April 5th is the anniversary of one of the far less known events in German history. On April 5th, 823, Lothair the First was made Holy Roman Emperor. Lothair was the son of Louis the Pious and he ruled along with his father until 840. Louis was the son of the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. Before he was made emperor, Lothair was the governor of several provinces in his father’s realm and feuded with his father over the division of the empire between Lothair and his brothers. Lothair even rebelled against his father at one point, and at other times fought his brothers. Despite his varied relationship with his father, Lothair was kept as the principal heir and was meant to rule the Holy Roman Empire in conjunction with his father and then alone after his father died. However, early in his dual rule he was deposed along with his father by his three brothers. Louis was reinstated in 831 and deprived Lothair of the title of Emperor. Lothair was deposed again in 834. However, he was able to maintain his title through all of the later revolts due to the loyalty of the Lombards and reconciliation with his brothers. In 840, Louis sent the imperial insignia to Lothair while on his deathbed, and Lothair became the sole Emperor after Louis’s death. Lothair claimed the entirety of the empire for himself but was subsequently defeated by the superior forces of his brothers and his capital at Aachen was occupied in 841. Lothair met with his brothers to negotiate peace in 842. As a result of the negotiations, Lothair retained the title of Holy Roman Emperor and the middle of his father’s empire, stretching from Northern Italy to the North Sea. However, the eastern and western segments of the Empire would go to his brothers. Lothair spent the rest of his reign putting down rebellions and fending off Viking and Saracen attacks. Lothair would abdicate in 855 when he became seriously ill and divided his realm between his sons on his death.
Lothair the First may seem like an insignificant figure in history, but his reign had major long-term consequences for Europe and the world. The immediate aftermath of Lothair’s reign was the destruction of the middle kingdom that was created from the peace treaty with his brothers. Lothair’s kingdom was divided among his sons and many of the resulting kingdoms would be further divided by invasion and rebellion. His failure to keep the empire of Charlemagne together would split Europe into smaller states and forever end the possibility of a united Europe in the Middle Ages. Out of these states would rise the nations of France and later Italy and Germany. Lothair’s failure as Emperor would set the stage for the formation of the separate nations that characterize Europe today. Lothair the First is an example of a historical figure who through failure and mediocrity influenced Europe more than many did through success and brilliance.