GMIH-021 Charlemagne



Pick a card, any card. Did you know that some people think the kings in a deck of cards represent real kings from history? A lot of people might disagree but there are a whole lot of people who think the King of Hearts is a special card because it represents Charlemagne.

Charlemagne, also known as Charles I, was one of the greatest kings of the Middle Ages. Charlemagne at first was King of the Franks and later became the Holy Roman Emperor.

All of this was a long time ago because Charlemagne lived from 742 until 814. Sometimes you will hear Charlemagne called Charles the Great because that is what his name means.

Charlemagne Becomes King

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short, King of the Franks. Pepin was the first king in the Carolingian Empire. It was called the Carolingian Empire because the empire was descended from Charlemagne. That is what Carolingian means; descendant of Charles. This was one of the best times in history for the Franks. When Pepin died he left his sons in charge. They were named Charlemagne and Carloman.

It is really hard for two people to rule. Probably the brothers would have started a war to fight it out to see who would be in charge. But Carloman died. After Carloman died Charlemagne was left as the sole King.

Charlemagne’s Kingdom

Map or Charlemagne's Empire

Map or Charlemagne’s Empire

Charlemagne was the king of the Franks. The Franks were Germanic tribes. They lived in the area that today is mostly France. Part of the area was also what is today Germany.

Charlemagne did not just leave things like they were. He expanded the Frankish Empire. One of the main ways he expanded was by conquering the Saxon territories. Taking over the Saxon territories moved his kingdom more and more into what we now call Germany.

Because Charlemagne was one of the first to consolidate the land that is now Germany some people call him the father of the Germany Monarchy. At this same time the Pope was having trouble with the Lombards in the north part of Italy so the Pope asked Charlemagne to help conquer Lombards. Charlemagne was so good at fighting that he beat the Lombards and took control of the land including the city of Rome.

Charlemagne also conquered Bavaria. He did not stop there. Charlemagne also fought the Moors in Spain. He did so well that part of Spain was in his Empire.

Holy Roman Emperor

Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor

Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor

Charlemagne was in Rome in the year 800. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the Emperor of the Romans over the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope gave him the title Carolus Augustus.

A famous man named Voltaire once said, “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”

The statement meant that the Holy Roman Empire did not amount to much. The title the Pope gave him did not give him any real power. Even though there was not any real power it did give Charlemagne a lot of respect in Europe.

Charlemagne as a Leader

Charlemagne turned out to be not just good at conquering territories, he was a pretty good leader too. Here is what he did, whenever Charlemagne took over an area he would have his Frankish nobles to rule the conquered area. But Charlemagne did something really smart. His guys would rule but he would also allow the conquered people to keep their own customs and keep their own laws. Charlemagne had all the local laws written down and then he made sure they were enforced.

Karl der Große in German;  Charles the Great in English: both names for Charlemagne

Karl der Große in German; Charles the Great in English: both names for Charlemagne

But, Charlemagne did more than that. He also made things better. He made economic reforms and even started a new money standard. He made sure that people used sound accounting principles. Charlemagne made sure there were fair laws on money lending and he made sure prices were fair.

Charlemagne did not just improve the money system, he also encouraged people to become educated. He even helped some students and paid for their education. He also started a lot of schools in monasteries all over Europe.

Charlemagne made a big impact on European culture by doing things such as encouraging culture, commissioning church music, planting fruit trees all over Europe, and he encouraged civil improvement projects.

Interesting Facts About Charlemagne

  • The empire that Charlemagne built included almost all of western and central Europe.
  • He left his empire to his son Louis the Pious.
  • He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day.
  • Charlemagne was illiterate, but he believed strongly in education and enabling his people to be able to read and write.
  • He was married to five different women during his lifetime.
  • He is nicknamed the “Father of Europe” as the founding father of both the French and the German Monarchies.

Great Mustaches in History

Because Charlemagne is so well remembered as a great ruler of the state, as well as head of the Holy Roman Empire he is one of the most important figures in all of European history. All that and a great mustache make Charlemagne a great mustache in history.

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