Charlemagne Biography

Charlemagne, also known as Charles I the Great (Herstal, April 2 between the years 742 and 748 – Aachen, January 28, 814).


Carolingian military and political leader, who became King of the Franks, the Lombards, as well as Emperor of the West and the Roman Empire. He turned the Frankish kingdom into a great empire, through Western and Central Europe.

He gave for the first time a common identity to Europe, laid the foundations of what would be this continent in the Middle Ages and his reign originated the French and German monarchies, which is why he is considered the Father of Europe, as well as one of the most important figures of the H istoria.

Early life and assumption to the throne

Charlemagne was born in Herstal on 2 April, between 742 and 748, being one of four sons of King Pipino the Brief and his wife Bertrada de Laon. No details are known from his childhood. On the death of his father, King Pipino, who occurred in 751, according to tradition, the Frankish kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman.

On October 9, 751, kings were crowned, in a ceremony held in Saint-Denis. His counterpart Carloman had control of the inland regions, while Charlemagne took possession of the exteriors, including Neustria, northern Austrasia and western Aquitaine.

In 769 they had to deal with the uprising of gascons and aquitaines. However, Carloman refused to participate, while Charlemagne prepared an army with which he marched over Bordeaux, causing the leader of the uprising, Hunold, to take refuge in the court of the Duke of Gascony, Lupo II, who for fear of Charlemagne handed him over. Hunold was sent to a monastery, while the Frankish army took and subdued Aquitana.

The relationship with his brother continued, thanks to his mother’s mediation. However, he sought other allies. In 770 he signed an agreement with the Duke of Bavaria, Tasilon III, while marrying the Lombard princess Désirée.

A year later, he repudiated his wife, rejoining Hildegard again. Desiderio, Désirée’s father, , leaving Charlemagne as the only Frankish king.

Conquests and Coronation as Emperor

In 772, Pope Hadrian I asked him for support in order to mediate a territorial conflict with Desiderio. The two sides sent their embassies, which met in Thionville. Charlemagne took sides with the papacy, from whom he would be a great ally during his lifetime.

In 773, his troops advanced against the Lombards, besieged them in Pavia, in a battle that stretched until 774, when the Lombards surrendered. Charlemagne was made King of Lombardy.

However, it was until 776 that he achieved total victory over the rebel factions, defeating Duke Rodgaudo de Friuli and signing a peace agreement with Duke Hildeprando of Spoleto, thus achieving absolute control of northern Italy. As for the southern area, he never managed to subdue it.

In 778 he decided to support the Muslim rulers against Abderramán I, emir of Cordoba, marching against the Iberian Peninsula, and achieving victory in the Battle of Roncesvalles. Subsequently he managed to conquer Corsica, Sardinia and in 799 the Balearic Islands.

In 785, his son Louis’ troops conquered Girona, extending the Frankish kingdom to the Catalan coasts. In 795, Girona, Sardinia, Osona and Urgel were added to the Duchy of Septimania.

In 797 they managed to conquer Barcelona. In 809 he occupied Terragona, and a year later, Tortosa, later managed to enter Valencia, obtaining in 812 the surrender of the emir of Alhakén.

Conquering the territory of Saxony took him from 773 to 804. However, it did so, achieving the conversion of its population to Christianity. In 794, he succeeded in resigning from Tasilon by taking control over Bavaria.

At that time he also triumphed over the Avaros and Slavs. On 25 December 800 he was crowned Emperor of the Romans in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Leo III. He was given control over Constantinople, which was under Irene’s rule.

In 804 he confronted the Byzantines, until 1810, when control of Constantinople was returned to the Bezantino Empire, while he was granted the Istrian peninsula. He also had to deal with the Danish attacks, which concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Heiligen, in 811, after the death of the Danish king Godofredo.

Reforms and final years

His government was distinguished by the profound economic, cultural, religious, military reforms that spread throughout the European territory, making it the protagonist of the Carolingian Renaissance. He abolished gold as a form of payment and imposed a new silver coin, called The Carolingian Pound.

In 802, through the Villis Chapter, he established the accounting rules. Usury was forbidden. It established a new system of prices and levies on certain products and goods.

During his reign, the centers of education multiplied, and art and culture in general lived a time of rebirth and vigor. He worked hard to get his descendants to receive a great education. He himself studied rhetoric, diction, grammar, although he never managed to learn to write, trying to do so already in old age. He thinks he couldn’t read.

Charlemagne Biography
Source: Education  
July 31, 2019


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