Henry The Fowler

Henry I also known as Henry The Fowler was the Duke of Saxony and the King of East Francia during the 10th century. Henry The Fowler is considered to be the founding king of the medieval German state known as East Francia.

Siegel Heinrichs I.

He was the first person of the Ottonian Dynasty to become the King of Germans. He was an avid hunter of waterfowl. He received the nickname of “The Fowler” for repairing hunting nets while being told he was the new king.

Early years

Henry The Fowler was born in 876 C.E. to Otto I of Saxony and his wife Hedwiga the great-great granddaughter of Charlemagne. He spent his childhood years learning to be a duke. He was schooled in military tactics from a young age.

His first marriage in 906 C.E. to Hatheburg of Merseburg produced his first son named Thankmar. But the marriage was annulled three years later because she had become a nun after the death of her first husband.

This placed questions over the right of Thankmar to succeed Henry The Fowler as Duke of Saxony. Henry The Fowler remarried in 909 C.E. to Matilda who bore him three children. Their eldest son Otto would later become known as Otto I or Otto The Great after he was crowned the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Unifying Germany

Henry The Fowler was ordained as the Duke of Saxony after his father’s death in 912 C.E. At the time there were problems with Conrad I the King of Francia. The two kingdoms continued to war over territory in Thuringia.

Upon his death bed Conrad I appointed Henry the Fowler King of Francia in 915 C.E. In 919 C.E. he was elected King of Germany by the important duchies in Saxony and Franconia. Two other significant duchies, Swabia and Bavaria, did not identify him as the king.

The actions of Swabia and Bavaria did not sit well with Henry The Fowler. In 919 C.E. he went after Burchard the Duke of Swabia who succumbed to the new king. In Bavaria the situation was more complicated.

Arnulf the Duke of Bavaria had also claimed the German throne after he won the support of the Bavarians and East Frankish nobles. There were two major military campaigns against Arnulf starting in 919 C.E. Finally in 921 C.E. Arnulf was defeated by Henry the Fowler and surrendered his throne.

From here Henry The Fowler fought with the invading Magyars from Hungary in 924 C.E. He agreed to pay a nine year tribute and release an important Magyar chief to stop the invasions by the Magyars. In 925 C.E.

he marched on Giselbert the King of Lotharingia. After defeating Giselbert he made him Duke of Lotharingia. Giselbert would later marry the daughter of Henry The Fowler in 928 C.E.

Also in 928 C.E. he marched on the Havelli and Daleminzi regions. One year later he was instrumental in squashing a rebellion in Bohemia. When the treaty between the Magyars ended in 933 C.E. he sent his cavalry to route the barbarians.

His last military campaign during his lifetime was against the Dane’s in 934 C.E. at Schleswig. After winning the battle he added Schleswig as German territory.


Although Henry The Fowler unified Germany during his reign as king he did not rule the country. He felt Germany was a confederation and not as a nation. When he would defeat an opponent and gain territory for Germany he generally left the former king or duke in charge. He ruled by autonomy and not with a strong hand.

Other accomplishments by Henry The Fowler were his civil projects and his buildup of a strong German army. He fortified towns, encouraged education and culture, constructed monasteries and churches, and stimulated trade throughout Germany.

His ultimate achievement was the unification of Germany. He died as the king in 936 C.E.

Himmler at Henry's grave, 1938

Important facts about Henry The Fowler

  • Henry The Fowler was the son of Otto I also known as Otto The Illustrious. His mother was the great-great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.
  • Henry The Fowler was schooled by private tutors in basic education and the art of military tactics.
  • He was made Duke of Saxony after the death of his father in 912 C.E.
  • Henry The Fowler was ordained King of Germany after defeating Conrad I of Franconia.
  • He was the first king to unify Germany.
  • He ruled through autonomy and allowed former duchies the right to rule.
  • Henry The Fowler was instrumental in fortifying cities, creating trade markets, establishing monasteries and churches, and forming a strong German army.
  • He squashed invasions by the Magyars and Danes during his reign as king.


  1. Henry The Fowler’s mother was the great-great granddaughter of which former Emperor of the Roman Empire?


  1. Who was the first king to unify Germany?

Henry The Fowler

  1. Which band of barbarians did Henry The Fowler pay tribute to and sign a nine year peace treaty?

Magyars of Hungary

  1. Which son of Henry The Fowler would go on to become the Emperor of Holy Roman Empire?

Otto I also known as Otto The Great