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Charles, The Bald, and Ermentrude

CHARLES, THE BALD. CHARLES II, King of the West Franks. (He is known as Charles II of both the Holy Roman Empire and of France.) (Also know as The Bald, Karl der Kahle, Charles le Chauve.). King of France (Western Francia, Francia Occidentalis, West Frankish Kingdom) from 843 to 877 and Western emperor from 875 to 877. During Charles's reign some of the splendours of the Carolingian renaissance were revived, and his close collaboration with the church enhanced his prestige and authority.

Charles was born on 13 June 823, son of LOUIS I, "The Pious" and Judith. He was born when his elder brothers were already adults who had been assigned their own regna, or subkingdoms, by their father. The attempts made by Louis the Pious to assign Charles a kingdom, first Alemannia (829), then the country between the Meuse and the Pyrenees (839), at the expense of his half-brothers Lothair and Louis led to a rising on the part of these two against the emperor.

Charles was the unwitting cause of violent discord when, in 829, he was granted lands by his father; Louis's action precipitated a series of civil wars, lasting until 838, in which the three sons of his first marriage, Lothair I, Louis II the German, and Pippin I, strove to maintain or to increase the rights that they had been guaranteed by the succession settlement of 817, the Ordinatio imperii. Pippin died in 838, but after the death of Louis I in 840 the civil war resumed and continued until Louis the German joined with Charles to force Lothair to accept the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which Charles received all the lands west of a line roughly following the Scheldt, Meuse, and Sane rivers, the eastern mountains of the Massif Central, and the lower reaches of the Rhne River, and Louis the German and Lothair received respectively the lands of the East Franks (Germany) and the middle kingdom, lying between the other two.

The death of the emperor in 840 was the signal for the outbreak of war between his sons. Charles allied himself with his brother Louis the German to resist the pretensions of the emperor Lothar, and the two allies conquered him at Fontenoy-en-Puisaye on 25 June 841. In the following year, the two brothers confirmed their alliance by the celebrated oaths of Strassburg. The war was brought to an end by the treaty of Verdun in August 843. The settlement gave Charles the Bald the kingdom of the western Franks (Western Francia), which practically corresponded with what is now France, as far as the Meuse, the SaŰne and the Rhone, with the addition of the Spanish March as far as the Ebro.

Charles married Ermentrude in 842. She was apparently a cousin, according to `Annals of St. Bertin'.

The first years of Charles' reign, up to the death of Lothar I in 855, were comparatively peaceful, and during them was continued the system of "confraternal government" of the sons of Louis the Pious, who had various meetings with one another, at Coblenz (848), at Meersen (851), and at Attigny (854).

In 848 an Irish mission to Charles boasted that their problems with the Vikings was under control. The emperor was having less success with his own Viking problem.

In 858, Louis the German, summoned by disaffected nobles to oust Charles, invaded the western Frankish kingdom. Charles' reign was so unpopular that he was unable to summon an army, and he fled to Burgundy. He was saved only by the help of the bishops, who refused to crown Louis king, and by the fidelity of the Welfs, who were related to his mother, Judith. In 860 he in his turn tried to seize the kingdom of his nephew, Charles of Provence, but met with a repulse. On the death of his nephew Lothar II in 869, Charles tried to seize Lothar's dominions, but by the treaty of Mersen (870) was compelled to share them with Louis the German.

Besides these family disputes, Charles had to struggle against the incessant rebellions in Aquitaine and against the Bretons. Led by their chiefs NomenoŽ and ErispoŽ, who inflicted on the king the defeats of Ballon (845) and Juvardeil (851), the Bretons were somewhat successful. Charles also fought against the Normans, who devastated the country in the north of Gaul, the valleys of the Seine and Loire, and even up to the borders of Aquitaine. Charles was several times compelled to purchase their retreat at a heavy price. Charles led various expeditions against the invaders, and tried to put a barrier in their way by having fortified bridges built over all the rivers.

Until 864 Charles's political situation was precarious because few vassals were loyal to him. His lands suffered from raids by Northmen, who left only after receiving bribes; he was defeated by the Bretons and, in 858, faced an invasion by Louis the German. Yet he succeeded in gaining control of Aquitaine after the capture of Pippin's son in 864; and, by the Treaty of Meersen (870) with Louis the German, he received western Lorraine.

Three days after receiving news of Ermentrude's death in 869, he took Richildis, daughter of Count Bivin and a niece of Theutberga, as concubine and soon after married her.

After the death of the emperor Louis II in 875, Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII, descended into Italy, receiving the royal crown at Pavia, becoming King of Italy. He also received the imperial crown at Rome on (25 DEC)(29 DEC) 875 by Pope John VIII, thus becoming Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as well. He ruled until he died in 877.

Louis the German, who was also a candidate for the succession of Louis II, revenged himself for Charles's success by invading and devastating his dominions. Charles was recalled to Francia. After the death of Louis the German (28 AUG 876), in his turn made an attempt to seize his kingdom, but at Andernach met with a shameful defeat (8 OCT 876) at the hands of Louisís son, Louis III, the Younger.

In the meantime, John VIII, who was menaced by the Saracens, continued to urge Charles to come to Italy. After having taken at Quierzy the necessary measures for safeguarding the government of his dominions in his absence, Charles again crossed the Alps, but this expedition had been received with small enthusiasm by his own nobles, and even by Boso, Charles's brother-in-law, who had been entrusted by him with the government of Lombardy, and they refused to come with their men to join the imperial army.

At the same time Carloman, another son of Louis the German, entered northern Italy and marched against Charles. Charles, ill and in great distress, started on his way back to Gaul, and died while crossing the pass of the Mont Cenis (Brides-les-Bain, France) on the 5th or 6th of October 877.

Charles was succeeded by his son, Louis, the child of Ermentrude, daughter of a count of Orleans, whom he had married in 842, and who had died in 869. In 870 Charles had married Richilde, who was descended from a noble family of Lorraine, but none of the children whom he had by her played a part of any importance. Charles seems to have been a prince of education and letters, a friend of the church, and conscious of the support he could find in the episcopate against his unruly nobles, for he chose his councillors for preference from among the higher clergy, as in the case of Guenelon of Sens, who betrayed him, or of Hincmar of Reims.

WIFE (1):
Ermentrude (Hirmentrude, Irmintrud).
Of Orleans. Daughter of Odo, Count of Orleans and Engeltrude.

She married Charles, "The Bald", King of France in 842.

She was a gifted embroiderer and was interested in religious foundations. Charles gave her the nunnery of Chelles.

She died in 869.

CHILDREN of Charles, "The Bald", and Ermentrude:
  1. JUDITH. Born (in 840-S4)(in 844-S7)(probably in OCT 844)(about 853) in France. She married (1) ∆thelwulf, King of Wessex on 1 OCT 856 at Verberie sur Oise, France. Ethelwulf died 13 JAN 858. She was married (2) to ∆ethelbald in 858. After his death, the marriage was annulled (in 860-S3), and she was confined at Senlis. She eloped (3) with Baldwin I Ironarm, Count of Flanders in JAN 862, married probably at Senlis, then officially married at Auxerre. She died (in 870-S4,S7)(after 870).
  2. Louis, "The Stammerer." Born in 846 (848). Eloped in 862 with Ansgard, daughter of Count Harduin. They had children Louis III, King of Francia and Neustria (879); Karlmann, King of Aquitaine and Burgundy (879). In 856 Louis, the Stammerer became King of Neustria. In 877 he became King of West Francia. He married (2) Adelaide (Adelheid), dau. of Count Adalard. They had children: Charles, "The Simple" who became King of West Francia in 893; Carloman, and Louis III. Louis The Stammerer died in 879.
  3. Charles, "of Aquitaine." Born 847-848. In 855 he was made King of Aquitaine. He eloped in 862 with the widow of Count Humbert. The marriage was declared invalid the following year. Charles died in 866.
  4. Carloman. He was born in 849. In 854 he was tonsured and became a monk. In 860 he became Abbott of St. Medard Soissons. He died about 876.

WIFE (2):
descended from a noble family of Lorraine.

  1. ?


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