THE STRASSBURG OATH
OUIS died in 840, having reigned twenty-six years,
most of which were spent in warring against his sons.
During this time, the nobles took advantage of the
disturbed state of the realm to seize all the land,
wealth, and power they could, for each man thought of
himself only, and not of the Emperor or country.
When Louis died, his youngest son, Charles I., the
Bald, ruled over most of what we now call France; Louis
(Ludwig) over much of Germany; and Lothair—who bore
the title of Emperor—had, besides Italy, a long,
narrow strip of land running from the North Sea to the
Alps, which included a great part of what is now known
as Belgium and Switzerland. This realm was called Lothair's
land, or Lotharingia, a name still borne by a small part of it,
the province of Lorraine.
As already stated, King Louis was not satisfied with
his share, and as he and Charles both refused to
recognize Emperor Lothair as their master, war soon
broke out. The three armies met at Fontenay (fôNt-n̆'),
fought the "Battle of the brothers," as it is often
called (841). So many Frankish warriors lost their
lives in this and none but lords of that race were to
be found thereafter in France.
Lothair was beaten and had to retreat, but the war
continued. Charles and Louis met at Strassburg, where,
in the presence of their respective armies, they took a
solemn oath to be true to each other. On this occasion
Charles, the French king, spoke to his brother's
soldiers in German,
 while Louis, the German monarch addressed Charles's
men in French. The "Strassburg Oath," taken in 842, was
duly written down, and is now the oldest specimen on
ancient French and German, for it was framed in the
days when those two languages were just beginning to
Lothair, seeing plainly that he would not be strong
enough to resist the combined forces of his two
brothers, now signed a treaty with them at Verdun'
 he retained his share of the land, and the title of
Emperor, but had no authority whatever over his
brothers, each of whom was allowed to govern his realm
as he chose. This treaty is considered very important
in European history, because it marks the epoch when
Germany, France, and Italy parted company, never to be
really one again for any length of time.
Charles I. now ruled over the land extending from the
Pyrenees and the Ocean, to the Meuse and the Rhone.
Here, as you know, Celts, Romans, Franks, Burgundians,
and Goths had settled in turn, so that the French
nation and language were made up of a mixture of all
these different elements.
Unfortunately, the ruler of this rich land was as weak—although
not as good—as his poor father. He never
had to war against his sons, it is true, but he had to
resist the nobles, who tried in every way to deprive
him of his power. He was also greatly troubled by the
Saracens, and especially by the Northmen, or Normans,
those terrible pirates whom Charlemagne had seen, and
of whom he had predicted for his descendants.
By this time the Normans—who had not dared to land in
France in Charlemange's day—had grown so bold that
they not only made yearly raids all along the coasts,
but actually sailed up the principal rivers and even
besieged and sacked strong towns like Rouen (roo-äN)and Paris.
As Charles was not a fighter himself, he bade one of
his nobles, Robert the Strong, defend the country, and
in reward for his services made him Count of Paris.
Robert, who was as brave as a lion, fought the Normans
 fell in battle (866); then the weak Charles bribed the
bold invaders to go away.
Although the Normans left France, it was only to return
before long to secure more money. This time, before he
could induce the nobles to join him in driving them
away, Charles had to make an edict, wherein he promised
that the estates and offices of his vassals should not
only be theirs as long as they lived, but should belong
to their heirs after them. It was thus that Charles the
Bald established hereditary nobility in France, where
it has lasted until to-day.