What’s The Big Deal?

Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, is a historical figure that you have no doubt heard of.  Bearing the title of Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Franks, he is not only a man, but also a myth and a legend.  He has been the subject of many epic tales and after so much here say, one can’t resist asking the question, “what made Charles (or Charlemagne) so great?”

Was it Charlemagne’s appearance that made him great?  According to Einhard, a scholar and friend in the Frankish leader’s court, Charlemagne is described as being a large, robust, articulate, and engaging guy.  While he is not described as a heart throb, this depiction goes to show that even back in the day, the public could be sold on personality.  In addition, Charlemagne was also known to be strong willed, a family man, and amiable to friend and foreigner.  I suppose that’s admirable for a man who became larger than life.

Although Charlemagne may not have been the Brad Pitt of his day, he made his rounds with the ladies.  This is evidenced by his five marriages and many concubines.  As a result, it is safe to assume that he had a large family with several children, of whom he kept close to his side.  On occasion, his sons even joined him on campaigns.  Another interesting aspect of Charlemagne was his love of the Catholic Church, which he bestowed great wealth on, but never claimed any type of religion himself.

Shield of Charlemagne:

Shield of Charlemagne

As a leader, Charlemagne proved he had what it takes.  Given the outlying areas of Frankland by his father, he became the ruler of rebellious provinces, which he kept under control.  In 769, Charlemagne teamed up with his younger brother to control a rebellion in Aquitaine.  Basically, he did most of the work in bringing peace to the situation and gained attention as a great leader.  Gaining momentum, Charlemagne then began to strengthen the Frankish military and expand the Frankish nation by gaining victories over such groups as the Saxons.  Charlemagne’s reputation as a conqueror spread quickly and earned him the accolades of his fellow nobility and instilled fear in his people.  No one would dare mess with this tough cookie!

As if monarch and conqueror weren’t enough, Charlemagne was also a man of creative and efficient planning.  During his time as ruler, he had accumulated more territory than any other European monarch.  Therefore, necessity grew for new positions to be created to maintain these lands.  Authorities were delegated over the different provinces in the Frankish nation, allowing each group to keep its individual culture and laws.  Local laws were put in writing and strictly enforced, as well as governing edicts throughout the entire nation.  Through this system, Charlemagne was able to build an empire, which he later became emperor over.

Roland Durendal Sword:

Roland Durendal Sword

So, what exactly made Charlemagne so great?  Perhaps it was his ability to unite several different groups of people in one nation.  Perhaps it was his military leadership and conquest.  Perhaps it was his charismatic and caring nature, which caused him to look after his territories with pride as his own personal property.  Whatever the case may be, it is fair to say that Charlemagne possessed many attributes that did indeed make him great.

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