Boso of Provence

Boso (French: Boson; c. 841 January 11, 887) was a Frankish nobleman of the Bosonid family who was related to the Carolingian dynasty[1] and who rose to become King of Lower Burgundy and Provence.

Boso of Provence
Fragment of a fresco at Charlieu Abbey, depicting a humbled Boso left of the Protomartyr Stephen.
King of Provence
SuccessorLouis the Blind


Boso was the son of Bivin of Gorze, Count of Lotharingia, by Richildis of Arles, the daughter of Boso the Elder by his wife Engeltrude. His maternal aunt Teutberga was the wife of Lothair II, King of Lotharingia. Boso was also the nephew of the Boso, Count of Valois, for whom he was named, and of Hucbert, lay abbot of St. Maurice's Abbey, to which Boso succeeded in 869. He would later marry Ermengard of Italy, the daughter of Louis II of Italy and granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I, whom he married at age 35.

Service of Charles the Bald

In 870, Charles the Bald, King of West Francia, married Boso's sister Richilde. This marriage paved the way for Boso's career in the service of his royal brother-in-law. In the same year, Boso was appointed Count of Lyon and Vienne, replacing Gerard of Roussillon.

In 872, Charles appointed him chamberlain and magister ostiariorum (master of porters) to his heir Louis the Stammerer. Boso likewise received investiture as Count of Bourges. Louis was reigning as a subordinate king of Aquitaine, but because of his youth, it was Boso who looked after the administration of that realm.

In the autumn of 875, Boso accompanied Charles on his first Italian campaign and at the diet of Pavia in February 876 he was appointed arch-minister and missus dominicus for Italy and elevated to the rank of duke. He became Governor and Count of Provence in 877. He acted as a viceroy and married Ermengarde of Italy, the only daughter of the Emperor Louis II.

Out of favour

Boso disapproved of Charles' second Italian campaign in 877 and conspired with other like-minded nobles against his king. After Charles's death in October, these nobles forced Charles's son to confirm their rights and privileges.

Boso also formed close relations to the papacy and accompanied Pope John VIII in September 878 to Troyes, where the Pope asked King Louis for his support in Italy. The Pope adopted Boso as his son and probably offered to crown Louis emperor. It is said that he wanted to crown Boso emperor.[2]

Independent rule

In April 879, Louis the Stammerer died, leaving two adult sons, Louis III of France and Carloman II. Boso joined with other western Frankish nobles and advocated making Louis III of France the sole heir of the western kingdom, but eventually both brothers were elected kings. Boso renounced allegiance to the brothers and in July claimed independence by claiming the title Dei gratia id quod sum: by the Grace of God, that is what I am. He also claimed that his imperial father-in-law had named him as his heir. On 15 October 879, the bishops and nobles of the region around the Rhône and Saône rivers assembled in the Synod of Mantaille. They elected Boso King and successor to Louis the Stammerer, the first non-Carolingian king in Western Europe in more than a century.[1] This event was the first "free election" among the Franks, without regard to royal descent, inspired by a canonical principle (but not constant practice) of ecclesiastical elections.

Boso's realm, usually called the Kingdom of Provence, comprised the ecclesiastical provinces of the archbishops of Arles, Aix, Vienne, Lyon (without Langres), and probably Besançon, and the dioceses of Tarentaise, Uzès, and Viviers.

After Louis and Carloman divided their father's realm at Amiens in March 880, the two brothers joined to march against Boso. They took Mâcon and the northern parts of Boso's realm. Then uniting their forces with those of Charles the Fat, they unsuccessfully besieged Vienne from August to November.

In August 882, Boso was again besieged at Vienne by his brother, Richard, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Autun, who took the city in September. Boso never regained much of his realm and was restricted to the county of Vienne.

He died in 887 and was succeeded by his son Louis the Blind.

Marriages and issue

Boso was married twice. The identity of his first wife is not known; his second wife was Ermengard of Italy, only daughter of Louis II, Holy Roman Emperor, whom he wed in March 876. His issue was, in supposed chronological order:


  1. Bouchard, Constance Brittain (Spring 1988). "The Bosonids or Rising to Power in the Late Carolingian Age". Society for French Historical Studies (3 ed.). Duke University Press. 15: 407–431. His mother's father, Boso, provided a daughter, Tetburgis/Teutberga, Boso's aunt, to be wife of Lothair II.
  2. Caravale, Mario, ed. (2003). "Archived copy" (in Italian). Rome. Archived from the original on May 26, 2013. Retrieved 2016-10-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. Riché, Pierre. Les Carolingiens: Une famille qui fit l'Europe (in French). Hachette Littérature. p. genealogical table XII (Bosonides). ISBN 978-2010097379.
Preceded by
Louis the Stammerer
King of Lower Burgundy
King of Provence

Succeeded by
Louis the Blind
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