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The Story of Old France by  H. A. Guerber
Table of Contents


 

 

TROUBLESOME SONS

A
S we have seen, emperor Louis had no desire to reign, so he soon decided to divide his empire into kingdoms for his three sons, Lothair', Pepin, and Louis (or Ludwig). King Louis had the eastern part, Pepin the western, and Lothair the central strip, including Italy. Emperor Louis's nephew Bernard, who was already king of Italy, soon declared war against his uncle, but was deserted by his army at the last moment, and fell into the Emperor's hands. While Louis himself would readily have forgiven this nephew, the judges decreed that Bernard deserved death for his treachery, and to satisfy them, as [87] well as his second wife, Judith, Louis consented at last that his nephew's eyes should be put out.

Although Louis had really intended to spare Bernard's life, the poor prince died from his injuries. Louis felt such deep remorse for his share in this death, that he knew no peace until he had done severe public penance for it (822). On this occasion the priests scourged the Emperor, and showed him tot he people, dressed in sackcloth, with ashes on his head, as a sign of mourning and great humiliation.

Judith next persuaded Louis to take back some of the lands he had granted to his three eldest sons, so as to make a fourth share for her boy Charles. As you can readily understand, Louis's three grown-up sons were very indignant when asked to give up their lands so that their baby step-brother might have a larger kingdom than any of theirs. One of these princes, in his anger, even joined the rebellious Bretons and a few restive nobles, who hated Judith on account of her haughty manners. Poor peace loving Louis, thus forced to go to war, was soon defeated; but although his rebel son compelled him to lay aside his crown, the two others helped him to regain it, after wringing from him a solemn promise that he would never again try to deprive them of their lands.

In spite of this agreement, Judith soon persuaded Louis to call an assembly, which again divided the realm so as to allot a large share to Charles. The eldest sons, hearing of this, now joined forces and marched against their father, whose army they met nea the Rhine, on a plain known as the Red Filed, because the soil there was red (833). While the two armies were thus face to face, the [88] priests and most of Louis's soldiers were induced to desert him. The poor Emperor was therefore obliged to come into his son's camp, with his wife and youngest child, and humbly beg their mercy. Because Louis's sons triumphed here by means of treachery, this place has since been known as the "Field of Lies."

These princes deposed of the poor Emperor and shut him up in a monastery. Within a few years, however, the people turned again to their old Emperor, and replaced Louis on his throne. All the sorrows and humiliations he had undergone could not, however, make him either firm or wise; and the nobles did not scruple to show their scorn for a king who forgave every offense so readily, and showed so little fighting spirit.

When Pepin died (in 838), it is said that Louis called Lothair and Charles, pointed to a map of the lands that had been claimed by these three sons, and said to Lothair: "Here, my son, is the whole realm before your; divide it, and Charles shall choose his portion; or let us divide it, and you can choose."

Whether this story is true or not, the fact remains that Lothair kept the central part of the empire, including Italy, while Charles too the western part for his share. King Louis was allowed to keep his former share, the eastern part of the empire; but he was dissatisfied, and declared war against his father.

Emperor Louis was on his way to subdue this rebellious son, when he was taken ill and died on an island in the Rhine, saying sadly, "I forgive my son, Louis, but let him remember that he caused his father's death, and that God always punishes disobedient children!"


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