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East(ern) Francia (Regnum Francorum orientalium), known variously as Francia Orientalis or the Kingdom of the East Franks, was the realm allotted to Louis the German by the 843 Treaty of Verdun. It is the precursor of the Holy Roman Empire.

After the death of Emperor Louis the Pious his sons divided the Carolingian Empire of the Franks by the Verdun treaty into East, West, and Middle Kingdoms. As all parts remained under the rule of the Carolingian dynasty with Louis' eldest son Lothair I (795-855) retaining the Imperial title, this agreement did not abolish the entity of Francia itself.


Louis the German (843-876)

In the course of the 817 Ordinatio Imperii Louis the German had already received the territory of the former Bavarian stem duchy from his father and thereafter had assumed the title of a "King of Bavaria". After his accession to the throne he unsuccessfully attacked the neighbouring Great Moravia and struggled with plundering Vikings and Magyars, though he managed to keep his artificial and backward realm between the Rhine and Elbe rivers together. When the son of his brother Lothair, Lothair II of Lotharingia died in 869, he also received large parts of his kingdom (Lotharii) west of the Rhine by the 870 Treaty of Meerssen.

Lothair's eldest son Louis II of Italy, though nominally Emperor upon the death of his father, had failed to assure the Lotharingian heritage. When he died in 875, Louis and his younger half-brother King Charles the Bald of West Francia quarrelled about the Kingdom of Italy including Burgundy and the Imperial crown. Both were inherited by Charles, backed by Pope John VIII, ending the existence of Middle Francia.

Louis' sons (876-887)

Within East Francia four stem duchies had (re-)developed: Swabia (Alamannia), Franconia (the eastern part of former Austrasia), Saxony and Bavaria. In 865 Louis was forced by his sons to divide his realm along the boundaries of these duchies:

  • Carloman (830-880) inherited Louis' original Kingdom of Bavaria and the adjacent eastern territories.
  • Louis the Younger (835-882) received Saxony and Franconia. His territories were again significantly enlarged by the Meerssen treaty, however after the death of his father, his uncle Charles the Bald campaigned eastern Lotharingia. He was rejected by Louis the Younger at a 876 battle near Andernach.
  • Charles the Fat (839-888) became King of Alamannia.

After the death of their father, Louis's sons ruled jointly. When Charles the Bald of West Francia died in 877, they again claimed the heritage of Lothair I as well as the Imperial title from Charles' son Louis the Stammerer. Practising upon the weakness of West Francia, Carloman became King of Italy while Louis the Younger invaded western Lotharingia, which in 880 Charles' grandsons Louis III and Carloman II had to cede to him.

Carloman was hit by a stroke in 879 and incapacitated he gave Bavaria (including the Margraviate of Carantania) to Louis the Younger, while Charles the Fat received the Italian crown. In this respect the successor of the Emperors Lothair I and Lothair II of Italy, he himself in 881 was crowned Emperor - as Charles III - by Pope John VIII, the former opponent of his father. Upon the death of Louis the Younger, Charles also became sole ruler of the entire East Frankish realm and in 884 was even appointed King of West Francia by the local nobility. His attempts to reunite all Francia however were increasingly affected by his mental decay. At the 887 Reichstag at Trebur he was finally forced to resign.

Arnulf of Carinthia (887-899)

The Carolingian Empire after the partitions by the Verdun and Meerssen treaties, East Francia shown in orange

The prime mover behind Charles' deposition was Arnulf of Carinthia (850-899), an illegitimate son of Carloman, who had grown up in the Carantanian march of Bavaria. After the Bavarian kingdom had passed to his uncle Louis the Younger he assumed the title of a Duke of Carinthia in 880. In 887 he inherited Bavaria and was elected King of East Francia, after which he approved the implementation of Count Odo of Paris as West Frankish king.

Meanwhile Berengar, the Margrave of Friuli had taken the opportunity to take the title of an Italian king, but had to submit himself to Arnulf, after the Carolingian had threatened to invade the country. Arnulf nevertheless was stuck in the ongoing conflict with the Vikings and in 891 Berengar's rival Duke Guy III of Spoleto had declared himself King of Italy and even forced Pope Stephen V to crown him as the new Emperor. King Arnulf however had no intention to relinquish his claims neither to the rule over Francia as a whole nor to the Imperial crown. After defeating the Norsemen at the 891 Battle of Leuven, he campaigned Italy and in 896 was crowned Emperor by Pope Formosus.


Arnulf's son Louis the Child (893-911) followed his father as King of East Francia at the age of seven. While Louis the Blind, the King of Provence became King of Italy and even Emperor in 901, Louis the Child had to deal with the fierce feud between the Babenberg dynasty and Duke Conrad the Elder over the stem duchy of Franconia. The king, influenced by his councillors, had the Babenberg duke executed and appointed Conrad's son Conrad the Younger Duke of Franconia in 906. Meanwhile East Francia was devastated several times by the troops of King Árpád of Hungary.

Upon the early death of Louis, the male line of the East Frankish Carolingians became extinct. The election of Conrad the Younger of Franconia as King by the Dukes of Saxony, Bavaria and Swabia at the diet of Forchheim on November 10, 911 was a decisive step away from Francia and toward a German kingdom, as instead of a member of the Carolingian dynasty, the East Frankish dukes chose one of their kind. King Conrad however did not prevail as primus inter pares and even lost Lotharingia to the Western Frankish kingdom. It was his successor Henry the Fowler, who was able to enforce his royal overlordship against the dukes, whose duchies decomposed over the next centuries, recently Swabia after the end of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1268.


The arisal of the Holy Roman Empire is taken to coincide with the rise of the Ottonian dynasty of Henry. In consequence the Kingdom of East Francia would have lasted from 843 to the coronation of Duke Henry I of Saxony in 919; though more commonly, the Holy Roman Empire is thought to begin with the Coronation of Emperor Otto I in Rome on February 2, 962 as a translatio imperii from the Frankish Empire.

From the early 10th century, East Francia became also known as Regnum Teutonicorum ("Theodisc kingdom" or "Kingdom of Germany") as mentioned in the Annales Iuvavenses in the course of the election of Henry I. The denotation Rex teutonicorum was often used by the Papacy during the Investiture Controversy, perhaps as a polemical tool by Pope Gregory VII against the Emperor Henry IV in the late eleventh century.[1].

See also


  1. ^ Robinson, "Pope Gregory", p. 729.


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