Louis the Pious, emperor of the West (814-840)

Louis the Pious, emperor of the West (814-840)

Louis I said "the Pious" or "the Debonnaire", King of the Franks and Emperor of the West (814-840) is the son and successor of Charlemagne. From the beginning of his reign he was confronted with the problem of his succession, which he tried to settle through the Ordinatio Imperii. Louis the Pious, however, maintained a certain political stability and exercised his power under the strong influence of the prelates. Although at the origin of the Carolingian renaissance, he failed to preserve the unity of the empire, which was divided between his sons by the Treaty of Verdun in 843.

Louis I, heir to Charlemagne

Louis was born in 778. He is the sixth child and the fourth son of Charlemagne. In 814, he learned of the death of his father Charles while he was at his palace in Doué-la-Fontaine. He was then 46 years old and had been married to Irmingarde, daughter of Count Ingramm, since 794. This gave him three sons: Lothaire in 795, Pépin in 797 and Louis in 806. He has been king of Aquitaine since 781 His father Charles crowned him and associated him with the leadership of the Empire in 813.

A pious man, he maintains a much closer relationship with the church than his father's. When he seizes power and arrives at the palace of Aix la Chapelle, Louis sends his sisters who lived at court with great freedom of manners, in the monasteries of which they are lay abbesses. He replaced his father's advisers with his relatives, including his father's two cousins, Adalard (752, † 826) and Wala (772, † 836). Among these relatives is Benoit d'Aniane (750, † 821), responsible for implementing the reform of the monasteries and promoting the Benedictine order.

Louis calls himself "Louis, by order of Divine Providence, Emperor and Augustus", and abandons the titles of king of the Franks and Lombards. Very influenced by his ecclesiastical advisers, in 817 he promulgated a testamentary text, aimed at ensuring the consistency of the Empire upon his death, “the Ordinatio Imperii”.

Ordinatio Imperii

Frankish custom provides for the equitable division of the kingdom between the heirs. Thus, on the death of Pepin III dit le Bref (715, † 768), the Frankish territory was divided between his two sons, Charles and Carloman. “L'Ordinatio Imperii”, on the contrary, seeks to maintain the Empire in a single block and recognizes a birthright between the heirs. Thus, Lothair, the eldest son, is proclaimed emperor and becomes the sole heir of the kingdom.

His two brothers Louis and Pépin obtain kingdoms included in the Empire, Bavaria and Aquitaine respectively, but they are subordinate to their older brother. They have to visit him every year bringing him gifts. Moreover, they cannot get married and go to war without their brother's approval.

The first revolt: Bernard of Italy

The first negative reaction to the “Ordinatio Imperii” comes from Bernard, Pepin's illegitimate son to whom Charlemagne entrusted the kingdom of Italy. This one sees himself, with concern, placed under the dependence of Lothaire. In 817, he gathered around him several partisans, hostile to the dispositions of Louis the Pious, and entered into rebellion. However, he is quickly defeated. In the spring of 818, during a plea held in Aix, he was sentenced to death. His sentence was however commuted to blindness. But, he died two days later as a result of his ordeal.

In 821-822, to appease the spirits and consolidate his position, Louis pardon all the accomplices of Bernard of Italy; he reminds him of his father's former advisers, in particular his two cousins, Wala and Adalard, then he makes the great of the kingdom swear to respect “the Ordinatio Imperii”. During the assembly held in Attigny in 822, he invited everyone to do penance and himself confessed his sins, regretting the torture of Bernard and the exile of his father's advisers. Finally, he married his sons and daughters within the great families of the Empire.

The arrival of a fourth son: Charles the Bald

Widower since 818, Louis the Pious remarried in 819 with Judith, son of the Bavarian count Welf Ier (778, † 825). This young woman of 18-20 years, very beautiful according to her contemporaries, immediately exerts a strong influence on her husband. In 823, she gave birth to a boy, Charles, the future Charles the Bald.

kings de france Chicorée the Shepherdess, Emile Bonzel "/> From then on, Judith never stopped finding a kingdom for her son.

• Lothaire is returned to Italy.
• She gathered around her the faithful, in particular Bernard (795, † 844), Marquis of Septimania, who commanded the March of Spain. He becomes counselor then chamberlain of Louis le Pieux.
• Wala is exiled to Corbie and Bernard is given the charge of overseeing Charles's education.
• Finally, in 829, during the general assembly held in Worms, when the young Charles entered his seventh year, a kingdom was attributed to him, comprising territories in Alémanie, Rhétie, Alsace and part of Burgundy. .

A new revolt

Immediately and without difficulty, Lothaire gathered around him a group of malcontents: on the one hand, ecclesiastics who believed that Louis had betrayed the “Ordinatio Imperii”, on the other hand former advisers ousted by Judith and Bernard of Septimania, including Wala in particular. A vast campaign of slander is launched against Judith and Bernard who are accused of adultery, witchcraft, attempted murder on the person of Louis. The three brothers, under the pretext of freeing their father from the harmful and dangerous influence he is under, raise troops and go into campaign. Bernard de Septimanie fled to Barcelona; Judith is locked up in the monastery of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers. Charles is entrusted to monks who must initiate him into monastic life. Finally, Louis the Pious is placed under the tutelage of Lothaire who governs in his name.

Louis the Pious, however, manages to rally his two younger sons, Pepin and Louis, to his cause, promising them an expansion of their respective territories. This one finds freedom and Judith leaves the monastery where she was relegated. She exonerates herself from the accusations brought against her by an oath of purgatory. In exchange, Louis the Pious abandons the “Ordinatio Imperii” and divides the Empire between his four sons.

The field of lies

However, Lothair was unhappy to reign only over Italy. His two brothers also want to be associated with power. The supporters of the “Ordinatio Imperii” feel cheated by this new division. Soon, a new coalition directed against Emperor Louis was formed. In addition, Lothair obtained the support of Pope Gregory IV. In June 833, a military meeting took place between Lothaire and his brothers on the one hand and Louis the Pious on the other. It takes place in Alsace, near Sigolsheim, not far from Colmar, in a place that will keep the name of Lügenfeld, the “Field of lies”. Because, while the Pope tries to reconcile everyone, Lothaire and his brothers debauch most of the partisans of Louis who abandon him and pass into the camp of his sons.

Isolated, Louis submits. He was dismissed in October 833 in favor of Lothaire. Then, he is condemned to a perpetual penance. In the Basilica of Saint-Médard in Soissons, he renounces his powers in front of all, accusing himself of having behaved as a "violator of divine and human laws" and withdraws to the convent of Saint-Médard. Judith is exiled to a convent in Tortona, Italy. Charles is relegated to the Abbey of Prüm.

The end of the reign of Louis the Pious

The violence of the degradation undergone by Louis the Pious provokes a change of opinion. In addition, the excessive claims of Lothair who intends to govern alone quickly set his brothers against him. In February 834, Lothaire had to flee and Louis the Pious regained power. In February 835, after his son begged his forgiveness, he was again enthroned emperor in Metz.

The Empire is weakened. The quarrels followed one another until the end of the reign of Louis who died on June 20, 840 in Ingelheim and was buried with his mother in the Saint-Arnould abbey in Metz. However, heavy threats hover over the borders of the Empire. In the north, Viking raids are increasing. In the south, the Saracens threaten and attack the Balearics, Corsica and Sardinia. In the east, Slavs and Bulgarians are agitated.

On the death of his father, Lothair arrogates to himself the title of emperor and the succession of his father, under the title of “Ordinatio Imperii”.

On the news of his father's death, Lothair immediately sent messengers throughout the land of the Franks, to announce that he was coming to take possession of the empire that had once been given to him, promising that he would keep everyone. the honors and benefits his father had bestowed, and he even wanted to increase them. He also ordered that an oath of loyalty be made to people he doubted, urging them, moreover, to come to meet him as quickly as possible, and pronouncing the death penalty against those who refused to do so. »History of the dissensions of the sons of Louis le Débonnaire, by Nithard, translation remacle.org

Pépin having died, his two surviving brothers Louis and Charles allied and beat their elder at the battle of Fontenoy-en-Puisaye, June 25, 841. The Strasbourg oath, taken in 842, further strengthens their alliance. In June 843; the three brothers come to an agreement on the distribution of Empire lands among the three, known as the Treaty of Verdun.

Bibliography

• Christian Bonnet, Christine Descatoire, Les Carolingiens (741 - 987), Armand Colin, 2001.
• Yvan Gobry, Louis I: Son of Charlemagne (814-840). Pygmalion, 2012.
• Pierre Riché, The Carolingians, A family that made Europe, Plural
• Geneviève Bûhrer-Thierry, 714-888, L'Europe Carolingienne, Armand Colin
• History of the dissensions of the sons of Louis le Débonnaire, by Nithard.


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