This crystal was made for Lothair II, king of the Franks. It depicts the biblical story of Susanna and the elders, in which Susanna is accused of adultery before being proved innocent by the Prophet Daniel. The subject matter may reflect Lothair's own marital problems. He attempted to divorce his wife, accusing her of incest. After the pope refused the divorce, Lothair forgave his wife and this crystal may have been made to reflect his acceptance of his wife's innocence.
Why did Lothair really want a divorce?
Lothair's great grandfather Charlemagne created the largest state in Europe since the Roman Empire. Charlemagne's sons divided this empire into France, Germany and Lothair's middle kingdom ? Lorraine. Lothair was desperate for a divorce because his wife could not provide him with an heir. This failure to produce a son led to Lothair's kingdom being divided between his uncles. If he had produced an heir Lorraine might now rank with France and Germany, as one of the great states of Europe.
Lothair's queen was forced, possibly through torture, to confess to incest with her brother by the bishops of Cologne and Trier
Lothair and his kingdom
Lothair II (855-869), was the son of the Carolingian Emperor Lothair I and king of Lotharingia, an artificial kingdom which lay between Saxony and France with its capital at Aachen in modern Germany.
The Carolingians were the second ruling dynasty of the Franksand their name derives from that of Charlemagne, the great king (reigned 768-814) who established an empire in Western Europe reaching from northern Spain and France to northern Germany, Austria and northern Italy.
In 800 Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope at Rome. Under the tutelage of men of learning such as Alcuin of York and Paul the Deacon, he also initiated a great renaissance of art, architecture and learning, drawing on both the Antique culture of the Mediterranean world and Christian scholarship for inspiration. Aachen became the capital of the empire, where Charlemagne had a grand palace built.
The Carolingian rulers subdivided the realm between their heirs, which frequently led to civil war in a bid for power. Also, local officials and aristocrats took advantage of such events to assert semi-independent local rule in some regions.
To avoid dying without an heir, which would have meant his kingdom would be divided between its neighbours, Lothair II attempted to divorce his barren wife Theutberga and marry his mistress Waldrada, who had given him a son. Pope Nicholas intervened, compelling him to take back Theutberga or face attack from his uncles, who wished to share his kingdom between them.
On Lothair’s death, the inevitable happened: Charles the Bald and Louis the German seized his lands by the Partition of Mersen (870). In 888 the realm was partitioned into the kingdoms of France, Germany, Italy, Provence and Burgundy, and the Carolingian empire finally came to an end in 987, but the name of his kingdom survives even today in that of the rather smaller region of Lorraine in eastern France.