Verdun, Treaty of

Verdun, Treaty of
   Major treaty between the surviving sons of Louis the Pious-Charles the Bald, Lothar, Louis the German-in the breakup of the empire forged by Charlemagne. The treaty brought to a close the civil war that had raged since the time of the death of Louis the Pious. It divided the Carolingian Empire between Charles, Louis, and Lothar, and established the outlines for the later French kingdom and German empire. Although the treaty divided the empire into three administrative realms, it did not necessarily destroy the empire; the brothers worked together for a time, and each of the brothers attempted to establish his authority over the entire realm during the next several decades.
   At his death in 840, Louis the Pious was succeeded by his three sons, Charles, Lothar, and Louis the German, and Pippin II, an adult grandson, the son of his deceased son Pippin. The oldest son, Lothar, had lived in relative disgrace in Italy during Louis's later years because of his part in the revolts against his father in the early 830s, but he was reconciled to his father shortly before Louis's death. Lothar was assigned authority over the eastern section of the Frankish kingdom, with the exception of Bavaria, which Louis the German administered. The other surviving son, Charles, was assigned authority over the western part of the Frankish kingdoms, and Pippin laid claim to his father's territory in Aquitaine. Lothar, who held the imperial title along with his rights over the eastern part of the kingdom, rushed north from Italy to establish his authority over the entire realm and worked to undermine the authority of Charles. Charles, in turn, joined with his other half brother, Louis, in an alliance against the ambitious Lothar. The alliance was followed, in 841, by a terrible and bloody battle between the three brothers at Fontenoy near Auxerre in Burgundy, at which Lothar was defeated and forced to flee to Aachen. Louis and Charles sealed the victory over their elder brother by swearing oaths of mutual support at Strasbourg in 842, a compact that was followed by their assault on Lothar in Aachen. With the capture of Aachen, Lothar realized that he was beaten, and thus the three brothers came together to negotiate the organization of the realm.
   Negotiations began in June 842, and lasted over a year before a settlement was reached with the Treaty of Verdun, the text of which no longer exists. The discussions between the brothers began near M?n an atmosphere of distrust and demands by Lothar for a fair and equitable partition of the realm. As part of the negotiations, which included some 120 participants along with the three kings, a survey of all the lands and possessions of the empire was taken. Lothar's demands, however, backfired, and he ultimately ended with the least defensible section of the realm. The treaty most likely began with a call for divine support, and the final settlement centered around the core realms of Aquitaine, Lombardy, and Bavaria for Charles, Lothar, and Louis respectively. Along with Aquitaine, Charles received the western kingdom, whose boundary followed a line along several rivers, the Scheldt, Meuse, Sa"ne, and Rhone. Louis received Bavaria and lands east of the Rhine and also some important cities and wine-producing regions on the west bank of the Rhine. Lothar received a middle kingdom, stretching in the north from the traditional Carolingian heartland down into Italy in the south.
   Lothar was granted the imperial title but had only nominal authority over his brothers. His most important imperial responsibilities involved obligations in relation to Italy and the pope. Charles and Louis had real power and freedom of action in their own kingdoms, and Charles received an added bonus with the exclusion of Pippin II, his nephew and heir to lands in Aquitaine. The treaty brought an end to terrible fraternal conflict in the Carolingian Empire, and, in the following year, Charles, Louis, and Lothar swore to maintain good fraternal relations and help preserve the peace in each others' kingdoms. The treaty, however, may have been intended only as a short-term solution and a framework to allow for the formation and reformation of the empire.
   The rationale for the agreement remains poorly understood, and there are numerous explanations concerning the purpose and meaning of the treaty and its division of the empire. It has been suggested that an effort was made in forging the treaty and configuring the creation of the three kingdoms to appeal to national instincts in the various parts of the empire. Arguing that neither France nor Germany had yet emerged, other scholars have noted the importance of economic considerations, and have cited Lothar's concerns for a fair and equitable division that led to the land survey as support for their view. But already in the ninth century, the historian and member of the royal family Nithard noted that the primary concern of the three brothers was for the welfare of their vassals, a group that was essential to the long-term success of the kings of each region. Whatever the intentions of the three participants in the treaty, the settlement at Verdun set the boundaries of the later medieval kingdoms of France and Germany and provided a framework for the ultimate permanent division of the Carolingian Empire.
   See also
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Nelson, Janet. Charles the Bald. London: Longman, 1992.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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