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Charlemagne Royalty: Germanic or Roman Type

Charlemagne also referred to as Charles the Great or Charles 1, became King of the Franks at the age of twenty six in 1768. This was after succeeding his father Pippin III. He also became King of the Lombard’s by conquering it1. He left a legacy of which to date, he is referred as the first Holy Roman Emperor. He united a large division of Europe and brought them under his able leadership, spearheaded learning, and put in place administrative concepts that were really innovative.

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He was a first child, born to Pippin III. He engaged the pope in negotiations that resulted in the official termination of Merovingian kings. When Pippin the III passed away, the Francian Kingdom was sub divided into two. Charlemagne led one part of the kingdom while his brother, Carloman, ruled the other half. From the onset, Charles appeared a capable leader contrary to his brother. This brought a lot of tension between the two, and this did not end until Carloman died in 1771.

Charlemagne began his conquest of other states immediately after the death of Carloman and expanded the territory of the government of Francia. This was mainly due to sole rule and leadership. Bringing some form if order and fortifying the kingdom was his primary goal. In 1772 he launched a military campaign which was to last for thirty years so as to accomplish his objective. Some examples of the conquered were Bavaria, Spain, Lombards (In north Italy) and Hungary. Charles employed use of inconsiderate conditions in subduing the Saxons, he asked the conquered Saxons to choose between death and baptism, and following this, four thousand Five hundred rebels from Saxon were beheaded in a single day. He also exterminated the Avars virtually. Though he had essentially combined an empire, he did not want to be referred as an emperor but rather preferred to be a King to the Franks and Lombards.

Charles was a successful administrator, who at each instance delegated power over his conquered regions, to the nobles from Frank. He took some very revolutionary steps like the recognition of the various ethnicities in the kingdom. The different ethnic groups were allowed to retain their traditional laws. To ensure prevalence of justice, Charles made the laws be put in writing and strict enforcement and adherence to them followed suit. The missi dominici closely followed all the events in the empire and reported to Charlemagne2. Charlemagne was very passionate about learning but ironically, he didn’t acquire the writing skill. Charlemagne liaised with the present day scholars in court. One Scholar, Alcuin by name was to later become his tutor. He also got a biographer from this clique known as Einhard. He revolutionized the palace school. He also set up monastic schools all over the kingdom. The sprouting and success of learning under his support was later to be referred to as the “Carolingian Renaissance.”

Charles took his roles in Christianity seriously. In 1800, he took the task of providing aid to Pope Leo III. He did this because since the latter was attacked whilst in the streets of Rome. Charlemagne had simply gone to Rome on a mission to restore order However, the pope, after purging hi9s name of all allegations, declared him the new emperor to the surprise of many. He was however not amused with his new responsibility. To him, it meant that a new precedence had been set. It would pave way for papal leadership as opposed to the circular one. Although from time to time he still called himself king, he also called himself “Emperor”.

His tutor managed to help him to begin to read both Greek and Latin but he never acquired the writing skill. Unlike other rulers who dined as they were entertained by Jesters, Charlemagne preferred hearing from scholars that had come to visit the empire. He believed that government should be steered to benefit those who were being governed, and through this he became a reformer who was out to improve his subject’s lives3. His leadership saw the improvement of commerce. He set up money standards and encouraged the farmers to adopt more productive methods in farming.

Charlemagne passed away in January, 1814. His achievements feature among the most important of the early Middle Ages, and even though the Carolingian Empire he built, would not live longer than his son Louis, his bringing together of regions manifested a watershed in the growth of Europe. He ruled as Germanic King and not a Roman Emperor.

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Bullough, Donald. The Age of Charlemagne. New York: Exeter Books, 1980.

Cantor, Norman. The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993.

Lamb, Harold. Charlemagne: The Legend and the Man. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954.


  1. Norman Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages (New York: Harper Perennial, 1993), 45.
  2. Donald Bullough, The Age of Charlemagne (New York: Exeter Books, 1980), 24.
  3. Harold Lamb, Charlemagne: The Legend and the Man (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954), 34.

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