Charles the Bald (13 June 823 – 6 October 877) was the King of West Francia (843–877), King of Italy (875–877) and Holy Roman Emperor (875–877, as Charles II). 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.
He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder brothers were already adults and had been assigned their own regna, or subkingdoms, by their father. The attempts made by Louis the Pious to assign Charles a subkingdom, first Alemannia and then the country between the Meuse and the Pyrenees (in 832, after the rising of Pepin I of Aquitaine) were unsuccessful. The numerous reconciliations with the rebellious Lothair and Pepin, as well as their brother Louis the German, King of Bavaria, made Charles’s share in Aquitaine and Italy only temporary, but his father did not give up and made Charles the heir of the entire land which was once Gaul. At a diet in Aachen in 837, Louis the Pious bade the nobles do homage to Charles as his heir. Pepin of Aquitaine died in 838, whereupon Charles at last received that kingdom, which angered Pepin’s heirs and the Aquitainian nobles.
The death of the emperor in 840 led to the outbreak of war between his sons. Charles allied himself with his brother Louis the German to resist the pretensions of the new Emperor Lothair I, and the two allies defeated Lothair at the Battle of Fontenoy-en-Puisaye on 25 June 841. In the following year, the two brothers confirmed their alliance by the celebrated Oaths of Strasbourg. The war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Verdun in August 843. The settlement gave Charles the Bald the kingdom of the West Franks, which he had been up until then governing and which practically corresponded with what is now France, as far as the Meuse, the Saône, and the Rhône, with the addition of the Spanish March as far as the Ebro. Louis received the eastern part of the Carolingian Empire, known then as East Francia and later as Germany. Lothair retained the imperial title and the Kingdom of Italy. He also received the central regions from Flanders through the Rhineland and Burgundy as king of Middle Francia.
The first years of Charles’s reign, up to the death of Lothair I in 855, were comparatively peaceful. During these years the three brothers continued the system of „confraternal government“, meeting repeatedly with one another, at Koblenz (848), at Meerssen (851), and at Attigny (854). In 858, Louis the German, invited by disaffected nobles eager to oust Charles, invaded the West Frankish kingdom. Charles was so unpopular that he was unable to summon an army, and he fled to Burgundy. He was saved only by the support of the bishops, who refused to crown Louis the German king, and by the fidelity of the Welfs, who were related to his mother, Judith. In 860, he in his turn tried to seize the kingdom of his nephew, Charles of Provence, but was repulsed. On the death of his nephew Lothair II in 869, Charles tried to seize Lothair’s dominions by having himself consecrated as King of Lotharingia at Metz, but he was compelled to open negotiations when Louis found support among Lothair’s former vassals. Lotharingia was partitioned between Charles and Louis in the resulting treaty (870).
Besides these family disputes, Charles had to struggle against repeated rebellions in Aquitaine and against the Bretons. Led by their chiefs Nomenoë and Erispoë, who defeated the king at the Battle of Ballon (845) and the Battle of Jengland (851), the Bretons were successful in obtaining a de facto independence. Charles also fought against the Vikings, who devastated the country of the north, the valleys of the Seine and Loire, and even up to the borders of Aquitaine. At the Vikings‘ successful siege and sack of Paris in 845 and several times thereafter Charles was forced to purchase their retreat at a heavy price. Charles led various expeditions against the invaders and, by the Edict of Pistres of 864, made the army more mobile by providing for a cavalry element, the predecessor of the French chivalry so famous during the next 600 years. By the same edict, he ordered fortified bridges to be put up at all rivers to block the Viking incursions. Two of these bridges at Paris saved the city during its siege of 885–886.
In 875, after the death of the Emperor Louis II (son of his half-brother Lothair), Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII, traveled to Italy, receiving the royal crown at Pavia and the imperial insignia in Rome on 29 December. Louis the German, also a candidate for the succession of Louis II, revenged himself by invading and devastating Charles‘ dominions, and Charles had to return hastily to West Francia. After the death of Louis the German (28 August 876), Charles in his turn attempted to seize Louis’s kingdom, but was decisively beaten at the Battle of Andernach on 8 October 876.
In the meantime, John VIII, menaced by the Saracens, was urging Charles to come to his defence in Italy. Charles again crossed the Alps, but this expedition was received with little enthusiasm by the nobles, and even by his regent in Lombardy, Boso, and they refused to join his army. At the same time Carloman, son of Louis the German, entered northern Italy. Charles, ill and in great distress, started on his way back to Gaul, but died while crossing the pass of Mont Cenis at Brides-les-Bains, on 6 October 877.
According to the Annals of St-Bertin, Charles was hastily buried at the abbey of Nantua, Burgundy because the bearers were unable to withstand the stench of his decaying body. He was to have been buried in the Basilique Saint-Denis and may have been transferred there later. It was recorded that there was a memorial brass there that was melted down at the Revolution.
Charles was succeeded by his son, Louis. Charles was a prince of education and letters, a friend of the church, and conscious of the support he could find in the episcopate against his unruly nobles, for he chose his councillors from among the higher clergy, as in the case of Guenelon of Sens, who betrayed him, and of Hincmar of Reims.
It has been suggested that Charles‘ nickname was used ironically and not descriptively; i.e. that he was not in fact bald, but rather that he was extremely hairy. An alternative or additional interpretation is based on Charles‘ initial lack of a regnum. „Bald“ would in this case be a tongue-in-cheek reference to his landlessness, at an age where his brothers already had been sub-kings for some years.
Contemporary depictions of his person, e.g. in his Bible of 845, on his seal [[:|of 847]] (as king) as well as on his seal of 875 (as emperor) show him with a full head of hair, as does the equestrian statuette (c. 870) thought to depict him.
The Genealogy of Frankish Kings, a text from Fontanelle dating from possibly as early as 869, and a text without a trace of irony, names him as Karolus Calvus („Charles the Bald“). Certainly, by the end of the 10th century, Richier of Reims and Adhemar of Chabannes refer to him in all seriousness as „Charles the Bald“.
Charles married Ermentrude, daughter of Odo I, Count of Orléans, in 842. She died in 869. In 870, Charles married Richilde of Provence, who was descended from a noble family of Lorraine.
- Judith (c.843–after 866), married first King Ethelwulf of Wessex, second his son King Ethelbald, and third Baldwin I, Margrave of Flanders
- Louis the Stammerer (846–879)
- Charles the Child (847–866)
- Lothair the Lame (848–866), monk in 861, became Abbot of Saint-Germain
- Carloman (849–876)
- Rotrude (852–912), a nun, Abbess of Saint-Radegunde
- Ermentrud (854–877), a nun, Abbess of Hasnon
- Hildegarde (born 856, died young)
- Gisela (857–874)
- Godehilde (864–907)
- Rothilde (871–929), married firstly to Hugues, Count of Bourges and secondly to Roger.
- Drogo (872–873)
- Pippin (873–874)
- a son (born and died 875)
- Charles (876–877)
Louis the Stammerer (French: Louis le Bègue; 1 November 846 – 10 April 879) was the King of Aquitaine and later the King of West Francia. He was the eldest son of emperor Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans. Louis the Stammerer was physically weak and outlived his father by only two years.
He succeeded his younger brother Charles the Child as the ruler of Aquitaine in 866 and his father in West Francia in 877, but he was never crowned Emperor. In the French monarchial system, he is considered Louis II.
Louis was crowned king on 8 October 877 by Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, at Compiegne and was crowned a second time in August 878 by Pope John VIII at Troyes while the pope was attending a council there. The pope may have even offered him the imperial crown, but it was declined. Louis had relatively little impact on politics. He was described „a simple and sweet man, a lover of peace, justice, and religion“. In 878, he gave the counties of Barcelona, Girona, and Besalú to Wilfred the Hairy. His final act was to march against the invading Vikings, but he fell ill and died on 9 April or 10 April 879, not long after beginning this final campaign. On his death, his realms were divided between his two sons, Carloman II and Louis III of France.
During the peace negotiations between his father and Erispoe, duke of Brittany, Louis was betrothed to an unnamed daughter of Erispoe in 856. It is not known if this was the same daughter who later married Gurivant. The contract was broken in 857 after Erispoe’s murder.
Louis was married twice. His first wife Ansgarde of Burgundy had two sons: Louis (born in 863) and Carloman (born in 866), both of whom became kings of West Francia, and two daughters: Hildegarde (born in 864) and Gisela (865–884).
His second wife Adelaide of Paris had one daughter, Ermentrude (875–914) and a posthumous son, Charles the Simple, who would become, long after his elder brothers‘ deaths, king of West Francia.
Louis III (863/65 – 5 August 882) was the king of West Francia from 879 until his death in 882. The eldest son of king Louis the Stammerer and his first wife Ansgarde of Burgundy, he succeeded his father and ruled jointly with his younger brother Carloman II, who became sole ruler after Louis’s death. Louis’s short reign was marked by military success.
Louis was born while his father was King of Aquitaine and his grandfather Charles the Bald was ruling West Francia. Some doubts were raised about his legitimacy, since his parents had married secretly and Ansgarde was later repudiated at Charles‘ insistence. When Charles died in 877 and then Louis the Stammerer died two years later, some Frankish nobles advocated electing Louis as the sole king, but another party favoured each brother ruling a separate part of the kingdom. In September 879 Louis was crowned at Ferrières Abbey. In March 880 at Amiens the brothers divided their father’s kingdom, Louis receiving the northern part, called Neustria or sometimes simply Francia.
Duke Boso, one of Charles the Bald’s most trusted lieutenants renounced his allegiance to both brothers and was elected King of Provence. In the summer of 880 Carloman II and Louis III marched against him and captured Mâcon and the northern part of Boso’s kingdom. They united their forces with those of their cousin Charles the Fat, then ruling East Francia and Kingdom of Italy, and unsuccessfully besieged Vienne from August to November. In 881 Louis III achieved a momentous victory against Viking raiders, whose invasions had been ongoing since his grandfather’s reign, at the Battle of Saucourt-en-Vimeu. Within a year of the battle an anonymous poet celebrated it and the king, for both his prowess and piety in a short poem Ludwigslied composed in the Old High German.
Louis III died on 5 August 882, aged around 18, at Saint-Denis in the centre of his realm. Whilst mounting his horse to pursue a girl who was running to seek refuge in her father´s house he hit his head on the lintel of a low door and fell, fracturing his skull. Since he had no children, his brother Carloman II became the sole king of West Francia and the victor of Saucourt was buried in the royal mausoleum of the Basilica of St Denis.
Carloman II (c. 866 – 6 December 884) was the King of West Francia from 879 until his death. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, he and his elder brother, Louis III, divided the kingdom between themselves and ruled jointly until the latter’s death in 882. Thereafter Carloman ruled alone until his own death. He was the second son of King Louis the Stammerer and Queen Ansgarde.
Upon Louis the Stammerer’s death, some Frankish nobles advocated electing Louis III as the sole king, but eventually both brothers were elected kings. Carloman was crowned in September 879 at Ferrières-en-Gâtinais. Although some doubts were cast upon the legitimacy of their birth, the brothers obtained recognition and in March 880 divided their father’s realm at Amiens, Carloman receiving southern Kingdom of Burgundy and Kingdom of Aquitaine.
Meanwhile, the powerful Duke Boso of Provence had renounced his allegiance to both brothers and had been elected King of Provence. In the summer of 880 Carloman and Louis III marched against Boso, took Mâcon and the northern parts of his realm. Despite receiving help from their cousin Charles the Fat, who ruled East Francia and Kingdom of Italy the siege of Vienne lasted from August to November without success. Only in the summer of 882 Vienne was taken after being besieged by Richard, Count of Autun.
After the accidental death of Louis III in August 882, Carloman II became the sole king of West Francia. The kingdom was in a deplorable condition, partly owing to repeated incursions from the Viking raiders, and his power was very limited by rebellious nobles, especially in Burgundy.
Carloman II died near Les Andelys while hunting on 6 December 884 and was succeeded in the throne by his cousin, the Emperor Charles the Fat. He is buried in the Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.
Charles III (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles the Fat, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne. He was the second-to-last emperor of the Carolingian dynasty and the last to rule, briefly, over a re-united Frankish empire.
Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876, following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited the kingdom of East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, thus reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.
Usually considered lethargic and inept—he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy—he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including the infamous Siege of Paris (885–886) which led to his downfall.
The reunited Empire did not last. During a coup led by his nephew Arnulf of Carinthia in November 887, Charles was deposed in East Francia, Lotharingia, and Kingdom of Italy. Forced into quiet retirement he died of natural causes in January 888, just a few weeks after his deposition. The Empire quickly fell apart after his death, splintering into five separate successor kingdoms; the territory it had occupied was not entirely reunited under one ruler until the conquests of Napoleon.
The nickname „Charles the Fat“ (Latin Carolus Crassus) is not contemporary. It was first used by the Annalista Saxo (the anonymous „Saxon Annalist“) in the twelfth century. There is no contemporary reference to Charles’s physical size, but the nickname has stuck and is the common name in most modern European languages (French Charles le Gros, German Karl der Dicke, Italian Carlo il Grosso).
His numeral is roughly contemporary. Regino of Prüm, a contemporary of Charles’s recording his death, calls him „Emperor Charles, third of that name and dignity“ (Latin Carolus imperator, tertius huius nominis et dignitatis).
Charles was the youngest of the three sons of Louis the German, first King of East Francia, and Hemma from the House of Welf. An incident of demonic possession is recorded in his youth, in which he was said to have been foaming at the mouth before he was taken to the altar of the church. This greatly affected his father and himself. He was described as: „…a very Christian prince, fearing God, with all his heart keeping His commandments, very devoutly obeying the orders of the Church, generous in alms-giving, practising unceasingly prayer and song, always intent upon celebrating the praises of God.“
In 859, Charles was made Count of the Breisgau, an Alemannic march bordering southern Lotharingia. In 863 his rebellious eldest brother Carloman revolted against their father. The next year Louis the Younger followed Carloman in revolt and Charles joined him. Carloman received rule over the Duchy of Bavaria. In 865 the elder Louis was forced to divide his remaining lands among his heirs: Duchy of Saxony (with Duchy of Franconiaand Duchy of Thuringia) went to Louis; Alemannia (Duchy of Swabia with Rhaetia) went to Charles. Lotharingia was to be divided between the younger two.
When in 875 the Emperor Louis II, who was also King of Italy, died having agreed with Louis the German that Carloman would succeed him in Italy, Charles the Bald of West Francia invaded the peninsula and had himself crowned king and emperor. Louis the German sent first Charles and then Carloman himself, with armies containing Italian forces under Berengar of Friuli, their cousin, to the Italian kingdom. These wars, however, were not successful until the death of Charles the Bald in 877.
In 876 Louis the German died and the inheritance was divided as planned after a conference at Ries, though Charles received less of his share of Lotharingia than planned. In his charters, Charles‘ reign in Germania is dated from his inheritance in 876.
Three brothers ruled in cooperation and avoided wars over the division of their patrimony: a rare occurrence in the Early Middle Ages. In 877, Carloman finally inherited Italy from his uncle Charles the Bald. Louis divided Lotharingia and offered a third to Carloman and a third to Charles. In 878, Carloman returned his Lotharingian share to Louis, who then divided it evenly with Charles. In 879, Carloman was incapacitated by a stroke and divided his domains between his brothers: Bavaria went to Louis and Italy to Charles. Charles dated his reign in Italia from this point, and from then he spent most of his reign until 886 in his Italian kingdom.
In 880, Charles joined Louis III of France and Carloman II, the joint kings of West Francia, in failed siege of Boso of Provence in Vienne from August to September. Provence, legally a part of the Italian kingdom from 863, had rebelled under Boso. In August 882, Charles sent Richard, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Autun, to take the city, which he finally did in September. After this, Boso was restricted to the vicinity of Vienne.
On 18 July 880, Pope John VIII sent a letter to Guy II of Spoleto seeking peace, but the duke ignored him and invaded the Papal States. John responded by begging the aid of Charles in his capacity as King of Italy and crowned Charles Emperor on 12 February 881. This was accompanied by hopes of a general revival in western Europe, but Charles proved to be unequal to the task. Charles did little to help against Guy II. Papal letters as late as November were still petitioning Charles for action.
As emperor, Charles began the construction of a palace at Sélestat in Alsace. He modelled it after the Palace at Aachen which was built by Charlemagne, whom he consciously sought to emulate, as indicated by the Gesta Karoli Magni of Notker the Stammerer. As Aachen was located in the kingdom of his brother, it was necessary for Charles to build a new palace for his court in his own power base of western Alemannia. Sélestat was also more centrally located than Aachen.
In February 882, Charles convoked a diet in Ravenna. The duke, emperor, and pope made peace and Guy and his uncle, Guy of Camerino, vowed to return the papal lands. In a March letter to Charles, John claimed that the vows went unfulfilled. In 883, Guy, now Duke of Spoleto, was accused of treason at an imperial synod held at Nonantula late in May. He returned to Spoleto and made an alliance with the Saracens. Charles sent Berengar against Guy of Spoleto. Berengar was initially successful until an epidemic of disease, which ravaged all Italy, affecting the emperor and his entourage as well as Berengar’s army, forced him to retreat.
In 883, Charles signed a treaty with Giovanni II Participazio, Doge of Venice, granting that any assassin of a doge who fled to the territory of the Empire would be fined 100 lbs of gold and banished.
In the early 880s, the remnants of the Great Heathen Army, defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun in 878, began to settle in the Low Countries. Charles‘ brother Louis the Younger had opposed them with some success, but he died after a short campaign on 20 January 882, leaving his throne to Charles, who reunited the whole East Frankish kingdom.
After returning from Italy, Charles held an assembly at Worms with the purpose of dealing with the Vikings. Armies from the whole East Francia were assembled in the summer under Arnulf, Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Count of Saxony. The chief Viking camp was then besieged at Asselt. Charles then opened negotiations with the Viking chiefs Godfrid and Sigfred. Godfrid accepted Christianity and became Charles’s vassal. He was married to Gisela, daughter of Lothair II of Lotharingia. Sigfred was bribed off. Despite the insinuations of some modern historians, no contemporary account criticised Charles’s actions during this campaign. In 885, fearing Godfrid and his brother-in-law, Hugh, Duke of Alsace, Charles arranged for a conference at Spijk near Lobith, where the Viking leader fell into his trap. Godfrid was executed, and Hugh was blinded and sent to Prüm.
From 882 to 884, the Wilhelminer War engulfed the March of Pannonia (later March of Austria). Arnulf of Carinthia, Charles’s illegitimate nephew, made alliance with the rebel Engelschalk II against Aribo of Austria, Charles‘ appointed margrave of the region. Svatopluk I, ruler of Great Moravia, agreed to help Aribo and in 884 at Kaumberg took an oath of fidelity to Charles. Though the emperor lost his vassals of the Wilhelminer family and his relationship with his nephew was broken, he gained powerful new allies in the Moravian dux and other Slavic duces of the region.
When Carloman II of West Francia died on 12 December 884, the nobles of the kingdom invited Charles to assume the kingship. Charles gladly accepted, it being the third kingdom to „fall into his lap“. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Charles succeeded to all of the kingdom of Carloman except Brittany, but this does not seem to have been true. It is likely that Charles was crowned by Geilo, Bishop of Langres, as rex in Gallia on May 20, 885 at Grand in the Vosges in southern Lorraine. Although Geilo even developed a special West Frankish seal for him, Charles’s government in the West was always very distant and he left most day-to-day business to the higher nobility.
Though West Francia (the future France) was far less menaced by the Vikings than the Low Countries, it was heavily hit nonetheless. In 885, a huge fleet led by Sigfred sailed up the Seine, for the first time in years, and besieged Paris. Sigfred demanded a bribe again, but this time Charles refused. He was in Italy at the time and Odo, Count of Paris, sneaked some men through enemy lines to seek his aid. Charles sent Henry of Saxony to Paris. In 886, as disease began to spread through Paris, Odo himself went to Charles to seek support. Charles brought a large army and encircled the army of Rollo and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the attackers up the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of promised silver. Charles‘ prestige in France was greatly diminished.
Charles issued a number of charters for West Frankish recipients during his stay in Paris during and after the siege. He recognised rights and privileges granted by his predecessors to recipients in the Spanish March and Provence, but especially in Neustria, where he had contact with Nantes at a time when the Breton duke Alan I was known to be powerful in the county of Nantes. It is probable that Charles granted Alan the right to be titled rex; as emperor he would have had that prerogative and Alan’s use of the title appears legitimate. A charter dated to between 897 and 900 makes reference to the soul of Karolus, on whose behalf Alan had ordered prayers to be said in the monastery of Redon. This was probably Charles the Fat.
Charles, childless by his marriage to Richgard, tried to have his illegitimate son by an unknown concubine, Bernard, recognised as his heir in 885, but met the opposition from several bishops. He had the support of Pope Hadrian III, whom he invited to an assembly in Worms in October 885, but who died on the way, just after crossing the river Po. Hadrian was going to depose the obstructing bishops, as Charles doubted he could do this himself, and legitimise Bernard. Based on the unfavouring attitude of the chronicler of the Mainz continuation of the Annales Fuldenses, the chief of Charles’s opponents in the matter was probablyLiutbert, Archbishop of Mainz. Because Charles had called together the „bishops and counts of Gaul“ as well as the pope to meet him at Worms, it seems likely that he planned to make Bernard King of Lotharingia. Notker the Stammerer, who considered Bernard as a possible heir, wrote in his Deeds of Charlemagne:
„I will not tell you [Charles the Fat] of this [the Viking sack of the Abbey of Prüm] until I see your little son Bernard with a sword girt to his thigh.“
Perhaps Notker was awaiting Bernard’s kingship, when Prüm would be avenged.
After the failure of this first attempt, Charles set about to try again. He had the term proles (offspring) inserted into his charters as it had not been in previous years, probably because he desired to legitimise Bernard. In early 886 Charles met the new Pope Stephen V and probably negotiated for the recognition of his son as his heir. An assembly was planned for April and May of the next year at Waiblingen. Pope Stephen cancelled his planned attendance on April 30, 887. Nevertheless, at Waiblingen, Berengar, who after a brief feud with Liutward had lost the favour of the emperor, came in early May 887, made peace with the emperor, and compensated for the actions of the previous year by dispensing great gifts.
Charles probably abandoned his plans for Bernard and instead adopted Louis of Provence as his son at an assembly at Kirchen in May. It is possible, however, that the agreement with Louis was only designed to engender support for Bernard’s subkingship in Lotharingia. In June or July Berengar arrived in Kirchen, probably pining to be declared Charles’s heir; he may in fact have been so named in Italy, where he was acclaimed (or made himself) king immediately after Charles’s deposition. Odo, Count of Paris, may have had a similar purpose in visiting Charles at Kirchen. On the other hand, the presence of these magnates at these two great assemblies may merely have been necessary to confirm Charles‘ illegitimate son as his heir (Waiblingen), a plan which failed when the pope refused to attend, and then to confirm Louis instead (Kirchen).
With Charles increasingly seen as spineless and incompetent, matters came to a head in late 887. In the summer of that year, having given up on plans for his son’s succession, Charles received Odo and Berengar, Margrave of Friuli, a relative of his, at his court. He may have accepted neither, one, or both of these as his heir in their respective kingdoms. His inner circle then began to fall apart. First, he accused his wife Richgard of having an affair with his chief minister and archchancellor, Liutward, bishop of Vercelli. She proved her innocence in an ordeal of fire and left him for the monastic life. He then turned against Liutward, who was hated by all, and removed him from office, appointing Liutbert, Archbishop of Mainz, in his place.
In that year, his first cousin once removed, Ermengard of Provence, daughter of the Emperor Louis II and wife of Boso of Provence, brought her son Louis the Blind to him for protection. Charles confirmed Louis in Provence (he may even have adopted him) and allowed them to live at his court. He probably intended to make Louis heir to the whole realm and the imperium. On 11 November, he called an assembly to Frankfurt. While there he received news that an ambitious nephew, Arnulf of Carinthia, had fomented a general rebellion and was marching into Germany with an army of Bavarians and Slavs. The next week saw the collapse of all his support in East Francia. The last to abandon him were his loyal Alemanni, though the men of Lotharingia never seem to have formally accepted his deposition. By 17 November, Charles was out of power, though the exact course of events is unknown. Aside from rebuking his faithlessness, he did little to prevent Arnulf’s move—he had recently been ill again—but assured that Bernard was entrusted to his care and possibly Louis too. He asked for a few estates in Swabia on which to live out his days and thus received Naudingen (Donaueschingen). There he died six weeks later, on 13 January 888.
The Empire fell apart, never to be restored. According to Regino of Prüm, each part of the realm elected a „kinglet“ from its own „bowels“—the bowels being the regions inside the realm. It is probable that Arnulf desired the whole empire, but the only part he received other than East Francia was Lotharingia. The French elected Odo, although he was opposed at first by Guy III of Spoleto, who also opposed Arnulf in Lotharingia. Guy sought the kingship in Italy after his failures in Francia, despite Berengar having already been crowned. Louis was crowned in Provence, as Charles had intended, and he sought the support of Arnulf and gained it, probably through supplication to him. Odo would eventually submit to Arnulf’s supremacy as well. In Upper Burgundy, one Rudolph, a dux of the region, was elected as king in a distinctly non-Carolingian creation, probably the result of his failure to succeed in the whole of Lotharingia. In Aquitaine, Ranulf II declared himself king and took the guardianship of the young Charles the Simple, the Carolingian heir to the West, refusing to recognise Odo’s election.
It is unknown if these elections were a response to Charles’s East Frankish deposition or to his death. Only those of Arnulf and Berengar can be certainly placed before his death. Only the magnates of the East ever formally deposed him. He was buried with honour in Reichenau after his death and the Annales Fuldenses heap praises on his piety and godliness. Indeed, contemporary opinion of Charles is consistently kinder than later historiography, though it is a modern suggestion that his lack of apparent successes is the excusable result of near constant illness and infirmity.
Charles was the subject of a hortative piece of Latin prose, the Visio Karoli Grossi, designed to champion the cause of Louis the Blind and warn the Carolingians that their continued rule was not certain if they did not have „divine“ (i.e. ecclesiastical) favour.