Charlemagne  ‎(I1669)‎

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Charles the Great

Karl der Große

Birth: 742
Death: 28 January 814 ‎(Age 72)‎
Personal Facts and Details
Birth Birth 742
Death Death 28 January 814 ‎(Age 72)‎
Last Change Last Change 22 December 2005 - 09:56:12
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Immediate Family  (600)
Pippin of Italy of Vermandois
773 - 810


Charlemagne ‎(ca. 742 or 747 ? January 28, 814)‎ ‎(or Charles the Great, in German Karl der Große, in Norwegian Karl den store, in Dutch Karel de Grote, in Latin Carolus Magnus, giving rise to the adjective form "Carolingian")‎, was king of the Franks from 768 to 814, King of the Lombards since 774, and the renewer of the Western Empire. His dual role as Emperor?Imperator Augustus?and King of the Franks provides the historical link between the Imperial dignity and the Frankish kingdoms and later Germany. Today both France and Germany look to him as a founding figure of their respective countries.

Contents ‎[hide]‎
1 Date of birth
2 Life
3 Cultural significance
4 Charlemagne's portraits
5 Family
5.1 Marriages
5.2 Children
6 Further reading
7 See also
8 External links

Date of birth
Charlemagne's birthday was believed to be April 1, 742, however several factors led to reconsideration of this traditional date. First, the year 742 was calculated from his age given at death, rather than attested with primary sources. Second, 742 precedes the marriage of his parents ‎(in 749)‎, yet there is no indication that Charlemagne was born out of wedlock, and he inherited from his parents. Another date is given in the Annales Petarienses, April 1, 747. In that year, April 1 is Easter. The birth of an Emperor on Easter is a coincidence likely to provoke comment, but there is no such comment documented in 747, leading some to suspect the Easter birthday was a pious fiction concocted as a way of honoring the Emperor. Other commentators weighing the primary records have suggested that the birth was one year later, 748. So at present, it is impossible to be certain of the date of the birth of Charlemagne. The best guesses include April 1, 747, after April 15, 747, or April 1, 748.

Charlemagne was the elder son of Pippin the Younger ‎(714 ? 24 September 768, reigned 751 ? 768)‎ and his wife Bertrada of Laon ‎(720 ? 12 July 783)‎; he was the brother of the Lady Bertha, mother of Roland.

On the death of Pippin, the kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman. Charles took the outer parts of the kingdom, bordering on the sea, namely Neustria, Aquitania and the northern parts of Austrasia, while Carloman attained the inner parts, bordering on Italy.

Carloman died on 5 December 771, leaving Charlemagne the leader of a reunified Frankish kingdom.

Shortly after that, he marched against the Lombards in Italy. In 774 he deposed their king Desiderius and was himself crowned king of the Lombards, permanently unifying the kingdom of Italy to the Frankish crown.

Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign, with his legendary sword Joyeuse in hand. After thirty years of war and eighteen battles -- the Saxon Wars -- he conquered Saxony, a goal that had been the unattainable dream of Augustus, and proceeded to convert the conquered to Catholic Christianity, using force where necessary. In 782, at Verden in Lower Saxony, he allegedly ordered the beheading of 4,500 Saxons in one day ‎(the Bloody Trial of Verden)‎ who had made the error of rebelling against Frankish rule and of being caught practicing paganism after they had agreed to be Christians. Modern research has cast doubt upon this allegation, as no archeological evidence of such a massacre has been found and the original source may have mistakenly written of "beheading" instead of "exiling". Charlemagne also contemplated the reconquest of Spain, but never fully succeeded in this goal. It was during one of his futile invasions of northern Spain that the leader of his afterguard, Count Roland, was killed, inspiring the subsequent creation of the Song of Roland.

The Frankish king Charlemagne was a devout Catholic who maintained a close relationship with the papacy throughout his life. In 772, when Pope Adrian I was threatened by invaders, the king rushed to Rome to provide assistance. Shown here, the pope asks Charlemagne for help at a meeting near Rome.In 797 ‎(or 801?)‎ the caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, presented Charlemagne with an Asian elephant named Abul-Abbas ‎(See History of elephants in Europe.)‎ and a mechanical clock.

In 800, at Mass on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Imperator Romanorum ‎(Emperor of the Romans)‎. Though this, according to the sources, occurred against his intentions, Charles thus became the renewer of the Western Empire, which had expired in the 5th century. To avoid frictions with the Eastern Emperor, Charles later called himself not Imperator Romanorum ‎(a title reserved for the Eastern Emperor)‎, but rather as Imperator Romanum gubernans Imperium ‎(Emperor ruling the Roman Empire)‎.

Pursuing his father's reforms, Charlemagne did away with the monetary system based on the gold sou. Both he and King Offa of Mercia took up the system set in place by Pippin. He set up a new standard, the livre ‎(i.e. pound)‎? both monetary and unit of weight? which was worth 20 sous ‎(like the solidus, and later the shilling)‎ or 240 deniers ‎(like the denarius, and eventually the penny)‎. During this period, the livre and the sou were counting units, only the denier was a coin of the realm.

Charlemagne applied the system to much of the European Continent, and Offa's standard was voluntarily adopted by much of England.

Autograph of CharlemagneCharlemagne organized his empire into 350 counties, each led by an appointed count. Counts served as judges, administrators, and they enforced capitularies. To enforce loyalty, he set up the system of missi dominici, meaning 'Envoys of the Lord.' In this system, one representative of the church and one representative of the emperor would head to the different counties and every year report back to Charlemagne on their status.

Europe at the death of Charles The Great, 814. -"A School Atlas of English History" ed. by Samuel Rawson Gardiner, M.A. LL.D.When Charlemagne died in 814, he was buried in his own Cathedral at Aachen. He was succeeded by his only son to survive him, Louis the Pious, after whose reign the empire was divided between his three surviving sons according to Frankish tradition. These three kingdoms would be the foundations of later France and the Holy Roman Empire.

After Charlemagne's death, continental coinage degraded and most of Europe resorted to using the continued high quality English coin until about 1100.

It is difficult to understand Charlemagne's attitude toward his daughters. None of them contracted a sacramental marriage. This may have been an attempt to control the number of potential alliances. After his death the surviving daughters entered or were forced to enter monasteries. At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne's court circle.

Charlemagne's mother tongue was the Old High German dialect called Frankish. He also spoke Latin and understood some Greek.

Cultural significance

Statue of Charlemagne in Frankfurt, holding Joyeuse and the globus cruciger. A Romantic interpretation of his appearance from the 18th centuryCharlemagne's reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art, and architecture. Most of the surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. The pan-European nature of Charlemagne's influence is indicated by the origins of many of the men who worked for him: Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon; Theodulf, a Visigoth; Paul the Deacon, a Lombard; and Angilbert and Einhard, Franks.

Charlemagne enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture. One of the great medieval literature cycles, the Charlemagne cycle or the Matter of France, centers around the deeds of Charlemagne's historical commander of the Breton border, Roland, and the paladins who served as a counterpart to the knights of the Round Table; their tales were first told in the chansons de geste. Charlemagne himself was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the 12th century. His canonization by Antipope Paschal III was never recognized by the Holy See. He was a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies.

It is frequently claimed by genealogists that all people with European ancestry alive today are probably descended from Charlemagne. However, only a small percentage can actually prove descent from him. Charlemagne's marriage and relationship politics and ethics did, however, result in a fairly large number of descendants, all of whom had far better life expectancies than is usually the case for children in that time period. They were married into houses of nobility and as a result of intermarriages many people of noble descent can indeed trace their ancestry back to Charlemagne. Charlemagne's genealogical tree was quite extensive, and can be traced almost completely up to modern times; among the well known direct descendants of Charlemagne are William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States, American actor Tyrone Power, the British actor Christopher Lee, and Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He is without a doubt an ancestor of every royal family of Europe.

Another interesting note about Charlemagne was that he took a serious effort in his and others' scholarship and had learned to read in his adulthood, although he never quite learned how to write. His handwriting was bad, from which grew the legend that he could not write. This was quite an achievement for kings at this time, of whom most were illiterate.

Charlemagne, portrait by Albrecht Dürer‎[edit]‎
Charlemagne's portraits

Portrait of Charlemagne, whom the Song of Roland names the King with the Grizzly Beard--Facsimile of an engraving from the end of the 16th century.The Roman tradition of realistic personal portraiture was in complete eclipse at the time of Charlemagne, where individual traits were submerged in iconic typecastings. Charlemagne, as an ideal ruler, ought to be portrayed in the corresponding fashion, any contemporary would have assumed. The images of enthroned Charlemagne, God's representative on Earth, bear more connections to the icons of Christ in Majesty than to modern ‎(or Antique)‎ conceptions of portraiture. Even the verbal portrait by Einhard suppresses details that would have been indecorous in this context. Charlemagne in later imagery ‎(see Dürer portrait right)‎ is often portrayed with flowing blond hair, due to a misunderstanding of Einhart's Vita caroli Magni ‎(chapter 22)‎ where Charlemagne in his age had canitie pulchra "beautiful white hair" which has been rendered as blond or fair in many translations. The Latin word for blond is "flavus", and "rutilo", meaning 'golden-red' or 'auburn', is the word Tacitus uses for the Germans' hair.


Charlemagne and Pippin the Hunchback. 10th century copy of a lost original from about 830‎[edit]‎
Ermengarda or Desiderata
Hildegard of Savoy ‎(married Abt 771)‎ ‎(758?783)‎
Fastrada ‎(married 784)‎ ‎(d. 794)‎
Luitgard ‎(married 794)‎ ‎(d. 800)‎

Pippin the Hunchback ‎(d. 813)‎
Charles, King of Neustria ‎(d. 811)‎
Pippin, King of Italy ‎(ruled 781?810)‎
Louis I The Pious, King of Aquitaine, Emperor ‎(ruled 814?840)‎
Lothar ‎(d. 779 or 780)‎

Adelheid ‎(b. 774)‎
Rhotrud ‎(775-810)‎
Hildegarde ‎(777-777)‎
Bertha ‎(779-823)‎
Gisele ‎(781-808)‎

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Charlemagne ‎(I1669)‎
Birth 742
Death 28 January 814 ‎(Age 72)‎
Pippin of Italy of Vermandois ‎(I1668)‎
Birth April 773 31
Death 8 July 810 ‎(Age 37)‎