Before we can discuss the Kingdom of East Francia I would like to discuss the Carolingian Empire and how the Kingdom of East Francia became part of that great empire.
The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages. It was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, which had ruled as kings of the Franks since 751 and as kings of the Lombards in Italy from 774. In 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III in an effort to transfer the Roman Empire from the Byzantine Empire to western Europe. The Carolingian Empire is considered the first phase in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.
The term “Carolingian Empire” is a modern convention and was not used by its contemporaries. The language of official acts in the empire was Latin. The empire was referred to variously as universum regnum (“the whole kingdom”, as opposed to the regional kingdoms), Romanorum sive Francorum imperium (“empire of the Romans and Franks”), Romanum imperium (“Roman empire”), or even imperium christianum (“Christian empire”).
Charles Martel (c. 688 – October 22, 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. He was a son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Herstal and Pepin’s mistress, a noblewoman named Alpaida.
Charles, also known as “The Hammer” (in Old French, Martel), successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the power behind the throne in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father’s work, he restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re-established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul.
His son and successor Pepin III the Short (c. 714 – September 24, 768), also called the Younger was King of the Franks from 751 until his death in 768. He was the first Carolingian to become king.
The younger was the son of the Frankish prince Charles Martel and his wife Rotrude, Pepin’s upbringing was distinguished by the ecclesiastical education he had received from the monks of St. Denis. Succeeding his father as the Mayor of the Palace in 741, Pepin reigned over Francia jointly with his elder brother Carloman. Pepin ruled in Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, while his older brother Carloman established himself in Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia.
The brothers were active in suppressing revolts led by the Bavarians, Aquitanians, Saxons, and the Alemanni in the early years of their reign. In 743, they ended the Frankish interregnum by choosing Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian monarch, as figurehead King of the Franks.
Being well disposed towards the church and papacy on account of their ecclesiastical upbringing, Pepin and Carloman continued their father’s work in supporting Saint Boniface in reforming the Frankish church, and evangelizing the Saxons.
After Carloman, who was an intensely pious man, retired to religious life in 747, Pepin became the sole ruler of the Franks. He suppressed a revolt led by his half-brother Grifo, and succeeded in becoming the undisputed master of all Francia.
Giving up pretense, Pepin then forced King Childeric III into a monastery and had himself proclaimed King of the Franks with support of Pope Zachary in 751. The decision was not supported by all members of the Carolingian family and Pepin had to put down a revolt led by Carloman’s son, Drogo and again by Grifo.
As king, Pepin embarked on an ambitious program to expand his power. He reformed the legislation of the Franks and continued the ecclesiastical reforms of Boniface. Pepin also intervened in favour of the papacy of Pope Stephen II against the Lombards in Italy. In the midsummer of 754, Stephen II anointed Pepin afresh, together with his two sons, Charles and Carloman.
The ceremony took place in the Abbey Church of St. Denis, near Paris, and the Pope formally forbade the Franks ever to elect as king anyone who was not of the sacred race of Pepin. He also bestowed upon Pepin and his sons the title of ‘Patrician of Rome’.
Pepin died during a campaign, in 768 at the age of 54. He was interred in the Basilica of Saint Denis in modern-day Metropolitan Paris. His wife Bertrada was also interred there in 783. Charlemagne rebuilt the Basilica in honor of his parents and placed markers at the entrance.
The Frankish realm was divided according to the Salic law between his two sons: Charlemagne and Carloman I.
Charlemagne: or Charles the Great (Latin: Carolus Magnus; German: Karl der Große; April 2, 747 – January 28, 814), a member of the Carolingian dynasty, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the Emperor of the Romans from 800.
Charlemagne, King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, Emperor of the Romans
Charlemagne succeeded in uniting the majority of western and central Europe and was the first recognized emperor to rule from western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire around three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded was the Carolingian Empire. He was canonized by Antipope Paschal III—an act later treated as invalid—and he is now regarded by some as beatified (which is a step on the path to sainthood) in the Catholic Church.
Charlemagne was the eldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon. He was born before their canonical marriage. He became King of the Franks in 768 following his father’s death, and was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I until the latter’s death in 771.
As sole ruler, he continued his father’s policy towards protection of the papacy and became its sole defender, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them (upon penalty of death) which led to events such as the Massacre of Verden.
He reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Charlemagne has been called the “Father of Europe” (Pater Europae), as he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the classical era of the Roman Empire, as well as uniting parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.
His reign spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of energetic cultural and intellectual activity within the Western Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church viewed Charlemagne less favourably, due to his support of the filioque and the Pope’s preference of him as emperor over the Byzantine Empire’s first female monarch, Irene of Athens. These and other disputes led to the eventual split of Rome and Constantinople in the Great Schism of 1054.
Charlemagne died in 814 after contracting an infectious lung disease. He was laid to rest in the Aachen Cathedral, in his imperial capital city of Aachen.
He married at least four times, and had three legitimate sons who lived to adulthood. Only the youngest of them, Louis the Pious, survived to succeed him. Charlemagne is the direct ancestor of many of Europe’s royal houses, including the Capetian dynasty, the Ottonian dynasty, the House of Luxembourg, the House of Ivrea and the House of Habsburg.