Lotharingia was a region in northwest Europe, comprising the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

, the western Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

, the lands today on the border between France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and what is now western Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. It was born of the tripartite division in 855, of the kingdom of Middle Francia
Middle Francia
Middle Francia was an ephemeral Frankish kingdom created by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which divided the Carolingian Empire among the sons of Louis the Pious...

, itself formed of the threefold division of the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

 by the Treaty of Verdun
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

 in 843. Neither Lotharingia nor Middle Francia had any natural coherence, but each was conceived as a territorial division of a larger realm. In 870 Lotharingia, after a brief interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

, was divided by the Treaty of Meerssen
Treaty of Meerssen
The Treaty of Meerssen or Mersen was a partition treaty of the Carolingian Empire concluded on 8 August 870 by the two surviving sons of Emperor Louis the Pious, King Charles the Bald of West Francia and Louis the German of East Francia, at Meerssen north of Maastricht, in the present-day...

 between its neighbours, East Francia and West Francia. After brief wars in 876 and 879 West Francia ceded its half of Lotharingia to East Francia by the Treaty of Ribemont
Treaty of Ribemont
There are two Treaties of Ribemont, the first is from 880 and the second is from 1179.-The treaty of 880:The Treaty of Ribemont in 880 was the last treaty on the partitions of the Frankish Empire...

 (880). The Lotharingian aristocracy, in attempting to assert its right to elect a sovereign, joined the other East Frankish lands in deposing their king, Charles the Fat
Charles the Fat
Charles the Fat was the King of Alemannia from 876, King of Italy from 879, western Emperor from 881, King of East Francia from 882, and King of West Francia from 884. In 887, he was deposed in East Francia, Lotharingia, and possibly Italy, where the records are not clear...

, in 887. Under a series of dukes that began under the child king Louis IV
Louis the Child
Louis the Child , sometimes called Louis IV or Louis III, was the last Carolingian ruler of East Francia....

 in 903, the Lotharingians frequently swapped allegiance between the East and West Frankish kings. In 939 the East Frankish king Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 brought the reigning duke Gilbert
Gilbert, Duke of Lorraine
Gilbert was the duke of Lotharingia until 939.The beginning of the reign of Gilbert is not clear. A dux Lotharingiae is mentioned in 910 and this may have been Gilbert...

 to heel and incorporated Lotharingia into his realm as one of the "younger" stem duchies
Stem duchy
Stem duchies were essentially the domains of the old German tribes of the area, associated with the Frankish Kingdom, especially the East, in the Early Middle Ages. These tribes were originally the Franks, the Saxons, the Alamanni, the Burgundians, the Thuringii, and the Rugii...

, whose dukes had a vote in royal elections. While the other stem duchies were tribal or national identities, Lotharingia's identity was solely political.

In 959 the Lotharingian duke Bruno the Great divided the duchy between Lotharingia superior (Upper Lorraine) and Lotharingia inferior
Lower Lorraine
The Duchy of Lower Lorraine or Lower Lotharingia , established in 959 was a stem duchy of the medieval German kingdom, which encompassed part of modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands, the northern part of the German Rhineland and a part of northern France east of the Schelde river.It was created out...

 (Lower Lorraine), giving each to the rule of a margrave
A margrave or margravine was a medieval hereditary nobleman with military responsibilities in a border province of a kingdom. Border provinces usually had more exposure to military incursions from the outside, compared to interior provinces, and thus a margrave usually had larger and more active...

. Except for one brief period (1033–44, under Gothelo I
Gothelo I, Duke of Lorraine
Gothelo , called the Great, was the duke of Lower Lorraine from 1023 and of Upper Lorraine from 1033. He was also the margrave of Antwerp from 1005 and count of Verdun. Gothelo was the youngest son of Godfrey I, Count of Verdun, and Matilda Billung, daughter of Herman, Duke of Saxony...

), the division was never reversed and the margraves had soon raised their separate fiefs into dukedoms. In the twelfth century the ducal authority in Lower Lorraine became fragmented, causing the formation of the Duchy of Limburg
Duchy of Limburg
The Duchy of Limburg, situated in the Low Countries between the river Meuse and the city of Aachen, was a state of the Holy Roman Empire. Its territory is now divided between the Belgian provinces of Liège and Limburg , the Dutch province of Limburg , and a small part of North Rhine-Westphalia in...

 and the Duchy of Brabant
Duchy of Brabant
The Duchy of Brabant was a historical region in the Low Countries. Its territory consisted essentially of the three modern-day Belgian provinces of Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region and most of the present-day Dutch province of North Brabant.The Flag of...

, whose rulers retained the title Duke of Lothier
Duke of Lothier
Lothier refers to the territory within the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia, governed by the Dukes of Brabant and their successors after 1190 until the end of the Ancien Régime in 1796....

 (derived from "Lotharingia"). With the disappearance of a "lower" Lorraine, the duchy of Upper Lorraine became the primary referent for "Lorraine" within the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. After centuries of French invasions and occupations, Lorraine was finally ceded to France at the close of the War of the Polish Succession
War of the Polish Succession
The War of the Polish Succession was a major European war for princes' possessions sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II, King of Poland that other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests...

 (1737). In 1766 the duchy was inherited by the French crown and became the province of Lorraine
Lorraine (province)
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....

. In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, the German-speaking part of Lorraine was merged with Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 to become the province of Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 in the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. Today the greater part of the French side of the Franco-German border belongs to the Lorraine région
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...


Middle Francia

The ground for the formation of Middle Francia was laid in 817, with the plans drawn up for a division of the Carolingian Empire on the death of the emperor Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

. Unforeseen in 817 was a further claimant besides Louis's three grown sons. A fourth son, Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

, was born to Louis's second wife, Judith of Bavaria
Judith of Bavaria
Judith , was Duchess of Bavaria. She was the eldest daughter of Arnulf the Bad of Bavaria and Judith of Sülichgau....

, in 823. When Louis tried in 833 to re-divide the empire for the benefit of Charles he met with the opposition of his adult sons, Lothair
Lothair I
Lothair I or Lothar I was the Emperor of the Romans , co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria , Italy and Middle Francia...

, Pepin
Pepin I of Aquitaine
Pepin I was King of Aquitaine.-Biography:He was the second son of Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye....

, and Louis
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

. A decade of civil war and fluctuating alliances, punctuated by brief periods of peace, followed. Pepin died in 838, and the elder Louis in 840. The remaining brothers made peace in 843 and mapped out a final division of the Empire. Lothair, as the eldest, was allowed the imperial title and received as his share of the land a long strip of territories between his brother's kingdoms, stretching from the North Sea to the Duchy of Benevento
Duchy of Benevento
The Duchy and later Principality of Benevento was the southernmost Lombard duchy in medieval Italy, centred on Benevento, a city central in the Mezzogiorno. Owing to the Ducatus Romanus of the popes, which cut it off from the rest of Lombard Italy, Benevento was from the first practically...

. The logic of the division was that Lothair had the allegiance of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (medieval)
The Kingdom of Italy was a political entity under control of Carolingian dynasty of Francia first, after the defeat of the Lombards in 774. It was finally incorporated as a part of the Holy Roman Empire in 962....

, which had been his sub-kingdom under Louis the Pious, and that, as emperor, he should rule in Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

, the capital of the first Carolingian emperor, Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, and in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, the ancient capital of emperors. Middle Francia (Latin Francia media) thus included all the land between Aachen and Rome and it has sometimes been called by historians the "Lotharingian axis".

Kingdom of Lotharingia

In 855, when Lothair was on his deathbed at Prüm Abbey
Prüm Abbey
Prüm Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey in Prüm/Lorraine, now in the diocese of Trier , founded by a Frankish widow Bertrada, and her son Charibert, count of Laon, on 23 June 720. The first abbot was Angloardus....

, he divided his kingdom between his three sons in the Treaty of Prüm. To the eldest, Louis II, went Italy, with the imperial title. To the youngest, Charles
Charles of Provence
Charles of Provence was the Carolingian King of Provence from 855 until his early death in 863.Charles was the youngest son of Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I and Ermengarde of Tours....

, still a minor, went Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

. To the second eldest and namesake of his father, Lothair II
Lothair II of Lotharingia
Lothair II was the second son of Emperor Lothair I and Ermengarde of Tours. He was married to Teutberga, daughter of Boso the Elder. He is the namesake of the Lothair Crystal, which he probably commissioned, and of the Cross of Lothair, which was made over a century after his death but...

, went the remaining territories to the north of Provence, a kingdom which lacked ethnic or linguistic unity as much as Middle Francia as a whole had. Because of this lack of identity contemporaries were unsure what to call the kingdom and so it became regnum quondam Lotharii or Lotharii regnum ("kingdom [once] Lothair's") and its inhabitants Lotharii (from Lotharius), Lotharienses (from Lothariensis), or Lotharingi (which gives the modern German Lothringen, which is the name of the province). The latter term, formed with the Germanic suffix -ing, indicating ancestral or familial relationships, gave rise to the Latin term Lotharingia (from the Latin suffix -ia, indicating a country) in the tenth century. Later terms like "Lorraine" and "Lothier" are derived from this Latin term.

When Lothair II died in 869 he left no legitimate children, but one illegitimate son, Hugh
Hugh, Duke of Alsace
Hugh was the only son of Lothair II, an illegitimate child by his relationship with Waldrada. He did not inherit his father's kingdom, but he did receive a lot of lands and benefices in the Duchy of Alsace from Louis the German....

. The kings of East and West Francia, Louis the German
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

 and Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

, agreed to divided Lotharingia between them, and in 870 they came to an agreement at Meerssen. The western half of Lotharingia went to West Francia and the eastern half to East Francia. In 876 Charles invaded eastern Lotharingia but was defeated near Andernach
Andernach is a town in the district of Mayen-Koblenz, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, of currently about 30,000 inhabitants. It is situated towards the end of the Neuwied basin on the left bank of the Rhine between the former tiny fishing village of Fornich in the north and the mouth of the...

 by Louis. In 879 Louis's son, Louis the Younger
Louis the Younger
Louis the Younger , sometimes Louis III, was the second eldest of the three sons of Louis the German and Emma. He succeeded his father as the King of Saxony on 28 August 876 and his elder brother Carloman as King of Bavaria from 880...

, was invited by a faction of the West Frankish nobility to succeed Louis the Stammerer
Louis the Stammerer
Louis the Stammerer was the King of Aquitaine and later King of West Francia. He was the eldest son of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans. He succeeded his younger brother in Aquitaine in 866 and his father in West Francia in 877, though he was never crowned Emperor...

, Charles's son, on the throne. In response, Louis the Stammerer's sons, Carloman II and Louis III
Louis III of France
Louis III was the King of France, still then called West Francia, from 879 until his death. The second son of Louis the Stammerer and his first wife, Ansgarde, he succeeded his father to reign jointly with his younger brother Carloman II, who became sole ruler on Louis's death...

, ceded western Lotharingia to Louis. The border between the two kingdoms was established at Saint-Quentin
Saint-Quentin, Aisne
Saint-Quentin is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France. It has been identified as the Augusta Veromanduorum of antiquity. It is named after Saint Quentin, who is said to have been martyred here in the 3rd century....

 the next year (880).

When in November 887 Arnulf of Carinthia
Arnulf of Carinthia
Arnulf of Carinthia was the Carolingian King of East Francia from 887, the disputed King of Italy from 894 and the disputed Holy Roman Emperor from February 22, 896 until his death.-Birth and Illegitimacy:...

 called a council of the East Frankish nobility to depose Charles the Fat, who had succeeded to all the kingdoms of the Empire by 884, the Lotharingians were one of those who joined him. They elected Arnulf their king, possibly under coercion. Arnful was initially opposed by Guy III of Spoleto
Guy III of Spoleto
Guy of Spoleto , sometimes known by the Italian version of his name, Guido, or by the German version, Wido, was the Margrave of Camerino from 880 and then Duke of Spoleto and Camerino from 883. He was crowned King of Italy in 889 and Holy Roman Emperor in 891...

, who eventually made himself king in Italy, and by Rudolph of Auxerre
Rudolph I of Burgundy
Rudolph I was King of Burgundy from his election in 888 until his death.Rudolph belonged to the elder Welf family and was the son of Conrad, Count of Auxerre, from whom he inherited the lay abbacy of St Maurice en Valais, making him the most powerful magnate in Upper Burgundy - present-day...

, who had been elected king in the south of Lotharingia, in Transjurane Burgundy. Rudolph intended to make himself king over the whole of Lothair II's kingdom, but he had to content himself with a rump state. In 895 Arnulf appointed his illegitimate son Zwentibold
Zwentibold was the illegitimate son of the Carolingian Emperor Arnulf of Carinthia. In 895 his father, then king of East Francia, granted him the Kingdom of Lotharingia, which he ruled until his death.After his death he was declared a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church.- Life :Zwentibold...

 King of Lotharingia. He ruled independently until he was overthrown and killed by a rebellious magnate in 900.

Duchy of Lotharingia

The greater freedom allowed the Lotharingian magnates by the minority of Louis IV, Arnulf's legitimate son and heir in East Francia, kept them faithful to him until his death in 911. It is during his reign that a duke first appears in Lotharingia as an intermediary between the people and the king. The first duke was Gebhard
Gebhard, Duke of Lorraine
Gebhard of Lahngau , of the Conradine dynasty, son of Odo , count of Lahngau, and Judith, was himself count of Wetterau and Rheingau and then duke of Lotharingia ....

 (903). His title, recorded in contemporary Latin, was dux regni quod a multis Hlotharii dicitur: "duke of the kingdom that many call Lothair's". He was succeeded by Reginar
Reginar, Duke of Lorraine
Reginar I Longneck was the Duke of Lorraine from 910 until his death. He stands at the head of the clan of Reginarids, an important Lotharingian noble family....

, who led the nobility in electing Charles the Simple of West Francia king after the death of Louis IV. In 915 Charles rewarded him by granting him the title margrave. Reginar was succeeded by his son, Gilbert
Gilbert, Duke of Lorraine
Gilbert was the duke of Lotharingia until 939.The beginning of the reign of Gilbert is not clear. A dux Lotharingiae is mentioned in 910 and this may have been Gilbert...

, who used the title dux Lotharingiae: "duke of Lotharingia". When the West Franks deposed Charles in 922, he remained king in Lotharingia, whence he endeavoured to reconquer his other kingdom in 923. He was captured and imprisoned, where he died in 929. The Lotharingians did not elect a replacement until 925, when under Gilbert's leadership they chose Henry the Fowler, the East Frankish king. In 930 Gilbert's decision was rewarded and he received the prestigious hand of Henry's daughter Geberga in marriage. On Henry's death in 936 Gilbert tried to swap Lotharingian allegiance to the West Franks, since their king, Rudolph
Rudolph of France
Rudolph was the Duke of Burgundy between 921 and 923 and King of Western Francia from thereafter to his death. Rudolph inherited the duchy of Burgundy from his father, Richard the Justiciar...

, was weak and would interfere less in aristocratic matters. In 939 Henry's son and successor, Otto I, invaded Lotharingia and defeated Gilbert in the Battle of Andernach
Battle of Andernach
The Battle of Andernach, between the followers and the opponents of King Otto I of Germany, took place at 2 October 939 in Andernach on the Rhine river and ended with a decisive defeat of the rebels and the death of their leaders....

. The dukes of Lotharingia were thereafter royal appointees.

See also

  • List of rulers of Lorraine
  • Duchy of Upper Lorraine
  • Duchy of Lower Lorraine
    Lower Lorraine
    The Duchy of Lower Lorraine or Lower Lotharingia , established in 959 was a stem duchy of the medieval German kingdom, which encompassed part of modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands, the northern part of the German Rhineland and a part of northern France east of the Schelde river.It was created out...

Primary sources

  • Annales vedastini
    Annales Vedastini
    The Annales Vedastini or Annals of St-Vaast are a series of annals written in the early tenth century at the Abbey of St. Vaast in Arras. They are an important source for the ninth century. The years from 874 to 900 are covered with a strong bias for Lotharingian and West Frankish affairs...

    at The Latin Library.
  • Annales xantenses qui dicuntur at The Latin Library.

Secondary sources

  • The New Cambridge Medieval History, III: c. 900–c. 1024, ed. Timothy Reuter‎. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
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