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What's in a name - The Lotharingian connection

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

A few people have asked how I have come up with the title and what Lotharingia means.

Matilde, my heroine, is known as Matilda of Tuscany, or Matilda of Canossa.

Yet she became a duchess of (Lower) Lotharingia - through the first marriage she is trying to avoid as the novel opens.

Lotharingia is also the land her mother Beatrice hailed from, and it appears to dominate her life during her youth. On one hand, her Lotharingian ancestry is the source of her Carolingian blood, the reason she finds herself as one of the most sought-after and powerful heiresses in Christendom. On the other, Lotharingia embodies the curse of her forced betrothal.

But what was the land of Lotharingia, and where does the name come from?

At the death of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's only son and successor, his three sons split the Holy Roman Empire into three kingdoms. Charles (The Bald) kept West Francia (loosely today's France), Louis kept East Francia (corresponding roughly to postwar West Germany, and the eldest, Lothair kept the imperial title and a long strip of territories stretching from the North Sea to southern Italy. The logic of the division was that Lothair held the crown of Italy, his subkingdom under Louis the Pious, and that as emperor he should rule in Aachen, Charlemagne's capital, as well as Rome, the caput mundi. Lothar's Middle Francia soon became Lotharingia,

In later life, Lothair became a monk and retreated to Prum Abbey. Following Frankish custom, he subdivided his kingdom again between his three sons. To the eldest, Louis II, went Italy, with the imperial title. To the youngest, Charles, still a minor, went Provence. The middle son, Lothair II, received the remaining territories: present-day Lorraine (France), Luxembourg, the eastern half of Belgium, the southern half of Netherlands, and most of Rheinland Germany (parts of today's North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate. His kingdom lacked ethnic or linguistic unity, but these lands were the old Frankish homelands of Austrasia, and possession of them was of great prestige. In the tenth century, they would become a duchy, until, after a rebellion, Emperor Conrad split them into Upper and Lower Lotharingia. But the glorious halo remained. Aachen, the symbolic capital of the itinerant Holy Roman Emperor, was in Lotharingia.

Matilde's mother, Beatrice, an adopted daughter of Emperor Conrad, was of noble Lotharingian stock (although confusingly she could claim her Carolingian ancestry through Charles the Bald.)

Margrave Bonifacio, Matilde's father, had been the largest landowner in the Holy Roman Empire - his lands, which she inherited despite her sex, would form the basis of her power. But the prestige of the family, together with a dynastic feud that will destroy Matilde's family in a saga with Shakesperean undertones, had come from Lotharingia.


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