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The Reign Of Otho II
by [?]

Otho II., Emperor of Germany,–Otho the Red, as he was called, from his florid complexion,–succeeded to the Western Empire in 973, when in his eighteenth year of age. His reign was to be a short and active one, and attended by adventures and fluctuations of fortune which render it worthy of description. Few monarchs have experienced so many of the ups and downs of life within the brief period of five years, through which his wars extended.

As heir to the imperial title of Charlemagne, he was lord of the ancient palace of the great emperor, at Aix-la-Chapelle, and here held court at the feast of St. John in the year 978. All was peace and festivity within the old imperial city, all war and threat without it. While Otho and his courtiers, knights and ladies, lords and minions, were enjoying life with ball and banquet, feast and frivolity, in true palatial fashion, an army was marching secretly upon them, with treacherous intent to seize the emperor and his city at one full swoop. Lothaire, King of France, had in haste and secrecy collected an army, and, without a declaration of hostilities, was hastening, by forced marches, upon Aix-la-Chapelle.

It was an act of treachery utterly undeserving of success. But it is not always the deserving to whom success comes, and Otho heard of the rapid approach of this army barely in time to take to flight, with his fear-winged flock of courtiers at his heels, leaving the city an easy prey to the enemy. Lothaire entered the city without a blow, plundered it as if he had taken it by storm, and ordered that the imperial eagle, which was erected in the grand square of Charles the Great, should have its beak turned westward, in token that Lorraine now belonged to France.

Doubtless the great eagle turned creakingly on its support, thus moved by the hand of unkingly perfidy, and impatiently awaited for time and the tide of affairs to turn its beak again to the east. It had not long to wait. The fugitive emperor hastily called a diet of the princes and nobles at Dortmund, told them in impassioned eloquence of the faithless act of the French king, and called upon them for aid against the treacherous Lothaire. Little appeal was needed. The honor of Germany was concerned. Setting aside all the petty squabbles which rent the land, the indignant princes gathered their forces and placed them under Otho’s command. By the 1st of October the late fugitive found himself at the head of a considerable army, and prepared to take revenge on his perfidious enemy.

Into France he marched, and made his way with little opposition, by Rheims and Soissons, until the French capital lay before his eyes. Here the army encamped on the right bank of the Seine, around Montmartre, while their cavalry avenged the plundering of Aix-la-Chapelle by laying waste the country for many miles around. The French were evidently as little prepared for Otho’s activity as he had been for Lothaire’s treachery, and did not venture beyond the walls of their city, leaving the country a defenceless prey to the revengeful anger of the emperor.

The Seine lay between the two armies, but not a Frenchman ventured to cross its waters; the garrison of the city, under Hugh Capet,–Count of Paris, and soon to become the founder of a new dynasty of French kings,–keeping closely within its walls. These walls proved too strong for the Germans, and as winter was approaching, and there was much sickness among his troops, the emperor retreated, after having devastated all that region of France. But first he kept a vow that he had made, that he would cause the Parisians to hear a Te Deum such as they had never heard before. In pursuance of this vow, he gathered upon the hill of Montmartre all the clergymen whom he could seize, and forced them to sing his anthem of victory with the full power of their lungs. Then, having burned the suburbs of Paris, and left his lance quivering in the city gate, he withdrew in triumph, having amply punished the treacherous French king. Aix-la-Chapelle fell again into his hands; the eyes of the imperial eagle were permitted once more to gaze upon Germany, and in the treaty of peace that followed Lorraine was declared to be forever a part of the German realm.