The Franks: Charles the Hammer
742 A.D. - 814 A.D.
Last Updated      11/25/2007     11/20/2007      10/16/2007      10/15/2007

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He was six feet four inches tall, and built to scale.  He had beautiful white hair, animated eyes, a powerful nose...a presence "always stately and dignified." Hewas temperate in eating and drinking, abominated drunkenness, and kept in good health despite every exposure and hardship.

                                                                                                                                    —Einhard (the King's secretary) describing Charlemagne

Charlemagne  was born on April 2, 742 in Northern Europe.
He was the grandson the grandson of Charles "The Hammer,"
He was tall in stature and had a muscular physic
He had a handsome face and blond hair.
He carried himself nobly, at all times. 
Charlemagne, a very active man, enjoyed hunting, horseback riding, and swimming. 

Charlemagne Becomes King
Charlemagne became the king of the Franks in 769.
He and his brother Carloman divided the kingdom in hal.
In 711 AD, his brother died.
Charlemagne became the sole ruler of his father's kingdom at the age of twenty-nine. 

Enemies of the Franks
As a powerful and skilled warrior, Charlemagne fought the enemies of the Franks. 
First of all he finished a campaign in Aquitaine that Pepin the Short had started but never fully completed.
In his campaign, Charlemagne entirely subdued the fierce inhabitants of Aquitaine. 
Later Charlemagne would fight the Lombards, the Saxons, the Saracens, the Bretons, Bavarians, the Slavs, the Huns, the Bohemians, and the Danes.
By the end of Charlemagne's reign in 814, his empire, the Holy Roman Empire, covered the modern day countries of France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and parts of Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain.

30-Years War
One of his longest campaigns, which lasted thirty years, was against the Saxons.
The Saxons lived in northern Germany.
The Saxons on his eastern frontier were pagans. 
They had burned down a Christian church and had made occasional incursions into Gaul.
Those were three good reasons for for eighteen campaigns Charlemagne waged against the Saxons. 
Charles gave the conquered Saxons a choice between baptism and death.
He had 4500 Saxon rebels beheaded in one day.

Arts and Learning
Charlemagne also respected liberal arts in spite of his warlike nature.
He spoke well and easily.
He had learned Latin, Greek (although he understood it better than he spoke it).
He had studied grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, astrology, and mathematics.  
He did not know how to write. 
Charlemagne also was a devout Christian.

Private Life
Charlemagne had four successive wives and five mistresses or concubines.
The women in his life bore him some eighteen children, of whom eight were legitimate.  

Death of Charlemagne
He died on January 28, 814 at the age of 72.
The inscription on his tomb read,
"Beneath this stone lies the body of Charles the Great, the Christian Emperor . . . " Throughout his life, Charlemagne had worshiped God devoutly, supported the Church, given to the needy (at his own expense) and even built a magnificent cathedral. In the Bible in I Samuel 2:30 God says, "Those who honor me I will honor . . . "
Since Charlemagne honored God, God raised him up to lead a great nation

End of the Empire
Charles's son, Louis the Pious, became emperor.Counts and lords became independent.
They refused to listen to Louis.
843 AD, Treaty of Verdun, empire was divided among Louis's three sons.
Lothair, the oldest, became emperor.
the brothers were weak rulers.
The counts and nobles had most of the power.

Time Line of the Franks


387 BC

Gauls defeat the early RomanEmpire and sack Rome.

52 BC

Vercingetorix defeats Julius Caesar

52 BC

Julius Caesar and the Romans defeat the Gauls.
Gaul absorbed into Roman Empire

257 AD

Franks were originally a confederation of Germanic tribes east of the Rhine Began to raid Roman territory

350-550 AD

Germanic tribes migrate all over western Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire

358 AD

Frankish tribe got permission by the emperor Julian to settle on Roman territory between the rivers Schelde and Meuse as foederati (ally)

461 AD

Roman coalition including the Gauls defeats Attilia the Hun

Clovis born to King Childric and Thuringian queen Basina
481 AD Clovis chosen king of Franks at age 16.
Clovis is founder of the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings
486 AD Defeats the Roman legions under Syagrius at Soissons. 
Ends Roman domination over Gaul.
493 AD Marries Clotilda, niece of King of Burgandy
Brought all Franks under one rule.
Clovis and 3000 Frankish soldiers accept Catholic religion
496 AD Clovis defeats Alemanni.
Frank border secured to Rhine
Beginning of Middle Ages.
500 AD Attacks Burgundians at Dijon
507 AD Attacks Visigoths under Alaric at Vouille'
508 AD Ostrogoths defeat the Franks.
511 AD Clovis extends rule to the areas France and Western Germany
Clovis Dies
531 AD Franks defeat Thuringans.
533 AD Franks defeat Burgandians.
Burgandy absorbed by Franks.
628 AD Frankisk king Dagobert defeats  heathen forces of Saxons and Frisians.
City of Utrecht falls to Franks.
Dagobert builds a church and begins converting Frisians.
Under first Frisian King Eadgils Franks and Frisians live in peace.
638-751 AD "Do Nothings"
679 AD-719 AD King Redbad, the heathen king, is the greatest folk hero of the Frisian.
Attacked the Franks, conquered Utrecht, destroys the church.
Christianity forcefully removed from Frisian
689 AD Pepin II leads Franks against Frisians.
Takes Dorestad.
690-692 Ad Pepin II takes Utrecht.
711 AD Muslims (Sacarens) conqured Spain.
714 AD Pepin II dies.
716 AD King Redbad defeats Franks and Charles Martel at Cologne.
Wins bach Frisian Empire.
721 AD Franks and Aquitanians defeat Arabs.


732 AD Charles "Hammer" Martel Defeates Muslims (Saracens) at Battle of Tours.
Enables Christianity to survive in western Europe.
734 AD Charles sends forces toFriesland.
Defeats King Poppa, son of Redbad,
Pepin, Charles son, becomes first Frankish king annointed by Pope
Pepin "The Short" defeats Lombards.
Pepin gives Lombard land to Pope.
768 AD Pepin died.
Pepin's sons, Carolman and Charles, share kingdom
Carolman dies
CHARLEMAGNE  "Charles the Great"
Charles "The Great", Charlemagne, Pepin's other son becomes king.
773 AD Charles defeats Lombards.  Gives land to church.
782 AD He called in foreign scholars to restore the schools of France
785 AD Charles attacks and subdues the Saxons in what is now northern Germany.
789 AD Drives back advancing Slavs.
Urged schools to “take care to make no difference between the sons of serfs and of freemen, so that they might come and sit on the same benches to study grammar, music, and arithmetic.”
795 AD Charles fights Muslims in Spain.
800 AD Charlemagne had created a large empire.
800 AD Christmas Day Pope proclaimed Charlemagne the new Roman Emperor.
Pope Leo put a crown on Charlemagne's head.
King of the Holy Roman Empire.
813 AD Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's son, becomes Emperor
814 AD Death of Charlemagne
Louis the Pious, divides empire among his three sons
Lothair gets title Emperor
841 AD Franks defeat Holy Roman Empire
843 AD Treaty of Verdun
Lothair keeps title of Emperor.
Louis got East Frankish Kingdom (Germany)
Charles got West Frankish Kingdom (France)
United western Europe divided ito small territories.


Chew, Robin. "Charlemagne King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire." 15 October 2007.

Durant, Will. "King Charlemagne", History of Civilization Vol III, The Age of Faith. Electronic version in the Knighthood, Tournaments & Chivalry Resource Library, Ed. Brian R. Price

Nosotoro, Tit. "Charlamegne."  15 October 2007.

"Simply History." Edited selections of mostly European history from the out-of-copyright book, A Pageant of History, by R.G. Ikin, MA, Kings' College, Cambridge, 1929. 15 Oct. 2007. (1)