History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Lothar the Saxon

Henry V had married the beautiful Princess Matilda of England, the daughter of Henry I, when she was little more than a girl. She was still young and beautiful when Henry died. But as she had no children she felt that she was no longer of importance in Germany, that Germany was no longer her home, and so she went back to England. And, as you know from English history, she married Geoffrey of Anjou and fought with Stephen for the throne of England.

And now, as there was no direct heir to the throne of the Empire, the princes of the realm again met together to choose a new Emperor. It seemed likely that Duke Frederick of Hohenstaufen would be chosen as he was Henry V's nephew, besides being one of the most powerful princes of the realm. But he had a rival in Duke Lothar of Supplinburg. Duke Lothar, however, seemed to have no wish for the crown. It is even said that he threw himself on his knees before the princes, begging them with tears not to choose him.

But while the princes still hesitated, from among the waiting people there arose a cry, "Lothar shall be King! Lothar shall be King!" The choice was made, and the unwilling Duke was seized and carried shoulder high through the cheering crowd. And so almost, it seems, against his will, Lothar became King of Germany.

This choice pleased the Pope. And it was greatly owing to the advice of the priests and bishops that it had been made. Lothar had taken sides with the Church against Henry V, and the Pope believed that in him he would find a friend. The Pope was right, and under Lothar the Church gained much power.

Frederick of Hohenstaufen had been disappointed of the throne. But even so his power was greatly increased, for he had inherited all Henry V's private estates. Lothar, however, now declared that these estates belonged to the Crown, and that Frederick mus give them up. Upon this Frederick, together with his brother Conrad, rebelled against Lothar. So a long civil war began which lasted during nearly the whole of Lothar's reign. Frederick fighting against Lothar in Germany, and Conrad fighting against him in Italy. Conrad, indeed, was even chosen as a rival King, and was crowned at Milan.

In this war Lothar's greatest friend was the young Welf Duke Henry. For there was great hatred between the Hohenstaufens. He was at this time only twenty years old, but he was so powerful and splendid that people called him Henry the Proud. As a reward for his friendship Lothar married him to his only daughter Gertrude. This made Henry very powerful, and increased the hatred and jealousy of the Hohenstaufens against him.

At first the King had little success against the rebel Hohenstaufens, but as time went on fortune changed. The King won town after town, fortress after fortress, and at length Frederick, finding himself almost alone, threw himself at the King's feet begging forgiveness. A few months later Conrad also yielded. Lothar forgave both the brothers, and gave them back their lands and titles. So at length there was peace in Germany.

When this civil war was going on Lothar was also fighting for the Pope. The people of Rome had driven the Pope Innocent II out and set up an Antipope. So Innocent sought aid from Lothar. And in 1132, leaving Henry the Proud to rule in Germany, Lothar crossed the Alps to help the Pope.

But Lothar was still struggling for empire over his own people, and willing though he was to fight the Pope's battles, he had few soldiers to spare. So it was with but a very small army that he crept through the land, avoiding battle wherever it was possible. He did not go near Milan where his rival Conrad was lording it as king. He avoided the large cities where he might meet with resistance, contenting himself with forages and skirmishes in the open country. His march, indeed, was more like the raid of some adventurer than the campaign of a great king.

At length, however, with his little army Lothar reached Rome, and led the Pope into the sacred city as he had promised. But although Innocent was once more in Rome, neither he nor the King were able to drive out the Antipope. He kept possession of part of the town and of the great Cathedral of St. Peter. So Lothar was crowned Emperor in another church called the Lateran.

Almost at once after his coronation Lothar turned back to Germany, and it was not long before Innocent was once more driven out of Rome. Thus Lothar's Italian campaign seemed to have failed utterly, yet after it his might and fame increased daily. He overcame the Hohenstaufens; the Duke of Poland and King of Denmark acknowledged him as overlord, and ambassadors came from every neighbouring State to do him honour. "In all Germany," says a writer of the time, "peace and plenty ruled."

But this time of peace did not last long, for Roger of Sicily, an adventurer Norman knight, now overran the south of Italy and proclaimed himself King.

So again Lothar crossed the Alps. But this time he went with a magnificent army, and his standard-bearers were those very Hohenstaufens who had once fought so bitterly against him.

In Italy Lothar divided his army into two. The one half, under Henry the Proud, marched down the western side of the peninsula, the other, which he himself commanded, took the eastern side.

The Emperor's march was a triumphal procession. Town after town yielded, victory after victory was won, until nearly the whole of Italy was conquered. Then, having put the affairs of Italy. in order, and leaving German counts and dukes to rule the land, the Emperor once more turned homeward.

But Lothar never reached Germany. He had been over sixty when he was chosen to be King, he was now an old man, wearied with many wars, and with the hard task of governing his great and restless kingdom. Now on his homeward journey he was taken ill, and died in a poor peasant's hut among the mountains.