Carloman, King of the Franks

Carloman, King of the Franks
(d. 771)
   Son of Pippin III the Short and brother of Charlemagne, Carloman ruled with his brother as king of the Franks from their father's death in 768 until his own death in 771. Although short, his reign was marked by controversy with his brother, which could have led to a destructive civil war had not Carloman suddenly died. His death saved the kingdom from disaster and allowed Charlemagne to rule with a free hand and subsequently forge one of the great empires of the Middle Ages.
   The younger son of Pippin - he was about four years younger than Charlemagne - Carloman first appears in the Royal Frankish Annals in 754. With his older brother, Carloman received royal unction from Pope Stephen II when the pope traveled to the Frankish kingdom to crown Pippin king of the Franks. He was elevated to joint kingship of the Franks with his brother on their father's death. Pippin had passed the royal crown to his two sons and divided the realm between them. Carloman received a compact and contiguous territory that included Alsace, part of Aquitaine, Burgundy, Provence, and other neighboring regions, and he was crowned king at Soissons in October 768. As king Carloman followed policies similar to those of his father, especially in regard to monastic policy.
   Carloman's short reign is best known, however, for the strife that existed between the two brothers. In 769, Charlemagne sought aid from Carloman in the face of a revolt in Aquitaine led by Count Hunald. Only with great difficulty, made worse by Carloman's unwillingness to help, was Charlemagne able to suppress the revolt. Carloman's refusal to help may have been part of his strategy to undermine his brother's authority; certainly it is likely to have contributed to the strains of an already tense relationship. In 770, Carloman met with his mother, Bertrada, who then went to Italy to help establish peace between the two brothers. Arranging a marriage with the Lombard king, Desiderius, for Charlemagne, Bertrada hoped to establish an alliance with the Lombards as a means to promote harmony in the Frankish kingdom. But Charlemagne repudiated his wife within a year, and the situation between the Franks and Lombards, as well as that between Charlemagne and Carloman, worsened. The potentially explosive situation was resolved by the sudden death of Carloman on December 4, 771. Charlemagne, with the approval of Carloman's supporters, dispossessed Carloman's widow, Gerberga, and two sons, who fled to the Lombard court of Desiderius. They received Desiderius's protection until Charlemagne conquered Italy in 774, and they were then turned over to Charlemagne and disappeared from the records at that point.
   See also
 ♦ Davis, Raymond, trans. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of Nine Popes from a.d. 715 to a.d. 817. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ Einhard and Notker the Stammerer. Two Lives of Charlemagne. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1981.
 ♦ Fichtenau, Heinrich. The Carolingian Empire. Trans. Peter Munz. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.
 ♦ Halphen, Louis. Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Trans. Giselle de Nie. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1977.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ 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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