Charlemagne and his Grandfather

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Charlemagne and his Grandfather

Charlemagne / looking very like Christopher Lee)

Charlemagne / looking very like Christopher Lee)

Charlemagne, a.k.a. Carlomagno, was the son of Pepin II, known as The Short, and grandson of Charles Martel. As King of the Franks he reigned at first jointly with his brother, Carloman. The latter died, however, in 771, and Charlemagne had to set about the task of ruling, and imposing that rule.

He was the first of the Emperors of the West, who eventually became Holy Roman Emperors (qv). The Franks had been weakly and impetuously governed before Charlemagne, and there were continuous invasions from the barbarian north and the Muslim south.

He waged what would turn out to be a lengthy military campaign, beginning in 772, first against the pagan Saxons, and later against the Avars in the east. Bavaria and Lombardy were subdued by him, and he was able to strengthen and support the papacy by restoring lands that had been his to the current Pope. All this led to his being crowned (as Emperor of the West) on Christmas Day, 800 by the thankful Leo III.

Being very far from just a simple soldier and statesman (like King Alfred in England q.v.) Charlemagne started schools, firstly in his own palace at Aachen; soon it became the most important place of learning in Christendom. Great scholars and teachers flocked there. He went on to found schools in the most logical and available place for them – near-empty cathedrals and monasteries throughout the Empire. It would be true to state that Charlemagne initiated a revival in scholarship whose effects were profound and enduring. This was what is called ‘The Carolingian Renaissance’.

One of the reasons why his name still rings down through the dusty centuries is that his life and achievements have been preserved through ballads and poems, some written by fellow soldiers, others by monks. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Chanson de Roland.

   Charlemagne lived from circa 742 a.d. to 814, but what he achieved in seventy-two years would have taken lesser men twice that time, even if they were capable enough to do it.

 Charles Martel

Charlemagne’s grandfather was also a Frankish king, born in 688 a.d. His name meant  ‘hammer’ in antique French. His father was called Pepin II. He occupied a position of importance called ‘Mayor of the Palace’ under Merovingian rule.

Martel was a soldier and good strategist. He occupied most of what is now Austria, and moved on to occupy and dominate both Aquitaine and Burgundy in what is now France. His greatest achievement, which has allowed him to remain a hero in France since the seventh century, was his defeat of the Muslims at a spot between between Poitiers and Tours, in the year 772. These two ancient French cities boast equestrian statues of Charles Martel, though there are similar monuments to him in many other towns. The successful battle against the Muslim forces signalled an end to their northward expansion.                                  

By | 2014-04-01T14:40:50+00:00 October 28th, 2011|World History|12 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. Eugene McLean McKnight Milligan November 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Very enjoyable information. Thank you. I will continue to read. One question, for now: Are the Engles and the Angles the same?

    • Dean Swift November 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Eugene, I am sorry but I have never heard of the ‘Engles’. It sounds like the title of some soap from England about a maladjusted family. I can find no reference to ‘Engles’, not even in the wonderful Encyclopedia Britannica, which is itself an American publication, despite the name!
      Best wishes,

      • Eugene McLean McKnight Milligan November 16, 2012 at 6:09 am - Reply

        You might try THE MAKING OF AMERICA by Leon Skousen

        • Dean Swift November 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm - Reply

          Eugene, thank you for the suggestion. I have ordered THE MAKING OF AMERICA from Amazon

  2. Eugene McLean McKnight Milligan November 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    By the way, I am one of the great-grandsons of Alfred the Great Saxon King of England. Other than my kids, and grand-kids, you are the first person to whom I have divulged this irrelevant piece of info–only because you are an excellent historian. I discovered that, once you enter the royalty bloodline, you become related to many kings and queens. I stopped counting at about fifty. Both my grandfather, Martin Thomas Mclean and my grandmother, Clyde Eugenia McKnight, descend from royal lines. They came out of the Midwest. In fact, while I am on it, we relate to royal houses in every major country in Europe.

    • Dean Swift November 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Eugene again you are right. A famous historian once wrote that every Englishman or woman could trace descendence from Edward III. In East Anglia there are still descendents of Hereward the Wake living. My own wife’s family, which is Spanish, descends almost directly from John of Gaunt, uncle of Richard II, and second son to Edward III. Half the population of the northern east coast of the USA claim to descend from original signers of the Declaration of Independence. I used to know an Englishman whose first wife was actually called Jean Macbeth, and was indeed a descendent of this Scottish King. Let us not be surprised. After all, I suppose we ALL descend from Adam and Eve, whoever they were.
      Best wishes,

      • Eugene McLean McKnight Milligan November 16, 2012 at 6:12 am - Reply

        I am the first American I have found in my 80 years, but I am sure you are right. The 40 million Hispanics might argue the point however.

        • Nancy Ann Nagy June 30, 2019 at 4:42 am - Reply

          Charles Martel and Charlemagne are my great ….. grandfathers. Henry VIII and I share a grandfather as well.

  3. Gail Andrews Hardy June 18, 2017 at 2:21 pm - Reply


    I agree with you both. If you count all the royals as different lines in my family tree, I have over 200 lines back to Charlemagne. I am also a descendant of John of Gaunt, on several lines. I am also a descendant of Edward III, again on several lines. I believe my closest royal is Edmund Crouchback, who is my 11th great grandfather. What’s fun is finding out who all you are related to; not just the famous, but also the infamous as well – like Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, Annie Borden, etc. I use to think that being a member of the DAR or the Mayflower Descendants would be cool, but I have so many ancestors that qualify me for those organizations that I would hardly know where to start. I think it’s much more notable to be a member of the “Order of the Crown of Charlemagne”, which is what I am working for at the moment.

  4. Geoffrey France January 17, 2018 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    I found out the king is my grandfather

  5. Geoffrey France January 17, 2018 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I ment king charlemenge was my grandfather

  6. Jason Eagle February 9, 2018 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Yeah, and you’re all redheads, because my Grandfather scalped all of the other palefaces.

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