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Louis the German

Louis the German
King of Eastern Francia
Seal with Louis' inscription and effigy.
Reign King of Bavaria: 817–843;
King of Eastern Francia: 843–876
Predecessor Louis the Pious
Successor Carloman of Bavaria, Louis the Younger, Charles the Fat
Spouse Emma of Altdorf
Issue Carloman of Bavaria, Louis the Younger, Charles the Fat
House Carolingian
Father Louis the Pious
Mother Ermengarde of Hesbaye
Born c. 810
Died 28 August 876
Frankfurt am Main

Louis (also Ludwig or Lewis) "the German" (c. 810[1] – 28 August 876), also known as Louis II, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.

He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact that the bulk of his territory had been in the former Germania. The epithet 'the German' is the sign of an early national historical reinterpretation. The epithet itself emerged only in the 18th century. Thus, the nickname is anachronistic.

Louis II was made the King of Bavaria from 817 following the Emperor Charlemagne's practice of bestowing a local kingdom on a family member who then served as one of his lieutenants and the local governor. He ruled in Regensburg, the old capital of the Bavarii. When his father, Louis I (called the pious), partitioned the empire toward the end of his reign in 840, he was made King of East Francia, a region that spanned the Elbe drainage basin from Jutland southeasterly through the Thuringerwald into modern Bavaria from the Treaty of Verdun in 843 until his death.


  • Divisio imperii and filial rebellion 1
  • Civil war, 840–843 2
  • Conflict with Charles the Bald 3
  • Divisio regni and his sons 4
  • Marriage and children 5
  • Ancestry 6
  • References 7

Divisio imperii and filial rebellion

His early years were partly spent at the court of his grandfather, Charlemagne, whose special affection he is said to have won. When the emperor Louis divided his dominions between his sons in 817, Louis received Bavaria and the neighbouring lands but did not undertake the governing of such until 825, when he became involved in wars with the Wends and Sorbs on his eastern frontier. In 827, he married Emma of Altdorf, sister of his stepmother Judith of Bavaria, and daughter of Welf, whose possessions ranged from Alsace to Bavaria. Louis soon began to interfere in the quarrels arising from Judith's efforts to secure a kingdom for her own son Charles (later known as Charles the Bald) and the consequent struggles of his brothers with their father.

His involvement in the first civil war of his father's reign was limited, but in the second, his elder brothers, Lothair, then King of Italy, and Pepin, King of Aquitaine, induced him to invade Alamannia — which their father had given to their half-brother Charles — by promising to give him the land in the new partition they would make. In 832, he led an army of Slavs into Alamannia and completely subjugated it. Louis the Pious disinherited him, but to no effect; the emperor was captured by his own rebellious sons and deposed. Upon his swift reinstatement, however, the Emperor Louis made peace with his son Louis and restored Bavaria (never actually lost) to him (836).

In the third civil war (began 839) of his father's ruinous final decade, Louis was the instigator. A strip of his land having been given to the young Charles, Louis invaded Alamannia again. His father was not so sluggish in responding to him this time, and soon the younger Louis was forced into the far southeastern corner of his realm, the March of Pannonia. Peace had been made by force of arms.

Civil war, 840–843

When the elder Louis died in 840, and Lothair claimed the whole Empire, Louis allied with the half-brother, Charles the Bald, and defeated Lothair and their nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine, son of Pepin, at the Battle of Fontenay in June 841. In June 842, the three brothers met on an island in the Saône to negotiate a peace, and each appointed forty representatives to arrange the boundaries of their respective kingdoms. This developed into the Treaty of Verdun, concluded in August 843, by which Louis received the bulk of the lands lying east of the Rhine (Eastern Francia), together with a district around Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, on the left bank of the river (see also Oaths of Strasbourg 842). His territories included Bavaria (where he made Regensburg the centre of his government), Thuringia, Franconia, and Saxony. He may truly be called the founder of the German kingdom, though his attempts to maintain the unity of the Empire proved futile. Having in 842 crushed the Stellinga rising in Saxony, in 844 he compelled the Obotrites to own his authority and put their prince, Gozzmovil, to death. Thachulf, Duke of Thuringia, then undertook campaigns against the Bohemians, Moravians, and other tribes, but was not very successful in freeing his shores from the ravages of the Vikings.

Conflict with Charles the Bald

In 852, he had sent his son Louis the Younger to Aquitaine, where the nobles had grown resentful of Charles the Bald's rule. The younger Louis did not set out until 854, but he returned the following year. In 853 and the following years, Louis made more than one attempt to secure the throne of Western Francia, which, according to the Annals of Fulda (Annales Fuldenses), the people of that country offered him in their disgust with the cruel misrule of Charles the Bald. Encouraged by his nephews Pepin II and Charles, King of Provence, Louis invaded in 858; Charles the Bald could not even raise an army to resist the invasion and fled to Burgundy; in that year, Louis issued a charter dated "the first year of the reign in West Francia." Treachery and desertion in his army, and the loyalty to Charles of the Aquitanian bishops, brought about the failure of the enterprise, which Louis renounced by a treaty signed at Coblenz on 7 June 860.

In 855, the emperor Lothair died, and Louis and Charles for a time seem to have cooperated in plans to divide Lothair's possessions among themselves — the only impediments to this being Lothair's sons: Lothair II (who received Lotharingia), Louis II (who held the imperial title and the Iron Crown), and the aforementioned Charles. In 868, at Metz they agreed definitely to a partition of Lotharingia; but when Lothair II died in 869, Louis the German was lying seriously ill, and his armies were engaged with the Moravians. Charles the Bald accordingly seized the whole kingdom; but Louis the German, having recovered, compelled him by a threat of war to agree to the Treaty of Meerssen, which divided it between the claimants.

Divisio regni and his sons

The later years of Louis the German were troubled by risings on the part of his sons, the eldest of whom, Carloman, revolted in 861 and again two years later; an example that was followed by the second son Louis, who in a further rising was joined by his brother Charles. In 864, Louis was forced to grant Carloman the kingdom of Bavaria, which he himself had once held under his father. The next year (865), he divided the remainder of his lands: Saxony he gave to Louis the Younger (with Franconia and Thuringia) and Swabia (with Raetia) to Charles, called the Fat. After taking Bari from the Saracens in 871, Louis was held hostage by Sergius of Naples, Waifar of Salerno, Lambert of Spoleto and Adelchis of Benevento.[2] He was later released after swearing never to return to southern Italy.[3] A report that the emperor Louis II (of Italy) was dead led to peace between father and sons and attempts by Louis the German to gain the imperial crown for Carloman. These efforts were thwarted by Louis II, who was not in fact dead, and Louis' old adversary, Charles the Bald.

Louis was preparing for war when he died on 28 August 876 at Frankfurt. He was buried at the abbey of Lorsch, leaving three sons and three daughters. His sons, unusually for the times, respected the division made a decade earlier and each contented himself with his own kingdom. Louis is considered by many to be the most competent of the grandsons of Charlemagne. He obtained for his kingdom a certain degree of security in face of the attacks of Norsemen, Magyars, Slavs, and others. He lived in close alliance with the Church, to which he was very generous, and entered eagerly into schemes for the conversion of his heathen neighbours.

Marriage and children

He was married to Hemma (died 31 January 876). They had seven children:



  1. ^ Eric Joseph Goldberg, Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817-876 (Ithaca, 2006), p. 27.
  2. ^ The Italian Cities and the Arabs before 1095, Hilmar C. Krueger, A History of the Crusades: The First Hundred Years, Vol.I, ed. Kenneth Meyer Setton, Marshall W. Baldwin, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1955), 48.
  3. ^ The Italian Cities and the Arabs before 1095, Hilmar C. Krueger, A History of the Crusades: The First Hundred Years, Vol.I, 48.
  4. ^ Jones, G.R.; Carolyn Muessig (2005). "Saints at a glance". University of Leicester. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 

Louis II of Eastern Francia
Born: 806 Died: 28 August 876
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles the Younger
Dukes of Maine
Succeeded by
Lothar I
Preceded by
Louis I
as King and Emperor of the Franks
King of Bavaria
Succeeded by
as King of Bavaria
King of East Francia
Succeeded by
Louis III
as King of Saxony
Succeeded by
Charles II
as King of Swabia
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