Bastards or Kings or Both? Louis III and Carloman in Late-Medieval French Historiography
Comitatus Vol.29 (1998)
Consider the anxiety that late-medieval authors of histories of France must have experienced as their narratives approached the last decades of the ninth century. On the one hand, they lived in a kingdom where
royalist ideology barred bastards from mounting the throne and in an era when ideologically-driven royalist historical propaganda insisted that they never had. On the other, they knew that the brothers Louis III (879–882) and Carloman (879–884), Frankish rulers of the West Frankish kingdom whom late-medieval Frenchmen regarded as French kings of France, had been both bastards and kings. Caught between a historical fact and a contemporary ideology that would deny it, they had to decide what to tell their readers about the two illegitimate Carolingian monarchs. This study will document their responses to the conflicting claims of ideology and history, and will assess the significance of those responses for understanding late-medieval French historical culture, through an examination of accounts of the reigns of Louis III and Carloman in twenty-three histories of France written between 1380 and 1515.