Louis IV (France)

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Modern fantasy representation of Ludwig IV.

Ludwig IV the Overseas ( Latin Transmarinus , French Louis IV d'Outre-Mer ; * between September 10, 920 and September 10, 921; † September 10, 954 in Reims ) was King of West Franconia from 936 to 954. He came from the The Carolingian dynasty, the royal dynasty of the West Franconian Empire, which at that time was already very weak and dependent on the benevolence of powerful aristocratic groups.


Ludwig was the son of King Charles III. the simple-minded and his second wife Eadgifu , a daughter of King Edward the Elder of Wessex. Karl had to deal with opposing kings who were not Carolingians and who did not recognize the Carolingian dynasty's claim to rule. When Count Heribert II of Vermandois , who was on the side of the opposing king Rudolf of Burgundy , lured Charles the simple into a trap and imprisoned him in 923, Eadgifu fled to England with Ludwig, who was only two years old. There Ludwig grew up at the court of his grandfather Eduard and later his uncle Æthelstan . In western France, only Rudolf of Burgundy ruled, but he was dependent on the support of the powerful Robertin family , while Heribert II continued to keep the imprisoned Karl as bargaining chip in order to put pressure on King Rudolf. In 929 Karl died in custody. When King Rudolf died in January 936 without leaving a son, the powerful Robertine Hugo the Great played a decisive role in arranging the succession . Hugo, whose father Robert I had already been king of the west of Franconia, could have reached for the crown himself, but preferred to return to the Carolingian dynasty, which had suffered a severe loss of power and prestige as a result of Karl's fate. He wanted to give the royal dignity to a relatively powerless Carolingian in order to steer imperial politics from the background. Therefore he negotiated with Æthelstan and Eadgifu about the return of Ludwig. Hugo was a brother-in-law of Æthelstan and Eadgifu, since he was married to a sister of Eadgifu at the time. An agreement was reached and Ludwig, who was only fifteen, ended up in Boulogne , where Hugo received him and paid homage to him.

On June 19, 936, Ludwig IV was crowned King of West Franconia in Laon by Archbishop Artold von Reims . In return, he had to give Hugo a unique special position in the empire. Hugo was given the rank of "Duke of the Franks" ( dux Francorum ) created especially for him , and in a royal charter from 936, Ludwig stated that he was acting on the advice of "our most beloved Hugo, the Franconian Duke, who is second in all our realms is after us ”. With this, Hugo was no longer just, like the earlier Robertines, as margrave and count responsible for large areas in which the king was no longer able to intervene directly, but he stood “in all realms”, i.e. in all parts of western France, between the king and the subordinate vassals. The title "Duke of the Franks" was thus related to the entire empire in a deliberate analogy to "King of the Franks" (although in the narrower sense only a certain part of the empire, the Duchy of Francis granted to Hugo the Great ) was meant. In this way, Ludwig was effectively reduced to the role of a nominal king and the Robertinians claimed a position that was comparable to that of the Carolingian house-keepers in the late Merovingian Empire.

In the first months of his reign, Ludwig was completely dependent on Hugo the Great and had to accompany him on a successful campaign against Hugo the Black of Burgundy, where Hugo the Great appropriated northern Burgundy areas and in particular the city of Sens . In 937, however, Ludwig made himself independent of his "guardian" and began to pursue an independent policy directed against the superiority of the Robertinians. In doing so, he relied on nobles who also wanted to curb the Robertine expansion, including Archbishop Artold von Reims, whom Ludwig made his chancellor, and Hugo the Black, with whom he formed an alliance. Hugo the Great responded to this with new alliances. He allied himself with Heribert II and secured a good relationship with Otto the Great , whose sister Hadwig he married after his English wife, Ludwig's aunt, died. This paved the way for a conflict between Ludwig and Otto, and when the dukes Giselbert of Lorraine and Eberhard of Franconia rose up against Otto the Great, they placed themselves under Ludwig. This seemed to offer the Carolingians a chance to regain the Carolingian ancestral land of Lorraine, which had come under the sovereignty of the East Franconian Empire after the disempowerment of Charles the Simple. He intended to intervene militarily and advanced into Alsace, but Otto got ahead of him, who defeated Giselbert on October 2, 939 at the Battle of Andernach and thus decided the future of Lorraine. Giselbert drowned while fleeing and Ludwig married Giselbert's widow Gerberga , a sister of Otto the Great. Now both King Ludwig and his opponent Hugo the Great were related by marriage to Otto and Otto was able to take on the role of arbiter between the two rivals and ensure a balance of power between them. Initially, Otto was completely on the side of Hugo the Great because of the Lorraine conflict. In 940 he undertook a campaign in western France to punish Ludwig. In the royal palace of Attigny he received the homage from Hugo the Great and Heribert II. The two had already conquered the city of Reims and deposed Archbishop Artold, one of Ludwig's most important faithful, there. Otto also advanced to Burgundy to warn Ludwig's ally, Hugo the Black, of military action. In 942 Otto received his brothers-in-law Ludwig and Hugo in Visé on the Maas. A general balance was achieved. Ludwig had to give up Lorraine.

The situation changed in favor of Ludwig when Count Wilhelm I Long Sword of Rouen , the ruler of Normandy , was murdered at the end of 942 and Heribert II died in early 943. Heribert's sons fought over the inheritance and in Normandy the heir, the future Duke Richard I , was still a minor. Ludwig used this opportunity to intervene in Normandy and to assert his royal authority there militarily. In the fighting against his Norman opponents, however, Ludwig was ambushed in July 945. He was able to escape at first, but was then captured. The Normans handed him over to Hugo the Great. Hugo kept him captive and, as the price for his release, demanded that Ludwig renounce the city of Laon, his center of power. Queen Gerberga was forced to hand Laon over to one of Hugo's vassals. Ludwig was released in the summer of 946.

This severe humiliation of Ludwig was reminiscent of the fate of his father Karl and meant a dramatic loss of prestige not only for him personally, but also for the kingship as such. That was not in the interest of Otto the Great, who now intervened at the request of his sister Gerberga to counter the overwhelming power of Hugo. In the autumn of 946 a large army of Otto moved west and united with forces loyal to Ludwig. Hugo avoided a field battle. His troops holed up in the cities. The army of the two kings could not take Laon, Senlis, Paris and Rouen, but they succeeded in conquering Reims, where they reinstated the expelled Archbishop Artold. In June 948, West Franconian, Lorraine and East Franconian bishops met in Ingelheim under the chairmanship of a papal legate in the presence of Otto and Ludwig for a synod and condemned Hugo both for his actions against Ludwig and for the expulsion of Artold from Reims. In 949 Ludwig was able to recapture the city of Laon in a surprise night attack; only the citadel remained in the hands of Hugo's forces. In 950, Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine brokered a peace treaty between Ludwig and Hugo on behalf of Otto the Great. Hugo now handed the citadel of Laon over to the king.

On September 10, 954, Ludwig died in Reims as a result of falling from his horse and was buried there in the Saint-Remi basilica .


Ludwig married Gerberga in 939 († May 5, 968 or 969), the daughter of the German King Heinrich I ( Liudolfinger ) and widow of Duke Giselbert of Lorraine . With her he had seven children:

  • Lothar (941–986), King of France ⚭ 966 Emma of Italy , daughter of King Lothar II of Italy
  • Mathilde (* late 943; † after November 26, 981) ⚭ around 964 Konrad III. King of Burgundy († 993) ( Welfen )
  • Karl (January 945; † before 953)
  • a daughter (name not recorded) (* beginning of 948)
  • Ludwig (December 948 - before September 10, 954)
  • Karl (953– after 991), Duke of Lower Lorraine (977–991), twin brother of Heinrich
  • Heinrich (* summer 953; † soon after baptism), twin brother of Charles of Lower Lorraine

Gerberga received the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Laon from her mother-in-law in 951 and became abbess of Notre-Dame de Soissons in 959 .


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  1. For the dating of the birth see Lauer p. 10 and note 2 as well as Auguste Eckel: Charles le Simple , Paris 1899, p. 104; on the date of Lauer's death p. 231f. and note 4 (with evidence).
predecessor Office successor
Rudolf of Burgundy King of Western France