Boso of Provence

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Fragment of a fresco at Charlieu Abbey, depicting Boso and the Protomartyr Stephen

Boso (c. 850–February/December 19, 887) was a Frankish nobleman of the Bosonid family who was related to the Carolingian dynasty[1] and who rose to become King of Lower Burgundy and Provence.


Boso was the son of Bivin of Gorze, a count in Lorraine, by Richildis of Arles, a daughter of Boso the Elder by his wife Engeltrude. His maternal aunt Teutberga was the wife of king Lothair II. Boso was also a nephew of the Boso, Count of Valois, for whom he was named, and of Hucbert, lay abbot of St. Maurice's Abbey, to which Boso succeeded in 869.

Service of Charles the Bald[edit]

In 870, Charles the Bald, King of West Francia, married Boso's sister Richilde. This marriage paved the way for Boso's career in the service of his royal brother-in-law. In the same year, Boso was appointed Count of Lyon and Vienne, replacing Gerard of Roussillon.

In 872, Charles appointed him chamberlain and magister ostiariorum (master of porters) to his heir Louis the Stammerer. Boso likewise received investiture as Count of Bourges. Louis was reigning as a subordinate king of Aquitaine, but because of his youth, it was Boso who looked after the administration of that realm.

In the autumn of 875, Boso accompanied Charles on his first Italian campaign and at the diet of Pavia in February 876 he was appointed arch-minister and missus dominicus for Italy and elevated to the rank of duke. He was probably also charged with the administration of Provence. He acted as a viceroy and increased his prestige even more by marrying Ermengard, the only daughter of the Emperor Louis II.

Out of favour[edit]

Boso disapproved of Charles' second Italian campaign in 877 and conspired with other like-minded nobles against his king. After Charles's death in October, these nobles forced Charles's son to confirm their rights and privileges.

Boso also formed close relations to the papacy and accompanied Pope John VIII in September 878 to Troyes, where the Pope asked King Louis for his support in Italy. The Pope adopted Boso as his son and probably offered to crown Louis emperor. It is said that he wanted to crown Boso emperor.[2]

Independent rule[edit]

In April 879, Louis died, leaving behind two adult sons, Louis and Carloman. Boso joined with other western Frankish nobles and advocated making Louis III of France the sole heir of the western kingdom, but eventually both brothers were elected kings. Boso, however, renounced allegiance to both brothers and in July claimed independence by using the style Dei gratia id quod sum: by the Grace of God, that is what I am. He also claimed that his imperial father-in-law had named him as his heir. On 15 October 879, the bishops and nobles of the region around the rivers Rhône and Saône assembled in the Synod of Mantaille elected Boso king as successor to Louis the Stammerer, the first non-Carolingian king in Western Europe in more than a century.[3] This event marks the first occurrence of a "free election" among the Franks, without regard to royal descent, inspired by a canonical principle (but not constant practice) of ecclesiastical elections.

Boso's realm, usually called the Kingdom of Provence, comprised the ecclesiastical provinces of the archbishops of Arles, Aix, Vienne, Lyon (without Langres), and probably Besançon, as well as the dioceses of Tarentaise, Uzès, and Viviers.

After Louis and Carloman had divided their father's realm at Amiens in March 880, the two brothers joined to march against Boso. They took Mâcon and the northern parts of Boso's realm. Then uniting their forces with those of Charles the Fat, they unsuccessfully besieged Vienne from August to November.

In August 882, Boso was again besieged at Vienne by his relative, Richard, Count of Autun, who took the city in September. After this, Boso could not regain most of his realm and was restricted to the vicinity of Vienne.

He died in 887 and was succeeded by his son Louis the Blind.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Boso was married twice. The identity of his first wife is not known; his second wife was Ermengard of Italy, only daughter of Louis II, Holy Roman Emperor, whom he wed in March 876. His issue was, in supposed chronological order:

  • Guilla/Willa (December 873-before June 15, 929), married firstly Rudolph I of Burgundy, secondly Hugh of Italy; her mother is reported to have been Ermengard, but this seems to be erroneous because she was born before Boso and Ermengarde's wedding
  • Ermengarde/Ermengard (c. 877-April 12, 935), married Manasses I the Old, Count of Chalons-sur-Seine (Chalon-sur-Saône?); her mother is reported to have been Ermengard
  • Engelberge/Ethelberga, married firstly Carloman II, secondly William the Pious;[4] her mother is reported to have been Ermengard
  • Carloman


  1. ^ Bouchard, Constance Brittain (Spring 1988). The Bosonids or Rising to Power in the Late Carolingian Age. French Historical Studies 15 (3 ed.). Society for French Historical Studies. pp. 407–431. His mother's father, Boso, provided a daughter, Tetburgis/Teutberga, Boso's aunt, to be wife of Lothair II. 
  2. ^ Caravale, Mario, ed. (2003). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). LXI Guglielmo Gonzaga – Jacobini. Rome. [dead link]
  3. ^ Bouchard, Constance Brittain (Spring 1988). The Bosonids or Rising to Power in the Late Carolingian Age. French Historical Studies 15 (3 ed.). Society for French Historical Studies. pp. 407–431. 
  4. ^ Riché, Pierre. Les Carolingiens: Une famille qui fit l'Europe (in French). Hachette litterature. p. genealogical table XII (Bosonides). ISBN 978-2010097379. 
Preceded by
Louis the Stammerer
King of Lower Burgundy
Succeeded by
Louis the Blind
Preceded by
Louis the Stammerer
King of Provence
Succeeded by
Louis the Blind