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had now vindicated by the force of arms the partition of Worms: Pippin was disinherited, and Lewis driven back into a narrow corner of Germany. A great council was summoned to meet in July, and the emperor came back by slow stages towards the Rhine to preside over it. But the double campaign of the spring had been too much for him. For some years his lungs had been affected, and the chills of a March and April spent in arms in the open field brought on a rapid consumption. At Frankfort-on-Main he dismissed his army and took to his couch. His strength dwindled as the weeks passed away, and at last he bade his attendants place him in a boat and row him down to the Rhine, to a spot which he loved well, the island in mid-stream hard by his palace at Ingelheim, where the tower of the Pfalz now rises from the rapid rushing waters. Then it contained only a rough hunting lodge thatched with reeds, and in that poor shelter the dying emperor lingered out the midsummer weeks, lying for hours motionless on his couch with a little cross clasped to his breast. His wife and his son Charles were far away at Poictiers, in Aquitaine, and did not arrive in time to receive his dying blessing. But a crowd of bishops and monks mustered around the emperor's deathbed, to gloat over his edifying end. On June 25th the old man's last agony seized him; he started up in bed, cried in a loud voice 'Out! Out!' and fell back dead, leaving the clerical throng around to debate Death of whether his last words bade some evil spirit Lewis. 840. depart from his presence, or referred to his own setting out for a better world. So ended king Lewis,
Rex Hludovicus, pietatis tantus amicus,
He left the empire which he had done so much to dismember to be fought for by his three sons and his grandson. He left the imperial dignity fatally injured by his grovelling penances at Attigny and Soissons. He had allowed the Danes to spy out the nakedness of the land in the North; while the Saracens had already landed in Italy to the South. He had suffered the clerical power again and again to usurp authority over secular things, as none of his predecessors of the Frankish race, Meroving or Karling, had ever done. Yet in spite of all, his piety and conscientious desire to do right—often as it was misled—gave him a greater claim to the respect of his subjects than did the personal character of any of his successors. Ere long men came to look back to the time of Lewis the Pious as to an age of comparative quiet and prosperity.
DISRUPTION OF THE FRANKISH EMPIRE—THE COMING OF THE VIKINGS
Wars of the sons of Lewis the Pious—Battle of Fontenay and Peace of Verdun —The Vikings and their ships and methods of warfare—All Western Europe subject to their incursions—Their invasion of Neustria and Austrasia—Intermittent civil wars of the Franks—Charles the Bald and his policy—Death of Lothair.
At the moment of his death Lewis the Pious had been at enmity with his son Lewis of Bavaria and his grandson Pippin the young of Aquitaine, while he had by his last partitionstatute provided for the division of the bulk of his realm between his eldest-born Lothair, and his youngest-born Charles. It seemed natural, therefore, that when, after the old man's death, the succession troubles broke out with renewed vigour the Franks of Neustria and Austrasia and the Lombards would be ranged in battle against the East Germans and the Aquitanians.
Such, however, was not to be the case; the governing force in the future course of events was to be, not the dying will of Lewis the Pious, but the dispositions of his three sons, and still more the unwillingness of the various kingdoms in their heritages to abide by the unnatural partition—last among so many—which Lewis had left behind him.
The first question to be settled was whether the empire, in the shape in which Charles the Great and Lewis in his earlier years had ruled it, was to continue. There was no doubt as to the succession to the imperial title. Lothair had been crowned co-regent emperor many years before, and before his father's death had been restored to favour, and acknowledged as heir to the imperial throne. But would he be strong enough to sustain the burden which had been too much for his father, to combine a strong hand and a conciliatory policy, and hold the various races of his subjects together, without driving any one of them to discontent and revolt? Lothair was brave, unscrupulous, active, troubled by none of the morbid scruples and ill-placed tenderness which Character of had been so fatal to his father. But he was Lothair. fuu of faults of the opposite extreme, as dangerous to a ruler as his parent's over-great mildness and long-suffering. He was quite destitute of natural affection, as his doings at the penance of St. Medard and the Liigenfeld had shown, and was not merely wanting in tenderness for his kith and kin, but unable even to pretend to a reasonable regard for brother, father, or nephew. Even in that rough time his unfilial conduct had shocked his own subjects and followers. His ambition and pride were the only sentiments to which an appeal could be made with success. He was filled with an overweening idea of the greatness of the imperial position, though he had done so much himself to cause its degradation in the eyes of all the nations of the empire, by his cruel and offensive treatment of his father. He had taught the Franks that an emperor could be imprisoned, preached at, dictated to, publicly chastised, deposed, and he foolishly supposed that his own imperial dignity would not suffer from the precedent. The moment his accession was proclaimed it was known that harsh unbending rigour would reign all over the Frankish realm.
Yet Lothair's situation in 840 was not disadvantageous; his enemies Lewis and Pippin had been driven into remote corners of the empire. He was loyally supported by the Lombards of his old Italian kingdom and by the Austrasians, the old ruling race, whose imperialist tendencies had been shown by their constant fidelity to Lewis the Pious throughout all his troubles. But Lothair wasted his strength by a strange combination of arbitrary claims and dilatory action. He began by showing the most reckless disregard for his father's dying wishes. He made no secret of his intention of stripping his young brother Charles of the Neustrian dominions which had been left him, though the child of his father's declining years had been specially commended to his protection. But he did not follow up his threats by any prompt action against the young king, but went off to Germany |to conclude the campaign against his war of the brother Lewis of Bavaria, which his dead father three brothers. had left half finished. But on arriving in Bavaria he did not strike down his enemy, but made a six months' truce with him, and returned to Neustria. There he made a feeble attempt to put down Charles, but finally returned to Aachen, where he spent the winter in pomp and feasting, while his two brothers were repairing their strength and raising large armies. Lewis and Charles had determined to combine, for they saw that strict union was needful against their common enemy.
In the spring of 841 the king of Neustria and the king of Germany each drew towards the Rhine, with the purpose of joining their armies. The emperor was frightened by the strength which they displayed, and thought it necessary to add to his own forces by enlisting in his cause his only possible ally. He hastily promised to confirm the young Pippin in his kingdom of Aquitaine if he would lead the men of the south to his aid. Pippin accepted the offer, and brought an army of Gascons across Burgundy to join his uncle. Meanwhile Charles and Lewis had successfully united their hosts at Chalons-sur-Saone in such force that Lothair feared to fight them. He held them off by disloyal negotiation for some weeks, till he heard that his nephew had arrived with all the forces of Aquitaine, and then suddenly declared that nothing could be settled without a battle, and proceeded to attack his