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After the Treaty of Verdun in 843 and the establishment the Kingdom East Francia to first usage of the term “Holy Roman Empire” in the thirteenth century, this area of Central Europe was constantly in flux at a time when England and France (and later Spain) were moving toward being a centralized nation state.

It is also at this juncture when terminology such as King of East Francia, King of the Germans, King of the Romans and Roman Emperor have considerable overlap denoting the fact that the monarchy in German lands was constantly evolving.

Kingdom of East Francia/Germany

At the beginning of the Kingdom East Francia the Kings continued the Frankish tradition of dividing the lands among the sons of the king, as East Francia itself was divided into three parts at the death of Ludwig II the German (875).

These sub-kingdoms were ruled by the three sons of Ludwig II the German and were traditionally referred to as “Saxony”, (ruled by Ludwig III the Younger) and “Bavaria”, (ruled Carloman) and “Swabia” and also East Francia (or “Alemannia”), ruled by Charles the Fat who briefly reunited the entire Carolingian Empire (West and East Francia) in 882.

Regional differences existed between the peoples of the different regions of the kingdom and each region could be readily described by contemporaries as a regnum, (Kingdom) though each was certainly not a kingdom of its own.

The common Germanic language and the tradition of common rule dating to 843 preserved political ties between the different regna and prevented the kingdom from coming apart after the death of Charles the Fat. The work of Ludwig II the German to maintain his kingdom and give it a strong royal government also went a long way to creating an East Frankish (i.e. German) state.

Charles the Fat, King of East Francia, Emperor.

Charles the Fat was deposed in 888 by nobles and in East Francia Arnulf of Carinthia was elected king. The increasing weakness of royal power in East Francia meant that Dukes of Bavaria, Swabia, Franconia, Saxony and Lotharingia (called the Stem Duchies) turned from appointed nobles into hereditary rulers of their own territories. Kings increasingly had to deal with regional rebellions.

After the death of the last ruler of the Carolingian dynasty, Ludwig IV the Child, on September 24, 911 Conrad the Younger of Thuringia was elected elected King of Rex Francorum Orientalium (East Francia) on November 10, 911 at Forchheim by the rulers of Saxony, Swabia and Bavaria.

Conrad was the son of Duke Conrad of Thuringia (called the Elder) and his wife Glismut, probably related to Ota, wife of the Carolingian emperor Arnulf of Carinthia and mother of Ludwig the Child.

Since King Conrad I of East Francia was one of the Dukes of the Stem Duchies he found it very difficult to establish his authority over them. Duke Hienrich of Saxony was in rebellion against Conrad I until 915 and the struggle against Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria cost Conrad I his life. On his deathbed Conrad I chose Heinrich of Saxony as the most capable successor.

This election of Heinrich of Saxony as King changed the kingship from Franks to Saxons, who had suffered greatly during the conquests of Charlemagne.

Any firm distinction between the kingdoms of Eastern Francia and the Kingdom of Germany is to some extent the product of later retrospection. It is impossible to base this distinction on primary sources, as the name Eastern Francia for the kingdom remains in use long after the name Kingdom of Germany comes into use.

Under Arnulf of Carinthia the terminology Rex Francorum Orientalium was largely dropped and the kingdom, when it was referred to by name, was simply Francia. When it was necessary, as in the Treaty of Bonn (921) with the West Franks, the “eastern” qualifier appeared once more. Heinrich I refers to himself as rex Francorum orientalium, “King of the East Franks”, in the treaty.

By the 12th century, the historian Otto of Freising, in using the Carolingian terminology had to explain that the “eastern kingdom of the Franks” (orientale Francorum regnum) was “now called the kingdom of the Germans” (regnum Teutonicorum).