Louis IV of France

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Louis IV
Louis IV denier Chinon 936 954.jpg
A denier from the reign of Louis IV, minted at Chinon
King of the Franks (more...)
Reign 936–954
Coronation 936 in Laon
Predecessor Rudolph
Successor Lothair
Born September 920 / September 921
Died 10 September 954 (aged 33-34)
Burial Saint-Remi Abbey, Reims, France
Spouse Gerberga of Saxony
Lothair, King of the Franks
Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine
Matilda, Queen of Burgundy
House Carolingian
Father Charles the Simple
Mother Eadgifu of Wessex

Louis IV (September 920 / September 921[1] – 10 September 954), called d'Outremer or Transmarinus (both meaning "from overseas"), reigned as King of Western Francia from 936 to 954.

A member of the Carolingian dynasty, he was the only son of Charles III and Eadgifu, a daughter of King Edward the Elder of Wessex.[2]

After the dethronement and capture of Charles III in 923, Eadgifu and their infant son took refuge in England (for this he received the nickname of d'Outremer) at the court of his maternal grandfather King Edward, and after Edward's death, of his uncle King Æthelstan. Louis became heir to the French branch of the Carolingian dynasty after the death of his father in captivity in 929, and was recalled from England by the powerful Hugh the Great, Margrave of Neustria, to succeed King Raoul, who died in early 936.

His reign is mostly known thanks to the Annals of Flodoard and the later Historiae of Richerus. Once he took the throne, Louis wanted to leave the tutelage of Hugh the Great, who, with his title of Duke of the Franks became the second most powerful man in the Kingdom after the King. In 939 the young monarch attempted to conquer Lotharingia; however, the expedition was a failure and his brother-in-law King Otto I of Germany not long after besieged the city of Reims (940). Secondly in 945, following the death of William I Longsword, Count of Normandy, Louis tried to conquer his lands, but he was kidnapped by the men of Hugh the Great.

The Synod of Ingelheim (948) finally allowed the excommunication of Hugh the Great and the final release of Louis from his long tutelage. From 950, the King gradually imposed his rule in the northeast of the Kingdom building many alliances (especially with the Counts of Vermandois) and under the protection of the Kingdom of Germany.


Deposition of Charles III the Simple[edit]

The only child of King Charles III the Simple and his second wife Eadgifu of Wessex, Louis was born in the heart of the Carolingian limited area between Laon and Reims around 920/921. From his father's first marriage with Frederuna (d. 917), he had six half-sisters; and was the only male heir of his father.

On 6 December 884 King Carloman II of West Francia died without a male heir and his half-brother, the future Charles III the Simple, was a five-year-old boy. Because of this, their cousin Charles the Fat, already Holy Roman Emperor and King of East Francia, was invited by the nobles of the Kingdom to assumed the throne. Since the beginning, the new monarch was forced to deal with constant Vikings raids, with little success. After three years of incompetent government, Charles the Fat was finally deposed by the Diet of Tribur (887).[3] Faced with the growing threat of northern invaders, the local nobles again rejected the succession of Charles III the Simple because he was too young, and Odo, Count of Paris (member of the Robertians dynasty) was chosen as the new King of West Francia, after successfully defending Paris against Rollo the Viking. In 893, aided by Archbishop Fulk of Reims, Charles III the Simple attempted to reclaim the throne, in vain. By 897, the young prince only ruled the city of Laon before Odo, on his deathbad, designated him his successor. Following the death of Odo, in January 898, Charles III the Simple finally assumed the title of King of West Francia. Soon, the new monarch showed his ambition to conquer Lotharingia, the main objective of all the monarchs of West Francia since Charles the Bald.[4] However, Arnulf of Carinthia, King of East Francia, prevented this by entrusting the land to his son Zwentibold since 895. However Zwentibold's rule was hated by his subjects, so Charles III the Simple decided to intervene in 898 after being called by Count Reginar of Hainaut. After seizing Aachen and capturing Charlemagne's Palace at Nijmegen, he returned to France at the request of the German bishops. A few years later, in September 911, the Lotharingian aristocracy again called on Charles III the Simple after the death of Louis the Child, the last Carolingian ruler in Germany.

Charles III the Simple was crowned King of Lotharingia in early November 911. However, the constant absences of the new monarch (who preferred to stay in Aachen or Thionville), quickly irritates the Lotharingian nobility (which fears for their own independence) and the nobles of France, who see this inclination as an affront.[5] The situation was even more complicated because, according to Flodoard, Charles III the Simple refused to marched against the Hungarians who threatened Lotharingia (only Archbishop Hervé de Reims was present there) and finally caused an open rebellion when he attempt to dispossess his own aunt, Abbess Rothilde (also mother-in-law of Hugh the Great), from Chelles Abbey in order to give it to his favourite, Hagano (a relative of his first wife Frederuna).[6]

Between 920-922, Charles III the Simple finds himself in trouble. Although he pacified his relations with Henry the Fowler, the new King of Germany, he had to fight on two fronts: one against Duke Giselbert of Lotharingia and the other against Hugh the Great, irritated by the treatment to his mother-in-law. Defeated, in June 922 Charles III the Simple took refuge in Lotharingia, and the nobles of the Kingdom declared him deposed from the throne, choosing as the new King Robert, Count of Paris, brother of the late King Odo and father of Hugh the Great.[7]

A youth in exile[edit]

Charles III the Simple returns to France to regain the throne. His army, supported by a Lotharingian army and a group of soldiers, faced with King Robert's army at Soissons in June 923. According to Richerus, Robert was killed in battle by Count Fulbert[8] or according to other historians, by Charles III the Simple. Despite the death of Robert, his army win the battle and Charles III the Simple was forced to escape from the battlefield. The French nobles elected Raoul of Burgundy (Robert's son-in-law) as their new King, with his coronation taking place on 13 July 923 at St Médard, Soissons.

During the summer, Charles III the Simple was captured by Herbert II, Count of Vermandois (another son-in-law of King Robert) at Château-Thierry; in the meanwhile, King Henry I of Germany took advantage of the situation to seize Lotharingia to his domains, after giving his daughter Gerberga in marriage to Duke Giselbert.[9]

After the capture of her husband, Queen Eadgifu (known in France as Edwige or Ogive) flees with her son, Prince Louis, to the Kingdom of Wessex at the court of her father, King Edward the Elder and then of her brother King Æthelstan. Young Louis was raised in the Anglo-Saxon court until his teens, time during which he enjoyed with legendary stories of Edmund the Martyr, King of East Anglia and ancestor of his maternal family who heroically fought against the Vikings.[10]

After some time at Château-Thierry, the humiliated Charles III the Simple was transferred in 924 to Péronne, where he died on 7 October 929 and was immediately buried in the local Monastery of Saint-Fursy. Now, the legitimate Carolingian heir was the eight-years-old Louis, but King Raoul retained the throne and ruled until his death from illness on 15 January 936 at Auxerre, being buried in the Abbey of Sainte-Colombe of Sens.[11] The nobility then discussed who could be the next King, because Raoul had died without surviving male heirs; thanks to the decisive support of Hugh the Great, finally the nobles unanimously summoned back Louis (nicknamed d'Outremer –in Latin Ultramarinus–)[12] to France to become their new King.


Withdrawal of Hugh the Great. Return to France[edit]

During the spring of 936, Hugh the Great sent an embassy to Wessex, inviting Prince Louis to "come and take the head of the kingdom" (Flodoard). King Æthelstan, his uncle, after forced the embassy to swear that the future king will have the homage of all his vassals, permitted him the return to France with his mother Eadgifu, some bishops and faithful servants. However, it is surprising that Flodoard expressly described the coronation without mentioning the election.[13] After a few hours of journey, Louis receives on the beach of Boulogne the homage of Hugh and some Frankish nobles, who kissed his hands. Richerus gives us another anecdote about this first encounter:

Then the Duke hastily brought a horse decorated with the royal insignia. By the time he wants to put the King in the saddle, the horse runs in all directions; but Louis, an agile young men, jump suddenly, without stirrups, and tame the animal. This pleased all the presents and caused the recognition from all.[14]

Louis and his court began the trip in the direction of Laon which was where had to take place the coronation ceremony.

Historians have wondered why the powerful Hugh the Great called the young Carolingian prince instead to take the throne from himself, as his father had done fifteen years ago. Firstly, he had many rivals, especially Hugh the Black (King Raoul's brother) and Count Herbert II of Vermandois, who probably would questioned his election. But above all, it seems that he was shocked by the early death of his father. Richerus explains that Hugh the Great remembered his father who had died for his "pretentions" and this was the cause of his short and turbulent reign. It was then that "the Gauls, anxious to appear free to elect their King, assembled under the leadership of Hugh to deliberate about the choose of a new King".[14] According to Richerus, Hugh the Great say the following speech:

King Charles died miserably. If my father and us, we hurt your Majesty by some of our actions, we must use all our efforts to erase the trace. Although following your unanimous desire my father committed a great crime reigning, since only one had the right to rule and was alive, he deserved to be imprisoned. This, believe me, wasn't the will of God. Also I never had to take the place of my father.[14]

Hugh the Great knew that the Robertian dynasty had not left large traces in the recent history of the Kingdom; his uncle Odo had died after a few years of reign, abandoned by the nobles. Hugh's father, Robert I, was killed during the battle of Soissons after months of reign and his brother-in-law Raoul couldn't stop the troubles that multiplied in the Kingdom during his reign. Finally, Hugh still didn't have a legitimate male heir: his first wife Judith (daughter of Count Roger of Maine and Princess Rothilde) died in 925 after eleven years of childless union; in 926 he married secondly with Princess Eadhild of Wessex, full-sister of Queen Eadgifu, who also didn't bear him any children.[15] In addition, the marriage with Eadhild, actively promoted by Eadgifu, was made in order to sever an eventual dangerous link between Hugh and Count Heribert II of Vermandois.[16]


Having arrived on the continent, Louis IV was a young man of fifteen years, who spoke neither Latin or French, but probably spoke Old English. He knew nothing about his new kingdom and he had almost nothing. Hugh the Great, after negotiating with the most powerful nobles of the Kingdom (William I Longsword of Normandy, Herbert II of Vermandois and Arnulf of Flanders), was appointed guardian of the new King.[17] Louis IV was crowned King by Artald, Archbishop of Rheims, on Sunday 19 June 936,[18] probably at the Abbey of Notre-Dame and Saint-Jean in Laon,[19][20] perhaps at the request of the King since it is a symbolic Carolingian town and probably he was born in this town. The chronicler Flodoard records the events as follows:

Brittones a transmarinis regionibus, Alstani regis praesidio, revertentes terram suam repetunt. Hugo comes trans mare mittit pro accersiendo ad apicem regni suscipiendum Ludowico, Karoli filio, quem rex Alstanus avunculus ipsius, accepto prius jurejurando a Francorum legatis, in Franciam cum quibusdam episcopis et aliis fidelibus suis dirigit, cui Hugo et cetero Francorum proceres obviam profecti, mox navim egresso, in ipsis littoreis harenis apud Bononiam, sese committunt, ut erant utrinque depactum. Indeque ab ipsis Laudunum deductus ac regali benedictione didatus ungitur atque coronatur a domno Artoldo archiepiscopo, praesentibus regni principibus cum episcopis xx et amplius.[21] "The Bretons, returning from the lands across the sea with the support of King Athelstan, came back to their country. Duke Hugh sent across the sea to summon Louis, son of Charles, to be received as king, and King Athelstan, his uncle, first taking oaths from the legates of the Franks, sent him to the Frankish kingdom with some of his bishops, and other followers. Hugh and the other nobles of the Franks went to meet him and committed themselves to him[;] immediately he disembarked on the sands of Boulogne, as had been agreed on both sides. From there he was conducted by them to Laon, and, endowed with the royal benediction, he was anointed and crowned by the lord Archbishop Artold, in the presence of the chief men of his kingdom, with 20 bishops."[22]

During the ritual, Hugh the Great acts as squire bearing the King's arms. Almost nothing was known about the coronation ceremony of Louis IV. Nevertheless, it seems certain that the King would wear the crown and scepter of his predecessor. Is equally obvious that he must had to promise before the bishops of France to respect the privileges of the Church. Maybe was he received the ring (a religious symbol), the sword and the stick of Saint Remigius (referring to the baptism of Clovis I). Finally, the new King (perhaps like his ancestor Charles the Bald) used a blue silk coat called Orbis Terrarum with cosmic allusions (referring to the Vulgate) and the purple robe with precious stones and gold incrustations also used by Odo (888) and his son Lothair during his own coronation (954).[23][24]

The young King will quickly become the puppet of Hugh the Great, who had reigned France de facto since the death of his father Robert in 923. Territorially, Louis IV is quite helpless since he possessed only few lands around the ancient Carolingian domains (Compiègne, Quierzy, Verberie, Ver-lès-Chartres and Ponthion), and some abbeys (Saint-Jean in Laon, Saint-Corneille in Compiègne, Corbie and Fleury-sur-Loire) and finally the revenues of the province of Reims. We know that the sovereign has the power to appoint the suffragants of the Archbishopric of Reims. Laon definitely becomes in the center of the small Carolingian legitimacy, compared with the possessions in the Loire Valley by the Robertians.[17]

Hugh the Great, the second of the Kingdom[edit]

In 936, Hugh the Great was able to gain supremacy over the Kingdom. Its power comes in two forms: from the extraordinary title of Dux Francorum (Duke of the Franks)[25] that Louis IV confirmed over him successively in three years (936, 943 and 954) and his rule over the Marches of Neustria, where he reigned as a truly princeps (territorial Prince). This title was for the first time formalized by the Royal Chancery.[26][27]

Thus the royal diplomas of the second half of the year 936 confirm the pervasiveness of Hugh the Great: it is said Duke of the Franks "in all reigned after us".[28] This content also means that Hugh denies the existence of the principality of Burgundy that Hugh the Black thought he had acquired after the death of his brother King Raoul.[29] Moreover, from the beginning of 937, Louis IV, called by some "The King of the Duke" (le roi du duc)[30] began his efforts to halt the virtual regency of the Duke of the Franks; in the contemporary charters Hugh the Great appears only as "Count" as if the ducal title was taken from him by the King. But Louis IV hesitated about this move, because the ducal title was already given to Hugh the Great by his Charles III the Simple in 914. But a serious misconduct was probably took place at that time, because Louis IV remove the title from him.[31]

For his part, Hugh the Great continues to claim to be the Duke of the Franks. The royal acts show that Hugh that further strengthens its legitimacy. In a letter from 938, the Pope called him Duke of the Franks, three years later (941) he presided a meeting in Paris during which he raised personally, in the manner of a King, his viscounts to the rank of counts. Finally, Hugh the Great had the decisive respect of the entire episcopate of France.[32]

Difficulties during the early years of rule (938–945)[edit]

Louis IV and his supporters (938–939)[edit]

The rivalries between the nobility appears as the only hope for the King to emancipate himself from the tutelage of Hugh the Great. In 937, Louis IV began to relies more on his Chancellor Artaud, Archbishop of Reims, Hugh the Black and William I Longsword, all enemies of Hugh the Great. He also receives the homage of other important nobles like Alan II, Duke of Brittany (who also spent part of his life in England) and Sunyer, Count of Barcelona.[33] Nevertheless, the support for the King was still limited, until the Pope clearly favored him after he forced the French nobles to renewed their homage to the King in 942.[32]

However the King's power in the south was symbolic since the death of the last Count of the Spanish March (878).[34] Hugh the Great response to the King's alliances approximating Herbert II of Vermandois, a very present ruler in minor France:[35] it possessed a tower, called château Gaillot in the city of Laon.[36] The following year, the King seized the tower but Herbert II conquered the fortresses of Reims. The King then looks to the Lotharingia, the land of his ancestors and began his attempts to recovered it. In 939, Duke Gislebert (then rebelled against King Otto I of Germany) offer him the crown; Louis IV receives the homage of the Lotharingian aristocracy in Verdun on his way to Aachen.

Shortly after (2 October 939) drowned at the Rhine while escaping from the forces of Otto I after his defeat at the Battle of Andernach. Louis IV took this opportunity to strengthen his domain over Lotharingia by marrying Giselbert's widow, Gerberga of Saxony (end 939), without the consent of her brother King Otto I. The wedding, however, didn't stopped the plans of the German King, who, after being allied with Hugh the Great, Herbert II of Vermandois and William I Longsword, reasumed his invasion to Lotharingia and advanced towards Reims.[37] Flodoard related the events as follows:

But Louis, called by the archbishop Artaud returned and besieged Laon where a new citadel was built by Herbert. He undermine and overthrow many machines walls and finally took it with great difficulty.[38]

Crisis of the royal power (940–941)[edit]

In 940, the invaders finally conquered the city of Reims, where archbishop Artald was expelled and replaced by Hugh of Vermandois, a younger son of Herbert II, who also seized the precious patrimony of Saint-Remi. About this, Flodoard wrote:

These are the same Franks who want this King, who crossed the sea at their request, the same ones who sworn loyalty to him and lied to God and that King?.[38]

Flodoard also publishes at the end of his Annals the testimony of a girl from Reims (the Visions of Flothilde) who predicted the expulsion of Artald from Reims. Flothilde mentioned that the saints are alarmed about the disloyalty of the nobles against the King. This testimony was widespreaded believed, especially among the population of Reims, who believed that the internal order and peace come from the oaths of loyalty to the King, while Artald was blamed of having forsaken divine service.[39] Contemporary Christian tradition affirmed that Saint Martin attended the coronation of 936. Now the two royal patrons saints, Saint Remi and Saint Denis, seems to have turned back to the King's rule. To soften the anger of the saints, in the middle of the siege of Reims by Hugh the Great and William I Longsword, Louis IV goes to Saint Remi Basilica and promised to the saint to pay him a pound of silver every year.[40]

In the meanwhile, Hugh the Great and his vassals have sworn allegiance to Otto I, who moved to the Carolingian Palace of Attigny before his unsuccessfully siege of Laon. In 941 the royal army, which tried to oppose the German invasion, was defeated and Artald was forced to submitted to the rebels. Now Louis IV was enclosed in the only property that remains in his hands: the city of Laon. The king of Germany believes that the power King of France is sufficiently diminished and propose a reconciliation with the Duke of the Franks and the Count of Vermandois: from now Otto I was the new arbitrator in the West.[37]

Intervention in Normandy (943–946)[edit]

On 17 December 942 William I Longsword was ambushed and killed by men of Arnulf I of Flanders at Picquigny and on 23 February 943 Herbert II of Vermandois died of natural causes.[41] The heir of Normandy was Richard I, the ten-years-old son of William born from his Breton concubine, while Herbert II's leave as heirs four adult sons. Louis IV took advantage of the internal disorder in the Duchy of Normandy and entered in Rouen, where he received the homage from part of the Norman aristocracy and offered his protection to the infant Richard I with the help of Hugh the Great.[42] The regency of Normandy was entrusted to the faithful Herluin, Count of Montreuil (who was also a vassal of Hugh the Great), while Richard I was imprisoned firstly in Laon and then in Château de Coucy.[43] In Vermandois, the King also took mesures to diminished the power of Herbert II's sons by dividing their lands between them: Eudes (as Count of Amiens), Herbert III (as Count of Château-Thierry), Robert (as Count of Meaux) and Albert (as Count of Saint-Quentin). Albert of Vermandois took the side of the King and paid homage to him, while the Abbey of Saint-Crépin in Soissons was finally given to Renaud of Roucy.[44] In the meanwhile, in 943 during the homage given to the King, Hugh the Great recovered the ducatus Franciae (Duchy of France) and the rule over Burgundy.[45]

During the summer of 945 Louis IV travels to Normandy after being calling by his faithful Herluin, who was a victim of a serious revolt. While the two are riding, they were ambushed near Bayeux.[46] Herluin was killed but Louis IV managed to escape to Rouen; he was finally captured by the Normans. The kidnappers demand to Queen Gerberga that she send her two sons Lothair and Charles as hostages in exchange of the release of her husband. The Queen only send her youngest son Charles, with Bishop Guy of Soissons taking the place of Lothair, the eldest son and heir.[47] Like his father, Louis IV was kept in captivity, then send to Hugh the Great. On his orders, the king was placed under the custody of Theobald I, Count of Blois for several months.[48] The ambush and capture of the King were probably ordened by Hugh the Great, who wants to permanently ended his attempts of political independence.[49] Ultimately, probably by the pressure of the Frankish nobles and Kings Otto I and Edmund I of England, Hugh the Great decides to release Louis IV.[48] Flodoard recored this event as follows:

Hugh the Great restored King Louis to his functions, at least in name.[49]

Hugh was the only one who would decide if Louis IV could be restored or deposed. In return for the release of the King, he demands the surrender of Laon,[50] who was entrusted to his vassal Thibaud.[48] The Carolingian kinship was in the abyss, because no longer hold or controlled anything. In June 946, a royal charter called optimistically the "eleventh year of the reign of Louis when he had recovered the Francia". This charter is the first official text who identified only the Western Frankish kingdom (sometimes called West Francia by some historians).[51] This statement is consistent with the fact that the title of King of the Franks, used since 911 by Charles III the Simple[51] was thereafter continuously claimed by the Kings of the Western Kingdom after the Treaty of Verdun, including the non-Carolingians ones. Among the Kings of the East, sometimes called Germanic Kings, this claim will be occasional and disappear completely after the 11th century.[52]

The Ottonian hegemony (946–954)[edit]

The trial of Hugh the Great (948–949)[edit]

The neighbor powerful Kingdom of Germany was not satisfied with the strengthening of the power of Hugues the Great. The Duke of the Franks, although not widely accepted by the whole Kingdom, respected the division of powers. In 946, Otto I and Conrad I of Burgundy raise an army that and trying to take Laon and then Senlis.[53] They invaded all Reims with a large army according to Flodoard. Archbishop Hugh of Vermandois escape and Artald was restored: "Robert, Archbishop of Trier and Frederick, Archbishop of Mainz take everyone by the hand" (Flodoard). A few months later, Louis joins them against Hugh the Great and his allies at the Battle of Rouen. In the spring of 947, Louis and his wife Gerberga spend the Easter holidays in Aachen at the court of Otto I, asking him for help in the war against Hugh the Great.[54]

Between late 947 and late 948, four imperial synods are held by Otto between Meuse and Rhine to settle the fate of the Archbishopric of Reims and Hugh the Great.[55] One of these meetings was in Ingelheim (June 948) in which were present the apostolic legate, thirty German and Burgundian bishops and finally Artals and his suffragants of Laon among the Frankish clerics. As a gesture of Otto I, Louis IV exposes his claims against Hugh the Great at the synod. The surviving final acts determined: "Anybody had the right to undermine the royal power or treacherously revolted against their King. We therefore decide that Hugh was the invasor and abductor of Louis, and he will be struck with the sword of the excommunication unless he presents himself and give a satisfaction to us for his perversity".[56]

But the Duke of the Franks, not taking account of the sentence, devastates Soissons, the Reims property, and profane dozens of churches. In the meanwhile, his vassal and relative Theobald I of Blois (nicknamed "the Trickster") who had married with Luitgarde, a daughter of Herbert II of Vermandois and widow of William I Longsword, had built a fortress in Montaigu in Laon to humiliate the king, and seized the lordship of Coucy in Reims. The Synod of Trier (September 948) decided to excommunicate him for his actions. Guy of Soissons, who ordained Hugh of Vermandois, must repented, while Thibaud of Amiens and Yves of Senlis, who both consecrated Hugh, were excommunicated. The King, with the help of Arnold, deposed Thibaud from the seat of Amiens and placed the faithful Raimbaud in his place (949).[57]

The return of the balance[edit]

The last step in the emancipation of Louis IV shows that his reign wasn't entirely negative. In 949, the King entered in Laon, where by command of Hugh the Great, Theobald I of Blois surrender to him the fortress he had built a few months before.[58] The King recovered, at the expense of Herbert II's vassals, the château of Corbeny, that his father had given to Saint-Remi of Reims and also authorized archbishop Artald to mint coins in his city.[59] In 950, Louis IV and Hugh the Great finally reconcile. On the death of Hugh the Black (952), Hugh the Great captured Burgundy. Louis IV, now allied with Arnulf I of Flanders and Albert of Vermandois, exercised real authority in Western France at north of the Loire. He also rewarded Liétald II of Mâcon and Charles Constantine of Vienne for their loyalty. Louis and his son Lothair are the last Kings to show the south of the Loire before long.

Around 951 the King fell seriously ill during a stay in Auvergne and decided to associate to the throne his eldest son and heir, the ten-years-old Lothair.[60] During his stay, he receives the homage of Bishop Étienne II, brother of the viscount of Clermont. Louis IV recovered from his disease thanks to the care of his wife Gerberga, who during the reign of her husband had a key role. The royal couple had seven children, of whom only three survive infancy: Lothair, the eldest son and future King –that Flodoard cites not to be confused with the son of Louis the Pious: Lotharius puer, filius Ludowici (infant Lothair, son of Louis)–, Mathilde –who married in 964 with King Conrad I of Burgundy– and Charles –who was invested as Duke of Lower Lorraine by his cousin Emperor Otto II in 977–.[61]

During the 950s, the royal network was entrenched by built several palaces in the towns who where recovered by the King. Under Louis IV (and also during the reign of his son), there is a geographical tightening around Compiègne, Laon and Reims which eventually gave Laon an incontestable primacy. Thus, through the charters issued by the Royal Chancery, can be followed the stays of Louis IV. The King spent mostly of his time in the palaces of Reims (21% of the charters), Laon (15%), Compiègne and Soissons (2% for each of them).[62]

Flodoard records in 951 that Queen Eadgifu (Ottogeba regina mater Ludowici regis), who since her return with her son to France retired to the Abbey of Notre Dame in Laon (abbatiam sanctæ Mariæ...Lauduni), where she became the Abbess, was abducted from there by Herbert III of Vermandois, Count of Château-Thierry (Heriberti...Adalberti fratris), who married her shortly after; the King, furious about this (rex Ludowicus iratus) confiscated the Abbey of Notre Dame from his mother and donated it to his wife Gerberga (Gerbergæ uxori suæ).[63][64]

Death of the King and the Legend of the Wolf[edit]

In the early 950s, Queen Gerberga developed an increased eschatological fear, and began to consult Adso of Montier-en-Der; being highly educated, she commissioned to him the De ortu et tempore antichristi (Birth of the era of the Antichrist). There worries of the Queen assuring her that the arrival of the Antichrist will not take place before the end of the Kingdoms of France and Germany, the two Imperia fundamentals of the universe. In consequence, the Frankish King can continue his reign without fear, because Heaven was the door of legitimacy.[65]

At the end of the summer of 954, Louis IV riding with his companions on the road from Laon to Reims. As he crosses the forest of Voas (near to his palace in Corbeny), he sees a wolf who attempts to capture. Flodoard, from whom were known these details, said that the King fell from his horse. Urgently carried to Reims, he eventually died from his injuries on 10 September. For the Reims canons, the wolf who king tried to hunt wasn't an animal but a fantastic creature, a divine supernatural intervention.

Flodoard recalled indeed that in 938 Louis IV had captured Corbeny in extreme brutality and without respecting the donations to the monks made by his father. Thus God could be punished the King and his descendants with the curse of the wolf as a "plague". The later events are disturbing. According to Flodoard Louis reportedly died from tuberculosis (then called pesta elephantis); in 986 his son Lothair will by a "plague"[66] after he besieged Verdun, and finally his grandson Louis V died in 987 from injuries received when falling from his horse while hunting, a few months after he besieged Reims for the trial of archbishop Adalberon.[67]

Dynastic Memorial and Burial[edit]

Gerberga, a dynamic and devoted wife, supports the burial of her late husband at the Abbey of Saint-Remi.[68] Unusually in the Carolingian Kingdom, she takes care of the dynastic memorial (mémoire dynastique) of Louis IV. The Queen, from Ottonian descent, was constantly at the side of her husband, surpporting him and being active in the defence of Laon (941) and of Reims (946), accompanied him on the military expeditions to Aquitaine (944) and Burgundy (949), and was also active during his period of imprisonment in 945-946.[69] By France and Germany, the role of queens was different: the memorial mostly was a task of males. Written shortly after 956, perhaps by Adso of Montier-en-Der (according to Karl Ferdinand Werner) the Life of Clotilde[70] proposes to Queen Gerberga as the impulsor and creator of the built of a church destined to be burial place of members of the Carolingian dynasty: the Abbey of Saint-Remi; moreover in a charter dated 955, King Lothair, following the desires of his mother, confirm the immunity of Saint-Remi as the place of coronations and royal necropolis.

The tomb of Louis IV was later destroyed during the French Revolution. At that time, the two tombs of Louis IV and his son Lothair were in the center of the Abbey, the side of the Epistle reserved to Louis IV and the side of the gospel to Lothair. Both remains were moved in the middle of the 18th century and transported to the right and left of the mausoleum of Carloman I first under the first arch of the collateral nave towards the sacristy of Saint-Remi Abbey. The statues placed on the original graves were left there. Both statues were painted and the golden Fleur-de-lis on each of the Kings' capes were easily visible. A graphic description of the tombs was made by Bernard de Montfaucon.[71][72] Louis IV was shown seated on a throne with a double-dossier. He was depicted as full-bearded, wearing a bonnet and dressed with a chlamys and also was holding a scepter who ended with a pine cone. The throne of Louis IV was similar to a bench placed on a pedestal of the same material. The seat had a back that was above the royal head he was home with a gable roof, three arches decorated the underside of the roof. The base on which rested his feet was decorated at the corners with figures of children or lions.[73]


Louis IV and Gerberga had seven children:[74]

  • Lothair (end 941 – 2 March 986), successor of his father.
  • Mathilde (end 943 – 27 January 992), married on 964 to King Conrad I of Burgundy.[75]
  • Charles (January 945 – Rouen, before 953). Guillaume de Jumièges records that a son of Louis IV hostage of the Normans after 13 July 945 to secure the release of his father,[76] although it's unknown whether this son was Charles, who would have been a baby at the time, normally too young to have been used as a hostage according to then current practice.
  • Daughter (947 / early 948 – died young). Flodoard records that Chonradus...dux baptised filiam Ludowici regis in the middle of his passage dealing with 948.[77] She must have been born in the previous year, or very early in the same year, if the timing of the birth of King Louis's son Louis is correctly dated to the end of 948.
  • Louis (December 948 – before 10 September 954). The Genealogica Arnulfi Comitis names (in order) Hlotharium Karolum Ludovicum et Mathildim as children of Hludovicum ex regina Gerberga. Flodoard records the birth of regi Ludowico filius...patris ei nomen imponens at the end of his passage concerning 948.[78]
  • Charles (summer 953 – 12 June 991), invested as Duke of Lower Lorraine by Emperor Otto II in May 977 at Diedenhofen.
  • Henry (summer 953 – died shortly after his baptism). Flodoard records the birth of twins to Gerberga regina in 953 unus Karolus, later Heinricus, sed Henricus mox post baptismum defunctus est.[79]


Immediately after Louis IV died, his widow Gerberga was forced to obtain the approval of Hugh the Great for the coronation of her son Lothair, who took place on 12 November 954 at the Abbey of Saint-Remi in Reims.[80]

The regency of the Kingdom was held firstly by Hugh the Great, and after his death in 956 by Gerberga's brother Bruno the Great, Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Lotharingia until 965, marking the Ottonian influence over France during all the second half of the 10th century.[69] Thus, the end of Louis IV's reign and the beginning of the rule of Lothair, wasn't the "dark century of iron and lead [...] but rather [...] the last century of the Carolingian Europe".[81]

Louis IV's youngest surviving son Charles, known as Charles of Lower Lorraine, had settled on an island in the river, the Zenne river in the primitive pagus of Brabant, where he erected a castrum in the town called Bruoc Sella or Broek Zele, the later Brussels.



  1. ^ The precise date of birth of Louis IV is unknown. The Annals of Flodoard indicated that he was fifteen years of age in 936 and that he was born in the region of Laon-Reims.
  2. ^ Donald A. Bullough, Carolingian Renewal: Sources and Heritage, (Manchester University Press, 1991), 286
  3. ^ Depreux 2002, pp. 128-129.
  4. ^ The Lotharingia was the cradle of the Carolingian dynasty. Charlemagne's ancestors, the Pippinids were from Lotharingia (Herstal, Jupille...). Since the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the Lotharingia was independent and both Kingdoms (West and East France tries to recover his account. Isaïa 2009, p. 81.
  5. ^ Isaïa 2009, p. 82.
  6. ^ Depreux 2002, pp. 131-132.
  7. ^ Depreux 2002, p. 129.
  8. ^ Richer de Reims: Gallica Histoire de son temps Book I, p. 87.
  9. ^ Isaïa 2009, p. 87.
  10. ^ Poly 1990, p. 296.
  11. ^ Toussaint-Duplessis: Annales de Paris. Jusqu'au règne de Hugues Capet, 1753, p. 201.
  12. ^ Also Transmarinus. P. Lauer: Le Règne de Louis IV d'Outremer, Paris, Bouillon, 1900, p. 2.
  13. ^ Sot 1988, p. 724.
  14. ^ a b c Sot 1988, p. 727
  15. ^ Depreux 2002, pp. 136-137.
  16. ^ Sarah Foot: Dynastic Strategies: The West Saxon Royal Family in Europe. In: David Rollason, Conrad Leyser, Hannah Williams: England and the Continent in the Tenth Century:Studies in Honour of Wilhelm Levison (1876-1947). Brepols, 2010, p. 246.
  17. ^ a b Theis 1990, p. 169.
  18. ^ Pierre Riche, The Carolingians, Transl. Michael Idomir Allen, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 256.
  19. ^ Michel Bur: La Champagne médiévale, 2005, p. 657.
  20. ^ The chroniclers Aimon de Fleury recorded in his Gestis francorum that Louis IV was crowned in the Abbey of Saint-Vincent in Laon.
  21. ^ Flodoard, Annales 936, ed. P. Lauer.
  22. ^ Dorothy Whitelock (tr.), English Historical Documents c. 500–1042. 2nd ed. London, 1979. p. 344.
  23. ^ Isaïa 2009, p. 131.
  24. ^ Pinoteau 1992, pp. 76-80.
  25. ^ Title held by Charles Martel and Pepin the Short when they were Mayors of the Palace for the last Merovingian Kings.
  26. ^ Guillot, Sassier 2003, p. 170.
  27. ^ Theis 1990, p. 170.
  28. ^ It's understood that the Duke of the Franks is now the first person in the kingdom after the king. Charter of Louis IV, n° 4, 26 December 936. Guillot, Sassier 2003, p. 170.
  29. ^ In fact, in the kingdom of the Franks during the 19th century, there can be only one Duke. If Hugh the Great proclaimed himself Duke of all the Franks and over all the kingdoms (Burgundy and Aquitaine included) this means that he doesn't recognize the legitimacy of Hugh the Black as Duke of Burgundy. This quarrel ends in 936-937 when the two enemies agree to share Burgundy.
  30. ^ Quote of Laurent Theis. C. Bonnet, Les Carolingiens (741-987), Paris, Colin, 2001, p. 214.
  31. ^ Guillot, Sassier 2003, pp. 170-171
  32. ^ a b Guillot, Sassier 2003, p. 171.
  33. ^ In fact until the 10th century, the Catalan nobles goes to the royal palace in Laon to confirmed privileges for their churches and ensure their loyalty to the King. And Wilfred, brother of the Count of Barcelona, received a charter from Louis IV renewing his rights in the Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (937).
  34. ^ Theis 1990, pp. 155-157.
  35. ^ The minor France is the region between Loire and Meuse.
  36. ^ Theis 1990, p. 171.
  37. ^ a b Theis 1990, pp. 171-172.
  38. ^ a b Theis 1990, p. 172.
  39. ^ Isaïa 2009, p. 49.
  40. ^ Isaïa 2009, p. 317.
  41. ^ According to contemporary sources (Dudon of Saint-Quentin and Flodoard of Reims), the murder was an act of revenge of the Count of Flanders who had just lost, in favor of William I, the city of Montreuil because the count of the Normans had approached King Louis IV to the detriment of Arnold and his lord Otto I of Germany. Dudon of Saint-Quentin: De Moribus et actis primorum Normanniae ducum, ed. Jules Lair, Caen, 1865, p. 84.
  42. ^ Riché 1999, p. 287.
  43. ^ Although the history of the minority of Richard I is very confusing, it seems that this really happened. Dudon of Saint-Quentin, op. cit., pp. 86-88.
  44. ^ Theis 1990, p. 173.
  45. ^ Guillot, Sassier 2003, p. 172.
  46. ^ The Normans had never accepted the regency of Herluin. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, op. cit., p. 90.
  47. ^ It seems that Richard I was returned to the Normans at the same time. Dudon of Saint-Quentin, op. cit., p. 92.
  48. ^ a b c Sassier 1987, p. 116.
  49. ^ a b Theis 1990, p. 174
  50. ^ Richer de Reims: Gallica Histoire de son temps Book II, p. 203.
  51. ^ a b Hervé Pinoteau: La symbolique royale française, ve ‑ xviiie siècles, PSR, p. 115.
  52. ^ Hervé Pinoteau: La symbolique royale française, ve ‑ xviiie siècles, PSR, p. 159.
  53. ^ Sassier 1987, p. 117.
  54. ^ Régine Le Jan: Femmes, pouvoir et société dans le haut Moyen Âge, 2001, p. 35.
  55. ^ Theis 1990, pp. 174-175.
  56. ^ Theis 1990, p. 176.
  57. ^ Theis 1990, p. 177, 200.
  58. ^ Sassier 1987, p. 118.
  59. ^ Flodoard: Histoire de l'Église de Reims, pp. 548-549.
  60. ^ Isaïa 2009, pp. 190-191.
  61. ^ Flodoard: Histoire de l'Église de Reims, p. 550.
  62. ^ Renoux 1992, p. 181, 191.
  63. ^ Flodoard: Annals, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum III, p. 401.
  64. ^ Jean nDunba: West Francia: The Kingdom. In: Timothy Reuter. The New Cambridge Medieval History III. Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 384.
  65. ^ Sassier 2002, pp. 188-189.
  66. ^ Richer de Reims: Histoire de son temps - La mort de Lothaire, Book III, p. 137.
  67. ^ Poly 1990, pp. 292-294.
  68. ^ Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France 987-1328, (Hambledon Continuum, 2007), 41.
  69. ^ a b Isaïa 2009, p. 271
  70. ^ Michel Rouche: Clovis, histoire et mémoire online, 1997, p. 147.
  71. ^ Bernard de Montfaucon: Les monuments de la monarchie française, vol. I, p. 346.
  72. ^ Prosper Tarbé: Les sépultures de l'église Saint-Remi de Reims, 1842.
  73. ^ Christian Settipani: La Préhistoire des Capétiens, ed. Patrick Van Kerrebrouck, 1993, p. 327.
  74. ^ Christian Settipani: La Préhistoire des Capétiens, éd. Patrick Van Kerrebrouck, 1993, p. 330.
  75. ^ Burgundy and Provence, 879-1032, Constance Brittain Bourchard, The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 3, C.900-c.1024, ed. Rosamond McKitterick and Timothy Reuter, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 342.
  76. ^ Willelmi Gemmetencis Historiæ (Du Chesne, 1619), Book IV, chap. VIII, p. 243.
  77. ^ Flodoard: Annals, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum III, p. 397.
  78. ^ Flodoard: Annals, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum III, p. 398.
  79. ^ Flodoard: Annals, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum III, p. 402.
  80. ^ Guillot, Sassier 2003, p. 173.
  81. ^ Riché 1999, p. 279.



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External links[edit]

Preceded by
King of Western Francia
Succeeded by