Lotharingia, East and West Francia – 843-1100

The Treaty of Verdun – 843 

The Carolingian Empire was very short lived, without an adequate and effective follow-up administration the Empire started to crumble and the continent was in for two centuries of warring. This started immediately after the death of Charlemagne when bloody family-wars split the once mighty empire.  After the death of his son Louis the Pious, the land was – according  the‘Ordinatio Imperii’ – divided between his warring sons and at the Treaty of Verdun in August 843,  it was divided into three independent kingdoms.


Europe after the Treaty of Verdun
Europe after the Treaty of Verdun
  • Charles the Bald – the western partition (West Francia )
  • Louis the German  –  the eastern side . East Francia what would later become the Holy Roman Empire
  • Lothar I – the Middle Kingdom a range of territories from Frisia in the north to Spoleto in Italy in the south.

The effects of this first great European treaty are still relevant to the political situation of Europe to this day.

The boarder of 843 between West Francia and the Middle Kingdom in the north was along the Lower Scheldt. In Ghent we did see the last remnant of this boarder a hundred meter stretch of the old Lower-Scheldt (locally known as the Reep) that has not been filled in, next to the old castle Geeraard de Duivelsteen. Valenciennes, Ename and Antwerp were other important border cities in the Scheldt Valley See: Brabant Emerging) . In Ename we also visited the site where the boarder fortress was established.

After the treaty of Verdun the brothers regularly conferred in Meerssen, near Maastricht, in relation to common issues. Apart from weakness created by the ongoing internal infightings, the internal division also  weakened the overall outside border control of the region. There were ongoing conflicts, in the south with the Arabs, in the Mediterranean with Byzantium and in the north the ongoing invasions of the Vikings. By 844 the Norsemen had already reached Toulouse and in 845 they sacked Paris, Bordeaux in 848 and Orleans in 853.

The more compact nature of the east and west kingdoms (what later would become France and Germany) and the far less easy to defend long and at some places narrow Middle Kingdom, made the first two more powerful than the middle one.

East Francia

The nobility of the old tribal areas in East Francia were able to restore their independence for their own counts, dukes and princes, this development of independence  was led  by Bavaria. While there was some unity between the various regions  from the 10th  century onward they operated independently. The Carolingian dynasty here ended in 911.

East Francia  kings

Name House King/Emperor Notes
Louis the German Carolingian 843- 876 Son of Louis the Pious
Louis the Younger Carolingian 876 -882 Son of Louis the German; ruled in East Francia, Saxony, from 880 also Bavaria
Carloman Carolingian 876-876 Son of Louis the German; ruled in Bavaria; from 877 also King of Italy
Charles the Fat Carolingian 876- 887 Son of Louis the German; ruled in Alemannia, Raetia, from 882 in the entire Eastern Kingdom
Arnulf of Carinthia Carolingian 887-899 Son of Carloman
Louis the Child Carolingian 900-911 Son of Arnulf of Carinthia
Conrad I Conradine (Franconian) 911-918
Henry I the Fowler Liudolfing (Saxon) 919-936
Arnulf the Bad Luitpolding (Bavarian) 919-921 Rival king to Henry I

West Francia

The Carolingian inheritors of West Francia  subsequently shared the fate of their eastern cousins: after an intermittent power struggle between the Carolingian and Capetian  families, the accession (987) of Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, established the Capetian dynasty on the throne which with its Valois and Bourbon offshoots was to rule France for more than 800 years. After 987, the kingdom came to be known as France, as the new ruling dynasty (the Capetians) were originally dukes of Île-de-France, the region encompassing Paris.

Lotharingia – Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom – despite being the most richest and prestigious part with the capitals of Aachen and Rome, it even received the imperial title – was a disaster from the start. It was impossible to defend or to have any form of effective centralised government it was  such a geographic monster that it started to fell apart soon after it was formed and became a continuously disputed area, well into modern times.

Lotharingia (L) in the context of East and West Francia

Key dates for L. West Francia Lotharingia East Francia
843 Treaty Verdun Charles the Bald +877 Lothar I +855 Louis the German +876
855 Treaty Prum Lothar II  +869 Lost Italy, Province, Burgundy
870 Treaty Meerssen 870 divided between E+W Francia
Louis the Stammerer +879 879 war between E+W Francia Louis the Younger +882 invades West F.
880 Treaty Ribemont Louis III Louis the Younger King of L.

Reunites Carolingian Empire – Charles the Fat (East Francia) +887

894 Kingdom of L. Eudes/Odo (elected king) +890 Arnulf establish new kingdom of L appoints Zwentibold +900. Challenged by Reginar of Hainault Arnulf of Carinthia +899


Autonomous nobles

Charles III the Simple imprisoned in 923, +929 Rollo get Normandy, nobles object Arnolph of Flanders kills Rollo autonomous nobles Louis the Child +911
Reginar refuses Conrad, allies with Ch III who becomes king of L. In 911, nobles receive semi independence 920 Gilbert of Hainault +936 claims Prince of L. Conrad I +918
Nobles abandon Ch III accept Henry as overlord.L. 5th Duchy of East F. Henry the Fowler +936
936 From now on permanently  under control of East Francia Duchy of L. Louis IV Outremere +954 L.IV marries widow of Gilbert H.. But nobles unite behind Otto War L.IV-Otto. L IV is defeated and concedes L.  to Otto Conrad Red appointed Duke of L, revolts in 944 against Otto.Archbishop Bruno of Cologne appointed as admin. of L. Split Lower and Upper L.Godfrey I of Hainault (Verdun) vice-duke of Lower L 959 Otto I +973

 Decline of the empire and the rise of regional powers

It could be dangerous to think that the Carolingian Empire and later on the individual territories had any internal cohesion or structure.  There were an estimated 10-20 million people in the empire and in the Low Countries perhaps just over 100,000 people. There were pockets of population where the population was controlled by the local rulers who operated as vassals but in between these pockets there was little or no control as there were little or no people living there. These lands were largely empty.

Slowly the old Carolingian power structures started to weaken, this is also reflected in the unceremonial names of the kings: ‘the bald’, ‘the stammerer’, ‘the fat’, ‘the child’, ‘the simple’, ‘the younger’.

The borderlines of the various divisions that were made during the 9th century  did not always take into account the interests of the local nobility.  As a consequence, the period following the collapse of Charlemagne’s Empire until 1100 is characterised by an ongoing all-out war between the dozens and dozens of existing and newly emerging landlords who at different times supported or fought the competing kings of East and West Francia.   See also feudalism and vassalage. This turmoil and power vacuum allowed some of the smaller territories to gain more independence around the castles that they stared to built.

It was in the original lands of the Middle Kingdom – where the local rulers were able to obtain greater independent power – that economic progress started to occur;  in the south in the  areas were over the next century the various mini states in what is now Italy would be able to carve out their independent territories and in the north  the same applied but here they grew into regional powers such as Flanders and Brabant and some time later also  Gelre and Holland.

These new regional rulers were able to win followers by forcefully  taking control of the Carolingian lands and awarded their followers parts of this land in exchange for vassalage. This led as mentioned above to 200 years of violence, social collapse, exploitation and a total lack of central administration. These wars were largely hit and run campaigns, with castles emerging as the ‘weapons’ that allow them to do so; a quick campaign or raid followed by a retreat to the castle. The castle was more of an attack rather than a defense weapon.

Creating wealth based on land did mean the use the land for agriculture production. Initially free farmers were employed but through the Frankish heritage system these lands had to be split between sons and slowly many plots became uneconomically and the farmers ended up as serfs under the lord.

With the collapse of the Middle Kingdom, also the importance of the title of Emperor declined. This title would later on be claimed by the kings of East Francia. However, during the Burgundian times the importance of Lotharingia was rekindled and used to also increase the status of the Burgundian dukes.

As was the case with the Merovingian kings, also with the Carolingian kings there always remained an aura of sacredness around the royal institution, which for example meant that nearly always the more or less independent counts and dukes at least nominally accepted the king as their overlord. At the end of the many palace revolutions the end result was that there always would emerge a king who was seen as having those sacred powers as God’s ruler on earth.

Interestingly back to the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, it became the clergy who to a certain extend kept the unity of the various independent or semi independent lands together in the name of Christianity. They of course  also used that sacredness to their own advantage.

East Francia

King Louis the German

Louis emerged as the biggest winner of the three sons of Louis the Pious , being given all the regions east of the Rhine. He resided at Regensburg and Frankfurt (Ford of the Franks).

There was now a brief period where the empire was united (see West Francia)

Kings Arnulf of East Francia

After the death of Charles the Fat  (son of Louise the German) the West Francia nobles in East Francia used this opportunity to make a grab for power and Charles nephew, Arnulf of Carinthia the bastard son of Carloman of Bavaria who was the son of Louis the German became the next King of East Francia. He established a new kingdom of Lotharingia in 894, which he entrusted to his bastard son Zwentibold, keeping the troubled Frisians lands, which were still threatened by the Vikings, for himself. Arnulf also was instrumental in the establishment of what later would become the County of Holland.

In 889 he granted a local lord, Gerulf, – who had a strongholds in a coastal part of Frisia – lands in that area (Kennemerland) this, as a reward for the assassination of the Viking chief Godofrid in 885. According to Regino,  Abbot of Prüm, it had been Charles the Fat who had previously plotted the assassination.

Another Frisian who was rewarded for the death of Godofrid was Everhard Saxo (from the Meginhard family in Hamaland), he became Count of Friesland. Gerulf son Waldger tried to establish the  separate county of Teisterband around Tiel. This brought him in conflict with Everhard who in 898 was killed by Waldger.

Arnulf also launched two campaigns into Italy to assist the Pope against the ongoing feudal power struggles between the local counts of Unruochings and Spoleto and the Roman senatorial families. He was crowned emperor by Pope Formosus in 895.

King Louis the Child

Upon the death of Arnulf in 899, the nobles claimed his six-year old son,  Louis the Child as their king -as he was seen as the natural leader – and disowned the violent and authoritarian Zwentibold, who was seen as a ‘foreigner’ and was subsequently killed the following year.

The young age of the new king left of course plenty of room for these nobles to intervene.

Despite being part of the German kingdom, Lotharingia was able to keep its own distinct administration led by a group of lay magnates and the bishop of Trier. If needed, they didn’t shy away of asking for support of king of West Francia if that suited their cause for (semi) independence.

Louis tried to take some military control as he grew older, but he had little success against the Magyars. His army was destroyed at the Pressburg in 907 and again in Lechfeld 911, He died only eighteen years of age. His death brought an end to the eastern branch of the Carolingian dynasty.

King Conrad I

After the dearth of Louis the Child, Conrad I became the elected German king. He was the son of Conrad, Duke of Thuringia, they had their power base  in the Lahn region, and competed vigorously for dominance in Franconia.

His reign from 911 till 918, was one of failures which led to splintering of the East Francia kingdom. This only strengthened to local powers. The Vikings also used this opportunity to strengthen their power in the region,  Canute the Great – king of England, Denmark and Norway – went on a pilgrimage to Rome and secured the Pope’s support, he also married Conrad’s daughter Gunnhild and thus secured the border between East Francia and Denmark.

King Henry the Fowler – From Franks to Saxons

In the meantime Henry I Duke of Saxony  succeeded in 919 Conrad I. Their heartland was in the fertile hunting grounds of the Harz, where they build their fortifications in Werla, just north of the mountains.  However, in the mid 10th century they build a new palace – replacing a hunting lodge – in Rammelsberg (now Goslar), close to the silver mountains.

As an avid hunter he received the epithet ‘the Fowler’. This was an interesting change-over from Frankish rule to Saxon rule. Henry became the first Saxon king – representing the people that not so long before this time were conquered by Charlemagne. There were concerns about this change and its legitimacy as can be read in contemporary writings on this situation from people like Widukind and Hrotsvitha.

Born in Memleben, in 876, in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, Henry was the son of Otto the Illustrious, Duke of Saxony, and his wife Hedwiga, daughter of Henry of Franconia and Ingeltrude and a great-great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.

Otto the Illustrious was the younger son of Duke Liudolf of Saxony and his wife Oda of Billung. His family, named after his father, is called the Liudolfing, after the accession of his grandson Emperor Otto I also the Ottonian dynasty.

The Liudolfings held large estates on the Leine river west of the Harz mountain range and in the adjacent Eichsfeld territory of Thuringia. Their ancestors probably acted as ministeriales in the Saxon stem duchy, which had been incorporated into the Carolingian Empire after the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne.

In 906 Henry married Hatheburg, daughter of the Saxon count Erwin. She had previously been a nun. The marriage was annulled in 909 because her vows as a nun were deemed by the church to remain valid. She had already given birth to Henry’s son Thankmar. The annulment placed a question mark over Thankmar’s legitimacy.

Later that year he married Mathilda (born in 895), daughter of Dietrich, Count in Westphalia . Mathilda bore him three sons, Otto, Henry (Duke of Bavaria – the Wrangler) and Bruno (archbishop of Cologne), and two daughters, Hedwig  (she married Duke Hugh the Great of France and was the mother of Hugh Capet, the first Capetian king of France) and Gerberga (married King Louis IV of France), they founded many religious institutions, including the most important of the royal monasteries, Quedlinburg – founded by Queen Mathilda in honour of Henry  – where the king is buried (died in 936). Mathilda as the dowager queen mother died in 968.

After the death of Louis IV, Gerberga became the Abbess of Gandersheim, which was in competition with Quedlinburg for the royal family for favours and support. Ganderheim was at that time also the home of Hrotsvitha, the famous chronicler mentioned above.

East Francia originally consisted of four tribal duchies:

  • Saxony (Saxons) – since 908 included the Thuringii duchy
  • Franconia (Franks)
  • Swabia (Suebi) – also included the ethnic group of the Alamanni
  • Bavaria (Baiuvari)

These tribal duchies were independent territories who only worked together in a loose federation. However, this started to change in 911 when a combined army of these duchies was defeated by the invading Magyars in 911 (first battle of Lechfield). Under Henry a closer cooperation was formed. He was also the first king to break with the Frankish tradition of dividing the patrimony. From now the east Frankish younger sons could still share in the inheritance but the kingdom became indivisible, as such he is seen as the first German King (rather than the next king of  East Francia).

Henry also wanted to reclaim Lotharingia, he claimed rights through an aunt who had married Zwentibold. However, at this stage he didn’t dare to challenge Charles the Simple. The two met and agreed to maintain the status quo.

After the defeat of Charles the Simple of East Francia and now under the control of Henry, the Kingdom of Lotharingia  was in 925  permanently incorporated as the 5th duchy of this realm. From now on  this territory was no longer based on tribal and pagi (gouwen) boundaries and also Frisia  was now at least officially part of it. While now part of the German Empire, Lotharingia would remain a contested area and it was until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that Germany withdrew its claim from the Low Countries. Other areas such as Alsace-Lorraine remained contested by France and Germany  till well into the 20th century.

Now it was Henry’s time to further strengthened his ties with Lotharingia by marrying his daughter Gerberda to Count Gilbert of Lotharingia, the son of Reginar I of Hainault. She brought Brussels into the realm of Lotharingia as her dowry.

Both King Ralph (West Francia) and king Henry (East Francia) died in 936. This provided a unique opportunity to re-establish historic Carolingian powers.

Henry had become powerful enough to appoint his son Otto as the next king. From here on the Saxon kings are referred to as  Ottonians.

From now on we basically see a slightly more stabilised development between East Francia (speaking the German language) to the east and West Francis (speaking the French language) to the west. Both started to accept that there wouldn’t be a united Carolingian Empire again.

Emperor Otto I the Great – Holy Roman Empire

After the death of Henry the Fowler in 936 his son Otto I (the Great – born in 912) became the next king and he provided strong leadership. He reinforced control over Saxony and Lotharingia and annexed Italy in 951. To strengthen his position the recently widowed Otto, married in Pavia, in 951 Queen Adelheid (Ethelheitham, Adelaide in English) of Italy (931-999), the wife of the deceased King Lothair of Italy and the daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy and Bertha of Swabia.

Otto was the one that finally was able to stop the foreign invasions in the east, he defeated the Magyars in 955. This allowed him to revive imperial pretensions.

He arranged for his coronation in the Carolingian and Lotharingia capital Aachen, which was now firmly back into the hands of the Germans. He also firmly put his focus on Italy when –   in 962 –  Pope John XII asked Otto for military support during the ongoing conflict between the Pope and the various contenders for control over Rome and the Papacy (See:  Italy and the Papal Pornocracy)

He reinstated the Pope in that same year and provided security for the independence of the Papal States. He  found himself worthy of the imperial coronation and two days after he arrived in Rome he had himself and his wife crowned by the Pope.

The next day he had the pope sign the so called (Diploma) Ottonianum (also called the Privilegium Ottonianum),  it confirmed the earlier Donation of Pippin, granting the Emperor  control over the Papal States, regularising Papal elections, appoint bishops  and clarifying other relationship between the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors. This document would dominate German politics for the next 300 years, as the Emperors moved their focus away from Germany , instead concentrating on bringing Italy fully under their powers, this however, would never happen.

With this agreement under his arms he was able  establish his power among the many warring regional nobles throughout his realm. The way he did this was  by taking land and power away from these nobles and transfer them to ecclesiastic rulers – especially to bishops (Prince-Bishoprics) – these church positions were non-heretical and with the Ottonianum he was able after the death of the bishop to simply appoint a new on, loyal to him. This also became the start of the Investiture Conflict, which – at the Concordate of Worms in 1122 – was eventually won by the Pope. However, at least  at the start of this period, with his powerful control over the Church, he could exactly do that and transferred large properties to the various bishops in his Empire.

He was also able to arrange peace with the Byzantine Empire and earned the respect of the Byzantium Emperor who accepted Otto’s position as the Emperor in the previous western part of the Roman Empire. For a thousand years his Holy Roman Empire  would play at least symbolically a key role in European history. Otto’s legacy ‘the Great’ was the fact that he had the vision of international relationships based on peace rather than war and a large part of his life was dedicated to international (peace) negotiations with his neighbours including with the Caliph of the Iberian Peninsula.

Ottonian- Iberian Connections.

At the age of twenty, John of Gorze had already formed relationships with powerful figures of the region, including Count Ricuin of Verdun, and Dado, bishop of Verdun. He became a Benedictine monk at the Gorze Abbey in 933 after renouncing his wealth as an administrator of landed estates and making a pilgrimage to Rome and Monte Cassino.

In 953 he was sent as ambassador for Emperor Otto I to the Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III of Córdoba he stayed there for three years. The purpose of this mission was to stop the attacks made by Andalusian adventurers from their base at Fraxinet. Together with his delegation he presented the Caliph  a letter from Otto as well as valuable gifts.

The caliph’s ambassador, a Jew by the name of Hasdai ibn Shaprut, met with this embassy. The Caliph, fearing that the letter of the German emperor might contain matter derogatory to Islam, commissioned Hasdai to open the negotiations with the envoys. Hasdai, who soon perceived that the letter could not be delivered to the Caliph in its present form, persuaded the envoys to send for another letter which should contain no objectionable matter.

John  also contacted local Mozarabs such as Recemundus who was the secretary of the caliph of Córdoba  and acquainted with Islamic learning. When John returned to Lorraine, he brought with him manuscripts from Spain that made that duchy a center for the diffusion of Muslim learning and science.

Following the initial spate of undiplomatic letters between the two rulers, Racemundus served as ambassador for the Caliph to Otto I. In Germany, he successfully normalised relations between the nominal rulers of Christendom and Islamdom.

Upon his return to Spain, he was rewarded with the vacant see of Elvira. He continued his work as an ambassador to Christendom, going to the other European emperor in Constantinople, and then to Jerusalem, the holiest city in the three great monotheistic faiths (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).

In 961, Recemundus presented an Arabic calendar of Christian holidays (including some commemorating the Martyrs of Córdoba) to the new caliph, al-Hakim II.

Emperor Otto II

For a long time Otto the Great  had been trying to arranged a marriage between his son Otto (II) (955-983) and the Byzantine princess, eventually he succeeded when Theophanu (955-991) a niece of the Emperor by marriage (and probably from Armenian decent) arrived – in 972 – in great splendor  for her marriage with Otto II in Rome. She received a very impressive wedding gift that included among others, the Provence of Walcheren, properties at Tiel and the guardianship of the Monastery of Nijvel.

In 980, Theophanu gave birth to her son Otto in the Reichswald on her way to the Emperor’s caste in Nijmegen and she was transported here for her recovery. After the early  death of her husband in 983 she became the Regent for her son (who had already been crowned emperor at the age of three). She traveled extensively as the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, she also stayed with her son for prolonged periods in Rome.

At this time the Eastern Empire – where she came form – had a much more advanced system of governance, it had a standing army, a fixed court and a large bureaucracy, none if this was yet in existence in the Western Empire. Theophanu no doubt tapped into her Byzantine knowledge and experiences as she showed great skills in her negotiations with the various vassals, especially in her negotiations with the Lotharingian rulers in the west (in relation to the  problems that arrived, as mentioned above,  in 925). She was able to built up good relationships with Beatrice the Regent Dowager Duchess of Upper Lotharingia,  Emma the queen of West Francia as well as with Adelheid the wife of the powerful Hugh Carpet and sister-in-law of Beatrice. In 985 these four ladies came together in Metz to discuss the various border issues between their territories and this led to the so called Peace of the Queens (Colloquium Dominarum). (These ladies are also mentioned elsewhere in this section).

In 991 new problems arrived in relation to the situation of Lotharingia and for that reason Theophanu  traveled to Nijmegen. Very unexpectedly she died here at the age of 35. There are suggestions that there is a link between the Byzantine princes and the  St Nicolas chapel  at the site of the destroyed castle ‘Valkenhof’ .

She was buried at the St Pantaleon Monastery in Cologne, which had been founded by the brother of Otto I, Abbott Bruno (The Great see below).

It is interesting to note how far reaching the political alliances of those times were. Marriage alliance linked together all the main kingdoms: England, Burgundy, France, Germany, Bohemia, Russia, Bulgaria and Byzantium. All Courts had ambassadors and scholars representing many different peoples, cultures and languages and for most of the time free travel existed between them. The top level of society was remarkable international.

As the result of tribal and family relational there were significant ties between the Saxons and the Frisians in the Low Countries. Because of the rise in power of the Saxons, the Frisians also profited from this, several were close relatives and or advisers to the Emperor and his family.

It was also at this time that the monk Widukind of Corbie/Corvei wrote the history of the Saxons (Res Gestae Saxonicae) which he dedicates to the daughter of Otto II, Mathilda the Abbess of Quedlinburg in the Harz.

Emperor Otto III

Because of the influence of his mother and the fact that they so often stayed in Rome,  he became –  in 996 at the age of 16 – the first emperor who also understood the imperial ideology, which should rise above Germany. He moved his court permanently to Rome. This assisted him in extending his territorial ambitions in Italy. He faced ongoing opposition from the Roman senatorial families as well as from the Italian nobility. When he started to appoint Italian bishops a revolt followed and he had to flee Rome. However, his absence in Germany provided the opportunity for the local nobility to extend their own powers and over the next few centuries this would led to the fracturing of Germany in  some 300 more or less independent territories.  Otto III died in 1002 when he tried to recapture Rome from Ravenna. As he was not married he died without heirs.

Emperor Henry II

He was succeeded by Henry II ( II as in Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) . Son of Henry II of Bavaria and  Princess Gisela of Burgundy, who was the niece of Empress Adelheid (married to Otto I). He was born in 973 and died in 1024.

Henry the Wrangler of Bavaria

Henry II of Bavaria (the Wrangler or the Quarrelsome) was a brother of Otto I and received his name because he had challenged on several occasions  the Emperors. However, he never succeeded – and on one occasion was exiled to Utrecht and was only released by Bishop Folkmar after the death of Otto II in 983. However, he rebelled again this time against the four year old king Otto III, who he kidnapped. He finally settled his disputes in 985 and handed Otto over to the regents Empress Mother Adelheid, Empress Theophanu and Abbess Mathilda (daughter of Otto II), this finally restored the peace within the royal family.

While Henry the Wrangler never was able to become king, soon after his death in 995 (and the death of Otto III ) , his son Henry III of Bavaria was crowned as King Henry II in 1002 and as emperor in 1014.

The rule of Henry II is seen as a period of centralized authority throughout the Empire. He consolidated his power by cultivating personal and political ties with the Catholic Church. He greatly expanded the Ottonian dynasty’s custom of employing clergy as counter-weights against secular nobles (prince-bishops). He increased control over ecclesiastical affairs. He stressed service to the Church and promoted monastic reform. For his personal holiness and efforts to support the Church, Pope Bl. Eugene III canonized him in 1146, making Henry II the only German monarch to be a saint.

Henry II married Cunigunde (Kunigunde) of Luxembourg (975-1040), who later became his queen and empress. As the union produced no children, after Henry’s death  Conrad II succeeded him. Conrad was the first of the Salian dynasty of Emperors (back to Frankish dynasty).

Ottonian (Saxon) Dynasty – reigning periods

Henry I the Fowler 919-936

Otto I the Great, 962–973

Otto II, 973–983

Otto III, 996–1002

Henry II the Saint, 1014–1024

The Saxon dynasty was succeeded by the Salian (1024-1125) and Hohenstaufen (1132-1254) dynasties.

Looking back none of Otto the Great’s successors were powerful enough to built on his success of  and long lasting peace and political stability remained rather elusive. This was partially because in order to negotiate all these arrangements he had to hand out privileges and power to his vassals the counts, dukes and bishops.

 Emperor Conrad II (Salian/Hohenstaufen)

After the death of Emperor Henry II in 1024,  the German nobles elected Conrad II (b.990) he was only a mid level nobleman (Counts of Speyer) but a great-great-grandson of Emperor Otto I and he had the trust of his peers including Count Dirk of Holland who also supported the choice of Salian (Frankish)  Conrad II as the next Emperor He was crowned in 1027 and became the founder of the emerging Hohenstaufen dynasty, who originated from Franconia.

Under the Conrad II, the Kingdom of Burgundy was annexed in 1032 (the County of Burgundy remained part of West Francia) and Italy was once again brought under control. The Holy Roman Empire was now well and truly established as the dominant power in Europe.

The German kings based their power on the Church, it was the Imperial Church. Bishops and abbots had to supply the king with tax income and militia in a similar way as the secular nobility was linked  to the king through vassalage and ministerialis (unfree court servants). Under Conrad there was a large increase in the number of ministerialis and this can be seen as the start of the formation of the early bureaucracies. At the same kings started to invest bishop with more secular powers – which required even more ministerialis –  often their secular and ecclesiastical territories were (partly) different. This however, brought the Emperor in direct conflict with the pope, which led to a serious undermining of the authority of Emperor Henry IV. As he was excommunicated by the Pope he was loosing the support of his nobles, who used the opportunity to increase their own powers. This forced him to make the journey to Canossa, to ask for foreghiveness of the Pope. He did receive this thanks to negoriator Mathilda of Tuscany, Countess of Canmossa. However, three years later he renecked on this and was excommunicated agai, However, at that time he had enough power to keep his nobles in check and simply ignored the order. (see also: Investiture Controversy: The battle between religion and state.

Back to Conrad II, he died in 1039 of gout while staying in Utrecht.

Salian Emperors

  • Conrad II 1024-1039, emperor 1027
  • Henry III 1039-1056, emperor 1046
  • Henry IV 1056-1106 emperor 1084
  • Conrad (1087–1098, nominal king under his father Henry IV)
  • Henry V 1106-1125, emperor 1111

From 925 till the middle of the 13th century the Emperors were also the nominal rulers of the Low Countries, but as indicated above, with their interests focused on increasing their power in Italy, they hardly ever were able to hold real power over the independent Counts, Dukes and the Bishop of Utrecht. However, trouble erupted every time when there were changes to the thrones in any of these territories.

While at this stage there was no indication that France would ever reach a similar unity, the facts proofed to be different.  The relationships between the French nobility and their king was such that there was a more equal spread of power in this environment more slowly but also more sustainable the French King was able to grew into a much more central figure of  West Francia.

Just as it looked like Europe arrived in a more stable situation, the Normans arrived in the Mediterranean. They ousted the Arabs and the Byzantines and proclaimed the Pope as their overlord. This of course meant trouble for the Emperors. The Popes used this situation to increase their secular powers, this led to power struggle between the pope and next Salian emperors Henry III and Henry IV. Continuation of the history of the Holy Roman Empire .


Holy Roman Empire 11th C

West Francia

King Charles the Bald

He was born in 823 as the youngest son of Louis the Pious and Judith of Bavaria. He was married to Ermentrude and Richeut .

Charles the Bald spend most of his time in the various abbeys around his kingdom. Following the Treaty of Verdun he was crowned king of the Franks in 843. He was able to briefly reunite the empire and was crowned emperor by Pope John VII in 875. However, the union lasted for two years only (875-877).

After his death  in 877 the individual territories were able to gain independence and they started to form their own centra of administration. Most of these regions had no ethnic, cultural or linguistic link with the Franks. These people were Visigoths, Aquitainians, Bretons, etc. It was the County of Barcelona in 868 (growing into Catalonia) that separated first followed by: Aquitaine, Brittany, Burgundy,  Flanders, Gascony, Gothia (Septimania), the Île-de-France, Poitou and Toulouse.  In name they were fiefs of the French King but in all reality they were totally independent. Effectually the powers of West Francia were pushed back to a small area around Paris.

King Louis the Stammer

After the unexpected death of Charles the Bald in 877, his sickly son Louis the Stammer (Louis II) assumed control over West Francia. He was born in 846 as the son of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude and married Ansgarde d’Hiémois and Adelheid (Aélis) of Paris.

Severe mismanagement led to renewed violence amongst the nobility and the church had to intervene in order to maintain unity in the Christian empire. Louis died only two years later. A range of contenders now entered the field (names and dates are correct, be it somewhat confusion):

  • From East Francia: the sons of  Louis the German: Louis III (the Younger d. 882) and Charles III (the Fat d 888)
  • From West Francia: the sons of  Louis the Stammerer (grandsons Charles the Bald):  Louis III (d. 882), Carloman (d.884) and Charles III (the Simple d 929)
  • From Lotharighia: Hugh the illegitimate son of Lothar II (he was blinded in 885 and imprisoned in the monastery of Prüm).

They of course all had their own fractions who supported them. And again during these unstable times, the Vikings were only to happy to profit from the disarray and plundered Flanders, Brabant and northern Saxony, Ghent was sacked in 879. It was left to the local counts and dukes to fight for themselves as the Kings were to weak to provide any support.

This ended a period of relative population growth in this part of the world. The devastation continued during the following 80 years (till 950) only to be replaced by renewed wars between East and West Francia (see below). Flourishing communities until that time, such as those near Uden, Haps and Hulsel disappeared. In other regions populations often declined by 50%.

Treaty of Ribémont – 880 – the re-emergence of Lotharingia

After the death Louis the German,  his brother Charles the Bald and nephews Louis the Younger, Louis the Stammerer and his son Carloman II of East Francia signed the Treaty of Ribémont (modern day Aisne) this would become that last Frankish treaty regarding the ongoing division of the  Carolingian Empire.

Louis the Younger had already  secured the friendship of Charles The Bald  successor Louis the Stammerer at the Treaty of Fourons in november 878.

The two nephews promised to accept the successions of their respective sons. This treaty was put to the test when Louis the Stammerer died in april 879. A western delegation  invited Louis the Younger to take control of West Francia. Because the wife of Louis the Stammer, Luitgard,  also supported this idea, Louis the Younger invaded West Francia. He reached as far as Verdun, but he retreated after his nephews, the kings Louis III of West France and Carloman II, became co-kings of West Francia and gave up their share of Lotharingia to him,

Meanwhile Boso of Provence, a noble of Carolingian descent, proclaimed himself king of the Provence. Moreover, the Vikings resumed their attacks. To deal with these threats, the Carolingian kings decided to put aside their differences so as the deal with the threats together. That is when they met at Ribémont. In return for Louis the Younger’s neutrality, the kings of West France confirmed Louis’ possession of the parts of Lotharingia that had been given to them since the Treaty of Meerssen. This left them free to deal with Bosso.

Co-kings Louis III the Younger and Carloman

Following the Treaty of Ribémont Louis III of West France (863-882) and Carloman II (866-887), became in 879 co-kings of West Francia. They were both sons of Louis the Stammerer and Ansgarde.

They both fought the Normans on the Loire and in Normandy,. After the death of  Louis the Younger in 882, his brother Carloman was again able to very briefly reunite all of the old Carolingian Empire.

King Charles the Fat reuniting the Empire

Charles the Fat was born in 839 as the son of Louise the German. He became king of West Francia in 884.

Towards the end of his reign he  launched an attack against the Normans who besieged Paris.  He gathered a large army of Langobards, Bavarians, Allemans, Thuringians, Saxons and Frisian – near the Norman stronghold Asselt (near Roermond); however, he failed miserably. While the Viking warlord Godofrid was surrounded he was still strong enough to force the Emperor to sign a treaty whereby Godofrid,  in 882, was made Count of Frisia, he followed his uncle  Count Rorik who had died that same year.  The only condition was that he had to convert to Christendom. To force closer ties, and thus indirectly control him, a marriage was arranged between him and Gisela, the daughter of Lothar II, king of Lotharingia. These treaties were opposed by the local counts and dukes who on their own had to keep on fighting against the invading Vikings. As Godofrid didn’t stop plundering as Gisela was called back to Worms, never to return to her husband again.

Charles the Fat became gravely ill in 887 he withdrew to the Alsace and was no longer capable to reign and  was quickly disposed of at the Diet of Tribur he took refuge in the monastery of Reichenau where he died the following year.

It is generally accepted that with the death of Charles the Fat the Carolingian empire had collapsed, each region now appointed their own rulers and a prolonged period of warring started.

King Eudes/Odo

After the fleeing of Charles the Simple (see below), the French crown now went to Robert the Strong (Robertines). They were possible decedents of Chrodegang of Metz.

Robert the Strong had been  a close ally of Charles the Bald. He married into the influential Welf family, with ties to the Carolingians. His son Odo (born 860) was became Count of Paris in 885. He successful defeated the Normans at the siege of Paris, despite the king Charles the Fat  inertia. Odo was elected king of western Francia by the Great Lords of Francia and crowned by them in Compiègne in 888, he was married to Théodrate of Troyes.

His election was challenged by the Carolingian Charles the Simple who the Archbishop of  Reims had crowned in 893. This led to confusion and for a while he ruled together with Charles the Simple. Before he died he recommended to his vassals that they should recognise Charles as their king.

After the death of Odo in 898 the Carolingian dynasty was indeed restored when Charles the Simple received back the crown of western Francia.

King Robert I and King Ralph I

As  support for Charles  the Simple had already ended in 922, Duke Robert (born 860), the brother of Odo was elected the new king. A war broke out between Charles and Robert I and Robert was killed in battle in 923. His son Hugh (the Great) didn’t challenge the crown, but the Robertines re-emerged and Robert’s son-in-law Ralph of Burgundy received the crown. He was the son of Richard Duke of Aquitaine. He claimed linkage to the Carolingians through his uncle, Bosso of Provence. He was married to Emma of West Francia, daughter of king Robert I of France.

He successful fought the Magyars the Germans and the Normans but died childless in 936.

After Ralph’s death his brother Hugh the Black became the next king of Burgundy. And the Robertines also dominated this kingdom for the next three and a half centuries.

King Louis IV d’Outremer

Hugh the Great didn’t it claim the crown, but instead successfully argued for the restoration of the Carolingian dynasty by negotiating the return of Louis IV, the exiled son of Charles the Simple.  In 923 Louis had fled with his mother Eadgifu to her father Edward I King of Wessex. In the meantime Ethelstan had taken over from his brother Edward and was at that time one of the strongest leaders of the west. His sister Edith married to the East Francia king Otto I. This provided the House of Wessex with significant influence in both eastern and western Francia.

This strategy from Hugh proved to be a good move as this launched half a century of stability in western Francia.

The exiled period gave Louis IV the nickname “d’Outremer” “from overseas”.

King Lothar

In 954 Louis was succeeded by Lothar IV, he married Emma of Italy and in 979 she became the regent for  her son Louis V. The accidental death of Louis in 987 marked the definite end of the western-Carolingian dynasty.

Hugh Carpet

Hugh Carpet, the eldest son of Hug the Great  was now selected by the feudal magnates as the new king of what at that time was not much more than the county of Paris  (the north-central part, along the river Seine, of the current country). He was nicknamed Capet after the capes he wore as tokens of his numerous lay-abbaciesHe was marrieds to Adelheid , daughter of William Towhead, Count of Poitou.  Slowly the Capetian rulers were able to consolidate the greater French state.

The Capetian dynasty still continues till this day with their descendants ruling in Spain and Luxembourg.

French Kings – Capetian Dynasty (direct line) 987 – 1328

Hugues Capet 987 – 996
Robert II le Pieux 996 – 1031
Henri I 1031-1060
Philippe I 1060 – 1108
Louis VI le Gros 1108 – 1137
Louis VII le Jeune 1137 – 1180
Philippe II Auguste 1180 – 1223
Louis VIII le Lion 1223 – 1226
Saint Louis 1226 – 1270
Philippe III le Hardi 1270 – 1285
Philippe IV le Bel 1285 – 1314
Louis X le Hutin 1314 – 1316
Jean Ier le Posthume 1316 – 1316
Philippe V le Long 1316 – 1322
Charles IV le Bel 1322 – 1328

While in hindsight this was the starting point of what would become modern France, it wasn’t until Louis VI before France slowly started to emerge as a European power. In 1124 the king was able to gather his nobles around him and combined they were able to warded off  a planned invasion of France by England and Germany. Louis had also founded the foundation of the feudal system that strengthened royal authority. However, France at that stage was still not much more than Paris-Orléans  and its direct surroundings. The County of Anjou (including Normandy, Maine and Touraine) as well as the Duchy of Aquitaine (including Gascony and Poitou) were significantly larger in size.

Lotharingia – Middle Kingdom

Apart from its unfortunate geographic shape, these lands also presented a range of other challenges. There were a large range of different cultures and languages. Still Switzerland has four languages and Belgium three. The  Alsace  and Lotharingen regions have been fought over and have been ruled by either France or Germany to well into the 20th century. The legacy of Verdun has been enormous here.

Obviously these boarders became a useful focus for the old  warlords on both sides to try and increase their power and their wealth. In this struggle this duchy played a strategic role, serving as a buffer between the emerging kingdom of France and the German lands

Emperor Lothar I

The already vulnerable position of the Middle Kingdom was further weakened when Lothar I died  in 855 and the kingdom, at the Treaty of Prüm, was  divided under his three sons.

The Treaty of Prüm – 855

  • Louis II received the imperial title and ruled over Italy
  • Lothar II the lands of Frisia to the Jura Mountains including the imperial city of Aachen became the core of Lotharingia under Lothar II ( The kingdom took its name from Lothar II (Regnum Hlotharii or Lotharii Regnum = Lothar’s realm).
  • Charles of Provence  received Burgundy and Provence (later split).

As we mentioned in the chapter on Prüm, Lothar I retired in the monastery of Prüm, where he shortly after the partition died. See: Missionaries and Monasteries.


So now, after the Treaty of Prüm, the Carolingian lands were divided into five realms.

Emperor Lothar II

Lothar’s II life was totally occupied with a battle to try and  divorce his wife Theutberga, based on the argument that this had remained childless. He had children with his mistress but they were illegitimate. Theutberga was the daughter of Count Bosso, of Provence, and because of this trouble he became involved in this martial dispute and which was used by his opponent to undermine his government.

After the death of Lothar II in 869, without having legitimate successors, the plan was according to previous arrangements to divide Lotharingia between the two uncles Louis II (according to the French monarchical system) and Charles the Bald.

However, when Lothar suddenly died, the eastern Francia king Louis was serious ill in Regensburg. A month later, Charles took the opportunity to enter Metz in Lotharingia (avoiding Aachen, the cradle of the Carolingian dynasty) and annexed this territory and on September 9th 869 arranged for his own coronation. Shortly after this Charles’ wife Ermentrude died in St Denis and he immediately arranged a political marriage with Richildis, a daughter of Count Bivin of Gorze. She was a niece of Lothar II embattled wife Theutberga. In this way he created a number of important supporters. In another bold move, he married her in Aachen.

However, as soon as Louis had recovered he reminded Charles of the previous arrangement of the partition of Lotharingia. They came to terms with each other in Meerssen in 870.

Treaty of Meerssen – 870

It was in Meerssen  (which is now in the Netherlands), where the kings regularly met (recorded meeting include: 847 and 851), to discuss common Carolingian matters. The castle was again the meeting place for the next major European political event: the Treaty of Meerssen on August 8, 870.

This entailed an agreement of the division of the Carolingian Empire by the surviving sons of Louis the Pius. The Kingdom of Lotharingia was now divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German. Charles had to sacrifice Metz and Aachen, but maintained the valley of the Meuse and the western third of Frisia. From Louis he did receive the regions of Lyon, Vienne and Viviers. The north of Lotharingia was at that stage in Danish Viking control and was only divided on paper between West Francia and East Francia.

The treaty replaced the Treaty of Verdun (834). However, the two kings never had a good grip on the powers within Lotharingia.

The split between east and west Lotharingia didn’t last that long, after another internal war a new treaty was signed in 880 (see below).

Apart from the martial fights, Louis spend most of his life fighting the Saracens (the medieval name used for Arabs, Berbers, Moors, Muslims, individually or combined) in Italy. He was one of the few Frankish kings that put up a strategic fight against the invaders, sometimes with the assistance of Byzantine. But like his predecessors he remained largely unsuccessful, as along the long coastlines also Louis depended totally on the will of the local lords to resist. Byzantine Sicily was lost to the Saracens and from here they entered Southern Italy. However, what Louis was able to achieve before his death in 875 was that Arab rule didn’t become as prominent as it had done in Spain.

 Timeline events in relation to Lotharingia

Year Event Result
843 Treaty of Verdun Split East and West Francia, Middle Kingdom
855 Treaty of Prüm Split Middle Kingdom: Italy, Lotharingia, Burgundy/Provence
870 Treaty of Meerssen Lotharingia split between East and West Francia
894 Kingdom of Lower Lotharingia German Emperor establishes Kingdom Lower Lotharingia
950 Division under Bishop Bruno Split Lower and Upper Lotharingia
959 Vice Duchy of Lower Lotharingia Established by German Emperor
977 Independent Duchy of Lower Lotharingia Established by German Emperor
1012 Godfrey of Verdun appointed as duke Appointed by Otto III(House of Leuven was bypassed)
1106 Godfrey IV of Leuven Duke of Lower Lotharingia
1190 Diet of Swabische Hall Disintegration of Lower Lotharingia

These events will be further discussed in more detail.

King Zwentibald King

The new kingdom of Lotharingia roughly consisted of modern day:

  • The Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)
  • Rhineland-Palatine (Germany)
  • Saarland (Germany)
  • Lorraine (France)
  • Alsace (France)

Lith and Oijen during Lotharingian times

The newly formed region also includes the region around Oss that we feature in this publication. It is suggested that the settlements of farms in Lith (Litta) and Oijen formed part of a large domain along the river Maas.  This was donated by King Zwentibold to Reginar I of Lotharingia for his loyal services. His son Gisbert inherited the domain and he married Gerberda the sister of Emperor Otto I. Towards the end of her life in 968 she donated the domain to the Abbey of Saint Remigius in Reims. In that charter the communities of Groenewoud, Scheurheuvel and Luttereind were mentioned. The central mansion was situated in Groenewoud, eight farms were situated around this place and the farmers were serfs. When the Dukes of Brabant started to emerge as the regional power Duke Henry I became in 1200 the guardian of the domain.

Zwentibold was challenged by the local power broker Count Reginar of Hainaut, whose family possessed considerable domains between the Meuse and the Scheldt. He was linked to the Carolinians through his mother Ermengard, a daughter of Lothar I. Reginar I ‘Longneck’ considered himself the natural leader of Lotharingia.

We also know Reginar from the battle he fought with the Frisian Prince Raboud in 874 against the Vikings.

King Charles the Simple of West Francia

He was born in 879 as the posthumous son of Louis II the Stammerer and Adelheid.  He married Odgive (Edvige) of England.

As a child, he was prevented from succeeding to the throne at the time of the death in 884 of his half-brother Carloman. The nobles of the realm instead asked his cousin, Charles the Fat, to rule them. He was also prevented from succeeding the unpopular Charles, who was deposed in November 887 and died in January 888. Charles was put under the protection of Ranulf II, the Duke of Aquitaine. Wile the elected King Odo still riled The Archbishop of Reims him in 893. He first shared power with Eudes/Odo (896-898). After Odo’s death Charles finally became the sole ruler of West Francia.

There were some wider interesting developments happening during his reign.

Reginar I  of Hainaut refused to accept the new East Francia King Conrad and switched alliance to Charles III the Simple, since 911 king  of West Francia and the son of Louis II. Reginar asked Charles to take possession of Aachen and Nijmegen. Strengthening his position in the region, Charles even married Frederuna a daughter of one of the  Lotharingian noble families. After the death of Louis the Child, Charles the Simple also became king of Lotharingia. He frequently resided in Herstal, Aachen, Metz and Gondreville near Toul.

Charles acknowledges the power that now lay with the local rulers not only of Hainault and Flanders but also of Burgundy and Aquitaine. When Reginar I died in 915, King Charles transferred the count’s title to his son(?) Gilbert and also awarded him with the title marquis.

He negotiated peace with the Norman chief Rollo- treaty of Saint Clair sur Epte –  in 911. In exchange for his baptism he authorised the Normans to settle in the valley of the Seine, this ended the Norman invasions and turned Normandy in a separate duchy. This was bitterly posed by the local nobles who wanted to maintain the wars against the vikings. In the end it was Arnolph I Count of Flanders who killed Rollo.

Envy from other East Francia nobles regarding the privileges Charles the Simple had provided to Lotharingia and the concessions he made to the Norman, led to the downfall of Charles. He was captured in 920. The ambitious Gilbert of Hainault did not wait long and got his followers to proclaim him ‘prince’ of Lotharingia in the same year.

The release of Charles was negotiated, however revolt flared up again in 922 and Charles had to flee western Francia and went across the Meuse to Lotharingia. During this period nobles in the region did receive considerable privileges and powerful political positions  this included Waldger Count of Teisterband and Count Dirk of West Frisia (later Holland). However, there were always plenty of opposing nobles and  Charles was captured again, this time by Herbert II of Vermandois (Picardy), a loyal supported of the realm of West Francia.

His wife Odgive went into exile in England together with her their son the future Louise IV,

Pandemonium broke out and it was now East Francis King Henry I the Fowler’s  turn to follow up on his Lotharingian ambitious. The opportunistic Lotharingian nobles surprisingly didn’t support Charles and shifted their allegiance to the Burgundian King Ralph. However it was here that Henry stepped in and forced them instead to accept him as their overlord. Lotharingia once again swung back under the control of East Francia. Charles the Simple in the meantime died still imprisoned by Herbert in 929.

The symbolic value of Lotharingia

Interestingly the title of King of Lotharingia did not include significant landholdings or economic income, it was left very much to the local rulers to establish their own powers that would lead to territory and income. This is also one of the reasons why the cities especially in the border areas were able to maintain a large proportion of independence.

The main value of Lotharingia was that it was the heartland of the ancient Carolingian dynasty.

In a rapidly expanding Ottonian Germany it became more and more difficult to enforce German domination throughout the empire. The Holy Roman Empire now encompassed several different cultures and different languages. Significant military activities were required on the eastern borders where they confronted hostile Slavs and Magyars. This allowed the lords on the north western outskirts of the Empire to obtain more and more independence. Which in turn led to wars with the Ottonians.

Gilbert of Lotharingia

Gilbert of Lotharingia, who as we saw above was married to the daughter of the East Francia king Henry I the Fowler,  rebelled against Henry’s successor Otto I and during that battle at Andernach he drowned in the river Rhine in 939.

Manoeuvering between the eastern and western empires increased and the west Francia king  Louis ‘from Overseas’ married Gilbert’s widow Gerberga (and thus securing a link with mythical Carolingians – it could well be that she also brought Leuven in as a wedding gift. At the same time the Lotharingian nobles, in order to protect their own interests, united behind Otto I these included Hugh the Great and Herbert of Vermandois. However, in 942 both kings settled their disagreements and Otto forced Louis to give up his claims on Lotharingia. From now on Lotharingia would  stayed under the influence of the German Emperor. This was a major event in the history of the Duchy as the border between France and Germany now received its permanent character which is still more or less in place in modern times, Luxembourg, Brabant, Holland and Gelre part of the German controlled territory and Flanders being under the influence of France. In relation to the individual counties and duchies not all that much changed as this foreign control was rather trivial.

Otto also brought the Kingdom of  Burgundy under his control the full consequences of this would become apparent under Conrad the II, which would have enormous consequences for the developments of what would become the Netherlands.

Conrad the Red

In 944 king Otto I supported his son-in-law the archbishop of Cologne Conrad the Red to become the next duke of Lotharingia. However, Conrad revolted against the king in 953. West Francia however, was unable to profit from this revolt and Otto was therefore able to quickly re-establish his authority of Lotharingia by nominating his brother Bruno as the new archbishop of Cologne, he was also – since 940 – the arch chancellor of The Holy Roman Empire,

Archbishop Duke Bruno the Great

Bruno  the Great – one of the ablest members of the dynasty – became the last duke to govern the whole of Lotharingia and was after the Emperor the most powerful ruler in Germany. Until the battle of Woeringen which in 1288,  was won by  Jan I Duke of Brabant, the archbishops were both the secular and spiritual rulers of Cologne.

In 950 Bruno partitioned Lotharingia into two vice duchies:

  • Lower Lotharingia (largely Austrasia) ruled by a group of nobles from Verdun.
  • Upper Lotharingia (Lorraine) – equivalent to the ecclesiastical province of Trier – with Count Frederick of Bar, with lots of Carolingian blood in his veins. In 954, he married the Burgundian princess Beatrice, daughter of Hugh the Great, count of Paris. After the death of her husband in 978  she played –  as Regent Dowager – an important role in the international affairs of her county. This duchy survived till 1766.

Lower Lotharingia  comprised present north east France, the German Rhineland, Luxembourg, east Belgium, and what currently is the Netherlands.

In Flandres, Normandy and Catalonia the original nobility was able to keep their reins. In the German kingdom, new nobility established  next to the ancient nobility from Teisterband and Hamaland.

Reigning periods of the Dukes of Lotharingia

Gebhard                                                                                  903 –910

Gilbert (also: Giselbert of the Meuse fief)                 928 – 939

Otto I                                                                                       939 – 944

Conrad the Red                                                                   944 – 953

Archbishop Bruno of Cologne                                      953 – 965

Vacant                                                                                    965 – 977

It is also interesting to note that Giselbert established Maastricht as his capital of Lotharingia. While there is no conclusive evidence it has been suggested that his place was close to the St Servaas cathedral and together formed an early palatine.

 Godfrey I Verdun and Hainault (The Prisoner) Vice duchy of Lower Lotharingia

For Lower Lotharingia the split came into effect when Godfrey I,  became margrave or vice-duke of Lower Lotharingia in 959.

He was  called the Prisoner – he had been captured 3 times. He started as  the count of Bidgau and Methingau. In 969, he obtained the Margraviate of Antwerp and Ename. Between 974 and 998, he was also the count of Hainault and Mons.

He was the founder of the House of Limburg or House of Ardennes-Verdun, a cadet branch of the House of Ardennes. He was always loyal to the Ottonians, whom he was related through his maternal grandmother.

During his imprisonment Emperor Otto gave part of lower Lotharingia to Richar or Richer of Mons he was related to Bruno and was vice-duke from 964 – 973. An independent count was appointed in 977.

Godfrey was married to Averarda of Zutphen (died in 961) the daughter of Erverhard Saxo Meginharden. After her death he married Mathilde Billung/von Saxen the widow of Count Boudewijn of Flanders and brother-in-law of Wichman IV of Zutphen.

Charles and Otto of Saxony – The Duchy of Lower Lotharingia

Upon Bruno’s death in 965, Lower Lotharingia, whose margrave had died, was left vacant until 977. In that year Emperor Otto II appointed Charles as the new duke of of Lower Lotharingia. He was the son of Louis IV of West Francia and Gerberga of Saxony. He was a sixth generation descendant of Charlemagne. Charles was excluded from the throne of West Francia, and the German Emperor Otto II, made him Duke of Lower Lotharingia. This obviously led to an ongoing conflict between what grew into France and Germany. In order to have free hand towards France, he resigned – in 987 – his duchy to the regency of his eldest son Otto. Charles made war with France however, he lost and was imprisoned in Orléans, where he died a short while later, in or before 993.

His daughter Gerberga of Lotharingia became countess of Brussels and married Lambert I, Count of Leuven.

During his reign Otto of Lower Lotharingia remained a faithful vassal of Emperor Otto III. The duke died in 1012 without a heir and this also meant in this part of the former empire of Charlemagne that the Carolingian dynasty had come to an end. It also was the end of the short lived importance of the Duchy of Saxony. (The current Bundes Republic Saxony was only established later and is situation further east of the original Saxon heartland).

However, through Gerberga the later Dukes of Brabant claimed the title Dukes of Lower Lotharingia.

Godfrey II of Verdun – the Peacemaker (1012-1023)

After the death of Duke Otto and on the advice of Gerard I, bishop of Cambrai, the new German King Henry II appointed, in 1012, Godfrey II of Verdun as the next duke he was seen as a strong military leader to defend the border with Francia.  He was supported in that by his brothers Gothelo/Gozelo, margrave of Antwerp and Herman margrave of Ename (see Brabant emerging).

In this appointment the emperor sidestepped  his brother-in-law Lambert I of Leuven. Lambert was severely disappointed and was more or less in a constant state of war with Godfrey II and Reginar V of Hainault. Godfrey killed Lambert at Florennes (Namur) on September 12 1015.

Reginar V married Mathilda, the daughter of Herman of Ename. In 1029 he succeeded his father in law in the southern part of the pagus of Brabant. In this way this part of Ename ended up in the hands of the rulers of Hainault. In Brabant Emerging we see that his son will rebuilt the fortress of Ename in 1040.

Godfrey married Addila the daughter of Dietrich van Hamaland and in 1017 inherited this county.

Godfrey died in battle (slaughter) at Vlaardingen (1018) where the imperial army he led was defeated by Dirk III of Holland.

The sudden death of Godfrey let yet to another crisis and the Duchy remained vacant.  The unity of Lower Lotharingia had already been severely weakened over previous century and this had allowed for an increase in interference in the affairs by the Emperor. However, the situation was such that the Emperor remained reluctant to step in too heavy-handed  but that would soon end.

Brief reunion of Lotharingia 1033 – 1044

The two duchies remained separate, following separate pathways, except for the brief period under Gothelo/Gozelo I, between 1033 and 1044.

The 2nd split between Upper and Lower Lotharingia happened in 1044/1046. Gozelo’s son Godfrey II of Lower Lotharingia with the Beard revolted against the Emperor. He was supported by this by the Dukes of Flanders and Hainault as well as Count Dirk III of Holland.

Gerard of Metz became the Duke of Upper Lotharingia (Lorraine), with Nancy as its powerbase. We visited Nancy and the Ducal Palace in May 2009.

The campaign was a mixed success for the various parties involved however. Initially Dirk was defeated but during the retreat of the Emperor the forces of the others were able to severely diminish the imperial army. This allowed Godfrey IV to claim the title of Lotharingia after the death of Gothelo I, but only received the title for Lower Lotharingia. Military control of Lower Lotharingia was given the archbishops of Cologne, Trier and Utrecht as well as to Otto I of Lotharingia and since 1045 Count Palatine Henry I of Lotharingia.

The disintegration of Lower Lotharingia

The writing had been on the wall for some time that the end for Lower Lotharingia was nearing. However, there were strong regional powers with this territory that stopped the Emperor to simply annex it.   In order the break the power of the counts and dukes the Emperor started to provide bishops with secular powers. As a bishop did not have hereditary rights the Emperor could much better maintain his control. He started with the areas less contended by the regional powers, in 1024 Bishop Adelbord from Utrecht was promised  the County of Drenthe (the old pagus Thriente, comitatus Thrente) by Emperor Henry II. At that stage still officially part in the hands of the Counts of Lower Lotharingia. Internal troubles finally allowed Emperor Henry III, after the death of the mentally ill Count Gothelo II to take – at least for a while – full control over Lower Lotharingia and he was now able to provide Bishop Bernold with the secular powers over Drenthe.  By the end of the 11th century the Bishopric had required most of the northern part (above the rivers Rhine and Maas) of the Low Countries.

By that time however, the duchies of Brabant (starting with Leuven), Gelre and Limburg had further extended their regional power and the Emperor never gained any serious control over these counties and duchies.  Through the Counts of Leuven, the Dukes of Brabant were able to retain at least honorific the  title of Duke of Lower Lotharingia.

Dukes of Lower Lotharingia 959 – 1190

Note that the numbering of the dukes varies between sources.

Vice Dukes

Godfrey I of Hainault                                           959–964

Vacant                                                                        964–977


Charles of Francia                                                977–991

Otto (son of Charles)                                            991–1012

House of Ardennes–Bouillon

Godfrey I of Verdun                                              1012–1023

Gothelo I                                                                1023–1044

Interim period                                                       1044–1046 (Gothello II was mentally ill)

House of Luxembourg

Frederick                                                               1046–1065

House of Ardennes–Bouillon

Godfrey II                                                               1065–1069 (same as Godfrey I of Verdun above)

Godfrey III                                                              1069–1076 (also known as Godfrey IV)


Conrad II                                                                               1076–1087

House of Ardennes–Bouillon

Godfrey (V) of Bouillon                                        1087–1100 (also known as Godfrey IV)

House of Limburg

Henry                                                                     1101–1106 (also duke of Limburg)

House of Leuven

Godfrey VI                                                              1106–1129 (also known as Godfrey V)

House of Limburg

Waleran                                                                 1129–1139

House of Leuven

Godfrey VII                                                             1139–1142 (also known as Godfrey VI)

Godfrey VIII                                                            1142–1190 (also known as Godfrey VII)


The title of the Duke of Lower Lotharighia however, remained a hotly contested one and remained in use for many centuries the come. This story starts with Godfrey of Bouillon and so this part of the history continues with: The House of Leuven shaping Brabant

The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)