For years longer the scenes which have just been described kept repeating themselves again and again; rivalries and secret plots . . . .
Continuing Empire of the Franks Splits and Decays,
our selection from A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times by François P. G. Guizot. published in 1869. The selection is presented in ten easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Empire of the Franks Splits and Decays.
But it was not long before there was revolt again, originating this time with Pepin, King of Aquitaine. Louis fought him, and gave Aquitaine to Charles the Bald. The alliance between the three sons of Hermengarde was at once renewed; they raised an army; the Emperor marched against them with his; and the two hosts met between Colmar and Bale, in a place called le Champ rouge (“the Field of Red”). Negotiations were set on foot; and Louis was called upon to leave his wife Judith and his son Charles, and put himself under the guardianship of his elder sons. He refused; but, just when the conflict was about to commence, desertion took place in Louis’ army; most of the prelates, laics, and men-at-arms who had accompanied him passed over to the camp of Lothair; and the “Field of Red” became the “Field of Falsehood” (le Champ du Mensonge). Louis, left almost alone, ordered his attendants to withdraw, “being unwilling,” he said, “that any one of them should lose life or limb on his account,” and surrendered to his sons. They received him with great demonstrations of respect, but without relinquishing the prosecution of their enterprise. Lothair hastily collected an assembly, which proclaimed him Emperor, with the addition of divers territories to the kingdoms of Aquitaine and Bavaria: and, three months afterward, another assembly, meeting at Compiagne, declared the emperor Louis to have forfeited the crown, “for having, by his faults and incapacity, suffered to sink so sadly low the empire which had been raised to grandeur and brought into unity by Charlemagne and his predecessors.” Louis submitted to this decision; himself read out aloud, in the Church of St. Medard at Soissons, but not quite unresistingly, a confession, in eight articles, of his faults, and, laying his baldric upon the altar, stripped off his royal robe, and received from the hands of Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, the gray vestment of a penitent.
Lothair considered his father dethroned for good, and himself henceforth sole Emperor; but he was mistaken. For years longer the scenes which have just been described kept repeating themselves again and again; rivalries and secret plots began once more between the three victorious brothers and their partisans; popular feeling revived in favor of Louis; a large portion of the clergy shared it; several counts of Neustria and Burgundy appeared in arms, in the name of the deposed Emperor; and the seductive and able Judith came afresh upon the scene, and gained over to the cause of her husband and her son a multitude of friends. In 834, two assemblies, one meeting at St. Denis and the other at Thionville, annulled all the acts of the assembly of Compiagne, and for the third time put Louis in possession of the imperial title and power. He displayed no violence in his use of it; but he was growing more and more irresolute and weak, when, in 838, the second of his rebellious sons, Pepin, king of Aquitaine, died suddenly. Louis, ever under the sway of Judith, speedily convoked at Worms, in 839, once more and for the last time, a general assembly, whereat, leaving his son Louis of Bavaria reduced to his kingdom in Eastern Europe, he divided the rest of his dominions into two nearly equal parts, separated by the course of the Meuse and the Rhone. Between these two parts he left the choice to Lothair, who took the eastern portion, promising at the same time to guarantee the western portion to his younger brother Charles. Louis the Germanic protested against this partition, and took up arms to resist it. His father, the Emperor, set himself in motion toward the Rhine, to reduce him to submission; but, on arriving close to Mayence, he caught a violent fever, and died on the 20th of June, 840, at the castle Ingelheim, on a little island in the river. His last acts were a fresh proof of his goodness toward even his rebellious sons and of his solicitude for his last-born. He sent to Louis the Germanic his pardon, and to Lothair the golden crown and sword, at the same time bidding him fulfill his father’s wishes on behalf of Charles and Judith.
There is no telling whether, in the credulousness of his good nature, Louis had, at his dying hour, any great confidence in the appeal he made to his son Lothair, and in the impression which would be produced on his other son, Louis of Bavaria, by the pardon bestowed. The prayers of the dying are of little avail against violent passions and barbaric manners. Scarcely was Louis the Debonair dead, when Lothair was already conspiring against young Charles, and was in secret alliance, for his despoilment, with Pepin II, the late King of Aquitaine’s son, who had taken up arms for the purpose of seizing his father’s kingdom, in the possession of which his grandfather Louis had not been pleased to confirm him. Charles suddenly learned that his mother Judith was on the point of being besieged in Poitiers by the Aquitanians; and, in spite of the friendly protestations sent to him by Lothair, it was not long before he discovered the plot formed against him. He was not wanting in shrewdness or energy; and, having first provided for his mother’s safety, he set about forming an alliance, in the cause of their common interests, with his other brother, Louis the Germanic, who was equally in danger from the ambition of Lothair. The historians of the period do not say what negotiator was employed by Charles on this distant and delicate mission; but several circumstances indicate that the empress Judith herself undertook it; that she went in quest of the King of Bavaria; and that it was she who, with her accustomed grace and address, determined him to make common cause with his youngest against their eldest brother. Divers incidents retarded for a whole year the outburst of this family plot, and of the war of which it was the precursor.
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