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Henry The Fowler

HENRY THE FOWLER, HENRY I (c. 876-936), surnamed the " Fowler," German king, son of Otto the Illustrious, duke of Saxony, grew to manhood amid the disorders which witnessed to the decay of the Carolingian empire, and in early life shared in various campaigns for the defence of Saxony. He married Hatburg, a daughter of Irwin, count of Merseburg, but as she had taken the veil on the death of a former husband this union was declared illegal by the church , and in 909 he married Matilda, daughter of a Saxon count named Thiederich, and a reputed descendant of the hero Widukind. On his father's death in 912 he became duke of Saxony, which he ruled with considerable success, defending it from the attacks of the Slavs and resisting the claims of the German king Conrad I. (sec SAXONY). He afterwards won the esteem of Conrad to such an extent that in 918 the king advised the nobles to make the Saxon duke his successor. After Conrad's death the Franks and the Saxons met at Fritzlar in May 919 and chose Henry as German king, after which the new king refused to allow his election to be sanctioned by the church. His authority, save in Saxony, was merely nominal; but by negotiation rather than by warfare he secured a recognition of his sovereignty from the Bavarians and the Swabians. A struggle soon took place between Henry and Charles III., the Simple, king of France, for the possession of Lorraine. In 921 Charles recognized Henry as king of the East Franks, and when in 923 the French king was taken prisoner by Herbert, count of Vermandois, Lorraine came under Henry's authority, and Giselbert, who married his daughter Gerberga, was recognized as duke. Turning his attention to the east, Henry reduced various Slavonic tribes to subjection, took Brennibor, the modern Brandenburg, from the Hevelli, and secured both banks of the Elbe for Saxony. In 923 he had bought a truce for ten years with the Hungarians, by a promise of tribute, but on its expiration he gained a great victory over these formidable foes in March 933. The Danes were defeated, and territory as far as the Eider secured for Germany; and the king sought further to extend his influence by entering into relations with the kings of England, France and Burgundy. He is said to have been contemplating a journey to Rome, when he died at Memleben on the 2nd of July 936, and was buried at Quedlinburg. By his first wife, Hatburg, he left a son, Thankmar, who was excluded from the succession as illegitimate; and by Matilda he left three sons, the eldest of whom, Otto (afterwards the emperor Otto the Great), succeeded him, and two daughters. Henry was a successful ruler, probably because he was careful to undertake only such enterprises as he was able to carry through. Laying more stress on his position as duke of Saxony than king of Germany, he conferred great benefits on his duchy. The founder of her town life and the creator of her army, he ruled in harmony with her nobles and secured her frontiers from attack. The story that he received the surname of " Fowler " because the nobles, sent to inform him of his election to the throne, found him engaged in laying snares for the birds, appears to be mythical.

See Widukind of Corvei, Res gestae Saxonicae, edited by G. Waitz in the Monumenta Germaniae historica. Scriptores, Band iii. (Hanover and Berlin, 1826 seq.); " Die Urkunde des deutschen Konigs Heinrichs I.," edited by T. von Sickel in the Monumenta Germaniae historica. Diplomata (Hanover, 1879) ; W. von Giesebrecht, Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit, Bande i., ii. (Leipzig, 1881); G. Waitz, Jahrbilcher des deutschen Reichs unter Konig Heinrich I. (Leipzig, 1885); and F. Loher, Die deutsche Politik Konig Heinrich I. (Munich, 1857).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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