Wednesday, 3 December 2014

carolus simplex ou roman-savon

Meanwhile back in France, the hopes pinned to Charlemagne soon faded as his children and his children’s children began to squabble over the right to rule and supremacy.
The Carolingian dynasty, named not for Charlemagne but his line’s founder majordomo and usurper Charles Martel (Karl der Hammer) who persuaded the Pope in Rome, wrestled his blessing away from the Merovingians by primarily sending in an army to liberate Rome from the Lombards—and secondarily, rebuffing the advance of the Islamic Caliphate in the year 732 after the Sack of Bordeaux in the Battle of Tours, but I believe Charles the Great (Karl der Grosse) was an honorific earned by this descendant rather than just another choice epithet to distinguish him from a number of similarly named male heirs, whom by all accounts lived up to their sobriquets.
Though called the Father of Europe, as emperor of much of France, Germany and Italy and instituting many social and educational reforms, his offspring could not live up to those high standards, and regressing towards the old Gallic custom of dividing up a land among the children, the kingdoms soon splintered among the slow and doltish with no allegiance on the part of the aristocracy—returning the lands of the Franks to the fractured environment it had under the impotent Merovingian kings. Charles the Fat, Louis the Stammerer, Charles the Bald, Louis the Pious and Louis the Blind vied over successive generations over control of a divided western France, the Middle Kingdom of Lorraine and eastern German lands—the region still called Franconia.
The parallels to the Roman problems with succession and stability are interesting, and there be an opposite antagonizing principle at work here: the Romans restored to adult-adoption to pick their beneficiary—not out of noble illusions of meritocracy over family, but rather, for those hundreds of years, incredibly none fathered a son that survived to rule, and contrarily, it seemed that the Franks were too prolific and produced sons that divided and sub-divided the realms.  It was not until the summer of the year 911 that events started to coalesce and reunited the lands of Western Europe. After having paid-off the Viking raiders to leave Frankish cities and ports alone and take their pillaging elsewhere, they stuck to the English coasts for a time until Alfred’s fortified cities and policies that led to cultural inclusion again made France the more attractive target. This beggar-thy-neighbour and bribery exacerbated the situation and the Vikings became bolder and more demanding.
This was another worse-practise tactic that the Franks took from the Roman playbook. Desperate and bankrupt, the French watched in horror as a raiding party made its way down the Seine to sack Paris with their monarch unable to raise an army. The city, however, mounted its own defenses and eventually, miraculously beat back the invaders. The monarch nearly snatched defeat from the clutches of a hard-won and tense victory by refusing to negotiate with the Vikings and just offering some more silver to make themselves scarce. Outraged, the aristocracy deposed the monarch, electing to install the hero of the Siege of Paris, Odo, who made a truce with the Viking commander Rollo (Hrólfr) and allowed his tribe to settle (in exchange for fending off attacks by any Norse brethren) in the area that would be called Normandy. Rollo, converting, to Christianity, was styled Robert I, Duke of Normandy. After the nobles grew weary with the worshipful Odo, they elevated another Carolingian to the throne, a son of the previous monarch called Charles the Simple. In this context, simple meant guileless and a straight-shooter but the elite soon tired of this frankness as well.