Misericordia denier from Tours
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Eudes: King of France
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Eudes comes to power in an uncertain time, but he was the choice of his peers, particularly in the west. From Lavisse: “Apre la deposition de Charles le Gros, des eveques, des comtes et les seigneuers s’assemblerent pour choisir un roi. Une seconde fois, ils ecarterent le fils de Louis le Begue, Charles, qui n’etait age que de dix ans, et ils elurent le comte de Paris, fils de Robert le Fort, sans doute parce que seul il parut capable de defender le royaume contre les Normands. Eude fut couronne et sacre a Saint-Courneille de Compiegne, le 29 fevrier 888.” (399)
The removal of Charles the Fat fractured what had been Charles the Bald’s kingdom. The east went to Arnulf, a bastard son of Louis the German (brother of Charles the Bald). Another Carolingian scion, Duke Wido of Spoleto (Italy) came north and was crowned at Langres, but withdrew when support did not materialize. The Burgundians, under Richard the Justiciar, had fresh memories of the Norseman sack of their territory several years earlier. They were not supportive of Eudes, and in fact, rallied to Charles III (the Simple) when he came of age.
The division of the kingdom left somewhat murky relationships among the principals. Nelson (139) notes: “In the minds of some contemporaries, at least, an empire survived and Arnulf held a vague hegemony over the kings.” Lavisse (399) notes: “Eude demanda appui du roi de Germanie … Arnulf reconnut comme le roi; Eude, en retour, se declara son vassal.” Other sources don’t refer to this hierarchy of kings.
Eudes got off to a good start. Four months after his coronation, in June, he met and defeated a Norman band at Montfaucon-en-Argonne. This demonstrated to many that his success in the defense of Paris was not a fluke, and won him wavering adherents. But the fighting was constant, first against the Norse and later in the context of civil war.
The Norse penetrated to Sens in late 888 (via the Yonne), reached Meaux in 888 (via the Marne) and reached Noyon in 890 (via the Oise). Nelson (140) observes “no wonder the notables of these parts persuaded Odo to winter in 892-3 in Aquitaine, ‘so that Francia, afflicted for so many years, might recuperate a little.’” Riche’ (29) offers a somewhat different explanation for the invitation to head for Aquitaine, “since Francia was exhausted by the hospitality he and his train demand.”
These efforts against the Norse were not as successful as his first post-Paris encounter with them and his fortunes waned. Lavisse (400) says of this time “Le royaume retrouvait les miseries du temps de Charles le Chauve et de Charles le Gros.”
In the face of the reverses against the Norse, Charles the Simple, who had come of age, began to look like a more attractive (and malleable) candidate for king. Arnulf switched his allegiance to Charles. Charles was consecrated by archbishop Fulk of Reims on January 28, 893. Now Eudes faced both the Norse threat, though an ameliorating one, and civil war, centered in the east.
Charles III (896-923), AR denier, 22mm, 1.34gr. Obv: +l'lROLVS PIVS REX, central cross. Rev: ARGENTI/./NACIVITS in two lines where the N in the second line is reversed. Mint is Strasbourg. R1716; MG 1348; Dep closest match is 959 +KARLOVS etc, Nouchy CIII 46Dv, not in MEC (which identifies a similar German type after 911) or in Bel.
This civil war lasted four years, and Eudes ultimately prevailed militarily. At the start of 897 the two contenders reached an accord. Eudes was recognized as king, but he, in turn, recognized Charles as successor and granted him lands he (Charles) already controlled. Charles made his base in the vicinity of Laon.
Eudes died of sickness January 1, 898 at Fere-sur-Oise. The nobility declared for Charles and Eudes’ brother Robert, the likely heir in the absence of a Carolingian claimant, received a number of valuable titles and properties as the consolation prize, including that of count of Paris.
Eudes reign was a hard one, filled with constant warring. On the external front, the Norse incursions were fairly chronic and profoundly disruptive to French society. Internally, the Carolingian allure still held considerable power and offered a constant treat to his legitimacy. He was able to maintain control of the state, such as it was, as evidenced by the continuing royal monopoly in coinage. In fact, based on an admittedly small sample of coins represented on this site, weight remained similar to what it had been under Charles the Bald, something his successor was not able to do.
Eudes was in the Capetian line and while he didn’t have offspring, his brother was the grandfather of Hugh Capet, founder of the post-Carolingian dynasty. His own success over this decade, along with that of his brother Robert, helped insure that the family would maintain lands that would become the basis for Hugh Capet’s kingdom, the Ile de France. From this small holding would grow, over the following centuries, with plenty of ups and downs, modern France.
These early Capetians were at heart loyal to the Carolingian line. Eudes’ father was a strong supporter of Charles the Bald. Eudes was elected king in the absence of a Carolingian up to the task of facing down the Norsemen. His brother Robert did not contest the succession of Charles the Simple. A generation later his nephew, Hugh the Great, brought back another Carolingian, Louis IV, to rule. Eudes was an important person in both the continuation of the Carolingian dynasty, and in the move away from it to new leadership.
Sources (see References for the full citation):
Bunbabin, J, France in the Making 843-1180
Nelson, J, “The Frankish Kingdoms, 814 – 898: The West,” The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. II
Riche, P., The Carolingians
Lavisse, E., Histoire de France Illustree, Tome II, Premiere