Charlemagne


Charlemagne was born around 742 in Aachen, a city in the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia, located in what is now Germany. His real name was Charles, he wasn\'t called Charlemagne, which is from the Latin "Carolus Magnus," until after his death.


His father, Pepin or Pippin III, was elected king of the Frankish Empire when Charlemagne was a child. The king was nicknamed Pepin the Short, while his wife, Charlemagne\'s mother Bertrada, was nicknamed Bertha of the Big Foot, or Queen Goosefoot. The inspiration for the name "Mother Goose" may have come from Bertha, although she had nothing to do with the English nursery rhymes now published under that name.


Charlemagne was probably born when his parents weren’t married, but his parents tied the knot and had two more surviving children, Carloman and Gisela. Pepin ruled the Frankish empire for 15 years or so before dying of dropsy in 768. His kingdom was then divided between Charlemagne and Carloman.


Charlemagne was about 26 years old when he became king. Carloman was still in his teens. In his Life of Charlemagne, Frankish historian Einhard, who knew Charlemagne personally and presented him in the best possible light, says Carloman treated Charlemagne with "unfriendliness and jealousy," but Charlemagne endured this "most patiently, and, to the wonder of all, could not be provoked to be angry with him."


After just a few years, Carloman died of natural causes and Charlemagne became the ruler of the entire Frankish empire. He went on to conquer much of what remained of Western Europe, making the Carolingian empire one of the greatest empires in world history.


A loving man, Charlemagne got along very well with his sister, Gisela, and their mother, Bertrada, treating both with great respect. Gisela was a nun, so she lived in a convent, but Bertrada lived with Charlemagne. It was Bertrada who arranged for Charlemagne to marry a daughter of King Desiderius of the Lombards which was Germanic tribe whose kingdom was in Italy. But it seems this wife was not to Charlemagne\'s liking, because he soon ended the marriage and took a new wife named Hildegarde, with her he had six children, according to Einhard.


In 783, Charlemagne suffered the death of two loved ones. when both Hildegarde and Bertrada died. Before long he found a new wife, Fastrada.


Charlemagne was a devoted father, and he had a large family: three sons and three daughters by Hildegarde, two daughters by Fastrada, and at least seven other children by various women. When one of his sons died young, leaving five daughters, Charlemagne took all five girls into his household and raised them as his own.


Despite the duties of kingship, he found time to personally supervise his children\'s education. He ate all of his meals with his children, and took them with him wherever he traveled. In fact, he was so fond of his daughters that he didn\'t marry them off for political purposes, as most royal fathers did, but kept them at his court. It seems they didn\'t need boyfriends; at least two of the princesses gave birth to children which were born out of wedlock. Einhard says Charlemagne pretended not to know about his daughters\' love affairs.


One of the king\'s children was called Pepin the Hunchback, whose mother, Himiltrude, was either Charlemagne\'s first wife or his mistress. In 792, while Charlemagne was away at war, Pepin conspired with a group of Frankish nobles to kill his father and take the throne. After learning about the plot, Charlemagne sent Pepin to live in a poor monastery.


According to a 9th century writer known as the Monk of Saint Gall, Charlemagne later discovered another plot against his life. Unwilling to punish the plotters, he sent messengers to ask Pepin the Hunchback for advice. The messengers found Pepin weeding the monastery garden. Grouchily he told them to go back to his father and tell him what he was doing: "digging up useless weeds" to make room for more valuable plants.


The messengers weren\'t happy with this reply, but Charlemagne understood at once that Pepin had given him good advice. He decided to weed his enemies out of his lands -- by executing them. Then he rewarded Pepin by letting him choose the why he wanted to live his life. Pepin chose to move to "the most noble monastery then