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 8
CONCLUSION

The deposition and death of Charles the Fat marked the end of an era. Contemporaries recognised the event’s significance. The fullest verdict was that of Regino of Prüm, writing in 908:

After Charles’s death the kingdoms which had obeyed his authority, as if lacking
a lawful heir, dissolved into separate parts and, without waiting for their natural
lord, each chose a king from within its own innards. This was the origin of great
wars; not that the Franks lacked princes who by nobility, courage and wisdom
were capable of ruling kingdoms but rather because the equality of descent,
authority, and power increased the discord among them: none so outshone the
others that the rest deigned to submit to his rule.1

The other major author to comment on the events of the year 888 was the Bavarian continuator of the Annals of Fulda, who famously stated that after Charles’s death ‘many kinglets [reguli] sprang up in Europe, that is to say in the kingdom of [Arnulf’s] uncle Charles’s.2 The importance which these writers laid on the emperor’s death was not, of course, objective political analysis. Both of them had axes to grind. Regino’s account was coloured by his own experiences: he himself had become a casualty of a particularly murky power-struggle in 890s Lotharingia, during which he was forcibly removed from the abbacy of Prüm, and this informed his bemoaning of the lack of royal authority. The Bavarian annalist, on the other hand, was writing to justify the rise to power of Arnulf. He was quick to claim that the reguli had made themselves kings, and cast further aspersions on their legitimacy by pointedly listing the names of their non-Carolingian fathers. Arnulf was a rex, not a regulus, acclaimed by nobles from all over the east Frankish kingdom, and the continuator even implicitly asserted his overlordship over the others by describing how they each came to him to receive his grace.

However, it is important to note that both authors identified the crisis 888 as dynastic in nature. This point is worth dwelling on. Clearly, the

1 Regino, Chronicon, s.a. 888, p. 129; translated by Reuter, Annals of Fulda, p. 115, n. 2.

2AF(B) s.a. 888, p. 116.

-230-

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