Charles III (France)

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Charles III

Charles III the Simple (meaning: The Straight Edge; Latin Carolus Simplex , French Charles le Simple * September 17 879 ; † October 7 929 in Péronne ) was king of the West Franks and the West Frankish Empire from 893/98 to 923. He came from the Carolingian family .


Karl was only born after the death of his father, King Ludwig II of the Stammler , who died on April 10, 879 . Since he was a child from his father's second marriage, whose validity was disputed by canon law, he was initially excluded from the line of succession.

After the death of Emperor Charles III. des Dicken In January 888, the Frankish sub-empires, which Charlemagne had united as the last under his rule, separated for good. The West Franconian nobles overruled the claim to the throne of Charles the Simple, who was only nine years old, and elected the Robertine Odo , Count of Paris, to be king. This was the first time a non-Carolingian king of West Franconia or France became king. However, some greats, especially Archbishop Fulko of Reims , continued to advocate the right to the throne of the Carolingians, although they had to bow to Odo first.

After Odo had made himself unpopular through a strong preference for his younger brother, the Margrave Robert , and other controversial decisions, the opposition gentlemen, among whom Fulko played a decisive role, dared to bring the meanwhile thirteen-year-old Karl the Simple on January 28, 893 (dem deliberately chosen day of death of Charlemagne ) in Reims to the rival king. The rebellion was initially supported by the East Franconian King Arnulf of Carinthia , who was also a Carolingian, but Odo managed to get Arnulf on his side. In the civil war that followed, Odo was superior. Finally peace was made in 896/897; Karl submitted to Odo and recognized him as king, but was accepted as his successor by Odo, who had no surviving son.

After Odo's death in 898, Karl was able to find general recognition as his successor, as Odo's powerful brother Margrave Robert accepted the succession plan. However, Karl had to make far-reaching concessions to Robert and other powerful nobles. He confirmed Robert's numerous counties, abbeys and rights and assured him the right to inherit them. Robert could have the counties administered by his own vassals, who were subordinate to him and no longer had any relationship with the king. Karl also granted such a status to other greats. This meant a considerable weakening of the kingship.

A decision of the greatest momentum was Karl's peace agreement with the Norman prince Rollo in 911. Rollo was enfeoffed with the county of Rouen . His Normans were thus integrated into the West Franconian state; The rule within his sphere of influence was left to him alone - as with the Frankish greats - the Frankish king could no longer work there directly. It was not yet a "Duchy of Normandy". Margrave Robert concluded a similar agreement in Karl's name in 921 with the Loire-Normans Rognvald, to whom the county of Nantes was given.

After the death of the last East Franconian Carolingian, Ludwig IV of the child , in 911, the Lotharing nobility invited Karl, now the only surviving Carolingian, to take over power. Karl, who had already militarily intervened in the old homeland of his family Lotharingien and occupied Aachen in 898 , now penetrated there again and conquered the area. Supported by the Lotharing nobility, he consolidated his rule there and came to an understanding with Heinrich I , King of the East Franks , with whom he concluded the Treaty of Bonn in 921 for the mutual recognition of possessions.

At that time Karl had already started to rely increasingly on Lotharingian forces after his power had eroded in western France. His particular favorite was the Lorraine Hagano. This angered the West Franconian nobility, as Hagano was a foreigner and, moreover, of low origin. After powerful nobles in 920 at a Diet in Soissons unsuccessfully demanded Karl to dismiss Hagano, they renounced him. When Karl not only clung to Hagano, but also decided to give him Chelles Abbey , this led to a conflict with the Robertinians and their allies, because the abbess Rothild von Chelles was the mother-in-law of Hugo the Great , the son of Margrave Robert. On June 30, 922, the opposition nobles raised Robert to the rank of anti-king ( Robert I. ). On June 15, 923 Robert fell in the battle of Soissons against the army of Charles the Simple, but his troops defeated the Carolingian force. Therefore, his followers could immediately raise Robert's son-in-law Rudolf of Burgundy as the new king.

Rudolf was crowned on July 13, 923. One of his partisans, Count Heribert II of Vermandois , lured Charles the simple into a trap. He invited him to negotiate and took him prisoner on that occasion. Karl was first brought to Heribert's fortress Château-Thierry , then to Péronne and remained in custody. Heribert did not hand him over to Rudolf, but kept him in custody himself in order to keep a leverage against Rudolf. When he got into an argument with Rudolf in 927, he got out the prisoner Karl and recognized him as the rightful king, but at the same time continued to treat him as a prisoner. On October 7, 929, Karl died in prison. He was buried in the Saint-Fursy church in Péronne .

Marriages and offspring

Karl married in April 907, before the 19th, his first wife Frederuna , perhaps a daughter of Count Dietrich from the House of immedinger and sister Mathilde, with the East Frankish King Henry I was married. Frederuna died on February 10, 917. The couple had six children, all born between 908 and 916:

  • Ermentrude, possibly married Gottfried , Count Palatine of Lorraine, Count in Jülichgau
  • Frederuna
  • Adelheid, possibly married between 920 and 924 Raoul I , Count of Gouy
  • Gisela (Gisla), married the Norman leader Rollo , perhaps in 912
  • Rotrud
  • Hildegard

Around the year 919 he concluded his second marriage with Eadgifu († after 951), daughter of King Edward I of Wessex , with whom he had a son who also became his heir. Eadgifu was abbess of Notre-Dame de Laon until 951 , after which she married Count Heribert the Elder of Meaux (also a Carolingian ) in her second marriage .

In addition to the legitimate children, Karl had illegitimate children, including:


  • Philippe Lauer (ed.): Recueil des actes de Charles III le Simple, roi de France (893-923). 2 volumes, Paris 1940–1949


Web links

Commons : Charles III.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. a b c Information on Charles III. on the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy website , accessed February 15, 2013.
predecessor Office successor
Odo of Paris King of the west of France
893 / 98–922
Robert I.