Page images
PDF
EPUB

year of the Partition of Verdun that a great chief named Thorgisl gained full possession of the northern half of the island, and established himself as king therein. He reigned for two years (843-45) with great success, till he fell by chance into the hands of Malachy, king of Meath, who drowned him in Loch Owel. With his death, his kingdom fell to pieces, and the Irish recovered much that he had conquered from his divided followers. But the Norwegians still clung to all the ports and headlands of Ireland: at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, they built their towns and waged continual war against the Irish of the inland parts.

England fared at first better than the sister isle. The great over-king Ecgbert of Wessex was well ablre to defend his realm; most of the Viking attacks were beaten off with loss as long as Ecgbert lived (802-838). But under his weaker son Ethelwulf the invasions grew more and more desperate and persistent, till in 850 we find the fatal sign that the Vikings succeeded for the first time in wintering in the land, fortifying themselves in the Kentish isle of Thanet, and defying the fyrd of Wessex to force the narrow waterway that separated it from the mainland.

The Danes in the Frankish empire had a far harder task than their Norwegian brethren had found in Ireland, and for a long time they showed much greater caution in venturing inland, or accepting battle in the open field. They fled before the face of Lewis the Pious when he marched against them in force, and it was only when the empire was distracted by civil war that they began to strike boldly up the great rivers and plunder the towns of the interior. It was of evil import for the empire that just before the fight of Fontenay they had sailed up the Seine and taken Rouen (841), and that just before the pacification of Verdun they had entered the Loire and burnt the great port of Nantes.

But when at last the Frankish kings had made peace, the Vikings had grown so bold that they persisted none the less in their attacks on the empire, and in the years that followed the new partition, their successes were even greater than before. All the three brothers were sorely beset by the Northmen, and two of them met with an unbroken series of disasters. Lewis the German fared best; the tough Saxon tribes on The Danes his frontier always made a good fight against in Saxony, their hereditary enemies the Danes. But the king saw the new town of Hamburg burnt in 845, so that its bishop had to fly to Bremen, and in 851 a great expedition sailed up the Elbe, defeated the Saxon counts in the open field and returned in triumph to Jutland after ravaging the eastern half of Saxony.

Lothair and Charles fared far worse. The emperor saw his coastland in Frisia ravaged every year. It was in vain that he tried to gain peace by giving the island of Walcheren to Rorik the Dane, on the condition that he should hold it as a fief and guard the coast from his brethren. Other greedy adventurers followed Rorik, till the whole Frisian coast was dotted with their palisaded forts, and their ravages penetrated farther and farther inland, till Lothair in his palace at Aachen began to tremble for his own safety.

But the lot of the young king Charles and of the Western Franks was still less happy. His realm had a far greater length of exposed coastland than those of his brethren, and he was vexed by a lingering civil war, for Pippin of Aquitaine had never acquiesced in the Partition of Verdun, and did his best to maintain himself among his partisans south of the Loire. After much fighting he was compelled for Tne vikings two years to do homage to Charles, but he soon in France, rose in arms again, and though his uncle had the better in the contest he was still able to keep up an obstinate resistance. Charles thought more of subduing Pippin than of warding off the Danes, and while he was engaged in Aquitaine the northern parts of his realm were fearfully maltreated. As early as 843 the Vikings found courage to winter in Neustria, seizing and fortifying the monastery of Noirmoutier on an island at the Loire-mouth. Next year they were enabled to strike far inland, for Pippin, overborne by his uncle ,Charles, madly called in Jarl Oscar to his aid, and brought the Vikings up the Garonne "as far as Toulouse. Thus introduced into the very heart of the land, they were able both to spy out its fertility and wealth, and to judge of the weakness and unwisdom of its rulers. It was not Aquitaine, however, that first felt their heavy hand. In 845 they boldly entered the Seine-mouth, plundered Rouen for the second time, and then ascended the river far higher than they had ever mounted before, up to the very walls of the city of Paris. Charles dared not face them, but fortified himself on the heights of Montmartre and the abbey of St. Denis, while the Vikings entered Paris and plundered part of the city, till, stricken by an inexplicable Sack of panic, they returned to their boats and dropped Paris. down the river again. It was certainly not the army of Charles that they need have feared, for he was thinking of paying tribute rather than of fighting. Indeed he paid 7000 lbs. of gald to this particular horde to induce them to quit Neustria altogether.

From this time onward things went from bad to worse for king Charles, largely owing to his own faults as we may guess, for he was a fickle unsteady prince, always taking new enterprises in hand and dropping them suddenly for some fresh plan before he had half carried them out. Nor was his courage beyond suspicion; more than once in his reign he fled out of danger with an alacrity that savoured more of fear than of prudence. After the sack of Paris we find the Vikings hovering around Neustria on every side; one band had established itself at the Loire-mouth, another under Jarl Oscar watched the Garonne, another devoted itself to the harrying of Flanders, and got succour when required from the emperor Lothair's Danish vassals on the isle of Walcheren. Spasmodically hurrying about from one scene of Viking outrages to another, king Charles protected nothing, and always arrived too late to be of use. In 847 even Bordeaux, the greatest city of southern Gaul, was beleaguered by the Vikings of the Garonne. 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.1 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 _

, , ,. .' , The Danes

whole force of Neustna in such overwhelming at Givald's strength that the Vikings retired behind their dykepalisades and stood on the defensive. Presently the emperor Lothair with his warlike Austrasians marched up to help his

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

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 war of son Lewis tne Saxon, with a Suabian and Lewis and Bavarian army, into Aquitaine, and declared war Charles, 854. on m's 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 Priim, and died there only a few weeks

« ՆախորդըContinue »