Charles the Bald Biography

(9th-century King of West Francia, King of Italy)

Birthday: June 13, 823 (Gemini)

Born In: Frankfurt, Germany

Charles the Bald, or Charles II, ruled as the King of West Francia from 843 to 877 and as the King of Italy and the Emperor of the Carolingian Empire from 875 to 877. His reign witnessed a series of civil wars, which began during his father Louis the Pious’s reign. A grandson of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, he was the youngest son of Louis the Pious and his second wife, Judith. For a major part of his reign and even before that, Charles faced conflicts with his brothers Lothair, Ludwig, and Pepin. While he ruled Aquitaine after Pepin’s death, he received West Francia conclusively as a result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843. In 875, he took over as the Emperor of the Carolingian Empire and the King of Italy, succeeding Louis II the Younger. He died while getting back after a failed expedition to save Pope John VIII from the Saracens.

Quick Facts

Italian Celebrities Born In June

Died At Age: 54


Spouse/Ex-: Richilde of Provence (m. 870 AD), Ermentrude of Orléans (m. 842 AD–867 AD), Richilde of Provence (m. 870 AD–877 AD)

father: Louis the Pious

mother: Judith of Bavaria

siblings: Lothair I

children: Carloman; son of Charles the Bald, Charles, Charles the Child, Drogo, Ermentrud, Ermentrude, Gisela, Hildegard, Judith of Flanders, Lothair the Lame, Louis the Stammerer, Pippin, Rothilde, Rotrude

Born Country: Germany

Emperors & Kings Italian Men

Died on: October 6, 877

place of death: Brides-les-Bains, France

Early Life and Conflict with Brothers

Charles II, also known as Charles the Bald, Charles le Chauve (French), and Karl der Kahle (German), was born on June 13, 823, in Brides-les-Bain, France, to Louis the Pious, or the Debonaire, the King of the Franks and of Aquitaine, and his second wife, Judith of Bavaria. He was also a grandson of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great of the Carolingian dynasty.

At the time of his birth, his elder brothers, notably Lothair, Ludwig, and Pepin, were adults and had their respective regna, or sub-kingdoms. Though Louis the Pious tried to assign Charles a sub-kingdom, first Alemannia (Germany) and later the territory between the Meuse and the Pyrenees, he was not successful. Lothair (who ruled the Kingdom of Italy), Ludwig (or Louis II/Louis the German, the ruler of Bavaria), and Pepin (the ruler of Aquitaine) were extremely competitive and rebellious.

Since Charles was granted land by his father in 829, the entire kingdom plunged into a series of civil wars, which lasted till 838. The war saw Charles’s brothers fight to retain their rights granted by the succession settlement of 817, also known as the Ordinatio imperii.

Thus, Charles’s share in Italy and Aquitaine remained temporary, though his father declared him the heir to the land that was once Gaul. In 837, at a diet in Aachen, Louis the Pious declared Charles his heir and urged the nobles to do homage to him.

After the death of his half-brother, Pepin of Aquitaine, in 838, Charles took over as the new ruler of Pepin’s kingdom. This was not accepted by Pepin’s heirs and nobles.

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Soon after Charles’s take-over of Pepin’s kingdom, followed by the death of Louis the Pious in 840, the civil war intensified, with Ludwig and Charles the Bald teaming up against Lothair and defeating him at the Battle of Fontenoy-en-Puisaye, on June 25, 841. Lothair had apparently supported his nephew, Pepin II’s claim to the throne of Aquitaine.

Charles and Ludwig sealed the Oaths of Strasbourg in 842, declaring Lothair unfit for the throne. As the peace negotiations started, the brothers met on an island on the river Saône in June 842. After a lot of deliberation, the Treaty of Verdun was signed in August 843.

Through the treaty, Lothair received Middle Francia, and though he retained his title of Emperor, he only had nominal overlordship of his brothers’ kingdoms. Lothair’s lands later came to be known as the Low Countries and consisted of Lorraine, Alsace, the Rhineland west of the Rhine, Burgundy, Provence, along with the Kingdom of Italy and the cities of Aachen and Rome.

Charles received West Francia and the territories west of the Rhône. His kingdom later became the Kingdom of France.

Ludwig received East Francia and was made the king of all lands east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, which were together called East Francia. The lands later came to be known as the High Medieval Kingdom of Germany. The brothers’ nephew, Pepin II, got the Kingdom of Aquitaine, but under the lordship of Charles the Bald.

Soon, Charles began an unsuccessful campaign against Brittany and later signed the Treaty of Coulaines. Since then, till Lothair’s death in 855, the kingdom was relatively in peace.

In 858, Ludwig launched an invasion of the West Frankish kingdom to dethrone Charles. Charles, unable to raise an army, fled to Burgundy. However, the bishops refused to crown Louis as the German king. Charles also received support from the Welfs.

In 860, Charles tried to invade land of his nephew, Charles of Provence, but received resistance. After his nephew Lothair II died in 869, Charles attempted to conquer his lands by declaring himself the King of Lotharingia (Middle Francia) at Metz.

However, Ludwig teamed up with Lothair’s vassals and forced Charles to start negotiations. Following this, Lotharingia was divided between Charles and Ludwig in a treaty in 870.

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In 875, after Emperor Louis II the Younger (son of Charles’s half-brother Lothair) died, Charles, supported by Pope John VIII, went to Italy, where he was crowned at Pavia on December 25. Charles thus took over as the Holy Roman Emperor, or the Emperor of the Carolingian Empire and the King of Italy.

In his capacity as an emperor, Charles combined the policies of his grandfather, Charlemagne, and his father, Louis the Pious, into renovatio imperii Romani et Francorum, which meant the “renewal of the empire of the Romans and Franks.”

Ludwig, who was also a potential candidate of the throne after the death of Louis II the Younger, invaded Charles’s kingdom. Charles later fled to West Francia. After Ludwig’s death in August 876, Charles tried to seize his kingdom, but was defeated at the Battle of Andernach on October 8, 876.

Personal Life

It is believed that though Charles was nicknamed Charles the Bald, he was, in fact, quite hairy. Some sources state that his baldness refers to the fact that he did not have any land at a time when even his brothers had been sub-rulers for a few years. Some pictorial depictions of Charles on his seals show him with a head full of hair.

In 842, he married Ermentrude, who was the daughter of Odo I, Count of Orléans and Engeltrude de Fézensac. Ermentrude died in 869. In 870, Charles married Richilde of Provence, who was a descendant of a Lorraine-based noble family. With Ermentrude, he had 10 children, while he had 5 children with Richilde.


When Pope John VIII, hounded by the Saracens, requested Charles to help him in Italy, Charles crossed the Alps again. However, most of his nobles, such as his regent in Lombardy, refused to join this expedition.

Around the same time, Carloman, Ludwig’s son, marched into northern Italy. Charles fell ill and thus began his journey back to Gaul. Charles could not complete his journey and died on October 6, 877, while crossing the Mont Cenis pass at Brides-les-Bains.

The Annals of St-Bertin state that Charles was buried by his bearers quite hurriedly at the Abbey of Nantua, as his body had started rotting. Later, Charles’s remains were moved to the Abbey of Saint-Denis.

After Charles’s death, his son Louis II (or Louis the Stammerer) took over as the new king of West Francia, whereas Ludwig’s son, Carloman, took over as the king of Italy and Charles the Fat became the Emperor of the Carolingian Empire.

See the events in life of Charles The Bald in Chronological Order

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