119 Facts About Charlemagne


Charlemagne succeeded in uniting the majority of western and central Europe and was the first recognized emperor to rule from western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire approximately three centuries earlier.


The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded was the Carolingian Empire, which is considered the first phase in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.


Charlemagne was the eldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon.


Charlemagne became king of the Franks in 768 following his father's death, and was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I until the latter's death in 771.


Charlemagne campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them which led to events such as the Massacre of Verden.


Charlemagne reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St Peter's Basilica in Rome.


Charlemagne has been called the "Father of Europe", as he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the classical era of the Roman Empire, as well as uniting parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.


Charlemagne's reign spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of energetic cultural and intellectual activity within the Western Church.


Charlemagne died in 814 after contracting an infectious lung disease.


Charlemagne was laid to rest in the Aachen Cathedral, in his imperial capital city of Aachen.


Charlemagne married at least four times, and three of his legitimate sons lived to adulthood.


Charlemagne is a direct ancestor of many of Europe's royal houses, including the Capetian dynasty, the Ottonian dynasty, the House of Luxembourg, the House of Ivrea and the House of Habsburg.


Charlemagne's given name in his native Frankish dialect was Karl.


Charlemagne was named after his grandfather, Charles Martel, a choice which intentionally marked him as Martel's true heir.


Charlemagne became the sole governor of the entire Frankish kingdom.


Charlemagne was supported in this appeal by Carloman, Charles' brother.


Charlemagne did this by again anointing and confirming Pepin, this time adding his young sons Carolus and Carloman to the royal patrimony.


The most likely date of Charlemagne's birth is reconstructed from several sources.


Charlemagne was the eldest child of Pepin the Short and his wife Bertrada of Laon, daughter of Caribert of Laon.


Many historians consider Charlemagne to have been illegitimate, although some state that this is arguable, because Pepin did not marry Bertrada until 744, which was after Charles' birth; this status did not exclude him from the succession.


Charlemagne took up arms in opposition to the decision and was joined by Grifo, a half-brother of Pepin and Carloman, who had been given a share by Charles Martel, but was stripped of it and held under loose arrest by his half-brothers after an attempt to seize their shares by military action.


Charlemagne chose to impose a joint rule over distinct jurisdictions on the true heirs.


Less than a year after his marriage, Charlemagne repudiated Desiderata and married a 13-year-old Swabian named Hildegard.


Charlemagne had eighteen children with seven of his ten known wives or concubines.


Charlemagne ordered Pepin and Louis to be raised in the customs of their kingdoms, and he gave their regents some control of their subkingdoms, but kept the real power, though he intended his sons to inherit their realms.


Charlemagne did not tolerate insubordination in his sons: in 792, he banished Pepin the Hunchback to Prum Abbey because the young man had joined a rebellion against him.


Charlemagne's children were taught skills in accord with their aristocratic status, which included training in riding and weaponry for his sons, and embroidery, spinning and weaving for his daughters.


Charlemagne subjected them to Frankish authority and devastated the valley of the Elbe, forcing tribute from them.


Charlemagne was uniquely poised to fight the Byzantine Empire when that conflict arose after Charlemagne's imperial coronation and a Venetian rebellion.


Charlemagne kept his daughters at home with him and refused to allow them to contract sacramental marriages.


The ambassadors met at Thionville, and Charlemagne upheld the pope's side.


Charlemagne demanded what the pope had requested, but Desiderius swore never to comply.


Charlemagne temporarily left the siege to deal with Adelchis, son of Desiderius, who was raising an army at Verona.


The siege lasted until the spring of 774 when Charlemagne visited the pope in Rome.


Charlemagne then returned to Pavia, where the Lombards were on the verge of surrendering.


Charlemagne was then master of Italy as king of the Lombards.


Charlemagne left Italy with a garrison in Pavia and a few Frankish counts in place the same year.


Charlemagne rushed back from Saxony and defeated the Duke of Friuli in battle; the Duke was slain.


In 787, Charlemagne directed his attention towards the Duchy of Benevento, where Arechis II was reigning independently with the self-given title of Princeps.


Charlemagne took refuge with the ally Duke Lupus II of Gascony, but probably out of fear of Charlemagne's reprisal, Lupus handed him over to the new King of the Franks to whom he pledged loyalty, which seemed to confirm the peace in the Basque area south of the Garonne.


Wary of new Basque uprisings, Charlemagne seems to have tried to contain Duke Lupus's power by appointing Seguin as the Count of Bordeaux and other counts of Frankish background in bordering areas.


Charlemagne was eventually released, but Charlemagne, enraged at the compromise, decided to depose him and appointed his trustee William of Gellone.


The armies met at Saragossa and Charlemagne received the homage of the Muslim rulers, Sulayman al-Arabi and Kasmin ibn Yusuf, but the city did not fall for him.


Charlemagne turned to leave Iberia, but as his army was crossing back through the Pass of Roncesvalles, one of the most famous events of his reign occurred: the Basques attacked and destroyed his rearguard and baggage train.


Charlemagne conquered Corsica and Sardinia at an unknown date and in 799 the Balearic Islands.


Charlemagne even had contact with the caliphal court in Baghdad.


Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant warfare throughout his reign, often at the head of his elite scara bodyguard squadrons.


Charlemagne then crossed Engria, where he defeated the Saxons again.


Charlemagne returned through Westphalia, leaving encampments at Sigiburg and Eresburg, which had been important Saxon bastions.


Charlemagne then controlled Saxony with the exception of Nordalbingia, but Saxon resistance had not ended.


Charlemagne then returned to Italy and, for the first time, the Saxons did not immediately revolt.


Charlemagne returned to Saxony in 782 and instituted a code of law and appointed counts, both Saxon and Frank.


Charlemagne promulgated a law code, the Lex Frisonum, as he did for most subject peoples.


However, Charlemagne acquired other Slavic areas, including Bohemia, Moravia, Austria and Croatia.


Charlemagne claimed that Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria was an unfit ruler, due to his oath-breaking.


Charlemagne accepted their surrender and sent one native chief, baptised Abraham, back to Avaria with the ancient title of khagan.


In 803, Charlemagne sent a Bavarian army into Pannonia, defeating and bringing an end to the Avar confederation.


Charlemagne then accepted the surrender of the Veleti under Dragovit and demanded many hostages.


Charlemagne demanded permission to send missionaries into this pagan region unmolested.


Witzin died in battle and Charlemagne avenged him by harrying the Eastphalians on the Elbe.


Thrasuco, his successor, led his men to conquest over the Nordalbingians and handed their leaders over to Charlemagne, who honoured him.


When Charlemagne incorporated much of Central Europe, he brought the Frankish state face to face with the Avars and Slavs in the southeast.


Charlemagne directed his attention to the Slavs to the west of the Avar khaganate: the Carantanians and Carniolans.


Charlemagne's position having thereby been weakened, the Pope sought to restore his status.


Two days later, at Mass, on Christmas Day, when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum in Saint Peter's Basilica.


Einhard says that Charlemagne was ignorant of the Pope's intent and did not want any such coronation:.


Historians have debated for centuries whether Charlemagne was aware before the coronation of the Pope's intention to crown him Emperor, but that debate obscured the more significant question of why the Pope granted the title and why Charlemagne accepted it.


Hence, it is argued, Charlemagne used the supra-ethnic Imperial title to incorporate the Saxons, which helped to cement the diverse peoples under his rule.


Charlemagne used these circumstances to claim that he was the "renewer of the Roman Empire", which had declined under the Byzantines.


Charlemagne certainly desired to increase the influence of the papacy, to honour his saviour Charlemagne, and to solve the constitutional issues then most troubling to European jurists in an era when Rome was not in the hands of an emperor.


The conflict lasted until 810 when the pro-Byzantine party in Venice gave their city back to the Byzantine Emperor, and the two emperors of Europe made peace: Charlemagne received the Istrian peninsula and in 812 the emperor Michael I Rangabe recognised his status as Emperor, although not necessarily as "Emperor of the Romans".


In 813, Charlemagne called Louis the Pious, king of Aquitaine, his only surviving legitimate son, to his court.


Charlemagne left a testament allocating his assets in 811 that was not updated prior to his death.


Charlemagne left most of his wealth to the Church, to be used for charity.


Charlemagne's empire lasted only another generation in its entirety; its division, according to custom, between Louis's own sons after their father's death laid the foundation for the modern states of Germany and France.


Charlemagne had supreme jurisdiction in judicial matters, made legislation, led the army, and protected both the Church and the poor.


Charlemagne's administration was an attempt to organise the kingdom, church and nobility around him.


Charlemagne's success rested primarily on novel siege technologies and excellent logistics rather than the long-claimed "cavalry revolution" led by Charles Martel in 730s.


Charlemagne had an important role in determining Europe's immediate economic future.


Charlemagne instituted principles for accounting practice by means of the Capitulare de villis of 802, which laid down strict rules for the way in which incomes and expenses were to be recorded.


Charlemagne applied this system to much of the European continent, and Offa's standard was voluntarily adopted by much of England.


Charlemagne invited Italian Jews to immigrate, as royal clients independent of the feudal landowners, and form trading communities in the agricultural regions of Provence and the Rhineland.


Charlemagne's reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art and architecture that characterise it.


Charlemagne came into contact with the culture and learning of other countries due to his vast conquests.


Charlemagne greatly increased the provision of monastic schools and scriptoria in Francia.


Charlemagne was a lover of books, sometimes having them read to him during meals.


Charlemagne's court played a key role in producing books that taught elementary Latin and different aspects of the church.


The pan-European nature of Charlemagne's influence is indicated by the origins of many of the men who worked for him: Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon from York; Theodulf, a Visigoth, probably from Septimania; Paul the Deacon, Lombard; Italians Peter of Pisa and Paulinus of Aquileia; and Franks Angilbert, Angilram, Einhard and Waldo of Reichenau.


Charlemagne promoted the liberal arts at court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated, and even studying himself under the tutelage of Peter of Pisa, from whom he learned grammar; Alcuin, with whom he studied rhetoric, dialectic, and astronomy ; and Einhard, who tutored him in arithmetic.


In 800, Charlemagne enlarged the hostel at the Muristan in Jerusalem and added a library to it.


Charlemagne expanded the reform Church's programme unlike his father, Pippin, and uncle, Carloman.


Charlemagne's reform focused on strengthening the church's power structure, improving clergy's skill and moral quality, standardising liturgical practices, improvements on the basic tenets of the faith and the rooting out of paganism.


Charlemagne engaged in many reforms of Frankish governance while continuing many traditional practices, such as the division of the kingdom among sons.


In 806, Charlemagne first made provision for the traditional division of the empire on his death.


The imperial title was not mentioned, which led to the suggestion that, at that particular time, Charlemagne regarded the title as an honorary achievement that held no hereditary significance.


Charlemagne then reconsidered the matter, and in 813, crowned his youngest son, Louis, co-emperor and co-King of the Franks, granting him a half-share of the empire and the rest upon Charlemagne's own death.


The only part of the Empire that Louis was not promised was Italy, which Charlemagne specifically bestowed upon Pippin's illegitimate son Bernard.


Charlemagne threw grand banquets and feasts for special occasions such as religious holidays and four of his weddings.


Charlemagne was in the habit of awaking and rising from bed four or five times during the night.


Charlemagne spoke Latin and had at least some understanding of Greek, according to Einhard.


Charlemagne was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, since his height was seven times the length of his own foot.


Charlemagne had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and he enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life.


In 1861, Charlemagne's tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and estimated it to be measured 1.95 metres.


Charlemagne wore the traditional costume of the Frankish people, described by Einhard thus:.


Charlemagne wore a blue cloak and always carried a sword typically of a golden or silver hilt.


Charlemagne wore intricately jeweled swords to banquets or ambassadorial receptions.


Charlemagne despised foreign costumes, however handsome, and never allowed himself to be robed in them, except twice in Rome, when he donned the Roman tunic, chlamys, and shoes; the first time at the request of Pope Hadrian, the second to gratify Leo, Hadrian's successor.


Charlemagne had a golden buckle for his cloak on such occasions and would appear with his great diadem, but he despised such apparel according to Einhard, and usually dressed like the common people.


Charlemagne had residences across his kingdom, including numerous private estates that were governed in accordance with the Capitulare de villis.


Charlemagne was revered as a saint in the Holy Roman Empire and some other locations after the twelfth century.


Charlemagne is not enumerated among the 28 saints named "Charles" in the Roman Martyrology.


Charlemagne was a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies who enjoyed an important legacy in European culture.


Charlemagne's capitularies were quoted by Pope Benedict XIV in his apostolic constitution 'Providas' against freemasonry: "For in no way are we able to understand how they can be faithful to us, who have shown themselves unfaithful to God and disobedient to their Priests".


Charlemagne appears in Adelchi, the second tragedy by Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, first published in 1822.


In 1867, an equestrian statue of Charlemagne was made by Louis Jehotte and was inaugurated in 1868 on the Boulevard d'Avroy in Liege.


The Economist featured a weekly column entitled "Charlemagne", focusing generally on European affairs and, more usually and specifically, on the European Union and its politics.


In July 2022, Charlemagne featured as a character in an episode of The Family Histories Podcast, and it references his role as an ancestor of all modern Europeans.


Charlemagne is portrayed here in later life, and is speaking Latin, which is translated by a device.


Charlemagne is returned to 9th Century Aquitaine by the end of the episode after a DNA sample has been extracted.