Charlemagne, expanded the Frankish kingdom to include much of Western and Central Europe. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, and his foreign conquests and internal reforms, shaped Western Europe and the European Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of Germany, the Holy Roman Empire, and France.
Charlemagne (742/7 – 28 Jan 814), had children with two wives and six mistresses. Only four of his grandsons were legitimate. Their father was Hludowic (Louis the Pious).
Name and Titles
Commonly known as: Charlemagne, King of the Franks, Emperor of the Romans
This name is which is commonly used in both English and French, does not appear until the 12th century.
Also known as: Charles the Great, Karolus Magnus, Carolus, Karl, Karlo, etc.
English: Charles the Great, King of the Franks, Emperor of the Romans
French: Charlemagne, Roi des Francs, Empereur d'Occident
German: Karl der Grosse, König des Fränkischen Reichs
Dutch: Karel de Grote,
Latin: Karolus (Carolus) Magnus, Rex Francorum, imperatori Romanorum
Old Low Franconian: Karl thie Mikili, Frankana Kunink
Old Gallo-Romance: Karlus li Magnus, Regis de les Frankes
"On that very and most holy day of Christmas ... Leo the pope put [a/the] crown on his head, and acclamation was made by all the people of the Romans: ‘To Charles Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor of the Romans, Life and Victory!’"
Charlemagne titled himself: 'Carolus serenissimus augustus a Deo coranatos magnus pacificus imperator, Romanum gubernans imperium, qui et per misericordiam Dei rex Francorum atque Langobardorum'
Born: Probably 2 April 748
The day of his birth as April 2nd comes from Lorsch Calendar ("IIII. Non. Apr. Nativitatis domni et gloriosissimi Karoli imperatoris et semper Augusti.") and is widely accepted. It is the year of his birth which is uncertain. The contemporary historian Einhard wrote that Charlemagne was about age 71 at his death in 814. For this reason, the year of his birth is frequently given as 742. However, there are problems with this date and it does not match other records. He was certainly not born before the marriage of his parents which occurred in 744. The year is given as 747 in Annales Petaviani; however, there are reasons to think this is also wrong. The entry immediately before the birth of Charlemagne discusses the departure of his father for Rome which could not have been before 15 August 747. Also, 2 April 747 was Easter Sunday, and it is unthinkable that Charlemagne could have been born on Easter without it being a widely known and celebrated fact. Bercher points out that if Easter was being used as the beginning of the New Year, then 2 April 748 would still have been 747 in that calendar system. For these reasons, the most probable date of birth for Charlemagne is 2 April 748.
Place of birth: Unknown.
The place of birth of Charlemagne is not given in any contemporary document. He is often assumed to have to have been born in Aachen ( in present day North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) which was the center of Charlemagne's Frankish empire, but this not actually known. The royal court of the Franks frequently traveled from place to place, so Charlemagne could have been born in any of several cities. The best that can be said is that he was born in Francia (Kingdom of the Franks), most likely in the territory known as Austrasia (though many places in Neustria have also been suggested).
Marriages and Legitimate Children
Married:1st - Unknown (sometimes called Desiderata), daughter of Desiderius, king of the Lombards in 770. Charlemagne's mother brought a daughter Desiderius and married her to Charlemagne in 770 to forge an alliance with Lombard kingdom. That her name was "Desiderata" is known from a single source, however, it is now thought to be very unlikely. In 770 or 771, Charlemagne repudiated this marriage to marry Hildegard. They had no children.
Married:2nd -Hildegard, daughter of Gerold, count of Alemannia, between 770 and 772. The date of this marriage is difficult to determine due to conflicts in the records; it most likely occurred in 771. They had 9 children. She died 30 April 783 in Saxony,
Children of Charlemagne and Hildegard:
1. Charles the Younger (772/773 - 811), King of the Franks
2. Adelais (Adelaid/Adeleidis) (773/774 - 774)
3. Hrotrudis (Rotrud/Hruodrud, Erythro in Greek) (775 - 810), mistress of Rorico I, Comte de Rennes et du Maine.
4. Carloman, "Pepin", King of the Lombards
5. Louis (778 – 840, perhaps twin of Hlothar, Holy Roman Emperor
6. Hlothar (Lothar) (778 – 779/780. perhaps twin of Louis)
7. Bertrada (Berta) (779/780 - 823/4), mistress to Angilbert "the Saint"
8. Gisela (Gisle) (781 - 800/814)
9. Hildegard (783) lived 40 days
Married:3rd -Fastrada, daughter of count Radulf, in 783. They had two children. She died 10 August 794.
Children of Charlemagne and Hildegard:
1. Theodrada (785-844/853), Abbess of Notre-Dame d'Argenteuil near Paris, Abbess of (some convent in) Zurich
2. Hiltrud (787 - 800/814), mistress of Richwin, Count of Padua, mother of Richbod (800/805 – 844)
Married:4th -Liutgard, an Alamannian of unknown parentage. They had no children.
Died: 28 Jan 814 in Aachen, Austrasia, Francia.
"He died January twenty-eighth, the seventh day from the time that he took to his bed, at nine o'clock in the morning, after partaking of the Holy Communion, in the seventy-second year of his age and the forty-seventh of his reign" (Einhard).
Buried: "The same day" in Aachen Cathedral (Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle).
"From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, People are crying and wailing...the Franks, the Romans, all Christians, are stung with mourning and great worry...the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar...the world laments the death of Charles...O Christ, you who govern the heavenly host, grant a peaceful place to Charles in your kingdom. Alas for miserable me." ~ anonymous monk of Bobbio
1165: Frederick I, put Charlemagne in sarcophagus beneath cathedral floor.
1215: Re-interred by Frederick II, in casket of gold and silver.
His appearance as described by Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni in his twenty-second chapter:
"He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature .... round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and a slightly protruding stomach. His voice was clear, but a little higher than one would have expected for a man of his build. He enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat." 
1861: Charlemagne's tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and found it measured 74.9 inches (192 centimeters).
Charlemagne wore the traditional, non-aristocratic costume of the Frankish people (Einhard).
Maintained father's policy towards papacy and became its protector.
778: Defeated by the Basques, at the Battle of Roncesvalles.
Christianized Saxons by force.
Footnotes and citations:
↑ Davis, RHC: A History of Medieval Europe, Longman 1977 p149-50; Description of Charlemagne’s coronation by the Pope on 23 Dec 800 -- Frankish Royal Annals (earliest description available probably written c 801 by Angilbert the chaplain). Note: different from papal description in Liber Pontificalis, written to suggest greater authority vested in Pope than the Frankish point of view
↑ Davis, RHC: A History of Medieval Europe, Longman 1977 p155
↑Henry Project, citing Becher. "Neue überlegungen...", Francia 19/1 (1992), 37-60.
↑ Now in present day North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Austrasia probably ceased to be a separate administrative territory within Charlemagne’s Frankish kingdom by 814, but was still a recognizable region of the Kingdom of the Franks.
Becher, Matthias. "Neue überlegungen zum geburtsdatum Karls des Grossen", Francia 19/1 (1992), 37-60.
Einhard (Samuel Epes Turner translator). Life of Charlemagne by Eginhard: Translated from the text of the "Monumenta Germaniæ" by Samuel Epes Turner, A. M., with notes and a map. (New York, 1880). Ancestry.com LINK
Settipani, Christian. La préhistoire des Capétiens 481-987 (Première partie - Mérovingiens, Carolingiens et Robertiens). (Villeneuve d'Ascq, 1993).
Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, in 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah, 2013): vol. V pages 481-504, Appendix: Lines from Charlemagne to William the Conqueror.
Arbage, Martin. "Otto I," in Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia (Routledge, 2004): p. 810 online: "Otto can be considered the first ruler of the Holy Roman empire, though that term was not used until the twelfth century."
Pagden, Percy. World's at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West, First ed. (2008): p. 147.
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Early Centuries, (1989): pg. 378.
L. Orlandini, Manuel Abranches de Soveral, Reynaud de Paysac, F.L. J P de Palmas (Aurejac et Tournemire; Frankish line;
La Galissonniere: Elections d'Arques et Rouen), Jean de Villoutreys (ref: Georges Poull), E. Wilkerson-Theaux (Laura Little), O. Auffray, A. Brabant (Genealogy of Chauvigny of Blot from "Chanoine Prevost Archiviste du Diocese de Troyes Union Typographique Domois Cote-d'Or 1925), Emmanuel Arminjon (E Levi-Provencal Histoire de l'Espagne Andalouse), Y. Gazagnes-Gazanhe, R. Sekulovich and J.P. de
Urkundenbuch für die Geschichte des Niederrheins oder des Erzstifts Cöln, der Fürstenthümer Jülich und Berg, Geldern, Meurs, Kleve und Mark, und der Reichsstifte Elten, Essen und Werden : aus den Quellen in dem Königlichen Provinzial-Archiv zu Düsseldorf und in den Kirchen- und Stadt-Archiven der Provinz, vollständig und erläutert / hrsg. von Theod. Jos. Lacomblet Editor: Lacomblet, Theodor Joseph DNB Wikipedia Published Düsseldorf : Wolf, 1840 - Annotation Später mit Verlagsangabe Schönian, Elbersfeld und Schaub, Düsseldorf. Karl der Große and Pippin mentioned date May 3, 779Karl der Große April 26, 802
Charlemagne ( /ˈʃɑrlɨmeɪn/, also /ˈʃɑrləmaɪn/; French pronunciation: [ʃaʁ.lə.maɲ]; Latin: Carolus Magnus or Karolus Magnus, meaning Charles the Great; (possibly 742 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the European Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of Germany, the Holy Roman Empire, and France.
The son of King Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, a Frankish queen, he succeeded his father in 768 and was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. It has often been suggested that the relationship between Charlemagne and Carloman was not good, but it has also been argued that tensions were exaggerated by Carolingian chroniclers. Nevertheless conflict was prevented by the sudden death of Carloman in 771, in unexplained circumstances. Charlemagne continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain, to which he was invited by the Muslim governor of Barcelona. Charlemagne was promised several Iberian cities in return for giving military aid to the governor; however, the deal was withdrawn. Subsequently, Charlemagne's retreating army experienced its worst defeat at the hands of the Basques, at the Battle of Roncesvalles (778) (memorialised, although heavily fictionalised, in the Song of Roland). He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, especially the Saxons, and after a protracted war subjected them to his rule. By forcibly Christianizing the Saxons and banning on penalty of death their native Germanic paganism, he integrated them into his realm and thus paved the way for the later Ottonian dynasty.
The French and German monarchies descending from the empire ruled by Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor cover most of Europe. In his acceptance speech of the Charlemagne, Prize Pope John Paul II referred to him as the Pater Europae (the "Father of Europe") his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, and the Carolingian renaissance encouraged the formation of a common European identity.