King Lothar of France ascended to his throne in the year 954, while he was still in his early teenage years. The young king, like his father before him, was dominated by the extremely powerful Duke Hugh the Great. Young Lothar was quickly shown just how vulnerable and potentially powerless he could be compared to his mighty vassals when Duke Hugh took the teenage monarch into his protection/custody in the first year of his reign, and dragged him along for a personal military campaign against one of the duke’s rival. Duke Hugh the Great, his army, and the young king, marched down to the region of Aquitaine, where the duke intended to combat the growing influence of William III, a rival French vassal who held power in the Poitou and Auvergne regions. Duke Hugh tracked William III down to the city of Poitiers and, with young King Lothar still along for the ride, the duke and his army besieged the city.
What happened next is vague, but Poiters was not taken and William III survived the siege. Perhaps Duke Hugh the Great simply wanted to send a message, and a short, unfinished siege was enough. Maybe the duke’s army ran out of supplies, or the defenses of Poitiers were too great to be overcome. According to folklore and legend, however, it was nature or other higher powers that intervened to end the siege. A Norman-English monk named Orderic Vitalis (c. 1075-1142) recorded the tale: “the Lord caused an awful thunder, while a violent whirlwind rent the duke’s tent, who, struck with a panic, as well as his army, immediately raised the siege and retreated” (Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, I.24). Whatever the case, William III maintained control of his claims and later assumed the title of duke.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (The Storm, painted by Francesco Giuseppe Casanova (1727–1803), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy by Orderic Vitalis, translated by Thomas Forester. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854.