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Coronation: Otto the Great (962)

Submitted by Ludwig von Rege... on February 2, 2015 - 11:55pm
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On this day in 962, Otto the Great was crowned Roman Emperor.

Born on the 23rd of November 912, Otto was the eldest son of King Heinrich the Fowler (remember him?).  Heinrich was keen to improve his standing, so he had Otto married to Eadgyth, daughter of Aethelstan of England.  Otto earned his spurs at a young age, and on Heinrich's death was made King of Germany.


Otto's coronation was followed by the traditional "Rebellion of the Dukes and Brothers".  In this ritual the Duke of Bavaria, and possibly other dukes as well, conspire with the new king's (half-)brothers against him.  The leaders of these rebellions are defeated, exiled, forgiven, defeated again, and then killed in battle or drowned in the Rhine.  I'm not sure why you're not really King of Germany until the ceremony is completed, but ever was it thus.  In this case, the successful conclusion of the ritual was threatened by a rebellion of Slavs. 

The rebellion was precipitated by a diplomatic faux pas: Gero, Count of Merseburg had invited a group of Slavic chieftains to dinner and then had them murdered.  This is a traditional germanic approach to peace talks (cf the delicate negotiations between Theoderic and Odoacer) which upset the Slavs and resulted in a full-scale invasion.  Otto and the rebels joined forces long enough to repel the Slavs, so that Otto could go back to supressing the rebels.

The ceremony was completed in 941 when Otto's brother Heinrich tried to have him assassinated.  How they laughed!  The preliminaries completed, Otto could get down to work bullying his kingdom.  After ten years, Otto's kingdom was strong enough for the next milestone in German kingship, the "Rebellion of the Son". 

In 951, Otto's firstborn, Liudolf decided to invade Italy.  Possibly he did so to further some cunning scheme, but probably just because he was Duke of Swabia, so he had an army and not enough to do.  But Liudolf soon ran into trouble and required daddy to bail him out.  Berengar II -- who was under the mistaken impression that he was King of Italy -- ran away and Pavia opened its gates to Otto.  There he received the Iron Crown of Lombardy (how cool is that!?).  But the novelty wore off and he eventually gave it back to Berengar (maybe it wasn't very
comfortable).  Liudolf returned to Germany where he decided to cause daddy trouble.  Over the next two years rebellion spread to every corner of the kingdom, however Liudolf went too far when he invited some Hungarians to dinner.  Scared of the Hungarians' spicy food, the Germans once again fell into line behind Otto.  Which is fortunate because then....

In 955 the Hungarians invaded!  Hungarians had raided throughout Western Europe during the tenth century, as shown in this map.  Learning from previous raids, Otto decided to catch the Hungarians on the way out.  He cornered the invaders at Augsburg, and won a great victory over them on the tenth of August at the Lech river.  After the Battle of Lechfeld, the Hungarians decided to stop being such a nuisance and get with the program (Christianity, agriculture, getting a king of their own, etc.).  On the field of battle, Otto's followers raised him on a shield and proclaimed him Emperor.  Which set things up nicely for the next, inevitable phase of German kingship.....

In 960, Pope John XII (the anomalously young one, remember him?) asked Otto for help against Berengar.  Otto marched his army into Pavia, took back the Iron Crown as a Christmas present to himself, then marched on to Rome, where he was Crowned Emperor by John.  John appeared to be Otto's new BFF, but His Holiness soon engaged in the traditional practice of playing the powers bordering the Papal States off against each other.  But that is a story for another day....

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