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The Kingdom of the East Franks during the Ottonian dynasty



Heinrich I.


Otto I., the great.


Otto I defeated the Hungarians at Lechfeld. The East Frankish Empire achieves stability and additional legitimacy. Otto I, whose reign had in fact initially been limited to the Frankish-Saxon countries, can now better enforce its claims in other regions.


coronation of the emperor Otto I. in Rome


Otto II.


Otto III.


Heinrich II.

The rise of Boppard under the Ottonians


Sovereignty manifested itself in the Middle Ages in the presence of a local ruler. There his subjects could see him, perhaps admire the insignia of his leadership and be impressed by the display of splendour of his court.

Communication took place in the first instance through personal presence. The ruler spoke the law, met with local lords and demonstrated through his visit the will to assert his leadership locally. If he were to neglect this task, it could easily happen that the imperial estate could end up in the hands of strangers, the income from the imperial estate would go down, and in general he would lose his influence in the area concerned. If the Kingdom really were weak, or even had just taken on the appearance of weakness, then often regional nobility would take over the crown estates. So in general in the Middle Ages, often there would be a claim of ownership to certain estates and manorial rights, but in practice it would come down to being able to implement these claims. This could be done much better if you were strong and had a great deal of respect and prestige. So it was said to be only the Ottonian rulers who were successful again in ruling over the numerous royal estates in the Middle Rhine area themselves, after they had already fallen into the hands of powerful noble families.

The King toured, above all, the regions that were important for his reign and in which he had to defend his interests as a priority. The number of royal or imperial visits to a particular town therefore allows us to draw conclusions about its importance. However the difficulty with sources often prevents the reconstruction of a concrete route of travel, or the continuous stops made by a ruler. It is possible that he had visited some places considerably more than others, without there being any evidence available.

From 919 the Liudolfings, a ruling dynasty from Saxony, reigned over the East Franconian–German Empire. They were also known as the Ottonians due to their three Kings, who were all called Otto.

They also frequently stopped in Boppard. There is proof of Emperor Otto II’s first visit in 975 as well as at least two visits by Emperor Otto III in March 992 and in January 995. Due to increased visits by Ottonian rulers we can conclude that the Middle Rhine region, as well as the Rhine-Main area, the Lower Rhine and the Thuringo–Saxon area can be counted among the key regions for this dynasty, or as being ‘close to the king’.

During the reign of a king or emperor there were also areas, which although they belonged to his empire, he would seldom visit or not at all, even with many years of rule. These regions were known as being‘far from the king’.

The marriage certificate of the Byzantine Princess Theophanu and Otto II from the 14 April 972, called the ‘purple certificate’, is one of the most important certificates of the Ottonian time. For Emperor Otto I the marriage of his son with the princess was a great success and increased his prestige.

In this certificate, Otto II defined the Boppard royal court as part of the dower for his spouse. This was not unusual in the Middle Ages in order to provide the widow with sufficient property and incomein the event of the death of the ruler. In this way her independent position was supposed to be secured. It can be assumed that the Boppard royal court would guarantee an income from wine above all. It indicates the importance of this royal court, in that King Henry I had already left the court to his wife, Empress Mathilda as a dower.

The Salians


From 1024 until 1125 the German kings and emperors came from the Salian dynasty. There is no evidence of an emperor’s stay in Boppard form this time.

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Imperial estate in the Middle Rhine region was made visibly smaller. This was due to the countless challenges which had to be faced by King Henry IV (1056–1106) in particular, and also those coming from north of the Alps, at the peak of the Investiture Controversy with Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085). Also after his Walk to Canossa (1077) he only succeeded in maintaining his reign with effort and keeping his rivals for the kingship in check.