1902 Encyclopedia > Henry I (Henry I the Fowler)

Henry I
(often known as: Henry I the Fowler)
German king

HENRY I. (876-936), German king, was born in 876 kings in Saxony, of which his father, Otto, was duke. He dis-ind em- tinguished himself in early youth by the courage and perors. energy with which he warred against the Slavonic tribes to the east of his native duchy. Otto, who died in 912, appointed Henry his successor, not only as duke of Saxony but as lord of Thuringia and part of Franconia. Conrad I., stimulated by certain ecclesiastical advisers whom Henry's independent bearing towards the church had deeply offended, resisted the claims of the young duke; but he was ulti-mately left in possession of all the lands his father had ruled. After Conrad's death Henry was chosen king by the Franconian and Saxon nobles, and he had not much difficulty in securing the acquiescence of the rest of Germany. For some years Lotharingia or Lorraine had held an uncertain position between the kingdoms of the East and the West Franks, as Germany and France were then called ; but at this time Duke Giselbert, who was an old friend of Henry, quarrelled with Charles the Simple, and transferred his allegiance to the German king. For eight centuries afterwards Lorraine remained a part of Germany. From the time of Louis the Child, Germany had been tormented by the Hungarians, who were still a savage race, and who had the advantage of fighting on horseback while the Germans resisted them on foot. In 922 an Hungarian chief was captured, and his people were compelled to purchase his release by agreeing to a nine years' truce, on condition that Henry should during this time pay an annual tribute. In the northern districts the Germans had hitherto lived for the most part in small villages or on separate settlements, after the fashion described in the Germania of Tacitus. Henry, perceiving that so long as they continued thus exposed to attack they could never be safe, began the building of cities throughout Saxony and Thuringia, and in the other duchies his example was extensively followed. He also trained his vassals to meet the enemy on horseback, thus giving a strong impetus to the movement which resulted in the institutions of chivalry. When his arrangements were complete he tried his new force in a contest with the Danes and with some Slavonic tribes, whom he utterly defeated. In 933 the Hungarians demanded as usual the tribute which had till then been punctually paid, and when it was refused invaded Thuringia with a great army. Henry twice defeated them, and they were so overwhelmed by this misfortune that they did not enter Germany for some years, and were never again seen in the northern duchies. Having thus broken the power of all the chief enemies of his country, Henry took precautions for the future by establishing the marches of Schleswig, of Meissen, and perhaps of Brandenburg. In his home government he acted with great caution and judgment. The dukes had become so powerful that there was some danger of their altogether overshadowing the throne. Instead of directly meeting this peril by forcing them into submission, as was afterwards done by his son Otto, he attached them to his interests by confirming them in many of their rights and by acting as a mediator in their disputes. Towards the close of his life his position was so secure that he resolved to go to Rome and claim the imperial crown. In the midst of his preparations he- died in 936 at Memleben, and was buried in St Peter's church at Quedlinburg. He was one of the wisest and most energetic of the German kings, and through his encourage-ment of municipal life, and his powerful defence of Germany against her foreign enemies, his reign marks an epoch of the highest importance in early mediaeval history. By his first wife, Hatburg, he had a son Thankmar, who gave Otto I., his successor, much trouble. After she was put away he married Matilda, the daughter of a Saxon count; and the gentle and noble character of this lady, who was universally beloved, was of essential service to him in his rule.

See Waitz, Jahrbucher des Deutschen Reichs unter Heinrich I. (Berlin, 1837; 2d ed., 1863).

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