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Ludwig the Pious (April 16, 778 – June 20, 840) was 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 son of Charlemagne and Hildegard, he became the sole ruler of the Kingdom of the Franks and the Carolingian Empire after his father’s death in 814, a position that he held until his death except from 833 to 834, when he was deposed.

As emperor, he included his adult sons, Lothair, Pepin and Ludwig, in the government and sought to establish a suitable division of the realm among them. The first decade of his reign was characterised by several tragedies and embarrassments, notably the brutal treatment of his nephew Bernard of Italy for which Ludwig atoned in a public act of self-debasement.

In the 830s his empire was torn by civil war between his sons that was only exacerbated by Ludwig’s attempts to include his son Charles by his second wife in the succession plans.

Pepin I or Pepin I of Aquitaine was King of Aquitaine and Duke of Maine. He had rebelled against his brother Lothair and lost but was later restored to his throne shortly before his death on December 13, 838.

Ludwig the Pious, Emperor of the Romans, King of the Franks

Emperor Ludwig the Pious fell ill soon after his final victorious campaigns and retreated to his summer hunting lodge on an island in the Rhine near his palace at Ingelheim. He died on June 20, 840 in the presence of many bishops and clerics and in the arms of his half-brother Drogo as he pardoned his son Ludwig the German proclaimed Lothair Emperor and commended the absent Charles and Judith to his protection.

Though his reign ended on a high note, with order largely restored to his empire, shortly after his death dispute plunged the surviving brothers into yet another civil war. It lasted until 843 with the signing of the Treaty of Verdun.

The Treaty of Verdun agreed on in August 843, divided the Frankish Empire into three kingdoms among the surviving sons of the Emperor Ludwig the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne.

Charles the Bald, King of West Francia

The treaty was the first of the four partition treaties of the Carolingian Empire, followed by the Treaties of Prüm (855), Meerssen (870), and Ribemont (880).

Prior to the death of Emperor Ludwig the Pious, each of the three brothers was already established in one kingdom: Lothair in the Kingdom of Italy; Ludwig the German in the Kingdom of Bavaria; and Charles the Bald in the Kingdom of Aquitaine, (succeeding his half-brother Pepin) a large province in the west of the Frankish realm.

As mentioned above, Lothair I was given the title of Emperor after the death of Ludwig the Pious but because of several re-divisions by his father and the resulting revolts, he became much less powerful.

Lothair I, Emperor of the Romans, King of Middle Francia

In an attempt to reclaim the power his father had at the beginning of his reign as emperor, Lothair I, claimed overlordship over the entirety of his father’s kingdom and Empire.

Lothair also supported his nephew, Pepin II’s claim to the Kingdom of Aquitaine over his half-brother Charles the Bald. Lothair’s brother, Ludwig the German and his half-brother Charles the Bald refused to acknowledge Lothair’s suzerainty over them and declared war against him.

After a bloody civil war, the two brothers, Ludwig the German and Charles the Bald, defeated Lothair at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841 and sealed their alliance in 842 with the Oaths of Strasbourg which declared Lothair unfit for the imperial throne, after which he became willing to negotiate a settlement.

Peace negotiations began, and in June 842 the brothers met on an island in the Saône. They agreed to an arrangement which developed, after much difficulty and delay, into the Treaty of Verdun, signed in August 843.


Emperor Lothair I received Middle Francia (the Middle Frankish kingdom). In the settlement, Lothair retained his title and position of Emperor, but it conferred only nominal overlordship of his brothers’ lands.

His domain later became the Low Countries, the Rhineland west of the Rhine, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy (which only covered the northern half of the Italian Peninsula). He also received the two imperial cities, Aachen and Rome.

Charles II the Bald received West Francia; all lands west of the Rhône. It eventually became the Kingdom of France.

King Ludwig II the German received East Francia. He was guaranteed the kingship of all lands to the east of the Rhine (although not the Netherlands to the north of the Rhine) and to the north and east of Italy, altogether called East Francia. It eventually became the High Medieval Kingdom of Germany, the largest component of the Holy Roman Empire.

The brothers nephew, Pepin II, was granted the Kingdom of Aquitaine, but only under the authority of Charles the Bald.

Ludwig II the German, King of East Francia

After Lothair’s death in 855, his eldest son, Ludwig II the Younger inherited Italy and his father’s claim to the Imperial throne. Upper Burgundy and Lower Burgundy (Arles and Provence) passed to Lothair’s third son, Charles of Provence. The remaining territory north of the Alps, which did not previously have a name, was inherited by Lothair’s second son, Lothair II, and was then named Lotharingia (present day Lorraine) after him.

Ludwig II the Younger’s usual title was imperator augustus (“august emperor”), but he used imperator Romanorum (“emperor of the Romans”) after his conquest of Bari in 871, which led to poor relations with the Eastern Roman Empire. He was called imperator Italiae (“emperor of Italy”) in West Francia while the Byzantines called him Basileus Phrangias (“Emperor of Francia”).

With Ludwig II the German now established as King of East Francia, the new Kingdom consisted of 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.

In the next post I will continue the examination of how the Kingdom of East Francia became the Holy Roman Empire and the usage of the titles, King of East Francia, King of Germany and King of the Romans.