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Emperor Charlemagne

Charles the Great
Biographical Information

Charles died after four years of failing health, from pleurisy, and is buried in the chapel at Aachen (now part of the cathedral)(Aachen = Aix la Chapelle). A contemporary account states that he was almost seven feet in height, in an era when few men were even six feet - "large and strong, and of lofty stature, though not disproportionately tall...the upper part of his head was round, his eyes very large and animated, nose a little long, hair fair, and face laughing and merry." He was warm, outgoing and athletic. {Popular account: "Charlemagne," Harold Lamb (Doubleday, 1954).} --- Compton's Encyclopedia (America On-Line, 1995) reports: CHARLEMAGNE (742?-814). "By the sword and the cross," Charlemagne (Charles the Great) became master of Western Europe. It was falling into decay when Charlemagne became joint king of the Franks in 768. Except in the monasteries, people had all but forgotten education and the arts. Boldly Charlemagne conquered barbarians and kings alike. By restoring the roots of learning and order, he preserved many political rights and revived culture. Charlemagne's grandfather was Charles Martel, the warrior who crushed the Saracens (see Charles Martel). Charlemagne was the elder son of Bertrade ("Bertha Greatfoot") and Pepin the Short, first "mayor of the palace" to become king of the Franks. Although schools had almost disappeared in the 8th century, historians believe that Bertrade gave young Charles some education and that he learned to read. His devotion to the church motivated him throughout life. Charlemagne was tall, powerful, and tireless. His secretary, Eginhard, wrote that Charlemagne had fair hair and a "face laughing and merry . . . his appearance was always stately and dignified." He had a ready wit, but could be stern. His tastes were simple and moderate. He delighted in hunting, riding, and swimming. He wore the Frankish dress--linen shirt and breeches, a silk-fringed tunic, hose wrapped with bands, and, in winter, a tight coat of otter or marten skins. Over all these garments "he flung a blue cloak, and he always had a sword girt about him." Charlemagne's character was contradictory. In an age when the usual penalty for defeat was death, Charlemagne several times spared the lives of his defeated foes; yet in 782 at Verden, after a Saxon uprising, he ordered 4,500 Saxons beheaded. He compelled the clergy and nobles to reform, but he divorced two of his four wives without any cause. He forced kings and princes to kneel at his feet, yet his mother and his two favorite wives often overruled him in his own household.

Date of Birth
2 Apr 742
Place of Birth
Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Date of Death
28 Jan 814
Place of Death
Aachen, Germany

Aachen Cathedral, Aachen, Germany

Birth Coordinates

Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Family Tree