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The Life of the First Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne

By Edited Oct 25, 2015 0 0

Early Life

Charles le Magne (more commonly known as Charlemagne) is thought to be born on April 2nd, 742. He was the eldest child of Pepin the Short (Pepin wasn't yet king of the Franks; he wouldn't be until 751) and Bertha of Leon. When Charlemagne came to life, the two were not married, and this aroused much scorn among many people We believe he was born in Liege, Belgium, although the exact location is not sure. 

We do not have much information about the early life of Charlemagne, most likely do to the lack of literacy and education at the time, so there aren't many records. But we do know that he helped out at the ceremony where his father was proclaimed king and that he accompanied Pepin on many of his military campaigns.

King Pepin the Short


Early Rule

After their father, King of the Franks, died on September 24th, 768, the Kingdom of the Franks was split between Charlemagne and his younger brother, Carloman. Carloman got slightly more and better land, and this greatly angered Charlemagne. From then on, the relationship between the two brothers went completely downhill. The only way that they were held together was through their mother, with who they had a frequent correspondence with.

Then, things began to get really tense, even to the point where the brothers were about to wage a war against each other. But, unexpectedly, in 771, Carloman died. Finally, Charlemagne could call himself the King of all the Franks. 

Frankish Rule

Charlemagne turned out to be one of Europe's most successful monarchs. He introduced a jury system to his people. The system used to be trial by ordeal. This meant that you had to perform  certain tasks in order to be proclaimed guilty or innocent. He turned his castle into a learning center; although he was illiterate himself (he tried to learn in his later years), he realized the importance of education and set up many schools throughout his kingdom, which hadn't been done for a while. Also, he hired many scholars to create illuminated manuscripts or holy texts. Illuminated manuscripts were pages that were "illuminated" with a small layer of gold on the outside. This added a special and artistic effect to the writing back then.

Going to the military side of things, one of Charlemagne's achievements was defeating most barbarian tribes in Western Europe, restoring more peace to the area. He also expanded the Frankish Empire into parts of Italy, Spain, and more!

One of the things that he did was politically was change the taxation system from barter to a monetary system using silver coins. The barter system was that the tax collector in the area could decide, say, how much a pig was worth and tax the person that much. He realized that this was unfair and established silver coins with a set value, so nobody was cheated. 

Holy Roman Emperor to Death

Charlemagne was unusual compared to Medieval kings for many reasons, but one of the most important ones was that he helped out the Church. Many kings tried to stay away from the Pope because they knew he had a lot of political and religious power. Charlemagne thought differently. when the Pope needed help, Charlemagne was right there. This helped him earn the title of the first Holy Roman Emperor from Pope Leo III on Christmas Day in 800. This position held no political power except the recognition throughout the area. 

Not much later, in 813, Charlemagne died. He was 71 years old, which at the time was very unusual. After an extended hunting trip, he was hit with an attack of pleurisy. Soon after, he was dead. But he left a legacy that is, had, and will be admired for centuries to come. Charlemagne was a very important figure in the Medieval world. 



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