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This drew him for some time into Aquitaine, where he for once won a success, by subduing his nephew Pippin, who had lost his former popularity among the Gascons by sack of his drunken and dissolute habits, and still more Bordeaux. by his unwisdom in calling in the Danes to his aid. But while Charles lay in Aquitaine he suffered a greater disaster than any he had yet sustained, by the loss of Bordeaux, which was betrayed to Jarl Oscar by a discontented party among its citizens." It was to be held for some years by the Vikings. The plunder of such a wealthy place was well calculated to draw more Danish hordes into Gaul. The condition of the country grew progressively worse, and we trace every year the advance of the ships of the invaders farther and farther up the great rivers. In 850 they grew so bold that they fortified themselves high up the Seine at Givald's dyke (Jeufosse), where they abode many months and harried all the country about Beauvais and Mantes at their leisure. Charles the Bald, engaged in a luckless campaign against the rebellious duke of the Bretons, brought no succour to his subjects. Nor was he on the spot when in the following year Ghent, Terouanne, and all Flanders were wasted. But probably the capture of his old enemy Pippin of Aquitaine atoned in his eyes for many such disasters: the pretender was taken prisoner by the count of Gascony, who handed him over to the king. In accordance with old Frankish custom Pippin was shorn and thrust into a monastery. The year 852 saw the kingdom of the West Franks sink to a worse degradation than any it had yet known. When the Danes again came up the Seine and settled down in their former camp at Givald's dyke, Charles called out the respons. whole force of Neustria in such overwhelming at Givald's strength that the Vikings retired behind their “y”. palisades and stood on the defensive. Presently the emperor Lothair with his warlike Austrasians marched up to help his

* By Jews according to one account; by partisans of Pippin according to another.

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brother, and the doom of the Danes seemed settled. But after
a siege which lasted many months, Charles suddenly made
peace with Godfred the Danish chief and granted him a great
sum of money and a tract of land at the Loire-mouth to settle
in. Lothair and the Austrasians went home in wrath, and
never aided the fickle Neustrian king again.
When the Franks were faring so badly, only one more evil
was wanted to make their position unbearable, and this was
soon added. In 853 the ten years' peace between the brothers,
which had lasted since the treaty of Verdun, was broken. The
restless people of Aquitaine, though they had lost their old
leader Pippin, had determined to try a new revolt. They
secretly sent to ask aid of Lewis the German, and he, though
much vexed at home by Danish raids and Slavonic rebellions,
was unwise enough to grant their petition. He sent his second
civil water son Lewis the Saxon, with a Suabian and
Lewis and Bavarian army, into Aquitaine, and declared war
***** on his brother Charles. The emperor Lothair,
with more sense than he usually showed, tried to keep his
brothers from the mad struggle. But it was not owing to his
efforts that the Germans finally consented to retire from
southern Gaul, but merely because the younger Lewis met less
support than he had expected from the Gascon rebels, and
found himself not strong enough to resist the full force of
Neustria, when his uncle took the field against him. But
while this wholly unjustifiable civil war was in progress, the
Danes had made worse havoc than ever in the midst of the
kingdom of Charles. They burnt Nantes and Tours, harried
the districts around Angers and Blois, and only checked their
course before the walls of Orleans, which made a sturdy and
successful resistance (853-4).
In the next year the last formal link which still held
together the Frankish empire was snapped by the death of the
emperor Lothair. Old before his time, and feeling himself
utterly unable to cope with the evils of the day, he retired
into the monastery of Prüm, and died there only a few weeks

after he had taken the cowl. His heterogeneous empire at once fell to pieces: his eldest son Lewis, who had already been crowned as his colleague in the empire by pope Sergius II., was left nothing but the kingdom of Italy with Death of which to support his imperial title. To Italy he Lothair, 855: was a good king, but beyond the Alps he met with neither respect nor obedience. His younger brothers Lothair and Charles divided between them the northern parts of their father's heritage. Lothair took Austrasia, Charles took Provence, and the intermediate Burgundian territory was parted between them.

Thus the unity of the Empire had already become a mockery, and the realm of Charles the Great was split into five kingdoms, owing each other neither love nor homage nor succour in time of need.

CHAPTER XXV
THE DARKEST HOUR-A.D. 855-887

FROM THE DEATH OF LOTHAIR I. TO THE DEPOSITION
OF CHARLES THE FAT

Civil Wars following the death of Lothair 1.-King Lewis and his rule in Germany—Troubles of Lothair II.-The Vikings in Neustria–The Edict of Pistres—Charles the Bald invades Austrasia–Treaty of Mersen— Charles made Emperor—Death of Lewis the German—War of his sons with Charles the Bald–Charles's successors in Neustria—Disastrous reign of Charles the Fat—He unites Germany, France, and Italy—The siege of Paris—Charles the Fat dethroned.

Evil as had been the years which followed the fight of Fontenay and the Partition of Verdun, there were yet worse to come. It was the miserable peculiarity of the second half of the ninth century that it saw Christendom, for the first time since the commencement of the Dark Ages, begin to sink back towards primitive chaos and barbarism. After four hundred years of vacillating but permanent progress towards union, strength, and civilisation, it began to relapse, and to fall back into disunion, weakness, and ignorance. The reign of Charles the Great was to be for long years the high-water mark of progress. The succeeding age rapidly sinks away from it, and it is not till the middle of the tenth century that a rise is once more perceptible. But of all the evil years those between 855 and 887 were to be the worst. The civil wars of the descendants of Lewis the Pious grew yet more numerous and ruinous; the raids of the Viking and the Saracen spread wider and wider; the rulers of the Frankish empire were struck by a blight, dying young or sinking into imbecility long before they attained middle age, till the race seemed destined to disappear from history with the fall of the cowardly, unwieldy, incompetent Charles the Fat in 887. The new troubles began immediately on the death of the emperor Lothair. His three sons could not agree in the

partition scheme which divided their father's realm. Lewis

thought that his share—the kingdom of Italy—was far too small for the eldest son and the bearer of the imperial title; Lothair II. grudged the share of Burgundy which fell to his youngest brother Charles, and tried to seize the young man, in order to tonsure him and confine him in a monastery. Before any actual blow had been struck, pope Benedict III. succeeded in patching up a truce between the brothers, but they drew apart and sought alliances against each other, Lothair leaguing himself with his younger uncle Charles the Bald, civil waren while Lewis became the friend of his elder uncle the death of and namesake Lewis of Germany. Two years ” later the family grudge led to war under the most disastrous circumstances. Charles and Lothair II. had united their forces for a decisive campaign against the Danes, whose main army, under a certain Jarl Biorn, had concentrated itself in central France, and burnt Paris, Chartres, and Blois (857). Before the united strength of Neustria and Austrasia the Vikings drew back, and stockaded themselves in a great camp on the Seine-island of Oissel." Charles blocked their way down the river by bringing up a fleet, which he had lately built, to the next reach, and determined to starve them out. After a siege of three months it seemed likely that he would achieve his purpose; the Danes could neither beat him nor escape him. But just as they were about to yield there came to the king of Neustria the dire news that his brother Lewis with the whole host of Germany had crossed the Rhine, and was marching against him. Charles straightway raised the

* An island or peninsula, enclosed by the Seine and its marshes, near Bougival, close to Paris, in department Seine-et-Oise.

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