Desiderius, King of the Lombards

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Desiderius (Didier), dei Longobardi

Also Known As: "Didier", "Desiderio", "Desiderius", "de Lombardie", "di Lombardia", "van Lombardije", "Daufer", "Dauferius"
Birthplace: Brescia, Lombardy, Italy
Death: Died in Liège, Walloon Region, Belgium
Place of Burial: Liège, Walloon Region, Belgium
Immediate Family:

Son of Sévère di Lombardia and N.N. of Lombardy
Husband of Ansa of the Lombards
Father of N.N. of the Lombards; Anselperga de San Salvatore, abbess; Desiderata of the Lombards; Luitberga of the Lombards; Ermengarda dei Longobardi and 2 others

Occupation: 756 BECAME KING DUKE OF TUSCANY, koning der Lombarden, Roi de Lombardie, the last king of the Lombard Kingdom of northern Italy, Rei da Lombardia, Longobardi (756-774), Duc, d'Istrie, Roi, des Lombards, Roy des Lombards, Duc de Toscane et d'Asti, Re
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About Desiderius, King of the Lombards

Desiderius (also known as Daufer or Dauferius; Didier in French and Desiderio in Italian) was the last king of the Lombard Kingdom of northern Italy (died c. 786). He is chiefly known for his connection to Charlemagne, who married his daughter and conquered his realm.

He was originally a royal officer, the dux Langobardorum et comes stabuli, "constable and duke of the Lombards," an office apparently similar to the contemporaneous Frankish office of dux Francorum. King Aistulf made him duke of Istria and Tuscany and he became king after the death of Aistulf in 756. At that time, Aistulf's predecessor, Ratchis, left his monastic retreat of Montecassino and tried to seize the kingdom, but Desiderius put his revolt down quickly with the support of Pope Stephen II. At his coronation, Desiderius promised to restore many lost papal towns to the Holy See, in return for the papacy's endorsement of his claim. Conflict with the Holy See under Pope Stephen III arose, for Stephen opposed Charlemagne's marriage to Desiderius' daughter. Desiderius ceased delivery of the towns after only a few.

Seeking, like his predecessors, to extend the Lombard power in Italy, he came into collision with the papacy and the southern duchies. The duchy of Benevento and that of Spoleto were coaxed by Pope Stephen to commend themselves to the Franks and thus separate themselves again from monarchy. In 758, Duke Liutprand of Benevento attained his majority and rebelled. Desiderius defeated him and granted his duchy to one Arechis, tying the duchy more closely to Pavia than it had been since Grimoald's time. In that same year, Desiderius deposed Alboin of Spoleto and exercised himself the ducal powers there.

Stephen III opposed Charlemagne's marriage to Desiderius' daughter, Desiderata, in 768, but by his death in 772, he had made peace with the Lombards. The new pope, Adrian I, however, implored the aid of Charlemagne against him, for the marriage of dynasties was dissolved by Charlemagne's repudiation of Desiderata in 771. Charles sent her back to her father. Moreover, Gerberga, the widow of Charlemagne's brother Carloman, sought the protection of the Lombard king after her husband's death in 771; and — probably in return for the insult Charlemagne had given to the Lombards by rejecting Desiderata — Desiderius recognised Gerberga's sons as lawful heirs, and attacked Pope Adrian for refusing to crown them kings and invaded the Pentapolis. The embassies of Adrian and Desiderius met at Thionville and Charlemagne favoured the pope's case.

Such was the position when Charlemagne and his uncle Bernard led troops across the Alps in 773. The Lombards were severely defeated at Mortara (Ara Mortis) and soon besieged in their capital of Ticinum, the modern Pavia. Desiderius' son Adelchis was raising an army at Verona, but the young prince was chased to the Adriatic littoral and fled to Constantinople when Charlemagne approached.

The siege lasted until June 774, when, in return for the lives of his soldiers and subjects, Desiderius surrendered and opened the gates. Desiderius was exiled to the abbey of Corbie, where he died, and his son Adelchis spent his entire life in futile attempts to recover his father's kingdom. Some sources state that the king and his family were banished to a monastery at Liège, Belgium. Desiderius died sometime around 786.

The name Desiderius appears in the romances of the Carolingian period. Charlemagne took the title rex Langobardorum, the first time a Germanic king adopted the title of a kingdom he had conquered. (Wikipedia)


He married Ansa (or Ansia) and, as well as a son, had four daughters:

Anselperga (or Anselberga), abbess of San Salvatore

Adelperga (or Adelberga), married Arechis II of Benevento

Liutperga (also Liutpirc or Liutberga), married Tassilo III of Bavaria

Desiderata, married Charlemagne in 768, divorced in 771

Adelchis (or Adalgis), patrician in Constantinople


DESIDERIUS, son of --- (-Corbie after 774). A Lombard dux, King Aistulf sent him to command Lombard troops in Tuscia, where he learnt of the king's death in Dec 756 and assembled troops to seize the throne[574]. He succeeded in 758 as DESIDERIUS Duke of Spoleto, until 759. With the support of Fulrad and Frankish troops, as well as the promise of Roman soldiers from Pope Stephen II (III), he prevailed over his rival Ratchis and installed himself as DESIDERIUS King of the Lombards[575]. A later manuscript of the Origo Gentis Langobardorum names "Desiderius" when recording that he succeeded "Aistulfus" and ruled for 17 years and three months before being taken captive to France[576]. The Chronicon Vulturnense records that "Desiderius…Romanæ dignitatis Imperator Augustus et gentis Langobardorum Rex" donated property to Volturno monastery by undated charter[577]. His relations with Rome deteriorated under Pope Stephen III (IV) who refused to consecrate Desiderius's candidate as Bishop of Ravenna and to whom the king refused to cede territories which he had promised to return to the papacy. Despite attempts by the new pope Hadrian I to negotiate, the king continued to seize papal cities and in 772 marched on Rome. After unsuccessfully pressuring King Desiderius to return the captured cities, Charles I King of the Franks, allied with the papacy, besieged Pavia and then Verona in 773/74. King Desiderius surrendered in Jun 774[578] and was sent into exile with his wife and daughter to the monastery of Corbie[579].

m ANSA, daughter of --- (-bur Brescia[580]). "Anza" is named as wife of "Desiderius rex"[581]. She was captured with her husband at Pavia in 774 and lived in exile in the monastery of Corbie578. Paulus Diaconus wrote a poem in memory of "Ausonii coniux…regis Ansa"[582]. King Desiderius & his wife had [five] children:

1. ADELGIS [Adelchis] (-after 788). "Adalgisus" is named as son of Desiderius by Einhard[583]. He accompanied his father when the latter advanced on Rome in 772[584]. When the Franks advanced on Pavia in 773, Adelgis fled to Verona[585]. The Annales Laurissenses record that "Adalghisus filius Desiderii regis" fled across the seas in 774 and arrived at Constantinople[586]. The Royal Frankish Annals and Theophanes both record that, after his father's overthrow he fled to Constantinople, where he was said to have been made patrikios[587], to seek support for his restoration[588]. He invaded Italy in [787/88] with a combined Lombard/Byzantine force[589]. He was repelled by the Franks who were also helped by his nephew Grimoald Duke of Benevento[590]. m ---. The name of Adelgis's wife is not known. Adelgis & his wife had [one] child:

a) [GRIMOALD (-after [788/95]). No proof has been found that Grimoald was the son of Adelgis but this seems a reasonable supposition. He sent envoys and gifts to Emperor Konstantinos VI for the hand of Euanthia, sister of Empress Maria[591]. He is described as "King of the Lombards" but this does not seem to conform with the political reality of the time. m firstly ([788/95][592]) EUANTHIA, daughter of PHILARETOS & his wife ---. m secondly ---. Grimoald abandoned his first wife and married his mistress[593].]

2. ADALPERGA (-after Feb 788). The Chronicon Salernitanum names Adalperga, daughter of Desiderius, as wife of "Arichis Beneventanus dux"[594]. She is referred to as the wife of Duke Arichis in the Versus de Annis by Paulus Diaconus, the initial letters of each verse of the poem reading "Adelperga pia"[595]. Paul the Deacon dedicated his history of the Roman Empire to her[596]. Pope Hadrian I records "Adalberga relicta Arigihs…duas filias suas secum" in a letter to Charles I King of the Franks dated to [777/78][597]. m ([758]) ARICHIS II Duke of Benevento, son of --- ([736]-Salerno 26 Aug 787, bur Salerno Cathedral).

3. LIUTBERGA [Liutpirc] (-after 788). Einhard names "Liutberga…filia Desiderii regis Langobardorum" as the wife of "Tassilonem ducem"[598]. The wife of "Tassilonis ducis" is called "filia Desiderii regis" by Einhard[599]. Named as the wife of Duke Tassilo in the Royal Frankish Annals, which describe her as "his rancorous wife … a woman hateful to God". She and her daughters became nuns when her husband was deprived of his dukedom in 788[600]. m TASSILO Duke of Bavaria, son of ODILO King of Bavaria & his wife Chiltrudis [Carolingian] (-after 794).

4. daughter. Einhard calls King Charles's first wife "filiam Desiderii regis Langobardorum"[601]. The Annales Fuldenses record that "Berhta regina" brought "filiam Desiderii regis Langobardorum" back from Italy as the wife for "Karolo filio suo"[602]. Her husband sent her back to her father after repudiating her. She may have been the unnamed daughter who was recorded as having accompanied her parents into exile at the monastery of Corbie (see above). m (769, repudiated [770/early 771]) as his first wife, CHARLES I King of the Franks, son of PEPIN "le Bref" King of the Franks & his wife Bertrada [Berta] "au Grand Pied" (near Aix-la-Chapelle 2 Apr 748-Aix-la-Chapelle 28 Jan 814, bur Aix-la-Chapelle, Chapelle Sainte-Marie). He defended the Pope against the Lombards, conquering their kingdom in 773. He adopted the title "rex Francorum et Langobardorum atque patricius Romanorum" 5 Jun 774. He was crowned CHARLES I “Charlemagne” Emperor of the Romans in Rome 25 Dec 800.

5. [GERBERGA (-after Dec 771). Her parentage is supposedly proved by the Annales Lobienses which record that "uxor eius [=Karlomannus] cum duobus filiis et Otgario marchione" took refuge with "Desiderium regem, patrem suum" after the death of her husband[603]. Settipani highlights that this may be incorrect, assuming that the text results from confusion with the first wife of Carloman's older brother Charles being the daughter of King Desiderius, and the fact that Gerberga sought refuge at the Lombard court[604]. Another factor is also significant in deciding the question: numerous authorities, for example the Annales Fuldenses[605], record the visit to Italy of Queen Berta, mother of Charles and Carloman, to bring back the bride for her son Charles, but none mentions two sisters being brought back as brides for the two brothers. On the other hand, the fact that King Desiderius supported the candidacy of Gerberga's son Pepin to succeed his father could have been motivated by a close family relationship (see CAROLINGIAN NOBILITY). There is no direct proof of the date of Gerberga's marriage. The Annales Laurissenses name "Girberga uxor [Carlomanni]"[606]. She is not mentioned in any of the surviving charters of her husband[607]. There is no direct proof of the date of her marriage. If Gerberga was the daughter of King Desiderius, it is reasonable to suppose that the marriage would have taken place at the same time as the marriage of Carloman's brother, whose first wife was the daughter of King Desiderius, although this would leave little time for two children to have been born from the marriage before Carloman died. m ([769]) CARLOMAN Joint King of the Franks, son of PIPPIN "le Bref" King of the Franks & his wife Bertrada [Berta] "au Grand Pied" de Laon (751-Samoussy, near Laon 4 Dec 771, bur Reims, église de l'abbaye de Saint-Rémi).] From Cawley's Medlands


There is some doubt about his parentage. Betham, the most reliable authority, calls him a son of Erminulphus, who was son of Alachisis. James Anderson, an 18th century collector of genealogical traditioins, calls him a son of Severus.

Better source verification of parentage than this [] is required.

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Desiderius, King of the Lombards's Timeline

Brescia, Lombardy, Italy
Age 29
Lombardy - dtr of
Age 33
Age 33
- 756
Age 37
Lucca, Tuscia, Italy
Age 43
- 774
Age 44
Pavia, Italy
Age 74
Liège, Walloon Region, Belgium