Louis: An Emperor Failed By The System by Jill Hughey

Cover600x900_2On April 16, 778, a son was born and named Louis by his parents, Charles and Hildegard. We now know Charles as Charlemagne. Most of us don’t know Louis at all.

As the only surviving son of his parents, Louis followed in Charlemagne’s footsteps. They were rather large shoes to fill and he did not do it well, though he isn’t entirely to blame.

His society believed in dividing wealth equally among sons. Sounds fair enough, if you ignore the sexism, and provides an interesting counterpoint to Britain where the rule of primogeniture – eldest male heir takes all – provides so much fodder for historical romance conflict.

In reality, primogeniture gives stability by keeping vast land holdings and wealth intact, which is one explanation for why you’ve heard of the British Empire but not the Carolingian one (Charlemagne’s.)

Charlemagne ruled over such a vast territory that he is called The Father of Europe. Charlemagne was also the only surviving male in his generation which gave him a head start on the whole empire-building project. After his death in 814, his only surviving son, Louis, who must have bred much sturdier stock, inherited the empire as a whole. As tradition and law advised, he divided the empire into three kingdoms, with each of his three sons becoming managers of a piece of the pie, though, as emperor, Louis was still the big boss.

Louis’s wife then inconveniently died. He remarried, and, in 823, the marriage yielded son number four for Louis. In 829, he partitioned off a piece of the empire for little Charles. Suddenly, what had been divided in thirds was divided in fourths.

All hell broke loose.

The first civil war of the decade was fought almost immediately. Louis was deposed for a brief period after this uprising, but quickly regained his throne early in 831. The Carolingian Empire endured two more civil wars during Louis’s reign and ended up after another generation or so as France, Germany, and Italy. So much for the empire.

I’m sure going to war with his sons was no fun for Louis, but all of this conflict makes a wonderful backdrop for historical romances, which is why I set my series smack in the middle of it.

The romance hero most attuned to the politics of the age is Theophilus, Lord of Ribeauville who appears in Vain, book three of my Evolution series. Theo dresses like a dandy but takes his responsibilities, and himself, too seriously. When his tailor’s daughter needs rescuing, Lily intrigues him with more than her skill with the needle she plies in his prized piece of burgundy cloth. Yet he, a dashing aristocrat, could never marry a merchant, even if she does share his interest in clothing. In the excerpt below, Theo and Lily discuss her future and the outfit of the rich, connected woman he thinks he will marry.


“I heard you were went to the market today,” he stated.

“Yes,” she almost cheered, so proud of her accomplishment she did not question his knowledge of her whereabouts. “I sold my cloth and bought raw wool so I can make more. I think I can take care of myself doing this.”

Her lord crossed his arms over his chest as he paced a short distance away. “I have been meaning to talk to you about your future. One of my guests may have a position for you, as a seamstress for her household.” He turned to look at her. “You would be wise to consider it.”

Lily tried to force herself to be smarter than she felt. She did not really want to leave Ribeauville. She did not want to be a servant. “It is not the woman who questioned me the other day, is it?” she blurted.

“No. What difference would that make?” he inquired.

Lily scuffed her foot in the gravel before the bench. “She does not like how I make clothes.”

“She likes your insolence even less,” he replied stiffly.

“What insolence?” Lily protested.

“Do not pretend you do not know what I mean. Telling her her clothes said she had a rich father,” he groused. “She recognized the insult, Lily.”

Lily stared up at the moon for a minute, unwilling to back down even if embarrassed by his chiding. “I have seen her on other days dressed very well, but you know as well as I do her tunic on Monday was hideous,” she informed him.

Theophilus gaped at her then burst into unwilling laughter.

“There was so much of it,” Lily explained. “Today’s blue looked very nice on her. I would not have added the dagging at the hem, though I can see how she might need the variety with so many outfits to decorate.”

He laughed again. “Lily, I know you have an excellent eye for clothing. It is your tongue you must learn to control.”


Vain – A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world.

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JillAuthorNew_2The most interesting fact about Jill Hughey is that she can sing really, really high. As in opera-singer high. But she only does that when she is not writing, working part time as a business administrator, watching her two teenaged sons’ sporting events, and enjoying the support of her wonderful husband. Her ideal afternoon is spent sitting on her front porch with an iced coffee as she moves the characters in her head into her laptop. Happy reading!

Website: http://blogspot.jillhughey.com
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12 thoughts on “Louis: An Emperor Failed By The System by Jill Hughey

  1. Enjoyed reading the excerpt, Jill. Lily sounds like a young woman before her time. Not afraid to say what’s on her mind and very independent. The story will make an interesting read!

  2. Fun excerpt, Jill! I like Lily already! I look forward to reading this story. I cannot imagine trying to fill Charlemagne’s footsteps! That sounds impossible! Tweeted as well.

    • Thank you, Lana. Charlemagne was irreplaceable, though you’d think a ruler as savvy as he would have figured out that dividing landholdings with each generation was a recipe for failure. I appreciate your visit!

  3. I love your books, Jill and I’ve learned lots about Charlemagne from you! I think it’s wonderful that you have brought this relatively obscure period in history to romance readers.

    • Thank you, Anna. It was kind of fun discovering this time in history and realizing that it might be a perfect yet unusual setting for historical romance. Challenging, too, as you know from the research required for your own books!

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