1902 Encyclopedia > Charles I the Bald

Charles I the Bald
King of France and Emperor of the Romans

CHARLES I., the Bald (823-877), king of France and emperor of the Romans, was son of Louis le Débonnaire, by his second wife Judith. To furnish him with a king-dom, his father deprived his elder brothers of some of the territory he had previously assigned to them, and war ensued, at the end of which, after many failures and successes, Charles was left in possession of a great kingdom in the west of the empire. On the death of his father in 840, Charles sought to succeed as emperor, and allied himself with his brother, Louis the German. In 841, in a battle at Fontenai, remarkable for the number of the slain and the fierceness with which it was contested, Charles's rival and eldest brother Lothaire was defeated ; but such had been the loss even of the victor that it was impossible to follow up the victory. The alliance between Louis and Charles was renewed, the former taking his oath in words which form one of the earliest specimens of the Romance language ; and in 843 the treaty of Verdun confirmed to Charles the possession of his kingdom, which comprised France to the west of the Meuse, Saône, and Rhone, and Spain from the Ebro to the Pyrenees. The weakness of Charles's government was, however, extreme. The Normans, sailing up the rivers in small companies of a few hundreds, pillaged the country almost without resistance ; at length in 858 the people in despair, calling in the aid of his brother Louis, drove the king from the country for a time. Charles was entirely under the control of the bishops, and his submission did not go without reward ; in 875 he was crowned emperor by the Pope. But Louis attacked him with great success ; and his power was far from stable when, having been summoned into Italy by the Pope against the Saracens, he died in 877 near Mont Cenis. The last and perhaps most important act of his reign was the decree of Chiersi, by which the tenure of the counties was made hereditary.

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