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THE REIGN AND EMPIRE OF CHARLES THE GREAT, OR CHARLEMAGNE.
FROM A. D. 768. to A. D. 814.
History The reign of Charlemagne * stands out in prominent ability and valour; and his fortunes at once acquired France,
relief from the History of the Dark Ages: a distinct the decided ascendant over those of his feebler brother. Germany, From epoch of solitary grandeur dividing two long periods of He forcibly stripped Carloman of a part of Austrasia, Italy, &c. A. D. Barbarian tumult and disorder. It forms that signal which was in dispute between them; quelled an effort
From 768. and equidistant point between the destruction of the of the deprived Duke of Aquitaine to reestablish his Roman Empire and the slow revival of social cultiva- independence ;* and overawed both the tributary Sove
768. tion, which alone breaks the dull continuity of six cen- reigns of the Bavarians and Lombards, who were dis814.
turies of anarchy; and it offers the only contrast of or- posed to renounce their allegiance. The politic marganized power on which the mind can repose amidst riage of Charles with the daughter of Desiderio, the 814. the disruptured elements of political civilization. It Lombard Monarch, gave a hollow promise of friendintervenes between two examples of degenerate dynas- ship, which was shortly broken by the death of Carloties and two periods of corrupted Barbarism : between man. Seizing the inheritance of his brother's infant
Charles sole the common decay of the original Royal Houses of the sons with little opposition, Charles was no sooner Monarch. Northern nations, and of the Imperial line which sup- master of the whole Frankish Empire, than he insultplanted them; between the dissolution of the free Go- ingly divorced his Lombard Princess; and the resent- .771. thic Democracies, and the consolidation of the Feudal ment which Desiderio rashly betrayed, and the asylum system.
and countenance which he afforded to the widow and Notwithstanding the fatal experience of the Merovin- children of Carloman, entailed a total ruin upon the he Frankish gian custom of partition, it was imitated by the second declining Monarchy of the Lombards. Monarchy. Royal line of the Franks. Pepin le Bref bequeathed That Kingdom was in no degree equal to a contest His con. $698 of Per his extensive dominions between his two sons, Charles with the power of the Frankish Empire, even if Desi- quest of the
and Carloman ;t and the usual evils of the division were derio, with the usual imprudence or fatality of his Lombard A. D. immediately shown in the quarrel of the brothers and House, had not also outraged the Papacy, and by his Kingdom. 768. the insurrection of their tributary States. These turbu- aggressions compelled the reigning Pontiff, Adrian I.,
774. lent members of the Empire, no longer compressed into to implore the succour of the hereditary protector of the unity and obedience under the vigorous sceptre of Pepin, Holy See. At the call of the Pope, the Frankish were immediately encouraged to attempt the recovery Monarch, like his father, descended with alacrity from of their independence by the youth, the inexperience, the Alps, besieged Desiderio in his Capital of Pavia, and and the dissensions of his sons. If the talents of the compelling him to surrender at discretion, finally extinyoung Princes had been similar and their lives equally guished the national independence and dynasty of the prolonged, their rivalry would have perpetuated the Lombards. The widow and children of Carloman, as first disorders of their common reign: but Charles sur- well as Desiderio and his family, fell into the hands of prised his enemies by an early display of extraordinary the victor, who is said to have conveyed all these Royal
captives to France. History is silent on their subseThe only original authority that can be relied upon for the quent fate; and the Lombard Monarch and his chilHistory of the reign and actions of Charlemagne is his Secretary, dren may either have perished by violence or have been Eginhart, who composed both a well-known Life of the Emperor, and suffered to languish out their days in obscurity : but the Annals of the Carlovingian Monarchy, which we haie before quoted
there can be less doubt that the infant nephews of These Works, with the occasional light thrown on the porernment of Charlemagne by his Laws or Capitularies, (which have
Charles were inhumanly sacrificed to the safety of his been collected it the work of Stephen Baluze, Capitularia Regum usurpation. The conquest of Lombardy was not comFrancorum, 2 vols. fol. Paris, 1680,) form the only authentic materials out of which various modern writers have raised their Historical * Though composing an integral portion of France itself, the Prosuperstructure. + This partition, however, was rather in fact ultimately the work
vince of Aquitaine was not completely brought under the immediate of a National Assembly, after the death of Pepin.
dominiou of the Crown, until the repeated rebellion of its Dukes had
Franci, facto solemniter generali conventu, says Eginhari, ambos sibi reges
been punished by confiscation, imprisonment, and death. Gaillard, constituunt. Eginharti, Vila Caroli Magni, c. 4. They repeated
the modern biographer of Charlemagne, has laboriously attempted the division; or rather, it should seem, made a new one.
(Histoire de Charlemagne, vol. i1. p. 60, et seq.) to trace the Merovin
gian descent of thiese Princes. 295
From A. D. 768.
to A. D.
From A. D.
History. pleted, until after a revolt which was punished by the continued for four centuries to acknowledge at least France,
Germans. defeat and death of a Duke of Friuli : but another great the feudal superiority of the French Crown.
to preserve at least the forms of independence. It was torious forces, on their return into France, wound 768. 814. the policy of the conqueror rather to annex the Lom- through the defiles of the Pyrenees, they were suddenly
bard Kingdom by an equal union to his Empire, than attacked by the Gascons: an aboriginal, or at least
defeat of whose functions and power had become hereditary, re- of the Roman, the Gothic, and the Saracenic conquests.
Charles at mained undisturbed ; the people were suffered to retain In the pass of Roncesvalles, these hardy mountaineers
Roncesral. their own national laws and customs ; and Charles was succeeded in cutting off the rear guard of the Frankish les. contented with the paramount Sovereignty and the host, and capturing the immense booty which encumbered general allegiance of Northern Italy.*
its careless or toilsome march. History obscurely beSubjugation From the easy task of completing the valuable con- trays the real circumstances of a disgraceful and calaof the Saxe quest of that Peninsula, by the acquisition of its South- mitous defeat, of which the magnitude is more strongly
ern Provinces, which were still subject to the Eastern attested, since the memory has been imperishably pre
Emperors, the ambition of the Frankish Sovereign was served, in the wildest traditions of Romance. One of 775.
strangely diverted to the wild and distant forests of Charles's principal Commanders was slain in the rout;
excited and aggravated by young Prince to be solemnly presented with the ancient
parent was soon summoned a second time from the Expedition
The dissensions among the Moorish Governors of Italian plains to the forests of Northern Germany, by into Spain, Spain had at this period attained their height in the the intelligence of a fresh insurrection among the
struggle betwen the adherents of the Abbassidan and Saxons. The unconquerable love of freedoin, or the
* L'Art de Vérifier les Dates, vol. ii. p. 291.
+ This Spanish expedition of Charlemagne is briefly related in the
1Xih chapter of Eginhart, our only origiral authority of credit. But power irresistible; and the capitulation of Saragossa the fabulous exploits of Charles and hi: Paladins against the Saraceus,
completed the rapid conquest of the country between which form the darling theme of the Romances of the Middle Ages, and perma. the mountains and the Ebro, which, under the title of
are reflected and multiplied, like many-coloured hues of prismatic nent exten- the Spanish March,
he permanently annexed to the light, from the lustre of his real achievements. sion of his Frankish Empire. The Emir of Saragossa was faith. Empire, suggested to literary adulation the obvious resemblance
At a distance of ten centuries, the reestablishment of a French Empire to fully restored to his government: but the supreme ad- between its first and second founders; and several acts of Napoleon ne Ebro.
ministration of the March was confided to a Frankish attested his eagerness to accept the comparison. His assumption of 778. Count, who resided at Barcelona, and whose successors
the Iron Crown was a palpable copy or Charlemagne ; and his legislative labours, his patronage of Letters and the Arts, and the magnifi
cence of his public works, might have justified the parallel :-is the • Eginharti. Annales, ad annos 768–776. Vita Car. c. 5, &c. enlightened conqueror of our times had expiated the cold selfishness of Annules Bertiniani, apud Muratori, Script. Rer, Ilal, vol. ii. p. 475– his desolating ambition with the same unaffected sympathy and zeal
for the welfare and happiness of his people, wbich bave sanctified the † Eginharti, Annales, ad ann. 778.
memory of the illustrious Barbarian.
to A. D.
History. reach the theatre of action, Witikend had inflicted a blood; and while their union with the body of the France,
Germany, severe defeat upon his Lieutenants. The approach of Frankish Empire was gradually effected, the indepen
Italy, &c. From
the Frankish King with a formidable army revived the dence and distinction of their national character were in
his presence, only to await a more favourable oppor- The victories by which Charles subjugated, or at
followers, fled again for refuge to the North. Charles the Eastern frontiers of his Empire, were associated 814.
then resolved, with a cool and detestable cruelty which with circumstances less repugnant to humanity, and
has left an indelible stain upon his memory, to quell the almost equally important in their results. The Sclavo- 814. Subdued by spirit of the whole Saxon people by an appalling ex- nic Tribes, who had overspread the modern regions of Victories of
Charles over Charles : ample of severity. All the principal men of the nation Bohemia, Prussia, and Poland, were in general com
the Sclavobut bis being convened to attend his camp at Verden for the pelled to acknowledge obedience to his sceptre; and nic Tribes atrocious
purpose of homage or counsel, the peaceful assembly the first of those Countries, at least, may be numbered and Huns. massacre of the Saxons
was suddenly surrounded by his troops and disarmed; among the conquered Provinces which he annexed to
and four thousand five hundred Saxons of the nollest his dominions. It required a more arduous effort, and 783.
blood of their nation were led out and beheaded on the a sanguinary and devastating struggle of several years,
to reduce the Huns or Avares of Pannonia to a similar provokes a
This horrible butchery, so far from producing the subjection: but after the Frankish arms had penetrated
desired effect, only goaded a brave and ferocious people to the Royal village of those Barbarians, and all the
Empire. Subreission destiny, at last tendered a faithful submission, and ac- quent rebellions of Tassillon, the Duke of Bavaria, a of Witikend.
knowledged the Religion and dominion of the victor. kinsmau of Charles, in concert with the Saxons and
His example had a powerful influence upon his Country- Huns, had justified a lenient sentence of deposition ; the
without intermission from the Ebro to the Elbe and the
subjugation of their Country, the most resolute freemen whole of France, and Germany Proper, with portions
of Bohemia and Hungary, some Dalmatian Provinces,
of Charles, Northmen, or Normans, these Saxon exiles swelled the epoch in his long and fortunate reign. The supremacy piratical swarms which were shortiy to issue from the of his power and the renown of his great talents were shores of the Baltic, and took a deadly vengeance on
acknowledged, not only in his vast dominions, but the Carlovingian Empire for the original wrongs of their throughout the Western world, in the respect and fear nation.t
of the Saracens of Spain, in the reverence of the ChrisFinal settle
The great talents and incessant activity of Charles, tian Monarchs of Gallicia and Asturias, and in the homent of Germany by
the magnitude of his power, and the constancy of his mage of the Scottish and perhaps of the Saxon Princes
transfusion of races was adopted as the only alternative temporary, and the most illustrious of the Abbassidan
Upon less doubtful motives than curiosity or vanity, His inter. able passion for freedom, and resistance to tyranny, the reputation and power of the Frankish Monarch course with which, fostered by the spirit of Commerce, became for commanded the respect and excited the dread of the the Eastern
the obedience of the Christian world. The sceptre of
* Eginbart, Annales, ad ann, 788—794. Vita Cur. c. 15.
+ The respectful correspondence of our Saxon Egbert with Charle• Eginhart, Annales, all ann. 783.
magne appears rather apocryphal. But see Gaillard, vol. ii. ad p.
384, &c. + Jbid. ad ann. 783--786.
Egin grt. Vita, c. 16.
From A. D.
to A. D.
History. · the Eastern Empire was now held by a woman and a The elevation of Charlemagne to the Imperial dignity France, mother, whose unnatural ambition was defiled with the introduces the most splendid, the pacific glories, of his Germany
, From deposition and cruel mutilation of her own son. After protracted dominion. In a natural division of his reign, Italy
, ac. depriving him of his birthright and his eyes, Irene that event marks the triumphant term of his conquests, 768.
reigned alone as Empress of the East; and her alarm and the settlement of his Civil administration. In a at the increasing power of the Frankish Monarchy had period of thirty-two years, which were passed in incessant
768. 814 been artfully evinced in the intrigues by which she had hostilities, he had extended his possessions from the
instigated the unsuccessful revolt of the Dukes of Rhine to the Elbe and the Save, from the Pyrenees to
dread of his arms and activity; and the establishment With whatever truth and sincerity the proposal may of tranquillity was followed by efforts for universal im- Efforts in have been made and accepted, its fulfilment was frus- provement in jurisprudence, learning, manners, and legislation, trated by a revolution which suddenly precipitated morals. Among the Franks, he restored the regular Irene from the Throne of Constantinople; and the convocation of the National Assemblies, which had formal elevation of Charles to the Imperial dignity was fallen into some disuse under the Merovingian Kings. reserved for another political architect. This
He laboured to introcluce order into their meetings, and Protection Pope Leo III., the successor of Adrian I. A sedition encouraged their legislative deliberations for the comof Pope Leo at Rome, in which the nephews of the late Pontiff com- mon weal. While he left the people of the conquered III.
pelled Leo to fly for his life, reduced the new Pope to Provinces as much as possible in the enjoyment of
throw himself upon the protection of Charles, and their own ancient privileges and customs, he endea799,
paved the way for a signal exhibition of his gratitude to voured to modify and amend their Barbarian institu-
administration of the Empire. With too abundant a august appellation was now to confess the allegiance of confidence in their superior qualifications for office, he the Romans, and to assert the succession of the Frank- extended the jurisdiction of the Bishops over his tempoish Sovereigns to the purple of the Cæsars. During ral tribunals; he forbade the lay Magistrates to enter. the celebration of high mass at the festival of Christmas, tain causes against churchmen; and he thus elevated on the last year of the VIlIth century, and in the Church the influence of the Episcopal Order above all former of St. Peter, while the French King knelt before the example and authority.* altar, Leo suddenly approached him and placed an Im- With less questionable advantage to his subjects, Measures et perial crown on his head, with the exclamation, which this great Monarch reformed the coinage of the Empire
was immediately echoed in the shouts of the people, of and enacted the legal divisions of money, provided by And corona
Long life to Charles Augustus! crowned by the hand his laws for the correction of innumerable abuses of peror of the of God: the great, pious, and pacific Emperor of the administration, and laboured to ameliorate the slavish West. Romans!" The authority of the Pope to confer this condition and to diminish the oppression of the common
dignity might vainly be demanded, but the new Empe- people.f The same wise and benevolent zeal for the 800. ror was at least worthy of the honour; the restoration advancement of general civilization and happiness,
of the Empire of the West may be formally dated from
garded: but the simple fact remains the same, that the Pope first conferred the Imperial diadem upon a Prince whose general sove
reignty he had already acknowledged, and afterwards paid him the * Theophanes, Chronogruphia, p. 401–402. In the reign of homage of a subject.' See, chiefly, Muratori, Annali d'Italia, ad Nicephorus, the successor of Irene, a solemn Treaty was concluded ann.; Pagi, Critica, vol. iii. p. 418; Giannone, (Istoria di Napoli,) between him and Charlemagne which, (A. D. 802,) on the basis of vol. i. p. 395 ; Gaillard, vol. ii. p. 412—446; St. Marc, Abrégé possession, adjusted the limits, and proclaimed the alliance, of the Chronologique, vol. i. p. 440-450. Eastern and Western Empires.
* Steph. Baluzii, Capitularia, (Caroli,) vol. i. p. 227, 90+, 985, + Eginhart, Annales, ad ann. 799–800. In the contest for 1105, &c. supremacy between the Empire and the Popedom, which fiercely + Baluzii, Cupit. passim.
tion as Em
* to A. D.
History. was shown in the number and variety of the public Normans, or Danes, is buried in the obscurity of Scan- France,
works which he directed : in the construction of roads dinavian legends ; but the Age and the Empire of Germany, From and bridges, the opening of navigable rivers, and the Charlemagne first witnessed and sustained the scourge
lialy, &c. creation of a marine to foster the commerce and pro- of their perpetual invasions. Nursed in the wild storms
tect the coasts of the Empire. Among these projects, and cold of their native regions, and habituated to a
768. German Ocean and the Euxine by connecting the braved every peril, and were unequally opposed by the 814. Public
Rhine and the Danube with a canal, deserves a parti- less hardy people of milder climates, whose defenceless works cular and honourable mention for the grandeur of the coasts invited their roving activity, and whose posses- 814.
design, although it miscarried in the execution.* The sions tempted their ravenous appetite for plunder. In failure has been imputed to the rude state of the Arts a few years after their appearance on the Ocean, they and the ignorance and unskilfulness of a dark Age: yet, extended their desultory ravages along the shores of if the difficulties of the work were not really insuper- Germany, Englanı), France and Spain. Their descents able, it is a greater reproach to the superior intelligence were sometimes repulsed by the vigilance of Charleand power of modern times, that at the distance of ten magne and the victories of his navy: but all his power centuries, the magnificent conception of a Barbarian was insufficient to check the incessant expeditions and mind remains still unaccomplished.
avert the progress of their numerous fleets. Even All these useful efforts to associate his greatness during his life they penetrated into the Mediterranean;
with the welfare of his people have justly raised and on the first spectacle of their vessels from a port in and encou- and perpetuated the renown of Charlemagne far above that sea, the aged conqueror is said to have wept in nagement of the ordinary fame which is lit up in the desolation of prophetic sorrow at the evils which threatened his learning. conquest. Yet, to the eye of scholastic enthusiasm, it Empire.
is his zealous endeavours for the encouragement of In his family the heart of the Emperor was doomed Domestic Learning, imperfect and transient though they were, to suffer some of the severest trials which belong to the afflictions which have shed the purest and most pleasing lustre on parental condition : to witness and survive the death of his memory; and, with their usual prodigality of grati- his children. His eldest son, Pepin, whose legitimacy tude, men of letters have delighted to confer that im- is doubtful, had engaged in an unnatural rebellion, and mortality on the genius of Charlemagne, which Princes was justly punished by confinement to a Monastery in nave ever cheaply won by the patronage of intellec- which he died. Two other of his sons also, Charles tual studies. But after every detraction for the taste- and Pepin Carloman, closed their lives before him ; lessness and superstition which disfigured his purposes, and the death of his favourite daughter Rotrude filled the foundation of Schools and the collection of Libraries, up the measure of his affliction. These misfortunes, the attempt to form an Academy in his Court, and the indeed, were soothed by the filial piety of Lewis, his perseveri ng and successful desire to gather the few only remaining son, whom he rewarded by associating learned men of every Country around his person, are with him in the Government. In the last year of the all positive evidences of a real sympathy for literary Emperor's life, a solemn Assembly of his States was excellence, which not only overcame the original defi- convened at Aix-la-Chapelle, to confirm his intention; ciencies of a neglected education, but rose far superior and the Imperial Crown being laid on the altar, Charleto the rude spirit of his times.t
magne, as if he foresaw and desired to prevent the Distresses of All the glory and fortune of Charlemagne, however, usurpations of the Church, commanded the Prince to
and death of declining could not exempt his declining years from the heavy place it on his own head, in token that he received and years. cares of Empire and the ordinary afflictions of humanity. held it alone of God, his father, and his people.*
The perpetual anxiety for the repression of abuses which Charlemagne survived this remarkable ceremony only
least the advancement of the Frankish frontiers to the intellectual standard of his own times. Apart, indeed, First rawa- Elbe, and the flight of the Saxon exiles to the shores of from the accidents of his position at an epoch of thick Serif the the Baltic, were almost immediately followed by the barbarism and ferocious violence, we may readily dis
emerging of those piratical fleets from the Scandinavian cover in many features of liis conduct the true and unof the Em seas, which in a few years spread desolation through- changeable elements of greatness. His universal am
out the coasts of the Ocean and Mediterranean. bition of excellence, the magnitude of his conceptions,
than any, of the times in which he lived. In whatever
age of the world he had filled a Throne, these capacities attempt, in the Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, vol. xvii. would probably have numbered him among the most
+ Eginhart, in Vitú Car. passim, and especially c. 25. and 29. ilustrious of mankind : but the positive as well as the But the efforts of Charlemague for the promotion of Learning are best collected and developed in the Hist. Littéraire de France, vol. iv Thegan. Chron. Vitæ Ludovici Pii, c. 7. of the learned Benedictines.
4 Eginhart, ad ann.
A. D. 808.