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Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor

Male Abt 747 - 814  (~ 67 years)

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  • Name Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor   [1
    Born Abt 747 
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 9029 
    Died 28 Jan 814 
    Person ID I9029  FelsingFam
    Last Modified 28 Nov 2021 

    Father Pippin 'the Short' King of the Franks,   b. 714,   d. 24 Sep 768  (Age 54 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Bertrada 'au grand pied',   b. Abt 720,   d. 12 Jun 783  (Age ~ 63 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Family ID F6728  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Hildegardis,   b. Between 757 and 761,   d. 30 Apr 783  (Age ~ 26 years) 
    +1. Pippin I (Karlmann) King of Italy,   b. 777,   d. 8 Jul 810  (Age 33 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 28 Nov 2021 
    Family ID F6727  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
      Charles was born about 747, the son of Pippin 'the Short', king of the Franks, and his wife Bertrada. He came to be known as Charles The Great or Charlemagne for good reasons. His long reign changed the face of Europe politically and culturally, and he himself would remain in the minds of people in the Middle Ages as the ideal king. Many historians have taken his reign to be the true beginning of the Middle Ages. Yet in terms of territorial expansion and consolidation, of Church reform and entanglement with Rome, Charlemagne's reign merely brought the policies of his father Pippin to their logical conclusions.

      Charlemagne became the subject of the first medieval biography of a layman, written by Einhard, one of his courtiers. Using as his literary model, the word portrait by Suetonius of the Emperor Augustus, Einhard described Charlemagne's appearance, his dress, his eating and drinking habits, his religious practices and intellectual interests, giving us a vivid if not perhaps entirely reliable picture of the Frankish monarch. He was strong, tall, and healthy, and ate moderately. He loved exercise: riding and hunting, and perhaps more surprising, swimming. Einhard tells us that he chose Aachen as the site for his palace because of its hot springs, and that he bathed there with his family, friends and courtiers. He spoke and read Latin as well as his native Frankish, and could understand Greek and even speak it a little. He learned grammar, rhetoric, and mathematics from the learned clerics he gathered around him, but although he kept writing-tablets under his pillow for practice (he used to wake up several times in the night) he never mastered the art of writing. He was able to make such a mark upon European history because he was a tireless and remarkably successful general. He concluded Pippin's wars with Aquitaine, and proclaimed his son Louis king in 781; the one serious defeat he suffered was in these wars, at Roncevaux in the Pyrenees, a defeat one day immortalised in 'The Song of Roland' and later 'chansons de geste'.

      He added Saxony to his realm after years of vicious campaigning. Towards the end of his reign he moved against the Danes. He destroyed the kingdom of the Avars in Hungary. He subdued the Bretons, the Bavarians, and various Slav people. In the south he began the reconquest of Spain from the Arabs and established the Spanish March in the northeast of the peninsula.

      But perhaps his most significant campaigns were south of the Alps, in Italy. Pope Hadrian appealed to Charlemagne for help against Desiderius of the Lombards. The campaign in the winter of 773-4 was short and decisive. Desiderius was exiled, and Charlemagne, 'King of the Franks', added 'and the Lombards' to his title. Later he appointed his son Pepin as King of Italy.

      Popes were still not free of all their enemies. In 799 a rival party of Roman aristocrats ambushed Leo III, intending to gouge out his eyes and cut off his tongue. Leo fled to Charlemagne, who was at Paderborn preparing for another war against the Saxons. Charlemagne ordered Leo III to be restored, and in 800 he came to Rome himself. On Christmas Day 800, in St. Peter's, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans.

      Charlemagne married three times. In 769 he married a daughter of Desiderius, king of The Longobards. They had no progeny and were divorced in early 771. On 30 April that year he married Hildegardis, daughter of Gerold I, count in the Kraichgau and Vintzgau, and his wife Imma/Emma. They had nine children, of whom Pippin I, Louis I, Rotrud and Bertha would have progeny. Hildegardis died in 783, and later that year he married Fastrada, with whom he had two daughters of whom Hiltrud would have progeny. He also had children by several mistresses, including Drogo and Hugo by a mistress Regina, who would both become distinguished churchmen, Drogo becoming archbishop and bishop of Metz, and Hugo becoming abbot of St. Quintin and chancellor to his half-brother Emperor Louis 'the Pious'.

      Charlemagne died at Aachen on 28 January 814, and was succeeded by his son Louis.

  • Sources 
    1. [S804] Genealogics.org.