The Beginnings
of Germany, France and Lorraine:

A.D. 842 FEBRUARY 14


Modern Europe began on a wintry day over eleven and a half centuries ago, in the city of Strassburg, with the alliance of two brothers against a third. The chief dramatis personæ were six:

1. Charlemagne(A.D. 742-814)

King of the (Germanic nation of the) Franks, 768-814, founder and emperor (800-814) of the Holy Roman Empire (800-1807); son of the Frankish king Pippin the Short (714-768) and grandson of the Frankish king Karl Martell ("the Hammer," i.e., of the Muslim Saracens; 689-741)

2. Ludwig the Pious (A.D. 778-840)

Son of Charlemagne and co-regent with him (813-814), then sole emperor of the Holy Roman Empire until death in 840.

3. Ludher (A.D. 795-855)

Eldest son of Ludwig the Pious by the latter's first wife, and Holy Roman Emperor (840-855), king of the middle third of the Empire from Frisia to Italy, inclusive.

4. Ludwig the German (A.D. 804-876)

Third son of Ludwig the Pious by the latter's first wife, and king of the East Franconian (i.e., basically German), eastern third of the Empire.

5. Karl the Bald (A.D. 823-877)

Fourth son of Ludwig the Pious - by the latter's second wife, and king of the West Franconian (i.e., basically French), western third of the Empire. Holy Roman Emperor 875-877.

6. Nidhard (A.D. 795?-844)

Grandson of Charlemagne through the latter's daughter Berhta's premarital liaison with Angilberht, Charlemagne's secretary of state. Famous Frankish historian.

On the death, in A.D. 840, of Charlemagne's son Lūdwīg the Pious, the latter's eldest son Lūdhēr claimed not only all his own dominions but also lordship over his brother Lūdwīg the German, who ruled the beginnings of Germany, and his half-brother Karl the Bald (a son of his father's second wife), who ruled the beginnings of France. Ludher, Karl and Ludwig were thus all grandsons of the great Frankish emperor Charlemagne.

Lothair's (Lūdhēr's) name is still preserved in the name of the land which was once his: German Lothringen, French Lorraine, both from Lūdhēringen, "Land of Lūdhēr," "Lūdhēr's Belongings." Tragically, it has remained a source of contention between France and Germany since the day on which the Strassburg Oaths were sworn.

The two younger men - Ludwig as king of Germany and Karl as king of France - combined against Ludher in 842 and at the city of Strassburg swore the following oaths of mutual defense against their brother. The alliance sealed by these oaths is to this day viewed as a prototype for German-French unity; and its symbolism is the reason why so many Franco-German and pan-European congresses, joint announcements, treaty-signings and the like are still held in this city.

Ðe Frankish Kingdoms after Charlemagne

The only account of the events which led to the swearing of these oaths is contained in the Historiarum libri quattuor of Nīdhard (or Nīthard), a contemporary and yet fourth grandson of Charlemagne. This account, which inter alia contains the oldest connected linguistic monument of Old French, is preserved in a single manuscript of the tenth or eleventh century, now in Paris. There the alliance is thus described:

The Strassburg Oaths
Die Straßburger Eide
Les serments de Strasbourg

Ergo (ante diem) XVI (sextum decimum) Kalend(as) Mart(ias), Lodhwicus et Karolus in civitate, quæ olim Argentaria vocabatur, nunc autem Strazburg vulgo dicitur, convenerunt, et sacramenta, quæ subter notata sunt, Lodhwicus Romana, Karolus vero Teudisca lingua juraverunt.

Therefore on the 16th day before the Calends of March (i.e., February 14th) [A.D. 842], Ludwig and Karl met in the city which was formerly called Argentaria, but now in the venacular tongue Strassburg, and swore the oaths which are written below - Ludwig in the Romance (i.e., Old French, actually Proto-French, the earliest recorded "French"), but Karl in the German language [specifically, in the Rhenish Franconian dialect of Old High German].

Ac sic ante sacramentum, circumfusam plebem alter Teudisca, alter Romana lingua allocuti sunt.

But before the oaths, they addressed the people gathered around, the one in the German, the other in the Romance tongue.

Lodhwicus autem, quia major natu, prior exorsus sic cœpit:  « Quotiens Lodharius me et hunc fratrem meum », etc.

Ludwig [the German ruler], namely, because he was the elder, began first thus: “How often Ludher me and my brother here,” etc.

Quumque Karolus hæc eadem verba Romana lingua perorasset, Lodhwicus, quoniam major natu erat, prior hæc deinde se servaturum testatus est :

When Karl [the French ruler] had spoken the same words in the Romance language, Ludwig, because he was the elder, swearing first, swore that henceforth he would hold to these things:


Pro  deo    amur                          et
For  God's  love (= for the love of God)  and

pro Christian poblo et nostro for (the) Christian people's and our

commun salvament, d'ist di common salvation, from-this day

in avant, in quant into (the) future, in however-much

Deus savir et podir God knowledge and power

me dunat, si salvarai eo (to) me gives, so will give protection I

c'ist meon fradre Karlo et in ajudha to-this my brother Karl both in aid

et in cadhuna cosa, si cum om and in every thing, so as (a) man

per dreit son fradra salvar dist, by right his brother to protect ought,

in o quid il me altresi in so-far that he (by) me likewise

fazet, et ab Ludher nul plaid shall do, and with Ludher no negotiation

numquam prindrai qui never shall undertake which

meon vol c'ist (through) my volition to-this

meon fradre Karle in damno sit. my brother Karl of harm may be.

Quod quum Lodhwicus explesset, Karolus Teudisca lingua sic hæc eadem verba testatus est :

When Ludwig [the German ruler] had finished this, Karl [the French ruler] swore these same words in the German language thus:


In Godes minna For the sake of God's love

ind in thes Christānes folches and in the Christian people's

ind unsēr bēdhero gehaltnissi, and our both's salvation,

fon thesemo dage frammordes, from this day forwards,

sō fram sō mir Got gewizci so far as to me God knowledge

indi mahd furgibit, sō hald'ih and power gives, so (will) protect I

thesan mīnan bruodher, sōso man this my brother, so-as one

mit rehtu sīnan bruodher scal, by right one's brother ought to,

in thiu thaz er mig sō in thus-far that he (by) me thus

sama duo (= subjunctive mood), indi (the) same do, and

mit Lūdhēren in nohheiniu thing with Ludher into no negotiation

ne gegango, the, mīnan not (will I) go, which, (through) my

willon, imo ce scadhen werdhēn. volition, for him to harm would turn.

Sacramentum autem, quod utrorumque populus, quique propria lingua, testatus est, Romana lingua sic se habet :

The oath, however, which the people of both swore, each in its own language, is in the Romance tongue thus:


Si Lōdhwīgs sagrament, que If Ludwig (the) loyalty-oath, which

son fradre Karlo jurat, (to) his brother Karl (he) has sworn,

conservat, et Karlus meos sendra keeps, and Karl my lord

de suo part non los tanit, si jo on his part not it keeps, if I

returnar non l'int pois: to turn away not him-therefrom am able:

ne jo ne neuls cui eo returnar neither I nor none whom I to turn away

int pois, in nulla ajudha therefrom am able, of no assistance

contra Lōdhwīg nun li ju er against Ludwig not (to) him I will be.

Theudisca autem lingua : But in the German tongue:


Oba Karl then eid, then er If Karl the oath, which he

sīnemo bruodher Lūdhwīge gesuor, (to) his brother Ludwig has sworn,

geleistit, indi Lūdhwīg mīn hērro fulfills, and Ludwig my lord

then er imo gesuor, (the one) which he (to) him has sworn,

forbrihchit, ob ih inan es breaks, if I him therefrom

irwenden ne mag, noh ih noh to turn away not am able, neither I nor

thero nohhein then ih es of them none whom I therefrom

irwenden mag, widhar Karle, imo turn away can, against Karl, (for) him

ce follusti ne wirdhit. into (a) means of execution not will turn.

Quibus peractis, Lodhwicus Rhenotenus per Spiram et Karolus juxta Wasagum per Wīzzūnburg Warmatiam iter direxit.

When these things were over, Ludwig [the German ruler] made his way downstream along the Rhine through Speyer and Karl [the French ruler] his along the Vosges through Weissenburg to Worms.

*** Etymology of the Main Names ***

Charlemagne - Modern German Karl der Große, Latin Cárolus Magnus, lit., "Big Guy"; Karl/Charles = English churl; French Charles.

Lūdwīg - Old High German Hlūd-wīg ["Famed of Battle"], modern English/French Louis

Lūdhēr - Old High German Hlūd-Hæri ["Famed of Army"], German Lothar, modern English Lothair.

Nīdhard - Old High German Nīdhard ["Severe in Anger"], usually spelled in more southern dialect form as Nīthard, but modern German Neidhart beside Neithard.

Ðese oaþs were translated by Þeedrich ( Last modified 1998 Nov 27.

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