Rudolph, King of Western Francia

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Rudolph de Bourgogne, roi de Francie occidentale

Also Known As: "Radulf", "Ralph", "Raoul"
Birthplace: France
Death: January 15, 936 (41-50)
Place of Burial: Sens, Bourgogne, Francie occidentale
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard II, duke of Burgundy and Adelaide of Burgundy
Husband of Emma de France
Father of Louis de France de Bourgogne
Brother of Garnier de Troyes; Richilde de Bourgogne, Comtesse; Willa Burgundy; Hugues the Black, Duke of Burgundy; Boso I, count of Dijon and 1 other
Half brother of Gebuin, Count of Dijon and Ermengarde de Bourgogne, comtesse de Dijon, Duchesse de Bourgogne

Occupation: Duke of Burgundy, King of France
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rudolph, King of Western Francia

Please see Medlands June 2022 update.

Rudolph (also Radulf, Ralph, or Raoul) (c. 890 – 14/15 January 936) was the Duke of Burgundy between 921 and 923 and King of Western Francia from thereafter to his death. Rudolph inherited the duchy of Burgundy from his father, Richard the Justiciar. He married Emma of France, daughter of Robert I of France and Béatrice of Vermandois.

He was elected king of Western Francia by an assembly of nobles, to succeed his father-in-law, and crowned by Walter, Archbishop of Sens, at St Médard in Soissons on Sunday, 13 July 923. Assuming the crown, he passed Burgundy to his younger brother, Hugh the Black, after only two years as duke. Charles III was still living and claiming the kingdom at the time, but Rudolph's brother-in-law, the Carolingian Count Herbert II of Vermandois, who was married to Emma's sister, tricked Charles, a fellow Carolingian, into meeting him and took him prisoner. Rudolph's first act as king was to lead an army against King Henry I of Germany, who had made a compact with King Robert at Jülich earlier in the year. Trying to annex Lorraine, the German monarch met Rudolph and a considerably-sized army and made peace again. Though, in 925, Henry attacked the waffling Gilbert, Duke of Burgundy, constantly changing sides, and wrested control of Lorraine from France permanently, Rudolph then being in no position to resist.

At about this point, 924, the Vikings made a fresh series of raids into West Francia. From the Loire Valley, they threatened Hugh the Great, brother of Emma, his wife, but Rudolph did nothing. Soon they had attacked Burgundy, domain of his own brother and were repulsed, moving to Melun, where they threatened the royal demesne. Joined only by his ecclesiastic vassals and Herbert, he recruited troops in Burgundy, while Hugh the Great was convinced to join him. The Vikings left, but the Normans, whom Charles had legally implanted around Rouen in 911, began ravaging that whole region. Herbert and Arnulf I of Flanders joined him this time and they took Eu, but were ambushed near Fauquembergues and the king was wounded, the Count of Ponthieu killed, and many Normans left dead on the field. Also in that year, Rudolph conversed with Louis the Blind, king of Provence, over the Magyars, the newest migrants to Europe, then menacing Louis. In 930, the Magyars invaded the region around Rheims, but left before the king could engage them. In 935, the Magyars invaded Burgundy and Rudolph brought a large army against them, causing their retreat without battle. France was temporarily safe from both Viking and Magyar at Rudolphs's death.

Herbert, however, was not to continue to be one of Rudolph's partisans. He used his royal prisoner as a bargaining tool to secure the archbishopric of Rheims for his son Hugh in 925 and the county of Laon for his other son Odo in 927. The protestations of Rudolph led Herbert to bring Charles before William Longsword, son of Rollo, the duke of Normandy, for homage and thence to Rheims to press Charles' claim on Pope John X. In 928, Herbert finally got possession of Laon, but the next year, Charles died at Péronne and Herbert lost his leverage against Rudolph. By defeating the Vikings of the Limousin, Rudolph received the allegiance of the Aquitainians and the homage of William Longsword, now duke.

In 929, Rudolph started trying to reduce the power of Ebalus, count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine. He withdrew from him access to Berry, then, in 932, he granted the title of prince of Gothia to the count of Toulouse, Raymond Pons, and his brother of Rouergue, Ermengol. He also transferred the title Count of Auvergne to Raymond. Moreover, the territory of the march which was under the control of the lord of Charroux was transformed into an independent county. Later, however, he was campaigning with Ebalus in the south to eradicate the last Viking strongholds there. He then proceeded aggressively against Herbert, marching into Rheims and replacing Hugh with Artald (931). Then, joined by Hugh the Great, Rudolph burned Herbert's fortresses and cornered him in Château-Thierry, where he had first imprisoned Charles, from 933 to 934. The two made peace in 935 and Rudolph fell ill, dying a few months hence on 14 or 15 January 936.

This Rudolph is frequently confused with his uncle Rudolph I of Burgundy, who was the second King of Upper Burgundy.
fr.Wikipédia Raoul (roi des Francs) – Auto-translation:

Raoul or Rodolphe, born around 890 and died in 936, was successively Duke of Burgundy (921-923) then King of the Franks (923-936).

The name of the king

The original Latin texts all and only refer to King Rodulfus as Rodolphe(this name comes from the family of his mother Adelaide, a Welf from Burgundy, and it is the name of his maternal uncle: see below). Raoul comes from the Frankish rad (advice) and wulf (wolf), while Rodolphe comes from hrod (glory) and wulf (wolf). The phonetic similarity of these two first names of Germanic origin has led to their being confused: the king was therefore in fact called Rodolphe and he is traditionally called Raoul, somewhat improperly.

Family origin

Raoul is a member of the Bivinid family (moreover he is Welf by his mother, and very probably Bosonid by his paternal grandmother). He is the son of Richard II of Burgundy known as Richard le Justicier, Duke of Burgundy, and Adelaide of Burgundy, daughter of Conrad II of Burgundy (a Welf). He is the nephew of Rodolphe I of Burgundy, of Charles II the Bald (by marriage) and of King Boson V of Provence, his mother being indeed the sister of King Rodolphe I of Burgundy and his father the brother of King Boson V of Provence and of Richilde of Ardennes, concubine and second wife of Charles II the Bald. He is the son-in-law of King Robert I or the first cousin of Emperor Louis the Blind and King Rudolph II. But he is the only king of France who is not directly attached to one of the three great Frankish royal families: the Merovingians, the Carolingians and the Robertians—although the hypothesis has been put forward 4 that Raoul could be attached agnatically to the line of Jérôme (son of Charles Martel) and therefore belong to a collateral branch of the Carolingians—it is however him, brother-in-law of the Robertian Hugues le Grand and son-in-law of King (Robertian) Robert I, who was elected King of the Franks.

Accession to the Throne

In 921, he succeeded his father and became Duke of Burgundy, Count of Auxerre, Count of Autun and Avallon, lay abbot of Saint-Germain d'Auxerre and Sainte-Colombe de Saint-Denis-lès-Sens.

He marries Emma, ​​daughter of King Robert I and sister of the Duke of the Franks Hugues le Grand . Emma is also the half-sister of Adèle, the wife of Count Herbert II of Vermandois. On the death of Robert I at the Battle of Soissons June 15, 923, the greats of the kingdom, not wanting to return the crown to Charles III the Simple, chose him as king. Indeed, his brother-in-law Hugh the Great refused the title for fear of abandoning his counties and thus losing his influence over the greats. the July 13, 923, Raoul is crowned at the Abbey of Saint-Médard in Soissons.

From his marriage to Emma he had a son named Louis, who died in 934.

Beginning of disputed reign and fight against the Norman invaders (923-929)

During the first years of his reign, Raoul, in spite of real qualities, encountered difficulties in having himself recognized as king by the great vassals, especially since Herbert II de Vermandois had a precious means of pressure insofar as he has been holding Charles the Simple prisoner since July 17, 923 and regularly threatens to release him.

In 924, he was forced to fight on the banks of the Oise against the Normans of Rollo whom Charles III the Simple had called to his aid before Herbert II de Vermandois took him prisoner. Pursued as far as Normandy, Rollo asks to negotiate peace; in exchange for stopping his incursions, he received the Hiémois and the Bessin.

While Raoul is detained in northern France, the December 6, 924, the counts Garnier de Sens, Manassès de Dijon, with the bishops Josselin de Langres and Ansegise de Troyes, inflicted a severe defeat on Ragenold de Nantes, another Viking leader who, after having ventured as far as Burgundy, retired towards the north loaded with booty, at the battle of Calaus mons (which is perhaps Chalmont, between Milly-la-Forêt and Barbizon, or Chalaux , on the river of the same name, in the Nièvre , or at the mouth of l' Arconce near the place called Caro, which has since become Carrouges).

In the summer of 925, Raoul succeeded in gathering a large army to fight the Normans who had once again broken the peace. With the help of Herbert II de Vermandois, Helgaud de Ponthieu, Arnoul I of Flanders and his brother Adalolphe de Boulogne , he thus won a great victory at Eu which claimed many victims in the enemy ranks. But the following year, the Normans undermined the royal host at the Battle of Fauquembergues on the Aa, near Thérouanne, between Saint-Omerand Montreuil. During this battle, while Count Helgaud de Ponthieu was killed, Raoul was so seriously wounded that he was forced to flee the fighting and return to Laon. The victors have the free field to plunder the country up to the borders of Lorraine .

After the death of Count Roger I of Laon in 926, Herbert II of Vermandois claimed the county of Laon for Eudes, his eldest son. He settled there against the initial will of Raoul who finally yielded in fear that Herbert II of Vermandois would free Charles III the Simple, whom he still held prisoner in Péronne. This fear disappears October 7, 929, the day that sees the death of ex-king Charles III the Simple after several years of captivity.

Consolidation of royalty and fight against the last invasions (930-936)

In 930, Raoul received the homage of Guillaume Longue Epée, son and successor of Rollo, his father. However, for this he must grant him the Cotentin. That same year, Herbert II de Vermandois seized the castle of Vitry-en-Perthois belonging to Boson, younger brother of King Raoul. The latter then allied with his brother-in-law Hugh the Great to fight Herbert II of Vermandois. In 931, they entered Reims and drove out Archbishop Hugues, son of Herbert II from Vermandois. Herbert II de Vermandois was initially obliged to surrender Vitry, Laon, Château-Thierry and Soissons, but receiving help from Henry I, he ravaged the region around Reims and Laon. Finally and in exchange for his submission, Raoul gives him back his domains, except Reims, Château-Thierry and Laon.

In 935, he routed another invader from the East, the Hungarians who appeared in Champagne and Burgundy. From this date, the kingdom will be temporarily spared from invasions.

Raoul also had a policy in the east of his kingdom, aimed at extending his influence and gaining respect. In 923, at the request of Francophile Lotharingian nobles, he claimed succession to the Kingdom of Lotharingia, whose last king was Charles the Simple, to counter the ambitions of Henry I the Birdcatcher of Germania. It crosses the Meuse and goes as far as Saverne in Alsace. But he had to give up when all of Lotharingia, in 925, fell under the authority of Henri l'Oiseleur. In addition, he intervened in 931/932 in the affairs of Burgundy-Provence , supporting Charles-Constantin, the son of Louis the Blind, who thus saves his county of Vienne failing to find the paternal kingdom of Burgundy-Arles.

Death and burial

In January (on the 2nd after the Ides of January) 936, after thirteen years of difficult reign, the king, ill since the autumn of 935, died in Auxerre, suffering from bodily pediculosis, a proliferation of lice, crabs and vermin all over his body . He is buried in the abbey church of Sainte-Colombe near Sens , where one can still see, in the crypt, his empty and abandoned sarcophagus. He is buried next to his father, in front of the high altar, in this church which he had enriched but also increased many properties. His tomb consisted of a statue of the king supported by four stone columns. At the bottom was engraved, in Gothic characters: Radulphus, Rex.It was ransacked by the Protestants during the wars of religion, then raised after their departure and restored to the choir. In 1721, during works in the church, a thick wall and a vault in the shape of a cradle, built of very hard cement, were discovered below the monument. Excavations were made, but only a little dust was found. They were the ashes of King Raoul. Finally, in 1792, the last remains of the monument disappeared.


Having no child able to inherit, it was his brother, Hugues le Noir, who succeeded him at the head of the Duchy of Burgundy. For the same reason, on the death of Raoul, Hugh the Great appealed to the legitimate heir of the Carolingian dynasty, Louis IV d'Outremer. The latter, once reinstalled on the throne, gives Hugh the confirmation of his charges and the title of Duke of the Franks . Hugh the Great therefore renounces seeking the throne for himself, having no child or brother to whom to entrust his honors and possessions: to become king would be to weaken himself [ref. incomplete]. Another hypothesis, not contradictory, is to avoid the opposition of other great lords of the kingdom, in particular Hugues le Noir and Herbert II de Vermandois.

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Rudolph, King of Western Francia's Timeline

January 15, 936
Age 46
January 936
Age 46
Église de l'abbaye de Sainte-Colombe, Sens, Bourgogne, Francie occidentale
921-923 duke of Burgandy, 923 King of France