Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century: Charles the Fat and the End of the Carolingian Empire

By Simon Maclean | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
THE END OF THE EMPIRE II:
RESPONSE AND FAILURE

CAROLINGIAN UNITY AND THE ADOPTION OF LOUIS OF
PROVENCE, APRIL–JUNE 887

Hadrian III probably met his unexpected end in September 885 and, seemingly due to his unpopularity in Rome, was buried in the north Italian monastery of Nonantola rather than being taken back to the Holy See.1 His successor Stephen V was appointed quickly and without direct consultation with the emperor, whose attempt to have him deposed on this technicality failed because the election had taken place with the cooperation of the imperial legate in Rome.2 Charles was still preoccupied with the stalled plan to legitimate Bernard, who remained in the prayer clauses of imperial charters in 886 and early 887, and had doubtless hoped to influence the election to ensure that the new pontiff was sympathetic to its resuscitation. With Stephen’s accession a fait accompli by the end of 885, the emperor had no choice but to travel to Italy at the start of 886 and negotiate with him directly. The specific outcome of the talks held during Charles’s five- or six-month stay south of the Alps is not known beyond the fact that he extracted papal permission to translate bishops from devastated sees. However, our source for this information, the Bavarian annalist, cryptically adds that ‘many matters were arranged as he [Charles] wished’.3 With the succession situation the way it was, and given the events of the preceding few months, it is very likely that the emperor was still pursuing papal sanction for the designation of his illegitimate son.

Whatever general approval for the scheme may have been agreed by Stephen V in early 886, Charles’s attention for the second half of that year was fully occupied by the siege of Paris, precluding any opportunity

1AF(M) s.a. 885, p. 103; Davis, Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes, pp. 297, n. 3, 298, n. 8.

2AF(M) s.a. 885, pp. 103–4; Liber Pontificalis, ed. L. Duchesne (Paris, 1955–7), chap. 112, pp. 191–2. Reuter, Annals of Fulda, p. 99, n. 11, and Davis, Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes, p. 299, n. 9 for commentary.

3AF(B) s.a. 886, p. 114.

-161-

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