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Louis the Blind (c. 880 – 28 June 928) was the king of Provence from 887, king of Italy from 900, and briefly Holy Roman Emperor, as Louis III, between 901 and 905. He was the son of Boso, the usurper king of Provence, and Ermengard, a daughter of the Emperor Louis II. Through his father, he was a Bosonid, but through his mother, a Carolingian.

He succeeded his father upon his death in January 887, though at that time, the kingdom of Provence was restricted to the environs of Vienne. The Provençal barons elected Ermengard to act as his regent, with the support of Louis's uncle, Richard the Justiciar, Duke of Burgundy. In May, Ermengard travelled with Louis to the court of her relative, the emperor Charles the Fat, and received his recognition of the young Louis as king. Charles adopted Louis as his son and put both mother and son under his protection. In May 889, she travelled to Charles' successor, Arnulf, to make submission anew. The short work Visio Karoli Grossi may have been written shortly after Charles' death to support Louis's claim. If so, Louis must have had the support of Fulk the Venerable, Archbishop of Reims. On the other hand, the Visio may have been written later, circa 901, to celebrate (and support) Louis's imperial coronation.

In 890, at Valence, a council of prelates and feudatories of the realm, elected Louis as King of Arles, Provence, and Cisjurane Burgundy. In 894, Louis himself did homage to Arnulf.

In 896, Louis waged war on the Saracens. Throughout his reign, he had to deal with the depredations of these Moslem invaders, who had landed and established a base at Fraxinet in 889.

In 900, Louis, as the grandson and heir of the Emperor Louis II, was invited into Italy by various lords, including Adalbert II of Tuscany, who were suffering under the ravages of the Magyars and the incompetent rule of Berengar I. Louis thus marched his army across the Alps and defeated Berengar, chasing him from Pavia, the old Lombard capital, where, in the church of San Michele, he was crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy on 12 October. He travelled onwards to Rome, where, in 901, he was crowned Emperor by Pope Benedict IV. The next year (902), however, Berengar defeated Louis's armies and forced him to flee to Provence and promise never to return.

In 905, Louis launched another attempt to invade Italy. He was again defeated by Berengar, with the aid of Bavarian troops, captured, and imprisoned in Verona, where, on 21 July 905, he had his eyes put out (for breaking his oath) and was forced to relinquish his royal Italian and imperial crowns. Later, Berengar became Emperor. After this last attempt to restore Carolingian power over Italy, Louis continued to rule Provence for many more years, though Hugh, Count of Arles, was the dominant figure in the territory.

Louis returned to Vienne, his capital, and by 911, he had put most of the royal powers in the hands of Hugh. Hugh was made Margrave of Provence and moved the capital to Arles. As regent, Hugh married Louis's sister Willa. Louis lived out his days until his death in obscurity.

Marriages and heirs

By a relationship, whether marriage or not, Louis fathered a son called Charles-Constantine, who would become Count of Vienne. Charles' mother is not named in any sources. There has been modern genealogical speculation that she might be Anna, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI and his second wife Zoe Zaoutzaina. However, this identification has been disputed as it is based entirely on onomastics, supposing that Charles-Constantine's name suggest a Byzantine mother. Richer specifically stated that Charles' mother's line (without naming her) was tainted with illegitimacy and mentioned nothing of her supposed illustrious Byzantine parentage. Her father, at the time of Charles' birth was the reigning Emperor, the silence dooms this speculation. In addition Liutprand of Cremona, makes no mention of this, and it would have been very interesting to him, he was a thorough gossip, had been ambassador to Constantinople and devoted several chapters to the misadventures of Louis in Italy with no mention of these Byzantine connections.

In 914, Louis entered a second union, which would then be either his first or second marriage, by marrying Adelaide, daughter of Rudolph I of Upper Burgundy.

Sources

Emperor Louis III the Blind
Died: 28 June 928
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Boso
King of Provence
890 – 928
Succeeded by
Hugh
Preceded by
Berengar I
King of Italy
900 – 905
Succeeded by
Berengar I
Preceded by
Arnulf
(Holy) Roman Emperor
901 – 905
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