Franks’ laws on inheritance led to the division of the empire among his three sons. Then a fourth son was born.
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.
The battle began. The large numbers of the Franks who covered the ground for some distance dismayed the Britons, and many of them fled, seeking where they might hide themselves. Morvan, beside himself with rage and at the head of his most devoted followers, rushed down upon the Franks as if to demolish them at a single stroke; and many fell beneath his blows. He singled out a warrior of inferior grade, toward whom he made at a gallop, and, insulting him by word of mouth, after the ancient fashion of the Celtic warriors, cried: “Frank, I am going to give thee my first present, a present which I have been keeping for thee a long while, and which I hope thou wilt bear in mind;” and launched at him a javelin which the other received on his shield. “Proud Briton,” replied the Frank, “I have received thy present, and I am going to give thee mine.” He dug both spurs into his horse’s sides and galloped down upon Morvan, who, clad though he was in a coat of mail, fell pierced by the thrust of a lance. The Frank had but time to dismount and cut off his head when he fell himself, mortally wounded by one of Morvan’s young warriors, but not without having, in his turn, dealt the other his deathblow. It spreads on all sides that Morvan is dead; and the Franks come thronging to the scene of the encounter. There is picked up and passed from hand to hand a head all bloody and fearfully disfigured. Ditcar the monk is called to see it, and to say whether it is that of Morvan; but he has to wash the mass of disfigurement, and to partially adjust the hair, before he can pronounce that it is really Morvan’s. There is then no more doubt; resistance is now impossible; the widow, the family and the servants of Morvan arrive, are brought before Louis the Debonair, accept all the conditions imposed upon them, and the Franks withdraw with the boast that Brittany is henceforth their tributary.
On arriving at Angers, Louis found the empress Hermengarde dying; and two days afterward she was dead. He had a tender heart which was not proof against sorrow; and he testified a desire to abdicate and turn monk. But he was dissuaded from his purpose; for it was easy to influence his resolutions. A little later, he was advised to marry again, and he yielded. Several princesses were introduced; and he chose Judith of Bavaria, daughter of Count Welf (Guelf), a family already powerful and in later times celebrated. Judith was young, beautiful, witty, ambitious, and skilled in the art of making the gift of pleasing subserve the passion for ruling. Louis, during his expedition into Brittany, had just witnessed the fatal result of a woman’s empire over her husband; he was destined himself to offer a more striking and more long-lived example of it. In 823, he had, by his new empress Judith, a son, whom he called Charles, and who was hereafter to be known as Charles the Bald. This son became his mother’s ruling, if not exclusive, passion, and the source of his father’s woes. His birth could not fail to cause ill-temper and mistrust in Louis’ three sons by Hermengarde, who were already kings. They had but a short time previously received the first proof of their father’s weakness. In 822, Louis, repenting of his severity toward his nephew, Bernard of Italy, whose eyes he had caused to be put out as a punishment for rebellion, and who had died in consequence, considered himself bound to perform at Attigny, in the church and before the people, a solemn act of penance; which was creditable to his honesty and piety, but the details left upon the minds of the beholders an impression unfavorable to the Emperor’s dignity and authority. In 829, during an assembly held at Worms, he, yielding to his wife’s entreaties, and doubtless also to his own yearnings toward his youngest son, set at naught the solemn act whereby, in 817, he had shared his dominions among his three elder sons; and took away from two of them, in Burgundy and Alemannia, some of the territories he had assigned to them, and gave them to the boy Charles for his share. Lothair, Pepin, and Louis thereupon revolted. Court rivalries were added to family differences. The Emperor had summoned to his side a young southron, Bernard by name, duke of Septimania and son of Count William of Toulouse, who had gallantly fought the Saracens. He made him his chief chamberlain and his favorite counselor. Bernard was bold, ambitious, vain, imperious, and restless. He removed his rivals from court, and put in their places his own creatures. He was accused not only of abusing the Emperor’s favor, but even of carrying on a guilty intrigue with the empress Judith. There grew up against him, and, by consequence, against the Emperor, the Empress, and their youngest son, a powerful opposition, in which certain ecclesiastics, and, among them, Wala, abbot of Corbie, cousin-german and but lately one of the privy counselors of Charlemagne, joined eagerly. Some had at heart the unity of the empire, which Louis was breaking up more and more; others were concerned for the spiritual interests of the Church, which Louis, in spite of his piety and by reason of his weakness, often permitted to be attacked. Thus strengthened, the conspirators considered themselves certain of success. They had the empress Judith carried off and shut up in the convent of St. Radegonde at Poitiers; and Louis in person came to deliver himself up to them at Compiagne, where they were assembled. There they passed a decree to the effect that the power and title of emperor were transferred from Louis to Lothair, his eldest son; that the act whereby a share of the empire had but lately been assigned to Charles was annulled; and that the act of 817, which had regulated the partition of Louis’ dominions after his death, was once more in force. But soon there was a burst of reaction in favor of the Emperor; Lothair’s two brothers, jealous of his late elevation, made overtures to their father; the ecclesiastics were a little ashamed at being mixed up in a revolt; the people felt pity for the poor, honest Emperor; and a general assembly, meeting at Nimeguen, abolished the acts of Compiagne, and restored to Louis his title and his power.
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