Thus, the battle started with Ottwin only several hours away from arriving.

    The Friulian army, consisting mostly of Italian natives and a small amount of Norman mercenaries which arrived through the emirate of Cordoba at Pisa began to leave the village and attack and loot the baggage train of the Carolingian forces which lay in a semicircle east of the village facing inwards towards Unroach’s army. When Lothair III saw his supplies being attacked by Unroach, he moved his forces out of the camp. The vanguard of the Carolingians was lead by William I of Auvergne who attempted to destroy the cohesion and resolve of the Italian army by repeatedly attacking and safely retreating from the now looted baggage wagons which now served as a defense for Unroach. Unroach meanwhile tried to follow a similar pattern by having his Italians on foot repeatedly throwing javelins and arrows at the vanguard. This led to heavy casualties on both sides, though now the vanguard was getting reinforced Bivin of Burgundy and his contingent. Unroach couldn’t dislocate the Carolingian column was forced to retreat with the Italian vanguard towards a small forest north of Santa Fiora. The retreating army however collided with Ottwin’s arriving army in the forest at the baggage trains with Ottwin’s division falling back in confusion. Unroach ordered his men to regroup, but the Norman mercenaries attacked Ottwin’s column confusing them with a Carolingian army. Ottwin was forced to move out of the forest directly into the hands of Lothair III’s third division which quickly surrounded the Ivrean army. That being so, now Lothair III himself joined the Battle against the Ottwin and proclaiming that “today if it pleases God you will all be forgiven”, essentially breaking the resolve of the Ivreans which now capitulated to prevent further bloodshed. Only Unroach was now left. After having been pushed out of the forest with his flanks completely either broken down or completely annihilated, Unroach IV of Friuli refused to capitulate and instead fled from the battlefield to raise a new army in Ferrara. On his way, he ordered the assassination of Count Ildebrando III, probably in order to prove “his point” as many scholars now think.

    The Battle of Santa Fiora was a decisive victory for the Carolingians. Ottwin I was humiliated and was forced to swear an oath of loyalty to the new emperor of the Romans and rex francorum et langobardorum who was anointed as such on the feast day of Saint Paul and Peter on 29 June 916 by Pope Hadrian III. While Ottwin I was allowed to continue his reign in Ivrea, Unroach was finally defeated during the Siege of Verona where he was killed by the forces of William I of Auvergne. The latter was then proclaimed to become the new margrave of Friuli which was now expanded upon at the cost of Ivrea and Pavia. William I, and his advisor Count Manfred of Verona, would usher in a new golden age of Friuli when he made Verona the new seat of power and expanded the city’s infrastructure and started the construction of the Church of Saint Eulogio in 919.

    We know much about his life and reign in the years after 916 because of the chronicler Bishop Hermann of Metz and his biography Vita Lothari Magni, very similar to the biography Vita Karoli Magni written by Einhard for Lothair’s great-great-great-grandfather. But more important for his era, with the coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, Lothair III now united the Carolingian Empire once more [5].


    Description: Lothair the Great shortly after his coronation in the Chartularium monasterii Casauriensis, ordinis S. Benedicti.

    SUMMARY:

    916:
    The Battle of Santa Fiora. Lothair III’s forces decisively beat the margraves of Friuli and Ivrea, paving the way for his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor on 29 June of that year. The Carolingian Empire is united once more under Lothair the Great.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] The Bosonids were reaching out. Alt-Hugh of Provence married Adelinde of Mâcon, daughter of the last male Count of Mâcon named Ecchard, making Hugh the sole inheritor of the county with the blessings of Lothair III and his deceased distant relative Louis II of Aquitania. Now controlling the areas around Arles, Vienne and Mâcon, Bivin is taking the place his father would have IOTL and stylized himself Duke of Burgundy, this time however without major rivals as IOTL, as the Aquitanian dukes are still concerned with the continued Ramnulfid-Raimundid rivalry with the Count of Auvergne, this time a man called William I, awkwardly trying to influence the situation to his favor.
    [2] The Carolingians were very, very unlucky. The family IOTL experienced an unusual amount of untimely deaths often by some easily preventable accidents (like Charles the Child, son of Charles the Bald, being accidentally struck down by a sword or Louis the Pious himself only narrowly avoiding death by a collapsing roof in Aachen) or epileptic seizures and strokes (Charles of Provence, Carloman and Charles the Fat for example dying because of the aforementioned medical conditions). I just wanted to point out how our own timeline is sometimes very ASBy.
    [3] Son of Katto, Count of Pustertal in Bavaria, the progenitor of the Ottwinids. The longer German reign under Carloman left its dynastic influence in Italy, the Anscarids could not leave Burgundy ITTL due to, well, the death of Charles the Bald who would have appointed them margraves of Ivrea IOTL, although they are becoming increasingly more powerful there due to the influence of Anscarid archbishop Fulk of Rheims. At least the butterflies were merciful with the Anscarids.
    [4] Berengar of Friuli was stopped quite quickly in this timeline. Due to butterflies, his first-born child is born male, thus saving the Unroachings from extinction. Different sperms, different humans.
    [5] That seems a bit like a wank, but you shouldn't forget that a certain Charles the Fat reunited the Carolingian Empire by blood relations in 884 in our timeline. But ITTL, we avoided a person who was plagued by illnesses, a childless marriage and who didn't have the favor of the potentes and was overall, simply put, at least a little bit stupid. The reunification happening some decades later is also important due to the beginning decline of Norse activities away from Scandinavian and British shores. But more to that later.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XIV: The Walk to Rome
  • “And I hereby swear that your foe is my foe, that your friend is my friend. I will be present and faithful to you at all times...”

    It had been only mere weeks after the last time someone would swear his loyalty to him. Ildebrando, Hildebrand, maybe Hildfried? Hunfried? The name he has forgotten. He had installed an entire apparatus to remember these names, to remember them of their obligation. But this time, this was something different.

    Ottwin’s hands were cold and remembered Lothair more of the white marble and granite of the archbasilica he currently presided in than the actual hands of a mortal being, and he still held them, as his oath was not finished yet. He had known the boy was clever, but this look in the eyes he had never expected;

    “whenever you need me.”

    Lothair didn’t know or want to know whether or not some devilish force was playing a trick on him, but he saw something, the faintest of smiles on Ottwin’s face. The eyes of the margrave emit some intensity of focus, inhuman and almost totemic, reminding the new emperor of his father Hugh during, no, after his descent into insanity. The look of a saint whose depictions in churches and monasteries he has seen. One would not carry it too far if one would call these blue eyes the gates of hell, he thought. Lothair could only hiss, although he had life-or-death power over him, he was afraid of Ottwin. It was crazy, of course. Nevertheless...

    Lothair looked into his eyes once more and saw nothing. “Go away.” Thus Ottwin finished his oath, not looking back at the ruler of the (Western) Roman Empire, defender of the holy faith and Saint Peter and probably the archbasilica of Saint John Lateran he was presiding in as well. Many craved to get the attention after the departure of Ottwin, but for Lothair, it wasn’t the main focus anymore. It was impossible not to feel that he has somewhere failed.

    “Are you sure that this was the only way to deal with him?” Bishop Hermann said. Lothair nodded, and this movement seemed to please the bishop immediately. "This is the only way.", declared Lothair, seemingly to himself, after regarding the perfectly intertwined joints of the roof of the archbasilica. “I hope so.”, he whispered. Bishop Hermann of Lorraine and, for that matter, every other soul on Earth would however never hear the answer given by the emperor. The hall was at first filled with some unharmonic chorus whose unintelligible ramblings Lothair at first did not understand, but which eventually developed to a more understandable shouting: “Ave Caesar!”


    + + +


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


    Chapter 11
    Meridian Campaigns of Lothair the Great

    Lothair III, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 916, would stay in Rome for a couple of months to overwinter there. His wife and his two children would welcome the third child of the royal family on 30 October 916, a son named Louis, in honor of Lothair’s family ties to his great-granduncle Louis the German. Court records however illustrate that the health of the infant quickly deteriorated in a particularly cold autumn in Rome and the royal couple feared an early death of one of the heirs of the empire. We now know that during this time, Lothair III would spend much time praying for the survival of his children in the Lateran while young Louis would sometimes cry himself to sleep as the Annals of the camerlengo of Rome, a men named Niccolò dei Conti di Segni, recorded. It was also at this time that Charles, the oldest son of Lothair, a tender boy at the age of four would first come into contact with the Latin Church of Rome which he will later so despise during his reign [1].

    Whether or not medicine was used to cure Louis is lost to history, but the prayers of Lothair III were heard and the heir would survive his first fragile year in 917 which usually marked the survival of the child as a whole. This was celebrated across Rome, though probably on the behalf of Lothair, and a huge banquet was organized with local nobles and the papal delegates. Here, during the last months of the year, the emperor would encounter the princes of Capua and Salerno, named Landulf I and Guaimar II respectively [2], coming with expensive presents for the emperor, although most of them stemmed from the loots the Lombard princes were able to save from the Saracens. And these princes came to Rome, in their times of desperation and hopelessness to the emperor.

    Only some twenty years ago, only shortly before Lothair’s actual birth in 894 some twenty sailors from the Umayyad Emirate of Al-Andalus would sail towards Meridia [3] where the Muladi [4] and Berbers, who increasingly slipped away from the weakening apparatus of the state, would lay the foundations of a base of operation for the Saracens on the islands of Ischia or Iskiyah in Arabic. Just off the coast of Meridia, this island was nominally controlled by Naples, which already distanced itself from their de-jure overlords in Constantinople which would ultimately prove to lead to the demise of a neighboring duchy, namely the Amalfitan one.

    The Duchy of Naples was by some scholars’ accounts only founded when a Duke named Sergius I reformed his position to become a hereditary position in 840, in opposition to the Rhomanoi who would shift their attention from the Italian peninsula back to their own homefronts in Anatolia and the Haemus where the Pagan and later Latin Bulgars would frequently raid Thrace and Epirus. Thus, Naples found itself suddenly on the stage of Lombard politics which were dominated by the rivalries of the three supreme principalities of Capua, Salerno and Benevento. Only shortly after the de-facto Neapolitan independence in the 840s, the small duchy was forced to surrender most of its territories outside the city walls to the princes of Salerno in their bid to surpass Capua and Benevento in terms of economic and military strength. It was, however, able to gain the favor of the Saracens in the emerging Shia Fatimid Caliphate in Ifriquiya and, similar to the Amalfitans, soon trade ensued. With the busy commerce came a quiet agreement on mutual assistance, and, not long after, the duchy had to rely on Saracen subsistence. Naples would soon enough find itself under the threat of the Lombard princes, the Latin Church and its own dynastic squabbles.

    Duke-Bishop Sergius II maintained very friendly relations with the Fatimids in Ifriquiya and the Aghlabids in Sicily with the evermore thriving exports of chestnuts and other locally harvested products. This was a very problematic relationship and Pope John VIII would excommunicate him in 877 for not joining a league of states in Meridia to combat the Saracens. The aforementioned League of Anzio created in 876 with the principalities of Benevento, Salerno and the pontificate itself as its members was not a union of equal members by any definition of “equal”, and were only held together by the shared Saracen threat and, for the Lombard princes’ probably the most interesting aspect, money which was especially needed in Benevento which was in the midst of a civil war against the invading Capuans who were excluded from the proceedings of this alliance. The excommunication of Sergius II led to a general uprising in the city against the ruling duke-bishop which was instigated by Sergius’ own brother Athanasius who gained the favor of Pope John VIII after assisting in a battle against the Arabs.

    It was this moment when the forts of Iskiyah would come into use for Sergius II. From Iskiyah, the Saracens have not only raided and pillaged the Theme of Sicily, the Duchy of Naples and the Principalities of Capua and Salerno for more than three decades by this point, but it developed close ties to the Fatimids and especially the Aghlabids of Africa. Sergius, in his despair, would sent envoys to Iskiyah calling for an intervention into the coming rebellion of Athanasius. Despite the sheer hopelessness of Sergius’ situation and the ever-shifting focus of the current Aghlabid Emir Ibrahim II and his appointed Sicilian governor Jafar ibn Mohammad al-Tamimi who was preoccupied with his invasion of the remaining Greek possessions on Sicily, the local pirates agreed on relieving Sergius from the revolt for a tribute he should pay after the situation calmed down.

    Therefore, in the last months of 877, the Saracens were invited to the city to restore order and were able to capture Athanasius himself and demanded a ransom. Much venerated across the city and beyond its walls, and much to the surprise of Sergius, his ransom was quickly obtained, but would never reach the pirates as Sergius sabotaged the deliverance of the money. By that point, the neighboring Salernitans were becoming aware of the dire condition and prepared an invasion of the duchy to end its existence once and for all. In an unexpected twist of events, the Saracens demanded the payment for their intervention from Sergius before the circumstances would change to their enemies’ favor which Sergius II was, unsurprisingly, not able to pay which led to a general revolt of the Saracens in which Athanasius would be killed. The city was sacked and Sergius only narrowly survived by seeking refuge in Amalfi currently ruled by the prefect Pulcharius. Naples was abandoned soon after hearing of the chaotic retreat of Sergius to Amalfi, a city-state that acted on its own after Rhoman and Lombard control of the region lessened during the Saracen and Norman raids. The Saracens followed and reached Sergius in the early months of the next year and besieged the small city. Meanwhile, the Salernitans prepared a mercenary force consisting of not only local Meridians, but also of Normans conscripted from the earliest members of the non-submissive Varangians that fled from the political intrigues of the later Amorian Dynasty. Thus, the Siege of Amalfi of 878 was a mess whose actual proceedings were not transmitted into our presence, but known is that the Siege ended it in a victory only for the Salernitans who liberated Amalfi. Amalfi itself was damaged and its already only mediocre port and its unpopular trading policies would seal the fate of the merchant prefecture as part of the growing Principality of Salerno, at least for now. The Amalfitans will prove to not be willing to go quietly. Pulcharis was probably slain during the fighting that took place, although even that is not preserved and is rather a good guess of most modern scholars of what really happened. Sergius II escaped the Saracens and would soon return back to Naples where he restored the lawfulness of his rule. Iskiyah itself did not fall yet and would continue to be a safe-haven for the Moslem pillagers for another 40 years as they would continuously raid the Lombard principalities from there with success. Unlike the fortified coasts of Neustria, the Meridian nations lacked the economic and political capabilities to protect the monasteries and churches of the region which only provided more incentives for the Saracens. Fast-forwarded back to 917, this ultimately led to the Walk to Rome.

    Landulf I and Guaimar II begged Lothair III to intervene in the conflict to finally relieve them from the Saracen menace. Lothair III is quoted to have said that “the story of the Caesars of Rome who protected the lands of and beyond Italia have aged and become a legend. I will try to bring forth new stories since the new always had a different sweetness." [5] which only further emphasized the quite complex yet impulsive character of Lothair. His advisors strictly spoke against other battles, with even Hermann of Metz, probably the closest advisor to the emperor, arguing against it, yet Lothair would set out in April 917 to fight the Saracens [6].

    SUMMARY:

    873:
    The first ships arrive at Ischia/Iskiyah where in the coming months a Saracen outpost was established.
    877: In an attempt to restore order in Naples, Duke-Bishop Sergius II of Naples invites the Saracens to storm the city which due to a cruel twist of events only leads to the Siege of Amalfi.
    878: The Siege of Amalfi. The city is relieved from its siege from the Saracens by the Salernitans who annexed the city-state. Sergius II is allowed to return to Naples.
    917: The Walk to Rome. The Princes Landulf I and Guaimar II convince the new emperor Lothair III to intervene in Meridia to finally restore peace to the troubled region.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Spoilers? Spoilers.
    [2] Yeah, the same problem as some other characters I’ve mentioned. They share the same name as persons IOTL, but different sperms lead to different humans. With the 10th century kicking in, fewer and fewer people are the same ones as IOTL, although the butterflies are as of now limited to Europe and its immediate surroundings.
    [3] Yeah, remember Fraxinetum? It got founded elsewhere and earlier. The somewhat united kingdom of Aquitania which was IOTL part of West Francia, mind you, wasn’t nearly as chaotic as IOTL, and the destabilized Umayyad Emirate of Al-Andalus is still a hotspot for hotheads like these going-to-be pirates. The pirates sailed to the more troubled part of the Mediterranean Sea, namely Southern Italy, or as it is called ITTL Mezzogiorno or Meridia.
    [4] Converts of Hispanic origin.
    [5] He should understand that gone by, that centuries passed, and that the world has evolved past a Latin Roman Empire. Would become one of his largest flaws in the coming years.
    [6] Charles the Fat IOTL reconstituted the Carolingian Empire for a short while in the latter half of the 9th century. His problem was that he was a very sick man with only limited political or administrative talent. The very young emperor Lothair III, on the other hand, while not as administratively capable as even Charles the Fat, he was wise enough to outsource this work to the advisory council he has set up and instead focused only on his actual skill: fighting and making allies.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XV: The Emperor, Victorious?
  • Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)



    Lothair III descended from the cool, wet lands north of the Alps; the arid climate and the sunbaked, yet fertile, soil of Meridia was therefore quite foreign and far from his actual homelands in the North as he noted at his first stop from Rome near Gaeta where the local hypatos, that is, the local and at least nominally from the Rhomanoi appointed ruler of Gaeta John I [1], welcomed him.

    By that point of time, Gaeta effectively became a self-governing entity only loosely connected to the political occurrences of Constantinople which at that time was struck by a war against the recently converted Bulgars and the apparent inability of Emperor Antigonos I to effectively defend his empire [2]. This made Gaeta quite vulnerable to the disenfranchised Muslim privateers who abandoned much of the now-protected Provencal coasts in favor of the vast riches they believed may hide in Meridia. Indeed, each time they returned with considerable booty, as well as treaties establishing favorable commerce relations with the Salernitans, Capuans, Gaetans, the Pontificate and the Rhomanoi. This only increased activity at their fortified base in Iskiyah and began to raid far up the Volturno, reaching even Benevento in 908, where they almost sacked the city and exacted tolls from the local Christian pilgrims who crossed their territory en route to Rome. This year is widely considered to be the peak of power of the Saracen influence outside of the Aghlabids in Sicily in Meridia. It must be pointed out that these pirates, as the Christians saw them, were interested in raiding and not conquest, and were beyond the reaches of Córdoba which already only had limited control of its border regions in Iberia.

    The decentralized- and almost non-existent- authority of those Saracen pirates and their raids which were conducted just in time when the entirety of the Italian peninsula was about to slide to chaos were one of the key reasons why the Saracens were able to hold on to Iskiyah for so long. But all things must come to an end.

    To return back to 917, Lothair III was able to move hypatos John I to join the almost defunct League of Anzio in exchange for minor payments and a promise to protect the duchy of Gaeta from further raids, be it from the Saracens, the Norse or the Lombards. Especially the latter have attacked the small Rhoman outpost from time to time and these promises of protection would eventually sour the relations between the statelets of Meridia. Landulf I, prince of Capua, in particular, was enraged to hear that Gaeta was now practically vassalized by the Carolingians, shattering his ambitions to fulfill the dreams of his father Atenulf I of uniting at least the Northern portions of the Mezzogiorno. His son Pandulf II would take vengeance for this apparent neglect of Capuan interest once the Carolingians were in internal chaos once Lothair III passed away. But for now, Landulf I would grudgingly accept that he has to work with Lothair III and John I in order to combat the Saracens.

    Thus, Lothair III, Landulf I, John I and Guaimar II would set out to ride towards Naples, even though Guaimar II of Salerno was banned from entering the duchy’s territory after having adopted the title “prefect of Amalfi” after its violent integration into the expanding Principality of Salerno. Sergius III, grandson of Sergius II who died only shortly after the Siege of Amalfi, together with his father Gregory IV [3], are seen as prime catalysts in the growth of Saracen power in the Mezzogiorno in the first half of the tenth century. Gregory IV, although having been supported financially by the pontificate and some local noblemen, swore allegiance to the Eastern Roman Empire and its Amorian Dynasty by 898, despite the fact that Antigonos I, as mentioned before, was not actively interessed and involved in Italian politics which was quite evident once he ordered the local strategos of Longobardia, a capable commander named Nicholas Epigingles [4], back to Thessaloniki where Antigonos carefully prepared for a decisive end of the war with the Bulgars. Reasons for Gregory IV’s decision didn’t survive the ages, but it is known through the manuscripts left behind by local monasteries that he aimed to become a member of the Byzantine aristocracy by being given the title of patrikios, an honor reserved for the most important strategoi of the eternal Empire. Nominally still being a vassal of the Rhomanoi, Gregory’s son Sergius III, however, has submitted to the Saracens and paid tribute to Iskiyah after his five-years-old son Sergius IV was captured and imprisoned by the Moslems in 914. Iskiyah would bleed the duchy dry. That said, the tributary relationship between the Moslem privateers and their Christian client was not purely exploitative, many of the payments came back in form of some concessions of the loot, thereby financing the crippled state. The destruction of the vicious cycle that only further amplified the intensity of the raids was the main objective of the campaign. It would be a mistake, however, to see these raids as some sort of “Jihad” or crypto-Andalusi response to the Christian presence in Meridia or even Iberia itself, or to see Lothair’s intervention as a rightful and bloodless event either. The Neapolitan “alliance” with the Saracens was first and foremost an alliance of opportunity rooted in the politics of the moment, and loyalties among those different persons and factions arose and fell according to how those politics changed. While the economic opportunities are self-evident as motives for the Saracens, Lothair III’s ambitions might at first seem more ambiguous. The Lombard principalities of the South, in particular, Benevento, were only intermittently and tenuously under the control of the Iron Crown at Pavia, as they, simply put, proved to be not worth the struggle to keep them in the already unstable Lombard kingdom of the 8th century. By the 910s, Lothair III needed whatever support he could get. While he was able to secure his claim to the various thrones swiftly and without much force, his actual control of the Carolingian Empire was not as reliable as he may have hoped, in particular, his Italian possessions. Local lords there tended to raise an armed band and declare their independence which, in turn, would inspire others to lose their nerves and pull their support of the capable, if somewhat detached, emperor back. In this sense, Lothair III was a very pragmatic man who perceived an opportunity to prove his legitimacy arising in Naples.

    Eventually, the four princes as they were romanticized by Moslem scholar and poet Yahya ibn ‘Uthman in 1018 [4], would reach the gates of Partenope in early autumn after having defeated at least four minor contingent of looters and Saracen privateers near Cassino, the Garigliano River [5] and Mondragone. It is little wonder, then, that they arrived so late at Naples. That said, Lothair III found himself before a closed Porta Pusterla [6], the gate which was once forcefully opened by Rhoman military commander Flavius Belisarius during the brutal siege of Naples of 536.

    But beforehand, if the events on Ischia was of little concern to Duke Sergius III, the events unfolding near Gaeta and the ire of a once distant Christian king, by contrast, did concern him. As soon as Lothair III and his approximately 5000 men strong army battled the Saracens at Cassino, conscious of the dangers that a strong Carolingian presence could bring to his Moslem partners on the island at Naples, Sergius III was quite alarmed, there was considerable concern whether the stability of the young duchy could be maintained should the Carolingians make an assault on Iskiyah where his child and heir presided on. A local monk named Catellus of Teano, a close advisor of the duke from the newly built benedictine Abbey of Naples, dedicated to San Bernulfo, or Saint Bernulf, a Piedmontese bishop who suffered a martyr death at the hands of the infidel Saracens a century earlier, an irony that certainly didn’t go unnoticed, also voiced his concern that Lothair’s expedition won’t be an ordinary visit or raid. Thus, Catellus sent an envoy to the Saracen fort on Iskiyah to warn them and to petition a small mercenary force to safeguard the city. Only shortly after, Catellus was sent out as a diplomat to Lothair III to inform him of the current situation of Naples, but once he dispatched the monk, Sergius III ordered the city guards to close all gates once they were able to see the Carolingian garrison arriving.

    Effectively locked out of Naples, Catellus became a prisoner of the infuriated Lothair III after he divulged the content of his confidential letter to the emperor. Not much is known about Catellus’ message, but the Neapolitan envoy certainly informed Lothair III about the imprisonment of Sergius IV and the undesirability of the Carolingian presence South of Spoleto and the Papal State. Lothair III, probably out of sheer stubbornness, would not relent, however, and sent a diplomatic envoy, John I of Gaeta’s son Docibilis, to Sergius III who kindly requested that the duke should yield and open the city-gates to free his son. Sergius III did not listen to the demands. Only shortly after, the city was besieged.

    During the winter months of the siege, Leo Argyros [7], Rhoman governor of the Thema Longobardia
    , one of the remaining Meridian possessions of the crumbling Rhoman Empire, sent word ahead from Bárion (Bari) that he was welcome and, indeed, even invited to the Greek possessions to “pay homage to the basileus Rhomaíōn Michael IV, the autocrat of the Romans”. After the citizens of Naples began to show their dissatisfaction with Sergius’ governance, the duke, his wife and the remaining soldiers fled the city under the curtain of night and the cover of the trees. In January 918, the siege was lifted once the citizens of Naples opened the Porta Pusterla to Lothair III and his entourage. The most noteworthy casualty of the siege was John I of Gaeta who died of malaria during the proceedings. His son, now hypatos Docibilis II, would return to Gaeta to rule the duchy with the blessings of Lothair III. It is discussed if Landulf I may have had an active role during the last days on Earth for John I, but there is no definitive proof for that claim.

    But why did Leo Argyros risk the fragile peace his governorate enjoyed? Such a figure must have known the consequences of harboring one of the most outspoken enemies of the emerging Holy Roman Empire. It is assumed that he partook in a political gambit; the Thema Longobardia was not as affected by the Saracen ravagers as the other Lombard principalities or the Thema Sikelias across the Gulf of Taranto, and the Lombard principalities were always in the anomalous position of holding territories claimed by two different Roman Empires. But the Eastern Roman Empire, unlike the Carolingian Empire, was in decline at the time, not to mention the gradual degradation of the Greek grip on the Mediterranean, in particular in Meridia where the Lombard principalities have expelled the Rhomans back to Apulia and Calabria. But the time was ripe to turn the tides for Constantinople, and with the waning influence of Emperor Michael IV on Italy, Leo Argyros dared to take the first step without consoling the Powerful of Constantinople first. The stakes were high, but even higher the potential rewards of prestige and glory for him and his family. But he will only get one attempt.

    Lothair III inherited the hotheaded temperament of his grandfather and sent angry letters to Rome, Metz, Le Mans, Arles, Pavia, Bárion and even Constantinople demanding either (material) support or denouncing the treachery and non-compliance of Sergius III and the Greeks. But after a Franconian contingent of roughly two thousand men arrived at Naples near the end of the summer of 918, Lothair III undertook his campaign to end the Moslem base at Ischia.

    Emperor Lothair III, against some odds, managed to reunite the League of Anzio against the Saracens, despite some setbacks. Now the league would prove itself on the battlefield.

    The first fighting took place just West of the city, where marauding Saracens were surprised and annihilated by the Carolingia-Lombard alliance. Afterward, the Christians won two more battles at Bagnoli and in the area between Pozzuoli and Bacoli. After these victories, the Saracens from the local villages retreated to their main base at Iskiyah. Here they had a fortified complex, although the exact location is still not known. In November 918, the Christian army engaged in the decisive naval battle. The ships used were looted from Naples and the neighboring towns. Later, they began the siege of the actual base. After the Christians had succeeded in forcing the Saracens out of the camp, they withdrew to a nearby hill, from where they were able to ward off several attacks led by Lothair III and Landulf I. As the Moslems ran out of supplies over time, the situation slowly became hopeless. The remaining Saracens tried an outbreak in shortly before Christmans towards the coast to escape to Sicily. However, according to the chroniclers, they were caught or slaughtered, the base dismantled. The stones used in the fort were brought over to Bacoli to construct a church “in the hope of meriting the approval and kindness of father, son, and spirit." Sergius IV was discovered to be slain in his cell, thus effectively ending the Sergian Dynasty of Naples.

    As one might notice, not many records of the campaigns survived, but for the Moslems and Naples, it was a decisive defeat. Those who did not escape were killed or sold into slavery. Lothair III finally eradicated the Moslem base during the Battle at Ischia or Iskiyah in late 918 and gained the almost unrestricted favor of most of the Lombard nobles. But there was a stain on his victory he desperately wanted to remove. Sergius III of Naples and the Rhomans have humiliated him during the Siege of Naples. As pragmatic as most political moves of the time were, Lothair III’s campaigns visibly had a distinct personal tone, and his relentless violence towards those who disobey them would make his name known across Europe and the Mediterranean as far as the ‘Abbasid courts in Baghdad. The seeds of rivalry, hatred, and war planted during the Photian Schism now would now burst into blossom.

    Lothair will ride to Bárion.

    SUMMARY:

    917:
    The Siege of Naples. An unwelcoming duke Sergius III of Naples denies entrance to Emperor Lothair III who besieges the city. Sergius III is invited by Leo Argyros, governor of the Thema Longobardia, to seek refuge in Bari.
    918: The Battle of Ischia. The expanded League of Anzio is able to destroy the local Saracen fortress on Ischia which had threatened Central and Southern Italy for more than 40 years.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Again, the same name, not the same John I as IOTL. He is not a patrikios, first of all.
    [2] I promise we will get back to the Rhomanoi soon enough. It should for now suffice to know that the aforementioned Emperor Bardas I was succeeded by his son Antigonos in the early 880s.
    [3] Since Sergius II wasn’t overthrown by his brother Athanasius ITTL, we have different rulers in little Naples. Much worse ones.
    [4] Those who have hoped for a Christian Hispania by the 11th century will be disappointed.
    [5] Here, the great battle against the Saracens IOTL took place. Due to the butterflies, their base there wasn’t as developed as IOTL, thus no epic battle where the pope himself lead the Christian forces. Maybe later ITTL, I don’t know yet ;)
    [6] I’ve said that resources for the early medieval time period are somewhat scarce, even more so for specific names or locations of people and structures. As far as I’ve understood, the Neapolitan city-gate of Porta Carbonara was formerly known as Porta Pusterla (of Naples, not Mantua), but I really have no way to confirm it.
    [7] Not OTL Leo Argyros. But part of the same ascending noble Anatolian family of Argyros.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XVI: The End of the Meridian Campaign
  • Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)


    By the beginning of the 10th century, most of the ruling class had exclusively Greek origins. They were for the most part governors and generals from the increasingly maritime empire centered around Constantinople. These privileged men, Leo Argyros being one of them, were sent to the far-flung provinces on the Italian peninsula to enforce the Rhoman “birthright” to Italy and Meridia and to represent the now fledgling Greek authority of the Eastern half of the Mediterranean. The favor of the "Greeks” and their perceived arrogant manner, and their constant hostility to the local Lombard population aroused hatred in the Lombard principalities and instigated minor and major revolts. At the beginning of 896, a neighborhood of Rhoman merchants in Tarantos on the opposite side of the Thema Sikilas was destroyed during one of the aforementioned riots. The perpetrator was never found, yet Emperor Antigonos I accused the Lombards of not only the burning of the Greek district of the city, but also the attempted murder of him instigated by his half-brother Symbatios only shortly after the initial riot. As a result, some local Lombard merchants from the neighboring Lombard principalities were arrested, imprisoned and their belongings confiscated on 16 April 899 throughout the Empire. The Lombards were, however, distracted by the continued Saracen raids, and thus just bottled up their anger towards the Greeks who were, ever since King Alboin I of the once united Lombard kingdom proclaimed his interest in Northern Italy during the 6th century, a thorn in their sides.

    Taking Sergius III of Naples hostage was the tipping point for the Lombard princes who had the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair III on their side. Lothair III now held a personal grudge against the Greek Empire after having allowed an outlaw to seek refuge in Baríon and was eager to revenge this bitter humiliation which was perceived to be a direct declaration of war against the already angry Carolingian and his allies.

    For Leo Argyros and the Carolingians, the whole operation was a risky venture. While the Carolingian divisions were exhausted after the various battles against the Saracens, Leo Argyros and Sergius III could not have escaped the Thema Longobardia without either encountering the fleeing Saracen raiders or get trialed for treason by the new and more brutal emperor Michael IV. Additionally, none of the ships or the equipment could have been paid in advance by these two men and expected to only battle some minor contingents. If the “war” failed, both the Carolingians and the Greeks would have been bankrupt. In addition, the undertaking was already very controversial to begin with, the Salernitan prince Guaimar II and the Gaetan hypatos Docibilis II, for example, previously maintained good trade relations with the Greeks, while Sergius III of Naples feared trial and execution by Lothair’s minions, not to mention Leo himself risking his own life by either Roman emperors, there was no going back for him, fleeing to Constantinople would be perceived as treachery and would be handled accordingly. All sides may have expected failure of this operation, and with the coming winter, it may very well have been possible that both sides would lose the bet.

    The city of Melfi was, in the Middle Ages, an outstanding urban center at the heart of Meridia. In this respect, it is not surprising that in the 10th and 11th centuries it repeatedly became the territorial bone of contention between the Lombards, in particular, the Salernitans, and Rhoman rulers. Although long in Byzantine hands, Melfi has been exposed to Lombard influence since the beginning of the Lombard presence in Italy and, at least in the 11th century, the city population consisted largely of Lombards. Already in 896 the city fell for a short period of time under Lombard rule, but it submitted voluntarily to the strategoi of the province called Melissenos and therefore Emperor Antigonos I once the Salernitans failed to enforce their rule of the city only a year later. Melissenos granted the city in return largely autonomy, for example, the city was allowed to choose its own bishop without Greek interference. Thus, unsurprisingly, it served as the first stop for Lothair III and his entourage.

    On 11 December 918, they arrived at the closed gates of Melfi, and a siege began. Not a few Lombard and Carolingian warriors were appalled and already exhausted by this "degeneration of a personal vendetta" and did not participate in the battles for the city. Nevertheless, the city had to surrender after 11 days of siege, with the help of the locals, in particular a man called Sinibaldus of Melfi who, according to the foundation myth of the county of Melfi and the House of Sinibaldi, gained prominence for his bravery in lifting the siege. Since it was the already December and Christmas Eve was just around the corner, the army wintered at the city. A few weeks later William of Poitiers, brother of the Duke of Gascony Ramnulf III, arrived from Aquitania and joined the army. He was most likely sent by Ramnulf III in order to appease the emperor to not further indulge himself into the politics of the Midi [1].

    After the siege of Melfi, Sergius III of Naples, on the behalf of Leo Argyros, tried to besiege Gravina in Puglia during January 919, who had just been captured by Lombard rebels in favor of Salernitan rule. In response, Guaimar II of Salerno, suddenly eager to see blood, counter-attacked and stormed a Rhoman camp at Alta Murgia, a region with poor vegetation and harsh temperatures during the winter, between Gravina and Altamura. The Rhoman army led by Sergius III was, at first, safe in their base at Altamura, but the Salernitans who wanted to avoid the strains linked to a siege forced the Rhomans to fight after they seized their cattle and water in a nightly raid. The battle lasted most of the morning of 3 February 919 and the reported fighting was intense, but the Salernitan cavalry led by Guaimar II who already played a crucial role during the siege of Melfi managed to ensure the victory of the Salernitans. Sergius III of Naples was captured and kept prisoner until a ransom was paid.

    Leo Argyros lost this bet. With two important border regions under Carolingian-Lombard control and two decisive losses for the Greeks, he was in trouble. He could not return to Constantinople without being executed for treason and he couldn’t turn his back on the Eastern Roman Empire without eventually falling into the hands of Lothair III who would march towards Baríon in March. Thus, Leo and his own small personal army would ride towards Melfi, in the vain hope that he might win a battle against the vast forces of Lothair III.

    The Battle of Venosa on 20 March 919 was a fierce one, indeed, it is delivered by Greek chroniclers of that time, in particular Patriarch Arethas I, that Lothair III was badly wounded during the battle by a sword thrown at him by a dying Rhoman soldier. It may explain his walk with a limp and, in his later years, his use of a walking cane. Whether or not it was actually was caused near Venosa is unclear and is still debated mostly between Greek and Meridian scholars to this day, but it certainly didn’t change the outcome of this battle: Leo Argyros was captured.

    Leo Argyros would suffer one of the classic Carolingian punishments; he was blinded in Melfi and sent on a ship towards Constantinople where an enraged Michael IV would have promptly executed him. It didn’t come that far, however, luckily for Leo. The increasingly manic emperor would find himself in a palace coup shortly after Christmas in early January 920 and, in a very familiar turn of events, Michael IV’s sister Zoe’s husband, the infamous general Nicholas Epiginglis, would rise to the Purple as Nicholas I of the Chrysabian Dynasty [2]. Leo Argyros would be pardoned by the more benevolent emperor [3] and sent to a monastery on where his cousin Agathe Argyros was present in a neighboring monastery. He would die in December 921 after suffering from severe fever for multiple days, probably caused by an infection of his eye socket.


    Description: The Blinding of Leo Argyros (left), Emperor Nicholas I pardoning him (right) as depicted in contemporary sources.

    His deputy strategoi, a man named Ursileo, was installed as the new governor of the Thema Longobardia which now lost major border regions to its Lombard neighbors. In fact, after the loss of Melfi to the Lombards, the city and its surrounding arable land were proclaimed to be the seat of a new county belonging to the Principality of Salerno. The first Count of Melfi was no other than Sinibaldus who was awarded for his bravery during the siege a year ago, whose descendants would cause trouble for the Greeks during the course of the next century [4]. Sergius III of Naples wasn’t so lucky. He was blinded as well and stripped of his clothing, only to be publically executed some hours later in Naples on the charges of treason and accusations.

    Additionally, the Duchy of Naples saw the end of its first hereditary dynasty, the House of Sergi. In an attempt to expand Carolingian influence into Meridia, William of Poitiers was appointed, with the consent of Guaimar II and Landulf I, to become duke of Naples. He, probably gladly, accepted, not despite but because of his brother Ramnulf III of Gascony who already attempted to expand Ramnulfid possessions by smaller and bigger skirmishes with the Raimundid dukes of Toulouse. This Neapolitan duchy, although badly damaged during the last few decades due to the Saracens and the Carolingian siege of its capital, was located on a very strategic point at the center of both Meridia and the Mediterranean as a whole whose surrounding areas were nonetheless quite fertile. Thus, the newly established Gascon Dynasty of Naples had great potential to further enrich the already wealthy Ramnulfid family and, in particular, Duke William I who didn't see as much revenue flooding his county in Aquitania as his brother Ramnulf III and, as history would, later on, prove, was crucial in the development of both Naples and Meridia as a whole.

    This was the end of the first and last major military expedition of Lothair III. The Meridian Campaign, as it will be remembered by modern scholars, was one of consolidation and legitimization of his reign over the vast Carolingian Empire, one that would shaped relations between the two Roman thrones and between the Carolingians and the Banu Umayya, and one that would impact the next long years of Lothair III on his road to consolidate the increasingly feudal society he has created. With the Lombard states pacified and the Rhoman threat practically extinguished, his focus would shift from battles and duels to more administrative interests. Thus, we enter a new age of the Carolingian Empire, the Lotharian Era, its last one [5].

    SUMMARY:

    918:
    The Siege of Melfi. The most important border city of the Thema Longobardia is successfully besieged by the Carolingian-Lombard Alliance.
    919: Leo Argyros and Sergius III of Naples are captured and blinded by the Carolingians. The former is sent to Constantinople, the latter is executed in Naples.
    920: Unpopular Rhoman Emperor Michael IV is killed in a palace coup orchestrated by Nicholas Epigingles who rises to the Purple as Emperor Nicholas I of the Chrysabian Dynasty, ending the Amorian Dynasty.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Those Ramnulfids are up to something!
    [2] Named after the place (Strymon) his victories against the Bulgars took place and his epithet of TTL will come from.
    [3] If I happen to not hold my word and not deliver a Byzantine update before the first big map update (hint: it’s a map of Europe) of this timeline, I’ll let you know that the extended Amorian Dynasty and the Catholic Bulgaria next-door didn’t exactly help in rebuilding the Byzantine Empire as the Macedonian Dynasty who would have been in power for a couple of decades by now IOTL. One of the butterflies I have covered in the last two updates is the lack of a resurrected interest in Italian politics in Bardas I and his successors’ minds due to the two-front war the Byzantines are almost constantly fighting against the Bulgars in the West and the Arabs and Armenians to the East. That meant no major Byzantine fleet stationed near the Rhoman (should I continue to use that word?) possessions in Italy which in turn meant more Saracen raiders actually damaging the themes which in return meant that especially the Thema Longobardia was quite weak and couldn’t possibly fend off any major Lombard advance into Italy. I’d argue the alternate outcome of the Photian Schism ITTL on its own would be worth its own timeline due to its sheer importance for European and especially Oriental history, but it happened here, so stay tuned for more Byzantine anti-wanks. One minor spoiler I’d like to mention, this whole ordeal we’ve just gone through means that we’ll see no Italian Catepanate or any major return of the Byzantines to this peninsula as their position is factually lost here. They’ll bide their time here.
    [4] They Lucky Few.
    [5] I’m sorry.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XVII: Map of Meridia as of 925 AD



  • FOOTNOTES
    Second (technically third, I don't count the first one on the first page, I hate it and I'll remake it.) official map update, everyone! Just some minor changes on the Italian map compared to OTL, yet the butterflies will continue to flap their wings and it won't take long until we see the first serious difference. I've also added the most important battles of the last few chapters to give you a sense of where things happened. The next updates will focus on what happened during Lothair III's four-year-long disappearance in Francia Proper which, let's say, had its effects on Aquitania, Neustria, and Francia.

    And yes, this is the timeline where France will switch places.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XVIII: The Beginning of the End
  • Excerpt: The Carolingian World and how it functioned – Godwin Albertsson, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1899)



    PART V

    The End of the Carolingian Empire




    Description: Lothair III, painted by Tristan Duras.


    Despite Charles Martel never adopting the title of king of the Franks, modern historians usually ascribed his rapid rise to power in the Frankish Empire in 718 as the beginning of the ascendancy of the Carolingian Dynasty. His son Pepin III, also called Pepin the Short, was the first Carolingian King of the Franks by 751, establishing the Carolingian family at the forefront of Western European politics. His son Charles I, referred to as Charlemagne or Charles the Great, expanded the Frankish state and was proclaimed Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III in 800. Louis the Pious was the penultimate emperor of a united Frankish Empire. Despite his accomplishments, his reign was the beginning of a slow decline of the Carolingian world and his death in 840 would ultimately shatter Francia into three. Yet, it was not the end for the Carolingians and this partition led to a more dynamic and more bloody conflict between the various rulers of Carolingian descent. Charles the Bald’s death in 851 ended West Francia not with a bang but with a whimper; the aspirations of Louis the German and his older brother Emperor Lothair I were fulfilled to different degrees in the fields of West Francia where their sons did reign. After a short period of peace and the subsequent deaths of Lothair I and Louis the German, however, renewed dynastic squabbles ensued. There was cooperation and friendship, as seen with the Treaty of Auxerre which formalized the division of the short-lived Kingdom of Burgundy under its epileptic King Charles I, son of Lothair I, but there were battles fought and blood dropped over the never-answered questions of power and prestige. The Empire was lost, as many contemporaries were convinced.

    But in the twilight of the great Frankish Empire, the Lotharian Branch of the Carolingian Dynasty was chosen. Due to their skill, strength, and, most importantly, luck, the Carolingian Dynasty lived through a new Golden age during its last decades on Earth. King Odo I and Emperor Lothair III were the embodiment of this development. But this too shall pass.

    The early years of the rule of Lothair III were dominated by his military campaigns in Aquitania, Italy, and Meridia. After these, however, he became more secluded and restricted his temper with a more rationalistic approach to governmental policies.

    We are now closing in on the last years of Lothair III’s reign, the last years of the Carolingian Empire.



    + + +


    He returned to Burgundy from the Meridian campaign by late 919 where Duke Bivin I invited him to reside in Arles for a while. This, of course, was a move to approach the emperor to formalize his self-proclaimed ducal title over the corpse of the Burgundian kingdom. The Bosonids accumulated many treasures during their reign over Provence, most of which stem from the Rhoman possessions in Italy, Meridia, and Epirus, many others from Constantinople itself; the last years of the Amorian Dynasty saw a steady economic decline of the Purple which ended in the selling of many national relics. Byzantine influence in the courts of Burgundy, be it Arles, Toulon or Marseille, was therefore quite strong; It was Bivin’s son Boso I of Burgundy who married Anna, an illegitimate daughter of Rhoman Emperor Nicholas I in an effort to normalize relations between the “civilized” Eastern Rome and the “Barbarian” Western one.

    One such treasure was the Sacra Lancea, the Holy Lance, which is said to contain a victory-bringing nail from the Cross of Jesus Christ. How it had been acquired is completely unknown, studies of the University of Kaiserswerth show that it was modeled after a typical Carolingian winged lance and was created only during the 8th century.

    It was nonetheless acquired by Lothair III in early November 919 in exchange for Bivin’s ducal title being officially recognized as such through a royal charter [1]. Its potency as a symbol of divinely ordained rule comparable to Charlemagne’s crown and the imperial orb was heightened throughout Lothair III’s reign and would become part of the royal and imperial insignia.



    + + +


    To understand the history and administration of the succeeding nations, one must understand the basic structure of the late Carolingian Empire.

    For most of the Empire’s existence, imperial governance was guided by the prevailing ideal of good kingship. All dukes, kings and even emperors had to react to circumstances and improvise, but they should not be at the mercy of events. Lothair III deliberately displayed both courage and wit in battle and secured victories against most of his enemies which provided evidence of true faith and divine favor. Nonetheless, direct participation in warfare was very risky, as demonstrated by Charles the Bald’s defeat at Jengland-Beslé in 851 where he ultimately paid with his life.

    Lothair III was aware of that, yet only crowned his oldest son Charles co-emperor after his Meridian Campaign in 919, at the tender age of seven. Co-kings and co-emperors emerged as a way to stabilize the state by resolving doubt over the succession of the crown ahead of the monarch’s death. It usually also followed a spread of the burden of being ruler over vast estates without delegating too much power to those outside of the inner royal circle. Yet, Charles was too young to handle the matters of Italy effectively; he was therefore quickly surrounded by trusted servants of Lothair III, including Margrave William I of Friuli, who should “advise” Charles’ decision-making once he would return to Italy in 926 to govern the Italian Kingdom, falling under the influence of Ottwin I of Ivrea. In the meantime, Lothair III would also release the Capitulary of Limoges in 920 which, in retrospect, may very well have been one of the most important charters of the emperor. The most notable sections dealt with the tasks of the nobility and reacted on the reality of the Frankish Empire: Most offices and riches inherited by the sons of the potentates, despite the de-jure prohibition of this without the consent of the king. However, according to this capitulary which was most likely crafted as a reaction to discovering that his absence has fundamentally changed the empire, these held offices and riches would be now also officially passed on to their sons, although these successions should not happen automatically, but through a renewed pledge of allegiance to the king. It is stated that the vassals of royal vassals, in this case, the vassals of his counts, are included in this regulation. This part of the capitulary is of fundamental importance for European constitutional history and it is often regarded as an essential building block of feudalism: the capitulary of Limoges is a document which reflects the growing royal acceptance of the inheritance of fiefs, something which is by that point in time only beginning to become the norm in Western Europe.

    The Carolingian Empire was divided between dukes, the highest-ranking officials of the empire behind the king and emperor who governed their assigned provinces and led (local) military expeditions, and counts whose main task was to maintain peace and uphold justice. The latter remained “free”, in the sense that the counts were directly subject to the emperor despite owing certain obligations to the dukes. By the end of the 920s, there were around 20 officially recognized ducal titles held within the empire roughly evenly distributed across it while there were more than 700 known counties, of which more than half were situated in Francia and Lotharingia alone. Most counties in Neustria, Aquitania, and Italy were created as a secular subdivision of local dioceses, the importance of the Latinate Church in both administration and networking devices for the emperor should therefore not be understated. Developments prior and across Lothair III’s reign saw both ducal and county positions fluctuate between royal appointments and hereditary possessions, with an overall trend favoring the latter over the former. Yet, it should be remembered that what was being held hereditarily as a title and its associated functions, not necessarily a distinct territory. Most counts and dukes would swear their fealty to the emperor at least once in their lifetime personally, despite increased use of documents to keep track of these acts.

    While the Empire never matched the papacy’s use of writing to document claims and extend influence, Lothair III issued 510 known documents and charters, the annual average being a little bit more than 24 per year. There are also around 100 documents attributed to him which, however, mostly consist of forgeries and misattributed charters. Charlemagne, in comparison, issued only a hundred charters during his lifespan resulting in an annual average of only 2 per year. This growth of writing in imperial governance showcase the increasing complexity of the empire and the growing hardships in finding a solution to it. It must be stated that only very few charters are meant to be regarded as universal laws or even laws spanning only a specified sub-kingdom of the Empire, general laws were at that time considered to be fixed by moral and religious absolutes that could not be altered by mere charters. Most documents issued in the name of the various Carolingian kings and their successors before the end of the medieval era were only charters which either approved or disapproved of the aspirations of local counts and dukes in their quest to expand their power; These charters should be understood as a regulating force in the empire instead of a legal one. They additionally illustrate how much of the royal activity was reactive, rather than planned; the Treaty of Chartres, for example, was only royally sanctioned once Lothair III had arrived in Paris only to encounter a new quadripolar Neustria. Yet Lothair III’s reign didn’t see written documentation replacing other forms of legitimation like custom. Another issue present in almost every century of the medieval era was the practice of destroying letters after the receiver has read them, in contrast to later eras where even the most mundane things happen to survive the test of time. However, the relatively low volume of such papers allowed for some inconsistencies between official and real boundaries of influence of the noblemen of the empire to slide away from the public focus which, in turn, oftentimes secured peace in the respective regions.

    Success under these political and administrative circumstances depended therefore on securing acceptance or, even better, support of the royal policies. Royal assemblies oftentimes provided the main mechanism to achieve such a consensus among the noblemen and the local clergy. In the Carolingian era, these were usually held on very prominent religious holidays such as All Saints’ Day. For instance, it was a convent or synod near Le Mans on 1 November 920 where the Neustrian incidents between the Counts and Dukes of Lisieux, Normandy, Maine, and Campania were diplomatically resolved, for the time being. Another convent exactly a year later, this time in Évreux, would see the Count Wolfker I of Lisieux be elevated to the position of a duke in the face of a revived Viking activity on the Channel after Anglia fell to the forces of Sussex and Wessex by Christmas 920. This was a consequence of the failure to repeal the Vikings once and for all. In this convent, Rollo’s oldest son William Lackland [2], was also recognized to be the new duke over the area which was given to his father through the Treaty of Chartres. As part of the procedure, William paid his homage to Lothair III in a ceremonious play eagerly documented by the bishop Robert of Lisieux whose allegiances became clear once William’s epithet had come into action after the end of Lothair III’s reign.

    In 922, Lothair III continued to tour the empire by visiting the Rudolphings in Lunéville where the bishops of Metz and Straßburg were constructing a fortress on behalf of duke Herbert I of Upper Lorraine, a young child supervised by these two men. By November of the same year, he visited Eberhard I of Lower Lorraine, a secluded duke pursuing some studies of the written word of God together with the Bishop Gérard of Liège which culminated in the so-called Lotharingian Renovatio, a revival of cultural activity in the Low Countries and the Rhineland which would outlive both Lothair III and Eberhard I. Lothair III, as pious as he might have been, was never interested in lengthy studies of the holy book and scriptures accompanying it. Yet, his presence in Lotharingia proved to be sufficient enough to end the quarrels within the Frankish and Lotharingian church regarding issues in Northelbingia or Nordelbien and to fertilize new intellectual growth in the region, thus extending the Carolingian Renovatio for the last time. [3]

    By 923, he was back in Aachen where he organized a large assembly inviting the dukes of Francia. A large banquet was held after the present nobles renewed their pledge of allegiance. Here, he met Liudolf II, duke of the Saxons, with whom he would develop a lifelong friendship (amicitia) which allowed the emperor to widen his small inner circle beyond his immediate relationships and people he knew ever since he was an infant such as Bishop Hermann of Metz. This friendship, according to the Annals of Stade, included not only the usual alternations between playing the host and the guest of such banquets but also reciprocal gift-giving, deliberate public displays of the two together and hunting together in the forests near Münster. These friendships were politically important for both sides as well, as it increased the prestige among their subjects and allowed for favors to be asked from both sides.

    Lothair III’s foreign policy lacked any form of interventionism Charlemagne might have had, indeed, he was more laid back than his predecessors. Vratislaus' son Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, the sole surviving child [4] of his father who ruled from 921, was already accepted as the head of the Bohemian tribal union; however, he had to cope with the enmity of his neighbor Duke Louis of Bavaria and his mighty ally, the Carolingian emperor Lothair III. Wenceslaus had to outmaneuver the crumbling, yet resilient Great Moravians led by its last prince Mojmír III, son of Svatopluk II [5], whose attempts at revenging his strife for independence and continued Magyar invasions towards Bohemian territory proved to be a huge burden on the young Bohemian nation whose local rulers sometimes sprung up to revolt against the apparent inability of Wenceslaus I to put an end to the dying Moravian Empire. He maintained his ducal authority by submitting to Lothair III in 929 in Ratisbon or Regensburg in Bavaria who, in turn, assisted Wenceslaus I, militarily with a small Bavarian contingent [6]. Wenceslaus I is known to be a devout Latinate Christian who spent most of his resources to Christianize most of the majority-pagan Bohemian lands with immigrating German monks and proved to be ineffective to counter the growing Magyar threat. Lothair III’s limited interventions in Bohemia saved the young duchy from total collapse, yet Wenceslaus I’s inability to do something against the continued Magyar incursions into Bohemia would inevitably lead to the catastrophic Battle of Wenzelbach of 932.

    Another issue of the foreign policies of Lothair III was the lack of a serious presence beyond the Pyrenees in the Spanish March. Alerm II or Adalhelm II, an Aleranid Count of Barcelona, declined to swear fealty to Louis II of Aquitania, the predecessor to Lothair III, by 900 and was not punished nor replaced. The count was probably motivated by Louis II's failure to address Alerm's petitions for assistance against the revived Andalusi raids of emir Hisham II and his sons al-Hakam and Ubayd Allah I [7] against the remaining Christian states in the North. Lothair III dispatched an embassy to Córdoba demanding the emir to put a stop to the attacks, a request that reflected the prestige the emirs have achieved by that point and the lacking will of Lothair III to engage in another confrontation with the Muslims. An embassy of Galician King Ordoño II Bermudez and its elaborate display and explanation of the internal weaknesses of the Umayyads which sought to convince Lothair III in trying to lift the siege of Barcelona arrived in the 920s in Aachen, but to no avail.



    + + +


    Thus, Lothair III’s remaking of the empire resembled in some way the earlier Carolingian achievements of Charlemagne in that it followed a series of victories against “heathens and pagans” such as the Muslims of Ischia or the Magyars from Pannonia and the victory against internal disruptive forces such as the Unroachings of Friuli. Lothair III was quite aware of the fragile situation of the gargantuan empire and conscious of his predecessors’ precedents. Therefore, he presented his reign as a revival of imperial authority instead of a continuation of the Carolingian status quo which, for example, resulted in a carefully staged imperial coronation in Rome that mirrored that of Charlemagne who is still widely venerated across Western Europe. Yet, above all, it was the critical judgments of contemporaries from the leading intellectual circles of the empire that shaped the judgment of historians of the coming centuries. Abbot Samuel von Hochseeburg justified his influential judgment on Lothair III in his (biased) account of the late Carolingian period called The History of the Honorful Babenberg Dynasty of Francia, published by 1341 AD. He criticized the lack of a “national consciousness” encompassing all of the noblemen and clerics of the Carolingian Empire and accused Lothair III of being unrealistic in his expectations and too “divulged in fantasies of a reborn Rome”. Furthermore, according to von Hochseeburg, Lothair III frivolously gambled away a great legacy, chased pipe dreams, and surrounded himself with too many clerics and foreigners, meaning people from Aquitania, Italy or Neustria.

    Lothair III, going down in history as Lothair the Great, was the last ruler of a united Carolingian Empire. His classification by later Neustrian and Frankish accounts as a religious, cloistered fanatic who sought to renovate the old Carolingian institutions is not entirely unjustified, and modern research takes a much more critical stance on his suffix which was added to his name by his four surviving sons, the popes following John XI, and Aquitanian and Italian intellectuals. Yet, under his reign the Frankish Empire flourished for one last time, both economically and culturally, and was stabilized from the inside and the outside. Unlike his predecessors, Lothair III had created an outstanding personal network that carried his effective rule almost everywhere. As almost all sources of time emphasize, the emperor succeeded in unifying and stabilizing the Carolingian Empire which he found torn apart when he succeeded his father Odo I. In addition, he had extended his sphere of influence to Meridia where he humiliated the Eastern Roman Empire and had shown great and brutal strength against the Italian rebels like Unroach IV and the Ischian Muslims.

    Thus, Lothair III laid the foundations of the late medieval period of Europe.
    One should accordingly not be surprised that whether or not Lothair III should be called “the Great” is a matter of discussion among scholars and layman alike to this day. Arguments of fanatic defenders of either side of this naming dispute should always be encountered critically.


    Despite the disputes over the nature of Lothair III and his reign, it is universally agreed upon that with Lothair III’s death in 932 AD, the Carolingian Empire dramatically collapsed, for one last time.


    SUMMARY:
    919:
    Lothair III's oldest son Charles is proclaimed co-emperor with noble backing.
    919: Bivin I gains the recreated ducal title of Burgundy.


    FOOTNOTES
    [1] IOTL it was sold to Henry I of Germany by Rudolph II of Burgundy in 925 in exchange for OTL Swiss territory around Basel.
    [2] I think his epithet might mean something...
    [3] The Lotharingian Renaissance will be the last era of the Carolingian revival of the arts and intellectual pursuits in the church. A minor butterfly which would change how this world would look back on the Carolingians.
    [4] No Boleslaus the Cruel ITTL. Yay!… unless…
    [5] If you haven’t noticed it in my map update for Francia, Great Moravia is still alive, well, at least sort of. As a minor butterfly, it was able to live a bit longer, yet, as you can see, even the butterflies couldn’t save the nation. I’m sorry, little one.
    [6] IOTL, this small Bavarian contingent would have assisted the Moravians against the Magyars. Not here, though. A grave mistake.
    [7] An update is coming. Al-Mundhir I stays for a bit longer, I can tell you that.
     
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    CHAPTER 1.XIX: The Magyars in Francia
  • “When the Magyars come, their empty husks become visible to the Christians. They are merely empty shells without the light of the lord. They live as they look like, for the words they spoke and the things they did came from wilderness.”

    - Bishop Hermann of Metz (✝ 15 May 938 AD)



    Excerpt: The Carolingian World and how it functioned – Godwin Albertsson, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1899)


    Magyar Horsemen first appeared as mercenaries for Emperor Lambert I in the years after their migration across the Carpathians. However, after their advances into Bavaria were temporarily stopped by the skillful diplomacy of Arnulf I of Bavaria, they started an invasion of Italy in 899, in which they inflicted a heavy defeat on the army of the Italian King Lambert I. This was only the beginning, however, and a series of penetrative raids to the west of Pannonia followed.

    Already in 881, there was an attack by the Magyars near Wenia which probably referred to the modern city of Vienna or Wien river [1]. The Marcha Orientalis, also called Osterland or Eastern March, of the Duchy of Bavaria was at that time divided by domestic struggles, in particular a dispute over claims to various territories and offices between the Wilhelminers who just lost the Pannonian March to the Magyar tribes and Aribonids which held important positions across the Eastern March. The Pannonian conquests of Charlemagne had already been lost to this feud.

    After the death of King Arnulf I, the Magyars invaded the Marchfeld in the Danube valley of Lower Bavaria. A Bavarian army under the supervision of the son of the Bavarian Margrave Luitpold I, a man named Arnulf of Nordgau, and Bishop Richard of Passau succeeded in killing a unit of a thousand warriors in 901 on the north bank of the Danube, although the majority of the Magyars had already returned to the Carpathian basin with their acquired loot. The situation, however, changed in the following year, when the Magyars again struck the army of the Bavarians on their way back from the Fischa, a tributary of the Danube. However, their greatest victory came in 906 when Richard of Passau fell victim to an ambush by Kende Kurszán, killing him in the proceeding battle.

    The Magyars smashed the Moravian Empire and invaded Thuringia. Inspired by their past victories, the Bavarians in 909 dared an invasion of Magyar territory, which ended in a total disaster for them. The army was encircled and destroyed in the Battle of Pressburg which was fought with the help of the dying Moravian Empire. Count Arnulf of Nordgau and, with him, many of the most important dignitaries of Bavaria fell in this battle. It is unclear whether and to what extent the death of one the most important leaders of the Magyar tribes, Kurszán, in the same year is related to this battle.

    Unimpressed by this, the new Duke of Bavaria, Louis the Good, son of Duke Arnulf I and who was installed by King Odo I of Neustria as the new duke of Bavaria under the supervision of the powerful Luitpoldings, immediately started setting up a new army against the Magyars. For this, he introduced a new obligation for the potentates of the stem duchy, according to which every secular or ecclesiastical landlord had to provide one horseman for every ten farmers they possessed, but especially the clergy refused to do so. When the Magyars returned from ravaged Thuringia and Lusatia in 911, they raided Bavaria again in the following years and advanced as far inland as to Freising and Eichstätt. Louis the Good, who by then most likely left the regency headed by margrave Luitpold I, used the inhibited maneuverability of the Magyars who, on the way back, were loaded with the loots of monasteries of central Francia. He hit them and their leader chief Szabolcs on November 3th near St. Pölten and scored a success against them.

    This defeat could not have been very significant, however, since the Magyars invaded a few months later once again and destroyed a Bavarian and a Swabian army, in which the Count Palatine Gozbert was badly wounded, and in July defeated the Franconian army under Henry of Franconia, brother of duke Adalbert I of Franconia, on the Lechfeld near Augschburg. Henry and his Franconians managed to defeat a unit of the Magyars during the winter of 913, but the year was clearly overshadowed by their earlier failure on the Lechfeld. It was only in 915 when some sort of agreement between the Louis the Good and the Magyar tribes came to be in which the former was spared from further raids into the region in exchange for annual tributes and an exchange of prisoners. This unstable peace lasted only for seven years in which the Magyars used to raid the Bulgar Empire to South and the Italian Kingdom which proved to be a hard nut to crack as the three Battles of Aurisina near Trieste in 914, 916, and 921 proved.
    When the new emperor Lothair III returned to Francia, he used his time there and his relations to the various stem duchies of the country to carry out an army reform and build new fortresses across Bavaria and Thuringia. But it did not stop the Magyars who turned to southern Francia again. In 926 they stormed Augschburg, which was defended by its Bishop Ulrich. In the same year, they looted the city and the monastery of Basel in Swabia. Lothair III, who was now in Bavaria in order to say goodbye to his oldest son who marched towards Pavia, was forced to buy peace by paying tribute again.

    Lothair III, for the first time challenged since his Meridian campaign in the early 910s, was, once again, agitated and decided at the Assembly of Passau in 928 to act together with the Frankish dukes against the Magyars. Thus, Emperor Lothair III refused to pay tribute to the Hungarians in the following year which effectively was a declaration of war. On 2 April 930, an army consisting of “many men from the corners of the empire of the Franks” met the Magyars at Graz in the Eastern March.

    The army of the Magyars consisted of light cavalry. They were excellent archers, whose tactic was to charge the enemy in small groups, shoot deadly arrows, and then disappear just as quickly. So far this tactic of the Magyars had almost always been successful.
    According to Hermann of Metz, Lothair III’s troops used a tactic that was probably developed in the previous wars: lightly armed warriors were supposed to challenge the enemy army to attack by appearing defenseless. The Magyars did actually attack the soldiers which were sent ahead but turned to retreat as soon as they saw the fully equipped army. The only thing left for the Frankish army to do was to loot the opponent's camp and to free the prisoners made by the Magyars. There was an unceremonious escape by the Magyars who would prepare to strike back at the empire.

    Thus, the battle ended with a Carolingian victory. The Magyars were driven off the battlefield and the Eastern March as a whole. Lothair III emerged victorious from this struggle and decided to dismiss an offer of the Magyar tribes to repay tribute to them rather than to challenge his luck again. A tragic error.
    By 930, the armed conflicts between Magyars and the Carolingian Empire lasted for around 40 years. In December, Lothair III held an assembly in Arnstadt in Thuringia, in which he invited the dukes of Francia. This and the aforementioned military reforms of Francia created the domestic political prerequisites for the coming conflict with the Magyars. Envoys arrived at the court of Lothair III at Regensburg in the spring of 931, ostensibly to affirm their friendly disposition. But their task was most likely to spy on the strength of the new army after the Arnstadt Assembly. In any case, shortly after their departure, it was reported that the Magyars had crossed the borders of the empire and were demanding a battle against the emperor.




    The Battle of Graz as depicted in the Bavarian World Chronicle, written and painted between 1260 and 1300 by Rutger of Ammendorf and Meinhard of Sekau.



    SUMMARY:

    909:
    The Battle of Pressburg. A decisive defeat for the Moravians and Bavarians which enabled the Magyars to raid Thuringia and Saxony.
    930: The Battle of Graz. Lothair III lifts the Magyar siege of the city and emerged as the victor in an ensuing battle, but he wasn't able to create a lasting peace with the Magyar tribes.

    FOOTNOTES
    [1] Happened IOTL as well.
     
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