Lothair of France

Lothair of France

Lothair ( _fr. Lothaire; 941 – 986), sometimes called Lothair IV, [Riche, Pierre, "The Carolingians" (see index).] was the Carolingian king of West Francia (10 September 954 – 1 March 986), son of Louis IV and Gerberga of Saxony.


He succeeded his father in 954 at the age of thirteen, and was at first under the guardianship of Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks and Count of Paris, who had been an adversary to his father but nonetheless was appointed guardian of the king's estates, though not as regent for the young king who assumed his royal dignities at thirteen. This gave the young Lothair the opportunity to come to know his guardian's heir, the sixteen year old Hugh Capet, before his father's death in 956; Capet later became king and founder of the Capetian Dynasty.

The beginning of his reign was occupied with wars against the vassals, particularly against the duke of Normandy, and it should be made clear that the monarch of Western Francia was more a ceremonial title, more of a first among equals status, than that state which would represent the later centralized authority meant by monarchies of later historical epochs.

In 955, Lothair and Hugh together took Poitiers by siege. Hugh died soon after and Lothair mediated between his son, the aforementioned Hugh Capet and the younger Otto Henry. The king gave Capet Paris and the ducal title, but invested Otto with the Duchy of Burgundy in 960. With young Hugh the new count of Paris et al., Lothair, now only fifteen, came under the guardianship of his maternal uncle Bruno, archbishop of Cologne.

Military conflicts

In 962, Baldwin III of Flanders, son, co-ruler, and heir of Arnulf I died and Arnulf bequeathed Flanders to Lothair. On Arnulf's death in 965, Lothair invaded Flanders and took many cities, but was eventually repulsed by the supporters of Arnulf II. He temporarily remained in control of Arras and Douai.

Lothair, when thirty-seven, seems to have conceived the design of recovering Lorraine, once held by his family. He attempted to precipitate matters by a sudden attack, and in the spring of 978 nearly captured the emperor Otto II at Aachen. He took the imperial capital itself and even reversed the direction of the eagle sitting atop the palace. [Chronicles differ as to whether he made it face eastwards or westwards, either to symbolise his dominance over the eastern kingdom or the supremacy of his own kingdom.] Otto took his revenge in the autumn by invading France. He penetrated as far as Paris, devastating the country through which he passed (Soissons, Reims, and Laon), but failed to take the town, and was eventually forced to retreat with heavy loss across the Aisne, as Hugh Capet and through him, other key nobles supported Lothair. Peace was concluded in 980 at Margut-sur-Chiers, and in 983 Lothair was even chosen guardian to the young Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor when Otto II died on 7 December 983. Around 980, however, Lothair quarrelled with Hugh Capet, who, at the instigation of Adalberon, archbishop of Reims, became reconciled with Otto III, despite the defeat of his father with Capet's help.

The rest of Lothair's reign was dominated by internal troubles which distracted him from important peripheral affairs. In 985, when the caliph of Córdoba, Almanzor, sacked Barcelona, Lothair offered no assistance to the Count Borrel II upon receiving his envoys at Verdun. This caused the final rift between the Hispanic March and the French crown during the reign of his successors.

Towards the end of his reign, Lothair's power seemed markedly less than that of Hugh Capet. In a letter of March or April 985, Gerbert of Aurillac wrote to the Archbishop Adalberon that "Lothair is king of France in name alone; Hugh is, however, not in name but in effect and deed." [Lewis, 15.] Gerbert goes on to suggest that if Adalberon wishes to free his father, held captive by Lothair, he need only warm up to Hugh by arranging an advantageous marriage alliance with Otto III. Lothair died a year after this, on 1 March 986.

Marriage and children

Lothair married Emma of Italy, daughter of Lothair II of Italy and Adelaide of Italy. Her maternal grandparents were Rudolph II of Burgundy and Bertha of Swabia.

Lothair and Emma had a son who succeeded his father as Louis V. Louis V held the office for only a single year.

Lothair also had a bastard son who became archbishop of Rheims, Arnulf.



*Gwatkin, H. M., Whitney, J. P. (ed) et al. "The Cambridge Medieval History: Volume III". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926.
*Lewis, Andrew W. (1981). "Royal Succession in Capetian France: Studies on Familial Order and the State". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0 674 77985 1.

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