Lothar (France)

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Bust of Lothar

Lothar (* late 941 ; † March 2, 986 in Laon ), King of the West Franconian Empire (954-986), was the son of Ludwig IV the Overseas and Gerberga , daughter of the East Franconian King Heinrich I. He came from the royal family of Carolingian , which at that time was already extinct in eastern France and was only able to maintain power as a dynasty in western France with great difficulty.

First phase of government in external peace

After the accidental death of his father, King Ludwig IV, the thirteen-year-old Lothar was elected king on November 12, 954 at the instigation of his mother Gerberga and her three siblings ( Otto I the Great , Duchess Hadwig von Franzien and Archbishop Brun von Cologne) consecrated and crowned in Reims by Archbishop Artold von Reims. His brother Karl , who was only one year old and later became Duke of Lower Lorraine , was ignored. The Duke of Franzien, Hadwig's husband Hugo the Great from the influential noble family of the Robertines , who dominated West Franconian politics at the time, received far-reaching concessions for his approval: after his coronation, Lothar awarded him the duchies of Aquitaine and Burgundy , which resulted in the disenfranchisement of their dukes ran out, who were thus downgraded to vassals of Hugo. This meant a unique special position for the already very powerful Robertiner. The project only succeeded in Burgundy, where Hugo was able to enforce his feudal sovereignty. 955 remained a campaign by Lothar and Hugo against the Duke of Aquitaine, Wilhelm III. Werghaupt , politically inconclusive despite a partial military success.

When Hugo the Great died in 956, Gerberga came to the fore as regent; she acted in agreement with her sister Hadwig, the mother of Hugo Capet , and her brother Archbishop Brun of Cologne, who was also Duke of Lorraine. Brun was in fact co-regent in western France and intervened there militarily if necessary. Lothar's younger brother Karl lived at court; Tensions arose as he grew up as he had no inheritance from his father. This phase was characterized by a close agreement between the Ottonians who ruled in eastern France and the Carolingians in western Franconia. Otto the Great assumed a dominant position, which he consolidated by marrying his stepdaughter Emma to Lothar. Hugo Capet was only made Duke of Franzien by Lothar in 960 and thus took the position of his father, who had died four years earlier. As the uncle of both Lothar and Hugo Capet, Otto the Great was able to follow his traditional policy, which was aimed at a balance and a balance between Carolingians and Robertinians.

Conflict with Otto II.

After Brun had died in 965 and Gerberga in 969, Lothar could begin to pursue an independent policy, and after the death of Otto the Great (973) there was a complete change of course in foreign policy. The agreement with the Ottonians broke up, and the new ruler in the East, Otto II , became Lothar's political and military opponent, while the traditional contrast between Carolingians and Robertinians faded into the background.

Lothar's grandfather Karl III. The simple-minded and his father Ludwig IV had tried, with varying degrees of success, to push back the East Franconian influence in regnum Lotharii ( Lotharingien ), the country of origin of their dynasty, and to regain the area for their empire, although they also took up arms. The starting point of the conflicts at the time of King Lothar was the dispute over the county of Hainaut , which belonged to the Duchy of Lorraine , which was then under the sovereignty of the East Franconian Empire. Duke Brun had Count Reginar III. Long-necked and exiled in 958; Reginar's sons Reginar IV and Lambert I , who were still underage at the time, lost their right of inheritance and fled to western France. As they grew up, they tried from 973, as soon as Otto the Great was no longer alive, to forcibly regain their hereditary property. For this concern they found broad and energetic support at Lothar's court and among the West Franconian nobility. A first attack on the Hainaut was initially successful, but was then repulsed personally by Otto II; In a second in 976, which had the full support of the West Franconian court, followers of Hugo Capet and even Karl, King Lothar's younger brother, took part, so that the campaign appeared like a joint undertaking by the West Franconian ruling class. The invasion force suffered a defeat at Mons .

Then Otto II succeeded in defusing the conflict by skillfully yielding; he returned their estates to Reginar and Lambert, with the exception of Mons, in May 977. Besides, he could even pull Karl over to his side. The ambitious king's son Karl was still without his own domain; he fell out with his brother, King Lothar, whose wife Emma he accused of adultery with Bishop Adalbero of Laon . Lothar responded to the scandal by expelling Karl from the country. Otto II accepted the exile and enfeoffed him with the Duchy of Lower Lorraine (the northern part of the Duchy of Lorraine). So he managed to partially satisfy the traditional Carolingian claim to Lorraine and at the same time to install an enemy of the West Frankish king there. Lothar assessed this as a hostile act and in 978, supported by Hugo Capet, undertook a surprise attack on Aachen in order to capture Otto, who was there unsuspectingly. The coup was barely unsuccessful; Otto had to flee hastily to Cologne with his pregnant wife Theophanu . After Aachen was taken, the old imperial palace was plundered, and Lothar had the eagle attached to its roof, which stood facing west, turned to the east to clearly demonstrate his superiority and claim to power. Beyond that, however, he was unable to achieve anything; he withdrew again and released his army.

Lothar's coup was not only a failure, but led to a massive counter-attack by Otto, who - in order to set himself apart from his adversary's cunning - formally announced his counterattack on Lothar's empire for October 1st. A resolution to this effect was passed at an imperial assembly in Dortmund , and the campaign began as planned. The west Franconian side did not allow a field battle. The invading army was able to take the Palatinates of Attigny and Compiègne and set them on fire and also to conquer the city of Laon , but failed in the siege of Paris, which was defended by Hugo Capet . The onset of winter and diseases forced the Ottonian army to retreat, and when crossing the Aisne , Otto's rearguard was attacked and defeated by Lothar. Lothar's brother Karl of Lower Lorraine had taken part in the campaign on Otto's side; however, the plan to raise him to the rival king failed due to a lack of response in western France. In May 980 Lothar and Otto met on the border in Margut-sur-Chiers and made peace; Lothar had to give up Lorraine.

The course of this war is seen by some historians as an important stage on the way to the emergence of Germany and France, because a clear quasi "national" feeling of togetherness appeared in western Franconia, in contrast to the traditional alliances formed by the nobles' personal striving for power the imperial borders. While in the past the East Franconian side was usually either allied with rebellious vassals of the West Franconian ruler or took action against his internal adversary in agreement with the West Franconian king, this time the West Franconian nobility unanimously supported the war policy of its ruler. It can be assumed that this conflict contributed to the development of an independent sense of identity in western France, but the extent to which this was the case is disputed. An exception was the behavior of Charles of Lower Lorraine, who changed fronts in the traditional style out of personal ambition.

Last phase of government (983-986)

After Otto II's death in 983, Lothar resumed his aggressive Ostpolitik. In 984 he occupied Verdun , an important trading center, and supported an East Franconian aristocratic opposition to Otto's underage successor Otto III. Although he had to give way to a counterattack by Count Gottfried von Verdun and Duke Dietrich I of Upper Lorraine , in March 985 he succeeded in conquering Verdun again and taking Gottfried and Dietrich prisoner. In the middle of planning new ventures to expand eastwards, Lothar died at the age of forty-four on March 2nd, 986 after a brief illness. He was buried in Reims in the Saint-Remi basilica.

Lothar had secured his successor by raising his underage son Ludwig V as co-king on June 8, 979 . His attempt to set up a sub-kingdom for Louis in Aquitaine was unsuccessful.


Lothar was married to Emma von Arles (* probably 948; † October 12 of an unknown year after 988) since the beginning of 966 , the daughter of King Lothar II of Italy and Adelheid of Burgundy . He had two children with her:

Lothar also had illegitimate children, including:


  • Walther Kienast : Germany and France in the Imperial Era (900–1270) (= monographs on the history of the Middle Ages. Vol. 9,1) Part 1, Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1974. ISBN 3-7772-7428-3
  • Ferdinand Lot : Les derniers Carolingiens: Lothaire, Louis V, Charles de Lorraine (954–991) (= Bibliothèque des Hautes Études. Vol. 87). Bouillon, Paris 1891 (outdated but very thorough study by an eminent scholar)
  • Carlrichard Brühl : The birth of two peoples: Germans and French (9th-11th centuries). Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 2001, ISBN 3-412-13300-0
  • Karl Ferdinand Werner : From the Frankish Empire to the development of Germany and France. Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1984, ISBN 3-7995-7027-6


  1. ^ Richer von Reims , Historiae 4.71 online .
predecessor Office successor
Ludwig IV the overseas King of the West of France
Ludwig V.