Henry I (German king)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Henry I (German king)

Henry I or Henry the Fowler, 876?–936, German king (919–36), first of the Saxon line and father of Otto I, the first of the Holy Roman emperors. Henry succeeded his father as duke of Saxony in 912. A foe of King Conrad I, who futilely tried to subdue the rebellious Henry, he was nevertheless named (918) by Conrad as his successor. Designated king by Saxon and Franconian nobles in 919, Henry refused to be crowned by the bishops, thus maintaining his independence of the church. As king he immediately turned to restoring monarchical authority, which had been whittled away by the dukes. By 921 he had secured recognition of his royal authority from the dukes of Swabia and Bavaria. In 925 he won Lotharingia from its allegiance to France. Henry also dealt with the Magyar raids, which Conrad had failed to halt. In 924 after a Magyar invasion of Saxony, Henry arranged a nine-year truce and agreed to pay yearly tribute to the Magyars. He used this respite to introduce military reforms in Saxony and Thuringia. Saxon soldiers were trained for mounted combat, and the new efficiency of his army enabled him to take Brandenburg from the Wends. In the marches, or frontier regions, Henry built large fortresses, primarily for military purposes; however, he attracted some permanent settlers in these regions. In 933 the truce with the Magyars ended when Henry refused to pay tribute; he defeated the Magyars in a great battle at Riade, near the Unstrut River. He expanded his frontier at Danish expense in 934. Before his death Henry secured from the nobles the succession of his son as Otto I. His wife, Matilda, founded many monasteries, including Quedlinburg, where she lies buried with her husband. She is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church; her feast is Mar. 14.

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