Rulers of the Carolingian Empire

Who were the Carolingians? Here is a look at 17 rulers from one of the most important empires of the Middle Ages.

Here is the list:

Pepin ‘the Short’ (c.714-768)

  • Mayor of the Palace (741 – 751)
  • King of the Franks (751-768)
  • Was the power behind the throne of the Merovingian rulers, but then deposed Childeric III and became King of the Franks.

Charlemagne (c.748-814)

  • King of the Franks (768-814)
  • King of the Lombards (774-814)
  • Emperor (800-814)
  • Greatly expanded Carolingian rule over large parts of Western Europe. He was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III on December 25, 800.
A map showing Charlemagne’s additions (in light green) to the Frankish Kingdom – map by Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons

Carloman I (c.749-771)

  • King of the Franks (768-771)
  • Along with his brother Charlemagne he inherited half of the Kingdom of the Franks upon Pepin’s death. Tensions between the brothers ended with Carloman’s sudden death.

Pepin of Italy (777-810)

  • King of Italy (781 – 810)
  • He was originally named Carloman, but the name was changed when he was a young child.  His father, Charlemagne, defeated the Lombards in Italy and then installed Pepin as the new king. He would go on to be a key figure serving his father to expand the empire.

Louis I ‘the Pious’ (778-840)

  • King of Aquitaine (781 – 814)
  • Emperor (813-840)
  • King of the Franks (814-840)
  • Charlemagne made him co-emperor in 813. After his father’s death, Louis took control of the empire, but often fought with his family members, including his own sons.

Bernard (797-818)

  • King of Italy (810 – 817)
  • The son of Pepin of Italy, his grandfather Charlemagne made him King of Italy. In 817, he plotted against Louis the Pious but was captured, deposed and blinded as a punishment. He died two days after being blinded.

Pepin I (797-838)

  • King of Aquitaine (817 – 838)
  • Second son of Louis the Pious, his father made him King of Aquitaine and Duke of Maine. However, he rebelled against his father in the 830s, and died before Louis.

Carolingian Civil War

  • After Louis died in 840, his three sons Lothair, Louis and Charles all fought each other to control the empire. The conflict ended with the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which partitioned the empire into three kingdoms.
The division of the Carolingian Empire after the Treaty of Verdun – Wikimedia Commons

Lothair I (795-855)

  • Emperor (817-855)
  • King of Italy (818–855)
  • King of Middle Francia (843-855)
  • Louis the Pious made him co-emperor in 817. After his father’s death he claimed the whole empire but his two brothers forced him to accept a split in 843

Louis the German (c.806-876)

  • King of East Francia (843 – 876)
  • Louis the Pious made him the ruler of the Duchy of Bavaria in 817. He would go on to rule from this territory for 60 years. In the Treaty of Verdun, Louis would take control of lands that would later become part of Germany. His nickname comes from the 18th century.

Louis II (825-875)

  • Emperor (844-875)
  • King of Italy (844-875)
  • Lothair I made him co-emperor in 844. After his father’s death, Louis kept the imperial title and control over lands in Italy.

Charles II ‘the Bald’ (823-877)

  • King of West Francia (843 – 877)
  • Emperor (875-877)
  • Charles’ rule over his kingdom was not very successful, as he faced rebellious nobles and Viking raids. When Louis II died, Charles traveled to Italy and was able to get crowned emperor.

Pepin II (823-864)

  • King of Aquitaine (838 – 852/3)
  • Succeed his father, Pepin I, and made Aquitaine independent of the empire. Charles the Bald deposed him, but in 854 he regained part of his kingdom.

Charles ‘the Child’ (844-866)

  • King of Aquitaine (855 – 866)
  • His father Charles the Bald made him King of Aquitaine in 855, but held control over his son and his kingdom. In 864 he was injured and left mentally incapacitated after being accidentally struck by a sword.

Louis II ‘the Stammerer’ (846-879)

  • King of Aquitaine (866 – 879)
  • King of West Francia (877 – 879)
  • Succeeded his father Charles the Bald but was not crowned emperor.

Louis III (863/5 – 882)

  • King of West Francia (879-882)
  • Co-ruled with his brother brother Carloman II. Won a major victory against a Viking army at the Battle of Lüneburg Heath in 880. Died when he hit his head on the top of a door while chasing a girl.

Carloman II (866-884)

  • King of West Francia (879 – 884)
  • Emperor (813-840)
  • King of the Franks (814-840)
  • Co-ruled with his brother brother Louis III until 882. Died after he was accidentally stabbed in the leg while boar hunting.

Charles ‘the Fat’ (839-888)

  • King of Italy (860 – 887)
  • King of East Francia (876-887)
  • Emperor (881-887)
  • King of West Francia and Aquitaine (885-887)
  • Inherited various kingdoms upon the deaths of family members, but Charles’ rule was considered inept and he was deposed.

End of the Carolingians

Although Charles the Fat had briefly reunited the empire, after he was deposed it broke apart into several states, The next emperor would be Guy III of Spoleto, who was a great-great grandson of Charlemagne but not considered a Carolingian. He was given the imperial title in 891 but only had control over parts of Italy.

Map by Richard Ishida / Wikimedia Commons

Click here to read more about the Carolingians