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 War of the Three Brothers
Lothaire, Louis, Charles the Bald [840-877]

Louis the Pious had, as you know, four sons, three who rebelled and one, the youngest, whom he loved very dearly. Pepin, one of Louis's rebellious sons, died before him, so that only three were left to succeed. To the eldest, Lothaire, he sent from his deathbed the crown and royal sword, begging him to be faithful to the Empress Judith and the young Charles. But Lothaire had no such desire. He had no love for his step-mother and brother, and he wished to have the whole Empire. So very soon war began.

This time, however, Louis the German took part with his young brother Charles against Lothaire. Both sides gathered their armies and at Fontenay-en-Puisaye they met in a terrible battle. At the last minute the two brothers sent to Lothaire offering to yield him much land and treasure and to make peace. But Lothaire would not listen. "I will have nothing but by the sword," he said. So at two o'clock on a fair June morning, when the first gray light crept up in the sky, the battle began. All day it raged, brother fighting against brother, kinsman against kinsman. The slaughter was awful, and when evening came the bravest and noblest of the Franks lay dead on the field.

The brothers had won, and Lothaire fled. But even the victors were sad over their victory, their loss was so great. They spent the next day burying the dead, and helping the wounded, friends and enemies, faithful and unfaithful, alike.

But although the battle of Fontenay was a terrible massacre it settled nothing. The war still went on. The next spring the two brothers, Louis and Charles, met near the town of Strasburg, and, in presence of their armies, took a solemn oath of friendship.

Now the soldiers of Louis were nearly all Saxons from beyond the Rhine, while the soldiers of Charles were Franks or Gaulo-Romans. They spoke different languages. The Saxons spoke the Teutonic language, which has since grown into German. The Franks spoke the Romance language, which was a mixture of Latin and Celtic and which has since grown into French.

So that all might understand the oath, Charles came to Louis's army and spoke in Teutonic, while Louis went to that of Charles and spoke in Romance.

Louis spoke first, because he was the elder. "For the love of God," he said, "and for the well being of our own and all other Christian peoples, from this day forward, in so much as God gives me to know and to do, I will aid my brother Charles in all things as I ought justly to aid my brother, provided that he do even so by me. And I will make no covenant with Lothaire which shall be harmful to this my brother Charles."

And when Louis had taken this oath the soldiers answered: "If Louis keeps the oath which he has sworn to his brother Charles, and if Charles my lord breaks his, if I cannot turn him from it neither will I lend him any aid, neither I nor any that be with me."

Louis having taken the oath Charles did the same, and afterward the two brothers spent some days in feasting and knightly games. Then they marched together against Lothaire. He, seeing that his brothers being united he could not hope to conquer them, became anxious for peace. To this Louis and Charles agreed, and a treaty of peace was signed at Verdun in 843.

By this treaty Lothaire kept the title of Emperor and the kingdom of Italy. Louis had the German states, and Charles most of what is now France. Thus the mighty Empire which Charlemagne had spent his life in welding together was again broken up, and three distinct kingdoms were carved out of it. The boundaries, of course, w T ere not quite what they are to-day, and for hundreds of years they remained unsettled, one country growing larger and another smaller as the kings and peoples fought and wrested the land from each other. Still out of Charlemagne's great Empire we have now the beginnings of Germany, France, and Italy.

But it is the history of France only that we will follow at present. And it is well to remember that in the Oath of Strasburg we see the beginnings of the French language as in the treaty of Verdun we see the beginnings of the France of to-day; and we might say that Charles was the first King of France. This Charles was surnamed le Chauve, or the Bald, not because he was really bald, but because he had not the flowing locks which were the pride and glory of the Frankish Kings. It is interesting also to remember that his daughter Judith married Ethelwulf, the Anglo-Saxon King, and was thus the step-mother of our great Alfred.

Although, after this treaty of Verdun, the quarrels of the brothers seemed settled, there was little peace for Charles. In different parts of the kingdom rebels rose calling themselves kings and fighting against their liege lord. But the worst enemies were the wild, heathen Northmen.

Ever since the days when Charlemagne had wept to see them attack his shores they had grown bolder and bolder. While the princes had been taken up by their own quarrels, those wild sea robbers had descended upon the unprotected shores. They did not come to settle, but merely to plunder and to burn. They came suddenly, and went again as suddenly. When the storms raged, when the waves dashed high, and the wind whistled and screamed so that other people fled for shelter, the Northmen rejoiced. Then they spread their sails and made their light ships dance over the billows. Up the rivers they sailed to towns far inland. There they robbed and burned the churches, slew the people, or carried them away captive.

Charles, finding himself too weak to fight these fierce people, paid them gold to go away. This was the worst thing he could have done. For the Northmen took the gold and went away. But they returned again the next year in the hope of getting more.

There was one man however who fought the Northmen bravely. He was Robert le Fort or Robert the Strong, Count of Anjou. For five years he kept these sea robbers in check, but at last he met his death fighting against them, as you shall hear.

A party of about four hundred Northmen, led by the famous Sea King Hastings, came sailing up the Loire, and marched to attack the town of Le Mans. Robert the Strong hearing of it marched to meet them. But he was too late. When he reached Le Mans the town was already in flames, and the robbers fled with their booty. Robert at once pursued them, and the Northmen, seeing themselves hard pressed, took refuge in a village church, which was large and strongly built. When Robert and his men reached the church it was evening. Seeing how strongly built it was they did not try to storm it, but pitched their tents around it in order to be ready to attack the Northmen next morning.

The day had been very hot, and Robert was weary with marching and fighting. So now, feeling that the enemy were safely shut up till morning, he went to his tent and took off his helmet and coat of mail, in order to rest.

He had hardly done so when there was a loud noise. Uttering their fearful battle cries the Northmen rushed from their shelter, and threw themselves upon the Franks. Seizing his sword, and without waiting to put on helmet or armor, Robert rushed forth. Springing to arms, his men followed him and quickly drove back the Northmen. But Robert the Strong was too reckless. He pursued the Northmen too far. And even in the moment of victory he was slain. He fell dead upon the steps of the church, struck to the heart by the spear of a Northman.

Having lost their leader the Franks had no more heart to fight. So the Northmen regained their ships in triumph and sailed on up the Loire, leaving, as was their wont, desolation and ruin in their track.

The nobles, finding little help from their King against these wild freebooters, now began to build strong castles and fortresses all over the country to protect themselves and their goods against their ravages. The poor people, glad of the shelter, built their huts near these great castles, and paid a small sum of money yearly, or promised help in war in return for protection. This made the nobles very much more powerful than they had been. Soon the whole country was covered with castles and estates over which the nobles ruled like kings, making laws and waging war as it pleased them, and owning the King merely as "over-lord." But this was only exchanging one evil for another. For by the lawless wars of these lawless nobles the whole land was filled with misery and bloodshed, and the state of the people became truly wretched.

Charles saw how this growing power of the nobles weakened his power, and again and again he forbade castles to be built, or towns to be fortified without his leave. But the nobles did not listen to him. He was too feeble a ruler to force men to obey him, and in the end he was obliged to allow what he could not hinder.

Charles could not keep peace within the land he possessed, nor protect it from outside foes. Yet he was greedy of more. So when his brother, the Emperor, and his son after him died, he hurried to Rome and had himself crowned Emperor. He quarrelled with his brother, Louis the German, with whom he had sworn everlasting friendship. And when Louis died he continued the quarrel with his nephews, for he hoped once again to unite under his scepter all the vast Empire of Charlemagne. It was while fighting against one of the sons of Louis the German that Charles met his death in 877. He became ill and died of fever in a wretched hut among the Alps near the Mont Cenis pass. It was a miserable end to a miserable reign of thirty-seven years.