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Teutoberg Forest


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The Salian Franks were one of the main beneficiaries of Roman collapse.  They had been allowed to live in peace in Roman territory north of Gaul for at least 100 years.  Able to build defenses of their own unopposed by Rome, this tribe flourished and grew strong. Now with Rome reeling after the attack of Alaric in 410 AD, the Salian Franks were almost as strong as the Romans themselves.

The Gallic Romans decided to take advantage of their strength. They recruited the Salian Franks into the army to help order in the territory and to keep any invading barbarians from entering their area.

At first the alliance worked well. The Salian Franks joined forces with the Romans to defeat mutual enemies.  Using their status as the "preferred barbarians", the Salian Franks came to dominate their neighbors.  They were initially aided by their association with Aegidius, the Roman military leader of northern Gaul. Childeric I of the Franks fought in conjunction with Aegidius to defeat the Visigoths in Orléans in 463. 

That relationship changed when Childeric's son Clovis (466–511) took over.  Historians believe that Childeric and Clovis were both commanders of the Roman military in the Province of Belgica Secunda (Belgium) and were subordinate to Aegidius

It was now 486. Over twenty years had passed since the victory in Orléans.  Now in a manner similar to Arminius of the Teutoberg Forest disaster nearly 500 years earlier, Clovis turned against the Roman commanders.  At least this time it wasn't a sneak attack in the forest but rather in open battle. Clovis defeated Syagrius, the Gallo-Roman ruler and son of Aegidus, in the Battle of Soissons (486).

This was the final stake in the heart.  This 486 AD battle is considered the end of Western Roman rule outside of Italy.  However Clovis had a new problem. Now that the Romans were out of the picture, Clovis had to deal with the barbarian problem on his own.  Tribe after tribe kept moving in.

In 496 Clovis took the bold move of becoming the first Germanic ruler to be baptized.  This move was the culmination of changes taking place following the changing of the guard.

The defeated Romans had not returned to Italy.  They had been in Gaul so long this was now their home too.  They stayed and worked the land just like everyone else.  The Christian religion had made its way from Rome to Gaul.  The Franks reluctantly began to adopt Christianity following the baptism of Clovis I in 496.

This baptism event inaugurated the alliance between the Frankish kingdom and the Roman Catholic Church.  It made the Franks more acceptable to the Romans.  In Gaul, a fusion of Roman and Germanic societies was occurring.  They were becoming one people tough enough to resist more invasions.

Christianity did offer certain advantages to Clovis as he fought to distinguish his rule among many competing power centers in Western Europe. His conversion to the Roman Catholic form of Christianity set him apart from the other Germanic kings of his time, such as those of the Visigoths and the Vandals. At the time of the ascension of Clovis, his tribe was one of the most powerful, but certainly not yet supreme.  Religion was now playing a major role in this new society.

The Visigoths and the Vandals had converted from pagan beliefs to Arian Christianity Gothic Arians dominated Christian Gaul; Catholics were the minority. Clovis' embrace of the Roman Catholic faith gained him the support of the Catholic Gallo-Roman aristocracy in the area.  This made the difference in his later campaign against the Visigoths. Clovis drove them from southern Gaul in 507 and resulted in a great many of his own people converting to Catholicism as well.

The king's Catholic baptism turned out to be of immense importance in the subsequent history of Western and Central Europe, especially now that Clovis expanded his dominion over almost all of Gaul.

Clovis became the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.

After the collapse of Rome in the West, the Merovingians succeeded in conquering most of Gaul in the 6th century.  Clovis consolidated his rule with victories over the Gallo-Romans and all the other Frankish tribes and established his capital in Paris. After he had beaten the Visigoths and the Alemanni, his sons drove the Visigoths to Spain and subdued the Burgundians, Alemanni and Thuringians

Clovis now became the absolute ruler of a Germanic kingdom of mixed Roman-Germanic population.  He was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler. 

Clovis changed the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensured that the kingship was passed down to his heirs.  In so doing, the Frankish tribes were united under one rule for the first time since Roman dominance 5 centuries earlier.

This has been the story of how France became united. However, our story is about Germany, so one might ask why this story is important to the destiny of Germany. 

As the map shows, the empire Clovis established extended deep into what we now call German territory.  Starting in Belgium, the Franks had expanded into Gaul, then became the rulers in a large part of Germany as well. This would have consequences down the road.

Charles Martel and the Carolingians

In the Middle Ages, the term Frank was used in the East as a synonym for western European, as the Franks were then rulers of most of western Europe.  The Merovingian dynasty founded by Clovis lasted two centuries until internecine struggles began a gradual decline.

After the death of Clovis I in 511, his three sons partitioned his kingdom amongst themselves.  Now we had one solid territory divided into Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy. These 3 kingdoms defined the political division of Francia.  This was a good example of a problem that would come to plague Europe for centuries... every time a strong ruler consolidated territory through war, he would sub-divide his territory among his sons and weaken each individual territory.  "United we Stand, Divided we Fall".  Worse, the brothers would usually spend most of their time arguing over who got what rather than expand in other directions.  Eventually everything would fall to pieces.

Sure enough, Neustria and Austrasia fought each other almost constantly, with Burgundy playing the peacemaker between them.  This nonsense led to paralysis and weakening of the dynasty.  After 2 centuries, the Merovingians had become so ineffective that they were more or less "fired" from the job.

The position in society of the Merovingians was taken over by Carolingians, another tribe of Franks who came from a northern area around the river Maas in what is now Belgium and southern Netherlands. 

The transition is somewhat complicated, but it was a bloodless political ascension as opposed to the typical showdown battle. 

Charles Martel (688-741) was a Frankish statesman and military leader who acted as de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. The illegitimate son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Heristal and a noblewoman named Alpaida, Martel successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the "power behind the throne" in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father's work, Martel restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re-established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul. In foreign wars, Martel subjugated Bavaria, Alemannia, and Frisia, vanquished the pagan Saxons, and halted the Islamic advance into Western Europe at the Battle of Tours.

Martel is considered to be the founding figure of the European Middle Ages. Skilled as an administrator and warrior, he is often credited with a seminal role in the development of feudalism and knighthood.  Martel was also a great champion of the Papacy and received their support during the power struggle with the MerovingiansCharles Martel is seen as laying the groundwork for the Carolingian Empire.

In summing up the man, Martel was hailed as "the hero of the age" and described as the "champion of the Cross against the Crescent."


(742-814), Martel's grandson, was a highly gifted man who would come to rule most of Western Europe from 768 to 814.

In 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany.

Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign.  A skilled military strategist, he engaged in warfare in order to accomplish his goals.

He embarked on a mission to unite all Germanic peoples into one kingdom, and convert his subjects to Christianity.

Charlemagne was able to accomplish what the Romans never could.  He established complete domain over the area of Germany.

In the Saxon Wars, spanning thirty years and eighteen battles, he conquered Saxonia and proceeded to convert the conquered people to Christianity. 

As the maps show, Charlemagne extended his power into Bavaria, Austria, and most of Italy.  In so doing, Charlemagne was able to extend the influence of Christianity far and wide. 

Indeed, the Church recognized his significance by anointing him the first Emperor of Europe since the Romans. 

In 800, Pope Leo III (750-816) crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans. In this role, he encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a cultural and intellectual revival in Europe.

The expanded Frankish state founded by Charlemagne became known as the Carolingian Empire

When he died in 814, Charlemagne’s empire encompassed much of Western Europe, and he had ensured the survival of Christianity in the West.  Charlemagne was so impressive that today he is referred to as the "Father of Europe".

After his death, his empire was divided, then sub-divided by heirs who frequently fought among themselves.  The conflict that resulted would lead to a key moment in European history.

Treaty of Verdun, 843 AD

Upon his death in 814, Charlemagne passed on his empire to Louis the Pious, his only surviving son.

When Louis the Pious died in 840, each of his three sons was already established in a kingdom: Lothair in Italy, Louis the German in Bavaria, and Charles the Bald in Aquitaine.

As usual, the sons quarreled over who got what.  The eldest son, Lothair, claimed overlordship over the whole of his father's kingdom.  Lothair's brother Louis the German and his half-brother Charles the Bald refused to acknowledge Lothair's claim and teamed up to go to war against him.

Together they defeated Lothair at the Battle of Fontenay in 841.  Out of this came the Treaty of Verdun, 843.

  Lothair received the central portion of the empire which later became, from north to south: the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy (which covered only the northern half of the Italian Peninsula), collectively called Middle Francia.  This territory would one day evolve into Italy, but not until the mid-19th century.

  Charles the Bald received all lands west of the Rhône, which was called West Francia.  This territory would quickly evolve into France.  

  Louis the German received the eastern portion. Louis was guaranteed the kingship of all lands to the east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, which was called East Francia.  This territory would one day evolve into Germany, but not until late in the 19th century.

The Treaty of Verdun was one of the most important treaties of Europe.  It laid the foundation for what would become the independent states of France and Germany. 

So take a look at this map.  You get to choose first. 

Which is the most valuable territory?  Which one would you take?


Debacle in Lotharingia

So which territory did you pick?  If you went with Orange or Green, go to the head of the line.  If you went with Purple, very bad move.

Let's just say that this next story doesn't rank anywhere near the importance of the Treaty of Verdun, but it is so amusing we just have to cover it.

So the Empire of Charlemagne has been sliced into three parts.  What happened next?  Poor Lothair.

Although Lothair initially got the lion's share of the land, his brothers never forgave his aggression.  Charles the Bald and Louis the German spent the rest of their lives cherry-picking small parts of Lothair's kingdom and adding the territory into their own kingdoms. 

The main problem that Lothair faced was that his Middle Kingdom was difficult to defend.  First of all, it was cut in half by the Alps.  Second, unlike the other two kingdoms, there was little cultural or linguistic commonality; the Northern part could have cared less about the Southern part and vice versa.  Third, by being sandwiched in the middle, his territories were constantly coveted by his two brothers.

Unable to cope with managing all this territory, Lothair I subdivided his Kingdom into three separate parts.  Where have we heard that before?


Lothair Sr had three children:  Louis II, Charles, and Lothair II.

  To his eldest son Louis II, Lothair bequeathed the area we now call Italy.  For the next eight centuries, France coveted this area for itself.  However, using the Kingdom of Burgundy as a buffer and the formidable Alps for defense, over the centuries this territory managed to stay more or less out of France's grasp until Napoleon came along.  When Italy made its move for independence in the mid-1800s, it would be mainly France they would have to defy.

  To his youngest son Charles went the Kingdom of Burgundy. Over the centuries, bits and pieces of Burgundy kept getting annexed by the French.  In 1477, the remaining pieces fell into French hands.  Today Burgundy is a fabulous wine-growing province of France.

  Lotharingia was a different story. As one can gather, Lotharingia had been named for Lothair.  In fact, the "Lothair" name still lives on today. Lorraine, a modern day wine growing region of France on the German border gets its name from the medieval kingdom of Lotharingia, which in turn was named for either Emperor Lothair I.  This area was his pride and joy.  However, it also became his greatest headache.  Everybody wanted a piece of Lotharingia... the West Franks under Charles, the East Franks under Louis, and the Vikings too.  Lothair had fits defending his vulnerable lands.

Upon his deathbed in 855 (12 years after the Treaty of Verdun), Lothair gave Lotharingia to his middle son Lothair II.

Lothair Sr (Lothair I) had lived a life of misery.  He had been humiliated in battle by his two brothers. After losing to them in the Battle of Fontenay in 841, Lothair Sr had been forced to submit to the Treaty of Verdun.  For the last twelve years of his life, Lothair Sr had been ostracized by the two brothers.  Lothair Sr had also been humiliated by his inability to manage his kingdom properly.

The man had been a loser his entire life.  Now just months from death, Lothair Sr decided to pass his misery on to his son Lothair II (aka Lothair Jr).  Like father, like son.  Lothair II was a complete loser.

Lothair II would be the king of Lotharingia for 14 years from 855 until his death in 869.  But Junior (Lothair II) had to pay a huge price to get his lands.  As a condition to receive his inheritance, Lothair I demanded that his son marry a woman against his will.

 Put on your seat belt; this is quite a story.

Teutberga was daughter of Boso the Elder (pronounced "Bozo"), the politically powerful head of a family known as the Bosonids.  That right there tells you something.  Anyone with a father in law named Boso the Elder is in deep trouble.  Furthermore, this girl had clearly been named for Teutoberg Forest.  Who names their daughter for a forest?  From all accounts, the name was accurate since Teutberga had a figure as thick as a tree.

Lothair II did not care for Teutberga.  He did not want to marry Teutberga at all.  Lothair II greatly preferred his mistress Waldrada. Incidentally, her name meant "Wild Forest".

Interestingly, Waldrada was not your ordinary beautiful peasant girl being taken advantage of by the rich kid.  Waldrada herself was of noble birth just like Teutberga. Her father Wacho (pronounced 'Wacko') was head of the prominent Gallo-Roman Eticho noble family.  

Hmm.  Two women named after trees with fathers named Bozo and Wacko.  One can see the kid was doomed from the start.

When it came to which woman he would marry, Lothair II wasn't given much choice in the matter.  Now a decent father would have sat down with his son and said something like this, "Now, Junior, which girl would you rather marry?  Is it the daughter of Prince Bozo or the daughter of Prince Wacko?"

That would have been the sensitive way to handle it, but that's not how it came down.  In 855, Lothair I was dying and not feeling very patient.  He ordered his son to marry Teutberga for political reasons.  The father issued an ultimatum... "Do you want to inherit these lands or not?  If you want your inheritance, then I suggest you marry Teutberga!!"

Lothair II looked at his options.  Marry Waldrada and see his promised lands divided between his two brothers.  Marry Teutberga and get one-third of his father's immense kingdom.  Hmm.  Okay. Dad wins.  That said, Junior had a plan.  He knew his father was in ill health.  Why not just marry the tree trunk and give her the axe when his father died?

Of course Waldrada was furious.   Lothair II calmed her by telling her his plan to wait it out.  Junior pointed out that Teutberga was said to be incapable of bearing children.  It was a marriage of convenience and he promised to get rid of the woman just as soon as his father passed away.

Sure enough, once his father was dead two months later, Lothair Jr became obsessed with obtaining an annulment of his marriage to the tree trunk.  The first thing Junior did was go talk to his uncles about how to get rid of his wife.

Lothair Jr's relations with his uncles Charles the Bald and Louis the German were influenced by his desire to obtain their support for this endeavor.  Although quarrels and reconciliations between the three kings followed each other in quick succession, in general it may be said that Louis favored annulment and Charles opposed it.  Stalemate on the Stale mate.

Meanwhile the cynics will point out that neither uncle ever lost sight of the fact that as long as Lothair Jr stayed married to the tree trunk, he would have no legitimate son to inherit his lands.

Frustrated that the two uncles were no help, one year after his marriage, Lothair Jr simply left his wife.  Now Hucbert the Bosonid, Teutberga's brother, stepped in.  It turns out that Brother Hucbert was lay-abbot of the local Abbey.  However, Hucbert no holy man.  He was actually far more soldier than saint.  Hucbert told Lothair to take Teutberga back or face his army.  Hucbert was very convincing with his threat.  Lothair folded like a wet rag and restored his tree trunk wife to the throne.

One can assume Lothair had hell to pay for that move. Can you imagine the screams of Wild Wadrada?   As it turns out, at that exact moment Waldrada was pregnant,  She greatly preferred to have their first child Hugh be legitimate.

"You did what!?!  You took that woman back?!!  You did it because her brother said he would hurt you?  Why didn't you stand up to him?  What kind of man are you?" 

Lothair Jr was going nuts. Tortured by the constant bitching of mistress Wild Waldrada who never gave him a moment's peace, Lothair acted rashly.  He threw Teutberga in jail.  And for what reason? 

In 857 Lothair Jr imprisoned Teutberga after accusing her of incest with her brother Hucbert before their marriage.  We have to hand it to Lothair.  That particular excuse for jailing your wife isn't one we hear very often.

A church synod of all the bishops of Lotharingia was convened at the behest of Lothair II concerning his accusations. It was a trumped up charge to be sure.  It was all based on rumor; there was no real proof or any witnesses.  Nevertheless Lothair Jr was sure he would win because he had the judges in his pocket.  This meeting was presided over by archbishops Ghunter and Thietgaud, both of whom were relations of Mistress Wild Waldrada. 

Furthermore, Brother Hucbert was widely known to be more sinner than saint.  His lack of virtue was well documented.  In fact, there were strong rumors that the accusation of incest was actually true!  With all these things in his favor, how could Lothair possibly lose?

But again Teutberga's brother Hucbert the Bosonid stepped up.  He vehemently protested the innocence of his sister.  Again Hucbert was very convincing.  He used some very eloquent words: "Prove it". 

It turns out that Hucbert had an ace card as well.  Not only was he a bully more than willing to hurt anyone who defied him, let us not forget Hucbert was also a man of God.  Hucbert used both his reputation as a bully and his status as lay-abbot of the Abbey of Saint Maurice-in-Valais to great advantage.  It happened there were independent bishops present as well at this trial.  They were leery of contradicting one of their own flock... even one who laxity of virtue was notorious... so they persuaded Ghunter and Thietgaud to put Teutberga to the test rather than simply render a verdict. 

Ghunter and Thietgaud had been ready to simply declare the woman guilty, but the surprising amount of peer pressure gave the archbishops second thoughts.  They decided they had no choice but to force Teutberga to submit to the ordeal of boiling water.  Surely this Bozo woman would admit her guilt and skip the ordeal and everyone could go home happy. 

Not Teutberga.  She was tough.  Bring on the boiling water.

Now Ghunter and Thietgaud smiled.  Stupid woman.  Okay, have it your way. The ordeal of hot water was pretty extreme.  It required the accused to dip his hand or her hand in a kettle of boiling water and retrieve a stone from the bottom forearm deep.  If you had to fumble around to find that rock, kiss your hand goodbye.  

The ordeal would take place in the church, with several in attendance, purified and praying to God to reveal the truth. After the test, the hand would be bound.  The hand would be examined after three days to see whether it was healing or festering. 

Both Ghunter and Thietgaud expected Teutberga would scream bloody murder, lose her hand and fail the test.  However, they underestimated how tricky Teutberga was.

Teutberga somehow convinced a trusted servant woman to undergo the ordeal in her place.  One might speculate the poor servant girl was told by Brother Hucbert to do this or die.

So now the drama began.  Sure enough, the servant woman reached in the water, screamed bloody murder and somehow managed to retrieve the stone all in one motion.  Then her hand was bound in cloth.  Three days later, when revealed, everyone gasped.  The hand of Teutberga's proxy had not festered at all.  Teutberga was free.  One might say having a slave girl can really come in handy. 

Lothair Jr threw a fit.  He complained the test wasn't valid and then accused Teutberga of being a witch.  All his protests fell on deaf ears.  This was God's Will in action.  Lothair Jr was compelled to restore Teutberga to the throne in 858.

One would assume a clear Sign from God would be warning enough, but not where Junior was concerned.  Lothair Jr was not one to give up easily, especially with Wild Waldrada screaming at him to do something.

It may be hard to believe, but during all these shenanigans, Waldrada found time to give Lothair four children - Hugh, Gisela, Bertha, Ermengarde - every one of them illegitimate and every one of them just as head strong as their mother.  Two of the sisters - Gisela and Bertha - would go on to cause wars.  Bertha even took the unusual step to write a Sultan to invite him to marry her.

Meanwhile Junior was still pursuing his purpose.  Junior had a new idea.  He won the support of his brother, Emperor Louis II down in Italy, by offering him some of his lands in return for Louie's help.  As "Emperor", Louis II had friends in high places in the clergy.  Sure enough, thanks to Emperor Louie, Lothair Jr hit the Daily Double.  Not only did Louie obtain the consent of the local clergy to give his brother the annulment from Teutberga, he also got their consent for Loothair's marriage to Waldrada.

The wedding took place in 862.  Now Junior and the Wild One were finally married.  So are we done yet?  Not even close.

At first, things were looking good.  A synod of Frankish bishops met at Metz in 863 and confirmed this decision was valid in the Lord's eyes.

However, Teutberga fled to the court of Uncle Charles the Bald over in West Francia, fell to her knees and went boo hoo hoo at his throne.  Charles the Bald had been opposed to the annulment all along.  Charles the Bald had even BIGGER friends in high places.  In fact, Charles was on a first-name basis with the Pope.

Sure enough, Pope Nicholas I voided the decision of the 863 synod, mumbling something about "the sanctity of marriage" in the process.

Angry at this reversal, Emperor Louis II had the nerve to lead a military attack on Rome in protest!!  However, one suspects the attack was mostly a show of saber rattling so that Louis wouldn't have to give back his new lands to brother Lothair.  Mostly it was about intimidation. 

There was a brief violent skirmish with the Papal guards.  There was some tussle and a couple religious icons were broken, but the battle quickly became a standoff.  Pope Nicholas was indeed frightened enough to go hide in St. Peter's Basilica for two days and begin fasting.

Suddenly omens began to appear.  First a soldier loyal to Louis mysteriously died.  This soldier had broken a precious icon of great sanctity in the initial skirmish.  Now he was dead.  What a strange coincidence!  Then Emperor Louis himself came down with a fever.  Louis folded like a wet rag.  Not feeling very well, Louie sent his wife to make peace with the Pope. 

Lothair II was out of luck... not that he ever had any.

Dating back to the Ordeal by Boiling Water, this was the second clear Sign from God to give in and submit to God's will for crying out loud.  Well, this time it worked.

In 865, Lothair found himself backed into a corner. He had been at this for 10 years and had gotten absolutely nowhere.  Not only was he being threatened with excommunication, Lothair was certain that behind his back Uncle Louis and Uncle Charles had been discussing a forced partition of his kingdom at their recent meeting.  Nor could anyone blame the two uncles for the land grab.  By all accounts, thanks to his obsession with the constantly pregnant Wild Waldrada, Lothair Jr was the worst do-nothing king in German history.  Furthermore, he was certainly no Lothario either... Lothair couldn't make a woman happy if he tried.

Reluctantly, Junior threw in the towel and took back his wife Teutberga. 

Lothair didn't have anything going for him now.  First, the Pope had made a complete fool of him.  Second, his appalling behavior had alienated him from all the German princes in his Kingdom.  Third, the local clergy was sick and tired of being manipulated in his desperate attempts to free himself of Teutberga.  Fourth, his uncles were strongly considering removing him not only due to his total incompetence as a ruler, but because he was a pain in the ass.  Fifth, Waldrada was beyond disgusted with his constant failure.

Worst of all, God obviously didn't like him. Lothair Jr was a beaten man.

Or maybe God did like him after all.  Amazingly... just when the man was completely broken, like a miracle his luck changed.

In quick succession, Lothair caught two breaks.  First, a new Pope had just appeared on the scene.  Second, surprise surprise, Teutberga had changed her mind.  She wanted out.

Yup, the woman was serious.  She had had enough.  Either from total disgust or some secret bribe, Teutberga shocked the world and expressed her newfound desire for an annulment.  Teutberga was actually going to give Lothair exactly what he wanted! 

Thrilled out of his mind, Lothair Jr hurried off to Italy to obtain the consent of the new pope, Adrian II, to marry his mistress Waldrada the Wild One.  It was now 869.  Lothair Jr had spent 14 YEARS trying to marry Waldrada.  If he could just persuade the new pope to smile a little, Lothair would get the chance to marry the woman of his dreams and finally be free of the neverending drama in his life.

Pope Adrian II gave his blessings.  Unbelievable.  Lothair felt like the luckiest guy on the planet.  Lothair was free to marry Waldrada, the woman of his dreams and the mother of his four children.  Lothair could finally make his son Hugh legitimate and give him control of all of his lands. 

On the return journey home, Lothair Jr was suddenly seized with fever in Northern Italy.  Lothair died on the spot.

Back home, people were incredulous.  Maybe those rumors that Teutberga was a witch were really true after all!!   

Upon hearing the news that people were whispering about her dark powers, Teutberga entered a monastery.  In a curious gesture, she bestowed large sums of money in honor of the man who had treated her so cruelly.  The monks made sure she was comfortable.  Teutberga would live six more years. 


It is highly unlikely that the story of Lothair and his women problems had the slightest effect on the overall course of German history.  One will quickly conclude that compared to such towering figures such as Charles Martel and Charlemagne, Lothair gives royalty the worst name possible.  Furthermore most people would say that his loss is good riddance and that his memory deserves to be overlooked by any standard.  On the other hand, the reader will surely agree stories like this one don't come along every day.  This has been the Tale of the man who wanted to ditch the witch and hitch the bitch.

The Treaty of Meersen, 870

Pencil in Switzerland and this map begins to look a lot like Modern Europe.  France became the dominant area because it was the first to organize under one king. 

Germany and Italy would remain disorganized and fragmented into 300 duchies, small kingdoms, provinces, and bishoprics until well into the 1800s.  Entering the Medieval Age, war and strife between the various states was a constant part of life.  Peace was non-existent.

There are two footnotes to this strange tale, one important and one sad.

Thanks to his own foolishness as well as the machinations of the two powerful uncles, Lothair Jr died with no legitimate heir.

Theoretically, the lands of Lothair Jr belonged to his brother Emperor Louis II down in Italy.  However, at the time Emperor Louie was down at the southern tip of Italy trying to kick the Saracens off the Italian Peninsula.  Noticing that Emperor Louie was distracted and positioned some 1,000 miles away, the two uncles decided to steal the inheritance.

Consequently, in 870, one year after Lothair Jr suddenly passed away, Charles the Bald and Louis the German met at Meersen in the Netherlands to carve sections of their nephew's Lotharingian kingdom for themselves.

During this repartition of the original lands of Lothair Jr, both men added sizeable chunks of land to their kingdoms.   After the two men were through picking Lothair Jr's kingdom clean, Charlemagne's original empire had finally begun to resemble something very close to our modern European map of France, Germany, and Italy.  Many of those same borders still exist today. 

The sad tale involves Hugh, Lothair and Waldrada's illegitimate son.

Although Hugh (855 – 895) did not inherit his father's kingdom, he did receive many lands in the Duchy of Alsace from his uncle Louis the German.  Today this area lies at the border of France and Germany.

When his cousin Louis the Stammerer (weakling son of Charles the Bald) died in 879, Hugh, Duke of Alsace, seized authority in Lotharingia. 

Hugh refused to recognize the succession of Louis the Stammerer's young sons, Louis III and Carloman, to the West Frankish kingdom. The historians accused Hugh of "playing the tyrant in Gaul." Hugh had a sizable following in Lotharingia and hoped to expand his influence. 

Hugh had made an enemy.  Louis the Younger, son of Louis the German, came to the defense of the young Louis III and Carloman. In 880, he sent men against Hugh's castle at Verdun and defeated his army, burning down the fortress in the process.

After his Easter court in 882, Louis the Younger gave Alsace back to Hugh if he promised to behave.  However, Hugh rebelled and Louis was forced to chase him south into Burgundy where he went into hiding.

One year later, in 883, Hugh's sister Gisela married Godfrey, the Viking leader ruling in Frisia (NW Germany next to Denmark). With this alliance, Hugh plotted to seize his father's old kingdom of Lotharingia.

However in 885, Charles the Fat, son of Louis the German and brother to Louis the Younger, heard about the scheme and called both Hugh and Godfrey to court.  Hugh was blinded and Godfrey was murdered.

There are two lessons in this story.  The first lesson is that every time a nobleman died, the man gave a piece of his territory to his sons, even the illegitimate ones.  Over time, what had once been a unified territory under Charlemagne became chopped into smaller and smaller sections.

The second lesson is that no one was ever content with what they were given.  They always had to fight and scheme to get more land.  The trick was to make secret alliances like Hugh and Godfrey and hope for luck.  European politics were born for schemers and dreamers.


Origins of French-German Enmity


Very few Americans today know that France and Germany were once united. 

Under Charlemagne, both countries were once part of his immense kingdom. 

There had been two powerful grandsons to take Charlemagne's place - Charles the Bald in West Francia and Louis the German in East Francia.  Both men were good rulers, but their sons never accomplished much after they were gone.

The bloodline of Louis the German had died out when his son Charles the Fat not only failed to produce an heir, but got kicked off the throne by his cousin Arnulf

On Arnulf's death, he was succeeded as a king of the East Franks by his only legitimate son Louis the Child, age 6. When his  son, Louis the Child, died childless in 911 at age 17, the eastern (German) branch of the house of Charlemagne ceased to exist.

The vacuum left by Louis the Child's death in the Carolingian East was filled by two people. The magnates of Lotharingia elected Charles the Simple, son of Louis the Stammerer and reigning king of West Francia, to take Louis the Child's place. 

Meanwhile, the dukes of East Francia assembled to elect Conrad of Franconia king. This disputed double-king situation stayed intact for eight years.  When Conrad died, he recommended Henry the Fowler, a cousin of Louis the Child, take his place in 919. 

Naturally Charles the Simple objected.  He led a force into East Francia in 920, but quickly retreated when he heard Henry the Fowler was raising a sizeable army.  The following year, Henry and Charles met each other and concluded a treaty of friendship between them.  But it didn't last very long. 

Charles got kicked off the throne of West Francia soon after the parlay.  Seeing an opportunity, Henry immediately broke the peace treaty and invaded West Francia to seize the Duchy of Lorraine, a major part of the original stomping grounds of Lothair I and Lothair II. 

This was the start of centuries of battles for control of the lands around the Rhine between France and Germany.  Two territories in particular of the original Lotharingia - Alsace, Lorraine - would always be coveted by both kingdoms. 

For the next Thousand Years, the various rulers of France and Germany would constantly be at each other's throats to nab these two bread basket border regions for themselves.

Over the centuries, Alsace and Lorraine have gone back and forth like a giant game of Risk.  German Prussia took these territories from France in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War.  France was furious; one of the causes of World War I was France's determination to regain these territories.  Sure enough, at the end of World War I, France got both Alsace and Lorraine back from Germany. Of course in World War II, Germany got them both back for a while, but we all know how that turned out. 

Not to be cynical, but most residents of these regions speak both French and German due to their long history as pawns caught in the middle between two great powers.

France and Germany have played ping-pong with Alsace-Lorraine for centuries.


Teutoberg Forest


Holy Roman Empire



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