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Carloman of Bavaria

Carloman (Karlomannus rex Bawariae), from a 12th-century manuscript

Carloman, or in German Karlmann (c. 828/830 – 22 March 880), was a Frankish king of the Carolingian dynasty. He was the eldest son of Louis the German, king of East Francia, and Hemma, daughter of a Bavarian count. His father appointed him margrave of Pannonia in 856, and upon his father's death in 876 he became King of Bavaria. He was appointed by King Louis II of Italy as his successor, but the Kingdom of Italy was taken by his uncle Charles the Bald in 875. Carloman only conquered it in 877. In 879 he was incapacitated, perhaps by a stroke and abdicated Bavaria to Louis the Younger and Italy to Charles the Fat.


  • Early life 1
  • Guardian of the southeast frontier 2
  • Ruler of Italy 3
  • Ruler of Bavaria 4
  • Illness and death 5
  • Notes 6
  • Sources 7

Early life

Carloman's birth date is unknown, but was probably around 830.[1] His naming can be connected to his father's push to rule Alemannia around the time of his father's assembly of Worms in 829. The first Carolingian dynasty named Carloman had ruled Alemannia in 741–48, and subjugated it to the Franks.[1]

Carloman was old enough to participate in the civil war of 840–43, waged between his father and his uncles, Lothair and Charles the Bald.[2] His first record public appearance is as the leader of an army of reinforcements from Bavaria and Alemannia which he brought to his father at Worms in 842. He subsequently led them in battle alongside his father and uncle (Charles the Bald) against his other uncle (Lothair).[3] It was the beginning of a warlike career. Notker of Saint Gall, who bewailed the decline of the dynasty a generation later, called Carloman bellicosissimus (literally "most warlike", or "real ass-kicker").[4]

In October 848, Carloman was present at his father's council in Regensburg, where the Slavic commander (dux) Pribina was rewarded for his service in defending the Bavarian frontier. In the charter confirming the grant, Carloman signed his name first among the secular magnates (after the ecclesiastics).[5]

In the 840s, Carloman had a liaison with Liutswind, daughter of the Bavarian count Ratolt and sister-in-law of Count Sigihard of the Kraichgau.[6] This was Carloman's first politically independent action, and it confirms his close connexion to Bavaria. Around 850, Liutswind bore him a son, Arnulf. This name was chosen because it was distinctly dynastic (the founder of the Carolingian family was Bishop Arnulf of Metz), yet had never been used by a reigning king and was thus appropriate for an illegitimate eldest son. The choice of the name is the surest evidence that Liutswind and Carloman were not legally married.[7] Around 860, Arnulf and his cousin, Hugh, the illegitimate son of Carloman's brother Louis, were both in Koblenz at the court of their grandfather, who was probably overseeing their military education and also holding them to ensure the good behaviour of their fathers.[6]

Guardian of the southeast frontier

In 856, Louis first associated Carloman with his rule by appointing him prefect to the march of Pannonia, the Bavarian borderland fronting Great Moravia and Pannonian Croatia.[2] He did not give Carloman the traditional prefect's seat at Tulln in Pannonia. Instead, according to the Annales Fuldenses (863), he was given the title "prefect of the Carantanians" (praelatus Carantanis) and posted further south, in a more peripheral region, perhaps in a design to keep him from trying to seize power from his father.[4] From 857 on Carloman and his brother were occasional witnesses to their father's charters.[8] In 862 Carloman revolted and tried to extend the territory under his control, but was defeated.[8]

In 865 the partition of East Francia "along ethnic lines"[9] which Louis had been preparing was publicised at Frankfurt: all three of his sons had been given positions of importance along the frontiers and had been married into the local aristocracy of the regions marked out for them. Carloman married the daughter of a Bavarian military leader (dux) named Ernest, whom the Annales Bertiniani describe as "the greatest of all the king's great men".[8][10] This marriage must have taken place before Ernest's disgrace and dismissal in 861, for Louis the German strongly disapproved of his second son's seeking a marriage with family that had likewise been disgraced in 858–59.[11] Carloman was not given the title king during his father's lifetime, and the latter retained control over bishoprics, counties, fiscal lands and important judicial cases.[8] Carloman's letter to his father from 869 survives, describing conditions on the frontier.[12]

By the 870s, according to the Annales Bertiniani, at the time being composed by Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, Carloman's mother, Emma, was encouraging her husband to favour Carloman over his brothers. This is the first recorded involvement of Emma in politics, and it may relate to Louis's illness during 869–70. On the other hand, historian Ernst Dümmler thought Carloman must have been a "mamma's boy" (Muttersöhnchen).[13]

Carolingian empire in 876, with Bavaria in purple

Ruler of Italy

On 12 August 875, Louis II of Italy died and his kingdom was claimed by Louis the German for his sons Carloman and Charles and by Charles the Bald. Pope John VIII, dealing with the constant threat of raiders from Muslim Sicily, sided with Charles the Bald.[14] Carloman led an army into Italy, where he granted a diploma to the monastery of San Clemente a Casauria, one of Louis II's most favoured houses. In the diploma Carloman declared himself Louis's chosen successor.[14] According to the Annales Fuldenses, Charles had to offer him "a huge sum in gold and silver and precious stones" to get him to leave Italy.[15] On 28 August 876, Louis died and his sons became kings in their allotted kingdoms. On 6 October 877, Charles the Bald died and Carloman seized Italy. The lure of Italy was "the looting which was apparently acceptable when a king first took over a kingdom", providing rewards that could be shared out among followers and more than offset the cost of raising an army and crossing the Alps.[15] Carloman was one of only two Carolingian kings of Italy—his brother and successor Charles being the other—who did not issue a capitulary at the beginning of his reign in order to proclaim his legitimacy and affirm his keeping to traditions of good government.[16]

In Italy, Carloman confirmed his predecessor's act that made bishops permanent missi dominici (royal representatives) in their dioceses. He added to the new regulation by expanding the jurisdiction of individual bishops to gain their loyalty.[17] His grant to Bishop Wibod of Parma of the districtio, or temporal authority in the district outside the city walls, was the first grant of its kind to a bishop.[18] By the time of Carloman's death, the confirmation of a predecessor's concessions to the episcopate and the negotiating of new ones in exchange for support had become an Italian tradition.[17] In 876, Charles had granted Pope John jurisdictional rights in the duchies of Spoleto and Camerino. After his succession, Carloman supported the dukes, Lambert I and Guy III, who had always claimed the rights as royal representatives which Charles had offered the pope.[19]

In 879, Carloman donated land to the monastery of Santa Cristina by the royal palace at Olona. Although the monastery was reportedly built during the eighth century, the first record of its dedication to Cristina is found in Carloman's charter.[20] In a letter of 7 June 879, Pope John, having failed to convince Louis the Stammerer, Charles the Bald's heir, to come to Italy for its defence, appealed to Carloman, whom he had previously rejected.[14] It was too late; by then Carloman was incapacitated. Shortly before his abdication, he granted a complex of estates around Olona to the church of San Sisto, which had been founded by Queen Engelberga in Piacenza.[20]

Ruler of Bavaria

In Bavaria, Carloman re-founded the palace and monastery at Ötting.[21] He dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and "numerous other saints whose relics we were able to collect with God's help".[13] He appointed his father's friend, the linguistic scholar Baldo, as his chancellor.[22] In 878, he may have been the object of an assassination attempt.[23] According to the Annales Iuvavenses, the king "was surrounded by Count Ermenpert and some of his soldiers" at Ergolding, but the count apparently fled to West Francia, where he was received by Louis the Stammerer.[24]

Carloman groomed his illegitimate son Arnulf for the succession in Bavaria. In a charter issued at Regensburg, he called him "regal son" (filius regalis), a term similar to "the king's son" (filius regis), which was the standard title of a legitimate royal son. This policy had supporters, like Abbot Regino of Prüm and the monks of Saint Gall, but also detractors, who appealed to Carloman's brother Louis.[25] In early 879, Carloman was incapacitated by illness, perhaps a stroke. Louis came to Bavaria to receive the recognition of the aristocracy as future king.[26] By Easter he had left, and Arnulf took control of the kingdom in his father's name. He dismissed some prominent counts, who appealed to Louis to restore them. Carloman tried to legitimise Arnulf's actions by adding his son's name to the prayer provisions of his charters, but in November Louis came to Bavaria to force a resolution of the succession. He restored the deposed counts and Carloman formally abdicated his Bavarian throne to his brother. He also placed Arnulf under Louis's protection.[25]

Illness and death

Regarding Carloman's condition, the Annales Fuldenses (879) record that he lost his voice, but was still able to communicate by writing.[27] Regino of Prüm, writing in his chronicle for the year 880, recalls that he was "erudite in letters" (litteris eruditus), which meant he could write Latin.[27] Regino's entire encomium on Carloman goes:

That most excellent king was learned in letters, devoted to the Christian religion, just, peaceful, and morally upright. The beauty of his body was exceptional, and his physical strength was a wonder to behold. He possessed a very warlike spirit. He waged numerous wars against the Slavic kingdoms with his father, and even more without him. He always returned the victor in triumph and expanded the borders of his empire with glorious iron. He was mild to his own men and a living terror to his enemies. He was charming in speech, humble, and endowed with great cleverness for managing the business of the realm. He was so skilled that he was the very embodiment of royal majesty.[4]

Most sources place Carloman's death in March 880, but the Annales Iuvavenses place it on 21 September.[24] He was buried in the chapel of his palace at Ötting.[28] Carloman left one illegitimate son, Arnulf, who continued as margrave of Carinthia during the reigns of Carloman's brothers,[29] but in 887 became king of East Francia and in 896 emperor.


  1. ^ a b Goldberg 2006, pp. 60–61.
  2. ^ a b Reuter 1991, p. 72.
  3. ^ Goldberg 2006, p. 107.
  4. ^ a b c Goldberg 2006, p. 247.
  5. ^ Goldberg 2006, pp. 142, 156.
  6. ^ a b Goldberg 2006, pp. 264–65.
  7. ^ Goldberg 2006, p. 265 n. 3.
  8. ^ a b c d Reuter 1991, p. 73.
  9. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 92.
  10. ^ Goldberg 2006, p. 267.
  11. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 76.
  12. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 90.
  13. ^ a b Goldberg 2006, p. 305.
  14. ^ a b c Engreen 1945, p. 325.
  15. ^ a b Reuter 1991, p. 75.
  16. ^ MacLean 2010, p. 399.
  17. ^ a b MacLean 2010, p. 407.
  18. ^ MacLean 2003, pp. 91–92.
  19. ^ MacLean 2010, p. 412.
  20. ^ a b MacLean 2003, p. 94.
  21. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 87.
  22. ^ Goldberg 2006, p. 183.
  23. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 116.
  24. ^ a b MGH, Scriptores, 30, p. 742: DCCCLXXVIII. Karlomannus rex circumseptus ad Ergoltinga ab Ermenperto comite et ceteris sodalibus suis. Ermpertus in Franciam receptus a Ludowico. DCCCLXXX. Karlomannus rex obiit X kal. Octobr.
  25. ^ a b MacLean 2003, pp. 134–36.
  26. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 83.
  27. ^ a b Goldberg 2006, p. 210 n. 127.
  28. ^ MacLean 2003, p. 141.
  29. ^ Reuter 1991, p. 117.


  • Bowlus, Charles R. (1995). Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788–907. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 
  • Engreen, Fred E. (1945). "Pope John the Eighth and the Arabs".  
  • Goldberg, Eric Joseph (2006). Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817–876. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 
  • MacLean, Simon (2003). Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century : Charles the Fat and the End of the Carolingian Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • MacLean, Simon (2010). "Legislation and Politics in Late Carolingian Italy: The Ravenna Constitutions". Early Medieval Europe 18: 394–416.  
Carloman of Bavaria
Born: 830 Died: 22 March 880
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Louis the German
as King of Eastern Francia
King of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Louis the Younger
Preceded by
Charles the Bald
King of Italy
Succeeded by
Charles the Fat
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