Louis I

Louis I
/looh"ee, looh"is/; Fr. /lwee/, ("le Débonaire"; "the Pious")
A.D. 788-840, king of France and Germany 814-840; emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 814-840 (son of Charlemagne).

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known as Louis the Pious

born April 16, 778, Chasseneuil, near Poitiers, Aquitaine
died June 20, 840, Petersau, an island in the Rhine River near Ingelheim

Frankish emperor (814–40).

The son of Charlemagne, he was crowned coemperor with his father in 813 and became emperor in 814 on his father's death. As emperor, Louis implemented important religious and cultural reforms and formalized Carolingian relations with the pope. He also introduced a plan of succession that sought to preserve the integrity of the empire while respecting the Germanic tradition of dividing the realm among all heirs. The birth of the future Charles II (Charles the Bald) to his second wife, Judith, and alteration of the plan of succession provided Louis's older sons and a number of bishops with an excuse for rebellion. Twice deposed by his sons, he recovered the throne each time (830, 834), but at his death his surviving sons indulged in a bloody civil war that left the Carolingian empire in disarray.
or Ludwig I

born Aug. 25, 1786, Strasbourg, France
died Feb. 29, 1868, Nice

King of Bavaria (1825–48).

The son of Maximilian I, Louis won early acclaim as a liberal and a German nationalist, but after his accession he feuded with the Diet and came to distrust all democratic institutions. By 1837 the reactionary Bavarian government had begun to erode the liberal constitution of 1818 that Louis had worked to establish. An outstanding patron of the arts, he collected the art works that fill Munich's museums and transformed Munich into the artistic centre of Germany. His planning created the city's present layout and classic style. He caused scandal by his affair with Lola Montez, and at the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848 he abdicated in favour of his son Maximilian II.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
byname  Louis the Pious , or  the Debonair , French  Louis le Pieux , or  le Débonnaire , German  Ludwig der Fromme 
born April 16, 778, Chasseneuil, near Poitiers, Aquitaine [now in France]
died June 20, 840, Petersau, an island in the Rhine River near Ingelheim [now in Germany]
 Carolingian (Carolingian dynasty) ruler of the Franks (Frank) who succeeded his father, Charlemagne, as emperor in 814 and whose 26-year reign (the longest of any medieval emperor until Henry IV [1056–1106]) was a central and controversial stage in the Carolingian experiment to fashion a new European society. Commonly called Louis the Pious, he was known to his contemporaries by the Latin names Hludovicus or Chlodovicus, which echo the Latin name of Clovis (Clovis I) (c. 466–511), the illustrious founder of the Merovingian (Merovingian dynasty) dynasty. Louis was appointed king of Aquitaine in 781 and was already a seasoned 35-year-old politician and military commander when he became coemperor with Charlemagne in 813. He was the fourth monarch of the Carolingian dynasty, preceded by his father; his uncle, Carloman; and his grandfather, Pippin III (Pippin I), the Short.

King of Aquitaine
      The vast realm Louis inherited stretched from the modern-day cities of Hamburg, Germany, in the north to Barcelona, Spain, 900 miles south, and from Nantes, France, in the west to Osnabrück, Germany, 720 miles east. The Frankish empire of the "First Europe" was actually an ethnic, linguistic, and cultural patchwork of Franks, Saxons (Saxon), Bretons, Aquitanians, Spaniards, Lombards (Lombard), Jews, Byzantines, Romans, Bavarians, Avars (Avar), Slavs, and other tributary peoples. Charlemagne attempted to manage his far-flung lands by establishing subkingdoms. In 781 three-year-old Louis was appointed king of Aquitaine, and he gained much valuable experience and matured greatly during the 33 years of his rule. Aquitaine was no sinecure. Incorporated into the Carolingian regime by force, Aquitaine needed watching, especially because it abutted the Spanish March, a military frontier region that had become even more dangerous after Charlemagne's abortive Spanish campaign in 778.

      As king, Louis had his own palaces, chancery, treasury, and mints. He commanded military expeditions and supervised the Frankish counts, abbots, and vassals that were sent to Aquitaine. In 794 Charlemagne picked a bride for 16-year-old Louis, already the father of two children by concubines. Irmingard, the daughter of Count Ingram, whose connections with the Carolingian family stretched back to the 7th century, completed Louis's court in Aquitaine. Within 10 years the royal couple had five children. Irmingard also participated in her husband's efforts to reform monastic life, which were spearheaded by Benedict of Aniane, a Goth who had founded a monastery on his family's property. Benedict was only one of a group of southerners destined to play significant roles in Louis's reign. Claudius, a Spaniard, and Jonas, an Aquitanian, became bishops of Turin and Orleans, respectively. Helisachar, a Goth, served as Louis's chancellor and as the abbot of several monasteries. Agobard (Agobard, Saint), a Spaniard, became archbishop of Lyon in 816. Not only did southerners retain close ties to Louis, but Franks who were close to him when he was the king of Aquitaine remained close to him as emperor. One of this latter group, Bego, became count of Paris. The most remarkable tie Louis forged in his youth was with Ebbo (Ebbo of Reims), the son of his peasant wet nurse, Himiltrude. Charlemagne gave his son's servile playmate his freedom and an education and sent Ebbo to Aquitaine to serve as Louis's librarian. In 816 Louis raised eyebrows when he appointed the former serf archbishop of Reims, the most prestigious bishopric in the Frankish empire.

The challenges of empire
      The imperial title that Pope Leo III (Leo III, Saint) bestowed on Charlemagne on December 25, 800, was problematic. Laconic contemporary sources suggest that neither the pope nor the new emperor completely understood the meaning of the revival of the imperial office. (Tellingly, the precise term Sacrum Romanum Imperium, or “Holy Roman Empire,” was not used until the mid-13th century.) After reflection, Charlemagne seems to have regarded the office as personal. In 806 he ignored the uncertainties of the imperial title when he outlined the future division of the empire among his three legitimate sons, Charles, Pippin, and Louis. On September 11, 813, with his eldest sons dead, Charlemagne bestowed the office of emperor on Louis without benefit of papal consultation or approval.

      With his father's death five months later, Louis faced the task of running an empire that in Charlemagne's seventh decade had suffered from disobedience, corruption, and inefficiency. In 811 Charlemagne had revealed the deep pessimism of his last years when he had asked the leaders of his empire, "Are we indeed Christians?" The answer to that question furnished Louis with a platform for a reform agenda that began at the centre. Aachen (now in Germany), where his father had established his palace, was cleared of its prostitutes; Louis's unmarried sisters, who had consorted sexually with court palatines, were sent to monasteries. Louis also tackled wider issues. In his first year as emperor the chancery dispatched nearly 40 diplomas (legally binding written records) to all parts of the empire, nearly double the number Charlemagne had issued during his last 13 years.

      In these documents and those that followed, Louis portrayed himself as emperor of the Christian people, not of various ethnic groups. In proposing a vision of Carolingian society based on the unity of the people in the body of Christ and in Christ's church, Louis crafted a sophisticated notion of empire in which religion, society, and politics coalesced. The implications of his bold design—in effect an empire that challenged regional, dynastic, and papal visions of society—were breathtaking. The blueprint for this empire, the Ordinatio imperii of 817, attempted to deal with the centrifugal realities of the regions and Louis's own family when it prescribed how to maintain the unity of the empire while dividing it among his three sons. Lothar (Lothar I) (b. 795) became coemperor with Louis; Pippin (b. 797) and Louis (Louis II) the German (b. c. 804) were assigned subordinate roles as kings of Aquitaine and Bavaria, respectively. Like Charlemagne's division of 804, Louis's Ordinatio was conceived without reference to the papacy.

      The historic Pactum Hludowicianum, also issued in 817, replaced the ill-defined "friendship alliance" between the Carolingians and the popes with a carefully arranged imperial-papal relationship that the emperor dominated. Louis later described the pope as his helper (adiutor) in caring for God's people. He was no less dynamic in the political realm. When Louis's nephew, King Bernard of Italy, challenged the emperor's authority in 817, Louis swiftly quashed the rebellion, blinding Bernard and exiling the other conspirators. To forestall further dynastic challenges, Louis had his half-brothers, Drogo, Hugo, and Theoderic, tonsured and placed in monasteries.

      In 822 at Attigny (now in France), Louis, firmly in control of the empire, added a new dimension to medieval kingship when he performed voluntary penance for his sins. The emperor's spontaneous display of royal humility, preceded by reconciliation with his enemies, deeply impressed contemporaries. One, the anonymous author of the Life of Emperor Louis, paid his subject a high compliment when he compared Louis's actions to those of the Roman emperor Theodosius the Great (Theodosius I).

Rebellion and recovery
      Not all challenges to Louis's authority could so easily be managed. The birth of Charles (Charles II) in 823 to Louis's second wife, Judith, and the accommodations required by another heir provoked a crisis in the family and the empire. Reformers complained about the rampant corruption of powerful nobles who preyed on church lands and the poor. Moreover, the various ethnic and linguistic groups that resided along the empire's extensive borders required continual attention. Slovenians proved troublesome in the southeast, while in the northeast Louis was able to defuse the Danish threat when King Harald was baptized into the Christian faith with Louis as his godfather. In the west Louis campaigned personally in Brittany, where he established nominal authority. In Gascony and the chronically troublesome Pyrenees borderlands, Counts Hugo and Matfrid failed to support Louis's military efforts, and the emperor summarily stripped them of their positions. This forceful action and a growing resentment of Judith's efforts on behalf of Charles led to a palace revolt in 830. Pippin (Pippin II), Louis the German (Louis II), and Lothar (Lothar I), aided by Hugo and Matfrid, sought to "free" the emperor from the tyranny of the “ Jezebel” Judith, but Louis's supporters, sowing discord among his elder sons, restored him to authority in October 830. The abortive coup claimed a victim, however, when the Ordinatio imperii was replaced by a new Divisio regnorum, which called for a division of the empire into four approximately equal kingdoms that were to become independent upon Louis's death, thus restoring the traditional Frankish practice of succession.

      Supporters of a unified empire agitated against the Divisio, while conflict among the brothers, exacerbated by the involvement of opportunistic nobles, continued. On June 30, 833, Louis met Lothar at the so-called “Field of Lies” near Colmar in Alsace (now in France) ostensibly to settle their differences. Instead the emperor found himself facing a coalition of his three eldest sons, their supporters, and Pope Gregory IV. Leading clerics—including Agobard of Lyon and even Ebbo of Reims, Louis's childhood companion—demanded that Louis abdicate. In a humiliating ceremony, he acknowledged his crimes, removed his imperial regalia, and accepted the penalty of perpetual penance. In reaction to this mistreatment of a father by his sons, to another round of conflict between the brothers and their supporters, and to increasing violence, support soon swung back to Louis, who was orchestrating his return. When he was freed from confinement in 834, his weapons, his wife, and his youngest son were restored to him.

      Emperor once again, Louis ruled energetically, bestowing key appointments on his supporters and punishing those who had betrayed him. Over the objections of Louis the German, the emperor provided for Charles. When Pippin died in 838, Louis ignored the claims of Pippin's son and granted the kingdom of Aquitaine to Charles. Lothar dedicated himself to his Italian lands and never challenged his father again. Louis rebuilt his political network by holding frequent assemblies of the lay and ecclesiastical nobility beginning in 835 and by presiding at ceremonies and ritual activities. Hunting, his favourite pastime, served him especially well in this regard. He also collected public revenue and directed successful military campaigns. In 839 the Byzantine emperor Theophilus recognized Louis as his colleague and congratulated him on his stout defense of Christendom.

      Louis was buried in a late Roman sarcophagus in the monastery of Saint-Arnulf in Metz (now in France) beside his mother, Hildegard, and his sisters, Rotrud and Hildegard. Contemporaries immediately recognized the significance of his dramatic reign. Poetry and even biblical exegesis were used to interpret the political issues of Louis's reign. And after a silence of 700 years, writers suddenly were concerned again with understanding secular leadership. Louis directly and indirectly inspired a rush of thoughtful reflections on empire, dynasty, loyalty (and disloyalty), family, religion, and society that percolate in Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (814-830), Thegan's Life of Louis (836-837), an anonymous Life of Emperor Louis (840-841), Ermoldus Nigellus's Poem in Honor of Louis Augustus (mid-820s), and Nithard's Histories (841-843).

John Contreni

Additional Reading
Good overviews of the Carolingian period include Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdoms Under the Carolingians, 751–987 (1983); and Pierre Riché, The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe (1993, originally published in French, 1983). The only modern account of Louis's reign is Egon Boshof, Ludwig der Fromme (1996). Peter Godman and Roger Collins (eds.), Charlemagne's Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious (814–840) (1990), is an excellent collection of essays on the government, church, law, learning, literature, and frontiers of Louis's empire; especially noteworthy in this collection is Janet L. Nelson “The Last Years of Louis the Pious,” pp. 146-159. Stimulating interpretations of different aspects of Louis's reign can be found in Paul Edward Dutton, The Politics of Dreaming in the Carolingian Empire (1994); Franois Louis Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy: Studies in Carolingian History (1971); Peter Godman, Poets and Emperors: Frankish Politics and Carolingian Poetry (1986); Mayke de Jong, "Power and Humility in Carolingian Society: The Public Penance of Louis the Pious," Early Medieval Europe 1(1):29–52 (1992); and Mayke de Jong, "Old Law and New-Found Power: Hrabanus Maurus and the Old Testament," in Jan Willem Drijvers and Alasdair A. MacDonald (eds.), Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-modern Europe and the Near East (1995), pp. 161–176.

▪ count of Flanders
also called  Louis of Nevers , French  Louis de Nevers , Dutch  Lodewijk van Nevers 
born c. 1304
died Aug. 25, 1346, near Crécy, Fr.

      count of Flanders and of Nevers (from 1322) and of Réthel (from 1325), who sided with the French against the English in the opening years of the Hundred Years' War.

      Grandson and heir of Robert of Bethune, count of Flanders, Louis was brought up at the French court and married Margaret of France. His sympathies were entirely French, and he made use of French help in his contests with the Flemish communes.

      Under Louis of Nevers, Flanders was practically reduced to the status of a French province. In his time the long contest between Flanders and Holland for the possession of the islands of Zeeland was brought to an end by the Treaty of Paris signed on March 6, 1323, by which the part of Zeeland on the right bank of the Schelde River was assigned to the count of Holland and the rest to the count of Flanders. The latter part of the reign of Louis was remarkable for the successful revolt of the Flemish communes, then rapidly advancing to great material prosperity under Jacob van Artevelde (Artevelde, Jacob van). Artevelde allied himself with Edward III of England in his contest with Philip VI of Valois for the French crown, while Louis espoused the cause of Philip. Louis fell at the Battle of Crécy (1346).

▪ duke of Anjou

born July 23, 1339, Vincennes, Fr.
died Sept. 20, 1384, Bisceglie, Apulia, Kingdom of Sicily

      duke of Anjou, count of Maine, count of Provence, and claimant to the crown of Sicily and Jerusalem, who augmented his own and France's power by attempting to establish a French claim to the Sicilian throne and by vigorously fighting the English in France.

      A son of John II of France, Louis in 1356 fought ably at Poitiers against the English. He was sent to England as one of the hostages under the Treaty of Brétigny (1360) but soon escaped. In 1360 his father created the hereditary duchy of Anjou for him, having already given him the county of Maine (1356).

      Having been made lieutenant general of the provinces of Languedoc and Guyenne by his brother Charles V, who had become king of France in 1364, Louis spent many years fighting the English and harshly subduing those areas sympathetic to the English, especially Brittany.

      Upon his brother's death (1380) Louis became regent. Primarily interested in extending his own personal realm, he agreed to support the antipope Clement VII (Clement (VII)), who promised him Itria, a kingdom to be created in central Italy. In 1380 Joan I, queen of Sicily and an ally of Clement, adopted Louis as her heir. A rival claimant, Charles of Durazzo, took over Sicily and had Joan murdered before Louis could come to her aid. He was, nevertheless, crowned king of Sicily and Jerusalem by Clement at Avignon (May 1382). Moving into southern Italy against Charles, Louis died before a decisive battle had been fought.

▪ duke of Bavaria

born Dec. 23, 1174, Kelheim, Bavaria
died Sept. 15, 1231, Kelheim

      second Wittelsbach duke of Bavaria, who greatly increased his family's territory and influence.

      Succeeding his father, Otto I, as duke in 1183, Louis enlarged the Bavarian domains and founded the cities of Landshut, Landau, Iser, and Straubing. In the struggle between Otto IV (of Brunswick) and Frederick of Hohenstaufen (Emperor Frederick II) for the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, he sided first with Otto, then switched to Frederick, who gave him control of the Rhenish Palatinate for his son (also named Otto) in 1214. He participated in the Fifth Crusade in Egypt (1221), and from 1225 to 1228 he was Frederick II's regent in Germany. Louis rebelled against Frederick's son Henry in 1228 and was murdered three years later, perhaps at the Emperor's instigation.

▪ king of Bavaria
born August 25, 1786, Strasbourg, France
died February 29, 1868, Nice
 king of Bavaria from 1825 to 1848, a liberal and a German nationalist who rapidly turned conservative after his accession, best known as an outstanding patron of the arts who transformed Munich into the artistic centre of Germany.

      Louis, the well-educated eldest son of King Maximilian I, was a fervent German nationalist as a youth and served only reluctantly at Napoleon (Napoleon I)'s headquarters in the wars against Prussia and Russia (1806–07) and Austria (1809). In Bavaria he came to head the anti-French party, and at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) he unsuccessfully advocated the return of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. The liberal Bavarian constitution of 1818 bears his stamp, and he repeatedly resisted the demands of Klemens Metternich (Metternich, Klemens, Fürst von), the Austrian statesman, for basic changes in that document. In church questions, however, Louis was more conservative, opposing his father's secularization of monasteries. He played an active part in the downfall of Bavaria's leading minister, Maximilian Montgelas (Montgelas de Garnerin, Maximilian Joseph, Graf von) (1817), whom he blamed for these anti-ecclesiastical policies.

      Louis's liberal reputation assured him of general acclaim upon his accession, but he was soon to disappoint his subjects. The king frequently feuded with the Diet, and after the revolutions of 1830 (1830, Revolutions of) in Europe he came to distrust all democratic institutions. The Öttingen-Wallerstein ministry (1831–37) was a shift to the right, and the subsequent government under Karl von Abel (from 1837) steered a strictly reactionary and clericalist course, restoring many monasteries and proceeding to erode the liberal constitution.

      Culturally, however, Louis's reign was brilliant. An enthusiastic patron of the arts, he collected the works that formed the nucleus of Munich's (Munich) two best-known museums, the Glyptothek and Alte Pinakothek (see Bavarian State Picture Galleries). His large-scale planning of Munich created the city's present layout and classic style. He commissioned many representative buildings, among them the Ludwigskirche, Neue Pinakothek, Propyläen, Siegestor, Feldherrnhalle, and Odeon.

      On the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848 (1848, Revolutions of), Louis—whose passion for the dancer Lola Montez (Montez, Lola) had reduced his popularity even further—abdicated in favour of his son Maximilian II.

▪ king of Hungary
byname  Louis the Great,  Hungarian  Lajos Nagy,  Polish  Ludwik Wielki  
born March 5, 1326
died Sept. 10, 1382, Nagyszombat, Hung.

      king of Hungary from 1342 and of Poland (as Louis) from 1370, who, during much of his long reign, was involved in wars with Venice and Naples. (Naples, Kingdom of)

      Louis was crowned king of Hungary in succession to his father, Charles I, on July 21, 1342. In 1346 he was defeated by the Venetians at Zara (now Zadar, Croatia), an Adriatic port city that had been under Hungarian protection. In 1347 he led an expedition against the kingdom of Naples to avenge the murder (1345) of his younger brother, Andrew, consort of Joan I of Naples, whose new husband, Louis of Taranto, was a suspected accomplice in the murder. Louis I occupied Naples in 1348, but a plague soon forced him to retire; a later invasion (1350) also led to no permanent results.

      In 1351 Louis I confirmed the Golden Bull of 1222, a charter of liberties, which he modified somewhat by the law of entail, providing that estates of nobles were to be inherited by the male line and could neither be cut up nor given away. If a line died out entirely, the estate was to revert to the crown. Also serfs were to pay their lords one-ninth of their produce. These steps made Louis virtually independent of the Diet financially.

      Louis' second war against Venice (1357–58) was more successful than his first ventures. Under the Treaty of Zara (February 1358), most of the Venetians' Dalmatian towns went to Hungary. In the east he protected his expanded domains by defeating the Turks in northern Bulgaria.

      King Casimir III of Poland, who died without sons, named Louis as his successor, and he was crowned king of Poland on Nov. 17, 1370. The Poles, however, never let him exert much real authority over them, though in 1374 they recognized his daughter Maria and her betrothed husband, Sigismund of Luxembourg, as their future queen and king.

      Louis' attention again turned to Italy when the Western Schism broke out (1378). Louis helped his protégé Charles of Durazzo conquer Naples and supplant its queen, Joan, who declared herself in favour of the antipope Clement VII. Meanwhile, Louis undertook a third war against Venice and won virtually all of Dalmatia (Treaty of Turin, Aug. 18, 1381).

      King Louis I died in the following year. Maria (with Sigismund), whom he had intended to rule Poland, succeeded him in Hungary, and his other daughter, Jadwiga, became queen of Poland instead of Hungary.

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Universalium. 2010.

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