I will grant that what I will describe in this post is not Carolingian in origin, nor has the practice subsided. It is this latter point that brought a chuckle out of me while reading Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817 – 876, by Eric J. Goldberg.
Louis the German, grandson of Charlemagne, was in constant struggle with his brothers regarding his grandfather’s empire. His father, Louis the Pious, tried to divide the kingdom amongst his sons while at the same time naming Lothar as emperor – superior over his brothers.
This attempt at partition resulted in never-ending conflict – not only between the brothers and not only in their lifetime over 1000 years ago. Lothar’s kingdom – in between that of Louis to the east and Charles to the west – included today’s Lorraine in France (German: Lothringen and named after Lothar); this region has changed hands repeatedly since then, the last time (for now, at least) with the fall of Germany in World War II.
In this partition, Louis was granted Bavaria and – depending on his standing with his father – other neighboring regions, to extend – on and off – west to the Rhine River. As Louis held the easternmost portion of Charlemagne’s empire, he had to deal with the Slavs, Danes and other peoples that surrounded his holdings on three sides. Of course, he was also in regular intrigue and battle with and against his brothers to his west; he also had to deal with the Stellinga uprisings.
Goldberg describes several diplomatic tactics that – along with the military – Louis utilized to secure and expand his kingdom. One diplomatic tactic was to offer refuge to the political rivals of those rulers on Louis’s borders:
Louis gave refuge to rivals of Horik, thereby signaling that he would back them against the Danish king if he broke the peace treaty and rebelled.
I have often wondered why so many foreign political leaders found London to be the place to live during their exile (try a search for all three of these terms: +living +exile +London. The number of pages of results is without end.). This simple sentence from Goldberg’s book makes clear what should have been painfully obvious to me all along: a threat to political leaders in puppet or enemy governments that London will unleash the rival unless the leader of said government supports the objectives of the west.
There are other diplomatic tactics offered by Goldberg: the offering and subsequent taking of hostages to ensure good behavior by the subject people; grants made by Louis to various dukes in regions of risk to secure loyalty. In varying forms, and perhaps hidden in subtle ways, continuing to this day.
But the tactic of refuge – one of those “duh” moments for me.