Louis the German
Louis the German (c. 806/810 – 28 August 876), also known as Louis II, was the first king of East Francia, and ruled from 843–876 AD. Grandson of emperor Charlemagne and the third son of Louis the Pious, emperor of Francia, and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye, he received the appellation Germanicus shortly after his death in recognition of Magna Germania of the Roman Empire, reflecting the Carolingian's assertions that they were the rightful descendants of the Roman Empire.
|Louis the German|
Seal with Louis' inscription and effigy.
|King of Germany|
|Reign||King of Bavaria: 817–843; |
King of East Francia: 843 – 28 August 876
|Predecessor||Louis the Pious|
|Successor||Carloman of Bavaria (Bavaria)|
Louis the Younger (Saxony)
Charles the Fat (Francia)
|Died||28 August 876|
Frankfurt am Main
|Spouse||Emma of Altdorf|
(m. 827; d. 876)
|Issue||Carloman of Bavaria|
Louis the Younger
Charles the Fat
|Father||Louis the Pious|
|Mother||Ermengarde of Hesbaye|
After protracted clashes with his father and his brothers, Louis received the East Frankish Empire in the 843 Treaty of Verdun. His attempts to conquer the West Frankish Empire of his half-brother Charles the Bald in 858–59 were unsuccessful. The 860s were marked by a severe crisis, with the East Frankish rebellions of the sons, as well as struggles to maintain supremacy over his realm. In the Treaty of Meerssen he acquired Lotharingia for the East Frankish Empire in 870. On the other hand, he tried and failed to claim both the title of Emperor and Italy. In the East, Louis was able to reach a longer-term peace agreement in 874 after decades of conflict with the Moravians. Due to a decline in the written form in administration and government, Louis' reign predates Ottonian times.
His early years were partly spent at the court of his grandfather, Charlemagne, whose special affection he is said to have won. When the emperor Louis the Pious divided his dominions between his sons in 817, Louis was made the ruler of Duchy of Bavaria, following the practice of emperor Charlemagne of bestowing a local kingdom to a close family member who then would serve as his lieutenant and local governor. Louis ruled from Regensburg, the old capital of the Bavarii. In 825 he became involved in wars with the Wends and Sorbs on his eastern frontier. In 827 he married Hemma, sister of his stepmother Judith of Bavaria, both daughters of Welf, whose possessions ranged from Alsace to Bavaria.
It was not until 826 that Louis first came to rule Bavaria. In 827 he married the Welf Hemma, a sister of the Empress Judith - his stepmother who had married his father in his second marriage. In 828 and 829 he undertook two campaigns against the Bulgarians who wanted to penetrate into Pannonia without great success. During his time as Unterkönig, he tried to extend his rule to the Rhine-Main area.
His involvement in the first civil war against his father's reign was limited, but in the second his elder brothers, Lothair I, then King of Italy, and Pepin I, Duke of Aquitaine, persuaded him to invade Alamannia which their father had given to their young half-brother Charles the Bald; by promising to give him the land in the new partition they would make after a victory. In 832 he led an army of Slavs into Alamannia, but was driven back by his father. Louis the Pious disinherited him, but to no effect; the emperor was soon captured by his own rebellious sons and deposed. Upon his swift reinstatement, however, the emperor Louis made peace with his son Louis and legally restored Bavaria (never actually lost) to him in 836.
Louis was the instigator of the third civil war, which began in 839. A strip of his land having been given to the young half-brother Charles, Louis invaded Alamannia again. This time emperor Louis responded quickly, and soon the younger Louis was forced into the far southeastern corner of his realm, the March of Pannonia. Peace was then made by force of arms.
Civil war, 840–843
After the civil war which followed the death of emperor Louis the Pious, the empire was divided in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun in three parts, with Louis becoming the King of East Francia, a region that spanned the Elbe drainage basin from Jutland southeasterly through the Thuringian Forest into modern Bavaria.
When the emperor Louis died in 840, and Lothair I claimed the whole Empire, Louis allied with Charles the Bald, and defeated Lothair I and their nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine, son of Pepin I of Aquitaine, at the Battle of Fontenoy in June 841.
In June 842 the three brothers met on an island in the river Saône to negotiate a peace, and each appointed forty representatives to arrange the boundaries of their respective kingdoms. This developed into the Treaty of Verdun, concluded in August 843, by which Louis received the bulk of the lands lying east of the Rhine (East Francia), together with a district around Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, on the left bank of the river (see also Oaths of Strasbourg 842). His territories included Bavaria (where he made Regensburg the centre of his government), Thuringia, Franconia, and Saxony.
Louis may be called the founder of the German kingdom, though his attempts to maintain the unity of the Empire proved futile. Having in 842 crushed the Stellinga rising in Saxony, in 844 he compelled the Obotrites to accept his authority and put their prince, Gozzmovil, to death. Thachulf, Duke of Thuringia, then undertook campaigns against the Bohemians, Moravians, and other tribes, but was not very successful in resisting the ravaging Vikings.
Treaty of Verdun
After the death of Emperor Louis the Pious, Lothar laid claim to all the imperial rights established in the Ordinatio of 817. As a result, Louis the German and Charles the Bald forged an alliance. Lothar I offered his nephew Pippin II, the son of 838 deceased Pippin I., an alliance. At the Battle of Fontenoy, Louis the German and Charles the Bald fought successfully against Lothar I and Pippin II in June 841. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. According to the Annals of Fulda, it was the biggest bloodbath the Franks had experienced since time immemorial. At the same time, it was Louis's last battle in the struggle for the unification of the kingdom.
Conflicts with Charles the Bald
Starting from 853 Louis made repeated attempts to gain the throne of West Francia, which, according to the Annals of Fulda (Annales Fuldenses), the people of that country offered him in their disgust with the cruel misrule of Charles the Bald. Encouraged by his nephews Peppin II and Charles of Provence, Louis invaded in West Francia in 858. Charles the Bald could not even raise an army to resist the invasion and fled to Burgundy. Later that year Louis issued a charter dated "the first year of the reign in West Francia." However, treachery and desertion in his army, and the continued loyalty of the Aquitanian bishops to Charles the Bald, brought about the failure of the whole enterprise. As such on 7 June 860 at Koblenz, both Louis and Charles made public vows to uphold the peace.
After the emperor Lothair I died in 855, Louis and Charles for a time cooperated in plans to divide Lothair's possessions among themselves, the only impediments to this being Lothair's sons and heirs – Lothair II (who received Lotharingia), Louis II of Italy (who held the imperial title and the Iron Crown of Lombardy) and Charles of Provence. In 868 at Metz Louis and Charles agreed to partition Lotharingia. When Lothair II died in 869, Louis was lying seriously ill, and his armies were engaged in a war with the Moravians. Charles the Bald quickly seized Lothair's lands; but Louis, having recovered, compelled him by a threat of war to agree to the Treaty of Meerssen, which divided Lothair's lands between all the claimants.
Divisio regni among the sons
The later years of Louis the German were troubled by rebellions of his sons. The eldest, Carloman of Bavaria, revolted in 861 and again two years later. This was followed by the second son Louis the Younger, who was joined by his brother Charles the Fat. In 864 Louis was forced to grant Carloman the kingdom of Bavaria, which he himself had once held under his father. In 865 he divided the remainder of his lands – Saxony with Franconia and Thuringia went to Louis the Younger and Swabia with Raetia to Charles the Fat.
A report that the emperor Louis II of Italy had died led to a peace between father and sons and attempts by Louis the German to gain the imperial crown for his oldest son Carloman. These efforts were thwarted by Louis II of Italy who was in fact not dead, and Louis' old adversary, Charles the Bald.
Louis was preparing for a new war when he died on August 28, 876 in Frankfurt. He was buried at the abbey of Lorsch, leaving three sons and three daughters. His sons, unusual for their earlier behaviour, respected the divisions made a decade earlier and each contented himself with his own kingdom.
In the years 872 and 873, ambassadors of the Eastern Roman Emperor Basil I came to Louis in Regensburg and showed that his rule was perceived as far as Constantinople. After the death of Emperor Louis II in August 875, Louis tried to win the emperorship for himself and his descendants. For this purpose, Abbot Sigihard von Fulda undertook a trip to Rome to Pope John VIII. On 18 May 876 he returned to Ingelheim and reported to Louis that, in December 875, Charles the Bald had been able to obtain the title of emperor by a swift move to Rome.
His wife Hemma visited Louis for the last time in May 875. In 874 she had lost her voice as a result of a stroke. During his stay, he donated the Berg im Donaugau Abbey as a donation to the Marienkapelle, which he built. Hemma died at the end of January 876 in Regensburg. A few months later, Louis died after a short illness on 28 August 876 in his palace in Frankfurt. The following day he was buried by his son Louis in Lorsch Abbey. According to Wilfried Hartmann, however, it can not be determined with certainty whether the dead man in his sarcophagus is the Carolingian king. After Louis' death, Charles the Bald tried to win over the East Reich as well. However, Louis the Younger defeated him on 8 October 876 at Andernach with a squad of Franks, Saxons and Thuringians. One year later, Charles the Bald died.
Due to the small number of 172 royal documents from 50 years of reign, it is impossible to create a detailed picture of Louis' whereabouts in the East Frankish empire. For comparison, Louis the Pious had 18 certificates created a year, and his stepbrother Charles the Bald had 12 produced per year. This tradition of not producing many documents lasts for several months at certain times. For example, it is completely uncertain where the East Frankish king stayed between June 849 and July 850. At least 52 documents are addressed to Bavarian beneficiaries. However, the intensity of the documentary production for Bavarian recipients steadily decreased during his reign.
As former stem-duchy, the Rhine-Main area contained Frankfurt, Mainz and Worms. It had plenty of Imperial Palaces and treasuries . Since it was located in the geographic centre of the East Frankish Empire, it was easily accessible by road. As a result, it was the region in which most East Frankish synods and imperial assemblies were hosted.
Nickname "The German"
Louis was only nicknamed "the German" in the 18th century. Contemporary West Frankish sources called Louis rex Germaniae ("King of Germania") or rex Germanorum ("King of the Teutons"). However, in this context, Germania or Germani does not mean "Germany" or "the Germans", but, as in ancient Latin, the area on the right bank of the Rhine outside the former Roman Empire and its inhabitants. Contemporaries considered Louis with the epithet pius (pious) or piissimus (very pious). The contemporary coinage called him HLUDOVICUS PIUS REX.
Marriage and children
Louis was married to Hemma (died 31 January 876)., and they had:
- Hildegard, (828–856)
- Carloman of Bavaria, (829–880), King of Bavaria
- Irmgard of Chiemsee also known as Ermengard, (died 866) (Louis, having established two of his other daughters as abbesses of convents, appointed Irmgard (also known as Ermengard) to govern first the monastery of Buchau and then the royal abbey of Chiemsee in Bavaria. She is commemorated as a saint on 17 July.)
- Gisela, married to Berthold I, Count Palatine of Swabia, and mother of Cunigunde of Swabia, wife of Conrad I of Germany.
- Louis the Younger, (835–882)
- Bertha, (died 877)
- Charles the Fat, (839–888)
- Goldberg 2006, pp. 26–27.
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- Geary, Patrick J. (2006). Women at the Beginning: Origin Myths from the Amazons to the Virgin Mary. Princeton University Press.
- Goldberg, Eric Joseph (2006). Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817-876. Cornell University Press.
- Gwatkin, Henry Melvill; Whitney, James Pounder; Tanner, Joseph Robson; Previté-Orton, Charles William; Brooke, Zachary Nugent, eds. (1957). The Cambridge Medieval History. Volume 3. Macmillan.
- McKitterick, Rosamond (1999). The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians. Longman.
- Reuter, Timothy (2013). Germany in the Early Middle Ages C. 800-1056. Routledge.
- Riche, Pierre (1993). The Carolingians: A Family who Forged Europe. Translated by Allen, Michael Idomir. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Walsh, Michael J. (2007). A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West. Liturgical Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Louis the German.|
- Literature by and about Louis the German in the German National Library catalogue
- Publications on Louis the German in the Opac of the Regesta Imperii
- Deed by Louis the German for St. Emmeram Abbey in Regensburg, 18 August 831, "digitalised image". Photograph Archive of Old Original Documents (Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden). University of Marburg.
Louis II of East FranciaBorn: c. 806 Died: 28 August 876
Charles the Younger
| Duke of Maine
Louis the Pious
as King of the Franks
| King of Bavaria
as King of Bavaria
| King of East Francia|
Louis the Younger
as King of Saxony
Charles the Fat
as King of Swabia