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Charlemagne, also known as Charles I and Charles the Great, was a medieval emperor who ruled over most of Europe and brought a renaissance of religion and culture to the continent. He was King of the Franks from 768 A.D., King of the Lombards from 774 A.D., and Holy Roman Emperor from 800 A.D.
See the fact file below for more information on Charlemagne or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Charlemagne worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Early Life and Education
- Charlemagne (2 April 742 – 28 January 814) was the eldest son of Pepin the Short (714 – 24 September 768, reigned from 751) and Bertrada of Laon. His birthplace is unknown, although historians have suggested Liege in present-day Belgium and Aachen in modern-day Germany as possible locations.
- He was named Charles in French and English, and Carolus in Latin, after his grandfather, Charles Martel. The French old historians dubbed him Charles le Magne, or Charles the Great, becoming Charlemagne.
- He was a master of Latin, but he could understand Greek better than he could speak it. Charlemagne was interested in athletic pursuits. He was also known to be highly energetic – he enjoyed hunting, horseback riding and swimming.
- Charlemagne had multiple wives and mistresses and perhaps as many as 18 children. His first wife was Desiderata, daughter of Desiderius, King of the Lombards. Their marriage was annulled in 771 A.D. He then married Hildegard of the Vinzgau and had nine children.
- In 741 A.D., Pepin the Short had become mayor of the palace and in 751, he seized the Frankish throne from the last Merovingian king, Childeric III. He was declared King of the Franks, a powerful Germanic tribe that lived in the region known today as France. He was the first Carolingian to become king.
- Charlemagne received practical leadership training in his youth by participating in political, social and military activities associated with his father’s court. Charlemagne also joined Pepin on many military campaigns.
- After Pepin’s death in 768, the Frankish Kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his younger brother, Carloman I. They were both proclaimed king and were to rule the kingdom together.
- Carloman received the larger and richer division of the realm. Almost immediately, the rivalry between the two brothers threatened the unity of the Frankish kingdom. But Carloman’s sudden death in December 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the sole ruler of the Frankish Kingdom.
- He continued his father’s policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, the Avars (in modern-day Austria and Hungary) and Bavaria, among others.
- Charlemagne moved aggressively, especially in Italy, to remove those who threatened his power. He attacked and defeated King Desiderius of the Lombards. Shortly thereafter, Charlemagne was crowned King of the Lombards at Pavia.
- He formed an alliance with Desiderius and married his daughter but he divorced her after a year for unknown reasons.
- His Frankish conquest of Italy — first of Lombardy in the north and later Benevento in the south — brought new wealth and people into his kingdom.
- Charlemagne sought to unite all Germanic people into one kingdom and convert them to Christianity. He spent the majority of his reign engaged in military campaigns in order to carry out his mission.
- Charlemagne invaded Saxony in 772 and waged a bloody, three-decades-long series of battles against the Saxons, a Germanic tribe of pagan worshippers, and earned a reputation for ruthlessness.
- The event was called Massacre of Verden when King Charlemagne ordered the death of 4,500 Saxons in 782 to anyone who didn’t get baptized or follow other Christian traditions be put to death. He eventually achieved its total conquest and conversion to Christianity.
- On his eastern frontier Charlemagne defeated Tassilo III, the Duke of Bavaria. Charlemagne claimed that Tassilo III, was an unfit ruler, due to his oath-breaking.
- In 794, Tassilo III formally handed over to the king all of the rights he had held. Bavaria was subdivided into Frankish counties, as had been done with Saxony.
- In 778, he invaded northern Spain, then controlled by the Moors. Furthermore, the major power and ultimate threat to the Frankish realm was the vast Slavic kingdom of the Avars. Between 791 and 795 Charlemagne crushed the power of the Avars and added their kingdom as a state.
- In 800, a rebellion against Pope Leo III began and Charlemagne went to his aid in Rome and defeated the rebellion. As a way to acknowledge Charlemagne’s power and reinforce his relationship with the church, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans on December 25, 800, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
- Charlemagne gave money and land to the Christian church and protected the popes. He had succeeded in greatly extending his power while defeating several enemies. Charlemagne ruled all of the Christianized western provinces, except the British Isles, that had once been part of the Roman Empire.
- The immense territories that Charlemagne controlled became known as the Carolingian Empire. He promoted education and encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of renewed emphasis on scholarship and culture.
- There were numerous factors in this cultural expansion, the most obvious of which was that of Charlemagne uniting most of Western Europe, which brought about peace and stability and set the stage for prosperity.
- Charlemagne expanded the number of schools and the quality of education was greatly improved. He instituted economic and religious reform, and was a driving force behind the Carolingian miniscule, a standardized form of writing that later became the basis for modern European printed alphabets.
- During this period, there was an increase in literature, writing, the arts, architecture, liturgical reforms and scriptural studies.
- Charlemagne was in good health until the final four years of his life. He took measures to secure the succession of his empire. He divided the realm amongst his three sons — Charles, Pepin and Louis.
- In 813 A.D., Charlemagne called Louis the Pious, King of Aquitaine, his only surviving legitimate son, to his court as the sole heir to the empire.
- In January 814 A.D., Charlemagne died at the age of 72, having reigned for 47. Charlemagne was buried at the cathedral in Aachen. However, his successors lacked his vision and authority, and his empire did not outlive him long.
- Nevertheless, Charlemagne became a legendary figure who appeared as the defender and protector of the Church, of orthodoxy and of education. In 1165, under Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, Charlemagne was canonized for political reasons, but the Church does not recognize his sainthood, even today.
- A century after his death, Emperor Otto I emulated the great conqueror by establishing Aachen as his capital, and during the next 600 years, more than 30 Holy Roman Emperors and German kings were crowned there.
- Einhard, a Frankish scholar and contemporary of Charlemagne, wrote a posthumous biography of the emperor, titled Vita Karoli Magni (Life of Charles the Great).
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Charlemagne across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Charlemagne worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Charlemagne, also known as Charles I and Charles the Great, who was a medieval emperor who ruled over most of Europe and brought a renaissance of religion and culture to the continent. He was King of the Franks from 768 A.D., King of the Lombards from 774 A.D., and Holy Roman Emperor from 800 A.D.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Charlemagne Facts
- The Life of a King
- King of Franks
- Dark Age
- Think! Think! Think!
- Connect the Box
- The Achiever
- No Gap
- Carolingian Time
- Word Lookup
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Link will appear as Charlemagne Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 12, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
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