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The Carolingian Dynasty AD 750-887

The Carolingian Dynasty AD 750-887

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The Carolingian family came to power as hereditary mayors of the palace of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia, and, by the time of Pippin II of Herstal, who became mayor of the palace in 679, they had seized virtually all power from the Merovingian kings who were mere figureheads.

In 687 Pippin I defeated his Neustrian rival, Ebroïn thereby gaining effective rule of the entire Frankish realm.

When Pippin I died in 714, he left a legitimate heir, Childebrand, who was only six years old at the time, and an illegitimate son, Charles Martel.

By 725 Charles Martel had effectively established himself as ruler of the Franks, although there was still a Merovingian king, Theuderic IV, on the throne. After the death of Theuderic IV in 737, Charles Martel let the throne remain vacant.

When Charles Martel died in 741 control of the realm was divided between his two sons: Pippin III (Pippin the Short) and Carloman. In 747 Carloman abdicated and Pippin assumed power over the whole of Francia.

In 750 Pippin III deposed Childeric III, the last of the Merovingian kings, and had himself elected king by an assembly of Frankish nobles and consecrated king.

When Pippin III died in 768, the realm was divided between his two sons: Charles (later known as Charlemagne) and Carloman. The death of Carloman in 771 resulted in Charlemagne assuming full control of the realm.

Charlemagne extended Frankish power by conquest over virtually all of Gaul and parts of Italy and Germany, and he made tributaries of the Bohemians, Avars, Serbs, Croats, and other peoples of eastern Europe. He formed an alliance with the papacy and in 774 created a papal state in central Italy.

In Rome on Christmas Day AD 800 he was crowned emperor of the restored Roman Empire by Pope Leo III.

When Charlemagne died in 814, he was succeeded by his only surviving son, Louis the Pious.

When Louis died in 840, three of his sons contested the succession. This was resolved in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun, where they agreed to divide the empire into three kingdoms. Francia Occidentalis in the west went to Charles II (Charles the Bald), Francia Orientalis in the east went to Louis II the German, and Francia Media, including the Italian provinces and Rome, went to Lothar, who also took the title of emperor.

In 855 Lothar's son, Louis II, inherited the title of emperor, and it passed to his uncle, Charles the Bald, in 875. After an interregnum following Charles’s death in 877, Charles III (Charles the Fat) became emperor in 881.

Charles the Fat was deposed in 887. By this time Carolingian power had virtually disappeared in the empire, however, there were Carolingian Kings again in France in 893–923 and 936–987.


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