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I have touched on this before so I may be repeating some of myself here. The subject of France and the Kingdom of France/Kingdom of the Franks is complex and doesn’t fit into a tidy box of starts and stops as one may want it to. Just like we have a specific date for the founding of the Kingdom of Wessex in England, we have a specific date for the founding of the Kingdom of the Franks. And just like the transformation from the Kingdom of Wessex in to the Kingdom of England is open to interpretation, so is the transformation from the Kingdom of the Franks into the Kingdom of France. So who was the last King of the franks? Who was the first King of France?

Here is a little background information.

The Kingdom of the Franks or Frankish Kingdom (Latin: Regnum Francorum), Frankish Empire, Frankish Realm or occasionally Frankland, Francia or Frankia was a territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks, who were a coalition of Germanic tribes. The kingdom was founded by Clovis I, crowned first King of the Franks in 496. Clovis’ title in Latin was Francorum Rex. My intent is not to do a complete history of the Frankish Kingdom for this topic but I will summarize some important aspects.

At first the kingdom was small, the kingdom originally consisted of the area called Austrasia which was centered on the Middle Rhine and included the basins the Moselle, Main and Meuse rivers. It bordered on Frisia and Saxony to the north, Thuringia to the east, Swabia and Burgundy to the south and to Neustria and Flanders to the west. Under Charlemagne the territory of of the Frankish kingdom, or empire at this time, included all of modern France, the Low Countries, Germany and Northern Italy.

However, prior to Charlemagne unity of the Frankish Kingdom was not its trademark. The dynasty Clovis belonged to, the Merovingians, had the habit of dividing the kingdom among all the sons of the king. This mean Francia was often divided into sub-kingdoms such as the kingdom of Austrasia and Neustria for example. There were times when the kingdom was united but it was rare.

Eventually the Merovingians became weak monarchs and were supplanted by the Mayors of the Palace (often chief advisory to the king). In 751 Pippin the Younger, Mayor of the Palace, supplanted the Merovingians and became King of the Franks. This dynasty would become known as the Carolingians named after Pipin’s most famous son, Charles the Great, known to history as Charlemagne. Under Charlemagne the Kingdom of the Franks reached its zenith in both power and geographical extent. With Charlemagne’s support of the papacy in times of war and invasion, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor on Christmas Day, 800, with the notion he had restored the old Roman Empire in the West (topic of another blog post).

Charlemagne expressed his desire to separate and divide his kingdom among his three sons but with the death of all of them except Louis, the point was moot. Louis inherited the entire Frankish empire including the titles Francorum Rex and Imperator Romanorum “Emperor of the Romans.” It was Louis I called the Pious, who divided his empire in 840. However, civil war broke out among the three sons and it was with the Treaty of Verdun in 843 that settled the division.

These are the three divisions of the empire decided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843: East and West Francia and Middle Francia.

Middle Francia was the territory ruled by Lothair I, eldest son of Louis I, and the kingdom was wedged between East and West Francia. Lothair I took the Imperial title but only the ruled the Middle Frankish Kingdom. His three sons in turn divided this kingdom between them into Lotharingia (centered on Lorraine), Burgundy, and (Northern) Italy, known as Lombardy. These areas had different cultures, ethnicity, language and traditions which did not allow unity to take hold. This kingdom was would later vanish as separate kingdoms, (although Charles the Fat would briefly re-unite the entire Carolingian Empire in 888). Middle Francia would eventually become Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Lorraine, Switzerland, Lombardy and the various.

East Francia was the land of Louis II the German. It was divided into four duchies: Swabia (Alamannia), Franconia, Saxony and Bavaria; to which after the death of Lothair II were added the eastern parts of Lotharingia. This kingdom eventually evolved into the Holy Roman Empire which is slated for a future blog in this topic.

In wanting to keep these blogs readable, I don’t like to read through a lot of text online, and many also feel that way, I will conclude the section on France, next Friday. However, look for other blog posts during the week!

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