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Old 02-22-2023, 01:19 PM   #51 (permalink)
Born to be mild
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Another who supported the legitimisation of Bernard was a Benedictine monk called Notker the Stammerer, but nobody paid him any attention, as you could never tell what he was saying. In fact (drum roll) you could say that the did Not ker about his views! Ba-tish! Yeah, well anyway, Charles continued to try to circumvent the fact that he had no actual legitimate children by attempting to cook the books, inserting the word proles (offspring) into the charters, but nobody was fooled. Specially as he did it in blue biro possibly. He then chummed up to Hadrian’s successor, Pope Stephen V, but though he agreed to meet him the new pope pulled out at the last minute, possibly claiming he was washing his cassock or something. Charles then plumped for adoption, making Louis of Provence his heir for some reason, but Pope Stephen wagged his finger and said no way pal, not blessing that line of succession!

All this bumbling and fumbling around, trying desperately to get someone to carry on your dynasty, from a man who had never been a great king anyway (well, great in the sense of being fat, but it’s widely reported most if not all of his crowns fell to him without any real effort, and he never waged any proper war or got his nose bloodied like any self-respecting monarch) people began to look elsewhere for an heir. Odo headed down to his palace in 887, and may have been confirmed heir there. Either way, there was trouble a-plenty at Chez Charles, as he first accused his wife of infidelity. Having proven her innocence through trial by fire, she quite rightly told him where he could stick it and sodded off to a nunnery. Then he pounced on his hated enemy, Liutward his archchancellor, first minister and also bishop of Vercelli, with whom he had accused his - now proven innocent and convent-bound - wife of having an affair. Nobody liked him, so it was not any hardship to kick his ass out of court. Which he did. Probably with relish. He then replaced him with Liutbert, which really makes me think it was just the archchancellor wearing a funny wig. I mean, come on!

Proof that he was either desperate or losing it, or both, surfaces when you realise that Louis II, Louis of Provence, whom he wished now to make his heir, was, well, blind, as evidenced by that quaint French custom of naming someone after their main trait, so he was called Louis the Blind. Blind drunk? No, just blind. I wonder what they would have called me? Trollheart the Arsehole, probably. Anyway I digress. Adding to old Fat Boy’s woes, one of his nephews decided he fancied the throne and went to war against him. History doesn’t record what happened, but it probably involved a lot of huffing and puffing on Charles’ part, a sort of “hold on till I get my breath, would you, there’s a good lad” and stuff like that. In the end, to nobody’s surprise, and probably not even his own, he was deposed, and that was that.

His fall wrecked the Frankish empire, as claimants and challengers to this and that throne popped up all over the place, and the empire disintegrated into separate kingdoms and countries, one of which became West Francia and later France. Which brings us back to our mate Odo.

Elected as the new king of that new country, he went about tearing the Vikings a new one, but as ever, heavy rests the head or something, and yet another Charles wanted to be king. Simple. Yeah. Charles the Simple. Doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you want sitting on the throne, does it? I don’t know if his title meant simple in the way of the brain, or that he was an uncomplicated man. Tell you what: let’s find out, shall we? Well he was also called Charles the Straightforward, so I think we’re looking more at a sort of direct, Meerkat Market sort of simple than the drooling, idiotic smile variety. Charles is however important, so we will come back to him very shortly. Meanwhile, Odo was crowned in 888 and would rule for ten years, though as I say his reign would be marred by his struggle against Charles.

In fact, I can’t see that he had that great a time after saving Paris. He ended up looking for the support of the king of East Francia, Arnulf, but he must have insulted his wife or his wine or something (Frenchman, more likely the wine) as Arnulf instead threw his lot in with Charles, and Odo was forced to concede territory on the Seine to him. He had battled Arnulf for three years, and on the fourth he died, in 898. That left the throne Charles’ for the taking. And he took.

Charles III, Charles the Simple (879 - 929)

We’ve already spoken a little about him above, but here are some more funny facts. He was preceded by - wait for this - Louis the Child, who wasn’t a child. Though he was when he ascended the throne - probably with a bit of a bump-up from someone; he was only six, and died at eighteen. What a bummer. What did he die of? He died of a Tuesday. No, seriously, let’s see. Died of terminal depression, it says here. Wow. If an eighteen-year old king can die of depression, how many of his subjects must have kicked the bucket? Anyway enough about him, as he’s really not important except for me to point a finger and laugh at. Back to Charles the Simple. His dad was another stammerer, Louis the Stammerer - was he king? Yes. Yes he was, and by all accounts, though not a man to make waves or any impact of any sort, you kind of can’t argue with the words of Herman Munster, sorry Sebastian Munster that “he was a sweet and simple man, a lover of peace, justice and religion.”

Oh for the love of - another child! This time Charles the Child, whom Louis succeeded as King of Aquitaine. He also died at age 18, though not from depression, unless you count being depressed by having been hit in the head by a sword while fooling around in mock combat with your own men! The incident left him a little doolally, and he passed away in 866. But as for Charles the Simple, well, he was destined to make his mark on history. Hey, at least he had a mother with a decent name - Adelaide of Paris, because, you know, she was from Paris. In the year 911 (shut up) Paris was again besieged, and again by Rollo, who had come back to finish the job. After Charles had kicked his arse he decided to negotiate with Rollo, and granted him all the land between the river Epte and the sea, and the Duchy of Brittany, naming it all as the new Duchy of, you guessed it, Normandy. Anyone singing “Pass the Dutchie” can leave right now, I’m serious. We don’t need your kind here. Where was I? Oh yeah. In return for this grant, Rollo and all his men were to swear fealty to France, and he himself was to be baptised as a Christian and take Charles’ daughter Gisela as his wife.

It was quite clever of Charles to grant Rollo and the Vikings-soon-to-be-Normans the Duchy of Brittany (yeah, you can go too. You! The one singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time”! Out!), as this was at the time an independent kingdom he had been trying without success to conquer. Now all he had to do was sit back and let his new Viking/Norman allies conquer it for him. Well, for them, but it amounted to the same thing. That year, 911, is also the one in which our friend Louis the Child comes, briefly, back into the picture. With his death, the East Francians elected him king, as they didn’t fancy Conrad I. Well, this is not quite true. Bloody fragmented kingdoms within fragmented kingdoms! Right. Lotharingia was part of East Francia, and they were the ones who elected Charles their king, but essentially saw him as king of all East Francia. This didn’t bother Conrad too much, not because he didn’t care but because he was too busy fighting off claims to his throne, and not only from Charles, but within his own kingdom. So in one way - probably a very wrong way - you could make a very tentative case for Charles the Simple, being technically but not really king of both East and West Francia as being the first actual king of all of France. But you’d be wrong. Also it didn’t last. After Conrad kicked it, it looks like Saxons or some form of Germans anyway took East Francia, and it then either became Germany or was subsumed into it.

Despite six tries, our Charles just couldn’t muster up a son - daughter, daughter, daughter, daughter, daughter… hold on, hold on! Could it be? Is it poss - nah. Another daughter - so like kings everywhere at that time he blamed it on his wife and dumped her to marry another woman, this time the daughter of an English king. English gels knew how to do it right, and out popped an heir, first time of asking. Jolly good show! This boy would go on to rule as Louis IV, but I don’t think he was one of the Bourbon dynasty kings, the likes of Louis the Sun King XIV and zut alors! Where’s me head Louis XVII, and since I’m not writing the history of France (yet!) I don’t really care.

A sad end really for Charles. His own brother Robert marched against him, with the backing of the nobles who had really got pissed off at him for doling out land that was theirs by right, and though Robert was killed in the ensuing battle, Charles was captured and died in prison in 921. Not a very fitting way to end your reign, even if it was a simple one.

But one thing Charles would always be remembered for was for the basic creation of the Norman state, which would go on to cause such misery and hardship in England (and, by extension, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) but which would also fundamentally change Europe and most of the western world.
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