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Fulcrad of Provence

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Title: Fulcrad of Provence  
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Fulcrad of Provence

Fulcrad or Folcrat was the Duke of Provence (or Arles), succeeding Guerin in 845 AD.[1] He was granted the title of Dux or Duke in 843[2] after the treaty of Verdun due to Lothair’s mistrust and previous conflict with Fulcrad’s predecessor Guerin of Provence. In 845, he revolted against the Emperor Lothair I from his base of Marseille, thus destabilizing the entire region. The emperor came down and forced Fulcrad to surrender, but the two were reconciled by the next year (846). During his tenure, Marseille came under attack from Greek and Saracen pirates. Previous to the Treaty of Vardun, Pepin II of Aquitaine, nephew to Lothair I, (who had previously claimed overlordship of his two brother’s kingdoms and supported his nephews claim to the throne of Aquitaine) had entreated the Vikings for help in the fight against his Uncles Louis the German and Charles the Bald.[3] Though after the Battle of Fontenay (841) and the two brothers’ sealing their alliance with the Oath of Strasbourg (842), Lothair abandoned this course. This did not stop the expansion of Viking raids into the Provence region, which besides a slight tapering during the expeditions of Hastein and Bjorn 859 and 862 (Two highly success raids through Italy and North Africa) continued to lay waste to the Coast of Arles, especially an incidence documented of Fulcrad’s stand amongst the Rhone valley.

A Contribution Of Insight

Though Fulcrad exist amongst a series of poorly documented Dukes of Arles within the late Carolingian period he does, along with his colleagues, represent a destabilization between the Frankish kings and the nobles they ruled. Though the empire of Charles the Bald would later become the foundation for the country of France the infighting generated by first Louis the Pious, in three devastating civil wars, and then by Lothair I and his nephew Pepin II, had destabilized the Frankish control so masterfully instilled by the previous Carolingians rule of Charlemagne. Though many outside incursions did occur this destabilization of the Frankish empire occurred due to the Carolingians nobilities thirst inheritance instead of their necessity for reform like their previous examples. In short the Kings of the Franks had become stagnant in their customs of ruler ship, wasting their time garnering crowns instead of furthering the development of the populous. Fulcrad’s predecessor Guiren had witnessed the beginning of this destabilization during his fight for Frankish unity and was replaced, not because he did not display a pension for leadership, but because he was aligned with Charles the Bald instead of Lothair I and participated greatly in Lothair’s defeat at the Battle of Fontenay.[4] Ironically it would be Guiren’s replacement that instigated open rebellion against the Frankish dominance.

The Empire Before Fulcrad

On the death of Charlemagne the Empire of the Franks fell into the hands of Louis the Pious, his sole surviving son. Though Louis reign never reached the success of his father, he was able to meagerly retain the peace within Frankish Europe. Following Frankish customs Louis attempted to relegate his inheritance between his 3 sons, Louis the German, Lothair I and Pepin I of Aquitaine. After the death of his first wife Ermengarde of Hesbaye in October 818, Louis remarried Judith, daughter of Welf and count of Altdorf, in Aachen.[5] (819) With Judith Louis had a fourth son Charles the Bald. Charles brothers had already been assigned Regnas or subkingdoms under what was called the Partition of Aachen, so during Charles’s childhood Louis attempted to redistribute the lands of first Alemannia and then the country between the Meuse and the Pyrenees to generate a new subkingdom. Both attempts failed due to this reallocation generating resentment amongst Louis’ other sons. At Worms in 829 Louis gave Charles Alaemannia sparking a revolt from Louis eldest son Lothair (previous owner of the partitioned land). This began the first of three civil wars which all occurred between 829 and 839 of Louis’ reign. Within these confrontations not only did Lothair change sides twice but after the conclusion of the first war he was banished to Italy. Once he had died in 839 Louis’ son Pepin lost all claims to the Aquitaine, the lands instead going to Louis’ son Charles. Barely keeping a grip on royal control Louis was deposed once in 830 and again in 833. Louis refused to accept defeat in regaining the loyalty of his 3 sons and reuniting his shattered empire. Louis settled the wars with a final defeat of his third son Louis the German by a combined force of his, Lothair and Charles the Bald’s forces. Shortly after on 20 June 840 Louis the Pious died. As ordered his empire was divided amongst his two sons Charles the Bald and Lothair I. On Louis’ death he had the imperial insignia sent to Lothair, this was interpreted by Lothair as a legitimate claim to the entirety of the Frankish Empire and soon after he declared his Overlordship.[6] Charles the Bald was pulled directly into conflict by Lothair supporting his nephew Pepin II as heir to the Aquitaine throne, soon after Louis the German joined the conflict. During this conflict Pepin II entreated the Viking hordes well known for raiding and pillaging at the time to assist him in his fight against Charles, promising loot and plunder in return for their service. This unintentionally brought Viking scouts into the interior of the Frankish empire, a land they would later return to pillage. At the battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye on 25 June 841 Lothair’s forces were eventually brought to ground by the strong alliance of his two brothers. Soon after he conceded to negotiations and on June 842 the brothers met on an island in the Saône.[4] They agreed to the Treaty of Verdun signed in August 843 and entailing that the empire would be divided into three subkingdoms. Lothair receiving the central empire what later became the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy, it would later be known as the Middle Frankish Kingdom. Louis the German received all lands to the east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, it would later be known as the Holy Roman Empire. Finally Charles received the western portion, which became France. What the extensive conflict between the Carolingians kings entails is the customs of the day mandating that disloyalty of kin be treated not with an iron fist, to preserve the kingdom, but instead pardoned and played out like some sort of game. In this way the Frankish Kings wasted desperate manpower and distanced the kings from the lords they had so harshly pushed into constant conflict. Mature Life

Dukedom Granted and Defended

Once Lothair had taken control of his Middle Frankish Kingdom he began his rule by removing players loyal to his two brothers. This included the present ruler of Arles, Duke Guerin who turned the tides at the Battle of Fontenay in favor of Charles. Guerin of Provence was replaced by Fulcrad in 843. If anything can be said of Fulcrad’s early life it can only be presented through Frankish customs. In Frankish custom the position of Duke was not only a leader of a certain province but the military commander of the entire region. Fulcrad must have had some previous military training and served amongst the Frankish soldiers under Lothair. In retrospect of his eventual rebellion against King Lothair it would appear that Fulcrad was not one of the selected few who joined Lothair in his banishment in Italy. Also because Lothair main contingent was decimated at the battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye it would seem unlikely that Lothair would still have a commander intelligent enough to command a dukedom but then disloyal enough to eventually revolt against his former master. Thus Fulcrad’s origins can be traced back to two different sources. Either he was a man distinguished amongst the forces Lothair raised after his retreat to Aachen in June 841 or he was already a Lord within the region of Provence and Lothair only elevated him to take Guerin place. Due to the pro Charles sentiment of the region it would seem foolish of Lothair to take power away from one Provençal just to give it to another. Also Fulcrad is a Germanic name more closely related to Germanic roots than the distinctly more Latin region of Provence. Whatever the case, Fulcrad came into power within region aflame with disapproval for Frankish rule. As previously stated the entire nation of Burgundy had stood proudly next to Charles the Bald. Of the brothers Charles was the only one to have never switched sides and always stood proudly for the Carolingian Empire. After the Treaty of Verdun the Kingdom of Provence and Burgundy were not given to the King they had so valiantly supported but his hated brother. This generated an immediate problem for Lothair control of the region. Also due to the destabilization of Lothair’s previous wars and Pepin II involving Vikings within the region (utilizing them as mercenaries against Charles). Provence becomes claim to constant acts of Piracy, first by the Greeks at Marseille in 848 and later by both the Vikings and the Saracens. Fulcrad seems to have been extremely successful in repulsing these attacks both winning battles against the Greek’s (848) the buckwheats at Arles in 850 and the Vikings amongst the Rhine valley in 860. In 842 Arles had been attacked by Muslims but by 858 two years before Fulcrad no longer was Duke of Arles the city became fortified against raids.

A Rebellion Arises

In 845 Fulcrad lead the region of Provence in succession from the Frankish crown. His operations were based out of Marseille and he destabilized the entire region from Frankish control. Lothair quickly put down the rebellion, arriving with forces soon after. According to the historian Edouard Baratier, Lothair negotiates more than represses the rebels: the new emperor comes to negotiate on the spot with the rebels to amnesty them and confirm them in their functions what increases further their feeling of independence .

Though Lothair was able to avoid violence within the region, the incident opened up Provence to continued pirate raiding and created a hotbed of anti Frankish sentiment. Archibald R. Lewis confirms Edouard’s theory stating that Fulcrad’s revolt was “a revolt which the emperor Lothair does not appear to have completely suppressed.” This individuality generated by Fulcrad’s staunch disapproval of Lothair’s rule set Provence apart from the rest of The Middle Frankish kingdom. Fulcrad’s rebellion forced Provence into the spotlight highlighting the disproval of the common nobility to foolish imperial rule and fostered an independence that would live long past his life.


Nothing is known exactly of Fulcrad’s death. It is only commented on that besides a list of monetary donations there is no mention of Fulcrad after 860. Though in name Charles of Provence came into power by 855 it is disputed if by this point he ever controlled the region. Due to interventions by his two brothers Lothair II and Louis II as well as his uncle Charles the Bald, it can be assumed that Charles never truly controlled Provence besides the name.

Analysis of Contributions

Once Lothair had passed he followed customs much as his father had. His lands were separated between his three sons, one of which, ironically named Charles, became ruler of the new kingdom of Provence. Though sometimes grouped amongst other regions Provence just as regularly existed as a sovereign state. Finally about 200 years later Provence ceases to be a separate kingdom become part of upper Burgundy instead. Fulcrad’s rebellion not only represented one of the earliest examples of minor nobility balking at the stranglehold of imperial rule (amongst medieval Europe) but also as the fostering of a new nations whose independence distanced it from its larger or stronger neighbors. In the scheme of things Fulcrad’s rule had little effect on the progression of the Carolingians dynasty but in actuality he highlighted every flaw within the Frankish rule. He never would have been elected if not for the dissention within the relations between Carolingians and their citizenry. His rebellion expresses the distaste for the obsession of Frankish kings over the lands of their forefathers rather than the lives of the people they ruled. And he heralds the final days of a grand Carolingian Empire. After the 9th century the constant regrouping and subdividing of the Frankish Empire amongst its heirs will see an end to a united Frankish identity. Soon the society broke down into a feudal system and what little of the Middle Frankish Empire that existed, became the nations we know today.

Past Historical Interpretation

Most of what we know of Fulcrad can be drawn back to two influential historical figures. Firstly Archibald Ross Lewis, professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was prominent during 1985, where after his retirement he wrote a series of historical text and edited the American Neptune, a quarterly journal of maritime history published by the Peabody Museum of Salem. He also lectured on the Middle Ages at the University of Arizona and other campuses. In Mr. Lewis book, THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOUTHERN FRENCH AND CATALAN SOCIETY 718-1050 he attributes Fulcrad’s rebellion to be piece of the “Civil War, Invasion, and the Breakdown of Royal Authority” that occurred within the Frankish Empire from the time period of 828-900. He declares that the time period specified can be referred to as “The Decline of Royal Power” amongst the Frankish nobility of the day. He credits the rebellion of Fulcrad as the precursor from the later distinction of Provence as its own kingdom under Lothair’s son Charles. Similarly Édouard Baratier (Marseille, 19 August 1923 – Marseille, 31 July 1972) a French historian documented who documented the history of the Savoies states that Fulcrad is the precursor to the independent Provence kingdom. He also documents the entirety of the Frankish collapse under Lothair and his brothers Charles the Bald, Pepin and Louis.



The Annals of Fulda." Medium Aevum 63.n2 (Fall 1994): 372(1). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Sacred Heart Preparatory (BAISL). 8 Dec. 2008 .

Collins, Roger. "Pippin I and the Kingdom of Aquitaine." Charlemagne's Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious, edd. P. Godman and Roger Collins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Reprinted in Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain. Variorum, 1992. ISBN 0-86078-308-1.

Lewis, Archibald R. The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718–1050. University of Texas Press: Austin, 1965.

Lewis, Archibald R. "The Dukes in the Regnum Francorum, A.D. 550-751." Speculum, Vol. 51, No 3 (July 1976), pp 381–410.

"MONUMENTA GERMANIAE." Mgh. 2007. Sanctv amor partriae dat animvm. 08 Dec. 2008 .

Palanque, Jean-Rémy, and Edouard Baratier. Histoire de la Provence. Comp. Max E. Fonton. Toulouse, 1969.


See also

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