Civilization: European — Frank
   Field of Renown:  monarch — Emperor
Era:  Carolingian

The most important monarch of the Early Middle Ages, Charlemagne was a successful strategist and soldier who expanded the Frankish kingdom to include much of Western and Central Europe. He brought about education and economic reforms, and his rule is often associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a time of intellectual and cultural revival. He was the first ruler to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor in recognition for his devotion to the papacy, and he fought several successful battles against the early Italian, Spanish, and British powers, always on the side of the Catholic Church.

Charlemagne ruled the outer parts of his native country following the passing of his father, Pepin the Short, but it was not until the death of his brother, Carloman II, that he became sole sovereign of France. As king, Charlemagne was a devout Catholic. He battled on the side of the papacy when Lombardian king Desiderius took over several Italian cities and attempted to siege Rome. Driving the Lombards back to Pavia, he then attacked their city. After surrendering, Desiderius was sent to an abbey in Corbie, and Charlemagne was made king of the Lombards in Italy, a position he later passed on to his son.

After this victory, Charlemagne went back to battle on both the Eastern and Western fronts, which extended from the Pyrenees mountains to the Danube river. He waged several wars against the Spanish Moors, who forced attacked his rear guard, led by the famous Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. When not holding back the Saracens of Spain, Charlemagne fought the Saxons, the great pagan kingdom to his east. The Saxon Wars were fought over thirty years and Charlemagne encountered them in at least eighteen major battles. He defeated them several times, converting the people to Christianity and integrating much of Northern Germany into his ever-expanding kingdom, but the Saxons continued to fight for their independence until 804, when their final rebellion was crushed.

Charlemagne also fought off an invasion of the Asian Huns, who attacked several Italian cities but were forced into submission by his son, after which they presented themselves before Charlemagne as vassals and Christians. Charles later aided another pope, Leo III, who had been mistreated by the Romans and subsequently fled from the Vatican. Charles restored him to power, and in return, Leo crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. He ruled for several more years before passing away from a lung infection. His only surviving son, Louis the Pious, succeeded him over a kingdom that expanded

Key events during the life of Charlemagne:

Death of Pepin the Short, became king in joint with his brother
Death of Charlemagne's brother, Carloman II
Saved Pope Hadrian I from Lombardian attackers
Start of the Saxon Wars
Set out for Spain to offer military support but was forced by the Moors to retreat
Huns invaded Italian cities of Friuli and Bavaria but were forced to retreat
Barcelona fell to France during the Wars with the Muslims
Crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III
Defeated Saxony
Died of pleurisy

Book Links
Charlemagne  by  George Upton

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Charlemagne  in  Stories from German History  by   Florence Aston
Two Charlemagnes  in  A Child's Book of Warriors  by  William Canton
Charlemagne  in  Stories from French History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Bertha of the Big Foot  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
Stories of Charlemagne  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
Merovings and Carlovings  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Charlemagne and Christianity in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Charlemagne's Wars  in  The Story of Old France  by  H. A. Guerber
Charlemagne  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Charlemagne  in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
Charlemagne, 742-814  in  Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages  by  George Hodges
Charlemagne  in  Barbarian and Noble  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Charlemagne and Wittekind  in  Patriots and Tyrants  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Charlemagne  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Reign of Charlemagne—The Early Holy Roman Empire  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Charlemagne and the Avars  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Crowning of Charlemagne  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Hero of Two Nations  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Charlemagne is Crowned Emperor of the Romans  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

 in Stories from German History

The Coronation of Charlemagne
 in Stories from German History

Stretched out a hand which this chief of the old heaths and woods grasped with a proud smile
 in A Child's Book of Warriors

Ralph in the Palace of Charlemagne
 in Stories of Charlemagne

The Ambassadors of King Marsilas
 in Stories of Charlemagne

Statue of Charlemagne
 in France: Peeps at History

Coronation of Charlemagne
 in The Story of Old France

The pope crowning Charlemagne
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

The presents form Harun-al-Rashid
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Charlemagne: This shows him as after ages thought of him
 in The Story of the Middle Ages

 in Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages

The Coronation of Charlemagne at Rome
 in Greatest Nations - Germany

Charlemagne Presiding over the Palace School
 in Greatest Nations - Germany
 in Back Matter
Charlemagne at Witikind's Baptism
Charlemagne at Witikind's Baptism
 in Back Matter

 in Back Matter

 in Barbarian and Noble

 in Barbarian and Noble

 in Barbarian and Noble

So the twain are there dubbed knight, Courteous and brave and of great might
 in Page, Esquire, and Knight

The Emperor sits in an orchard wide, Roland and Oliver by his side
 in Page, Esquire, and Knight

I hate thee,' hissed Ganelon
 in Stories of Roland

The coronation of Charlemagne
 in Historical Tales: French

 in History of the Church: Early Middle Ages

Charlemagne saw the Viking sails.
 in The Discovery of New Worlds

Coronation of Charlemagne
 in European Hero Stories

 in European Hero Stories

Wittekind's Submission.
 in  Charlemagne

Short Biography
Pepin the Short King of the Franks. Son of Charles Martel. Father of Charlemagne.
Roland Nephew of Charlemagne and legendary hero of his wars. Died at Roncesvalles.
Wittekind Leader of Saxon resistance to Charlemagne. After years of struggle, converted to Christianity.
Louis the Pious Son of Charlemagne and king of Franks. On his death his three sons divided the kingdom between them.
Bernardo del Carpio Legendary Spanish hero during the era of Charlemagne who battled both Moors and Franks.