Treaty of Verdun

Treaty of Verdun

In the Treaty of Verdun of 843 the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's grandsons, divided his territories, the Carolingian Empire, into three kingdoms. Though often presented as the beginning of a devolution or dissolution of Charlemagne's unitary empire, it in fact reflected the continued adherence to the Germanic, and therefore Frankish, idea of a partible or divisible inheritance rather than primogeniture, inheritance by the eldest son.

When Louis the Pious died in 840, the eldest son, Lothair I, claimed overlordship over his brothers' kingdoms and supported the claim of his nephew Pepin II as king of Aquitaine. After his brothers Louis the German and Charles the Bald defeated his forces at the Battle of Fontenay (841) and sealed their alliance with the Oath of Strasbourg (842), Lothair was willing to negotiate.

Each of the brothers was already established in one kingdom - Lothair in Italy, Louis the German in Bavaria, and Charles the Bald in Aquitaine.

* Lothair received the central portion of the empire - what later became the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy (which covered only the northern half of the Italian Peninsula), collectively called the Middle Frankish Kingdom. He also received the two imperial cities, Aachen and Rome. In addition, he received the imperial title, but it conferred only nominal overlordship of his brother's lands. [ Friedrich Heer, The Holy Roman Empire, pg. 20]

* Louis the German received the eastern portion. Louis was guaranteed the kingship of all lands to the east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, which was called the Eastern Frankish Realm which was the precursor to the Medieval conglomeration of disparate states known as the Holy Roman Empire and thence to modern Germany.

* Charles the Bald received the western portion, which later became France. Pepin II was granted the kingdom of Aquitaine, but only under the authority of Charles. Charles received all lands west of the Rhône, which was called the Western Frankish Realm.

Lothair retired Italy to his eldest son Louis II in 844, making him co-Emperor in 850. Lothair died in 855, dividing his kingdom into three parts: the territory already held by Louis remained his, the territory of the former Kingdom of Burgundy was granted to his third son Charles of Provence, and the remaining territory to his second son Lothair II, after whom the hitherto nameless territory was called Lotharingia.

Louis II, dissatisfied with having received no additional territory with his father's death, allied with his uncle Louis the German against his brother Lothair and his uncle Charles the Bald in 858. Lothair was reconciled with his brother and uncle shortly after, though Charles was so unpopular he could not raise an army to fight the invasion and fled to Burgundy, he was only saved when the bishops refused to crown Louis the German King. Charles the Bald invaded Charles of Provence's Kingdom of Burgundy in 860, but was repulsed. Lothair II ceded lands to Louis II in 862 for support of a divorce from his wife, which caused repeated conflicts with the Pope and his uncles. Charles of Burgundy died in 863, and his Kingdom was inherited by Louis II.

Lothair II died in 869 with no legitimate heirs, and his Kingdom was divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German in 870 by the Treaty of Meerssen. Meanwhile, Louis the German was involved with disputes with his three sons. Louis II died in 875, and named Carloman, the eldest son of Louis the German, his heir. Charles the Bald, supported by the Pope, was crowned both King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. The following year, Louis the German died. Charles tried to annex his realm too, but was defeated decisively at Andernach, and the Kingdom of the eastern Franks was divided between Louis the Younger, Carloman of Bavaria and Charles the Fat.


The division of the Frankish realm by the Treaty of Verdun influenced conflicts in Western Europe as late as the 20th century. The Middle Frankish Kingdom was not a viable entity, and soon fragmented. This made it difficult for a single ruler to reassemble Charlemagne's empire. Only Charles the Fat ever did so, and even then only briefly. In 855 the northern section of this central portion became the fragile entity of Lotharingia, the fragments of which would long be disputed by the more powerful states that evolved out of West Francia, and East Francia, that is France, various Germanic states, and in the 19th and 20th centuries, united Germany. The collapse of the Middle Frankish Kingdom also compounded the disunity of the Italian Peninsula, which persisted into the 19th century.


1. Friedrich Heer, The Holy Roman Empire, pg. 20

ee also

* Oaths of Strasbourg

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