Page images

his couch again. Feeling the hand of death upon him, he handed over the administration of his realm to his brother Lewis, only stipulating that the frontier duchy of Carinthia should be given to his own illegitimate son Arnulf, the child of a Slavonic princess whom he had taken as his concubine. Carloman lived out another year, and died in 880 before he had passed the limits of middle age.

Meanwhile, his place in Italy had been taken by his shiftless younger brother, the king of Suabia. Charles the Fat Charles the entered Italy in the autumn of 879, was everyFat, king of where recognised as king, and solemnly received Italy, 879. fae Lombard crown from John vin. at Ravenna. But his new kingdom saw little of him: though he was earnestly besought to oppose the Saracen invaders of the south he did nothing of the kind, but went ingloriously home to Suabia.

The Danes were by this time mustering in greater strength than ever for an assault on the Frankish empire. They had gathered together from all the shores of the West, and this time threw themselves on the Eastern realm, not on their old prey in Neustria. The year 880 was long remembered by the Germans for the awful defeat suffered on the Liineburg Great Danish Heath near Hamburg by the levies of Saxony and invasion, 880. Thuringia. Bruno, duke of Saxony, two bishops, with no less than twelve counts, were left dead upon the field, and the victorious Vikings ravaged the whole valley of the Elbe without further resistance. Almost at the same moment another Danish army appeared in Austrasia, fought an indecisive battle with king Lewis, and though they left him the field were able to establish themselves permanently on the Scheldt, at a great camp near Courtray, threatening Neustria and Austrasia alike.

In the spring of 881 they made up their minds that the Western realm should first be their spoil. Marching on Beauvais, they met at Saucourt the young king of France and his levies. To the joy and surprise of all Western Christendom Lewis in. inflicted a crushing defeat on the invaders, slew 8000 of them, and chased them as far as Cambrai, Battle of beyond the borders of his own kingdom. This Sauc0urt> 8Slwas the only pitched battle of first-rate importance that the Franks had won over the Vikings, and great hopes were entertained that in Lewis in. Europe might find a saviour from the sword of the pagans. But ere a year was out the gallant young king met his death in a foolish frolic,1 and left the Neustrian throne to his brother Carloman.


The Danish army which had been defeated at Saucourt retired to Ghent, where it was strengthened by newly arrived bands under two famous sea-kings, Siegfred and Godfred. Then the host threw itself on Austrasia as the autumn was closing. The levies of the old royal land of the Franks were beaten: their king, Lewis of Saxony, was far away, and the winter months of 881-2 saw the whole countryside harried, from the Scheldt-mouth to the Eifel. The inland parts of Austrasia had hitherto been exceptionally fortunate in escaping the Danish sword, but in this fatal winter Austrasia Li£ge, Maestricht, Tongern, Koln, Bonn, Neuss, harried by Zulpich, Malmedy, Nimuegen, and every other the Danestown in the district was pillaged. Most heartrending of all was the sacking of the royal city of Aachen: the Danes plundered the palace, stabled their horses in the cathedral, and broke the shrine and image above the tomb of Charles the Great.

To the despair of all Germany, king Lewis the Saxon, whose task it should have been to attack the invaders in the next spring, died on January zoth, 882—the fourth Carolingian monarch who had been carried to the grave within three

1 Lewis was a sprightly youth and given to affairs of love, 'and it chanced one day that in sport he chased a certain damsel, the daughter of Germund. She fled in at her father's gate, and the king followed her, laughing. But he forgot to stoop sufficiently at the portal, and was crushed between the roof and the high pommel of his saddle, so that he died within a few days.'

years. His subjects found nothing better to do than to elect his only surviving brother, Charles the Fat, the king of Suabia and of Italy, as his successor.

Thus began the unhappy reign of Charles, the last Carolingian emperor of the full blood. He was at this moment in Italy, where he had been visiting Rome and receiving the imperial crown. Making a leisurely journey homeward,—the Charles the Danes were meanwhile sacking Trier and Metz,— Fat, king of he reached the Rhine in July, and summoned to .u.inidiiy. kim j^e levies of Saxony, Suabia, Bavaria and Franconia: he had brought a Lombard army in his train. With this great host, the largest that had been seen since the death of Charles the Great, he moved against the Danes. Godfred and Siegfred retired before him to a great camp which they had built at Elsloo on the Meuse. The fainthearted emperor faced them for twelve days, and then instead of ordering his vast army to assault the camp, began to negotiate with the enemy. A few days later his soldiery heard to their dismay and disgust, that Charles had consented to allow the Vikings to withdraw with all their plunder, to pay them 2000 lbs. of silver, and to grant king Godfred a great duchy by the Rhine-mouth, with the hand of his cousin Gisela, an illegitimate daughter of king Lothair n. In return the Dane consented to be baptized and to do homage to the emperor. This expedient for buying off Godfred was probably suggested by the way in which Alfred of England had dealt with Guthrum four years before at the peace of Treaty of Wedmore. Unfortunately Charles forgot that Eisioo, 882. while Alfred was strong enough to compel keep'faith, his own character was hardly likely to have a similar influence on Godfred.

King Siegfred, with those of the Danes who did not wish to settle down by the Rhine-mouth, took their way from Elsloo into Neustria. Charles the Fat had merely stipulated for the evacuation of his own kingdom, and cared nought for what might happen to his cousin Carloman. The winter of 882-3 was as disastrous for northern France as that of 881-2 had been for the Rhineland. From Rheims to Amiens and Courtray, the whole countryside was harried: king Carloman and his nobles, instead of copying the conduct of Lewis in., and remembering the triumph of Saucourt, followed the miserable example of Charles the Fat, and paid the invaders the enormous bribe of 12,000 lbs. of silver to induce them to transfer themselves to Austrasia, England, Ireland, or any other realm that they might choose. In the moment of rest obtained by the temporary departure of the pirates, Carloman died, ere yet he had reached his twentieth year. He was accidentally slain by one of his companions, while hunting the boar in a forest near Les Andelys (884). The Carolingian line was now well-nigh spent: five kings had died in five years, and the only males surviving were the shiftless emperor Charles the Fat, and Carloman's younger brother, a child of five, the posthumous son of Lewis the Stammerer, the prince whom the next generation was to know as Charles the Simple.

Rather than face the horrors of a minority, the WestFranks sent to the emperor and besought him to take up the kingship of Neustria. All the empire that had Chariesthe obeyed Charles the Great was therefore united Fat inherits

i_ .t - i ,1 Neustria. 884.

once more beneath a single sceptre, save the little realm of king Boso, in Provence. But Charles the Fat was a sorry substitute for his great namesake. The three years of his reign over the whole of the Frankish kingdoms (884-7) were fated to shatter the last remnants of loyalty in the breasts of the subjects of the empire, and to cause them to cast away the old royal house in despair, and seek new saviours and new kings.

The history of these three evil years is easily told. Hearing of the death of Carloman, the Danes flocked back to Neustria: 'oaths sworn to a dead man,' they said, 'did not count.' But their return was chiefly caused by a thorough beating which their main body had suffered at Rochester from the strong hand of king Alfred. At the same time the converted Viking Godfred rose in rebellion on the Lower Rhine. He impudently bade the emperor give him the rich lands about Bonn and Coblenz, 'because his duchy had no vineyards to yield him wine.' Charles did not take arms against him, but sent ambassadors to lure him to a conference. When the Dane appeared, the counts Henry and Eberhard treacherously cut him down, and massacred his retinue. The army of Godfred broke up; some of his warriors went plundering in Saxony, where they were cut to pieces, the rest joined king Siegfred, who was just about to invade Neustria (885).

The great host of the Vikings had once more united itself under Siegfred, and entered north France, as if designing to subdue the whole country and settle down therein. But they met with an unexpected resistance at Paris, where the local count and bishop, Odo and Gozelin, had gathered together all the best warriors of Neustria. The defence of Paris was the bravest feat of arms which the Franks had wrought since Great Siege the battle of Saucourt . They maintained the of Paris. isle of paris, with its two fortified bridge-heads over the two branches of the Seine, for more than eleven months, against all the assaults of the Northmen (Nov. 885Oct. 886). Seven hundred Viking keels were drawn ashore on the flat land where the Champ de Mars now lies, and 40,000 Vikings beset the city on all sides. But though shamefully abandoned by the emperor—who' chose the time as suitable for a journey to Italy—Odo and Gozelin refused to despair, even when the northern bridge-head was cut off from the city by an inundation, and burnt by the besiegers.

At last, in the summer of 886, Charles the Fat so far bestirred himself as to raise the national levies of the whole empire, and march to the relief of Paris with an army not less than that which he had led four years earlier against the camp of Elsloo. But when his vanguard received a check, and its leader, Henry, duke of Franconia, was slain, the emperor refused to risk an attack on the Danes. Once more

« ՆախորդըContinue »