In medieval historiography, West Francia (Latin: Francia occidentalis) or the Kingdom of the West Franks (regnum Francorum occidentalium) was the western part of Charlemagne's Empire, ruled by the Germanic Franks that forms the earliest stage of the Kingdom of France, lasting from about 840 until 987. West Francia was formed out of the division of the Carolingian Empire in 843 under the Treaty of Verdun after the death of Emperor Louis the Pious and the east–west division which "gradually hardened into the establishment of separate kingdoms (...) of what we can begin to call Germany and France."
West Francia extended further south than modern France, but it did not extend as far east. West Francia did not include such future French holdings as Lorraine, Burgundy, Alsace and Provence in the east and southeast. In addition, by the 10th century the rule of its kings was greatly reduced even within the West Frankish realm by the increase in power of great territorial magnates over their large and usually territorially contiguous fiefs. This process was compounded by wars among those magnates, including against or alongside the Crown, and by foreign invasion. Notably, Normandy was given to the rule of Norse invaders under Rollo as a county and later duchy in return for their willingness to end their raids, and like other great fiefs became largely autonomous of, and more powerful than, the Crown. In Brittany and Catalonia the authority of the West Frankish king was barely felt. West Frankish kings were elected by the secular and ecclesiastic magnates, and for the half-century between 888 and 936 they chose alternately from the Carolingian and Robertian houses. By this time the power of king became weaker and more nominal, as the regional dukes and nobles became more powerful in their semi-independent regions. The Robertians, after becoming counts of Paris and dukes of France, became kings themselves and established the Capetian dynasty after 987, which is, although arbitrary, generally defined as the gradual transition towards the Kingdom of France.
Kingdom of the West Franks
West Francia within Europe after the Treaty of Verdun in 843.
|Common languages||Gallo-Roman, Latin|
|Charles the Bald (first)|
|Louis V of France|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
• Capetian dynasty established
In August 843, after three years of civil war following the death of Louis the Pious on 20 June 840, the Treaty of Verdun was signed by his three sons and heirs. The youngest, Charles the Bald, received western Francia. The contemporary West Frankish Annales Bertiniani describes Charles arriving at Verdun, "where the distribution of portions" took place. After describing the portions of his brothers, Lothair the Emperor (Middle Francia) and Louis the German (East Francia), he notes that "the rest as far as Spain they ceded to Charles". The Annales Fuldenses of East Francia describe Charles as holding the western part after the kingdom was "divided in three".
Since the death of King Pippin I of Aquitaine in December 838, his son had been recognised by the Aquitainian nobility as King Pippin II of Aquitaine, although the succession had not been recognised by the emperor. Charles the Bald was at war with Pippin II from the start of his reign in 840, and the Treaty of Verdun ignored the claimant and assigned Aquitaine to Charles. Accordingly, in June 845, after several military defeats, Charles signed the Treaty of Benoît-sur-Loire and recognised his nephew's rule. This agreement lasted until 25 March 848, when the Aquitainian barons recognised Charles as their king. Thereafter Charles's armies had the upper hand, and by 849 had secured most of Aquitaine. In May, Charles had himself crowned "King of the Franks and Aquitainians" in Orléans. Archbishop Wenilo of Sens officiated at the coronation, which included the first instance of royal unction in West Francia. The idea of anointing Charles may be owed to Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, who composed no less than four ordines describing appropriate liturgies for a royal consecration. By the time of the Synod of Quierzy (858), Hincmar was claiming that Charles was anointed to the entire West Frankish kingdom. With the Treaty of Mersen in 870 the western part of Lotharingia was added to West Francia. In 875 Charles the Bald was crowned Emperor of Rome.
The last record in the Annales Bertiniani dates to 882, and so the only contemporary narrative source for the next eighteen years in West Francia is the Annales Vedastini. The next set of original annals from the West Frankish kingdom are those of Flodoard, who began his account with the year 919.
After the death of Charles's grandson, Carloman II, on 12 December 884, the West Frankish nobles elected his uncle, Charles the Fat, already king in East Francia and Kingdom of Italy, as their king. He was probably crowned "King in Gaul" (rex in Gallia) on 20 May 885 at Grand. His reign was the only time after the death of Louis the Pious that all of Francia would be re-united under one ruler. In his capacity as king of West Francia, he seems to have granted the royal title and perhaps regalia to the semi-independent ruler of Brittany, Alan I. His handling of the Viking siege of Paris in 885–86 greatly reduced his prestige. In November 887 his nephew, Arnulf of Carinthia revolted and assumed the title as King of the East Franks. Charles retired and soon died on 13 January 888.
In Aquitaine, Duke Ranulf II may have had himself recognised as king, but he only lived another two years. Although Aquitaine did not become a separate kingdom, it was largely outside the control of the West Frankish kings.
Odo, Count of Paris was then elected by nobles as the new king of West Francia, and was crowned the next month. At this point, West Francia was composed of Neustria in the west and in the east by Francia proper, the region between the Meuse and the Seine.
After the 860s, Lotharingian noble Robert the Strong became increasingly powerful as count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine. Robert's brother Hugh, abbot of Saint-Denis, was given control over Austrasia by Charles the Bald. Robert's son Odo was elected king in 888. Odo's brother Robert I ruled between 922 and 923 and was followed by Rudolph from 923 until 936. Hugh the Great, son of Robert I, was elevated to the title "duke of the Franks" by king Louis IV. In 987 his son Hugh Capet was elected king and the Capetian dynasty began. At this point they controlled very little beyond the Île-de-France.
Outside the old Frankish territories and in the south local nobles were semi-independent after 887 as duchies were created - Burgundy, Aquitaine, Brittany, Gascony, Normandy, Champagne and the County of Flanders.
The power of the kings continued to decline, together with their inability to resist the Vikings and to oppose the rise of regional nobles who were no longer appointed by the king but became hereditary local dukes. In 877 Boso of Provence, brother-in-law of Charles the Bald, crowned himself as the king of Burgundy and Provence. His son Louis the Blind was king of Provence from 890 and Emperor between 901 and 905. Rudolph II of Burgundy established the Kingdom of Arles in 933.
After the death of East Francia's last Carolingian king Louis the Child, Lotharingia switched allegiance to the king of West Francia, Charles the Simple. After 911 the Duchy of Swabia extended westwards and added lands of Alsace. Baldwin II of Flanders became increasingly powerful after the Odo's death in 898, gaining Boulogne and Ternois from Charles. The territory over which the king exercised actual control shrank considerably, and was reduced to lands between Normandy and river Loire. The royal court usually stayed in Rheims or Laon.
Norsemen began settling in Normandy, and from 919 Magyars invaded repeatedly. In the absence of strong royal power, invaders were engaged and defeated by local nobles, like Richard of Burgundy and Robert of Neustria, who defeated Viking leader Rollo in 911 at Chartres. The Norman threat was eventually ended, with the last Danegeld paid in 924 and 926. Both nobles became increasingly opposed to Charles, and in 922 deposed him and elected Robert I as the new king. After Robert's death in 923 nobles elected Rudolf as king, and kept Charles imprisoned until his death in 929. After the rule of king Charles the Simple, local dukes began issuing their own currency.
King Rudolf was supported by his brother Hugh the Black and son of Robert I, Hugh the Great. Dukes of Normandy refused to recognise Rudolf until 933. The King also had to move with his army against the southern nobles to receive their homage and loyalty, however, the count of Barcelona managed to avoid this completely.
After 925 Rudolf was involved in a war against the rebellious Herbert II, Count of Vermandois, who received support from kings Henry the Fowler and Otto I of East Francia. His rebellion continued until his death in 943.
King Louis IV and Duke Hugh the Great were married to sisters of East Frankish king Otto I who after the deaths of their husbands managed Carolingian and Robertine rule together with their brother Bruno the Great, archbishop of Cologne, as regent.
After further victories by Herbert II, Louis was rescued only with the help of the large nobles and Otto I. In 942 Louis gave up Lotharingia to Otto I.
Succession conflict in Normandy led to a new war in which Louis was betrayed by Hugh the Great and captured by Danish prince Harald who eventually released him to the custody of Hugh, who freed the king only after receiving town of Laon as a compensation.
The 13-year old Lothair of France inherited all the lands of his father in 954. By this time they were so small that the Carolingian practice of dividing lands among the sons was not followed and his brother Charles received nothing. In 966 Lothair married Emma, stepdaughter of his grandfather Otto I. Despite this, in August 978 Lothair attacked the old imperial capital Aachen. Otto II retaliated by attacking Paris, but was defeated by the combined forces of king Lothar and nobles and peace was signed in 980.
Lothar managed to increase his power, but this was reversed with the coming of age of Hugh Capet, who began forming new alliances of nobles and eventually was elected as king.
Carloman II (c. 866 – 6 December 884) was the King of West Francia from 879 until his death. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, he and his elder brother, Louis III, divided the kingdom between themselves and ruled jointly until the latter's death in 882. Thereafter Carloman ruled alone until his own death. He was the second son of King Louis the Stammerer and Queen Ansgarde.
Upon Louis the Stammerer's death, some Frankish nobles advocated electing Louis III as the sole king, but eventually both brothers were elected kings. Carloman was crowned in September 879 at Ferrières-en-Gâtinais. Although some doubts were cast upon the legitimacy of their birth, the brothers obtained recognition and in March 880 divided their father's realm at Amiens, Carloman receiving southern Kingdom of Burgundy and Kingdom of Aquitaine.
Meanwhile, the powerful Duke Boso of Provence had renounced his allegiance to both brothers and had been elected King of Provence. In the summer of 880 Carloman and Louis III marched against Boso, took Mâcon and the northern parts of his realm. Despite receiving help from their cousin Charles the Fat, who ruled East Francia and Kingdom of Italy the siege of Vienne lasted from August to November without success. Only in the summer of 882 Vienne was taken after being besieged by Richard, Count of Autun.
After the accidental death of Louis III in August 882, Carloman II became the sole king of West Francia. The kingdom was in a deplorable condition, partly owing to repeated incursions from the Viking raiders, and his power was very limited by rebellious nobles, especially in Burgundy.
Carloman II died near Les Andelys while hunting on 6 December 884 and was succeeded in the throne by his cousin, the Emperor Charles the Fat. He is buried in the Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald (13 June 823 – 6 October 877) was the king of West Francia (843–877), king of Italy (875–877) and emperor of the Carolingian Empire (875–877). After a series of civil wars during the reign of his father, Louis the Pious, Charles succeeded by the Treaty of Verdun (843) in acquiring the western third of the Carolingian Empire. He was a grandson of Charlemagne and the youngest son of Louis the Pious by his second wife, Judith.Charles the Fat
Charles III (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles the Fat, was the Holy Roman Emperor from 881 to 888. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, Charles was the youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, and a great-grandson of Charlemagne. He was the last Carolingian emperor of legitimate birth and the last to rule over all the realms of the Franks.
Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne's former empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876, following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited the kingdom of East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, thus reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.
Usually considered lethargic and inept—he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy—he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the infamous Siege of Paris (885–886) which led to his downfall.
The reunited empire did not last. During a coup led by his nephew Arnulf of Carinthia in November 887, Charles was deposed in East Francia, Lotharingia, and Kingdom of Italy. Forced into quiet retirement he died of natural causes in January 888, just a few weeks after his deposition. The Empire quickly fell apart after his death, splintering into five separate successor kingdoms; the territory it had occupied was not entirely reunited under one ruler until the conquests of Napoleon.Charles the Simple
Charles III (17 September 879 – 7 October 929), called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the Latin Carolus Simplex), was the King of West Francia from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty.East Francia
East Francia (Latin: Francia orientalis) or the Kingdom of the East Franks (regnum Francorum orientalium) was a precursor of the Holy Roman Empire. A successor state of Charlemagne's empire, it was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided the former empire into three kingdoms.The east–west division, enforced by the German-Latin language split, "gradually hardened into the establishment of separate kingdoms", with East Francia becoming the Kingdom of Germany and West Francia the Kingdom of France.Grimbald
Saint Grimbald (or Grimwald) (820 – 8 July 901) was a 9th-century Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saint Bertin near Saint-Omer, France.Lothair of France
Lothair (French: Lothaire; Latin: Lothārius; 941 – 2 March 986), sometimes called Lothair III or Lothair IV, was the penultimate Carolingian king of West Francia, reigning from 10 September 954 until his death in 986.Lotharingia
Lotharingia (Latin: regnum Lotharii, regnum Lothariense, Lotharingia) (French: Lorraine) (German: Lothringen) was a medieval successor kingdom of the Carolingian Empire and a later duchy of the Ottonian Empire, comprising the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Saarland (Germany), and Lorraine (France). It was named after King Lothair II who received this territory after the kingdom of Middle Francia of his father Lothair I was divided among his sons in 855.Lotharingia was born out of the tripartite division in 855 of the kingdom of Middle Francia, which itself was formed after the threefold division of the Carolingian Empire by the Treaty of Verdun of 843. Conflict between East and West Francia over Lotharingia was based on the fact that these were the old Frankish homelands of Austrasia, so possession of them was of great prestige.Louis III of France
Louis III (863/65 – 5 August 882) was the king of West Francia from 879 until his death in 882. The eldest son of king Louis the Stammerer and his first wife Ansgarde of Burgundy, he succeeded his father and ruled jointly with his younger brother Carloman II, who became sole ruler after Louis's death. Louis's short reign was marked by military success.Louis IV of France
Louis IV (September 920 / September 921 – 10 September 954), called d'Outremer or Transmarinus (both meaning "from overseas"), reigned as king of West Francia from 936 to 954. A member of the Carolingian dynasty, he was the only son of king Charles the Simple and his second wife Eadgifu of Wessex, daughter of King Edward the Elder of Wessex. His reign is mostly known thanks to the Annals of Flodoard and the later Historiae of Richerus.Louis V of France
Louis V (c. 966 – 21 May 987), also known as Louis the Do-Nothing (French: Louis le Fainéant), was the King of West Francia from 986 until his premature death a year later. During his reign, the nobility essentially ruled the country. Dying childless, he was the last monarch in the Carolingian line in West Francia.Louis the Stammerer
Louis II, known as Louis the Stammerer (French: Louis le Bègue; 1 November 846 – 10 April 879), was the King of Aquitaine and later the King of West Francia. He was the eldest son of emperor Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans. Louis the Stammerer was physically weak and outlived his father by only two years.
He succeeded his younger brother Charles the Child as the ruler of Aquitaine in 866 and his father in West Francia in 877, but he was never crowned Holy Roman Emperor.
Louis was crowned king on 8 October 877 by Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, at Compiegne and was crowned a second time in August 878 by Pope John VIII at Troyes while the pope was attending a council there. The pope may have even offered him the imperial crown, but it was declined. Louis had relatively little impact on politics. He was described "a simple and sweet man, a lover of peace, justice, and religion". In 878, he gave the counties of Barcelona, Girona, and Besalú to Wilfred the Hairy. His final act was to march against the invading Vikings, but he fell ill and died on 9 April or 10 April 879, not long after beginning this final campaign. On his death, his realms were divided between his two sons, Carloman II and Louis III of France.Middle Francia
Middle Francia (Latin: Francia media) was a short-lived Frankish kingdom which was created in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun after an intermittent civil war between the grandsons of Charlemagne resulted in division of the united empire. Middle Francia was allocated to emperor Lothair I, the eldest son and successor of emperor Louis the Pious. His realm contained the imperial cities of Aachen, the residence of Charlemagne, as well as Pavia but lacked any geographic or ethnic cohesion which prevented it from surviving and forming a nucleus of a larger state, as was the case with West Francia and East Francia.
Middle Francia was situated between the realms of East and West Francia, and comprised the Frankish territory between the rivers Rhine and Scheldt, the Frisian coast of the North Sea, the former Kingdom of Burgundy (except for a western portion, later known as Bourgogne) and Provence, as well as parts of northern Italy. Following the 855 partition, Middle Francia became only a geographic term and the bulk of its territory was reorganized as Lotharingia, named after Lothair I's namesake son.Odo of France
Odo (or Eudes) (c. 857 – 1 January 898) was the elected King of Francia from 888 to 898 as the first king from the Robertian dynasty. Before assuming the kingship, Odo held the title of Count of Paris.Robert I of France
Robert I of France (c. 866 – June 15, 923) was the elected King of West Francia from 922 to 923. Before his election to the throne he was Count of Poitiers, Count of Paris and Marquis of Neustria and Orléans. He succeeded the overthrown Carolingian king Charles the Simple, who in 898 had succeeded Robert's brother, king Odo.Robert the Strong
Robert the Strong (c. 830 – 866) was the father of two kings of West Francia Odo (or Eudes) and Robert I of France. His family is named after him and called the Robertians. In 853 he was named missus dominicus by Charles the Bald, King of West Francia. Robert the Strong was the great-grandfather of Hugh Capet and thus the ancestor of all the Capetians.Robertians
The Robertians, or Robertines, was the Frankish predecessor family of origin to the ruling houses of France; it emerged to prominence in the ancient Frankish kingdom of Austrasia as early as the eighth century—in roughly the same region as present-day Belgium—and later emigrated to West Francia, between the Seine and the Loire rivers. The members were ‘forefathers’ of the Capetian dynasty. With fealty (sometimes mixed with rancor) to the Carolingians, they held the power of West Francia through the whole period of the Carolingian Empire; and from 888 to 987 theirs was the last extant kingdom of that house until they were succeeded by their own (Robertian) lineage, the house of Capet.
The family frequently named its sons Robert, including Robert of Hesbaye (c. 800), Robert III of Worms (800–834), Robert the Strong (d. 866) and Robert I of France (866–923). It figured prominently amongst the Carolingian nobility and married into this royal family. Eventually the Robertians themselves delivered Frankish kings such as the brothers Odo (reigned 888–898) and Robert I (r. 922–923), then Hugh Capet (r. 987–996), who ruled from his seat in Paris as the first Capetian king of France.
Although Philip II was officially the last king of the Franks (rex Francorum) and the first king of France (roi de France), in (systematic application of) historiography, Hugh Capet holds this distinction. He is the founder of the Capetians, the royal dynasty that ruled France until the revolution of the Second French Republic in 1848—save during the interregnum of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It still reigns in Europe today; both King Felipe VI of Spain and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg are descendants of this family through the Bourbon cadet branch of the dynasty.Rudolph of France
Rudolph or Rudolf (Latin: Rodulfus, French: Rodolphe; c. 890 – 14/15 January 936) was the elected King of France from 923 until his death in 936. Prior to his election as king, he was Duke of Burgundy and Count of Troyes from 921. He was the son of Richard, Duke of Burgundy, and Adelaide of Auxerre, and inherited the Duchy of Burgundy from his father. He married Emma of France, daughter of king Robert I of France. He is frequently confused with his uncle Rudolph I of Burgundy.
Rudolph was elected king of West Francia in 923 by an assembly of Frankish nobles, to succeed his father-in-law Robert I who was killed at the Battle of Soissons against the deposed king Charles the Simple. He was crowned by Walter, Archbishop of Sens at St.Médard in Soissons on Sunday, 13 July 923. On assuming the crown he passed the Duchy of Burgundy to his younger brother Hugh the Black.Treaty of Meerssen
The Treaty of Mersen or Meerssen, concluded on 8 August 870, was a treaty of partition of the realm of Lothair II (Lotharingia), by his uncles Louis the German of East Francia and Charles the Bald of West Francia, the two surviving sons of Emperor Louis I the Pious.