Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Field of Lies
Louis I (the Pious) [813-840]

When Charlemagne died, his son Louis came to the throne. He was called in his own time Louis the Pious, and later writers of history gave him the name of Debonnaire or 'Good Natured'. And these two words describe him very well. He was a kindly and good man. But to govern his vast empire a stern ruler and skillful soldier was needed, and Louis was neither. He was a monk rather than a King. He was sad and grave, and no one ever saw him laugh. Indeed so grave was he that people even did not dare to laugh in his presence. He loved reading, but after a time he cared only to read the Bible.

Yet to begin with Louis ruled well. The death of Charlemagne was a signal for all the newly conquered peoples to rebel. But Louis put down the rebellions. Soon however other troubles began.

Keeping for himself the title of Emperor, Louis divided his kingdom among his sons, giving them each the title of King. This made his nephew Bernard, who thought he should have been given the kingdom of Italy, angry. So he rebelled and gathered an army to fight against the Emperor. False friends, however, persuaded Bernard to leave his army and come to Louis in order to make peace. He came, was seized, and at once imprisoned and condemned to have his eyes put out. This was done in such a savage way that two days later he died. The rebellion was at an end. But the remembrance of his cruelty to his nephew made Louis very unhappy. The more he thought about it, the more unhappy he became.

At last he felt that he could never find rest until he had openly confessed his sin and done penance for it. So all the nobles and priests were gathered together in a great church. It was the same church in which Wittikind the heathen had bowed his proud head to Christian baptism. Then, the people had crowded to see the strange sight of an Emperor standing godfather to a heathen rebel. Now, they crowded to it again, this time to see the stranger sight of a Xing humbling himself in sight of his subjects. And there, before the altar, with no crown upon his head, with no sign of royal state about him, but wearing the robe of a penitent, the King humbly confessed his sins and asked pardon.

Perhaps Louis's uneasy soul found rest after this penance, but it made many of his warriors angry. They saw in it only weakness. They thought that he who had bowed the knee before the priests was no longer worthy to lead the Frankish warriors. From this day many of them began to despise him secretly, and many became his open enemies. But his most bitter enemies were his own sons.

After Louis had divided his kingdom among his sons, another was born to him. He was the son of Louis's second wife, Judith, and was named Charles. It is interesting to remember that Judith was the daughter of Guelph, Count of Altorf . From this Guelph our own King George is descended.

Louis's three elder sons, Lothaire, Pepin, and Louis 70 the German were jealous of this newcomer. He was only a step-brother, and they thought he had no right to any part of the kingdom. But Louis the Good Natured loved this baby best of all his children.

Louis had already divided his kingdom among his sons. But he was always re-arranging these divisions. He did this no fewer than ten times during his life, and now, in order to give little Charles a kingdom, he took for him part of what he had already given to the elder brothers. This made the brothers so angry that they joined in rebellion.

They drove Louis from the throne, and then tried to make him become a monk. When he refused, they plotted to murder him.

Lothaire, the eldest son, meanwhile took the title of Emperor. But his two brothers soon grew jealous of his power, and they began to quarrel among themselves. Louis, however, had still some friends left, and they came to his aid. The brothers were then forced to set their father free and place him on the throne once more.

But soon the rebellion broke out again. The sons gathered one army, the father another, and marched to battle. They met upon a plain in Alsace called the Rothfeld or Field of Blood.

Day by day passed. Father and sons lay encamped over against each other, but no battle took place. The Pope who was with the army of the brothers came to the Emperor and tried to make peace. But good-natured Louis, who was ever ready to yield to persuasion, was now obstinate. He had a great army behind him, and he believed that he could conquer his rebel sons. He refused to make peace unless they gave themselves up and promised obedience to him.

Louis had at first a great army, but the smileless King did not know how to keep the love of his people. Noble after noble listened to the treacherous words of the rebel sons and carried his sword to the camp of the enemy. And once again, as many times through life, Louis showed his weak good-nature. When it was told him that many of his nobles were forsaking him, he sighed and said, "I would not that any man should die for me. Let them go to my sons."

At length one morning the Emperor woke to find his camp strangely silent. There was no clashing of armor, no stamp of horses, no sound of voices. All was still. So Louis went forth from his tent to see what this might mean. He found himself alone. In all the many tents which covered the wide plain there was not one man left. During the night the whole army had silently marched over to the enemy. Louis was left solitary save for his beautiful wife, Judith, and their little son Charles, who was now ten years old. Thus forsaken he felt that it was useless to resist longer, and, taking his wife and son by the hand, he slowly crossed the open space which divided his camp from that of his rebel sons.

When they saw their father come, the rebel sons rode toward him. Leaping from their horses they knelt before him as they met, with a show of humble obedience. The King kissed them, with his usual good nature, and they followed him to the camp, paying him every mark of outward respect. But it was all a mere show. Louis soon found that he was a prisoner.

From that day this bloodless battlefield was no longer called the Field of Blood, but the Lugenfeld or Field of Lies. For there those who had sworn to be faithful to their Emperor had proved false to him and to their oath.

Louis not only found himself a prisoner, but separated from his wife and favorite child. The beautiful Empress Judith was shut up in one place, her little son in another, he himself in yet a third. Again his sons tried hard to make him become a monk. They tormented him with falsehoods. Sometimes they told him that his wife was dead, sometimes that she had become a nun, or again that his beloved Charles had become a monk. And thus, torn from his kingdom, his wife, and his child, he became utterly broken down, and passed both day and night in tears and sorrow.

Yet in spite of all Louis steadily refused to give up the crown. He had, however, a gloomy sense of his sins. So once again he appeared before the people as a penitent. The Bishops and Abbots who were gathered to pass sentence upon him read a long list of his so-called crimes and pronounced him utterly unfit to rule. Once more Louis prostrated himself before the altar, confessing with tears that he had guided badly the kingdom which had been entrusted to him, and that he had broken up the great empire of his father, Charlemagne. Then his sword was taken from his side, he was bereft of his royal robes, and clad in the gray gown of a penitent, humbled and miserable, he was led back to his prison.

Louis had become a cause of sorrow for his friends, and a laughing stock for his enemies, and his son Lothaire once more took to himself the name of Emperor. But soon again the brothers began to quarrel amongst themselves. Two of them now sided with their father against Lothaire. Louis was taken from his prison, once more clothed in his royal robes, and set upon the throne by the very Bishops and Abbots who, a short time before, had declared him to be utterly unfit to rule.

Then it was Lothaire's turn to be humbled. He now knelt before the father whom he had imprisoned and insulted, and begged forgiveness. And good-natured Louis, sitting on a throne with his two "faithful" sons on either side of him, granted that forgiveness.

But among such turbulent spirits there could be no real peace. Again and again the brothers quarrelled, again and again they rebelled, and so passed five years of unrest. Then, in 840, the Emperor lay dying. He had but just returned from fighting a rebel son, Louis the German. The priests who knelt praying round the dying Emperor's bed begged forgiveness for him. "I pardon him," murmured Louis bitterly, "but say to him that he has brought my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."

Yet, before the end, peace came to the troubled soul; bitterness was blotted out. With a smile at last upon his unsmiling face he died.