They came to a stop facing north so that the sun shone directly into their eyes, a sun which was hotter and brighter on this day than previously. The King called up his battalions and positioned them in the fields right in front of his enemy and facing south in such a way that the French had the sun at their shoulders. Thus were the battalions organized and evenly positioned on both sides. In the middle of this arrangement was the King in the front rank of his battalion: at his sides were William des Barres, the flower of chivalry, Bartholomew of Roye, an elder and wise man, Gauthier the Young, the chamberlain, a wise man and good knight of sound counsel, Peter Mauvoisin, Gerard La Truie, Stephen of Longchamp, William of Garlande, Henry the Count of Bar, a young man old with courage, noble in strength and virtue - he was the king's cousin and had recently received the county after the death of his father - and many other good knights whose names are not given here, of marvelous virtue and marvelous ability in the use of arms.
All these had been put in the King's battalion specially to protect his person and because of their great loyalty and reputation for outstanding prowess. On the other side was Otto in the middle of his people; he had had raised as a standard a golden eagle above a dragon attached to the top of a tall pole. Before the start of the battle, the King addressed his barons and his people; and even though they already had the heart and the will to do well, he gave them a short speech in the following words: "Lord barons and knights, we are putting all our faith and hope into God's hands.
Otto and his people have been excommunicated by our Father the Apostle because they are the enemies and destroyers of things holy of the Church. The deniers at their disposal and with which they are paid have been taken through the tears of the poor and by stealing from clerks and churches. But we are Christians and follow the dictates of the Holy Church, and even though we are sinners like other men, we nonetheless submit to God and the Holy Church.
We guard and defend it with all our ability and this is why we must fearlessly trust in the compassion of Our Lord who will allow us to overcome our and His enemies and to win. They had the trumps and trumpets sound and then attacked their enemies with great and marvelous daring. At this time and place behind the King were his chaplain who is the writer of this account and a clerk, and as soon as they heard the sound of the horns they began to chant and pray out loud the psalm Benedictus Dominus Deus meus, gui docet manus meas ad proelium, etc.
Through the gifts and promises of the latter, all these enemies had been worked up against the King in his own kingdom and some of them were fighting their liege lord whose welfare they should rather have been protecting against all men. The first assault of the battle did not occur where the King was, as; before those in his echelon and proximity could start the fray, others were already fighting against Ferrand and his people on the right side of the field without the King being aware of it.
The first line or the French battalion was positioned and organized as we have described above and extended 1, paces across the field. In this battalion was Brother Guerin, the Elect of Senlis, fully armed, not to do battle but to admonish and exhort the barons and other knights to fight for the honor of God, of the King, and of the kingdom, and for the defense of their own welfare.
There were also Eudes, the Duke of Burgundy, Mathew of Montmorency, the Count of Beaumont, the Viscount of Melun and other noble combatants, and the Count of Saint-Pol whom some suspected of having made agreements with their enemy in the past. And because he was well aware of this suspicion, he quipped to Brother Guerin that the King was to find him to be a good traitor today. In this same battalion were combatants from Champagne which the Elect Guerin had organized: he moved some of them from the front to the rear as he felt them to be cowardly and fainthearted, while those he felt to be courageous and eager to fight, in whose prowess he had faith and confidence, he put in the first echelon and told them: "Lord knights, the field is large, spread yourselves out so that the enemy does not surround you and because it is not fitting that some become the shields of others.
Rather, arrange yourselves in such a way that you can all fight together at the same time, all in one front. He did this with the aim that the noble combatants of France, whom we have named above, would find their enemy somewhat agitated and worried. But the Flemings and the Germans, who were very eager to fight, greatly scorned being first challenged by sergeants instead of knights. Because of this, they did not deign to move from their position but waited and received them very harshly; many of their horses were slain and they suffered many injuries but only two were wounded unto death.
These sergeants were born in the Soissons valley; they were full of prowess and great courage and were fighting no less virtuously on foot than on horseback. Gautier of Ghistelle and Buridan, who were knights of noble prowess, were exhorting the knights of their echelon to battle and were reminding them of the exploits of their friends and ancestors with, it seemed, no more fear than if they had been jousting in a tournament.
After unhorsing and striking down some of the above mentioned sergeants, they left them and turned toward the middle of the field to fight the knights. They were then met by the battalion of the Champenois, and they attacked and fought each other valorously. When their lances broke, they pulled out their swords and exchanged wondrous blows.
Into this fray appeared Peter of Remy and the men of his company; by force they captured and brought away this Gauthier of Ghistelle and John. But a knight of their group called Eustache of Malenghin began to yell out loud with great arrogance "Death, death to the French! One stopped him and took hold of his head between his arm and his chest, and then ripped his helmet off his head, while another struck him to his heart with a knife between the chin and the ventaille and made him feel through great pain the death with which he had threatened the French through great arrogance.
After this Eustache of Malenghin had thus been slain, and Gautier of Ghistelle and Buridan had been taken prisoners, the daring of the French doubled; they put aside all their fears and made use of all their strength as if they were assured of victory. Following the mounted sergeants whom the Elect had sent ahead to start the battle, the Count Gautier of Saint-Pol moved with the knights of his echelon who were all hand-picked and of noble prowess.
He threw himself unto his enemies as fiercely as a hungry eagle throws himself unto a crowd of doves. Many he hit and many were those who hit him as soon as he plunged into the fray. There, the bravery of his heart and the prowess of his body came to the fore as he struck down all those who reached him, and he killed men and horses indifferently and without taking any prisoners. Along with his people, he struck and slaughtered left and right so much that he beat a path all the way through the crowd of his enemies, then threw himself back in from another side and encircled them so that they were in the middle of the battle.
Mathew of Montmorency and his people, the Duke Eudes of Burgundy who had many a good knight in his troop, all threw themselves into the press eager and burning to fight, and waged marvelous battle upon their enemies. The Duke of Burgundy, a corpulent man of phlegmatic temperament, fell on the ground as his steed was killed under him. When his people saw him fall, they gathered all around him and soon had him climb on another horse. After getting back up, he felt greatly upset by his fall and said he would avenge this shame; he brandished his lance and spurred his horse, then threw himself with great anger into the thickest of his enemies.
He paid no attention to where he was striking or whom he was fighting, but avenged his misfortune equally on everyone as though each of his enemies had slain his horse. The Viscount of Melun, who had in his troop knights of renown, practised in the use of arms, was fighting at the same time.
He attacked his enemies from another side in the same manner that the Count of Saint-Pol had done; he went all the way through them and came back into this battle from another point.
In this fray, Michael of Harmes was hit with a lance between the hauberk and the thigh. He was pinned to his saddlebow and horse, and both he and the horse were thrown to the ground. Hugh of Maleveine and many others were thrown as their horses were slain, but out of great virtue they jumped up and fought with no less prowess on their feet than on their horses. The Count of Saint-Pol, who had fought very strongly and for a long time and was already quite worn out by the many blows which he had given and received, withdrew from the press in order to rest, catch his breath, and regain his composure.
He had his face turned toward his enemies.
As he was thus resting, he noticed that one of his knights had been so well surrounded by his enemies that he could not see an opening through which he could come to him. Even though the count had not yet caught his breath, he put on his helmet, laid his head on his horse's neck, and hugged it firmly with both arms; then he pricked his spurs and in this manner reached his knight through all his enemies. Then he stood up on his stirrups, drew his sword, and distributed blows so great that he split and broke the press of his enemies with his marvelous virtue.
After having freed his knight from their hands at great danger to himself, through great courage or folly, he returned to his battalion and his troop. As those who witnessed the following have since recounted, at this point he came into great mortal danger as he was hit by twelve lances at the same time, and yet, with the help of his outstanding virtue, no one could bring either him or his horse down. After accomplishing this marvelous feat and having recouped with his knights who had been resting during this time, he pulled himself together, wrapped himself in his armor, and threw himself back into the thickest of his enemies.
In this place and in this hour, so intense and heated had the fighting, which had already lasted three hours, been on both sides that Pallas, the goddess of battles, was fluttering above the combatants as if she did not yet know to whom she should grant victory. At the end she piled up all the weight of the battle on Ferrand and his people. Ferrand, struck to the ground, injured and hurt with many large wounds, was taken prisoner and tied up with many of his knights. He had fought so long that he was as if half-dead and could not endure fighting any more when he surrendered to Hugh of Mareuil and his brother John.
As soon as Ferrand was taken, all those of his party who were fighting in this part of the field fled or were killed or captured. While Ferrand was thus brought to defeat, the Oriflamme of Saint Denis returned, followed by the legions from the communes which had gone forward to the tents earlier, especially the communes of Corbie, Amiens, Arras, Beauvais, and Compiegne, and they rushed to the King's battalion toward the spot where they saw the royal standard with the azure field and golden fleurs-de-lis which a knight called Galore of Montigny was carrying on that day.
This Galore was a very good knight and very strong, but he was not a wealthy man. The communes passed in front of the King, opposite Otto and his battalion. But the members of his echelon who were knights of great prowess soon forced them to retreat to the King's battalion; they gradually scattered them all and made their way through them to the point where they came very close to the King's echelon.
When William des Barres, Guy Mauvoisin, Gerard La Truie, Stephen of Longchamp, William of Garlande, John of itouvray, Henry the Count of Bar, and the other noble combatants who had been specially put in the King's battalion to protect him saw that Otto and the Teutons of his battalion were coming straight to the King with the sole aim of seeking his person, they put themselves in front of him so as to meet and curb the Teutons' temerity.
They left behind their backs the King for whom they were concerned. While they were fighting Otto and the Germans, the Teuton foot soldiers who had gone on ahead suddenly reached the King and, with lances and iron hooks, brought him to the ground. If the outstanding virtue of the special armor with which his body was enclosed had not protected him, they would have killed him on the spot. But a few of the knights who had remained with him, along with Galore of Montigny who repeatedly twirled the standard to call for help and Peter Tristan who of his own accord got off his steed and put himself in front of the blows so as to protect the King, destroyed and killed all those sergeants on foot.
The King jumped up and mounted his horse more nimbly than anyone would have thought possible. After the King had remounted and the rabble who had brought him down had all been destroyed and killed, the King's battalion engaged Otto's echelon. Then began the marvelous fray, the slaying and slaughtering by both sides of men and horses as they were all fighting with wondrous virtue. Killed right in front of the King was Stephen of Longchamp, valorous and loyal knight of total dedication; he was struck by a knife through the eye hole of his helmet all the way to the brain.
In this battle the King's enemies made use of a type of weapon which had never been seen before. They had long and slender knives with three sharp edges from the point to the guard, and they were using these in the battle as swords and glaives. But through the grace of God, the glaives and swords of the French along with their virtue, which never faltered, overcame the cruelty of their enemies' new weapons. They fought so strongly and long that they forced the whole of Otto's battalion to fall back and retreat so close to him that Peter Mauvoisin, who was more powerful at arms than wise in the ways of the world, took him by the bridle and tried to pull him out of the fray.
But he saw that he could not accomplish his aim on account of the press and the great number of his people who closely surrounded him. Gerard La Truie, who was nearby, struck him in the middle of the chest with a knife which he held unsheathed in his hand, and when he saw that he could not pierce through because of the thickness of the armor with which warriors of our time are equipped and which is impenetrable , he gave him a second blow to make up for the failure of the first. He thought that he was going to hit Otto's body but instead he met the horse's head which was high and raised; he dealt it a blow right in the eye and the knife, thrust with great virtue, slipped all the way to its brain.
The horse, feeling this great blow, took fright and began to struggle strongly. He turned back towards the area he had come from in such a way that Otto showed his back to our knights and ran away on the spot. He left as prize for his enemies the eagle and the standard and everything he had brought to the field. When the King saw him thus leave, he told his people: "Otto is running away, from now on we will not see his face. Then a fresh one was brought to him and after mounting it he took flight as fast as he could, as he could withstand no more the virtue of the knights of France, seeing that William des Barres had twice grabbed him by the neck but could not get a good hold because the horse was strong and skittish and because of the press of his followers.
At the place and time that Otto fled, the battle was wondrously violent and heated on both sides. His knights were fighting so strongly that they had thrown down William des Barres and slain his horse as he had gone further forward than the others. This happened because Gauthier the Young, William of Garlande, their lances broken and their glaives bloodied, and Bartholomew of Roye, a good knight and wise man, and the others who were with them, judged and said that it was dangerous to leave the King alone behind them, following unprotected.
On this account, they did not wish to go as deeply into the fray as the Barrois had done, who was on foot against his enemies and, as usual, defended himself with marvelous virtue. But because a man alone on foot cannot last very long against such a great number, he would have ended dead or captured had it not been for Thomas of Saint-Valery, a noble knight, powerful at arms, who appeared there with fifty knights and 2, sergeants and freed the Barrois from the hands of his enemies.
There the battle waxed again because, as Otto was fleeing, the noble knights of his battalion were fighting strongly. They were Bernard of Ostemale, who was a knight of great prowess, Count Othe of Tecklemburg, Count Conrad of Dortmund, Gerard of Randerode, and many other knights, strong and daring combatants, whom Otto had specially chosen for their great prowess to be at his side in the battle and to protect his person.
All these were fighting marvelously and were destroying and killing our people. Nevertheless, the French overcame them and captured the two above mentioned counts and Bernard of Ostemale and Gerard of Ramrode. The chariot on which the standard was resting was destroyed, the dragon broken and the golden eagle, its wings torn off and in pieces, brought to the King. Thus was Otto's battalion completely destroyed after he ran away. Count Renaud of Boulogne who had been in the fray continually was still fighting so strongly that no one could vanquish or overcome him. He was using a new art of battle: he had set up a double row of well-armed foot sergeants pressed closely together in a circle in the manner of a wheel.
There was only one entrance to the inside of this circle through which he went in when he wanted to catch his breath or was pushed too hard by his enemies. He did this several times. Count Renaud, Count Ferrand, and the Emperor Otto had sworn before the start of the battle, as was learned later from the prisoners, that they would turn neither to right nor to left, that they would fight against no echelon but that in which the King was.
And they had planned on killing the King as soon as they captured him with the intention, once the King was slain, of easily doing what they wanted with the whole kingdom. Because of this pledge, they would at no time engage anyone but the King's battalion. Ferrand, who had taken this same oath, wanted to go directly towards the King and began to do this but he could not because the battalion of the Champenois blocked his way and fought so strongly that it thwarted his aim. Count Renaud as well, avoiding all other battalions, engaged the King's battalion and came directly to him at the start of the fray.
But then, when he came near him, he became horrified and, as some believe, was overcome by a natural fear of his rightful lord. He turned toward another part of the press and fought against Count Robert of Dreux who was in the same battalion and close to the King in a very thick crowd. Count Perron of Auxerre, who was the King's cousin, was fighting virtuously for the King, but his son Philip, because he was Ferrand's wife's cousin through his mother, was fighting against his father and the French crown. This was because sin and the Enemy had caused the hearts of some to be so blinded that, even if they had a father or brothers and cousins in the King's party, the fear of God did not prevent them from fighting and, if they could, they would have chased away in shame and embarrassment their rightful lord and all of their blood kinsmen whom they should have naturally loved.
Count Renaud had at first opposed doing battle even though he ended up fighting more virtuously and longer than anyone else but, as one who well knew the daring and prowess of the knights of France, he had strongly advised against fighting. For this reason, Otto and his people had suspected him of treason, and had he not consented to the battle they would have made him prisoner and tied him up.
He spoke to Hugh of Boves about this just a moment before the battle: "Here is the battle which you extol and advocate and which I put down and advise against; it will come of this that you will run away as a bad man and a coward and I will fight at the risk of my life knowing full well that I will either be killed or captured. With all these events, the ranks of Otto's party were becoming sparse as the Duke of Louvain, the Duke of Limburg, and Hugh of Boves had already fled along with others in groups of fifty, forty and various numbers, but Count Renaud was still fighting so strongly that no one could tear him away from the battle.
He had with him only six knights who, rather than abandoning him, were fighting very strongly at his side. At this point a courageous and daring sergeant by the name of Peter of Tournelle, who was fighting on foot because his enemies had killed his horse, went toward the count, lifted up the covering of his horse, and struck it so well with his sword that he plunged it to the guard all the way to the guts. Upon seeing this blow, one of the knights who was fighting on the side of the count took him by the bridle and dragged him out of the press with great effort and against his will.
Then he took flight as best he could while Quenon of Condune and his brother John pursued him and threw this knight to the ground. The count's horse dropped dead and the count fell in such a manner that his right leg was trapped under the horse's neck. While they were arguing as to whom should take the count prisoner, John of Nesle appeared on the scene. This John was a handsome knight and large of body, but his prowess matched neither the handsomeness nor the amount of his body as he had fought no one in the course of the whole day.
Loyalty to Otto, not lineage, was the pathway towards advancement under his rule. His mother Matilda disapproved of this policy and was accused by Otto's royal advisers of undermining his authority. After Otto briefly exiled her to her Westphalian manors at Enger in , Matilda was brought back to court at the urging of his wife Eadgyth. The nobility found it difficult to adapt to Otto, as the kingdom had never before followed individual succession to the throne. Whereas tradition dictated that all the sons of the former king were to receive a portion of the kingdom, Henry's succession plan placed Otto at the head of a united kingdom at the expense of his brothers.
Otto's authoritarian style was in stark contrast to that of his father. Henry had purposely waived Church anointment at coronation as a symbol of his election by his people and governing his kingdom on the basis of "friendship pacts" Latin: amicitia. Henry regarded the kingdom as a confederation of duchies and saw himself as a first among equals. Instead of seeking to administer the kingdom through royal representatives, as Charlemagne had done, Henry allowed the dukes to maintain complete internal control of their holdings as long as his superior status was recognized.
Otto, on the other hand, had accepted Church anointment and regarded his kingdom as a feudal monarchy with himself holding the "divine right" to rule it, allowing him to reign without concern for the internal hierarchy of the various kingdoms' noble families. This new policy ensured Otto's position as undisputed master of the kingdom. Members of his family and other aristocrats who rebelled against Otto were forced to publicly confess their guilt and unconditionally surrender to him, hoping for a pardon from their king.
For nobles and other high-ranking officials, Otto's punishments were typically mild and the punished were usually restored to a position of authority afterwards. His brother, Henry, rebelled twice and was pardoned twice after his surrenders. He was even appointed as Duke of Lorraine and later Duke of Bavaria.
Rebellious commoners were treated far more harshly, as Otto usually had them executed. Otto continued to reward loyal vassals for their service throughout his tenure as king. Although appointments were still gained and held at his discretion, they were increasingly intertwined with dynastic politics. Where Henry relied upon "friendship pacts", Otto relied upon family ties.
Otto refused to accept uncrowned rulers as his equal. Under Otto, the integration of important vassals took place through marriage connections. The former dynastically tied the royal house of West Francia to that of East Francia, and the latter secured his son's succession to the Duchy of Swabia as Hermann had no sons. In , Otto appointed Conrad the Red as Duke of Lorraine and brought him into his extended family through his marriage to Otto's daughter Liutgarde in Following the death of Otto's uncle Berthold, Duke of Bavaria in , Otto satisfied his brother Henry's ambition through his marriage to Judith of Bavaria, daughter of Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria, and appointed him as the new Duke of Bavaria in This arrangement finally achieved peace between the brothers as Henry thereafter abandoned his claims to the throne.
Through his familial ties to the dukes, Otto had strengthened the sovereignty of the crown and the overall cohesiveness of the kingdom. On 29 January , Eadgyth died suddenly at the age of 35, and Otto buried his wife in the Cathedral of Magdeburg. Like his father before him, Otto intended to transfer sole rule of the kingdom to his son Liudolf upon his death. Otto called together all leading figures of the kingdom and had them swear an oath of allegiance to Liudolf, thereby promising to recognize his sole claim to the throne as Otto's heir apparent.
Foreign relations - France.
The West Frankish kings had lost considerable royal power after internal struggles with their aristocracy, but still asserted their authority over the Duchy of Lorraine, a territory also claimed by East Francia. Louis IV's second attempt to reign over Lorraine in was based on his asserted claim to be the rightful Duke of Lorraine due to his marriage to Gerberga of Saxony, Otto's sister and the widow of Gilbert, Duke of Lorraine.
Otto did not recognize Louis IV's claim and appointed his brother Henry as duke instead. In the following years, both sides tried to increase their influence in Lorraine, but the duchy remained a part of Otto's kingdom. Otto intervened for peace in and announced a formal reconciliation between the two. After a short period of peace, the West Frankish kingdom fell into another crisis in Normans captured Louis IV and handed him over to Hugh, who released the King only on condition of the surrender of the fortress of Laon. At the urging of his sister Gerberga, Otto invaded France on behalf of Louis IV, but his armies were not strong enough to take the key cities of Laon, Reims, and Paris.
After three months, Otto finally lifted the siege without defeating Hugh, but managed to depose Hugh of Vermandois from his position as Archbishop of Reims, restoring Artald of Reims to his former office. To settle the issue of control over the Archdiocese of Reims, Otto called for a synod at Ingelheim on 7 June The assembly was attended by more than 30 bishops, including all the archbishops of Germany - a demonstration of Otto's strong position in East and West Francia alike.
The synod confirmed Otto's appointment of Artald as Archbishop of Reims, and Hugh was admonished to respect his king's royal authority. But it was not until that the powerful vassal accepted Louis IV as king; both opponents were not fully reconciled with each other until March Otto continued the peaceful relationship between Germany and the Kingdom of Burgundy, initiated by his father.
Burgundy was originally a part of Middle Francia, the central portion of Charlemagne's empire prior to its division under the Treaty of Verdun in Otto intervened in the succession and with his support Rudolf II's son, Conrad of Burgundy, was able to secure the throne. Burgundy had become an integral, but formally independent, part of Otto's sphere of influence and remained at peace with Germany during his reign. Boleslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, assumed the Bohemian throne in The next year, following the death of Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, Boleslaus stopped paying tribute to the German Kingdom East Francia , in violation of the peace treaty Henry had established with Boleslaus' brother and predecessor, Wenceslaus I.
Boleslaus attacked an ally of the Saxons in northwest Bohemia in and defeated two of Otto's armies from Thuringia and Merseburg. After this initial large-scale invasion of Bohemia, hostilities were pursued in a series of mostly border raids. The war was not concluded until , when Otto besieged a castle owned by Boleslaus' son. Boleslaus decided to sign a peace treaty, promising to resume payment of tribute.
Boleslaus became Otto's ally and his Bohemian force helped the German army against the common Magyar threat at the Lech river in Later he went on to crush an uprising of two Slavic dukes Stoigniew and Nako in Mecklenburg, probably to ensure the spreading of Bohemian estates to the east. Byzantine Empire. During his early reign, Otto developed close relations with Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, who ruled over the Byzantine Empire from until his death in , and East Francia and Byzantium sent several ambassadors to one another.
Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, a medieval chronicler, records: "After this [Gilbert's defeat in ], legates from the Greeks [Byzantines] twice brought gifts from their emperor to our king, both rulers being in a state of concord. Slavic Wars - Eastern Slavic Wars. As Otto was finalizing actions to suppress his brother's rebellion in , the Slavs on the Elbe River revolted against German rule. Having been subdued by Otto's father in , the Slavs saw Henry's rebellion as an opportunity to regain their independence.
Otto's lieutenant in east Saxony, Count Gero of Merseburg, was charged with the subjugation of the pagan Polabian Slavs. According to Widukind, Gero invited about thirty Slavic chieftains to a banquet; after the feast his soldiers attacked and massacred the unsuspecting drunken guests. The Slavs demanded revenge and marched against Gero with an enormous army. Otto agreed to a brief truce with his rebellious brother Henry and moved to support Gero. After fierce fighting, their combined forces were able to repel the advancing Slavs; Otto then returned west to subdue his brother's rebellion.
The Castle on the Drachenfels
In , Gero initiated another plot to subdue the Slavs. He recruited a captive Slav named Tugumir, a Hevelli chieftain, to his cause. Gero promised to support him in claiming the Hevellian throne, if Tugumir would later recognize Otto as his overlord. Tugumir agreed and returned to the Slavs.
Due to Gero's massacre, few Slavic chieftains had remained, causing the Slavs to quickly proclaim Tugumir as prince. Upon assuming the throne, Tugumir murdered his chief rival and proclaimed his loyalty to Otto, incorporating his territory into the German kingdom. Otto granted Tugumir the title of Duke and allowed Tugumir to rule his people, subject to Otto's suzerainty, in the same manner as the German dukes.
After the coup by Gero and Tugumir, the Slavic federation broke apart. In control of the key Hevelli stronghold of Brandenburg, Gero was able to attack and defeat the divided Slavic tribes. Otto and his successors extended their control into Eastern Europe, through military colonization and the establishment of churches.
Otto's lieutenant there, Margrave Hermann Billung of the Billung March, had initial success in driving the Slavs back across the Elbe River, but it remained difficult to hold his position. Harold's joint Slavic-Danish army was left unchallenged in northern Saxony for three years. In , Otto led a strong army north, defeated Harold and forced him back into Jutland. The German king pursued Harold and devastated Denmark with a policy of scorched earth.
His people starving, the Danish king sued for peace and agreed to Otto's conditions: Harold had to renounce his German conquests, release Hermann, and recognize Otto as his overlord. Tribe after tribe submitted to Otto's rule. The conquered Slavs had to pay heavy tribute, support the building of churches, and submit to military conscription. Expansion into Italy - Disputed Italian Throne. In , with the death of Emperor Charles the Fat, the empire of Charlemagne was divided into several territories: East Francia, West Francia, the kingdoms of Lower and Upper Burgundy, and the Kingdom of Italy with each of the realms being ruled by its own king.
Though the Pope in Rome continued to invest the kings of Italy as "emperors" to rule Charlemagne's empire, these "Italian emperors" never exercised any authority north of the Alps. With the assassination of Berengar I of Italy in , the last nominal heir to Charlemagne was dead and the imperial title was left unclaimed.
In , Hugh defeated Rudolf, established de facto control over the Italian peninsula and was crowned as King of Italy. His son Lothair was elevated to co-ruler in Hugh and Rudolf II eventually concluded a peace treaty in ; four years later Lothair was betrothed to Rudolf's infant daughter Adelaide. Hugh abdicated in favor of his son and retired in Provence; Berengar II made terms with Lothair and established himself as decisive power behind the throne. Lothair married the sixteen-year-old Adelaide in and became nominal king when Hugh died on 10 April , but Berengar II continued to hold power as mayor of the palace or viceroy.
Lothair's brief "reign" came to an end with his death on 22 November , and Berengar II was crowned king on 15 December, with his son Adalbert of Italy as co-ruler. Failing to receive widespread support, Berengar II attempted to legitimize his reign and tried to force Adelaide, the respective daughter, daughter-in-law and widow of the last three Italian kings, into marriage with Adalbert. With the help of Count Adalbert Atto of Canossa, she managed to escape from imprisonment.
A marriage to Adelaide would strengthen the king's position to claim the Italian throne and ultimately the emperorship. Knowing of her great beauty and immense wealth, Otto accepted Adelaide's marriage proposal and prepared for an expedition into Italy. First Italian Expedition. In the early summer of , before his father marched across the Alps, Otto's son Liudolf, Duke of Swabia, invaded Lombardy in northern Italy. The exact reasons for Liudolf's action are unclear, and historians have proposed several possible motivations.
Liudolf may have tried to help Adelaide, a distant relative of Liudolf's wife Ida, or he intended to strengthen his position within the royal family. While Liudolf was preparing his expedition, Henry influenced the Italian aristocrats not to join Liudolf's campaign. When Liudolf arrived in Lombardy, he found no support and was unable to sustain his troops. His army was near destruction until Otto's troops crossed the Alps.
The King reluctantly received Liudolf's forces into his command, angry at his son for his independent actions. As they descended into the Po River valley, the Italian nobles and clergy withdrew their support for Berengar and provided aid to Otto and his advancing army. Recognizing his weakened position, Berengar II fled from his capital in Pavia.
When Otto arrived at Pavia on 23 September , the city willingly opened its gate to the German king. Otto sent a message to his brother Henry in Bavaria to escort his bride from Canossa to Pavia, where the two married. Soon after his father's marriage in Pavia, Liudolf left Italy and returned to Swabia.
Disturbances in northern Germany forced Otto to return with the majority of his army back across the Alps in Otto did leave a small portion of his army behind in Italy and appointed his son-in-law Conrad, Duke of Lorraine, as his regent and tasked him with subduing Berengar II. In a weak military position with few troops, Otto's regent in Italy attempted a diplomatic solution and opened peace negotiations with Berengar II.
Conrad recognized that a military confrontation would impose great costs upon Germany, both in manpower and in treasure. At a time when the kingdom was facing invasions from the north by the Danes and from the east by the Slavs and Hungarians, all available resources were required north of the Alps. Conrad believed a client state relationship with Italy would be in Germany's best interest. He offered a peace treaty, in which Berengar II would remain King of Italy on the condition that he recognized Otto as his overlord.
Berengar II agreed and the pair traveled north to meet with Otto to seal the agreement. Conrad's treaty was met with disdain by Adelaide and Henry. Though Adelaide was Burgundian by birth, she was raised as an Italian. Berengar II imprisoned her when she refused to marry his son, Adalbert of Italy.
Henry had other reasons to disapprove of the peace treaty. As Duke of Bavaria, he controlled territory on the northern side of the German-Italian border. Henry had hope that, with Berengar II being deposed, his own fiefdom would be greatly expanded by incorporating territory south of the Alps. Conrad and Henry were already not on good terms, and the proposed treaty drove the two dukes further apart.
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Adelaide and Henry conspired together to persuade Otto to reject Conrad's treaty. Conrad and Berengar II arrived at Magdeburg to meet Otto, but had to wait three days before an audience was granted. This was a humiliating offense for the man Otto had named his regent. Though Adelaide and Henry urged the treaty's immediate rejection, Otto referred the issue to an Imperial Diet for further debate.
The Italian king had to pay an enormous annual tribute and was required to cede the Duchy of Friuli south of the Alps. Otto reorganized this area into the March of Verona and put it under Henry's control as reward for his loyalty. The Duchy of Bavaria therefore grew to become the most powerful domain in Germany. He increasingly associated himself with the Church and his "divine right" to rule the kingdom, viewing himself as the protector of the Church.
As a key element of this change in domestic structures, Otto sought to strengthen ecclesiastical authorities, chiefly bishops and abbots at the expense of the secular nobility who threatened his power. Otto controlled the various bishops and abbots by investing them with the symbols of their offices, both spiritual and secular, so the clerics were appointed as his vassals through a commendation ceremony.
Historian Norman Cantor concludes: "Under these conditions clerical election became a mere formality in the Ottonian empire, and the king filled up the ranks of the episcopate with his own relatives and with his loyal chancery clerks, who were also appointed to head the great German monasteries. The most prominent member of this blended royal-ecclesiastical service was his own brother Bruno the Great, Otto's Chancellor since , who was appointed Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Lorraine in Otto endowed the bishoprics and abbeys of his kingdom with numerous gifts, including land and royal prerogatives, such as the power to levy taxes and to maintain an army.
Over these Church lands, secular authorities had neither the power of taxation nor legal jurisdiction. This raised the Church above the various dukes and committed its clerics to serve as the king's personal vassals. In order to support the Church, Otto made tithing mandatory for all inhabitants of Germany.
Otto granted the various bishops and abbots of the kingdom the rank of count as well as the legal rights of counts within their territory. Because Otto personally appointed all bishops and abbots, these reforms strengthened his central authority, and the upper ranks of the German Church functioned in some respect as an arm of the royal bureaucracy.
Otto routinely appointed his personal court chaplains to bishop positions throughout the kingdom. While attached to the royal court, the chaplains would perform the work of the government through services to the royal chancery. After years within the royal court, Otto would reward their service with promotion to a diocese. Liudolf's Civil War - Rebellion against Otto. With the humiliating failure of his Italian campaign and Otto's marriage to Adelaide, Liudolf became estranged from his father and planned a rebellion.
On Christmas Day , he held a grand feast at Saalfeld which was attended by many important figures from across the kingdom, most notably the Primate of Germany, Otto's chief domestic rival Archbishop Frederick of Mainz. Liudolf was able to recruit his brother-in-law Conrad, Duke of Lorraine, to his rebellion. As Otto's regent in Italy, Conrad had negotiated a peace agreement and an alliance with Berengar II, and believed Otto would confirm this treaty.
Instead of an ally, Berengar II was made Otto's subject and his kingdom was subsequently reduced. Conrad felt betrayed and insulted over Otto's decision, especially with the additional empowerment of Henry.
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Conrad and Liudolf viewed Otto as being controlled by his foreign-born wife and power-hungry brother, and resolved to free the kingdom from their domination. In winter , Adelaide gave birth to a son, whom she named Henry after her brother-in-law and the child's grandfather, Henry the Fowler. Rumors spread that Otto had been persuaded by his wife and brother to propose this child as his heir instead of Liudolf. For many German nobles, this rumor represented Otto's final transforming from a policy focused on Germany to an Italian-centered one.
The idea that Otto would ask them to revoke the succession rights of Liudolf prompted many nobles into open rebellion. Liudolf and Conrad first led the nobles against Henry, the duke of Bavaria, in spring Henry was unpopular with the Bavarians due to his Saxon heritage, and his vassals quickly rebelled against him. Word of the rebellion reached Otto at Ingelheim. In order to secure his position, he traveled to his stronghold at Mainz. The city was also the seat of Archbishop Frederick of Mainz, who acted as mediator between Otto and the appearing rebels.
Recorded details of the meeting or the negotiated treaty do not exist, but Otto soon left Mainz with a peace treaty favorable to the conspirators, most likely confirming Liudolf as heir apparent and approving Conrad's original agreement with Berengar II, making the treaty contrary to the desires of Adelaide and Henry. The King reasserted his desires for dominion over Italy and to claim the imperial title.
He sent emissaries to the Duchy of Lorraine and stirred the local nobles against Conrad's rule. The duke was a Salian Frank by birth and unpopular with the people of Lorraine, so they pledged their support to Otto. Otto's actions at the Diet provoked the people of Swabia and Franconia into rebellion. After initial defeats by Otto, Liudolf and Conrad fell back to their headquarters in Mainz.
In July , Otto and his army laid siege to the city, supported by Henry's army from Bavaria. After two months of siege the city had not fallen and rebellions against Otto's rule grew stronger in southern Germany. Faced with these challenges, Otto opened peace negotiations with Liudolf and Conrad. Bruno the Great, Otto's youngest brother and royal chancellor since , accompanied his older brothers and oversaw the arrangements for the negotiations.
As the newly appointed Archbishop of Cologne, Bruno was eager to end the civil war in Lorraine, which was in his ecclesiastical territory. The rebels demanded ratification of the treaty they had previously agreed to with Otto, but Henry's provocation during the meeting caused the negotiations to break down. Conrad and Liudolf left the meeting to continue the civil war. Angered by their actions, Otto stripped both men of their duchies of Swabia and Lorraine, and appointed his brother Bruno, the royal chancellor and archbishop of Cologne, as the new Duke of Lorraine.
Arnulf II was a son of Arnulf the Bad, whom Henry had previously displaced as duke, and sought revenge: he deserted Henry and joined the rebellion against Otto. Lifting the siege of Mainz, Otto and Henry marched south to regain control over Bavaria. Without the support of the local nobles, their plan failed and they were forced to retreat to Saxony. The duchies of Bavaria, Swabia, and Franconia were in open civil war against the King, and even in his native Duchy of Saxony revolts began to spread. By the end of , the civil war was threatening to depose Otto and permanently end his claims to be Charlemagne's successor.
End of the Rebellion. In early , Margrave Hermann Billung, Otto's long-time loyal vassal in Saxony, was facing increased Slavic movements in the east. Taking advantage of the German civil war, the Slavs raided deeper and deeper into the adjacent border areas. Meanwhile, the Hungarians began extensive raids into Southern Germany.
Though Liudolf and Conrad prepared defenses against the invasions in their territories, the Hungarians devastated Bavaria and Franconia. On Palm Sunday, , Liudolf held a great feast at Worms and invited the Hungarian chieftains to join him. There, he presented the invaders with gifts of gold and silver.
Otto's brother Henry soon spread rumors that Conrad and Liudolf had invited the Hungarians into Germany in hopes of using them against Otto. Public opinion quickly turned against the rebels in these duchies. With this change in opinion and the death of his wife Liutgarde, Otto's only daughter, Conrad began peace negotiations with Otto, which were eventually joined by Liudolf and Archbishop Frederick.
Before the assembly convened, Conrad and Frederick were reconciled with Otto. At the Diet tensions flared up again when Henry accused his nephew Liudolf of conspiring with the Hungarians.