Page 1189

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

reality."

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

Pyrenees.

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

government.

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