Louis (also Ludwig or Lewis) "the German" (c. 804-876), also known as Louis II, was the first king of East Francia. Grandson of emperor Charlemagne and the third son of emperor of Francia, Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye, he received the appellation Germanicus shortly after his death in recognition of the fact that the bulk of his kingdom was in the former Germania.
His early years were partly spent at the court of his grandfather, Charlemagne, whose special affection he is said to have won. When the emperor Louis the Pious divided his dominions between his sons in 817, Louis was made the ruler of Duchy of Bavaria, following the practice of emperor Charlemagne of bestowing a local kingdom to a close family member who then would serve as his lieutenant and local governor. Louis ruled from Regensburg, the old capital of the Bavarii. In 825 he became involved in wars with the Wends and Sorbs on his eastern frontier. In 827 he married Hemma, sister of his stepmother Judith of Bavaria, both daughters of Welf, whose possessions ranged from Alsace to Bavaria. Louis soon began to interfere in the quarrels arising from Judith's efforts to secure a kingdom for her son Charles the Bald and the consequent struggles of his brothers with their father.
His involvement in the first civil war against his father's reign was limited, but in the second his elder brothers, Lothair I, then King of Italy, and Pepin I, Duke of Aquitaine, persuaded him to invade Alamannia which their father had given to their young half-brother Charles the Bald; by promising to give him the land in the new partition they would make after a victory. In 832 he led an army of Slavs into Alamannia and completely subjugated it. Louis the Pious disinherited him, but to no effect; the emperor was soon captured by his own rebellious sons and deposed. Upon his swift reinstatement, however, the emperor Louis made peace with his son Louis and legally restored Bavaria (never actually lost) to him in 836.
Louis was the instigator of the third civil war, which began in 839. A strip of his land having been given to the young haf-brother Charles, Louis invaded Alamannia again. This time emperor Louis responded quickly, and soon the younger Louis was forced into the far southeastern corner of his realm, the March of Pannonia. Peace was then made by force of arms.
Civil war, 840-843
After the civil war which followed the death of emperor Louis the Pious, the empire was divided in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun in three parts, with Louis becoming the King of East Francia, a region that spanned the Elbe drainage basin from Jutland southeasterly through the Thuringian Forest into modern Bavaria.
When the emperor Louis died in 840, and Lothair I claimed the whole Empire, Louis allied with Charles the Bald, and defeated Lothair I and their nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine, son of Pepin, at the Battle of Fontenoy in June 841.
In June 842 the three brothers met on an island in the river Saône to negotiate a peace, and each appointed forty representatives to arrange the boundaries of their respective kingdoms. This developed into the Treaty of Verdun, concluded in August 843, by which Louis received the bulk of the lands lying east of the Rhine (East Francia), together with a district around Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, on the left bank of the river (see also Oaths of Strasbourg 842). His territories included Bavaria (where he made Regensburg the centre of his government), Thuringia, Franconia, and Saxony.
Louis may be called the founder of the German kingdom, though his attempts to maintain the unity of the Empire proved futile. Having in 842 crushed the Stellinga rising in Saxony, in 844 he compelled the Obotrites to own his authority and put their prince, Gozzmovil, to death. Thachulf, Duke of Thuringia, then undertook campaigns against the Bohemians, Moravians, and other tribes, but was not very successful in resisting the ravaging Vikings.
Conflicts with Charles the Bald
In 852 Louis sent his son Louis the Younger to Aquitaine, where nobles had grown resentful of Charles the Bald's rule. The younger Louis did not set out until 854, and returned the following year.
Starting from 853 Louis made repeated attempts to gain the throne of West Francia, which, according to the Annals of Fulda (Annales Fuldenses), the people of that country offered him in their disgust with the cruel misrule of Charles the Bald. Encouraged by his nephews Pepin of Herstal and Charles of Provence, Louis invaded in West Francia in 858. Charles the Bald could not even raise an army to resist the invasion and fled to Burgundy. Later that year Louis issued a charter dated "the first year of the reign in West Francia." However, treachery and desertion in his army, and the continued loyalty of the Aquitanian bishops to Charles the Bald, brought about the failure of the whole enterprise, which Louis renounced by a treaty signed at Koblenz on June 7, 860.
After the emperor Lothair I died in 855, Louis and Charles for a time cooperated in plans to divide Lothair's possessions among themselves, the only impediments to this being Lothair's sons and heirs - Lothair II (who received Lotharingia), Louis II of Italy (who held the imperial title and the Iron Crown of Lombardy) and Charles of Provence. In 868 at Metz Louis and Charles agreed to partition Lotharingia. When Lothair II died in 869, Louis was lying seriously ill, and his armies were engaged in a war with the Moravians. Charles the Bald quickly seized Lothair's lands; but Louis, having recovered, compelled him by a threat of war to agree to the Treaty of Meerssen, which divided Lothair's lands between all the claimants.
Divisio regni among the sons
The later years of Louis the German were troubled by rebellions of his sons. The eldest, Carloman of Bavaria, revolted in 861 and again two years later. This was followed by the second son Louis the Younger, who was joined by his brother Charles the Fat. In 864 Louis was forced to grant Carloman the kingdom of Bavaria, which he himself had once held under his father. In 865 he divided the remainder of his lands - Saxony with Franconia and Thuringia went to Louis the Younger and Swabia with Raetia to Charles the Fat.
A report that the emperor Louis II of Italy had died led to a peace between father and sons and attempts by Louis the German to gain the imperial crown for his oldest son Carloman. These efforts were thwarted by Louis II of Italy who was in fact not dead, and Louis' old adversary, Charles the Bald.
Louis was preparing for a new war when he died on August 28, 876 in Frankfurt. He was buried at the abbey of Lorsch, leaving three sons and three daughters. His sons, unusually for their earlier behaviour, respected the divisions made a decade earlier and each contented himself with his own kingdom.
Louis is considered by many to be the most competent of the grandsons of Charlemagne. He obtained for his kingdom a certain degree of security in face of the attacks of Vikings, Hungarians, Slavs, and others. He lived in close alliance with the Church, to which he was very generous, and entered eagerly into schemes for the conversion of his heathen neighbours.
Marriage and children
Louis was married to Hemma (died 31 January 876)., and they had seven children:
- Hildegard, (828–856)
- Carloman of Bavaria, (829–880), King of Bavaria
- Irmgard of Chiemsee also known as Ermengard, (died 866) (Louis, having established two of his other daughters as abbesses of convents, appointed Irmgard (also known as Ermengard) to govern first the monastery of Buchau and then the royal abbey of Chiemsee in Bavaria. She is commemorated as a saint on 16 July.)
- Gisela, married to Berthold I, Count Palatine of Swabia, and mother of Cunigunde of Swabia, wife of Conrad I of Germany.
- Louis the Younger, (835–882)
- Bertha, (died 877)
- Charles the Fat, (839–888)
- Patrick J. Geary, Women at the Beginning: Origin Myths from the Amazons to the Virgin Mary, (Princeton University Press, 2006), 46.
- Beyond the Topos of Senescense: The Political Problems of Aged Carolingian Rulers, Paul Edward Dutton, Aging and the Aged in Medieval Europe, ed. Michael M. Sheehan, (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1990), 92.
- Jones, G.R.; Carolyn Muessig (2005). "Saints at a glance". University of Leicester. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
|Ancestors of Louis the German|
Louis II of East Francia
Carolingian dynastyBorn: 806 Died: 28 August 876
|Preceded by |
Charles the Younger
|Counts and dukes of Maine |
|Succeeded by |
|Preceded by |
Louis the Pious
as King and Emperor of the Franks
|King of Bavaria |
|Succeeded by |
as King of Bavaria
|King of East Francia |
|Succeeded by |
Louis the Younger
as King of Saxony
|Succeeded by |
Charles the Fat
as King of Swabia