1189 THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE.-SUCCESSORS OF CHARLEMAGNE. 1189
quarter of the ninth century were laid in France
the foundations of the feudal system, which
was destined in the course of time to obtain
the mastery of almost the whole of Western
Europe. In the following year, 877, Charles
the Bald died in a village at the foot of Mount
Cenis; nor was the suspicion wanting that
his life was taken by poison administered
by his Jewish physician, Sedecias. A fitting epitaph for himself and his reign is
furnished in the pungent comment of one
of the old French chroniclers: "Fortune
in conformity to his humor made him
happy in appearance and miserable in
The late king had been exceedingly unfortunate in his family. Of his four sons,
namely, Louis, Charles, Lothaire, and Carloman, the eldest two proved to be rebellious
and turbulent princes. It was the purpose of the father that Lothaire and Carloman
should be devoted to the service of the Church.
The thought was uppermost in his mind
that his own sins might thus be vicariously
expiated. The Prince Lothaire, being weak
and lame, submitted to his fate and entered
a monastery, but Carloman refused obedience.
He broke off from the enforced obligations
of the monastic life and fled into Belgium.
Here he raised a revolt, put himself at the
head of the insurgents, and laid waste the country. The forces of the king were called
out against him, and the prince was defeated and taken prisoner. Convicted of
violating his religious vows, he was condemned to have his eyes put out; but escaping from confinement, he made his way into Bavaria, and found refuge with his
uncle, Louis the German. Charles and
Lothaire soon died, and Louis was thus
left as the heir expectant of the kingdom
and the empire. On the death of his father he
quietly ascended the throne, taking the title
of Louis II, and receiving the sobriquet of the Stammerer.
The new reign was brief and inauspicious.
No event of importance occurred during the
two short years in which he held the royal
power. He died in 879, leaving two sons,
named Louis and Carloman, and a posthumous heir who received the name of Charles.
Louis took as his inheritance the kingdom of
Neustria, and Carloman obtained the province
of Aquitaine. All the rest of the territories recently governed by Charles the Bald,
with the exception of Provence and Burgundy, were given up to the sons of Louis
the German. The excepted districts were
seized by Bozon, Count of Provence, who
had married a daughter of the Stammerer.
This usurpation was recognized by Pope
John VIII, and Bozon was crowned as king.
Thus, by a bold and successful, though
bloodless, usurpation, were laid the foundations of the little kingdom of Provence,
which was destined to flourish for several
centuries, and to become the most polite
and refined center of culture north of the
King Louis, like his predecessor, was destined to a brief and inglorious reign. He
came to a premature death in the year 882,
and was succeeded by the exiled Carloman,
who held feebly to the crown for the space of
two years. The posthumous Prince Charles,
being now but five years of age, was considered by the not over loyal barons as too
young to assume the burdens of the state.
They therefore sent a deputation to Bavaria,
and tendered the French crown to Charles,
the youngest son of Louis the German. This
prince had already received the Imperial
diadem at the hands of the Pope, and thus,
by a concurrence of fortuitous events, all
the dominions of Charlemagne, with the
exception of the kingdoms of Provence
and Aragon, were again united in a single
To their new sovereign the French gave the
surname of Le Gros, or The Fat; for he was
corpulent to the last degree. Nor was he more
energetic in mind than in body. More even,
perhaps, than his predecessors, did he become
the tool of the intriguing courtiers by whom
he was surrounded. Neither did the humiliating position into which he was forced
arouse his pride, nor the distresses of his people awaken his sympathies.
Now it was that France was destined, more
than ever, to feel the scourge of the hands of
the Northmen, and to experience the full
humiliation arising from the imbecility of a
ruler who was incompetent to defend her.
The piratical Danus had in the meantime
found a leader greater and more warlike than
Hastings. The new chieftain bore the name
of Rolf, or Rollo, who by native courage and
brawn had obtained an easy ascendancy over