Page images
PDF
EPUB

all had evil times to endure. Of the troubles of Lewis the emperor in Italy we have spoken elsewhere. His two younger brothers fared even worse. The epileptic Charles of Provence was vexed by Danish and Saracen pirates, as well as by the intrigues of his greedy uncle Charles the Bald, who tried to add Provence to his own Neustrian dominions, though he was entirely unable to protect even Neustria from the Danes. Lothair n. in Austrasia—or Lotharingia, as men now began to call it, after its ruler's name—was sore vexed by the Vikings, who pushed up the Rhine as far as Neuss and Koln. But he was far more incommoded by a trouble for which he was himself entirely responsible. He drove from his court his wife Teutberga, and openly married his concubine Waldrada. Not only did this bigamy lead to the rebellion The Bigamy of Teutberga's brother Hukbert,1 abbot of St. of Lothair Maurice and duke of Transjurane Burgundy, but "' it brought on a quarrel with the Papacy which

embittered all Lothair's remaining years. Pope Nicolas I. set his face against the king's unrighteous dealings with his wife, and repeatedly summoned him to take her back to his couch. He induced the nobles of Lotharingia to compel their king to dismiss Waldrada for a season; but Lothair was passion's slave, and soon chased away his wife and again sent for his mistress. This brought on him fresh thunders of ecclesiastical censure, and for the last ten years of his life he lived under the ban of the Pope, till in 868 he was so far humbled that he came in person before Hadrian n. and made a complete surrender—one of the greatest triumphs that the Papacy had won since the days of Gregory the Great.

But though the other Frankish kingdoms fared ill, it was, as usual,, the realm of Charles the Bald which bore the brunt of the troubles of Christendom. There were now permanent

1 Hukbert was one of the most extraordinary characters of the time, a warlike abbot who maintained a whole harem of concubines at his fastness of St. Maurice-en-Valais, and kept control of Vaud and Valais against all comers, including his liege lord the king.

hosts of Danes established at the mouth of each of the great rivers of France, the Somme, Seine, Loire, and Garonne—the chronicles call them 'pagani Sequanenses' or 'pagani Ligerenses' as a matter of course. Settled on islands or headlands at the mouths of these rivers, each band devoted itself to the harrying of the district which lay inland from its Camp. Meanwhile, Charles the Bald left the defence of his realm to the local counts, and busied himself in futile schemes for seizing the realms of his nephews, Charles of Provence and Lothair of Austrasia. He was not without his family troubles; his children—like those of Lewis the German—were very unruly: his second son Charles, who ruled Aquitaine for him, tried to make himself an independent king, and his youngest son Carloman was detected conspiring against his life, for which he was condemned to blinding and perpetual imprisonment. But neither domestic troubles nor Viking raids could keep Charles from his unending intrigues against his brother and his nephews. When he did turn his attention to his own proper business, his methods of dealing with the problems that lay before him were not generally wise. No, man of real intelligence would have conceived the plan that Charles invented in 861 for getting rid of the Vikings by bribing them to fight each other. The wily pirates took the king's subsidy, and then all united against him, as might have been expected.

There were, however, two schemes for organising resistance against the Danes which were broached at Charles's council board that are worthy of note, as foreshadowing the methods by which the invaders were ultimately to be checked. The great difficulty which the Franks had hitherto found in dealing with the Vikings came mainly from two reasons—the power of rapid movement which the enemy possessed, and the fact that walled towns were still very rare, and castles quite unknown in the Frankish realms, so that the inhabitants of the countryside had no secure shelter to seek. The Edict of In the Edict of Pistres (864) Charles shows Pistres.sa,. some appreciation of these two difficulties, and endeavours to dispose of them by very well judged measures. To cope with the swiftly moving Vikings, he determines to make the Frankish army more mobile also. He endeavours to substitute cavalry for the unwieldy masses of local levies by ordering that 'omnes pagenses Franci qui equos habent out habere possunt cum suis comitibus in hostem (ant. The day of feudal cavalry was indeed just beginning, and from the military point of view this expedient was perfectly correct; unhappily for the monarchy, the day of the feudal horseman was also to be the day of feudal separation and disunion. The second measure ordered by the Edict of Pistres was one for the strengthening of the kingdom by means of fortifications. The particular plan which Charles most favoured was that of blocking the great rivers by fortified bridges. Towns lying beside the water were to throw a bridge across, with a fortified bridgehead on the opposite bank. Thus, the Vikings would find their advance up the lines of the rivers completely checked, since their boats would not be able to pass under the bridges till the forts at either end of them were taken, a long matter in those days, when the art of poliorcetics had sunk so low. As the first fruits of this edict, a strong bridge was built at Pistres itself, low down the Seine, where the Eure flows into the great river. It was at the same time that the island on which old Paris lay was furnished with two fortified bridges, across the northern and southern branches of the Seine, joining it to the mainland. It was mainly owing to these defences that, when next attacked by the Vikings, Paris, though twice plundered before, held out successfully, and did not suffer capture and desolation after its third siege.

In 863 died Charles, king of Provence, the youngest son of the emperor Lothair I., carried off by the epilepsy that had always afflicted him. His little kingdom was divided between his brothers Lothair n. and Lewis the Emperor, to the great discontent of Charles the Bald, who would have liked to have a hand in the partition. But Charles was vexed for the moment not only by the Danes, but by his nephew Pippin the Younger, who had escaped from his monastery and raised a new rebellion in Aquitaine. While the king was dealing with his nephew, the Vikings of the Loire made the widest sweep round central France, that any horde had yet carried out— burning Poictiers, Angouleme, Perigueux, Limoges, The end of Clermont, and Bourges in one single incursion. Pippin of The rebel Pippin joined himself to them, and is Atiuitaineactually said to have cast aside his Christianity and worshipped Woden in their camp—ex monacho apostata factus, ritum paganorum servavit. He fell into his uncle's hands before the year was out, and with the general approval of the Franks was condemned to perpetual solitary confinement.

For a short time after these events the West Frankish kingdom was destined to have a time of comparative respite from the inroads of the Northmen. In 867 all the Vikings of the West massed themselves for an attack on England, which had hitherto suffered comparatively little at their hands. From the capture of York in 868 down to Alfred's great victory at Ethandune in 878, the main strength of the Danes was spent in winning a kingdom beyond the channel. The invasion of England was not for plunder but for conquest, and 'the Great Army,' led by two kings and five jarls, was composed of all the hordes who had been harrying the Continent for the last ten years. If they did not succeed in subduing the whole of England, they yet won the great Danelagh, the eastern half of the island, and settled down in the land they had subdued.

But the comparative immunity from Viking raids which the Franks obtained between 868 and 878 was not of much profit to them. In 869, Lothair N. died, as he was journeying home from Italy in a disconsolate mood, after making his peace with the Pope.1 From that time there was unending trouble between his two elderly uncles, as to which of them should inherit Australia, the old Frankish land between Scheldt and Rhine, the ancestral home of their race. At this moment began the struggle between France and Germany for 1 See page 428.

the inheritance of the 'middle kingdom' which Lothair had ruled, a struggle which was to last for a thousand years. Who can say even yet if the final fate of Aachen and Trier and Metz and Liege and Strasburg has been settled?

The moment that Charles the Bald heard of Lothair's death, he crossed the Meuse at the head of the levies of Neustria, and had himself crowned at Metz as king of Lotharingia. The Bretons were in open revolt that year, and a stray Viking band was levying contributions 'on Tours and Angers, but for such minor distractions Charles cared little. Lewis the German was bedridden at the moment, and his sons were absent on an expedition against the Slavs. But next spring he took the field with all Germany at his back, whereupon Charles the Bald, always better at seizing than at MTrsen^o fighting, drew back, and offered to negotiate. Then followed the Partition of Mersen, by which Lotharingia was divided between the brothers: Charles took the Burgundian part of his deceased nephew's realm, and western Austrasia as far as the Meuse; Lewis had Frisia and eastern Austrasia. To Charles, therefore, fell Lyons, Vienne, Besangon, Toul, Verdun, Cambrai, Liege, Tongern, Mecheln; to Lewis, Aachen, Koln, Trier, Strasburg, Utrecht, Nimuegen, and Maestricht. (870.)

But the Treaty of Mersen was only to patch up matters

for a short time. Five years of comparative rest followed,

while the Vikings were still employed in England against the

gallant kings of Wessex. But in 875 died the emperor Lewis

iI., the last of the three sons of Lothair I. Like his two

brothers, he left no male heir, and there followed one more

struggle between his aged uncles Lewis the German and

Charles the Bald for the imperial title and the Italian realm.

Now, as always, Charles moved with rash and inconsiderate

Charles the naste, and was first in the field. Leaving Neustria

Bald in to shift for itself, he posted into Italy at the head

taly, 875. qj. a small armyj and SWooped down on the diet

of the Lombard kingdom, which was sitting at Pavia, and

« ՆախորդըContinue »