Charles II "The Bald", Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire
The first Charles who ruled over the French was Charlemagne (Charles the Great). His reign, however, belongs to the history of Western Europe rather than to any one of the separate kingdoms, and he is therefore not included in the numbering of the French kings who bore the name Charles (see Charlemagne ). So Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, was called Charles I of France, though he was Charles II of the Holy Roman Empire. Similarly Charlemagne's great-grandson, Charles the Fat, was called Charles II of France and Charles III of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charles the Bald had inherited an already crumbling Frankish empire from his father, Louis the Pious, and under his own reign, it came to an ultimate collapse as Viking invaders overan the empire. According to Viking Age scholar Magnus Magnusson, in his book, "Vikings!" (1980): "...a Danish Viking known only as Ragnar entered the Seine with a fleet of 120 ships...." "To check him, Charles the Bald deployed his army on both banks of the river - a tactical blunder which played right into Ragnar's hands. Ragnar attacked the smaller contingent, routed it, and then hanged 111 prisoners on an island in full view of the second Frankish force. The Franks, their morale shattered, offered no further resistance, and Ragnar sailed on to his planned destination. On Easter Sunday he pounced on Paris and sacked it; and Charles the Bald paid him 7000 pounds of silver to depart in peace with all his loot. It was the first recorded payment of protection money to the Vikings. It bought him [Charles the Bald] six years of freedom from invasion while he tried to deal with his enemies and rivals at home, but it set a precedent that later marauders would follow with pleasure and profit."
Louis I "The Pious", Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire
Ruled 814-40. Is usually reckoned as Louis I. The son of Charlemagne, he succeeded his father as king of the Franks and Holy Roman emperor (see Charlemagne ). The great empire built up by Charlemagne was divided after Louis I died, and the next four rulers of this name left little mark on the course of history.
Though more cultivated than his father, Charlemagne, according to Magnus Magnusson, author of "Vikings!" (1980), Louis lacked his father's forcefulness. "While Louis pursued his policy of spreading the Christian faith wherever he could", says Magnusson, "civil wars started breaking out within his kingdom, and by the 830s the Frankish empire was beginning to fall apart." He goes on to say that, "In 840 Louis the Pious died, and the great empire he had inherited was divided up between his three bickering sons - the eastern part to Louis the German, the west to Charles the Bald, and the centre and Italy to Lothar. And now the disintegration of the Frankish empire set in with a vengeance. Any political unity that Charlemagne had imposed was gone, and the Frankish society became splintered and localised, racked with fueds and treacheries." He says further, "With the Frankish lords at one another's throats, the old Carolingian empire became a Viking hunting ground."
Charlemagne, Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire
Reigned as King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 771 to 814 A.D. According to "Vikings!", by Magnus Magnusson (1980), "Charlemagne had welded together a vast empire that embraced modern France, West Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. This was Frankia, the kingdom of the Franks. He had modeled his ambitions on those of the classical Roman Emperors, but an empire transformed by Christianity. The culmination came on Christmas Day in 800 when Charlemagne was crowned in Rome [by Pope Leo IV] as the first Holy Roman Emperor of the West. It was his acheivement that from his capital at Aachen he inspired an organised revival of administration and literature and the arts throughout Europe, despite being illiterate himself. However, it was a huge and unweildy empire, and Charlemagne was constantly engagaed in military enterprises to defend it or hold it together, not the least against King Godfred of Denmark."
Magnusson also says of Charlemagne, "His empire had depended to a crucial extent on the dominating force of his personality and leadership. When he died in 814 he was succeeded by his son, Louis the Pious, who although more cultivated than his father, lacked his forcefulness."
Pepin "The Short", King of France
Crowned Pepin, King of France by Pope Stephen II in 754.
Charles "Martel", Mayor of The Palace of Austrasia
Charles Martel (circa 688-741), Carolingian ruler of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia (in present northeastern France and southwestern Germany). Charles, whose surname means "the hammer," was the son of Pepin of Heristal and the grandfather of Charlemagne. Pepin was Mayor of the Palace under the last kings of the Merovingian dynasty. After Pepin died in 714, Charles, an illegitimate son, was imprisoned by his father's widow, but he escaped in 715 and was proclaimed Mayor of the Palace by the Austrasians. A war between Austrasia and the Frankish kingdom of Neustria (now part of France) followed, and at the end of it Charles became the undisputed ruler of all the Franks. Although he was engaged in wars against the Alamanni, Bavarians, and Saxons, his greatest achievements were against the Muslims from Spain, who invaded France in 732. Charles defeated them near Poitiers at the Battle of Tours in which the Muslim leader, Abd-ar-Rahman, the emir of Spain, was killed. The progress of Islam, which had filled all Christendom with alarm, was thus checked for a time. Charles drove the Muslims out of the Rhône valley in 739, when they had again advanced into France as far as Lyon, leaving them nothing of their possessions north of the Pyrenees beyond the Aude River. Charles died in Quierzy, on the Oise River, leaving the kingdom divided between his two sons, Carloman and Pepin the Short.