Charles the Simple
|Charles III of West Francia|
14th century depiction of the imprisonment of Charles III
m. 906 -wid. 917
Eadgifu of Wessex
m. 919 - his death
|Noble family||Carolingian dynasty|
|Father||Louis the Stammerer|
|Mother||Adelaide of Paris|
|Born||17 September 879|
|Died||7 October 929
Charles III (17 September 879 – 7 October 929), called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the Latin Carolus Simplex),[lower-alpha 1] was the King of Western Francia from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty.
Charles was the third and posthumous son of Louis the Stammerer by his second wife, Adelaide of Paris. As a child, Charles was prevented from succeeding to the throne at the time of the death in 884 of his half-brother Carloman. The nobles of the realm instead asked his cousin, Charles the Fat, to rule them. He was also prevented from succeeding the unpopular Charles, who was deposed in November 887 and died in January 888, although it is unknown if his deposition was accepted or even made known in West Francia before his death. The nobility elected as king Odo, the hero of the Siege of Paris, though there was a faction that supported Guy III of Spoleto. Charles was put under the protection of Ranulf II, the Duke of Aquitaine, who may have tried to claim the throne for him and in the end used the royal title himself until making peace with Odo.
King of Western Francia
In 911, a group of Vikings led by Rollo besieged Paris and Chartres. After a victory near Chartres on 26 August, Charles decided to negotiate with Rollo, resulting in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. For the Vikings' loyalty, they were granted all the land between the river Epte and the sea, as well as Brittany, which at the time was an independent country which France had unsuccessfully tried to conquer. Rollo also agreed to be baptised and to marry Charles' daughter, Gisela.
Also in 911, Louis the Child, the King of Germany, died, and the nobles of Lotharingia, who had been loyal to him, under the leadership of Reginar Longneck declared Charles their new king, breaking from Germans who had elected Conrad of Franconia king. Charles had tried to win their support for years, for instance by marrying in April 907 a Lotharingian woman named Frederuna, and in 909, his niece Cunigunda married Wigeric of Lotharingia. He also defended the country against two attacks by Conrad, King of the Germans. Queen Frederuna died on 10 February 917 leaving six daughters and no sons, so the succession was uncertain. On 7 October 919 Charles married again to Eadgifu, the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of England, who bore his son, the future King Louis IV of France. By this time Charles' excessive favouritism towards a certain Hagano had turned the aristocracy against him. He endowed Hagano with monasteries that were already the benefices of other barons, alienating them. In Lotharingia he earned the enmity of the new duke, Gilbert, who declared for the German king Henry the Fowler in 919. Opposition to Charles in Lotharingia was not universal, however; he retained the support of Wigeric.
Revolt of the nobles
The nobles, completely exasperated with Charles' policies and especially his favoritism of count Hagano, seized Charles in 920. But after negotiations by Archbishop Herveus of Reims the king was released. In 922 the Frankish nobles revolted again led by Robert of Neustria. Robert, who was Odo's brother, was elected king by the rebels and crowned in opposition to Charles, who had to flee to Lotharingia. On 2 July 922, Charles lost his most faithful supporter, Herveus of Reims, who had succeeded Fulk in 900. Charles returned with a Norman army in 923 but was defeated on 15 June near Soissons by Robert, who died in the battle. Charles was captured and imprisoned in a castle at Péronne under the guard of Herbert II of Vermandois. Robert's son-in-law Rudolph of Burgundy was elected to succeed him. In 925 the Lotharingians were subsumed into the Kingdom of Germany. Charles died in prison on 7 October 929 and was buried at the nearby abbey of Saint-Fursy. His son by Eadgifu would eventually be crowned in 936 as Louis IV of France. In the initial aftermath of Charles's defeat, Eadgifu and children had fled to England.
- Gisela, wife of Rollo (existence doubtful)
- Louis IV of France (10 September 920–10 September 954), who eventually succeeded to the throne of West Francia in 936
Charles also had several natural children:
- Rorice († 976), Bishop of Laon
- Alpais, who married Erlebold, count of Lommegau
- His nickname 'simplex' or the simple is misleading. Charles was neither simple in any way nor stupid, although he was called Charles the Stupid by a later chronicler for an incident in 919 where he abandoned his men. The Latin 'Simplex' was given to him meaning straightforward as in loyal or without guile. The nickname 'the Simple' has stuck with him even though its meaning has been corrupted.
- Jim Bradbury, The Capetians; Kings of France 987–1328 (New York; London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), p. 33
- Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band II (Marburg, Germany: J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 1
- The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 9919–966, ed. & trans. Steven Fanning; Bernard S. Bachrach (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), p. xv
- Pierre Riché, The Carolingians; A Family who Forged Europe, trans. Michael Idomir Allen (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), p. 216
- Michel Parisse, "Lotharingia", The New Cambridge Medieval History, III: c. 900–c. 1024, ed. Timothy Reuter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 313–15.
- Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. III—Germany and the Western Empire, eds. H. M. Gwatking; J. P. Whitney, et al. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1922), p. 74
- Genealogiæ Comitum Flandriæ, Witgeri Genealogica Arnulfi Comitis MGH SS IX, p. 303.
- Pierre Riché, The Carolingians; A Family who Forged Europe, trans. Michael Idomir Allen (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), p. 250
- Jean Dunbabin, "West Francia: The Kingdom", The New Cambridge Medieval History, III: c. 900–c. 1024, ed. Timothy Reuter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 378–79.
- The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 9919–966, ed. & trans. Steven Fanning; Bernard S. Bachrach (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), p. xvi
- The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 9919–966, ed. & trans. Steven Fanning; Bernard S. Bachrach (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), p. xvii
- Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Oderic Vitalis, ed. Marjorie Chibnall, Volume II, Books III And IV (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 9
Charles the SimpleBorn: 17 September 879 Died: 7 October 929
|King of Western Francia
Louis the Child
|King of Lotharingia