Kingdom of the West Franks
West Francia within Europe after the Treaty of Verdun in 843.
|Common languages||Gallo-Roman, Latin, Frankish|
|Charles the Bald (first)|
|Louis V of France|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
• Capetian dynasty established
|Today part of|| France |
In medieval history, West Francia (Medieval Latin: Francia occidentalis) or the Kingdom of the West Franks (regnum Francorum occidentalium) refers to the western part of the Frankish Empire established by Charlemagne. It represents the earliest stage of the Kingdom of France, lasting from about 840 until 987. West Francia emerged from the partition of the Carolingian Empire in 843 under the Treaty of Verdun following the death of Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious.
West Francia extended further south than modern France, but it did not extend as far east. West Francia did not include such future French holdings as Lorraine, County and Kingdom of Burgundy (the Duchy being French), Alsace and Provence in the east and southeast for example. In addition, by the 10th century the rule of its kings was greatly reduced even within the West Frankish realm by the increase in power of great territorial magnates over their large and usually territorially contiguous fiefs. This process was compounded by wars among those magnates, including against or alongside the Crown, and endless Viking invasions. Notably, Normandy was given to the rule of the Norseman Rollo following an unsuccessful raid. It was first a county then a duchy, and like other great fiefs of West Francia became largely autonomous, with magnates even more powerful than their monarch. In Brittany and Catalonia the authority of the West Frankish king was barely felt. West Frankish kings were elected by the secular and ecclesiastic magnates, and for the half-century between 888 and 936 they chose alternately from the Carolingian and Robertian houses.By this time the power of king became weaker and more nominal, as the regional dukes and nobles became more powerful in their semi-independent regions. The Robertians, after becoming counts of Paris and dukes of France, became kings themselves and established the Capetian dynasty after 987, which is, although arbitrary, generally defined as the gradual transition towards the Kingdom of France.
In August 843, after three years of civil war following the death of Louis the Pious on 20 June 840, the Treaty of Verdun was signed by his three sons and heirs. The youngest, Charles the Bald, received western Francia. The contemporary West Frankish Annales Bertiniani describes Charles arriving at Verdun, "where the distribution of portions" took place. After describing the portions of his brothers, Lothair the Emperor (Middle Francia) and Louis the German (East Francia), he notes that "the rest as far as Spain they ceded to Charles".The Annales Fuldenses of East Francia describe Charles as holding the western part after the kingdom was "divided in three".
Since the death of King Pippin I of Aquitaine in December 838, his son had been recognised by the Aquitainian nobility as King Pippin II of Aquitaine, although the succession had not been recognised by the emperor. Charles the Bald was at war with Pippin II from the start of his reign in 840, and the Treaty of Verdun ignored the claimant and assigned Aquitaine to Charles.Accordingly, in June 845, after several military defeats, Charles signed the Treaty of Benoît-sur-Loire and recognised his nephew's rule. This agreement lasted until 25 March 848, when the Aquitainian barons recognised Charles as their king. Thereafter Charles's armies had the upper hand, and by 849 had secured most of Aquitaine. In May, Charles had himself crowned "King of the Franks and Aquitainians" in Orléans. Archbishop Wenilo of Sens officiated at the coronation, which included the first instance of royal unction in West Francia. The idea of anointing Charles may be owed to Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, who composed no less than four ordines describing appropriate liturgies for a royal consecration. By the time of the Synod of Quierzy (858), Hincmar was claiming that Charles was anointed to the entire West Frankish kingdom. With the Treaty of Mersen in 870 the western part of Lotharingia was added to West Francia. In 875 Charles the Bald was crowned Emperor of Rome.
The last record in the Annales Bertiniani dates to 882, and so the only contemporary narrative source for the next eighteen years in West Francia is the Annales Vedastini . The next set of original annals from the West Frankish kingdom are those of Flodoard, who began his account with the year 919.
After the death of Charles's grandson, Carloman II, on 12 December 884, the West Frankish nobles elected his uncle, Charles the Fat, already king in East Francia and Kingdom of Italy, as their king. He was probably crowned "King in Gaul" (rex in Gallia) on 20 May 885 at Grand.His reign was the only time after the death of Louis the Pious that all of Francia would be re-united under one ruler. In his capacity as king of West Francia, he seems to have granted the royal title and perhaps regalia to the semi-independent ruler of Brittany, Alan I. His handling of the Viking siege of Paris in 885–86 greatly reduced his prestige. In November 887 his nephew, Arnulf of Carinthia revolted and assumed the title as King of the East Franks. Charles retired and soon died on 13 January 888.
In Aquitaine, Duke Ranulf II may have had himself recognised as king, but he only lived another two years.Although Aquitaine did not become a separate kingdom, it was largely outside the control of the West Frankish kings.
Odo, Count of Paris was then elected by nobles as the new king of West Francia, and was crowned the next month. At this point, West Francia was composed of Neustria in the west and in the east by Francia proper, the region between the Meuse and the Seine.
After the 860s, Lotharingian noble Robert the Strong became increasingly powerful as count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine. Robert's brother Hugh, abbot of Saint-Denis, was given control over Austrasia by Charles the Bald. Robert's son Odo was elected king in 888.Odo's brother Robert I ruled between 922 and 923 and was followed by Rudolph from 923 until 936. Hugh the Great, son of Robert I, was elevated to the title "duke of the Franks" by king Louis IV. In 987 his son Hugh Capet was elected king and the Capetian dynasty began. At this point they controlled very little beyond the Île-de-France.
Outside the old Frankish territories and in the south local nobles were semi-independent after 887 as duchies were created: Burgundy, Aquitaine, Brittany, Gascony, Normandy, Champagne and the County of Flanders.
The power of the kings continued to decline, together with their inability to resist the Vikings and to oppose the rise of regional nobles who were no longer appointed by the king but became hereditary local dukes. In 877 Boso of Provence, brother-in-law of Charles the Bald, crowned himself as the king of Burgundy and Provence. His son Louis the Blind was king of Provence from 890 and Emperor between 901 and 905. Rudolph II of Burgundy established the Kingdom of Burgundy in 933.
After the death of East Francia's last Carolingian king Louis the Child, Lotharingia switched allegiance to the king of West Francia, Charles the Simple. After 911 the Duchy of Swabia extended westwards and added lands of Alsace. Baldwin II of Flanders became increasingly powerful after the Odo's death in 898, gaining Boulogne and Ternois from Charles. The territory over which the king exercised actual control shrank considerably, and was reduced to lands between Normandy and river Loire. The royal court usually stayed in Rheims or Laon.
Norsemen began settling in Normandy, and from 919 Magyars invaded repeatedly. In the absence of strong royal power, invaders were engaged and defeated by local nobles, like Richard of Burgundy and Robert of Neustria, who defeated Viking leader Rollo in 911 at Chartres. The Norman threat was eventually ended, with the last Danegeld paid in 924 and 926. Both nobles became increasingly opposed to Charles, and in 922 deposed him and elected Robert I as the new king. After Robert's death in 923 nobles elected Rudolf as king, and kept Charles imprisoned until his death in 929. After the rule of king Charles the Simple, local dukes began issuing their own currency.
King Rudolf was supported by his brother Hugh the Black and son of Robert I, Hugh the Great. Dukes of Normandy refused to recognise Rudolf until 933. The King also had to move with his army against the southern nobles to receive their homage and loyalty, however, the count of Barcelona managed to avoid this completely.
After 925 Rudolf was involved in a war against the rebellious Herbert II, Count of Vermandois, who received support from kings Henry the Fowler and Otto I of East Francia. His rebellion continued until his death in 943.
King Louis IV and Duke Hugh the Great were married to sisters of East Frankish king Otto I who after the deaths of their husbands managed Carolingian and Robertine rule together with their brother Bruno the Great, archbishop of Cologne, as regent.
After further victories by Herbert II, Louis was rescued only with the help of the large nobles and Otto I. In 942 Louis gave up Lotharingia to Otto I.
Succession conflict in Normandy led to a new war in which Louis was betrayed by Hugh the Great and captured by Danish prince Harald who eventually released him to the custody of Hugh, who freed the king only after receiving town of Laon as a compensation.
The 13-year old Lothair of France inherited all the lands of his father in 954. By this time they were so small that the Carolingian practice of dividing lands among the sons was not followed and his brother Charles received nothing. In 966 Lothair married Emma, stepdaughter of his maternal uncle Otto I. Despite this, in August 978 Lothair attacked the old imperial capital Aachen. Otto II retaliated by attacking Paris, but was defeated by the combined forces of king Lothar and nobles and peace was signed in 980, ending the brief Franco-German war.
Lothar managed to increase his power, but this was reversed with the coming of age of Hugh Capet, who began forming new alliances of nobles and eventually was elected as king in 987 after Lothair and his son and successor Louis V of France had both died prematurely, traditionally marking the end of the French branch of Carolingian dynasty as well as the end of West Francia as a kingdom. Hugh Capet would be the first ruler of a new royal house, the House of Capet, who would rule France through the High middle ages.
The Treaty of Verdun, signed in August 843, was the first of the treaties that divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms among the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, who was the son of Charlemagne. The treaty, signed in Verdun-sur-Meuse, ended the three-year Carolingian Civil War.
Charles the Bald was a 9th-century king of West Francia (843–877), king of Italy (875–877) and emperor of the Carolingian Empire (875–877). After a series of civil wars during the reign of his father, Louis the Pious, Charles succeeded, by the Treaty of Verdun (843), in acquiring the western third of the Carolingian Empire. He was a grandson of Charlemagne and the youngest son of Louis the Pious by his second wife, Judith.
Hugh Capet was the King of the Franks from 987 to 996. He is the founder and first king from the House of Capet. The son of the powerful duke Hugh the Great and his wife Hedwige of Saxony, he was elected as the successor of the last Carolingian king, Louis V. Hugh was descended from Charlemagne's sons Louis the Pious and Pepin of Italy through his mother and paternal grandmother, respectively, and was also a nephew of Otto the Great.
Charles III, called the Simple or the Straightforward, was the king of West Francia from 898 until 922 and the king of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty.
Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks.
Robert I, was the elected King of West Francia from 922 to 923. Before his election to the throne he was Count of Poitiers, Count of Paris and Marquis of Neustria and Orléans. He succeeded the overthrown Carolingian king Charles the Simple, who in 898 had succeeded Robert's brother, king Odo.
Hugh the Great was the Duke of the Franks and Count of Paris.
Lotharingia was a short-lived medieval successor kingdom of the Carolingian Empire. As a more durable later duchy of the Ottonian Empire, it comprised present-day Lorraine (France), Luxembourg, Saarland (Germany), the eastern half of Belgium and the southern half of Netherlands, along with parts of today's North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany) and Nord (France). It was named after King Lothair II, who received this territory after his father Lothair I's kingdom of Middle Francia was divided among his three sons in 855.
Robert the Strong was the father of two kings of West Francia: Odo and Robert I of France. His family is named after him and called the Robertians. In 853, he was named missus dominicus by Charles the Bald, King of West Francia. Robert the Strong was the great-grandfather of Hugh Capet and thus the ancestor of all the Capetians.
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.
Lothair, sometimes called Lothair III or Lothair IV, was the penultimate Carolingian king of West Francia, reigning from 10 September 954 until his death in 986.
Kingdom of Burgundy was a name given to various states located in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The historical Burgundy correlates with the border area of France, Italy and Switzerland and includes the major modern cities of Geneva and Lyon.
The Kingdom of Upper Burgundy was a Frankish dominion established in 888 by the Welf king Rudolph I of Burgundy on the territory of former Middle Francia. It grew out of the Carolingian margraviate of Transjurane Burgundy southeast of ('beyond') the Jura Mountains together with the adjacent County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté) in the northwest. The adjective 'upper' refers to its location further up the Rhône river, as distinct from Lower Burgundy and also from the Duchy of Burgundy west of the Saône river. Upper Burgundy was reunited with the Kingdom of Lower Burgundy in 933 to form the Kingdom of Burgundy, later known as Kingdom of Arles or Arelat.
Odo I, Count of Blois, Chartres, Reims, Provins, Châteaudun, and Omois, was the son of Theobald I of Blois and Luitgard, daughter of Herbert II of Vermandois. He received the title of count palatine, which was traditional in his family, from King Lothair of West Francia.
Middle Francia or the first state of Lotharingia 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 and 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.
The Marches of Neustria were two marches created in 861 by the Carolingian king of West Francia Charles the Bald that were ruled by officials appointed by the crown, known as wardens, prefects or margraves. Originally, one March was created against the Bretons and one against the Norsemen, often called the Breton March and Norman March respectively.
The Robertians are the proposed Frankish family which was ancestral to the Capetian dynasty, and thus to the royal families of France and of many other countries. The Capetians appear first in the records as powerful nobles serving under the Carolingian dynasty in West Francia, which later became France. As their power increased, they came into conflict with the older royal family and attained the crown several times before the eventual start of the continuous rule of the descendants of Hugh Capet.
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.
Louis IV, called d'Outremer or Transmarinus, reigned as king of West Francia from 936 to 954. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, he was the only son of king Charles the Simple and his second wife Eadgifu of Wessex, daughter of King Edward the Elder of Wessex. His reign is mostly known thanks to the Annals of Flodoard and the later Historiae of Richerus.