During the break up of the Carolingian Empire in the eighth century there emerged the kingdom and later duchy of Lotharingia, Lotheringen or Lorraine. This territory named after Lothar its first ruler, stretched from what is now the Dutch and Belgian coast as far south as modern Switzerland, and was regarded as subject to the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 953 Otto the Great appointed his brother Bruno the Great, who was Archbishop of Cologne as Duke of Lorraine. Faced with pressure from Carolingian France and his own somewhat turbulent vassals, in 959 Bruno decided to divide Lorraine into two separate duchies; Lower Lorraine which was given to a certain Godfrey, who was styled dux Ripuariorum, and Upper Lorraine to Frederick, Count of Bar, with the title of dux Mosellanorum. It is unclear whether Bruno regarded this as a permanent arrangement or was merely appointing two deputies to deal with the government of the duchy whilst he was otherwise occupied with the affairs of his archbishopric, but with the death of Bruno in 965 the partition of Lorraine into two new duchies appears to have been confirmed by Otto.

This duchy of Lower Lorraine, sometimes called 'Lothier' or 'Lotharium' encompassed what is now the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg; unfortunately the exact identity of the Godfrey who was appointed duke in 959 has not been ascertained and neither has it been established with any great degree of certainty who was subsequently placed in charge of Lower Lorraine. Not until the year 977 when the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II granted Lower Lorraine to one Charles, a younger son of Louis d'Outremer, and known as Charles the Carolingian can any secure identification be made.

This Charles successfully resisted an attempt by the French king to impose his authority in 978 and retained control of the duchy until his death in the year 992 when he was succeeded by his son Otto, who died without issue in 1012. With the death of Otto the Carolingian, Lower Lorraine was given to Godfrey a son of the Count of Verdun, and it was this Godfrey who suffered defeat at the hands of Dirk II the Count of Holland at the battle of Vlaardingen in 1018. Godfrey died in 1023 and was succeeded by his son Gothelon who managed to obtain control of Upper Lorraine as well following the death of its duke Frederick II in 1027.

However on Gothelon's death in 1043, Lorraine was divided once more with Gothelon's son Godfrey the Bearded receiving Lower Lorraine, whilst his fellow sibling Gothelon the Sluggard received Upper Lorraine. Godfrey made an attempt to oust his brother in 1045 but was defeated and imprisoned. Released on his brother's death in 1046 he tried once more but was again defeated by the new incumbent in Upper Lorraine named Albert of Alsace. At which point the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III appears to have decided that this Godfrey was something of a nuisance and deprived him of Lower Lorraine in favour of Frederick of Luxemburg.

Godfrey then went to Italy where he fought on behalf of Pope Leo IX against the Normans before returning in 1053 and marrying Beatrice, daughter of the aforementioned Frederick Duke of Upper Lorraine. Now reconciled with the powers that be, on the death of Frederick in 1065 the emperor Henry IV restored Godfrey to his former position as Duke of Lower Lorraine which he then retained until his death in 1069, at which point his son Godfrey the Hunchback succeeded.

This Godfrey was occupied with attempts to crush the authority of the upstart Counts of Holland and although he was initially successful it later led to his assassination on the 26th February 1076. Godfrey the Hunchback should have then been succeeded by his nominated successor Godfrey of Bouillon but the emperor Henry IV intervened and granted the duchy to his son Conrad of Franconia, and gave Godfrey only the mark of Antwerp. However Godfrey of Bouillon fought on Henry's behalf in his struggle against the papacy and was rewarded with the duchy in 1082. Godfrey subsequently departed on the First Crusade in 1096 where he played a prominent part in the siege of Jerusalem and was elected ruler of that city in 1099.

Godfrey died in July 1100 whilst still in the Holy Land at which point Henry, Count of Limburg prevailed upon Henry IV to appoint him as Duke of Lower Lorraine after which he dutifully stood by the emperor in his struggles against his sons. This counted against him when one of these sons named Henry dispossessed his father and became the emperor Henry V, who then granted the duchy to a Godfrey Count of Louvain in 1106, who promptly deposed and imprisoned the out of favour count of Limburg.

Thereafter possession of the title was disputed between these two rival houses of Limburg and Louvain with Walram of Limburg successfully taking control in 1128 only to find the House of Louvain reasserting its dominance in 1139. Now although Lower Lorraine theoretically encompassed all of the Low Countries in reality the duchy had dissolved into a number of smaller feudal states during the course of the eleventh century. At the time the house of Louvain had established its hold on the title their authority was limited to the counties of Louvain and Brussels together with the town of Antwerp. It was in recognition of this political reality that the Louvain Dukes ceased to be Dukes of Lower Lorraine and became the Dukes of Brabant.

At what exact point this transformation took place is debatable; some date the transformation to the accession of Godfrey the Bearded in 1106, some to the year 1155 but most date the change to the year 1190 when it is said that Henry the Warrior, (who succeeded Godfrey VIII in 1183) abandoned the title of duke of Lower Lorraine and assumed that of the Duke of Brabant.


The allocation of ordinals to the Dukes of Lower Lorraine is somewhat variable and depends on whether the first Godfrey is included in the sequence or simply ignored (as below). Given that eight of the dukes are known as Godfrey, three of whom were sufficiently hirsute to merit the appellation of 'the Bearded' this only serves to confuse.

DUKES OF LOWER LORRAINE

Early Dukes

  • Godfrey (959-964) (?)
  • Richard (964-972) (?)

Carolingian Dukes

House of Verdun

House of Luxemburg

House of Verdun

House of Franconia

House of Boulogne

House of Limburg

House of Louvain

House of Limburg (again)

House of Louvain (again)

Henry the Warrior assumed the title of Duke of Brabant in 1190


SOURCES

  • The identification of the Dukes rests largely on information from the Philosophy of History website which draws its information in this regard from the impressive sounding Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume I Part 1, Deutsche Kaiser-, Königs, Herzogs- und Grafenhäuser I (Andreas Thiele, Third Edition, R. G. Fischer Verlag, 1997)
  • Other information drawn from the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entries for BRABANT, LORRAINE and LIMBURG See http://1911encyclopedia.org/index.htm