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King of the Franks

Emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire
742CE 814CE
Historians believe that Charlemagne was
born in 742CE and died in 814CE.
Charlemagne became King of the Franks (a
people who lived roughly in the area of
modern France) in 768CE.
He expanded the Frankish Kingdom into
an Empire that included much of Western
and Central Europe.
He united Western Europe for the first
time since the Roman Empire, and in
doing so began the formation of a
European identity.
Rise to Power
Charlemagne took over as King when
he was 26 years old, after his father
Pepin the Short, died.
He and his younger brother Carloman,
jointly ruled the Kingdom of the Franks
until 771CE, when Carloman died and
Charlemagne became the sole ruler.
He therefore ruled his Kingdom from
771CE 814CE.
Coronation in 751 of Ppin the
Short by Boniface, Archbishop
of Mainz
Charles the Great
People called Charlemagne,
Charles the Great,
because he was so popular.
He was a strong leader and
good organiser.
He improved the way
people were ruled.
He was also over six feet
tall. (Which was very tall for
those days!)
Charles the Great. Originally published
in the Swedish book "Historisk lasebok"
published in 1882.
Charlemagnes Rule
Under Charlemagnes
rule as King, Europe
underwent a cultural
During his reign as King,
Charlemagne is
responsible for a
number of important
Charlemagne is thought to have introduced a new way of
running society. This system is now known as the feudal
Charlemagne controlled the Frankish Empire by giving land to
the people who pledged their loyalty to him.
This concept of supporting the King in exchange for land and
favours, is thought to have laid the foundations for Feudalism.
This early type of social order, introduced by Charlemagne,
later spread across Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
Charlemagne increased his power and status by increasing the size
of his Kingdom through military expansion.
He fought more than 50 wars, including wars against the Saxons and
He was successful militarily for several reasons:
Well organised
Introduced new weapons
Used the Calvary in his army
Introduced the stirrup
Clever military tactics
Used spies and intelligence
Charlemagne did not ask his counts, knights and vassals whether to
fight, but where to fight!
Church Reforms
Charlemagne built a number of
Churches and Cathedrals
He also reformed much of the
Church by:
Strengthening of the church's
power structure
Improving the skill and moral
quality of the clergy
Standardizing liturgical
Improvements on the basic
tenets of the faith and moral
Eradicating paganism.
The construction of Aachen, illumination by Jean Fouquet, in
the Grandes Chroniques de France, 15th century. Charlemagne
is at the foreground.
Legal Reforms
Before Charlemagne, the Frankish court system
used Trial by Ordeal.
Trial by Ordeal meant that if you were a peasant
and were accused of a crime, to prove your
innocence you had to grab a red hot metal rod
and hold it. If your burns healed within three
days you were innocent, if not you were guilty.
Charlemagne created a new system called Trial
by Panel.
Under this system, a group of learned men would
listen to the testimony and look at the evidence
and then pronounce guilt or innocence. From
this system of Trial by Panel we got our own
system of Trial by Jury.
Charlemagne promoted the
spread of Christianity
The people he conquered had
to convert to Christianity,
anyone who refused was
He once killed 4500 people in
Saxony because they refused
to convert.
He became a protector of the
Catholic Church with the title,
The Holy Roman Emperor.
Pope Leo III surprisingly crowned Charlemagne the Emperor of
the Romans over the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Emperor
In 799CE, Pope Leo III was in danger. The
people of Rome accused him of immorality
and threatened to gouge out his eyes and cut
out his tongue.
In desperation, Pope Leo III, fled to
Charlemagne, seeking his protection.
Charlemagne agreed to protect the Pope, and
so he was crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman
Emperor on Christmas Day 800CE.
Charlemagne protected and supported the
Pope and the Catholic Church. He fought
many wars to protect their interests.
Commerce and the Economy
During his reign he developed commerce.
He instituted principles for accounting practice
He laid down strict rules for the way in which
incomes and expenses were to be recorded.
The lending of money for interest was
Charlemagne also standardised the monetary
system to make it fairer and less open to
abuse. He introduced a payment system using
silver coins, and standardised the value for
each coin.
A coin of Charlemagne with the
inscription KAROLVS IMP AVG
(Karolus Imperator Augustus)
Although Charlemagne could not read or
write, he wanted to revive learning and
culture in his Kingdom and promoted
He ordered the foundation of schools in
every monastery and established
Cathedral schools for the education of
the clergy and Nobles in Chartres,
Orleans, Paris, Laon, Rheims, Rouen and
He had old books from all over his
kingdom carefully and accurately copied
to preserve them. He translated these
books as well.
Charlemagne ordered a
new and clear form of
writing called the
Carolingian Script to be
used across the Empire.
It was used in the Holy
Roman Empire between
approximately 800CE and
Manuscript using Carolingian script, 845CE
Translated manuscript, Historia Tvrpini, 804CE
Death and the end of his Empire
Charlemagne died in 814CE and
was buried in his cathedral in
Aachen(modern day Germany).
The empire was divided amongst
his sons.
By the time his grandsons were
ruling, these kingdoms were
By 900CE, his great kingdom was
divided into smaller kingdoms
with Christian Rulers.
A reliquary of Charlemagne
containing his head. This is
found in the cathedral treasury
in Aachen, Germany.
Einhard wrote a biography of
Charlemagne titled, Vita Karoli
Magni, translated as The Life of
Historians believe this to be the
first example of a biography
written about a European King.
The biography provides an
insight into life and society in the
Middle Ages.
A reliquary of Charlemagne
containing his head. This is
found in the cathedral treasury
in Aachen, Germany.