Arnulf of Carinthia, was born around 850 A.D. He was the son of Carloman, King of Bavaria and his wife Liutswind, who was perhaps of Carantanian origin and possibly the sister of Ernst, Count of the Bavarian Nordgau Margraviate in the area of the Upper Palatinate or perhaps the burgave of Passau.
After Arnulf’s birth it is said that Carloman married another sister of Ernst before 861. She died after 8th August 879. It is mainly West-Franconian historiography that speaks of Arnulf’s illegitimacy and some believe that the two females may be one and the same person.
Arnulf was granted the Duchy of Carinthia, a Frankish vassal state and successor to the ancient Principality of Carantania by his father Carloman after Carloman had become reconciled with his own father Louis the German and was created King of Bavaria. It is believed that Arnulf spent the majority of his child hood in Moosburg, which is in Carinthia.
After Carloman suffered from a stroke in 879, Louis the Younger inherited Bavaria, Charles the Fat was given the Kingdom of Italy and Arnulf was confirmed in Carinthia, but largely ruled the majority of Bavaria. In 880 Carloman died with Arnulf being granted Pannonia or Carantanum as written by Regino of Prum.
In 882 Engelschalk II rebelled against the Margrave of Pannonia, Aribo which started the Wilhelminer War. Arnulf supported Engleschalf after accepting his and his brother’s homage which ruined Arnulf’s relationship with his uncle the current Holy Roman Emperor. It also sparked a war between Arnulf and Svatopluk of Moravia which saw Pannonia invaded. Arnulf and Svatopluk didn’t make peace until 885.
Arnulf took a leading role in the deposition of his unlce, Charles the Fat. In 887 Arnulf held a Diet at Tribur and with the support of his nobles and deposed Chales under the threat of military action. Charles peacefully went into retirement after chastising Arnulf for his actions. Arnulf granted Charles last requested for a few royal villas in Swabia to live out the rest of his life. Arnulf who had distinguished himself in the wars with the Slavs was elected by the nobles and assumed the title of King of East Francia.
Upon the death of Charles the Fat, Arnulf took advantage and secured the territory of Lorraine from West Frankia. He then created Lorraine as a kingdom for his son Zwetibold. In 889, Arulf supported the claim of Louis the Blind to the kingdom of Provence after he received a personal appeal from Louis mother, Emengard who visited him in Forcheim in May 889.
Arnulf looked to strengthen and enlarge his lands by taking advantage of fighting between Odo of France and Charles the Simple. Charles at one point had even fled and asks Arnulf for protection. This lead Pope Formosus to get involved as he was worried that the war weary West Francia would became easy prey for the Normans.
In 895 Arnulf summoned both Charles and Odo to his presence at Worms. Charles was persuaded by his advisors not to go and sent a representative in his place. Odo on the other hand attended in person with a large retinue bearing gifts for Arnulf. Angered by the non appearance in person of Charles, Arnulf welcomed Odo and supported his claim to the West Francian throne. During the same Diet he bestowed the crown of Lotharingia upon his illegitimate son Zwetibold.
As early as 880, Arnulf had designs on Great Moravia. Arnulf had the Frankish bishop Wiching of Nitra interfere with missionary activities with the aim of preventing any potential for creating a united Moravia. In 893 or 894, Greta Moravia probably lost part of its territory in modern day western Hungary to Arnulf. As a reward Wiching became chancellor in 892. Although he continued to attempt to conquer the whole of Great Moravia he didn’t succeed. Although in 895 Bohemia broke away from Moravia and did become his vassal. An accord was made between him and the Borivoj I, Duke of Bohemia that Bohemia was freed from the dangers of invasion.
Further south in Italy Berengar of Friuli was crowned king of Lombardy in 887 and Guy II of Spoleto was crowned in 889 leading to a dispute. Pope Stephen V supported Guy, crowning him Roman Emperor in 891, while Arnulf supported Berengar. In 893, a new pope Formosus sent an embassy to Omuntesberch asking Arnulf to liberate Italy where he could be crowned in Rome. Arnulf sent his son Zwentibold with a Bavarian army to join Berengar and in due course they defeated Guy. In 894 Arnulf personally led an army across the Alps and took Bergamo in January 894. Count Ambrose, Guy’s representative was hung from a tree by the city’s gates.
Arnulf went on to conquer all the territory north of the Po, forcing Milan to surrender and then drove Guy out of Pavia. After this Arnulf was then crowned King of Italy. Guy died suddenly in late autumn and Arnulf headed back north. He was interrupted by Rudolph, King of Transjurane Burgundy. In retaliation Arnulf sent Zwentibold to ravage Burgundy.
In 895 a new embassy had been sent and Arnulf embarked on a second campaign in Italy. He quickly crossed the Alps and took Pavia. Lambert who now ruled in Guys place and his mother had imprisoned Formosus. The nobility of Tuscany slowly came out in support, Firstly with Maginulf, Count of Milan and then Walfred, Count of Pavia. They reached Rome finding the gates shut and Lambert’s mother in command. They attacked and took the city by force on the 21st February 895 freeing the Pope from his imprisonment greeting Arnulf on the steps of the Santi Apostoli.
On 22nd February 896 Fromosus led the king into the church and anointed and crowned him, saluting him as Augustus. They then went to the Basillica of Saint Peter Outside the Walls where he received the homage of the Roman people who swore ‘never to hand over the city to Lambert or his mother Ageltrude. Arnulf exiled to Bavaria two leading senators, Constantine and Stephen who had helped Lambert’s mother when seizing the city.
Arnulf left his vassal Farold to hold Rome while Arnulf marched to Spoleto where Angeltrude had fled to join her son Lambert. Arnulf’s luck though looked like it had run out when he suffered a stroke on the way to Spoleto and had to end the campaign returning to Bavaria.
On his way north Arnulf stopped and crowned his illegitimate son Ratold sub-King of Italy in Pavia, leaving him in Milan to try and hold Italy. The same year Fromosus died with Lambert seizing power with Berengar. They went on to murder any officials who had been appointed by Arnulf and Ratold fled as well to Bavaria.
On return to Germany in 896 Arnulf found out he had morbus pediculosis (infestation of lice under the eyelid) and this meant he was unable to deal with the problems around him. Italy was now lost and raiders from Moravia and Hungary were continually raiding into his lands and Lotharingia was in revolt against Zwentibold. He was also plagued by escalating violence between the lower German nobility.
On 8th December 899 Arnulf of Carinthia died at Ratisbon in Bavaria.
On Arnulf’s death, he was succeeded as king of East Francia by his son Louis the Child, mothered by his wife Ota (died 903). Louis the child was his only legitimate son and died in 911 at the age of 17 or 18 and due to this the eastern (German) branch of the house of Charlemagne ceased to exist. Arnulf’s illegitimate sons Zwentibold and Ratold were recognised as Arnulf’s successors with Zwentibold continuing to be King of Lotharingia till 900.
Arnulf is entombed in St Emmeram’s Basilica at Rengensburg, which is now known as Schloss Thurn und Taxis, the palace of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis.
Arnulf defiantly had a busy life and with much of central Europe at the time his hand seems to be in many different jars and the strings of many different kingdoms seem to be pulled by him. A descendant of Charlemagne he played his part in the web that was central European politics at the time.