Charles the Simple

Charles the Simple
A 921 meeting between Charles and Henry I of Germany resulted in a treaty. In 923 Henry supported Robert against Charles and promptly attempted to annex Lotharingia.

Charles III (17 September 879 – 7 October 929), called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the Latin Karolus Simplex), was the undisputed King of France from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919/23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty, the third and posthumous son of Louis the Stammerer by his second wife, Adelaide of Paris.

As a child, Charles was prevented from succeeding to the throne at the time of the death in 884 of his half-brother Carloman. The nobles of the realm instead asked his cousin, Charles the Fat, to rule them. He was also prevented from succeeding the unpopular Charles, who was deposed in November 887 and died in January 888, although it is unknown if his deposition was accepted or even made known in West Francia before his death. The nobility elected Odo, the hero of the Siege of Paris, king, though there was a faction that supported Guy III of Spoleto. Charles was put under the protection of Ranulf II, the Duke of Aquitaine, who may have tried to claim the throne for him and in the end used the royal title himself until making peace with Odo. Finally, in 893 Charles was crowned by a faction opposed to Odo at Reims Cathedral. He only became the effectual monarch with the death of Odo in 898.[1]

In 911 Charles defeated the Viking leader Rollo, had him sign the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte that made Rollo his vassal and converted him to Christianity. Charles then gave him land around Rouen, the heart of what would become Normandy and his daughter Gisela in marriage. In the same year as the treaty with the Vikings, Louis the Child, the King of Germany, died and the nobles of Lotharingia, who had been loyal to him, under the leadership of Reginar Longneck, declared Charles their new king, breaking from Germans who had elected Conrad of Franconia king.[1] Charles tried to win their support by marrying a Lotharingian woman named Frederuna, who died in 917. He also defended the country against two attacks by Conrad, King of the Germans.[2]

The realms ruled by Charles the Simple in 915 (red)

On 7 October 919 Charles re-married to Eadgifu, the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of England. By this time Charles' excessive favouritism towards a certain Hagano had turned the aristocracy against him. He endowed Hagano with monasteries which were already the benefices of other barons, alienating these barons. In Lotharingia he earned the enmity of the new duke, Gilbert, who declared for the German king Henry the Fowler in 919.[1] Opposition to Charles in Lotharingia was not universal, however, and he retained the support of Wigeric. In 922 some of the West Frankish barons, led by Robert of Neustria and Rudolph of Burgundy, revolted. Robert, who was Odo's brother, was elected by the rebels and crowned in opposition to Charles, who had to flee to Lotharingia. On 2 July 922, Charles lost his most faithful supporter, Herve, Archbishop of Rheims, who had succeeded Fulk in 900.

He returned the next year (923) with a Norman army but was defeated on 15 June near Soissons by Robert, who died in the battle.[1] Charles was captured and imprisoned in a castle at Péronne under the guard of Herbert II of Vermandois.[3] Rudolph was elected to succeed him. In 925 the Lotharingians accepted Rudolph as their king. Charles died in prison on 7 October 929 and was buried at the nearby abbey of Saint-Fursy. Though he had had many children by Frederuna, it was his son by Eadgifu who would eventually be crowned in 936 as Louis IV of France. In the initial aftermath of Charles's defeat, Eadgifu and Louis fled to England.


  1. ^ a b c d Michel Parisse, "Lotharingia", The New Cambridge Medieval History, III: c. 900–c. 1024, ed. Timothy Reuter‎ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 313–15.
  2. ^ Gwatking, H. M., Whitney, J. P., et al. Cambridge Medieval History: Volume III—Germany and the Western Empire.
  3. ^ Jean Dunbabin, "West Francia: The Kingdom", The New Cambridge Medieval History, III: c. 900–c. 1024, ed. Timothy Reuter‎ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 378–79.

Further reading

Preceded by
King of Western Francia
Succeeded by
Robert I
Preceded by
Louis the Child
King of Lotharingia
Succeeded by
Henry the Fowler

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