Charles the Bald, otherwise known as Charles II, Emperor of the West, was born in the year 828 to the second wife of Louis I. Prior to the birth of Charles, Louis I had already divided power between his three elder sons. Lothar, the eldest, was made co-emperor with his father in 817, as well as King of Italy. Pepin was made King of Aquitaine, and Louis was made King of Bavaria. Louis I tried desperately to carve out a kingdom for his fourth son, but the only result was a series of revolts from the sons who already held power. By the time of the Emperor’s death in 840, the country was ripe for a power struggle by the three remaining brothers: Charles, Lothar, and Louis. (Pepin had died in 838, and his son, Pepin II had been crowned by the people.)

In 841, Charles and Louis formed an alliance against their older brother, Lothair I. They defeated Lothair at Fontenay, France in the same year. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun was signed by all three brothers which divided the kingdom into three parts. Charles was to rule the Western Frankish Kingdom (now approximately France), Lothar was to rule the Middle Frankish Kingdom (Italy, Provence, and Lorraine) as well as carry the imperial title, and Louis was to rule the Eastern Frankish Kingdom (Germany).

During his rule of what is modern day France, Charles the Bald was almost constantly at war his brothers and their sons, the Norsemen, and rebellious subjects. In 869, Charles’s nephew, Lothair, son of Lothair I, King of Lotharingia, died, and Charles seized the kingdom for himself. He was forced to split the land with his remaining brother, Louis the German, by the Treaty of Mersen. In the following years, France saw more Danish invasions and Charles finally bribed them to stop in the year 866. Finally, on December 25, 875, Charles the Bald was crowned emperor by Pope John VIII, after the death of his nephew, Emperor Louis II. Charles died two years later, in 877, and the French throne was given to his son, Louis II. During the reign of Charles the Bald, the power of the nobles began to rise, at the expense of royal power. This marked the rise of local feudalism.


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