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I acquired a coin of King Charles - No, not the new guy!


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After several years of having my collecting focused in other areas (late Roman, Ptolemaic, etc.), I returned to Carolingian times with the purchase of this Charles the Bald denier. My interest in Carolingian coinage was renewed by re-watching the Vikings series, by exploring the Frankish era virtually in a video game, and just plain old looking at coins online. I also purchased a Charles the Fat denier, and soon I will have two more Carolingian coins added to my collection. 

This particular type was struck between 840 and 864 AD, while Charles was West Frankish king. In 864, he enacted reforms that introduced a new denier type, the Gratia Di Rex.

Charles II (the Bald), West Francia, Carolingian Empire
AR denier
Obv: CARLVS REX FR, cross above, cross within dotted circle in center
Rev: PARISII CIVITAS, temple facade, cross within
Mint: Paris
Date: 840-864 AD
Ref: Coupland, Early 19; Depeyrot 762; M&G 827; MEC 1, 843





Charles (Carolus) II was born in Franconovurd (modern Frankfurt) in the year 823 AD, the youngest son of Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious and Judith of Bavaria, and thus the grandson of the famed Charlemagne (who had died only several years before in 814). By the time of his birth, Emperor Louis had already divided his empire among his three other sons, who were already adults by then. Despite this, Louis made attempts to try to secure an inheritance for Charles by convincing his other sons (Lothair, Pepin of Aquitaine, and Louis the German) to provide parts of their lands to their young brother. Only Louis’s eldest son Lothair (co-emperor to Louis) responded to this, by giving Alemannia, Raetia, and portions of Burgundy to Charles. The overall relationship between Louis and his three eldest sons was troubled, and tensions erupted into open rebellion in 830. They were successful in deposing their father from the imperial throne, but a year later, Louis managed to be reinstated, and stripped the title of emperor from Lothair. The latter also lost Italy; Louis having transferred it to Charles. However, over the next few years in the 830s, Lothair was able to return into Louis’s good graces and recover his lost titles and possessions. Pepin, Louis’s second son, died in 838, and as a result, Aquitaine was given to Charles (the year before, Charles had also been granted Chartres, the rest of Burgundy, lands west of the Meuse, and Paris, and in 839 a portion of Neustria).



(Contemporary depiction of Louis the Pious)


(my coin of Louis the Pious - Melle mint)

In 840, Emperor Louis died, and the Frankish Empire fell into civil war between his sons. Lothair, having become sole emperor, attempted to forcibly reunite all of the subkingdoms and territories in the empire under his own rule. Charles, then 17 years old, allied with his brother Louis the German, the King of Bavaria, and the two succeeded in striking a major blow against Lothair at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841. Charles and Louis reaffirmed their alliance in the next year, which became known as the Oaths of Strasbourg. These Oaths are linguistically significant in that it is the earliest existing document written in what is retrospectively known as Old French, the Romance language that developed from the Vulgar (common) Latin of the Gallo-Roman population. During the event, due to the linguistic differences between the eastern and western portions of the empire, Louis the German recited his oath in Old French to Charles’s Franco-Gallic troops; with Charles himself swearing his oath in Old German to Louis’s Germanic forces from the east. The war ended in 843 with the signing of the Treaty of Verdun, which once again divided the Frankish Empire into three parts: Lothair (who was allowed to remain emperor of the whole empire but in name only) was given charge of Middle Francia; Louis the German became king of East Francia; and Charles received West Francia. This tripartite division would have significant consequences to come for the subsequent history of Europe. While the Carolingian Empire remained nominally united, over the decades to come the rulers of the Frankish kingdoms asserted more their autonomy and independence. At the same time, the cultural differences grew between the different regions. Eventually, the divisions made at Verdun set the stage for the development of several European countries, notably West Francia and East Francia becoming the nuclei of France and Germany respectively.


(Contemporary depictions of Lothair I [L] and Louis the German [R])



(Treaty of Verdun divisions, 843)

For Charles and his two brothers, there was a fragile peace between them that was marked with tension, distrust, and shifting alliances, helped driven by Lothair’s attempts to establish preeminence over his two other brothers. After Verdun, Charles went about establishing himself in his western kingdom. Unlike his brothers, however, Charles was a new ruler in the lands he acquired and so had no real prior connection to them or its inhabitants (especially the nobility and the clergy). In some instances, his consolidation of his power went well, but in other instances this process did not go as smoothly. Notably, he was forced to compromise with his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine, allowing him to become an autonomous ruler in his territories with the right to issue his own charters. This deal did not last long, when failure to respond adequately to Viking attacks led to the deposition of Pepin by Aquitainian officials and their subsequent declaring of Charles as their king in 848. He also attempted to buy off loyalty through the giving of lands, titles, and offices, which reduced his prestige and led to resentment among the aristocracy who were reluctant to answer to royal authority. Charles also eventually reconciled with Lothair, in 849. This however, caused his relationship with Louis, the brother with whom he established the alliance that was crucial in the war against Lothair, to diminish. A few years after a failed attempt by Louis to install his son on the throne of Aquitaine (still a nominal part of Charles’s kingdom), Louis invaded West Francia. He struck while Charles and his forces were campaigning against the Vikings in the Seine. Louis tried to convince the Frankish clergy to crown him as West Frankish king, but to no avail. Charles gathered his forces, and soon Louis was compelled to withdraw back to East Francia, and later, oaths were taken to establish peace. The two brothers turned their attention to winning over influence in Middle Francia, which had been divided between Lothair’s sons (including the successor to the Carolingian imperial throne, Louis II) after his death in 855. From these efforts, Charles acquired the title of King of Lotharingia.



(Types of soldiers in Charlemagne's army)

During this time and for the rest of his reign, Charles had to also contend with the incursions of the Vikings, who first raided Francia in the 820s. Numerous times, Charles was forced to pay off the Vikings to get them to cease their attacks, as well as promulgate laws against selling arms and horses to them. These attacks escalated in 845, when the Vikings gathered a large army and besieged Paris, Charles’s capital. The Viking leading this action was one Reginherus, who was possibly the legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok. While the Viking assault against Paris was successful, the conflict against them led Charles to make adjustments to the structure of the Frankish army, notably by building up the cavalry to help make the army more mobile. This in turn would influence the rise of knights and chivalry later in the Middle Ages.


(Artist's impression of the Sack of Paris)

Charles was also active in cultivating diplomatic relations with the Umayyads based in al-Andalus (Islamic Spain and Portugal). Relations between him and the Emir Abd al-Raḥmān II were poor, with each supporting the other’s enemies and rebels, and even escalating into direct military conflict when al-Raḥmān invaded West Francia in 852. The ascension of al-Raḥmān’s son Muhammad I as Emir of Cordoba provided the opportunity for the two sides to turn over a new leaf. Charles was invested in improving relations as part of his overall effort to stabilize his kingdom and defeat his enemies, without the added threat of an attack from al-Andalus. For Muhammad, it was a similar motivation; he was busy dealing with the Asturians on his northwestern border and did not want Frankish interference in support of their coreligionists. Envoys were sent between 863 and 865, with Charles receiving a pack of camels from Emir Muhammad, echoing when his grandfather Charlemagne was gifted an elephant from the Abbasid caliph Harun-al-Rashid in 802.




(My coin of Al-Hakam, father of Abd al-Raḥmān II and grandfather of Muhammad I)

In 875, a succession crisis occurred when Carolingian emperor Louis II died without any male heirs to either the imperial throne or the kingship of Italy (he was also King of Italy along with his imperial title over the whole Carolingian Empire). Originally, Louis II was supposed to be succeeded by Carloman of Bavaria, per an arrangement made between Louis II and Louis the German (his uncle), the father of Carloman. However, the politics of Rome interceded in the matter. Pope Hadrian II and later, Pope John VIII, supported Charles’s claim to emperor. Charles was able to convince Carloman to abandon his own claim, and on Christmas day of 875, was crowned emperor in Rome, as his predecessors had done since Charlemagne. He marked the occasion with a new imperial motto: renovatio imperii Romani et Francorum (“renewal of the empire of the Romans and Franks”). This was followed by Charles receiving the kingship over Italy.


(Carolingian territories partitioned among Emperor Charles, Louis the Younger, Charles the Fat, and Carloman of Bavaria, 876)

Almost immediately, Louis the German attacked West Francia once again, in retaliation for Charles assuming the emperorship. But this invasion was cut short with Louis’s death less than a year later, in 876. Charles himself attacked East Francia in revenge, but he and his forces were routed at the Battle of Andernach. The emperor was forced to end his campaign early by needing to travel to Italy to protect Pope John VIII and his domains against Saracen attacks. The prospect of a new expedition was not received well by the nobles, and Charles was not able to raise an army. Meanwhile, Carloman was stirring tensions by traveling to Italy. Stressed from all of these events, Charles, by then very ill, crossed the Alps in 877 to return to Francia, but died en route. He was succeeded as West Frankish king by his son, Louis the Stammerer, who ultimately was never crowned Carolingian emperor. The next holder of the imperial title would be Charles the Fat, a son of Louis the German, in 881.

It is currently not known if Charles II was referred to as “the Bald” during his lifetime. The earliest existing reference naming him along with this epithet is in a 10th century copy of an earlier work serving as a genealogy record of all the Carolingian rulers, for the purpose of linking them to the preceding Merovingians and thus adding further legitimacy to the dynasty. It is the only epithet in the manuscript, so it is not known for certainty why Charles was the only one differentiated in this manner. After this first appearance, use of the epithet spreads into other, later works. It has been suggested that the moniker was used in an ironic way, and that Charles actually had a lot of hair. This is in line with the Germanic preference for long hair, which was seen as a symbol of status and wealth, in contrast to the Romans before them. It has also been theorized that “bald” referred to Charles’s initial lack of land or a kingdom. In contemporary depictions such as his royal seals, he is portrayed with a full head of hair.


Anderson, Margaret Audrey (2020) Charles the Bald: the Story of an Epithet. Senior thesis (Major), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/jsfq-q743. https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:06032020-102905204

Charles the Bald. (2022, August 17). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Bald

McKitterick, R. (2018). The Frankish kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987. Routledge.

Ottewill-Soulsby, Sam (2019) The Camels of Charles the Bald. Medieval Encounters. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700674-12340046

Oaths of Strasbourg. (2022, May 6). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oaths_of_Strasbourg

Treaty of Verdun. (2022, August 20). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Verdun

Picture/photo sources:

Self (coins)



Web Gallery of Art

Please share your Frankish/Carolingian coins, or of any of their contemporaries!

Edited by ValiantKnight
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32 minutes ago, Topcat7 said:

854-858 Aethelred II (First Reign) Sp.'98 861 - Sceat

854-858 Aethelred II (First Reign) Sp.'98 861.jpg

I was thinking English coins will be a bit thin on the ground in the 800s...but I forgot about Northumbria.

Æthelred II Phase IIci Second Reign Styca, 843-850image.png.3565cfacae4a286f287cb8667cf4a9ce.png
Northumbria. Copper, 0.71g. +EDILRED REX. +EARDVVLF (moneyer Eardwulf) (S 868).

Edited by John Conduitt
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Here's one from the elephant-giving Harun-al-Rashid.

Dirham from the time of Al-Rashid, AH190/AD805-6image.png.29d4af09461e7090890a5b8033ae2e5f.png

Madinat al-Salam, Abbasid Caliphate. Silver, 21mm, 2.99g. There is no God but / God alone / He has no equal; in the name of Allah, this dirham was struck at Madinat al-Salam year ninety and one hundred. Muhammad / is the Messenger / of God; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, he was sent with guidance and the religion of truth to proclaim it over all religion even if the polytheists detest (SICA III, 1698).

Edited by John Conduitt
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Thanks all for the comments and nice coins! With Carolingians, right now I’m going to continue going for whatever interests me, even common ones. It’s too bad rulers like Louis the German, Lothair, Pippin, etc. are pricey; I’d be willing to buy problem ones if need be, but even those seem to almost always cost a pretty penny. Another on the want list is a Merovingian, but I struggle with the idea of paying $300-500 for a common (as far as Merovingians go), tiny AE4-sized piece of silver.

Edited by ValiantKnight
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10 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

Fabulous writeup for a fabulous set of coins!  I like the neat factoid that Charles may well have had luxurious locks. 🙂 

Here's a heavily toned XPISTIANA RELIGIO denier of Louis the Pious:


It may be possible to determine the mint, but I haven't attempted this.

I know in one of the papers I found, Coupland IIRC made an argument for identifying possible Paris-mint XPISTIANA coins on a number of specific details. At least regarding what he said about the temple, my PARISII CIVITAS seemed to match up so he might be onto something. I’ll have to find the paper again and see if he discusses about identifying other mints.

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Here’s Charles the Bald’s successor as emperor, Charles the Fat. 

Charles the Fat, Carolingian Empire
AR denier
Obv: CARLVS IMP AVG, cross above, cross within dotted circle in center
Rev: BITVRICES CIVI, cross to left, KRLS (Karolus) monogram within dotted circle in center
Mint: Bourges
Date: 881-887 AD
RefDepeyrot 198


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France. Carolingian. Louis the Pious, AD 814-840. AR Denier (21 mm, 1.64g, 9 h). Uncertain mint, AD 822-840. Obv: + HLVDOVVICVS IMP; Cross pattée; pellets in quarters. Rev: + XPISTIANA RELIGIO; Temple façade. Ref: Morrisson and Grunthal 472; cf. MEC 1, 794 and 800 (for type). Choice Very Fine. Ex Triskeles Auction 27 (13 March 2019), Lot 347.


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The closest that I get to Carolingian/Frankish coins are Byzantine, such as this Theophilus Follis, minted sometime during his 829 - 842 reign.

Theophilus (AD 829-842) Æ Follis; Constantinople mint; AD 830-842; Obv: Half-length figure standing facing, holding labarum and globus cruciger; Rev: ΘEO / FILE AVG / OVSTE SV / hICAS in four lines; 27.66mm; 7.46 grams; Sear 1667


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Magnificent write-up and coins, @ValiantKnight.  Replete with a richly diverse range of contemporaneous coins from other members, as it so resonantly deserved.  …Serious apologies for taking so long to contribute.

But your emphasis on the interaction between the Carolingians and Vikings gave me the traction I needed to advance the narrative.

Along with plunder, the Vikings in Carolingian France, especially under Charles the Bald, collected their own danegeld (royal tribute), a century and a half before the better known ones under AEthelred the Uncounselled. McKitterick (The Frankish Kingdoms) notes ones of record in 845, 853, 860/1, 862, 866, 877, 884, 889, 897, 923/4 and 926.  As she elaborates, “the sums of the 7 payments of which we have details amounted to almost 40,000 pounds of silver, let alone the food and drink that often went with it” (233; cf. Jones, History of the Vikings, 213 n. 2).  

Multiply 40,000 pounds by 240 deniers (or pennies; during the period, the two were of comparable module, fineness and weight), and you’ve got a fair hunk of change.  Not surprisingly, Carolingian deniers with the distinctively Scandinavian ‘peck marks’ (comparable to Greek ‘test cuts’) show up in Viking hoards, notably the early 10th-century one in Cuerdale, Lancashire.  In light of the only greater volume of English danegelds, these are noticeably less common than on late Anglo-Saxon pennies.  But here’s one.



Charles the Bald, post Edict of Pitres, 865; possibly (on stylistic grounds) an early immobilization, into the 10th century.  ‘GDR’ denier of Melle.

Obv. Cross, with peck marks; +C/\RLVS REX [F?]R [elided?]

Rev. ‘CAROLVS’ monogram (going back to Charlemagne, 768-814).

+MET x VLLO.  (Depeyrot, 3rd ed., 2008, 627.)

Back to @ValiantKnight, your terrific (and, I can’t doubt, scarce) denier of Charles the Bald with the temple motif is imitated –maybe ‘riffed on’ would be more appropriate– at the end of the Carolingian period, by Richard I, Count of Rouen /Normandy, 942-996.  



.AR denier of Rouen, c. 960-980, imitating temple issues of Louis I ‘Le Pieux,’ Carolingian Emperor 814-840.

Obv. Cross, pellets in corners.  

+RICARDVSI  (Of Richard).

Rev. Temple façade; ‘X’ and pellets in center.


Duplessy 16, Depeyrot 884 (sub ‘Types feodaux d’epoque carolingienne’).

It’s worth noting that this was still well before the Norse and Danish population in Normandy had fully assimilated.  Richard’s minority was marked by a ‘baronial’ revolt, involving the revival of Scandinavian paganism.  As late as 1014, there was a substantial Norman contingent in the army of Sihtric /Sygtrigg of Norse Dublin, at the Battle of Clontarf.

It’s likely that this issue was inspired by the earlier, more common ‘temple’ deniers of Louis I, since Charles II continued that motif only selectively; apparently never in Rouen.  …Well, Sure, here’s my better example of the Louis I issue.  As noted by @SeverusAlexander and @ValiantKnight (please see above), who are more on top of this than I am, some progress has been made toward identifying the mints for these, triangulating hoard evidence with stylistic features.


Louis I, denier, mint unknown.

Rev.  Temple, cross between two columns.  +XPISTIANA RELIGIO.  

(A fun example of the medieval Latin legend beginning with two Greek letters.  This seems to echo liturgical practice in the Latin mass.  Cf. the Kyrie, transliterating the Greek for ‘Have mercy.’)

Obv. Cross, with the four pellets characteristic of Louis I’s issues.  –In pronounced contrast to @ValiantKnight’s (may I say it again?) Terrific, and scarce  example of Charles II.  


(More cool linguistic stuff happening: the initial ‘H’ demonstrates the ongoing transition from Frankish Germanic (cf. the the Merovingian ‘Chlotaire,’ eventually evolving to ‘Lothaire’), whil the ‘W’ of ‘HLODOWICVS’ is still, improvizationally rendered with two ‘V’s.

Depeyrot pp. 40-2; Type 8 (dated 822-840), A1.  Cf. Nouchy p. 86, No. 5.  (This is when Nouchy’s arrangement by reign becomes preferable to Depeyrot’s by mint.)

Meanwhile, right, Charles II /le Chauve never issued this type in Rouen.

Here’s another ‘GDR’ example of his.


Obv. (From one o’clock:) +CRATIA D-I REX.

Rev. (From 9 o’clock:) +ROTVIICVS CVII+

(In light of the respective chronology and issuing authority, this is a somewhat ironically blundered rendering of ‘ROTOMAGVS,’ as in the example of Richard I.)

Depeyrot 878, with the caveat that there are “[n]ombreuses varietes de legende, de ponctuation et de gravure.”  

Leading to a favorite.  First, the Carolingian prototype, yet another Charles II ‘GDR’ example.  This time from Bayeux –thank you, the site of the Tapestry of the late 11th century.



..Rev. +HBAIOCASM CIVITAS.  Depeyrot 127.


…And, from a medieval kind of place, this is truly ‘bucket list.’ 



Richard I, Comte de Rouen 942-996.  Immobilization of the above, replete with blundered legends.

Rev. +I/\<>CASH CIT/\S.

Rev. Degraded ‘CAROLVS’ monogram.  

(From 10 o’clock:) +CPATIA D-I REX.

Dumas, Fecamp 6047; cf. Plate VI.  Apparently a die match on both sides.

As Bates (Normandy before 1066) notes, in reference to Rouen and Bayeux,

Of the two, Rouen was unquestionably the more important.  Its mint, for example, was the only one to use new dies during the tenth century; Bayeux’s, as far as we can know from a very small number of coins, merely continued to produce coins in the archaic Carolingian style.  (129.)


Edited by JeandAcre
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