East Francia

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The partition of the Carolingian Empire by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. From Histoire Et Géographie - Atlas Général Vidal-Lablache, 1898.

In medieval historiography, East Francia (Latin: Francia orientalis) or the Kingdom of the East Franks (regnum Francorum orientalium) forms the earliest stage of the Kingdom of Germany, lasting from about 840 until about 962.[1] East Francia was formed out of the division of the Carolingian Empire[2] after the death of Emperor Louis the Pious, but the east–west division "gradually hardened into the establishment of separate kingdoms".[3]


In August 843, after three years of civil war following the death of Louis the Pious on 20 June 840, the Treaty of Verdun was signed by his three sons and heirs. His namesake, Louis the German, received the eastern portion of mostly Germanic-speaking lands. The contemporary East Frankish Annales Fuldenses describes the kingdom being "divided in three" and Louis "acceding to the eastern part".[4] The West Frankish Annales Bertiniani describe the extent of Louis's lands: "at the assigning of portions, Louis obtained all the land beyond the Rhine river, but on this side of the Rhine also the cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz with their counties".[5] The kingdom of West Francia went to Louis's younger half-brother Charles the Bald and between their realms a kingdom of Middle Francia, incorporating Italy, was given to their elder brother, the Emperor Lothair I.

While West and Middle Francia contained "the traditional Frankish 'heartlands'", the East consisted mostly of lands only annexed to the Frankish empire in the eighth century.[6] These included the duchies of Alemannia, Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, as well as the northern and eastern marches with the Danes and Slavs. The contemporary chronicler Regino of Prüm wrote that the "different people" (diversae nationes populorum) of East Francia, mostly Germanic- and Slavic-speaking, could be "distinguished from each other by race, customs, language and laws" (genere moribus lingua legibus).[6][7]


The regalia of the Carolingian empire had been divided by Louis the Pious on his deathbed between his two faithful sons, Charles the Bald and Lothair. Louis the German, then in rebellion, received nothing of the crown jewels or liturgical books associated with Carolingian kingship. Thus the symbols and rituals of East Frankish kingship were created from scratch.[8]

From an early date the East Frankish kingdom had a more formalised notion of royal election than West Francia. Around 900, a liturgy (ordo) for the coronation of a king, called the early German ordo, was written for a private audience. It required the coronator to ask the "designated prince" (princeps designatus) whether he was willing to defend the church and the people and then to turn and ask the people whether they were willing to be subject to the prince and obey his laws. The latter then shouted, "Fiat, fiat!" (Let it be done!), an act that later became known as "Recognition". This is the earliest known coronation ordo with a Recognition in it, and it was subsequently incorporated in the influential Romano-German Pontifical.[9]

In June 888, King Arnulf convened a council at Mainz. In attendance were the three archbishops of the East Frankish kingdom—Wilbert of Cologne, Liutbert of Mainz and Ratbod of Trier—and the West Frankish archbishops of Reims (Fulk) and Rouen (John I) along with the bishops of Beauvais and Noyon. According to Walter Ullmann, the presence of the West Franks was on account of the "barren ecclesiastical thought" of the East, and the council proceeded to adopt West Frankish ideas of royal sacrality and anointing. It was "the first phase in the process of assimilation of the two halves of the Carolingian inheritance".[10] In another church council at Tribur in 895, the prelates declared that Arnulf was chosen by God and not by men and Arnulf in turn swore to defend the church and its privileges from all its enemies. When Arnulf died in 899, his minor son, Louis IV, was crowned, but not anointed, and placed under the tutelage of Archbishop Hatto I of Mainz. Louis's coronation was the first in German history. When Louis died in late September 911, Duke Conrad of Franconia was elected to replace him on 10 November and he became the first German king to receive unction.[10]


The three basic services monasteries could owe to the sovereign in the Frankish realms were military service, an annual donation of money or work, and prayers for the royal family and the kingdom. Collectively, these were known by the technical term servitium regis ("king's service").[11] According to the evidence of the Notitia de servitio monasteriorum, list of monasteries and the services they owed drawn up around 817, the burden of military and monetary service was more severe in west Francia than in east Francia. Only four monasteries listed as "beyond the Rhine" (ultra Rhenum) owed these services: Lorsch, Schuttern, Mondsee and Tegernsee.[12]

See also


  1. Goldberg 1999, 41: "the east Frankish kingdom [was] a political entity that laid the foundations for the kingdom of Germany".
  2. The term "Francia", land of the Franks, was commonly used to refer to the empire. The ruling dynasty was Frankish, although its inhabitants were mostly non-Franks.
  3. Bradbury 2007, 21: "... division which gradually hardened into the establishment of separate kingdoms, notably East and West Francia, or what we can begin to call Germany and France."
  4. AF a. 843: in tres partes diviso ... Hludowicus quidem orientalem partem accepti.
  5. AB a. 843: ubi distributis portionibus, Hludowicus ultra Rhenum omnia, citra Rhenum vero Nemetum, Vangium et Moguntiam civitates pagosque sortitus est. The cities are Speyer, Worms and Mainz.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Goldberg 1999, 41.
  7. Reynolds 1997, 257.
  8. Goldberg 1999, 43.
  9. Ullmann 1969, 108–09.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ullmann 1969, 124–27.
  11. Bernhardt 1993, 77.
  12. Bernhardt 1993, 112 and n. 116.


  • Bernard Bachrach and David Bachrach. "The Saxon Military Revolution, 912–973: Myth and Reality". Early Medieval Europe 15 (2007), 186–222. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0254.2007.00203.x
  • Bernard Bachrach and David Bachrach. "Early Saxon Frontier Warfare: Henry I, Otto I, and Carolingian Military Institutions". Journal of Medieval Military History 10 (2012), 17–60.
  • David Bachrach. "Exercise of Royal Power in Early Medieval Europe: The Case of Otto the Great, 936–973". Early Medieval Europe 17 (2009), 389–419. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0254.2009.00283.x
  • David Bachrach. "The Written Word in Carolingian-Style Fiscal Administration under King Henry I, 919–936". German History 28:4 (2010), 399–423. doi:10.1093/gerhis/ghq108
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  • Jim Bradbury. The Capetians: Kings of France, 987–1328. London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007.
  • Eric J. Goldberg. "'More Devoted to the Equipment of Battle Than the Splendor of Banquets': Frontier Kingship, Military Ritual, and Early Knighthood at the Court of Louis the German". Viator 30 (1999), 41–78. doi:10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.300829
  • Timothy Reuter. "The Medieval German Sonderweg? The Empire and its Rulers in the Highe Middle Ages". In Kings nd Kingship in Medieval Europe, ed. Anne J. Duggan (London: 1993), 179–211.
  • Susan Reynolds. Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900–1300. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.
  • Walter Ullmann. The Carolingian Renaissance and the Idea of Kingship. London: Methuen, 1969.