What’s Charlemagne’s real name?
Charlemagne’s name is really Charles le Magne, or Charles the Great. In German they call him Karl der Grosse, which also means Charles the Great.
How did Charlemagne get into power?
To begin with, Charlemagne organized a centralized system of governors (counts) throughout his kingdom, sending out men he knew to keep order all over his kingdom, and then sending out other men to check up on the counts.
Who was Charlemagne?
Charlemagne also greatly expanded the size of his kingdom. He conquered France down to the Pyrenees mountains, and even into northern Spain. He crossed the Rhine river and conquered Germany, Switzerland and Austria, even into modern Hungary.
To the north, he conquered Belgium. And in 774 AD Charlemagne also conquered the Lombards in northern Italy. In 778, Charlemagne led a successful raid into Islamic Spain to capture Indian steel swords.
Why did he want these Indian steel swords?
He brought back so many prisoners that people in his empire began to use the word “Slav” to mean slave, instead of the older Latin word “servus”, which started to mean “servant” as it does today.
Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor
From his position in northern Italy, Charlemagne was able to help out the Popes, who could no longer count on getting help from the Roman Empire. In exchange, Charlemagne got Pope Leo III in Rome to name him Holy Roman Emperor.
Irene and Charlemagne
Right at that moment (in 800 AD) the Roman Emperor in Constantinople was Irene, and the Franks refused to recognize Irene as Emperor because she was a woman.
Irene and Charlemagne may have discussed getting married, to put a man back on the Roman throne and unite the old Roman Empire back into one Empire. They certainly considered having one of her sons marry one of his daughters, though in the end that didn’t happen.
But Irene’s advisers didn’t like this idea. They thought Charlemagne was just some barbarian nobody from northern Europe. Charlemagne didn’t care that much – he had plenty of power without Irene.
Charlemagne’s palace at Aachen
Along with his new identity as Emperor, Charlemagne built up a real court at his palace in Aachen. Charlemagne had new buildings built there. There was a palace school. Charlemagne’s doctor, Farragut, was Jewish.
Many people wrote books at Charlemagne’s school in Aachen. One of these books was a biography of Charlemagne by Einhard which he modeled on the Roman biographer Suetonius.
Charlemagne and the Abbasid caliph
Charlemagne lived to be an old man, though apparently he got a little tubby around the middle when he was middle-aged. He died when he was 72 years old, of pleurisy – an infection related to pneumonia. When Charlemagne died in 814 AD, his son Louis the Pious inherited his empire.
Learn by doing: make a clay statue of a person on a horse
More about the Carolingians