Fontenoy, Battle of

Fontenoy, Battle of
   A major engagement during the civil war between the surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the Battle of Fontenoy was a brutal and bloody struggle. The battle occurred on June 25, 841, and involved the emperor Lothar and his nephew Pippin II of Aquitaine (d. 864) against the kings Charles the Bald and Louis the German. Although the battle was terrible and resulted in the defeat of Lothar, it proved not to be decisive; Lothar continued to struggle against his brothers. However the outcome of the battle can be described, it was recognized as a significant contest by contemporaries and is memorialized in poetry and in the history of Nithard, a combatant in the battle.
   According to Nithard, the battle was the result of fortuitous circumstances for Charles the Bald and Louis the German in late spring 841, as well as of the unwillingness of Lothar to agree to peace. Indeed, Lothar refused to make any concessions to his brothers concerning the government of the empire and refused to limit his powers as emperor. He was bolstered in his defiance by the arrival of his nephew Pippin II, whose troops and opposition to Charles strengthened Lothar's cause. Charles and Louis, however, also enjoyed good fortune when they were able to join their armies together, and Judith, Charles's mother and widow of Louis the Pious, had also recently arrived with a sizeable force.
   The growth of the armies on both sides increased tensions between them and made battle between them more likely. Even though contemporary accounts make it seem that war was unavoidable, Charles and Louis attempted to negotiate a settlement and sent peace offers to Lothar on June 23. His refusal forced his brothers to prepare for battle on June 25. According to Nithard, they returned to camp to celebrate the feast day of St. John the Baptist (June 24). This was surely regarded as an omen by the two kings, who sought the judgment of God in battle and knew that the liturgy of the feast of St. John celebrated release and salvation. Charles and Louis then made ready for battle the next day, which they planned to begin at the eighth hour. As Nithard notes, the armies rose at dawn and established their positions, and two hours later the battle began. Both sides fought bitterly, and casualties were heavy. Both Louis and Charles enjoyed success during the battle, and Lothar and his army were forced from the field.
   For Charles and Louis, divine judgment had been rendered. They had defeated their brother and secured their positions in the empire. The victory reinforced their alliance, which was confirmed in the Oath of Strasbourg in the next year. The battle also secured Charles's political survival and strengthened his hold on Aquitaine and the western Frankish kingdom, which he claimed as part of his legacy from Louis the Pious. But the battle was not the decisive victory for which Charles and Louis had hoped. Despite the overwhelming defeat he suffered, Lothar managed to continue the war against his brothers and insisted on his authority over the entire 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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