Charlemagne


     Throughout history, there have been many good and bad rulers, from the bravery
of Alexander the Great, to the madness of George III. None, however, helped
shape European feudalism like Charlemagne, King of the Franks, First of the Holy

Roman Emperors. His advancements in government were not his only advancements
though. He created an educational system for his people. While far behind the
public and private educational systems of today, in the 8th and 9th century, it
was a start. He also helped spread Christianity throughout Europe. Born in

Northern Europe in 752, he was to become one of history's great leaders, and
precursor to the Holy Roman Empire. Brief History of the Line of Frankish kings.

In 481, Clovis became king of one of the Frankish tribes. Because of a bet he
made with his wife, he became Christian, and he forced 3,000 of his soldiers to
become Christian also. This would eventually gain the support of the Catholic

Church for both himself and the Franks. However, Clovis's qualities as a leader
were not passed on to his sons, and on Clovis's death, his sons divided the
kingdom that he worked to build. Later Merovingian kings became inept at ruling
the kingdom, and eventually became kings in just name only. The business of
ruling the kingdom was left to the "Mayor of the Palace". In 751, Pope

Zacharias arranged for Childeric III to be sent to a monastery and for Pepin,

Mayor of the Palace, to be crowned king. But, the alliance between the Papacy
and the Franks would soon be tested. Aistulf, king of the Lombards, captured
lands north of Rome and announced his intention to capture Rome itself. In an
attempt by the Papacy to prevent this disaster, the Pope sent out to ask Pepin
the Short, for his assistance in dealing with the Lombards. He would eventually
defeat the Lombards in battle, and the land that was gained was given to the

Catholic Church, in the Donation of Pepin which created the Papal States. Birth
and Parentage, and Childhood Charles I, or Charlemagne was born in 742. He was
the son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada. Little is known about his childhood,
other than the fact that he liked riding horses and hunting. He attempted to
learn how to write, but was unsuccessful. He did however learn how to speak
fluently in Latin, despite his attempt at learning how to write. Charlemagne's
roots can be traced back to Ansegis, Mayor of Austrasia and Begga. His most
famous ancestors however, were his father and grandfather, Pepin the Short and

Charles Martel, respectively. After the death of Pepin the Short, Charlemagne
and his brother Carloman were proclaimed kings by their supporting nobles, and
were anointed by their respective bishops. Military Successes During his life In

769, Aquitaine and Gascony broke into rebellion. Charlemagne was forced to try
to crush these rebellions without his brother's assistance. Charlemagne marched
his army through Bordeaux and defeated the rebel leader, Hunold. Duke Hunold was
to flee to the protection of Lupus, Duke of the Gascons. But Duke Lupus agreed
to give up Duke Hunold to Charlemagne, and was granted peace. Hunold was not
executed, but was returned to monastic alive. After the reconquest of Aquitaine,
his mother tried to get Charlemagne to reconcile with his brother, but he was
already making treaties with rulers that surrounded Carloman's kingdom. To try
and seal the peace with Lombardy, he married the daughter of the king of

Lombardy, Desiderata. Pope Stephen III did not like this marriage, for they
encouraged Frankish kings to weaken the power of the Lombards, whose territories
bordered upon it's own. He then made an alliance with her father, Desiderius,
which made the Pope give up his objections to the marriage. However, after one
year, Charlemagne divorced his wife and married Hildegarde, a Suabian
noblewoman. In 771, there was a fear that Carloman, Charlemagne's brother, and

Desiderata would create an alliance and attack Charlemagne, but in December of
that year, Carloman died, leaving Charlemagne in complete control of the

Frankish Kingdom. In 772, Charlemage led an army into Saxony, in his first
attempt to conquer the region. He then destroyed the Irminsul, a sacred temple
and tree grove worshipped by all Saxony. He could have continued his invasion,
but winter prevented it, and when he reconvened his army in 773, Charlemagne had
changed his mind and had decided to attack Lombardy. His army marched from

Geneva toward Lombardy. Charlemagne's army was spilt into two groups, one
commanded by him and the other by his Uncle Bernard. Although Desiderius had
fortified the passes to Lombardy, a flanking maneuver forced him to retreat
toward Lombardy. Desiderius' army came to rest at the city of Pavia. Charlemagne
laid siege to the city for several months. He then left a smaller force to siege

Pavia, and took the bulk of his army to meet other Lombard threats. He defeated
the Lombard prince, and being so close to Rome, visited while Pavia was under
siege. In Rome he met other rulers, spiritual and temporal. In meetings with the
pope, he reconfirmed the alliance between the Frankish Empire and the papacy. In
the summer of 774, Pavia was in a state of famine. Desiderius agreed to
surrender as long as the life of his men would be spared. Charlemage, after
returning to the siege at Pavia, agreed to the terms, and exiled Desiderius to

Neustria afterwards. Charlemagne then had himself declared King of Italy, and
from that time onwards he was to be called King of the Franks and Lombards,

Roman Patrician. He did not make drastic changes in the government, and left
most of the governors in place. One of the son-in-laws to Desiderius refused to
pay homage to Charlemagne, and he tried to restore the exiled prince Adelchis.

Charlemagne responded by killing one of the supporters in battle, and would
return later to kill the rest. While Charlemagne was fighting the Lombards, the

Saxons again revolted, and Charlemagne again marched his armies to Saxony. He
started his invasion by attacking Westphalia. Then he marched into Engria,
conquered the Mid-Saxons, and then crossed into Eastphalia. It was the

Eastphalians who first converted to Christanity, then the Engrians followed.

Hostages were taken for securtity for the oaths made. Westphalia was the last to
covert, as they were stronger than the other two provinces of Saxony. As an end
result of this campaign, three quarters of Saxony were loyal to Charlemagne, but
not for long. In 776, Saxony revolted again. He marched his army from Italy to

Saxony with amazing speed, and took the Saxons completely by surprise. The
hostages that he had taken earlier were killed, and the Saxons sued for Peace.

To insure his control, Charlemagne called a council at Paderborn, in the center
of Engria. Many Saxons were baptized, and swore oaths to remain loyal to

Charlemagne. At the council, ambassadors from Spain had come to show homage to

Charlemagne. They proposed that their feudal lords become lords of Charlemagne,
if he agreed to give protection. Thinking that Saxony was under control, he
accepted the offer and took his army into Spain. After conquering lands there,
he learned that there was another revolt in Saxony. He then marched back to

Saxony, and defeated the Westphalians. As usual, the Eastphalians and the

Engrians submitted without a fight. Charlemagne then divided the Saxons
politically and put them under bishops. He published a Saxon code of law, and
let some Saxon Chieftains keep rule. Many were baptized in the rivers Elbe and

Ocker. After 2 years, the northern tribes of Saxony revolted, and Charlemagne
again quelled the revolt. He then rounded up the leaders of the revolt, which
was about 4,500 men, and slaughtered them. Immediately after this, there were
still revolts in Saxony, but only minor ones, which were easily crushed.

Charlemagne then turned his attention to other fronts. He then conquered the

Slavs, Avars, the Island of Corsica, Sardinia, and the Baleric Islands. In 792,
the Saxons revolted again. It would take 2 years for Charlemagne to stop the
rebellion. Life with Charlemagne/ The search for a Capitol Charlemagne was
described as a very large person, but with a very squeaky voice. He loved to
have people around him. From the beginning of his day, he had people asking for
advice, chatting with him, etc. He did not like to waste time, and often had his
daily planning session in his bedroom while he got dressed. He was a deeply
religious person, and attended mass regularly. But after mass, he turned his
thoughts to hunting, the sport he had loved since childhood. Finding game was
not a real problem for him, as game was plentiful in the northern forests of

Frankland. He loved to eat, and regarded meal times when heart and mind were
nourished. He is noted for liking roast meats. Like the Greeks, Charlemagne
despised drunkenness in all people, and especially held himself to his
standards. After a meal, he would often take a nap in preparation for the day
ahead, which was filled with court cases, planning, and other kingly matters.

Another pastime that he liked was swimming, and it rivaled hunting for his
favorite sport. In the evening, he would attend services in the chapel, before
he would eat dinner. He loved his family, and when he was at home, would not sit
down to eat without his children being present. He especially cared for his
children, Charles, Carloman (who was later given his half-brother's name, Pepin),
and Louis. From the beginning of their lives he always stressed education. In
addition to the physical training they received, each one of them accompanied
their father on the battlefield, and when each was 13, they were all commanding
men. He also gave each of his sons a portion of the kingdom to rule, so that
they would gain practical experience in being a leader. Even after they were on
their own, Charlemagne kept an eye on them. For example, when he suspected that
his son Louis was being frivolous, he sent him out to the Saxon front. He was
even more watchful of his daughters. He would only allow them to marry courtiers
that lived in the palace. His daughters joined in on all of his activities, from
the morning hunt to the various after-dinner discussions. In 791, he choose

Aix-la-Chapelle (now know as Aachen) to be the site for his new capitol. He
chose this site for several reasons. First, it was known for it's hot springs.

Second, Aix-la-Chapelle was in reach of nearly all of Frankland, and was
especially close to Saxony. Third, it was a small town, and this would allow him
to exert his own influence in its construction. The capitol was centered on the
church and his palace, both in his mind equal. Governmental Reforms In the late

780's and throughout the 790's Charlemagne devoted much of his time trying to
improve the live of the everyday citizen. He proved himself to be a wise ruler.

One of the factors in his success was the establishment of 'missi dominici' (the
lord's emmissaries). The missi dominici were people who inspected all regions of
the empire, taking notes on how Charlemagne's orders were being carried out. The'missi dominici' were really the eyes and ears of Charlemagne, since he could
not view his entire kingdom at one time. Charlemagne once remarked "I
insist, that my missi are, by their upright behavior, examples of the virtues in
which they instruct others in my name." Another factor that helped simplify
the empire was the use of feudalism. Charlemagne produced a document called
"Decree Concerning the Estates" and was a general document to help the
tewards run the manor. Charlemagne improved the trade within the empire by
improving road conditions, and building new roads. He tried to build a canal
connected the Danube and the Rhine rivers, but was unsuccessful. He was forced
to develop a system of money exchange with in the empire because of the new
trade. Charlemagne, while being an excellent military tactician, also cared for
his intellectual development. Ever since he had been exposed to life in Italy,
he started to attack learning as he had attacked the Saxons, with strength and
doggedness. He learned how to speak Greek and Latin. Charlemagne started a
school at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he invited students from all over the kingdom
to learn. Although the school was estalished for sons of nobles, he believed
that all children should have a chance to learn, so he allowed all children to
enroll. He often pointed out that the poorer students did better than the
students who were better off. The reputation of the Palace School spread
throughout Europe. Students from all across Europe came to the school.

Charlemagne picked Alcuin, a monk from England to revise the educational system.

Alcuin wrote new textbooks to replace the older ones, and started to train new
teachers. By the time of Alcuin's retirement, Charlemagne could offer universal
free education. Charlemagne often enjoyed the conversation that Alcuin, and
others gave. The school at Aix-la-chapelle soon became a college. Lectures,
poetry readings, and conversation was prevalent there. Charlemagne was given the
nickname Kind David by most of the members of the academy, probably referring to

David's role in the bible as a prophet. Charlemagne's interest in education
stemmed from his interest in religion. He felt that education opened a person to
the religious knowledge that made for salvation of the soul. Charlemagne became
interested in religious life of Frankland in other ways. Previously, his sense
of religious mission had been confined to his attempts to conquer new converts
on the battlefield. His sense of responsiblity began to grow. The king often
turned preacher, as he felt that the people, especially the clergy, should live
up to the ideals and behaviors that they professed. He started a campaign to
clean all the churches in Frankland, he introduced the Gregorian chant to the
church services, and he urged priests to get a proper education. Charlemagne
also started to get into the theological controversies of the day. He studied
the orthodox position, and tried to understand it. He also began to step in when
he felt that Pope Hadrian was slacking off in duties. When Charlemagne heard
that the Eastern church defended the practice of using images in their worship,

Charlemagne wrote a defense of the Western's Church's positon. He called a
council of Bishops in 794 where he presented his document. They all voted to
condemn the eastern practice. Beginning with the death of Pope Hadrian in 795,

Charlemagne started down the path to becoming Emperor of the Romans. Hadrian's
successor, Pope Leo, was very unpopular. Roman nobles accused him of adultery.

In 799 the Pope was attacked by a group of conspirators who were determined to
dispose him. Loyal attendants, who took him to safety, eventually saved him. He
sought a more permanent refuge with Frankish ambassadors. Although Charlemagne
did not especially like the new pope, he would not stand for this kind of
behavior. He sent for Leo to be brought to him. Pope Leo stayed with Charlemagne
for a couple months before he was sent back with 2 archbishops and Frankish
bodyguards, who were to clear the Pope's name. While this occured, Charlemagne
took a tour of his kingdom. At the end of the tour, his fifth wife, Liutgard,
died. He then announced that he was going to Rome so that his oldest legitimate
son, Charles, would be proclaimed King of the Franks, as was the tradition for

Frankish heirs to be crowned before their predecessors died. While in Rome, he
finally cleared Pope Leo's name of guilt. On Christmas Day, the day he had
planned to crown his son King of Franks, he was crowned Emperor of the Romans.

Charlemagne accepted the position with humility. Einhard, his biographer, and
one of his closest friends remarked the king saying that he would enter St.

Peter's that Day if he had known what the Pope was going to do. Charlemagne as

Emperor Charlemagne showed most of his true qualities as Emperor. This was to
start his carreer as a diplomat. He turned his attention to the Holy Land.

Reports of Moslem attacks on Christian monasteries had been reaching Europe.

Charlemagene began efforts to befriend the Muslims. He sent a team of
ambassadors to Baghdad, where he befriended the caliph of Baghdad. It worked and
the Caliph showered the Emperor with gifts of silk, and even an elephant. In

804, Saxony rebelled, and in an act of great cruelty, Charlemagne ordered that
many Saxons to be sent to distant parts of the Frankish kingdom. In his new
position came new enemies. His main enemy was the Byzantines. The Byzantine
emperors were not happy with Charlemagne being crowned Emperor of the Romans. In
the year 805, Charlemagne had a confrontation with the Byzantines over the
possession of Venice. But instead of fighting over Venice, Charlemagne ceded it
to the Byzantine emperor in favor of better relations. The Normans were becoming
more of a problem also. They would use their navy to raid the coastal villages
of Frankland. Although the Franks were powerful on land, they were inferior to
the Nomans at sea. Charlemagne organized his people to start building a new
navy. The conflict in the north was finally ended, but not by superior naval
strength, but for the mere reason that the Norman king had died. In 810 the

Franks started a campaign against the Normans, and Charles took the elephant he
had received from the Caliph of Baghdad with him. While on the campaign, the
elephant died. This was only the start of Charlemagne's troubles. Later in 810,
the Frankish Empire was struck by a cattle plague, causing famine. Charlemagne's
son, Pepin, and daughter, Hrodrud, both died that year, and Charlemagne's health
began to fail. Charlemagne started plan how his empire would be split up after
his death. He did not want to split his land between his remaining sons, for
fear of fighting between them. But, as was Frankish tradition, he did plan to
break up his empire, but under the condition that the 3 kingdoms work with each
other. Also in his will, he made clear that eleven twelfths was to go to the
church. In 811, Charlemagnes's oldest son, Charles, died. This left only Louis
to govern the empire after his death. Many felt that the crown should not be
passed to Louis, but rather to one of Charlemagne's grandsons. But Charlemagne
was determined to follow tradition. In 813, he summoned Louis to Aix-la-Chapelle
to try and teach him how to govern and empire. In September of that year,

Charlemagne crowned his son, Louis the Pious, King of the Franks and Emperor of
the Romans. Just a few months afterwards, Charlemagne was killed by a fever
after a hunting trip. He was 71 years old. Conclusion Charlemagne by far had the
longest rule of any ruler to date in Europe, with a reign of 45 years. He
expanded education, and offered free education to his entire kingdom, and he
strengthened the papacy. From his military exploits, to his diplomatic ones, he
is truly a great man.