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LEWIS THE PIOUS
Character of Lewis the Pious—He reforms the Frankish court—His ecclesiastical legislation—After a narrow escape from death he divides his kingdom among his sons—The partition of Aachen—Rebellion and death of Bernard of Italy—The second marriage of Lewis and its consequences —Second partition of the empire followed by rebellion of Lewis' elder sons—Their repeated risings—The “Lügenfeld'—Lewis twice deposed and restored—Continued troubles of his later years—He dies while leading an army against his son Lewis—Disastrous consequences of his reign.
CHARLES THE GREAT left his throne and his empire to his only surviving son born in lawful wedlock, Lewis the Pious, as his own age named him, though later chroniclers style him Lewis the Débonnair. The heir of the great emperor was a devout prince, who proved—like our own Edward the Confessor—“a sair saint for the crown.’ He was a weak, goodnatured man, no longer in the first flower of his youth, whose meek virtues were far more suited to adorn a monastery than a palace. Utterly wanting in self-respect and determination, the slave of his wife, his chaplains, and bishops, a doting father and husband, and an over-liberal giver, he had one of those natures which are entirely unfit to bear responsibility, and are only happy when placed under the rule of a stronger will than their own. Lewis had before him the problems that had taxed his father's iron nerve, the task of ruling each of the nations that dwelt beneath the Frankish sceptre in the way that it needed, with the additional trial of being Sorely vexed by the incursions of the Danes, whose first ravages Charles the Great had hardly lived to see. Enough was there to occupy his every moment, even had he been a man of ability. But he chose to add to his troubles the needless trial of a disputed succession and a spasmodic civil war. The main feature of his reign of twenty-six years is the weary tale of his unwise dealing with his undutiful sons, and of the evils that ensued therefrom. The great realm which now fell to Lewis had been built up in despite of three main difficulties—the enormous extent of the conquered lands, and the slowness of communication between them, the national differences between the various peoples which inhabited them, and the old Teutonic custom which favoured the partition of a kingdom among all the sons of its ruler, just as if it were a private heritage. The first two dangers had not proved fatal. The personal energy and neverending travels of Charles the Great had vanquished space and time. Racial divergences were less formidable than might have been expected, for true national feeling was not yet fully developed in Western Europe. It was neither the enormous extent of the Frankish empire nor the heterogeneous character of its inhabitants that proved the direct cause of its ruin, but the baleful practice of the partition of heritages among all the heirs of the reigning sovereign. Hitherto the empire had been fortunate in escaping the consequences of this evil. Charles the Hammer had broken up his realm, but the voluntary abdication of the elder Carloman had ere long reunited the Neustrian and Austrasian lands. Pippin, again, had divided his kingdom, but the co-heir, whose survival would have thwarted the life-work of Charles the Great, died young. And in the next generation, too, death had stripped the king of all his lawful issue save one, and Lewis the Pious received an undivided heritage. But Lewis, unhappily for himself and for the empire, had already three half-grown sons when he succeeded to the empire, and was destined to see a fourth reach manhood ere he died. The custom of partition was now destined to have a fair trial and develop to its utmost extent.
Lewis was at Doué, in his kingdom of Aquitaine, when he received the news of the death of his aged father. Making such speed as he could, he arrived at Aachen after a journey of thirty days, and took possession of the reins of power. Without sending for the Pope to assist at his coronation, he celebrated his accession by taking the imperial crown off the altar in the cathedral of his capital city, and placing it on his own head, while the assembled counts and bishops shouted Vivat Imperator Ludovicus ! The magnates also saluted him by the title of ‘the Pious,” an appellation which he placed upon his coins, on whose other side appeared the legend, * Renovatio Regni Francorum.” The ‘renewing’ of the kingdom found its first expression in the expulsion from office of the ministers who had administered affairs during the declining years of Charles the Great. Lewis came to Aachen with his own trusted servants at his back, and was determined not to put himself in the hands of his father's favourites. There had been much in his father's life and court which his own scrupulous conscience could not approve. As a man who led a singularly virtuous life himself, he could not abide the bishops and abbots who had connived at his father's immoralities. The Asoo
- ccession of
Frankish court, though teeming with ecclesi- Lewis the astics, had not been a model of soberness or * chastity, and the old emperor himself had not set the best of examples. Lewis was determined that this should Cease.
The moment that he was firmly seated on the throne the new monarch dismissed from his court his sisters, whose life had been nothing less than Scandalous during his father's later years. Their paramours were banished or imprisoned—one was even deprived of his eyes. His next step was to send away the three chief ministers of Charles the Great. The Chancellor Helisachar, Abbot of St. Maximin, was relegated
PERIOD I. 2 B
to his monastery. The two brothers, count Wala and abbot
* They were Carlovingians of illegitimate descent, sons of Bernard, a bastard of Charles Martel.
by riding with cloak and sword and golden spurs like secular nobles. A modus vizendi was established between clerics of servile birth and their former lords, providing that on due compensation being paid the villein might go free. The emperor took the keenest interest in this question. Not only his favourite Ebbo, but several others of his counsellors had been serfs, and he was most anxious to defend them alike against claims of their ancient masters, and insults at the hands of the free-born clergy. Another decree of Lewis' dealt with the tenure of the lands of monasteries. After stipulating that fourteen great houses owed both military service and aids in money to the empire, and sixteen more the financial duty alone, he declared that all the other monastic establishments in his wide dominion should hold their property on the simple undertaking that they should ‘pray for the welfare of the emperor and his children and the empire.’ This threw a vast quantity of estates into tenure by what later ages Ecclesiastical called ‘frank almoin,” and relieved of its natural legislation. responsibility to the State more land than could prudently be suffered to go scot-free. Another sign of Lewis' extreme regard for the Church was given at the very commencement of his reign. When pope Leo III., the aged pontiff, who had crowned Charles the Great, died in 815 the Romans elected, in great haste, Stephen IV. as his successor. The new Pope was consecrated without the imperial sanction being sought, but Lewis made no objection, and showed no wrath at this disregard of his prerogative. So far was he from resentment that he allowed Stephen to represent to him that his coronation at Aachen had lacked the Church's blessing, insomuch as he had taken the crown from the altar with his own hands. To render Lewis' position more like that of his great father, the Pope proposed to cross the Alps and recrown his master. Lewis took no offence at the slur thrown on the form of Lewis rehis election to the empire, but received Stephen crowned, *. in great state at Rheims, and was there crowned for the