Louis the German

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Louis the German
Ludwig der Deutsche.jpg
Seal with Louis' inscription and effigy.
King of Germany
ReignKing of Bavaria: 817–843;
King of East Francia: 843 – 28 August 876
Predecessor Louis the Pious
Successor Carloman of Bavaria (Bavaria)
Louis the Younger (Saxony)
Charles the Fat (Swabia)
Died28 August 876
Frankfurt am Main
Spouse Emma of Altdorf
(m. 827; d. 876)
Issue Carloman of Bavaria
Louis the Younger
Charles the Fat
Dynasty Carolingian
Father Louis the Pious
Mother Ermengarde of Hesbaye

Louis the German [lower-alpha 1] (c. 806 [2] [3] /810 [1] – 28 August 876), also known as Louis II, was the first king of East Francia, and ruled from 843876 AD. Grandson of emperor Charlemagne and the third son of Louis the Pious, emperor of Francia, and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye, [4] he received the appellation Germanicus shortly after his death in recognition of Magna Germania of the Roman Empire, reflecting the Carolingian's assertions that they were the rightful descendants of the Roman Empire.


Kingdom of East Francia East Francia 843.svg
Kingdom of East Francia

After protracted clashes with his father and his brothers, Louis received the East Frankish Empire in the 843 Treaty of Verdun. His attempts to conquer the West Frankish Empire of his half-brother Charles the Bald in 858–59 were unsuccessful. The 860s were marked by a severe crisis, with the East Frankish rebellions of the sons, as well as struggles to maintain supremacy over his realm. In the Treaty of Meerssen he acquired Lotharingia for the East Frankish Empire in 870. On the other hand, he tried and failed to claim both the title of Emperor and Italy. In the East, Louis was able to reach a longer-term peace agreement in 874 after decades of conflict with the Moravians. Due to a decline in the written form in administration and government, Louis' reign predates Ottonian times. [5]

Early life

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. [6] 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.

It was not until 826 that Louis first came to rule Bavaria. In 827 he married the Welf Hemma, a sister of the Empress Judith - his stepmother who had married his father in his second marriage. In 828 and 829 he undertook two campaigns against the Bulgarians who wanted to penetrate into Pannonia without great success. During his time as Unterkönig, he tried to extend his rule to the Rhine-Main area. [7]

Rebellious son

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, but was driven back by his father. [8] 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 half-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 I of Aquitaine, at the Battle of Fontenoy in June 841. [9]

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, [10] in 844 he compelled the Obotrites [11] to accept 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.

Treaty of Verdun

Lands divided by the Treaty of Verdun Treaty of Verdun 843.png
Lands divided by the Treaty of Verdun

After the death of Emperor Louis the Pious, Lothar laid claim to all the imperial rights established in the Ordinatio of 817. As a result, Louis the German and Charles the Bald forged an alliance. Lothar I offered his nephew Pippin II, the son of 838 deceased Pippin I., an alliance. At the Battle of Fontenoy, Louis the German and Charles the Bald fought successfully against Lothar I and Pippin II in June 841. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. According to the Annals of Fulda, it was the biggest bloodbath the Franks had experienced since time immemorial. [12] [13] At the same time, it was Louis's last battle in the struggle for the unification of the kingdom.

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. [14] The younger Louis did not set out until 854, and returned the following year. [15]

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 Peppin II 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. As such on 7 June 860 at Koblenz, both Louis and Charles made public vows to uphold the peace. [16]

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. [17]

Divisio regni among the sons

Carolingian gatehouse (Torhalle) to Lorsch Abbey, where Louis the German was buried Torhalle Kloster Lorsch.jpg
Carolingian gatehouse (Torhalle) to Lorsch Abbey, where Louis the German was buried

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, unusual for their earlier behaviour, respected the divisions made a decade earlier and each contented himself with his own kingdom.

Later Life

Commemorative plaque for Louis III GrabplatteLudwig Ludwig III Kunigunde.JPG
Commemorative plaque for Louis III

In the years 872 and 873, ambassadors of the Eastern Roman Emperor Basil I came to Louis in Regensburg and showed that his rule was perceived as far as Constantinople. After the death of Emperor Louis II in August 875, Louis tried to win the emperorship for himself and his descendants. For this purpose, Abbot Sigihard von Fulda undertook a trip to Rome to Pope John VIII. On 18 May 876 he returned to Ingelheim and reported to Louis that, in December 875, Charles the Bald had been able to obtain the title of emperor by a swift move to Rome. [18]

His wife Hemma visited Louis for the last time in May 875. In 874 she had lost her voice as a result of a stroke. During his stay, he donated the Berg im Donaugau Abbey as a donation to the Marienkapelle, which he built. [19] Hemma died at the end of January 876 in Regensburg. A few months later, Louis died after a short illness on 28 August 876 in his palace in Frankfurt. The following day he was buried by his son Louis in Lorsch Abbey. According to Wilfried Hartmann, however, it can not be determined with certainty whether the dead man in his sarcophagus is the Carolingian king. [20] After Louis' death, Charles the Bald tried to win over the East Reich as well. However, Louis the Younger defeated him on 8 October 876 at Andernach with a squad of Franks, Saxons and Thuringians. One year later, Charles the Bald died.

Louis' Rule

Due to the small number of 172 royal documents from 50 years of reign, it is impossible to create a detailed picture of Louis' whereabouts in the East Frankish empire. For comparison, Louis the Pious had 18 certificates created a year, and his half-brother Charles the Bald had 12 produced per year. [21] This tradition of not producing many documents lasts for several months at certain times. For example, it is completely uncertain where the East Frankish king stayed between June 849 and July 850. [22] At least 52 documents are addressed to Bavarian beneficiaries. However, the intensity of the documentary production for Bavarian recipients steadily decreased during his reign.

As former stem-duchy, the Rhine-Main area contained Frankfurt, Mainz and Worms. It had plenty of Imperial Palaces and treasuries . Since it was located in the geographic centre of the East Frankish Empire, it was easily accessible by road. As a result, it was the region in which most East Frankish synods and imperial assemblies were hosted. [23]

Nickname "The German"

Louis was only nicknamed "the German" in the 18th century. [24] Contemporary West Frankish sources called Louis rex Germaniae ("King of Germania") or rex Germanorum ("King of the Teutons"). However, in this context, Germania or Germani does not mean "Germany" or "the Germans", but, as in ancient Latin, the area on the right bank of the Rhine outside the former Roman Empire and its inhabitants. [25] Contemporaries considered Louis with the epithet pius (pious) or piissimus (very pious). The contemporary coinage called him HLUDOVICUS PIUS REX.

Marriage and children

Louis was married to Hemma (died 31 January 876)., [26] and they had:


  1. Sometimes anglicized Lewis, in German Ludwig. The Frankish pronunciation was like Hlu-do-vig. The name literally means "famous battle". A contemporary source, Ermoldus Nigellus, gives its two components as Hluto, praeclarum, and Wigch, Mars. [1]

Related Research Articles

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Louis the Pious, also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of the Franks and co-emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. He was also King of Aquitaine from 781. As the only surviving adult son of Charlemagne and Hildegard, he became the sole ruler of the Franks after his father's death in 814, a position which he held until his death, save for the period 833–34, during which he was deposed.

Oaths of Strasbourg alliance

The Oaths of Strasbourg were mutual pledges of allegiance between Louis the German (†876), ruler of East Francia, and his half-brother Charles the Bald (†877), ruler of West Francia made on 12 February 842. They are written in three different languages: Medieval Latin, Old Gallo-Romance and Old High German, all in Caroline minuscule. The Romance passages are generally considered to be the earliest texts in a language that is distinctly Gallo-Romance.

Treaty of Verdun 843 treaty, signed in Verdun-sur-Meuse, that ended the Carolingian Civil War and divided the Carolingian Empire into 3 kingdoms among the 3 surviving sons of Louis the Pious

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Charles the Bald Holy Roman Emperor

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Carolingian Empire Final stage in the history of the early medieval realm of the Franks, ruled by the Carolingian dynasty

The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the early Middle Ages. It was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, which had ruled as kings of the Franks since 751 and as kings of the Lombards in Italy from 774. In 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III in an effort to revive the Roman Empire in the west. The Carolingian Empire is considered the first phase in the history of the Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806.

Carloman of Bavaria King of Bavaria

Carloman was a Frankish king of the Carolingian dynasty. He was the eldest son of Louis the German, king of East Francia, and Hemma, daughter of a Bavarian count. His father appointed him margrave of Pannonia in 856, and upon his father's death in 876 he became King of Bavaria. He was appointed by King Louis II of Italy as his successor, but the Kingdom of Italy was taken by his uncle Charles the Bald in 875. Carloman only conquered it in 877. In 879 he was incapacitated, perhaps by a stroke, and abdicated his domains in favour of his younger brothers: Bavaria to Louis the Younger and Italy to Charles the Fat.

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family founded by Charles Martel with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The dynasty consolidated its power in the 8th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary, and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the Merovingian throne. In 751 the Merovingian dynasty which had ruled the Germanic Franks was overthrown with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy, and Pepin the Short, son of Martel, was crowned King of the Franks. The Carolingian dynasty reached its peak in 800 with the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Emperor of Romans in the West in over three centuries. His death in 814 began an extended period of fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire and decline that would eventually lead to the evolution of the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Lothair I 9th-century Frankish emperor

Lothair I or Lothar I was the Holy Roman Emperor, and the governor of Bavaria (815–817), King of Italy (818–855) and Middle Francia (840–855).

Lotharingia former medieval kingdom (855-959)

Lotharingia was a medieval successor kingdom of the Carolingian Empire and a later duchy of the Ottonian Empire, comprising the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Saarland (Germany), and Lorraine (France). It was named after King Lothair II who received this territory after the kingdom of Middle Francia of his father Lothair I was divided among his sons in 855.

Charles the Fat Carolingian emperor

Charles III, also known as Charles the Fat, was the emperor of the Carolingian Empire from 881 to 888. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, Charles was the youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, and a great-grandson of Charlemagne. He was the last Carolingian emperor of legitimate birth and the last to rule over all the realms of the Franks.

Treaty of Meerssen treaty

The Treaty of Mersen or Meerssen, concluded on 8 August 870, was a treaty of partition of the realm of Lothair II, known as Lotharingia, by his uncles Louis the German of East Francia and Charles the Bald of West Francia, the two surviving sons of Emperor Louis I the Pious. The treaty followed an earlier treaty of Prüm which had split Middle Francia between Lothair I's sons after his death in 855.

Hildegard of the Vinzgau Queen of the Franks (c. 771 – 783)

Hildegard, was a Frankish queen consort who was the second wife of Charlemagne and mother of Louis the Pious. Little is known about her life, because, like all women related to Charlemagne, she became notable only from a political background, recording her parentage, wedding, death, and her role as a mother.

Ermengarde of Hesbaye Carolingian empress

Ermengarde of Hesbaye, probably a member of the Robertian dynasty, was Carolingian empress from 813 and Queen of the Franks from 814 until her death as the wife of the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious.

East Francia Former country in Europe

East Francia or the Kingdom of the East Franks was a precursor of the Holy Roman Empire. A successor state of Charlemagne's empire, it was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided the former empire into three kingdoms.

West Francia former country (843-987)

In medieval history, West Francia or the Kingdom of the West Franks was the western part of Charlemagne's Empire, ruled by the Germanic Franks that forms the earliest stage of the Kingdom of France, lasting from about 840 until 987. West Francia was formed out of the division of the Carolingian Empire in 843 under the Treaty of Verdun after the death of Emperor Louis the Pious and the east–west division which "gradually hardened into the establishment of separate kingdoms ... of what we can begin to call Germany and France".

Middle Francia former country

Middle Francia was a short-lived Frankish kingdom which was created in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun after an intermittent civil war between the grandsons of Charlemagne resulted in division of the united empire. Middle Francia was allocated to emperor Lothair I, the eldest son and successor of emperor Louis the Pious. His realm contained the imperial cities of Aachen, the residence of Charlemagne, as well as Pavia but lacked any geographic or ethnic cohesion, which prevented it from surviving and forming a nucleus of a larger state, as was the case with West Francia and East Francia.

Adalard, also known as Adalhard or Alard, and called the Seneschal, was a Frankish nobleman of the 9th century. He served as warden of the Norman march from 861 to 865, and was Lord Chancellor of France under Louis the Pious.

Hemma Queen consort of the Franks

Emma of Altdorf, also known as Hemma, a member of the Elder House of Welf, was Queen consort of East Francia by marriage to King Louis the German, from 843 until her death.

Louis the Younger King of Saxony

Louis the Younger, sometimes Louis III, was the second eldest of the three sons of Louis the German and Emma. He succeeded his father as the King of Saxony on 28 August 876 and his elder brother Carloman as King of Bavaria from 880 to 882. He died in 882 and was succeeded in all his territories, which encompassed most of East Francia, by his younger brother, Charles the Fat, already king of Italy and emperor.

Treaty of Prüm treaty

The Treaty of Prüm, concluded on 19 September 855, was the second of the partition treaties of the Carolingian Empire. As Emperor Lothair I was approaching death, he divided his realm of Middle Francia among his three sons.


  1. 1 2 Goldberg 2006, pp. 26–27.
  2. 1 2 Dutton 1990, p. 92.
  3. Costambeys, Innes & Maclean 2011, p. xx.
  4. Riche 1993, p. 145.
  5. Prudentius (861). Annals of St. Bertin.
  6. Riche 1993, p. 147.
  7. Deutinger, Roman. Hludovicus rex Baioariae. Zur Rolle Bayerns in der Politik Ludwigs des Deutschen. Darmstadt. pp. 47–66.
  8. Riche 1993, p. 154.
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  10. Goldberg 2006, p. 112.
  11. Gwatkin et al., p. 31.
  12. Goldberg, Eric Joseph (1995). Popular revolt, dynastic politics, and aristocratic factionalism in the early Middle Ages. The Saxon Stellinga reconsidered. Speculum. pp. 467–501.
  13. Disputed Author (841). Annales Fuldenses. Abbey House of Fulda.
  14. 1 2 McKitterick 1999, p. 175.
  15. Reuter 2013, p. 71.
  16. Riche 1993, p. 174.
  17. Riche 1993, p. 199.
  18. Hartmann, Wilfried (Darmstadt). Ludwig der Deutsche. pp. 120–122.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. Wilfried Hartmann: Ludwig der Deutsche – Portrait eines wenig bekannten Königs. In: Wilfried Hartmann (Hrsg.): Ludwig der Deutsche und seine Zeit. Darmstadt 2004, S. 1–26, hier: S. 7f.
  20. Wilfried Hartmann: Ludwig der Deutsche. Darmstadt 2002, S. 62.
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  22. Deutinger, Roman (2002). Hludovicus rex Baioariae. Zur Rolle Bayerns in der Politik Ludwigs des Deutschen. Darmstadt. p. 55.
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  27. Walsh 2007, p. 282.
  28. Riche 1993, p. 187.


Louis II of East Francia
Born: c. 806 Died: 28 August 876
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles the Younger
Duke of Maine
Succeeded by
Lothair I
Preceded by
Louis the Pious
as King 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