Bernard, King of Italy

Living from about 797 to 818, he was the grandson of Charlemagne and king of Italy. He also had his eyes gouged out by his uncle.

Let’s begin with genealogical tables.

GENEALOGICAL TABLES

Here is Michael Idomir Allen’s Table 8, which he put together for his translation of Pierre Riché’s The Carolingians.

K = king and c = count.

To get an overview, let’s insert Constance C. Bouchard’s table of kings, dukes and counts, some of whom descend from Charlemagne.

BASIC FACTS AND STORIES

He was born about 797 and by inheritance he was King of Italy from 812/13 to 818.

However, Bernard’s uncle Emperor Louis divided the administration of the Empire in the Act of 817 (Ordinatio imperii of 817). Louis’s eldest son Lothar got the imperial crown and title Emperor and the unique heir of the empire. His sons Pippin and Louis obtained some kingdoms within the empire. Pippin got the Southwest, centered on the subkingdom of Aquitaine, which he held since 814, comprising Gascony, the March of Toulouse, the County of the Carcassonne in Septimania and three counties in Burgundy: Autun, Avallon, and Nevers. Louis “the German” got the east of the empire, centered on the kingdom of Bavaria, northeast Bohemia, the marches of the Avars and Slavs to the east, etc.

Italy was an unusual case. It was under the dominion of Bernard, son of Louis’s deceased brother—his nephew. But Bernard did not enjoy the same autonomy in his subkingdom because in the Act of 817 Italy was submitted to Lothar. Perhaps it was because Rome was the See of the pope, so it could not be completely independent from Louis and now his eldest son. Louis probably saw Bernard as a rival. Bernard’s subkingdom, guaranteed by Charlemagne, was deliberately erased, though he could still govern.

Not accepting this situation, Bernard crossed the Alps to negotiate with his uncle, which the latter interpreted as a rebellion, and some scholars say it was indeed a revolt. In any case, Bernard had the support of his father’s Frankish followers in Italy. The revolt failed, and Louis had Bernard tried at Aachen and blinded. Italy went to Lothar.

Blinding was a Byzantine punishment reserved for usurpers. It was a way of neutralizing the usurpers without risking the dishonor of killing them (Costambeys, et al.). Bernard’s supporters were either blinded or sent to monasteries.

Bernard died from his wounds on 17 Apr 818. His widow founded the monastery of Santo Alessandro (Saint Alexander) in 835 (date of her charter).

At an unknown date, he married Cunegonde, whose last name is also unknown, but she appears in a document as a “relict” of Bernard.

They had one son, Count Pépin or Pippin.

CAROLINGIANS

Charlemagne: Interesting Facts and Stories

Pippin, Son of Charlemagne

Bernard, King of Italy

Pippin, Great Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)

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SOURCES

Matthias Becher, Charlemagne, trans. David S. Bachrach (New Haven: Yale UP, 1999, 2003).

Christian Bonnet and Christine Descatoire, Les Carolingiens (741-987) (Armand Colin / VUEF, 2001)

Constance B. Bouchard, “The Origins of the French Nobility: A Reassessment.” The American Historical Review vol. 86, no. 1, Feb 1981, 501-32.

—, Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia (U Penn P 2001)

Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).

Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes, and Simon MacLean, the Carolingian World (Cambridge UP, 2011).

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

Pierre Riché, The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, trans. Michael Idormir Allen (U Penn P, 1993).

Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 volumes (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).

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