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Full text of "Charles the Great"








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First Edition 1897 
Reprinted 1899, 1903, 1908 



In attempting to compress the history of the great 
Emperor Charles within the narrow limits of the present 
volume, I have undertaken a difficult task, and I trust 
that my fellow-historians will consider, not how much 
has been omitted, but how much, or rather how little, it 
was possible to insert. 

It may be thought that I might have gained space 
by proceeding at once to the beginning of Charles's own 
reign, instead of devoting more than eighty pages to his 
predecessors, but this did not seem to me possible. The 
great Emperor was the last term of an ascending series 
— nobles, mayors of the palace, kings ; and in order to 
understand the law of the series it is absolutely neces- 
sary to study some of its earlier members. 

It will be observed that, though I generally speak of 
my hero as Charles, I have not absolutely declined to 
use the familiar compound Charlemagne. This is done 
with no disrespect to the teaching of my honoured 
friend, the late Prof. Freeman, who first lifted up his 
voice against this form of the name. A generation ago 
his protest against Gallicising the great Teutonic hero 


was certainly needed, but now that the lesson has been 
learnt, I think that we need not absolutely ban a form 
of his name which has been used by Milton and by 
Scott, and which, after all, by its union of the Teutonic 
Karl with the Latin Magnus, not inaptly symbolises 
the blending of German and Koman elements in the 
Frankish Empire. 

A few words as to our authorities. For the period 
before the accession of Pippin our chief authority 
is the chronicle which is known by the name of 
Fredegarius, very meagre, and written in barbarous 
Latin, but honest ; then a still more miserable continua- 
tion of this work by an unknown scribe ; and lastly, a 
much better performance, from a literary point of view, 
The Lives of the Bishops of MetZj by Paulus Diaconus. 

For the reigns of Pippin and of Charles the Great we 
have fairly satisfactory materials in the shape of the 
Annals, which now began to be kept at various monas- 
teries ; chief among them the Annates Laurissenses 
majores, so-called from their connection, real or sup- 
posed, with the great monastery of Lorsch (in Hesse- 
Darmstadt, about ten miles east of Worms). So 
extensive, however, is the knowledge of State affairs 
possessed by this writer that it is the opinion of 
Professor Ranke, and of most modern enquirers, that he 
cannot have been a mere monk writing his chronicle in 
a convent, but that we have here in fact the chronicles 
of the Frankish kingdom. This view is to some extent 


confirmed by the fact that there is a fuller recension of 
them in a more literary form, which bears the name of 
Annates Einhardi, and thus professes to be the work of 
Charles's friend and secretary. The precious Vita Caroli, 
from the pen of the same writer, is described in the fol- 
lowing pages. 

The writers who in modern times have treated of the 
life of Charles the Great number some hundreds, and I 
make no pretension to even a superficial acquaintance 
with the bibliography of so vast a subject, but I may 
mention that the books which I have found most helpful 
in the composition of the following pages are Waltz's 
Deutsche VerfassungsgeschicMe, Guizot's Lectures on the 
History of Civilisation, Dahn's Urgeschichte der germanischen 
und romanischen Volker, and pre-eminently the series 
of Jahrbucher der deutschen Geschichte, in which Bonnell 
has treated of The Beginnings of the Carolingian 
House; Oelsner, of The Life of Pippin, King of the 
Franks ; and Abel and Simson, of The Life of Charles the 
Great. To the last work (in two volumes) I have been 
under great and continual obligation. 





Intkoduction ...... 1 


Early Mayors of the Palace . . . .11 


Pippin of Heristal and Charles M artel . . 34 


Pippin, King of the Franks .... 48 


Fall of the Lombard Monarchy . . .83 


The Conversion of the Saxons .... 104 




Revolts and Conspiracies .... 125 


RONCESVALLES ...... 141 


Wars with Avars and Sclaves . . . .153 

Relations with the East .... 165 

Carolus Augustus ...... 182 

Old Age ....... 207 

Results .,...,. 232 

Appendices — 

A. Genealogy of the Ancestors of Charles the Great . 252 

B. Family of St. Charles the Great . . .253 




In the gradual transformation of the old world of 
classical antiquity into the world with which the states- 
men of to-day must deal, no man played a greater part 
than Charles the Great, King of the Franks and Emperor 
of Rome. The sharp lines of demarcation which we 
often draw between period and period, and which are 
useful as helps to memory, have not for the most part 
had any real existence in history, for in the world of 
men, as in the development of the material universe, it 
is true that uniformity rather than cataclysm is the rule : 
Natura non vadit per saltum. Still there are some great 
landmarks, such as the foundation of Constantinople, 
Alaric's capture of Rome, the Hegira of Mohammed, 
the discovery of America, the Reformation, and the French 
Revolution, which have no merely artificial existence. 
We can see that the thoughts of the great majority of 
civilised men were suddenly forced into a different channel 
by such events, that after they had occurred, men hoped 
for other benefits and feared other dangers than they 
had looked for before these events took place. And sucj) 


a changeful moment in the history of the world was 
undoubtedly the life of the great ruler who is generally 
spoken of as Charlemagne, and pre-eminently the year 
800, when he was crowned as Emperor at Eome. 

When Charles appeared upon the scene, the Eoman 
Empire — at least as far as Western Europe was con- 
cerned — had been for more than three centuries 
slowly dying. An event, to which allusion has just 
been made — the capture of Rome by Alaric in 410 — had 
dealt the great world -empire a mortal blow, and yet 
so tough was its constitution, so deeply was the thought 
engraven even on the hearts of its most barbarous 
enemies, "Rome is the rightful mistress of the world," 
that it seemed as if that world -empire could not die. 
The Visigoth, the Ostrogoth, the Vandal, the Burgundian, 
the Lombard, coming forth from the immemorial solitude 
of their forests, streamed over the cities and the vine- 
yards of the Mediterranean lands, and erected therein 
their rude state-systems, their barbaric sovereignties; 
but even in framing their uncouth national codes they 
were forced to use the language of Rome ; in govern- 
ment they could not dispense with the official machinery 
of the Empire ; in religious affairs, above all, they found 
themselves always face to face with men to whom the 
city by the Tiber was still Roma caput mundi. Hence 
in all these new barbarian kingdoms that arose on the 
ruins of the Empire there was a certain feeling of pre- 
cariousness and unrest, a secret fear that the power 
which had come into being so strangely and so unex- 
pectedly would in a moment vanish away, and that 
the Roman Augustus would assert himself once more as 
supreme over the nations; to borrow a phrase from 


the controversies of a much later date, the Visigothic 
and Burgundian and Lombard kings were obviously 
kings de facto ; but there was a latent consciousness in 
the minds of their subjects, perhaps in their own also, 
that they were not kings dejure. 

Had the Italian peninsula been less easily accessible 
by way of the Julian Alps, or had Rome been situated 
in as strong a position as Constantinople, it is possible 
that this secret belief in her rightful predominance 
might have won back for a Roman emperor that 
dominion over Europe which was in fact wielded for 
a time by the Roman popes. But the virtual trans- 
ference of the seat of empire from the Tiber to the 
Bosphorus, which was the result of the foundation of 
the new Rome, and the frequent successful sieges of the 
old Rome, prevented the Roman emperor from thus 
reasserting himself. There were jealousies between 
Rome and Constantinople already before the end of 
the fourth century, and when under Justinian the 
Empire made its wonderful efforts to recover the ground 
which it had lost in Africa, in Italy, and in Spain, though 
these reconquests were effected in the name of a Roman 
Augustus, it was felt, and often loudly asserted, that the 
armies which fought under the imperial standards were 
Greek rather than Roman. Thus, through all the king- 
doms of the west, even while the emperor enthroned at 
Constantinople was looked upon as in some sense the 
legitimate monarch of the world, the old deep-rooted 
hostility between East and West also made itself felt, 
and it was becoming every day more improbable that 
the 'western lands should ever be brought under the rule 
of a " Byzantine " Caesar. 


Ere the long, slow agony which I have called the 
death of Eome was completed, the world was startled 
by that outbreak of fierce Semitic monotheism which is 
associated with the name of Mohammed. In 622, rather 
more than two centuries after Alaric's capture of Eome, 
Mohammed escaped from Mecca to Medina, and in this 
retreat of his the followers of his faith in succeeding 
ages have rightly seen the beginning of his career of 
spiritual conquest, wherefore they date all their events 
from the midnight journey of a fugitive, even as the 
other great Oriental faith has taken for its landmark 
the birth of a little child in a stable. Before Mohammed's 
death in 632 the career of Saracen conquest had begun. 
Ere the close of the seventh century Syria, Persia, Egypt, 
North Africa, were torn from the empire of the Csesars 
and obeyed the rule of the Caliph. In 711 Europe 
saw the first breach made in its defences when 
the great Iberian peninsula (all save a few mountain 
glens in the remote north) was conquered by the Moors, 
and Mecca took the place of Jerusalem or Rome as the 
spiritual centre of gravity for Spain. The turbaned 
invaders crossed the Pyrenees ; in 725 they penetrated 
as far as Autun, only 150 miles from Paris. Though 
defeated by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charle- 
magne, in the great battle of Poitiers, the Moors remained 
encamped on the soil of that which we now call France. 
Narbonne was in their possession at the time of the 
birth of Charlemagne, and remained so during the years 
of his boyhood, till won back for Christendom by his 
father in 759. 

In the east of Europe the Avars still hung menacingly 
over the Italian and Illyrian lands. A people allied to 


the Huns, they occupied the mid-Danubian region which 
had been the seat of the barbarian empire of Attila, and 
though their power had declined somewhat from that 
which they wielded in the seventh century, it was still 
a serious danger to civilisation. As we shall see, how- 
ever, the barbarous and heathen Saxons in the lands 
between the Lower Ehine and the Elbe, representing 
the Teutonic spirit in its fiercest and most stubborn 
moods, presented an even more formidable obstacle to 
that remodelling of Europe in the likeness of the old 
Roman Empire which was the aim of the great states- 
man with whose life we have to deal. 

Such, very briefly, was the aspect of affairs when 
Charles the Great, the descendant of many Mayors of 
the Palace and of one King, found himself, with the 
power of the Frankish nation collected in his sole right 
hand, controller of the destinies of Western Europe. 
Without going too far into the times preceding his 
accession, something in order to explain his position 
must be said, both as to the Frankish nation and the 
Arnulfing family. 

In the north-east of Gaul dwelt, in the latter part of 
the fifth century after Christ, a confederacy of German 
tribes called the Salian Franks, occupying the dis- 
tricts known in later days as Flanders, Artois, and 
Picardy. Farther south was the strong and war- 
like tribe of the Ripuarian Franks, whose territory 
stretched along the banks of the Rhine from Mainz 
to Koln, and along the Moselle from Coblenz to 
Metz. Salians and Ripuarians recognised a loose tie 
of kinship between them, but there was no strong 
feeling of unity even in the subdivisions of the two 


nations. Both Salians and Eipuarians had many petty 
kings, and there were frequent civil wars between 

In this state of things one of these petty kings, Clovis, 
the Salian Frank, began to reign at Tournai in 481, 
being then fifteen years of age. When he died, in the 
year 511, after forty-five years of life and thirty of 
sovereignty, he had made himself sole master of all 
Frankish men, and had subdued to his dominion three- 
fourths of France and a great block of territory in 
south-western Germany. Let us briefly recapitulate 
these conquests, omitting the wars in which the other 
Frankish princes, whether Salian or Ripuarian, went 
down before him. In 486 he overthrew the Eoman 
governor Syagrius, who had set up some sort of inde- 
pendent kingship at Soissons. This conquest gave 
Clovis the provinces afterwards known as Champagne 
and Lorraine. In 496 he defeated the Alamanni in a 
great battle, the ultimate result of which was the 
annexation of the wide district on the right bank of 
the Rhine known in the Middle Ages as Swabia, com- 
prising in terms of modern geography Alsace, Baden, 
Wiirtemberg, the western part of Bavaria, and the 
northern part of Switzerland. The well-timed con- 
version to Christianity, and to the Catholic form of 
Christianity which followed this victory, facilitated the 
next great conquest of Clovis. In the year 507 he 
went forth to war against Alaric, King of the Visigoths, 
defeated and slew him, and thus added Aquitaine, that 
large and fertile region which lies between the Loire 
and the Pyrenees, to his dominions. Four years after 
this he died, but in the next generation, between 



524 and 534, his sons conquered Burgundy, and 
thus added to their father's kingdom the whole 
valley of the Rhone from its source to its mouth, 
except the narrow but rich land of Provence, which 
was retained by the Ostrogothic kings of Italy for 
a few years longer, but in 536 this also became 
Frankish. Contemporaneously with the conquest of 
Burgundy proceeded the conquest of Thuringia, the 
fair region in the heart of Germany which still bears 
that name, and the establishment of the over-lordship 
of the Franks over the nation of the Bavarians, whose 
country stretched from the Danube across the Alps, 
into the valley of the Adige and up to the very gates of 
Italy. The date of this last addition to the Frankish 
dominions cannot be precisely ascertained, but may be 
stated approximately at the year 535. 

It will be seen from this brief summary how rapidly 
the tide of Frankish conquest rose almost to the same 
high -water mark which it maintained at the time of 
the birth of Charlemagne. In fifty years from the first 
appearance of Clovis as a warrior, the Franks have 
subdued the whole of modern France (except a little 
strip of Languedoc), the Low Countries, Switzerland, 
and all Germany as far as the Elbe and the mountains 
of Bohemia, except Hanover ' and a part of Westphalia 
which is occupied by the untamed and still heathen 
Saxons. Such a monarchy even now would be the 
greatest power in Europe. In the sixth century, with 
Spain weakened by the estrangement between Arians 
and Catholics, with Italy torn by strife between the 
Empire and its barbarian occupants, with Britain still 
in utter chaos, nibbled at but not devoured by her 


Anglo-Saxon invaders, the kingdom of the Franks, 
when united and at peace within itself, was the strongest 
power in Europe, with the two doubtful exceptions of 
the kingdom of the savage Avars and the tottering 
fabric of the Roman Empire. 

But the years in which the Frankish kingdom was 
thus united and at peace with itself were few. It had 
been built up by the ferocious energy of one man and 
his sons ; it was hardly in any true sense of the word 
national, and he and his descendants treated it as an 
estate rather than as a country, partitioned and reparti- 
tioned it in a way which wasted its strength and ruined 
its chances of attaining to political unity. The com- 
parison may seem a strange one, but in the personal, 
non-national character of his policy the first Frankish 
king reminds one of the latest French conqueror ; the 
career of Clovis may be illustrated by that of Napoleon, 
Both men emphatically "fought for their own hands"; 
both were more intent on massing great countries under 
their sway than on really assimilating the possessions 
which they had already acquired ; both in different 
ways made, or tried to make, the Catholic Church an 
instrument of their ambition ; and both seem to have 
looked upon Europe, or so much of it as they could 
acquire, as a big estate *to be divided among their 
children or relations. 

There is no need here to dwell upon the perplexing 
details of the division of the kingdom of Clovis among 
his sons and grandsons. We perceive a tendency to 
regard the north-eastern portion of the realm, especially 
that conquered from Syagrius, as the true kernel of the 
kingdom ; and therefore, widely as the dominions of 

(S* IfltmJpUCTION 

the brothers stretch asunder, their capitals, Metz, 
Orleans, Soissons, Paris, all lie comparatively near to 
one another, all probably within the ring-fence of the 
Syagrian kingdom. But there is also a tendency to 
fall asunder into four great divisions. Burgundy and 
Aquitaine, though they do not formally resume their 
independence, are often seen as separate kingdoms 
.under a Frankish king. But the more important 
division, the more fateful rivalry separates the two 
northern kingdoms, which eventually receive the names 
of Neustria and Austrasia. In Neustria, which con- 
tained the regions of Flanders, Normandy, Champagne, 
and Central France as far as the Loire, there was 
doubtless a very large Gallo-Roman population, though 
its numbers may not have so enormously preponderated 
over those of the Teutonic immigrants as in Aquitaine 
and Burgundy. The Roman language and some remains 
of Roman culture survived here in Neustria, and were 
preparing the ground for the formation of the mediaeval 
kingdom of France. Austrasia, on the other hand, the 
territory of the Rhine and the Moselle, seems to have 
remained essentially German. The Latin speech in 
this country must have been confined to ecclesiastics 
and a few of the more cultivated courtiers; it can 
never have been the speech of the people. And 
though here we must speak rather by conjecture than 
by proof, it is probable that the old Germanic institutions 
of the hundred and the gau survived here in greater 
vigour than on the alien soil of the Romanised Gaul. 
It was also through the rulers of Austrasia that the 
connection, frail and precarious as it often might be, 
was kept up between the Frankish monarchy and the 


great semi-independent duchies of the Thuringians, the 
Alamanni, and the Bavarians. 

Thus already in the fissure between the western and 
eastern portions of the Merovingian kingdom we see 
the rift, premonitory of that mighty chasm which now 
separates the great states of France and Germany. 



The historical student who visits in thought the nursery 
of modern European states — the period from 500 to 800 
of the Christian era — finds with amused surprise how 
many of the features familiar to him in their weather- 
beaten old age he can trace in the faces of those baby 
kingdoms. Gothic Spain, with its manifold councils, 
its ecclesiastical intolerance, and its bitter persecutions 
of the Jews, is the anticipation of the Spain of the 
Ferdinands and the Philips. Italy, cleft in sunder by 
the patrimony of St. Peter and with the undying 
hostility between the pope and the Lombard king, 
presages the very conflict which is now being waged 
between the Vatican and the Quirinal. England, not- 
withstanding all her early elements of confusion and 
mismanagement, clings desperately to her one great 
saving institution of the Witan, and thus travails in 
birth with the future parliament. 

And even so, France under the Merovingian kings 
is the land of centralised government, which though 
strong and imposing in theory, repeatedly shows itself 
weak and insufficient in practice from the incapacity of 


the governing brain to perform the manifold functions 
assigned to it by destiny. As far as we can see, Clovis 
and his immediate successors wielded a power which 
was practically unlimited. The checks which the 
German nations from the time of Tacitus downwards 
had imposed on the authority of their kings had almost 
entirely disappeared before the overmastering power of 
the great Salian chief who had united the whole of Gaul 
under his sway, and who was continually reminded by 
his friends, the Christian bishops, how high had been 
the throne and how heavy the sceptre of the Eoman 
Augustus in that very region. The well-known story 
of the vase of Soissons illustrates at once the German 
memories of freedom and the Merovingian mode of 
establishing a despotism. As a battle comrade the 
Frankish warrior protests agaiijst Clovis receiving an 
ounce beyond his due share of the spoils. As a battle 
leader Clovis rebukes his henchman for the dirtiness of 
his accoutrements, and cleaves his skull to punish him 
for his independence. 

There can be little doubt that it was the influence of 
Roman and ecclesiastical ideas which tended to exalt 
the rude chiefs of the Salian tribe into their later 
position of practically despotic monarchs, surrounded 
by a crowd of fawning flatterers and servile courtiers. 
The eff'ect of this exaltation on the royal house itself 
was disastrous. Merovingian royalty flowered too soon 
and faded early. Clovis himself was short-lived, 
dying, as we have seen, at the age of five -and -forty. 
But two or three generations later the career of the 
kings, his descendants, was of far more portentous 
brevity. Nothing is more common than to find a 


Merovingian king who is a father at fifteen, or even 
earlier, and who dies (not always by a violent death) 
under thirty. Let us take a few of the lives of the 
later kings as an illustration. Dagobert I., who is a 
sort of patriarch among them, dies at thirty-eight ; his 
son, Clovis IL, at twenty-four ; of the sons of this latter 
king, Chlothair III. dies at eighteen, Childeric II. at 
twenty. Theodoric III. actually lives to the age of 
thirty- eight, but of his sons one dies at thirteen and 
another at eighteen. And so on with many other names 
that might be quoted. It was evidently by their vices 
that these hapless " do-nothing " kings were hurried to 
such early graves. Every student of the pages of 
Gregory of Tours knows the dreary picture of morals 
and of social life which is there presented : the coarse- 
ness of the barbarian without his rough fidelity, the volup- 
tuousness of the Gallo-Eoman noble without his culture. 
Even as we see at the present day in the contact of two 
civilisations or of two faiths, notably in the contact of 
Christianity and Mohammedanism, that the men whose 
position places them on the borders of the two are apt 
to display the vices of both and the virtues of neither, 
so was it with the Frankish nobles and bishops of Gaul 
in the sixth and seventh centuries, and so emphatically 
was it with their head, the Frankish king who reigned 
at Metz or Orleans or Paris. Immersed in his swinish 
pleasures, w^ith his constitution ruined by his early 
excesses, what could the sickly youth, the Childebert 
or Chlothair of the day, do to overtake the mass of 
business which the administration of the realm, with 
its highly centralised mechanism, imposed upon him*? 
He could not do it all, and in practice he did nothing, 


and sank easily, perhaps happily, into the condition of 
a roi fainiant. Dagobert I., who died in 638, is the 
last Merovingian king who displays some royal energy 
and strength of purpose. After him for more than a 
century a series of pageant kings pass before us, Clovises 
and Theodorics and Ohilperics, whose names history 
refuses to remember, but whose pitiable condition is 
represented to us by a few vivid touches from the 
hand of Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne. He 
describes to us how the Merovingian king, seated in 
his chair of state, received the ambassadors of foreign 
powers, and repeated, parrot -like, the answers which 
he had been taught to-give; how he travelled through 
the land in a waggon drawn by a yoke of oxen, with a 
clownish herdsman for his charioteer, and thus made 
his appearance when his presence was required at the 
palace or at the yearly assemblies of the people; but 
how for the greater part of the year he abode at one 
small villa in the country, living on its produce, eked 
out by a scanty grant from his prime minister, and 
having in truth nothing that he could call his own save 
his royal title, his long flowing hair, and his pendulous 
beard, which were the marks of his kingly state. 

Doubtless it is not only the constitutional sovereign 
who is obliged to content himself with only a small 
share of actual power. The despot also, if he wishes 
to have any enjoyment of life, must leave much to be 
done by his ministers, who, whatever show of deference 
they may yield to his judgment, will practically decide 
for themselves the great mass of administrative questions 
that come before them. Thus Louis XIII. had his 
Richelieu ; thus the Sultan of Turkey has his Grand 


Vizier; thus, till our own day, the Mikado of Japan 
had his Shogun, ./hom European travellers wrote about 
by his Chinese title of Tycoon. The relation of these 
last regents to the royal dynasty in whose name they 
ruled for many centuries, while depriving them of every 
shred of actual power, seems to furnish the closest 
parallel in all history to the relation of the Frankish 
major domus to the Merovingian king. 

The origin and early stages of the growth of the 
power of the " mayor of the palace " (our usual English 
translation of the title major domus) form one of the 
most difficult subjects in Frankish history. Perhaps the 
greatest difficulty is to understand why it is that no 
Teutonic name of an office which was certainly not 
Eoman but Teutonic should have survived in history. 
An opinion which has found some powerful supporters 
is that the office was the same which was called by the 
Germans seneschal^ "the oldest servant" in the palace, 
and that as the last part of this word denoted a servile 
condition, the more respectful Latin term major domus 
was adopted instead of it. This opinion is, however, as 
powerfully opposed, and certainly the fact that both 
major domus and seniscalcus are found in the same 
documents as titles of apparently different offices seems 
to throw a doubt upon its correctness. 

But whatever the origin of the name, it is pretty D 
clear that the mayor of the palace was originally but the 
chief domestic of the king, he to whom it appertained to ' 
order the ceremonies of the court, to rule the royal pages, 
probably to superintend the repairs of the royal dwelling. 
Hence not only reigning kings but queens dowager, 
and even princesses, had their majores domus, and it even 


seems probable that one king might have several mayors, 
each superintending one of his various palaces. This, 

I however, is only true of the early days of the mayoralty. 
As chief man of business to an imperfectly educated, 

' care-encumbered, pleasure -loving king, the mayor of 

'; the palace took one burden after another off the royal 
shoulders, and at the same time drew one source of power 
after another into his own hands. Especially, at a pretty 

^ early period of his career, he seems to have acquired the 
supreme control of the royal treasury, superintending 
the collection of the taxes, administering the royal 

/ domains, eventually acquiring the power of granting 

/ those heneficia or (as they would be called in the language 
/ of a later day) those fiefs, by which on the one hand the 
royal property was so seriously diminished, but on the 
other hand the friendship of an important nobleman 
might, at a crisis of the mayor's fortunes, be so easily 

pNi From the first appearance of the major domus in 
Frankish history till the year when the last major 

\ domus was crowned King of the Franks, thereby absorb- 
ing the lower office in the higher, a period of about 170 
years intervened, and during that long space of time 
these anomalous functionaries assume very different 
shapes and exercise tjieir powers in very different ways. 
Sometimes, especially in the earlier years of this period, 
they are the vigorous upholders of the rights of the 
crown against a turbulent aristocracy; and then the 
mayor of the palace seems to anticipate Richelieu. 
Sometimes they appear at the head of the aristocracy 
and force their way, almost in spite of the king, into the 
palace from which they take their title, and then they 



remind us of the Guises and the Condes of a later day. 
In Neustria and Burgundy no mayor of the palace who 
arises there succeeds in making his office hereditary. 
In Austrasia there is a very early tendency towards 
hereditary succession in the office, and five generations 
of able men wielding its growing powers become at last 
in name, as well as in fact, supreme. 

It is out of the question to give here any detailed 
description of the development of the mayoralty of the 
palace during that space of nearly two centuries, but 
one or two illustrations drawn from the history, of the 
times may show what manner of men the mayors were, 
and how they wielded their power. 

" In the tenth year of the reign of Theodoric II., King 
of Burgundy," says the unlettered chronicler who goes 
by the name of Fredegarius, "at the instigation of 
Brunechildis, and by order of Theodoric, Protadius is 
appointed mayor of the palace, a man of great cleverness 
and energy in all that he undertook, but fierce was his 
injustice against private persons. Straining too far the 
rights of the treasury, he strove to fill it and to enrich 
himself by ingenious attacks on private property. 
Wherever he found a man of noble descent, all such he 
strove to humble, that more might be found who could 
assume the dignity which he had seized. By these and 
other exactions, the work of a man too clever for his 
office, he succeeded in making enemies of all the chief 
men in Burgundy." The chronicler then goes on to 
describe how Protadius stirred up strife between 
Theodoric and his brother Theudebert, King of Austrasia, 
whom he declared to be no true king's son, but son of a 
gardener by an adulterous intercourse with the queen. 




The Burgundian army marched forth and encamped at a 
place called Caratiacum, but there the king was advised 
by his leudes [retainers] to make peace with Theudebert. 
Protadius, however, exhorted them one by one to join 
battle. Theudebert was encamped not far off with his 
army. Then all the army of Theodoric, finding a suitable 
opportunity, rushed upon Protadius, saying that it was 
better that one man should die than that the whole army 
should be sent into danger. Now Protadius was sitting 
in the tent of King Theodoric playing at draughts with 
the arch -physician Peter. And when the army had 
surrounded him on every side, and Theodoric was held 
back by his leitdes to prevent his going thither, he sent 
Uncilenus to announce to the army his word of command 
that they should desist from their plots against 
Protadius. Uncilenus straightway bore to the army 
this message : * Thus orders our lord Theodoric, that 
Protadius be slain.' Rushing in, therefore, and entering 
the king's tent from all sides with drawn swords, they 
slay Protadius. Covered with confusion, Theodoric 
made an involuntary peace with his brother Theudebert, 
and both armies returned to their own homes. 

" After the decease of Protadius in the eleventh year 
of Theodoric, Claudius is appointed to the office of 
major domus. He was a Roman by descent, a prudent 
man, a pleasant story-teller, energetic in all things, given 
to patience, abounding in counsel, learned in letters, full 
of faith, desiring friendship with all men. Taking 
warning by the example of those who had gone before 
him, he bore himself gently and patiently in his high 
office, but this only hindrance had he, that he was 
burdened with too great fatness of body. 



" In the twelfth year of Theodoric, at the instigation 
of Branechildis, Lncilenus, who had by his treacherous 
words brought about the death of Protadius, had one 
of his feet cut off, was despoiled of his possessions and 
reduced to poverty. At the instigation of the same 
queen, Vulfos, the patrician who had been consenting 
to the death of Protadius, was killed at the villa of 
Fauriniacum by order of Theodoric, and Ricomeris, a 
man of Roman descent, succeeded him in the patriciate." /\ 

These events may be taken as a sample of the ' 
working of the institution of the major domus in 
Neustria and Burgundy for the greater part of a century. 
We see a king becoming more and more helpless in the 
presence of the nobles and clergy whom he and his 
predecessors have enriched. Theodoric II. is not per- 
sonally a faineant king, but he cannot prevent murder 
being committed in his name. We see a major domus 
intent on refilling the royal treasury, and probably 
not scrupulous as to the means which he employs ' 
for that purpose, nor afraid of enriching himself at the 
same time as his master. We see a grasping and j 
turbulent aristocracy, made up of courtiers and ecclesi- 
astics, who are determined to keep what they have got 
from the crown, and to whom both the lawful and 
the lawless acts of the prime minister on behalf of his 
impoverished master render that minister equally odious. 
The aristocracy bide their time. When the army is 
assembled in the field they appeal to the old Teutonic 
spirit of almost democratic independence, and slay their 
enemy in defiance of the king's authority. A sleek and 
supple Gallo-Roman takes the place of the murdered 
mayor, and in his placid corpulence gives up the struggle, 


letting things drift as they will. But the vengeance of 
the palace slumbers not, and in time the aristocratic 
murderers of the prime minister are themselves cut off 
by hands as lawless as their own. Such is Merovingian 
France in the seventh century after Christ. 

I have tried to indicate the general character of the 
major-domat in the two western kingdoms of Gaul. In 
Austrasia, though probably the chief functions of the 
office are the same, its holder seems to look in a 
different direction, and certainly arrives at a different 
end. The Neustrian and Burgundian mayors of the 
palace are generally striving for the rights of the 
crown against the aristocracy. In Austrasia they are 
more often found at the head of the aristocracy and 
opposed to the crown. In the western kingdoms we 
see indications that the major domus was often a man 
of humble origin, and that this was part of the grievance 
of the aristocracy against him. In Austrasia he is 
generally a man who, by his birth and possessions, takes 
a foremost place in the realm independently of his 
official rank. Hence, and from the fact that the office 
was held in Austrasia by a long succession of able men 
in the same family, arises the distinction already alluded 
to that in Austrasia the major-domat becomes hereditary, 
and that it never acquired that character in Neustria. 

Lastly — and this difference is perhaps related to 
most of the others which I have named, as cause is 
related to effect — the western kingdoms seem at this 
time to have been always looked on as containing the 
heart and centre of the Frankish dominion. Thus 
when a Frankish king had been ruling in Austrasia 
with Metz for his capital, if by the death of a father or 



brother he succeeded to the throne of Neustria, he 
generally migrated westwards to Paris or Soissons, 
sometimes sending a son or a younger brother to rule in 
Austrasia, sometimes seeking to rule it from Paris. 
Now it is clear that there was a strong and growing 
feeling in Austrasia (which was already beginning to be 
stirred by some of the same sentiments as the Germany 
of to-day) that it would not be ruled from Neustria (the 
ancestress of France). A Merovingian king, the de- 
scendant of the Salian Clovis, it would endure, but he 
must rule, not through Neustrian but through Austrasian 
instruments. This feeling of national German independ- 
ence was represented and championed by the mayors of 
the palace of the line of Arnulf and Pippin, and to 
their history we now turn. 

The ancestors of Charlemagne first emerge into the 
light of history at the time of the downfall of Queen 
Brunechildis. No student of Prankish history can ever 
forget the tragic figure of that queen or her life-long 
duel with her ignoble and treacherous sister-in-law Frede- 
gundis. While Brunechildis was still in early woman- 
hood (576) came reverses, the murder of her husband, im- 
prisonment, a second marriage, separation from the young 
husband whom she had so strangely chosen, followed 
by his death at the bidding of Fredegundis. Meanwhile 
she returned to Austrasia and ruled there for a time, 
first in the name of a son, then of a grandson. Driven 
from thence (600) by the turbulent aristocracy whose 
power she had striven to quell, she escaped to Burgundy, 
and governed it for thirteen years in the name of her 
grandson Theodoric. We have just seen her " instigat- 
ing" the appointment of Protadius as mayor of the 


ice and the punishment of his murderers. All 
through these later years of her life the once fascinating 
and beautiful woman seems like a lioness at bay. If 
Mary, Queen of Scots, had escaped from Fotheringay, 
even so could we imagine her, grown grey and hard and 
cruel, confronting John Knox and the Scottish lords. 
Her grandsons perished early. Theodoric renewed the 
war with Theudebert, defeated and slew him, but died 
himself at the Austrasian capital in the year 613. And 
now were left of the race of Clovis only the four infant 
sons of Theodoric II. and their distant relation, Chlothair 
of Neustria, son of the hated Fredegundis. War was 
inevitable. Which would prevail, the old lioness fight- 
ing for her cubs or the whelp of Neustria ? At this crisis 
the adhesion of two Austrasian nobles to the party of 
Chlothair decided the day in his favour. These two 
Austrasian nobles were Pippin " of Landen " and Arnulf, 
afterwards Bishop of Metz. 

Pippin of Landen (so called) ^ had large possessions 
in the country between the Meuse and the Moselle, 
stretching in an easterly direction toward the Rhine, 
including the forest of the Ardennes, and apparently 
including also the city of Aquisgranum, which was one day 
to be the home of Charlemagne. Tippin was born about 
585, and was therefore somewher^ about thirty years of 
age when war broke out between Brunechildis and 
Chlothair. His friend and contemporary, Arnulf, born 
of a noble and wealthy Prankish family, had received a 

^ It has been shown by Bonnell that neither Pippin of Landen 
nor Pippin of Heristal was so called by contemporary writers. 
But for the sake of distinction it seems better to retain these 
well-known surnames. 


better education, apparently, than fell to the lot of most 
of his class, and, on the recommendation of the "sub- 
king " Gundulf (possibly mayor of the palace), had been 
taken into the service of Theudebert, who had assigned 
to him the government of six provinces. He had married 
a girl of noble family, by whom he had two sons, 
Chlodulf and Ansigisel. The latter was the ancestor 
of Charlemagne. 

It was, as we are told, by the secret advice of these 
two men and other nobles of Austrasia that Chlothair 
invaded the kingdom. However strong might be their 
disinclination to the rule of a Neustrian king, their 
determination not to submit again to "the hateful 
regimen of a woman," and that woman their old foe 
Brunechildis, was even stronger. The folly of the old 
queen, who was at the same time secretly plotting 
against the life of her Burgundian mayor of the palace, 
Warnachar, aided their designs. When it came to the 
decision of battle, the soldiers who should have defended 
the cause of the young king and his great-grandmother 
turned their backs without striking a blow. Chlothair 
had only to pursue and to capture the little princes and 
their ancestress. One of the princes escaped, and was 
never heard of more ; another was spared as being the 
godson of Chlothair ; two were put to death. The aged 
Brunechildis was, we are told, tortured for three days by 
the son of her old rival Fredegundis, led through the 
camp seated on a camel, then tied by her hair, by one 
foot and one arm, to a most vicious horse, and dashed to 
pieces by his furious career. Such were the tender 
mercies of a Merovingian king. 

This first appearance of Pippin and Arnulf on the 


stage of history is not a noble one, yet of actual dis- 
loyalty or ingratitude they were probably not guilty, 
since to Theudebert, the victim of the resentment of 
Brunechildis, rather than to the family of Theodoric, his 
vanquisher and murderer, they owed allegiance and 
gratitude. The subsequent career of the two nobles, 
however, is more to their credit. In the year after the 
overthrow of Brunechildis, the see of Metz having fallen 
vacant, there was a general outcry among the people 
that none was so fitted to fill it as Arnulf, the domesticus 
and consiliarius of the king. There was on his part the 
usual tearful protestation of unfitness and unwillingness, 
but the curtain fell on his acceptance of the episcopal 
dignity. His biographer tells the story of his three- 
days' fastings, his hair shirt, his boundless hospitality to 
poor vagrants, to monks, and to other travellers. We 
perceive, however, that he had not wholly lost his 
interest in state affairs, for in the year 624 he, with his 
friend Pippin, the major domus, procured the disgrace 
of a certain nobleman named Chrodoald, who was 
charged with having abused the king's favour to his 
own enrichment and the spoliation of the estates of 
other x4.ustrasians. In the next year, too, when Dago- 
bert I, son of Chlothair, who had been sent to rule over 
a shorn and diminished Austrasia, met his father near 
Paris, and had a sharp contention with him over the 
narrow limits of his kingdom, it was Bishop Arnulf who, 
at the head of the other bishops and nobles, succeeded 
in reconciling father and son. 

It seems that Arnulf had for years cherished a desire 
to withdraw from the world, but when he mentioned 
this project to Dagobert, the young king, who greatly 


valued his counsels, was so incensed that he swore that 
he would cut off the heads of his two sons if he dared to 
leave the court. "My sons' lives," said the intrepid 
prelate, " are in the hands of God. Your own life will 
not last long if you slay the innocent." On this the 
passionate young Merovingian drew his sword, and was 
about to attack Arnulf, who, not heeding the wrath of 
the king, said, " What are you doing, most miserable of 
men 1 Would you repay evil for good ? Here am 1 
ready for death in obedience to His commands who 
gave me life, and who died for me." The nobles 
besought the king not to give the bishop the crown of 
martyrdom. The queen appeared upon the scene, and 
in a few moments she and Dagobert were grovelling at 
Arnulf's feet, beseeching forgiveness for the king's 
offence, and declaring that he should go when and 
whither he would. 

So after an episcopate of fifteen years, in 629 Arnulf 
retired into the recesses of the Vosges mountains, 
accompanied by one friend, Eomaric, once a courtier 
like himself, who had gone before him into the hermit 
life, and who, like him, attained to the honours of saint- 
ship. The death of Arnulf is generally placed in 640, but 
we have, in truth, no exact information as to the date. 
We only know that Eomaric survived him, and that the 
body of the now canonised prelate was brought with 
great pomp to the city of Metz by order of his successor 
in the see, and was there interred in the church of the 
Holy Apostles, which has ever since borne his name. 

The Fita Arnulfi^ from which these facts have been 
taken, appears to have been the work of a contemporary 
(doubtless a much-admiring contemporary), and we need 



not therefore here suspect that tendency to flatter 
Charlemagne by magnifying the greatness of his 
ancestors which has undoubtedly coloured the histories 
of some of the members of his family. It is certainly 
an interesting fact that a saint should have been the 
paternal ancestor, even in the fifth degree, of so great a 
statesman as Charlemagne. The standard of mediaeval 
saintship in the centuries with which we are dealing 
was not a high one, but Arnulf's character seems to 
have been pure and lofty; his retirement from the 
world was due to a real longing after holiness, and on 
the whole we may recognise in him a man not unworthy 
to be the sainted progenitor of the Emperors of the West, 
even as Archbishop Philaret stands at the head of the 
proud pedigree of the Eussian EomanofFs. 

Compared with the life of St. Arnulf, that of his 
friend and kinsman Pippin is worldly and commonplace. 
In 622, when Chlothair 11. sent his son Dagobert to 
reign over Austrasia, Pippin received the dignity of 
mayor of the palace under the young king. By his 
counsels and those of Arnulf the Eastern realm was 
governed for seven years, and we are told that this 
was a sort of golden age for Austrasia, in which justice 
was impartially administered and prosperity prevailed. 
Possibly these results were not obtained without some 
sacrifice of Pippin's popularity with his brother nobles. 
When Dagobert, on his father's death (in 629), removed 
to Paris, his character, we are told, underwent a change. 
He fell into vice and dissipation, and lost the respect 
of his retainers. Pippin apparently tried to mediate 
between him and them, and shared the usual fate of 
mediators, earning the hatred of both parties. "The 


zeal of the Austrasians surged up so vehemently against 
him that they tried to make him odious in Dagobert's 
eyes, that he might even be slain, but the love of justice 
and the fear of God, which he had diligently embraced, 
freed him from all evils." However, it seems that he, 
together with other Austrasian nobles, was kept in a sort 
of honourable captivity in Neustria during the rest of 
the days of Dagobert (from 630 to 638), and that not 
till the latter date did he return to Austrasia. Evidently 
there was already an uneasy feeling on the part of the 
Frankish ruler dwelling at Paris that these great 
Austrasian potentates would one day give him or his 
descendants a sharp struggle for the crown. 

For one year after his return Pippin swayed the affairs 
of the Austrasian palace, acting always in concert with 
Cunibert, Bishop of Cologne, who had succeeded to the 
same position of spiritual prime minister which had 
formerly been held by St. Arnulf. Together they pre- 
sided over the division of the treasures of the late king, 
assigning one-third to his widow, Nantildis ; one-third to 
his son, Clovis II., who succeeded him in Neustria, and 
one-third (which with jealous care was at once conveyed 
to Metz) to his other son, Sigibert HI., who ruled in 
Austrasia. In 640 Pippin died, greatly regretted, we 
are told, by all the men of Austrasia, whose hearts he 
had won by his goodness and love of justice. Possibly 
during his enforced absence from the realm the Aus- 
trasian nobles had learned that the strong hand under 
which they had chafed was, after all, needed for the 
welfare of the State. 

Some years apparently before the death of Pippin the 
alliance between the two great Austrasian chiefs had 


been cemented by a marriage between Adelgisel, son of 
St. Arnulf, and a daughter of Pippin, who was probably 
named Becga. From this marriage sprang the second 
Pippin, the great-grandfather of Charlemagne. 

Adelgisel himself was mayor of the palace for a few 
years before the return of his father-in-law, but he seems 
to have been a somewhat insignificant person, and is 
overshadowed in history by the sanctity of his father 
and the success of his son. 

A much more important figure is his brother-in-law, 
Grimwald, son of Pippin of Landen, who three years 
after his father's death succeeded, by a deed of blood 
perpetrated by one of his adherents, in obtaining the 
coveted mayoralty. For thirteen years, or thereabouts, 
he acted as major domus to the weak but devout Sigibert 
III., the first of the ahsol\itely faineant kings. Then, in 
656, on the death of Sigibert, Grimwald deemed that the 
time had come for ending the farce of Merovingian 
royalty, shaved off the long locks of Dagobert, his dead 
master's son, sent him, under the escort of the Bishop of 
Poitiers, to a monastery in Ireland, and proclaimed his 
own son, to whom he had given the Merovingian name 
of Childebert, King of the Eastern Franks. He was, 
however, a century too soon. The glamour which hung 
round the descendants of the great Clovis had as yet 
not utterly vanished, neither had the Pippins and the 
Arnulfs yet done such great deeds as to give them any 
title to claim the Frankish throne. " The Franks," says 
the chronicler, "being very indignant hereat, prepared 
snares for Grimwald, and, taking him prisoner, carried 
him for condemnation to Clovis II., King of the 
Franks. In the city of Paris he was confined in a 


dungeon and bound with torturing chains; and at 
length, as he was worthy of death for what he had done 
to his lord, death finished him with mighty torments." \ 

This premature clutch at royalty seems to have 
damaged for a long time the fortunes of the Austrasian 
house. In fact, we hear no more of the descendants of 
Pippin in the male line ; it is through the Arnulfings, 
the posterity of Grimwald's sister, that the fortunes of 
the family will one day revive. 

The thirty- two years that follow (656-688) are 
perhaps the dreariest in all Frankish history. The 
kings, as has been said, were little better than idiots ; 
Austrasia was probably a prey to anarchy and dissension ; 
the strong and warlike races on the eastern frontier 
which had been harnessed to the car of the Frankish 
monarchy were rapidly breaking their bonds. The 
Wends, beyond the Elbe, under a Frankish commercial 
traveller named Samo (who had made himself their king, 
and who had twelve wives and thirty-seven children), 
had inflicted a crushing defeat on Dagobert. Dagobert's 
son, Sigibert, had been defeated by Eadulf us, Duke of the 
Thuringians, with such a fearful slaughter of the Franks 
as moved the youthful king to tears. The Alamanni were 
growing restless, the Dukes of the Bavarians were 
making themselves practically independent. The situa- 
tion of the Frankish realm in these later years of the 
seventh century was becoming like the situation of the 
Mogul Empire when Olive landed in India — an old 
monarchy founded on force, and long held together by 
fear, but now fast falling into decomposition and ruin 
through the utter loss of power in its heart. 

It will be hardly necessary to waste another word on 


the nominal occupants of the Frankish throne. Here, 
from the pages of the slightly later Liber Historice 
Francorum, is a picture of the reign of Clovis 11. , son of 
Dagobert, who reigned over Neustria and Burgundy 
from 638 to 656. 

" At that time Ohlodoveus (Clovis), at the instigation 
of the devil, broke off an arm of the blessed martyr 
Dionysius. At that time the kingdom of the Franks 
fell under many pestilential disasters. But Clovis 
himself was given up to every kind of filthy conversa- 
tion, a fornicator and a deceiver of womankind, happy 
in his gluttony and drunkenness. As to his death 
history records nothing worth repeating, for many 
writers speak in condemnatory language concerning his 
end, but not knowing exactly how his wickedness was 
terminated, they talk in an uncertain way, one saying 
one thing and another another." 

For the next quarter of a century after the death of 
Clovis II. the canvas is fully filled by the great figure of 
Ebroin, who was during many years mayor of the 
palace for Neustria and Burgundy, and during a short 
time for Austrasia also. Thus the same results, which 
in the next generation were secured by the ancestor of 
Charlemagne, seemed for a time to have been obtained 
by the Neustrian Ebroin. Originally raised to the 
dignity of mayor of the palace by something like a vote 
of the Frankish nobles, he used his power, when he felt 
himself settled in his seat, in a spirit of strenuous hostility 
to the aristocracy, both spiritual and temporal. That it 
was absolutely necessary in the interests of the kingdom 
that some stand should be made against the increasing 
pretensions of the counts and bishops there can be little 




doubt, but how far Ebroin acted in the interests of king 
and kingdom, and now far in those of his own avarice 
and ambition, it is now hopeless to determine. He was 
evidently a hard and unscrupulous man, but we have 
always to remember in reading the vituperative adjec- 
tives which are attached to his name that his story is 
written by ecclesiastics, and that he showed himself 
their constant opponent. Especially was he brought 
into collision with the astute and able Leodegarius, 
Bishop of Autun, who in the year 670, successfully using 
the name of the puppet king of Austrasia, overthrew 
Ebroin and his puppet, and sent the fallen major domus 
with tonsured head into retirement at Luxeuil. For 
three years Bishop Leodegarius ruled as practically, if not 
nominally, major domus of Burgundy ; then he too fell 
into disgrace, became involved in an ignoble squabble 
with another canonised bishop, Patricius of Clermont, 
fled from the court, was taken captive and sent to rejoin 
his former rival in the monastery of Luxeuil. The 
assassination of Childeric, the Austrasian king (a crime 
which Leodegarius was afterwards accused of having 
prompted), led to a turn in the wheel of fortune. 
Leodegarius and Ebroin escaped from the monastery and 
succeeded in getting hold of the person of the last 
surviving son of Clovis IL In his name Ebroin again 
ruled as major domus in Neustria and Burgundy (674), 
but the alliance between him and his late fellow-prisoner 
was of short duration. Leodegarius was seized and 
blinded, and four years afterwards put to death. This 
Bishop of Autun was evidently a mere politician, like his 
far more famous successor, Talleyrand. He had less 
than Talleyrand's luck, and it may perhaps be admitted 


that, if he were not really privy to the assassination of 
Childeric, his punishment was somewhat harder than 
that usually meted out even in those days to politicians 
who had failed. But it is not without a slight feeling 
of surprise that we find this turbulent bishop trans- 
formed into a saint and martyr, and discover that 
Leodegarius, Bishop of Autun, is none other than the 
St. Leger whose name, among all those of mediaeval 
saints, is perhaps the most often heard from the lips of 

Eestored to power, Ebroin kept his major-domat in 
Neustria and Burgundy for seven 3/ ears (674-681). The 
same monastic biographer who pours upon his memory 
the names "devil," "viper," "cruel lion," and "son of 
damnation," confesses at the close of his career that " he 
had acquired such sublime glory as fell to the lot of no 
other Frank." About the year 679 there was civil war 
between the eastern and western kingdoms, and the 
leaders of the Austrasian army were Pippin and Martin. 
The former was the nobleman who is commonly called 
Pippin of Heristal, the grandson of St. Arnulf and 
Pippin of Landen; the latter was perhaps a kinsman 
of the Arnulfing line. Thus after more than twenty 
years of obscuration the great Austrasian house was once 
again coming to the front. Not yet, however, did victory 
shine upon their banners. Ebroin and his puppet king 
met them in battle near Laon : " An infinite crowd of 
people there rushed together to the fight; but the 
Austrasians, being conquered, turned their backs and 
fled. Ebroin pursued them with most cruel slaughter 
and laid waste the greater part of that region." Pippin 
escaped to Austrasia ; Martin sought a refuge in Laon, 


but was tempted forth by Ebroin, who swore, apparently 
on the relics of the saints, that his life should be safe if 
he surrendered. Unfortunately for the suppliant the 
coffers, which were thought to contain the sacred dust, 
were really empty, and Ebroin put his outwitted victim 
to death with all his associates. 

At last about the year 681 private vengeance ended 
the career of the great Neustrian Mayor. A certain 
nobleman named Ermenfrid, whose property Ebroin had 
confiscated, waited for him at his house door one Sunday 
morning as he was just setting out for mass, drew his 
sword, struck him a mortal blow on the head, and 
escaped to Pippin in Austrasia. The death of Ebroin 
meant apparently the ascendency of the eastern family. 
After some revolutions which it is not necessary to 
describe, a certain Berchar, " a man of little stature, of 
base education, useless in counsel," was chosen by the 
misguided nobles of Neustria as mayor of the palace. 
Against this Berchar and his king, Theodoric III, 
Pippin of Heristal marched with a mighty host of 
Austrasians. Battle was joined at a place called Textri- 
cium, now Testri, not far from St. Quentin. Berchar 
and his king fled from the field. The former was 
slain ("by his flatterers," says the chronicler), and 
Pippin became practically lord of the whole Frankish 
dominion. This event, as to the details of which we know 
next to nothing, but which was of immense importance 
for the future destinies of Europe, happened in 687. 
About seventy years after their first appearance in 
history the Arnulfings have won for themselves that high 
place which they will now hold in defiance of all foes till 
they have won a yet higher, the highest in Christendom. 




Thus at last was supreme power in the Frankish king- 
dom concentrated in the hands of that family of statesmen 
who were to hold it for two centuries. I have been some- 
what minute in tracing the history of the Neustrian 
Mayoralty, but in the Austrasian kingdom it seems to 
have been rather as great nobles than as Mayors of the 
Palace that the Arnulfings rose to eminence. When 
Pippin won the battle of Testri he had no Austrasian 
king in whose name he could fight, and he seems to 
have been known simply as Dux or Frinceps Francorum, 
not as Major Domus of Austrasia. From the scanty and 
imperfect indications of the chroniclers and the bio- 
graphers of saints, it would seem that before 688 all the 
Eastern portion of the Frankish kingdom was (as I have 
already said) in a state of disintegration, and that Pippin, 
if he had been so minded, might have followed the example 
of the chiefs of the Frisians, Thuringians, and Bavarians, 
by setting up for himself as a virtually independent 
Duke of Austrasia. What constitutes the peculiar world- 
historical importance of this Arnulfing is that he was 
not satisfied with this easy solution of the problem 


before him, but using his great position in Austrasia as 
a lever made himbelf supreme also in Neustria and 
Burgundy, and then as major domus of a legitimate 
though utterly effete Merovingian king, compelled the 
unruly chiefs on the Eastern frontier to return to their 
old allegiance, and thus became in fact the second 
founder of the Frankish monarchy. That monarchy 
seems indeed to us who labour through its barbarous 
annals about as miserable a political machine as the 
Aryan nations have ever invented ; but, however bad it 
may have been, it was probably the best that could then 
be contrived for the united government of the countries 
between the Bay of Biscay and the mountains of 
Bohemia; and for the time it was all important for 
Europe that these countries should still form part of 
one state. 

For some years Pippin ruled the Western realm by 
means of a loyal adherent, Nordbert, to whom how- 
ever he did not concede the fateful title of mayor. 
About fourteen years after the battle of Testri we find 
his son Grimwald recognised as Tnajor domus for 
Neustria and probably his eldest son Drogo held the 
same office in Burgundy. Meanwhile Pippin, returning 
to his own Austrasian lands, was warring down the 
German pretenders to independence. The Frisian 
Ratbod was defeated in a great battle, compelled to 
cede West Friesland to the Franks, and to acknowledge 
in fact as well as in name the supremacy of the Mero- 
vingian faindant Though himself a heathen, Eatbod 
was fain to give his daughter — who was no doubt con- 
verted to Christianity — in marriage to Pippin's son 
Grimwald; and the Anglo-Saxon preacher Willibrord 


had a clear course given him for his missionary operations 
among the Frisians. So too the Alamanni and the 
Bavarians appear to have been brought back into sub- 
jection by Pippin, though we hear less of his operations 
on the Danube than by the mouths of the Khine. 

For twenty-seven years this strong and statesman- 
like man ruled with absolute sway the kingdom of the 
Franks, and then in his old age, by one act of supreme 
folly, went near to ruining the whole achievement of a 
lifetime. As it was said of old, " Let no man be called 
happy," so may we add, " Let no man be called wise, 
till his death." He had married in early life a lady 
named Plectrudis, nobly. born and with a reputation for 
prudence and ability, by whom he had two sons, Drogo 
and Grimwald. Drogo had died in 708, leaving two 
sons who were now growing up to manhood. Grimwald, 
who had married, as before said, a Frisian princess, had 
no son by her, but was the father of an illegitimate son, 
a little child named Theudwald. 

As for Pippin himself, like many other members of 
his house, though descended from the sainted Arnulf, 
and generally on very good terms with the Church, he 
seems to have been guilty of great laxity in his matri- 
monial relations. Assuredly the Arnulfings did not 
plunge into those excesses of profligacy which destroyed 
the vigour of the Merovingian line, yet there was a 
tendency in many of them to take a polygamous view 
of marriage, more suited to an Arabian Caliph than to 
a Christian nobleman. Thus we find that Pippin had 
another wife named Alphaida, who, though the relation- 
ship was an interlude in his married life with Plectrudis, 
is yet treated by the chroniclers not as a concubine, but 


as a lawfully wedded wife. To a son born of this 
marriage Pippin had given the name of Charles. Accord- 
ing to an old Saga, when the child was born, the mes- 
senger came into the presence of the great mayor of the 
palace and, dismayed at seeing him sitting with Plectrudis 
by his side, shouted out " Long live the king. It is a 
Carl," the old German word for a man. " And a very 
good name, too," said Pippin. " Let him be called Carl." 
This Charles, son of Alphaida, was in the year 714 a 
strong and vigorous man of between twenty and thirty, 
already married and father of an eight-year-old son. 

Now, when the aged Pippin was lying on that which 
was to prove his death-bed (at the villa of Jovius, near 
Liege), his son Grimwald, a man " pitiful, moderate, and 
just," who was his universally recognised heir, was on 
his way to visit him and receive his last commands, 
when for some unknown reason he was assassinated in a 
church at Liege by a heathen named Eangar. This was 
a cruel blow for the dying chieftain, but as far as the 
future of his house was concerned not an irreparable 
one. His obvious policy was to declare that Charles, 
the son of Alphaida, was to be his heir in room of the 
murdered Grimwald. Instead of this, influenced no 
doubt by his wife's hatred of her step-son, he committed 
the inconceivable folly of passing over Charles, and 
naming, not even one of Drogo's adolescent sons, but 
the childish Theudwald, son of Grimwald, his heir, and 
designating him for the mayoralty under the regency of 
Plectrudis. This was an absolutely preposterous ar- 
rangement and one foredoomed to failure. The Mero- 
vingian king, faineant of course, but a lad of fifteen 3^ears 
old, was to have a little child of eight thrust upon him 


as adviser, factotum, supreme prime minister, and the 
nominal advice of the baby was to be given through the 
lips of his grandmother, a harsh and domineering old 
woman. Such a scheme of administering the affairs of 
a great kingdom crumbled, as it was sure to crumble, at 
the first contact with actual fact. 

" Plectrudis," we are told by the chronicler, "with 
her grandsons and the king governed all things by her 
discreet rule." One of the early acts of this discreet 
rule was to shut up her step-son Charles in prison. 
But deliverance for the Arnulfing house came from an 
unexpected quarter. The nobles of Neustria, indignant 
probably at being calmly transferred to the dominion of 
a beldame and a child, proclaimed one of their own 
class, a certain Raginfrid, major domus and supported 
his pretensions with an army. Neustria and Austrasia 
met in battle at the Cotian Forest, not far from Com- 
pi^gne, and Neustria won a decided victory, the baby- 
mayor, who had been brought into the field at the head 
of the Austrasian leudes, being with difficulty carried off 
by his partisans. Raginfrid pressed on and formed an 
alliance with old Ratbod, the Frisian, and apparently 
with the Saxons also. Plectrudis, shut up in Cologne, 
saw her power slipping from her and the Austrasian 
state threatened with ruin. The disorganisation which 
everywhere prevailed had at least this advantage, that 
in the confusion Charles escaped from his prison (715). 
He gathered round him some of his father's adherents . 
he fought Raginfrid, his puppet king, and the Frisians : 
fought them at first unsuccessfully, for they pushed on 
to Cologne where Plectrudis was fain to purchase peace 
for herself and her grandsons by the surrender of a 


large part of the royal hoard. After this she and 
Theudwald disappear from history. Charles, whose 
powers of recovery the Neustrians appear to have 
under-rated, follows them westwards in 716 and wins 
a great victory over them at Ambleve and another next 
year at Vincy. Eaginfrid sees no prospect of defending 
his puppet king (to whom Charles has set up a rival) 
except by seeking the help of Eudo, the great Duke of 
Aquitaine, who as a practically independent sovereign, 
is ruling all the region south of the Loire. Eudo 
and Eaginfrid join forces and advance as far as Soissons 
(719) : then for some unexplained cause Eudo turns 
back and leaves Eaginfrid to face the enemy alone. 
Charles wins a third great victory, and now Eaginfrid's 
resistance is practically at an end. He submits on certain 
conditions to Charles, who becomes (in 720) unquestioned 
major domus of all the three kingdoms, while Eaginfrid 
subsides eventually into some such position as Count of 
Angers, where he prolongs his resistance till 724. 

The Arnulfing hero who out of such a chaos of opposing 
forces succeeded in evoking that order and stable govern- 
ment which the Frankish State so greatly needed, 
received, apparently from his contemporaries, the name 
of Martel or the Hammer. This epithet, which has 
been sometimes connected with his great victory over 
the Saracens, seems to be more truly derived from his 
exploits in the earlier part of his career, destroying as 
he did with his smashing blows, the petty tyrannies 
which had grown up in the anarchy that followed the 
death of his father. 

It is worthy of note that Charles, unlike his father, 
did not delegate his mayoralty in Neustria and Bur- 


gundy to any one, even a son, and that he styled himself 
major domus for Austrasia as well as for the other 
kingdoms, a title which for some reason seems not to 
have been claimed by his father. It is also noteworthy 
that he finally got the needed Merovingian faindant into 
his possession by a compromise with Eudo of Aquitaine 
who had carried him off from the unf ought battlefield of 
Soissons. There are many indications that both Eudo 
and Charles felt the necessity of sparing one another's 
strength and not pushing any dispute between them to 
extremities, in view of the far more tremendous danger 
which threatened them and all Christendom from the 
turban ed followers of the Prophet who were now 
beginning to swarm over the passes of the Pyrenees. 

It was in 711, three years before Pippin's death, that 
the Visigothic monarchy of Spain fell before the Moslem 
invader. In 716 the Moors seem to have first entered 
Gaul in detached squadrons. In 720, the year after the 
campaign of Soissons, they invaded Gaul in force, took 
Narbonne and established themselves in the old Visi- 
gothic province of Septimania, from which they were 
not finally dislodged for nearly forty years. They be- 
seiged Toulouse with many great engines of war, and their 
retreat from this place, compelled by the appearance of 
Duke Eudo with an army, may be noted as the first sign 
of ebb in the tide of Moslem conquest in Western 

It was, however, twelve years before the Mussulman's 
hope of adding Gaul to the Empire of the Caliph 
received its death-stroke. In 725 they penetrated as 
far as Autun, in the very heart of Burgundy, demolished 
the city and carried off the treasures of the Church to 


Spain. The vigilance of Eudo of Aquitaine seems to 
have relaxed, and he was now no longer, as in 720, the 
great champion of Gaulish Christendom against the 
invader. On the contrary he entered into friendly- 
relations with at least one Mussulman warrior, bestowing 
his daughter Lampegia on Munuza, a Berber chieftain, 
who seems to have been striving to establish a Moorish 
kingdom in Spain independent of the Caliphs. It was 
perhaps owing to this new combination that Eudo broke 
through the treaty which he had made with Charles in 
720. There were thus two princes, a Christian and a 
Moor, Eudo and Munuza, each rebelling against the state 
to which they nominally owed allegiance. However, 
neither attempt at independence was destined to 
succeed : Charles twice crossed the Loire in the year 
731, defeated Eudo in battle, apparently near the city of 
Bourges, and returned home with great booty, having 
effectually checked the separatist designs of the Aqui- 
tanian chief. About the same time apparently, Abder- 
rahman, the legitimate representative of the Caliph of 
Damascus, overthrew the Berber chief Munuza and 
hunted him into the Pyrenees, where he was overtaken 
while resting by a fountain. Munuza fell pierced with 
many wounds, and his bride, Eudo's daughter, was sent 
to end her days in the Caliph's harem. 

Thus then were all the side issues disposed of, and 
the ground was cleared for the great, the real issue be- 
tween the Mohammedan power reaching from Damascus 
to the Pyrenees, and the Christian power which was 
embodied in the Prankish monarchy, but whose central 
point was now to be found in the home of the great 
major domus by the Rhine. Abderrahman, a brave and 


capable warrior, the chief who alone had gotten glory 
out of the great expedition of 720, when he led the 
beaten host back from Toulouse, prepared a great arma- 
ment for the conquest of Gaulj and in the spring of 732 
started from Pampelona on an expedition, as full of 
meaning for the future history of the human race as was 
that armament of Xerxes which found its doom at 
Salamis. The overflowing flood of the Islamites soon 
spread beyond the limits of Gascony. In Perigord Eudo 
met them, Eudo now cured of all desire to coalesce with 
the Mussulman and probably longing to revenge Lam- 
pegia's wrongs on her captor, Abderrahman. He was, 
however, utterly defeated by the banks of the river Dronne 
and lost the greater part of his army. The Moorish 
host pushed on towards the Loire; and now, had the 
Frankish monarchy been in the same condition as seven- 
teen years before, with Neustria and Austrasia divided 
against one another, and the Austrasian major -domat 
put in commission between an old woman and a child, 
the Moorish invasion must to all appearance have 
carried everything before it. But when Abderrahman 
had reached Poitiers, and burnt the Church of St. 
Hilary, the tide of his success was stayed. Eudo, a 
fugitive and despairing, had sought the help of his late 
adversary Charles, and the great major domus with a 
host of stout-hearted Austrasians was posted between 
the rivers Clain and Vienne, blocking the old Eoman 
road from Poitiers to Tours. For seven days the armies 
stood watching one another, while Abderrahman was 
probably trying to turn the Frankish position. Then at 
last, on a certain Saturday in October, finding that only 
the sword could open up the road, he sent the masses of 


his turbaned followers against the Frankish position. 
In vain they dashed against that moveless barrier. 
"The Northern nations," says the Spanish chronicler 
Isidore, "stood immovable as a wall, or as if frozen 
to their places by the rigorous breath of winter, 
but hewing down the Arabs with their swords. But 
when the Austrasian people by the might of their 
massive limbs, and with iron hands striking straight 
from the chest their strenuous blows, had laid multi- 
tudes of the enemy low, at last they found the king 
[Abderrahman], and robbed him of life. Then night 
disparted the combatants, the Franks brandishing their 
swords on high in scorn of the enemy. Next day, 
rising at earliest dawn and seeing the innumerable tents 
of the Arabs all ranged in order before them, the 
Europeans prepared for fight, deeming that within those 
tents were the phalanxes of the enemy; but sending 
forth their scouts they found that the hosts of the 
Ishmaelites had fled away silently under cover of the 
night, seeking their own country. Fearing, however, a 
feigned flight, and a sudden return by hidden ways, 
they circled round and round with amazed caution and 
thus the invaders escaped, but the Europeans after 
dividing the spoils and the captives in orderly manner 
among themselves returned with gladness to their 

So, in uncouth and not always intelligible words, 
does the Spanish ecclesiastic tell the story of that great 
day, which decided that not the Koran but the Gospel 
was to be the guide of the conscience of Europe. To 
Charles Martel and his stalwart Austrasians struggling 
through that terrible Saturday in October, is it due 


that the muezzin is not at noon to-day calling the 
faithful to prayer from some high minaret by the Seine. 
It was said that the Franks on this day slew 375,000 
Saracens, losing only 1500 of their own men. The 
numbers are evidently but a wild and baseless guess, 
but the strange thing is that they could be thus 
reported by a sober and cautious historian, and one not 
of the Frankish nation (Paulus Diaconus), writing barely 
sixty years after the date of the famous victory. 

The Moslem invaders were weakened, but not 
absolutely crushed by this great encounter. They still 
kept their hold on the sea -coast of Languedoc, the 
region which having been for three centuries in the 
possession of the Visigoths was still known as Gothia. 
In 737 they crossed the Ehone, and forming a league 
with a certain Maurontus (who was perhaps Duke of 
Provence), they obtained possession of the strongly 
fortified city of Avignon. Charles, whose normal 
occupation was warfare with the Frisians and Saxons, 
was recalled from the Ehine-lands in order to do battle 
with the Islamite in the valley of the Rhone. Avignon 
was recaptured and Charles marched on to Narbonne, the 
citadel of the Saracen power in Gaul. But though he 
defeated the Mussulmans in a great battle by the sea- 
coast, he failed to take Narbonne. Nismes and several 
other towns in Languedoc were recovered from the 
misbelievers ; their walls were demolished, and the great 
amphitheatre of Nismes was somehow dismantled so as 
to prevent its again affording cover to the enemy, but 
Narbonne was still Islamite at the death of Charles. 

In the same year in which this encounter took place, 
died Theodoric IV., the faineant Merovingian who for 


seventeen years had been the figure-head at the prow of 
the vessel of the State. Charles did not covet the mere 
name of royalty, nor was he disposed to imitate the 
disastrous example of his great-uncle Grimwald; but, 
as the needful Childeric or Chilperic was not at the 
time forthcoming, he dispensed with the luxury of a 
roi faiiidant, and for the remaining four years of his life 
reigned alone, mayor of a palace in which no king was 
to be found. 

The career of Charles Martel was now drawing to a 
close. He was again, in 738, recalled from his opera- 
tions against the Saxons, by tidings of the invasion of 
Provence by the Saracens in league with the turbulent 
Maurontus. For that year the danger was averted by 
the help of the Lombard king Liutprand, the friend 
and brother-in-law of Charles. Next year Charles 
himself invaded Provence with a large army, brought 
the whole of that beautiful land into real instead of 
nominal subjection to the Prankish State, and broke the 
power of Maurontus, who, a hunted fugitive, escaped 
with difficulty over the craggy cliffs of the Riviera, 
which are now linked together by the great highway of 
the Cornice. 

But, this exploit performed, Charles began to sicken. 
He was still little more than fifty years of age, but his 
incessant wars, his rapid marches and counter-marches 
between the German Ocean and the Pyrenees had worn 
out his strenuous frame. The hammer would strike 
no more blows for the welding together of the Prankish 
State. The piteous appeals of Pope Gregory III., who 
implored his assistance against the Lombard assailants 
of Rome, fell on unwilling ears. Charles had some- 


thing else now to do than to cross the Alps and wage 
wax on his friend and kinsman Liutprand, who had 
been his helper against the Islamites, and to whom he 
had sent his son Pippin to be adopted as his filius per 
arma^ a ceremony similar to the bestowal of knighthood 
in a later day. In 740 the extraordinary fact is recorded, 
that no warlike expedition was undertaken by the 
Franks. The great major domus seems to have been 
chiefly occupied in arranging for the partition of his 
territories — they were now without hesitation called his 
— among his three sons. On the 22nd of October 741 
he died at his villa of Quierzy on the Oise, and was buried 
in that great abbey of St. Denis, which was to receive 
the corpses of so many sovereigns of his own and other 

Though the descendant of the sainted Arnulf, though 
the champion of Christendom against the Saracens, and 
the strong protector of the " apostles " who, relying on 
the sharpness of the Frankish battle-axe, went forth to 
convert the heathen Frisians and Saxons, Charles Martel 
was looked upon with no favour by the ecclesiastics of 
his time. By the grants of fainSanf kings and honour- 
able women, the possessions of the Church in Gaul had 
grown so enormously as to weaken the resources of the 
kingdom, and Charles found himself, or believed himself, 
compelled to lay his hand upon some of all this ac- 
cumulated wealth for the defence of Gaul and Christen- 
dom. He did it in the most dangerous way for the 
Church, not by revoking grants or imposing taxes on 
ecclesiastical property, but by conferring prelacies and 
abbacies on trusty friends and followers of his own, men 
who were without any pretensions to the spiritual 


character, but upon whom he might rely to use the 
Church's wealth on the right side. Thus, we find 
already emerging the question which three or four 
centuries later, in the days of Hildebrand and the 
Franconian Emperors, took peace from the earth. It is 
easy to see how such a manner of disposing of ecclesi- 
astical property would rouse the opposition of all that 
was highest as well as of all that was lowest in the 
Gaulish Church, of genuine zeal for holiness as well as 
of mere greed and worldly ambition. Thus it came to 
pass, that while the rest of the Arnulfing line were 
venerated as friends and patrons of the Church, Charles 
Martel fared more hardly at her hands, and the 
superstition of the times — 

" Doomed him to the Zealot's ready hell, 

Which" pleads the Church's claims "so eloquently well." 

In the next century a libellous vision was forged by a 
famous archbishop, according to which a prelate saw 
Charles Martel suffering the torments of hell, and, on 
asking the cause, was told that it was his allotted 
penalty for seizing on the domains of the Church. The 
dreaming prelate, on awaking, went, so it was said, to 
the abbey of St. Denis and opened Charles's tomb, but 
found no corpse therein, only a blackened shell, out of 
which a winged dragon rushed and flew rapidly away. 


The unity of the Frankish State, so dearly purchased by 
the heroic labours of Charles Martel, was as usual placed 
in jeopardy by the dying ruler's arrangements for the 
succession to that which was now openly spoken of as 
his " principatus." 

He left two sons, Carloman and Pippin, by his first 
wife Hrotrudis, and one, Grifo, by a Bavarian princess 
named Swanahild, whom he had married after an 
invasion of her country, and whose sister was the wife 
of the Lombard king Liutprand. 

This was the manner in which Charles Martel divided 
his dominions among his sons. To the eldest, Carloman, 
he gave the greater part of Austrasia, Alamannia, and 
Thuringia ; to Pippin, the younger, Neustria, Burgundy 
and Provence. Apparently both Aquitaine in the south- 
west, and Bavaria in the south-east were too nearly 
independent to be thus disposed of by a ruler who, after 
all, was still in theory only the chief adviser of a 
Merovingian king, though that king's royalty was for 
the present in abeyance. 

To Grifo, whose turbulent attempts at insurrection, 


aided by his mother Swanahild, had troubled the last 
years of Charles, was assigned a small central state 
carved out of all the three realms, Austrasia, Neustria, 
and Burgundy, at their point of meeting. "As to this 
third portion," says the chronicler, "which the dying 
prince had assigned to the young man Grifo, the Franks 
were sorely displeased that by the advice of a wicked 
woman they should be cut up and separated from the 
lawful heirs. Taking counsel together and joining with 
them the princes Carloman and Pippin, they collected an 
army for the capture of Grifo, who, hearing of their 
intent, took to flight, together with his mother Swana- 
hild and all who were willing to follow him, and all shut 
themselves up in Lugdunum Clavatum (Laon). But 
Grifo, seeing that he could not possibly escape, surren- 
dered himself to the keeping of his brothers. Carloman 
receiving the captive sent him to be kept in safe custody 
at the New Castle (Neuf Chateau in the Ardennes) : and 
they placed Swanahild in the monastery of Cala 
(Chelles near Paris)." 

We shall rapidly pass in review the events which led 
to the concentration of the whole power of the State in 
the hands of Pippin alone, but first we must notice that 
for some unexplained reason, possibly in order to give 
them a better title to the obedience of Aquitaine and 
Bavaria, the princely brothers decided to bring the 
kingless period to an end. In 743 Childeric III. was 
placed on the throne. He was probably about twenty 
years of age, but the date of his birth, and even his 
place in the royal pedigree are doubtful. Of his char- 
acter, of course, we know nothing. He is but the shadow 
of a shadow, this last Merovingian king. 



Very different from shadows were the two Arnulfing 
brothers, as they warred with Hunald, Duke of Aqui- 
taine (son of their father's old troubler Eudo), with 
Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, with the heathen Saxons, with 
the restless and disloyal Alamanni. Of the two brothers, 
Pippin seems to have been somewhat the gentler. It 
was Carloman the strong and stern warrior, who, in- 
furiated by the faithlessness of the Alamanni, entered 
their territory, called a muster of their warriors at 
Cannstadt (near Stuttgart), and then surrounding them 
by his Franks, disarmed them, and slew many of their 
leaders. The accounts of this assembly at Cannstadt 
are dark and perplexing, but on comparing them it 
certainly seems probable that there was great severity 
on the part of Carloman, probably treachery and possibly 
widespread slaughter. 

Was it remorse for this bloody deed which changed 
the character and career of Carloman 1 It is not ex- 
pressly so said by the chroniclers,-^ yet the statement 
seems a probable inference from their meagre notices. 
For it was in the same year (746) in which the strange 
transaction with the Alamanni had taken place at Cann- 
stadt that Carloman began to talk to his brother Pippin 
concerning his desire to relinquish the world and devote 
himself to the service of Almighty God : " Therefore 
both the brothers made their preparations, Carloman 
that he might go to the threshold of the apostles Peter 
and Paul, and Pippin that his brother might make the 
journey with all honour and splendid gifts." 

Carloman's decision to embrace the monastic life was 
not an unexampled sacrifice for a ruler in that day. 
* Except Ann. Petav. ad ann. 746 " unde compunctus regnum reliquit. 



Sixty years Ijefore, Ceadwalla, King of the West Saxons, 
and twenty years before, his royal kinsman Ine had left 
their palaces and come to live and die as tonsured monks 
in Eome. Two years before Carloman's abdication, 
Hunald of Aquitaine, and three years after it, Ratchis 
the Lombard took the Same step. Still, the splendid 
position which Carloman abandoned, and the lowliness 
of his demeanour after his abdication, touched and awed 
the hearts of his contemporaries. 

In 747 Carloman formally renounced his share of 
power, and went with a long train of nobles and with 
costly presents in his hand to Eome, "to the threshold 
of the apostle Peter." There he submitted to the ton- 
sure and received the clerical habit from Pope Zacharias, 
After a time, by the pope's advice, he withdrew to the 
mountain solitude of Soracte, twenty-eight miles from 
Rome, where he erected a monastery in honour of St. 
Sylvester. This saint was the Bishop of Rome who, 
according to an ecclesiastical fable which was just at 
this time obtaining wide currency, received from the 
Emperor Constantine the celebrated "Donation" of 
Rome and the larger part of Italy. The fable also 
related that Sylvester had previously sought a refuge in 
Mount Soracte from the persecution ordained by Constan- 
tine while still a Pagan, and had afterwards cured that 
emperor of leprosy by directing him to a pool on the moun- 
tain in which he was to perform a threefold immersion. 
It need hardly be said that all this is utterly valueless as 
history, but as it was in that uncritical age accepted as 
unquestioned truth, the fact that the enthusiast Carlo- 
man sought the solitudes of Soracte for the place of his 
retirement and there dedicated his monastery to St. 


Sylvester is important as showing what was passing in 
the minds of men, and especially of devout Frankish 
princes in that age. Later on, he left his mountain 
home in Soracte and sought the far-famed monastery 
of St. Benedict on Monte Cassino. Tradition said that 
he fled thither by night, with one faithful squire, 
his companion from infancy, and with no sign of his 
once high dignity. Knocking at the door of the con- 
vent he desired speech with the abbot, and when that 
dignitary appeared, threw himself on the ground before 
him, confessing that he was a murderer and praying to 
be allowed to expiate his crime by repentance in the 
monastery. The abbot, seeing that he was a foreigner 
asked him of his race and country. "I am a Frank," 
said Carloman, " and for my crime I have left my native 
land of Francia. I heed not exile if only I may not fail 
of the heavenly fatherland." He was received into the 
cell of the novices with his companion and was sub- 
jected to severe discipline, as became a man of bar- 
barous race and unknown name, for the abbot was 
mindful of the apostolic precept, "Try the spirits 
whether they are of God." To all these hardships and 
humiliations Carloman submitted with exemplary 
patience. It chanced at last that it fell to his lot as 
a novice to take a week's turn in the kitchen of the 
convent. He did his work zealously but made many 
blunders, for which the head cook, heated with wine, 
rewarded him with a slap on the face. Meekly the 
princely scullion replied, "Is that how you ought to 
serve the brethren 1 May God pardon you, my brother, 
and Carloman too." The last words were perhaps uttered 
under his breath, for he had not yet revealed his name 


to anyone. A second and a third time this incident was 
repeated, and on the last occasion the cook's blows were 
cruel and brutal. His faithful squire could then bear 
the sight no longer. He snatched up the pestle with 
which the bread was being pounded for the brethren's 
soup, and struck the head cook with all his might, say- 
ing, " Neither may God spare thee, vile slave, nor may 
Carloman forgive thee." Then followed uproar, indig- 
nation at the foreigner's presumption, arrest, imprison- 
ment. Next day the squire was set in the midst of the 
assembled monks and asked why he had dared to stretch 
forth his hand against a serving brother. "Because," 
he answered, " I was indignant at seeing a slave, the 
meanest of mankind, not only flout and jeer, but actually 
strike a man, the best and noblest of all that I have ever 
met with on the earth." The angry monks demanded who 
was this man whom he, a foreigner, dared to rank before 
all others, not even excepting the abbot himself. Thus 
was the truth forced out of him, since it was the will of 
God that it should no longer be concealed. " That man 
is Carloman, formerly ruler of the Franks, who, for the 
love of Christ hath left his kingdom and the glory of 
the world : who from such high estate has so humbled 
himself as to be subject not only to the insults but even 
to the blows of the vilest of men." Then the monks 
rose from their seats in terror and prostrated themselves 
at the feet of Carloman, imploring his forgiveness for 
aught that they might have done to him in ignorance of 
his rank. Vainly did he in turn grovel on the earth 
before them and try to assure them that his comrade 
had lied and that he was not Carloman. He was recog- 
nised by all, held in the highest reverence, and as we 


shall afterwards see, was selected by the abbot for an 
important niission. 

On the abdication of Carloman, Grifo was liberated 
by Pippin from his imprisonment which had lasted six 
years, received by him in his palace with every mark of 
honour and affection, and invested with several count- 
ships and large revenues. This was not enough, how- 
ever, for Grifo, who probably aspired to an equal share 
of his father's late dominions. He allied himself with 
the Saxons and shared their defeat in battle (748) ; he 
sought refuge in Bavaria, and for a time made himself 
duke of that country (749); expelled from thence by 
Pippin he betook himself first to Aquitaine and then to 
the King of the Lombards, but was met at Maurienne by 
Count Theodowin, who was guarding the passes of the 
Alps in the Frankish interest. A skirmish followed, in 
which many Frankish nobles fell, Grifo himself and 
Theodowin among them (753). There was no further 
obstacle raised by any member of the Arnulfing family 
to the sole domination of Pippin. 

Fateful for all the after-history of Europe were the 
middle years of the eighth century, upon which we have 
now entered. The time had at last come when Pippin, 
virtual sovereign of Gaul and Western Germany, could 
venture to take the step which had proved fatal to his 
kinsman Grimwald, and to bring names and facts into 
accord by proclaiming himself King of the Franks. But 
in taking this step it behoved him to be sure of two 
things, the consent of the nation and the sanction of the 
Church. By the advice and with the consent of all the 
Franks, expressed no doubt by some assembly of the 
chief men of the nation, two great ecclesiastics, Fulrad, 


Abbot of St. Denis representing Neustria, and Burchard, 
Bishop of Wiirzburg representing Austrasia, were sent 
to Rome to ask the opinion of the pope on the great 
problem. It "will be well to state their commission in 
the words of a contemporary chronicler : 

"In the year 750 [it should be 751] from the incarna- 
tion of our Lord, Pippin sends ambassadors to Eome to 
Zacharias the Pope to ask concerning the Kings of the 
Franks who were of the royal race and were called kings, 
but had no power in the kingdom except only that grants 
and charters were drawn up in their names, but they 
had absolutely no royal power; but what the majof 
domus of the Franks willed, that they did. But on the 
[first] day of March in the Campus [Martis] according to 
ancient custom gifts were offered to those kings by the 
people, and the king himself sat on the royal throne 
with the army standing round him and the major domus 
close by, and on that day he gave forth as his orders 
whatever had been decreed by the Franks, but on every 
other day thenceforward he sat quietly at home. Pope 
Zacharias thereupon answered their question according 
to his apostolic authority, that it seemed better and 
more expedient to him that he should be called and be 
king who had power in the kingdom rather than he who 
was falsely called king. Therefore the aforesaid pope 
commanded the king and people of the Franks that 
Pippin who exercised the royal power should be called 
king and be placed on the royal seat ; which was accord- 
ingly done by the anointing of the holy archbishop 
Boniface in the city of Soissons. Pippin is called king, 
and Childeric who falsely bore that title receives the 
tonsure and is sent into a monastery." 


So at length was the great change accomplished to- 
wards which Frankish history had been tending foi 
more than a century. What happened was undoubtedly 
a revolution, though of a peaceful kind. The papal 
sanction, the archiepiscopal unction might impress 
the minds of the multitude ; this new Christian conse- 
cration might partly compensate for the missing glamour 
of a descent from gods and heroes which had surrounded 
the dynasty of the Merovings; but in strict right, of 
course, the Bishop of Eome had no title to command the 
change, no power to absolve the Salian and Eipuarian 
Franks from their plighted faith to the descendants of 
Clovis. It was well thought of to put the scene of the 
consecration of the new dynasty at Soissons, that place 
so memorable in the history of the older race. It was 
also important, if the pope himself could not be induced 
to cross the Alps to perform the ceremony of anointing, 
to have it performed by Boniface the Apostle of the 
Germans, and the most conspicuous ecclesiastical figure 
in Europe. 

We may pause for a moment to notice the remark- 
able share taken by this man and others of our fellow- 
countrymen in bringing about the conversion of large 
portions of the German nation to Christianity, and in- 
directly in founding the Teutonic " Holy Roman Empire " 
of the Middle Ages. Scarcely had the Anglo-Saxon 
peoples been won over to the Christian Church, when 
they began with missionary zeal to preach the faith 
among their still heathen kinsmen on the Continent. 
The mission of St. Augustine to Britain took place in 
the year 596. In 634 was born the Northumbrian 
Wilfrid, and in 658 his countryman Willibrord, both of 


whom laboured with zeal and success for the conversion 
of the heathens ot Friesland, A generation later the 
young Devonian Winifried, born at Crediton, appeared 
on the banks of the Lower Ehine, to profit by the ex- 
perience of the aged Willibrord and to catch his falling 
mantle. Three times he visited Eome to confer with those 
great popes, the second and the third Gregory, and to 
receive their orders for the conversion of fresh tribes in 
Germany, or for the consolidation of spiritual conquests 
already achieved. On one of these visits, probably, he 
received that name of Boniface by which he is best 
known in history, together with a sort of roving com- 
mission as archbishop, and authority to act as legate in 
the churches of Germany. Armed with this power he 
set up bishoprics in Bavaria, revived the dying Chris- 
tianity of Thuringia, and chastised heretics in Gaul. 
Wherever the armies of Charles Martel marched, in 
Friesland, in Saxony, in Hesse, Archbishop Boniface 
followed, smashing idols, felling sacred oaks, and baptiz- 
ing half -unwilling converts. Towards the end of his 
life his roving commission was changed into the more 
stationary office of Archbishop of Mainz, and he some- 
times retired for repose to the great monastery of Fulda, 
which he had founded in the Hessian land near the 
source of the Weser. But the old war-horse was still 
stirred by the sound of the trumpet. Three years after 
his consecration of Pippin, Boniface went forth on a last 
expedition for the conversion of the Frisians. When he 
reached Dockum (in the north of the present province of 
Friesland) he found there, instead of the expected cate- 
chumens, a multitude of the heathens, zealous for the 
honour of their idols which Boniface had so often 



destroyed, and eager for the spoil of the ecclesiastical 
invader. From their hands he received the crown of 
martyrdom for which he longed. 

The career of Boniface is of especial importance, 
because of his absolute devotion to the see of Rome. It 
was observed that the recently converted nations, as is 
so often the case with new converts, surpassed their 
older brethren in the fervour of their faith. While the 
bishops of Gaul were lukewarm, sometimes almost insub- 
ordinate, the Anglo-Saxon bishops were the devoted 
adherents of the papacy. Boniface especially professed 
the most unbounded reverence for the chair of St. Peter, 
and took with alacrity an oath of implicit obedience, 
substantially the same which was exacted from the 
" suburbicarian " bishops of the sees in the immediate 
neighbourhood of Rome. This was the spirit in which 
the infant churches were trained, and this no doubt was 
the tenour of the advice which the zealous Archbishop 
of Mainz gave to the new King of the Franks on the 
day of his coronation. 

A traveller through the pleasant valleys of Devon- 
shire when he comes to the little town, scarcely more 
than a village, of Crediton between its two overhanging 
hills, may reflect with interest that he beholds the birth- 
place of the man who, more than any other, brought 
about the entrance of the German nation into the family 
of Christian Europe. 

The coronation of Pippin took place probably about 
November 7.^1. In four months from that time Pope 
Zacharias died, doubtless without any presentiment of 
the abiding importance of the event in which by his 
answer to the Prankish messengers he had borne a part, 


but which is not even mentioned by his biographer in 
the Liber Pontificalis. After a short interval, an ecclesi- 
astic of Roman parentage, who figures in the annals of 
the papacy as Stephen 11. , was raised to the papal see, 
His pontificate was short ; it lasted but five years, but 
they were years full of import for the destinies of 

In order to concentrate our attention on the trans- 
formation of the Arnulfing mayors of the palace into 
Frankish kings, I have hitherto said as little as possible 
about the affairs of Italy, but this silence can be kept 
no longer, now that a Roman pope is about to cross 
the Alps and ask for Frankish aid to enable him to smite 
down his foes. 

The Lombards had invaded Italy in the year 568, 
and for nearly two centuries from that time there had 
been waged a kind of triangular contest which, to com- 
pare great things with small, was like the litigation 
which might go on in an English parish between an 
absentee landlord, a big Nonconformist farmer, and a 
cultured but acquisitive parson. 

The Emperor was the great absentee. Though still 
always spoken of as Emperor of Rome, he had been in 
fact for some centuries an absolutely Oriental Sovereign. 
Since the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476, no 
Roman Emperor had touched the soil of Italy save for one 
brief and most unwelcome visit paid by Constans II. in 
663. The Imperial dominion in the peninsula was by 
this time limited to the Venetian islands, two provinces 
on the Adriatic coast called the Exarchate of Ravenna 
and the Pentapolis, the city of Hydruntum (Otranto), 
the province of Bruttii at the very end of the pen- 


insula, Paestum, Naples and the duchy of Eome, 
which included the city of Eome, the present province 
of Latium and a little bit of Etruria. This scattered 
and fragmentary dominion, which as will be seen was 
almost entirely confined to the sea -coast, and em- 
braced only a part of that, was ruled by an imperial 
lieutenant who bore the title of Exarch, and whose seat 
of government was the strong, almost impregnable city 
of Eavenna. 

Far the largest part of Italy, including all the fertile 
valley of the Po, all the central chain of the Apennines 
and the valleys leading from them, the greater part of 
Tuscany and almost the whole of Apulia, was in the 
possession of the rough and masterful Lombards, who 
had been fierce savages when they entered Italy, but 
who had lost most of their savagery and some of their 
warlike vigour by long residence in the delightful land 
and by contact with the vestiges of Eoman civilisation. 
Arians for the most part, and even with some heathens 
among them at the time of their first invasion, they had 
now embraced the Catholic faith, were generous bene- 
factors of the Church, and desired to be considered her 
dutiful sons. But still the remembrance of their old 
heresies continued, and whenever the political interests 
of the King of the Lombards clashed with those of the 
Pope of Eome — and they did clash as often and as 
irreconcilably as do those of pope and king at the present 
day — the old epithets "unspeakable," "sacrilegious," 
" diabolical," flowed from the pens of the scribes in the 
papal chancery as freely as they had flowed when the 
Lombards were yet idolaters. 

As for the pope, how describe in few words his 


anomalous and fast -changing position? Undoubted 
Patriarch of the Western Church, he nevertheless had 
many a struggle with the Patriarch of Constantinople 
as to his claim to rule the Church Universal. The 
missionaries whom he had sent forth to convert the 
Teutonic tribes of England and Germany were, as has 
been said, zealous asserters of his spiritual pre-eminence, 
and, like the Jesuits of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries, the great champions of the rights of 
Rome. Herein also they were vigorously supported by 
the monks who had spread widely over all Christian 
lands, and who at this time were almost without excep- 
tion followers of the rule of the Italian saint, Benedict. 
Some of the bishops, however, especially some of the 
Gaulish bishops, were, as has been said, by no means 
equally prompt in their obedience to the papal see. The 
pope's relation to the distant emperor at Constantinople 
during these centuries of transition is one of the hardest 
things to describe with accuracy. A subject, and yet in a 
certain sense a rival, often severely snubbed by the 
emperor's representative at Rome, almost adored on one 
or two occasions when he set foot in Constantinople ; 
elected by the clergy and people of Old Rome, yet for 
many generations not venturing to assume the title of 
pope till he received the imperial confirmation from 
New Rome ; a mere ecclesiastic without as yet any pre- 
tension to temporal sovereignty, and yet under the 
stress of circumstances ordering campaigns against the 
Lombards, installing dukes and displacing tribunes — 
such in the time of Gregory the Great and for more than 
a century afterwards had been the anomalous relation 
of the beatissimus Pa;pa or sandissimus PontifeXj to his 


serenissimus Dominus, Christianissimus principum, the man 
who at Constantinople wore the diadem of Diocletian 
The relation was strained and difficult, and one would 
have said that it could not long endure; and yet (as 
anomalies, especially in the relations of Church and 
State, are apt to do), it lasted long, for at least six 
generations of mankind. During this time the popes 
had certainly often to complain of harsh and overbearing 
treatment on the part of their imperial masters. One 
pope was dragged from the altar to a dungeon ; another 
was banished to the Crimea, and died in that remote 
place of exile ; the life of another was conspired against 
by murderers in the pay of the emperor's Italian repre- 
sentative, and these were only the more striking passages 
in a long history of estrangement and mutual suspicion. 
Through all, the hold of the pope on the affections of the 
Koman people was steadily increasing, since he was 
looked upon as the representative of Roman nationality 
and Roman orthodoxy against the often schismatical 
Greek and the always domineering Lombard. 

Of late — that is to say, during the greater part of 
the mayoralty of Charles Martel — the antagonism 
between pope and emperor had been increased by the 
dispute about the worship of images. In 726 Leo III., 
the great Isaurian emperor who had successfully repelled 
the Saracens from the walls of Constantinople, put forth 
his edicts for the destruction of the sacred images 
throughout the empire. These decrees, which roused 
some of the Greeks to actual insurrection, were met by 
sullen disobedience on the part of the Italians, The 
authority of the Exarch of Ravenna was set at naught ; 
the local government was vested in dukes chosen by the 


enraged image-worshippers; it seemed as though the 
empire would utterly lose even the vestiges of its 
dominion in Italy. But at this crisis the pope (Gregory 
II.), though he had been in strong opposition to the 
emperor, and had sharply denounced his iconoclastic 
edicts, restrained the Italians from actual revolt and 
from the election of a counter-emperor, " hoping for the 
conversion of the sovereign." It is dif&cult to say how 
the matter ended. Apparently the decrees were not 
enforced in Italy, nor did the movement of insurrec- 
tion gather head. The exarch still ruled in Kavenna ; 
the pope still considered himself the subject of the 
eastern emperor ; but there was no cordiality between 
them, and more and more the popes looked across the 
Alps to the new Austrasian potentate, rather than to 
the old Augustus by the Bosphorus, for defence, patron- 
age, and endowment. 

The question of the pope's position is somewhat 
complicated by the fact that he was probably the largest 
landowner in Italy. The " Patrimony of St. Peter," as 
it was called, comprised great estates in the Campagna, 
in Samnium, on the Adriatic coast, besides a considerable 
portion of Sicily. Any estimate of their extent and 
value can be only guess-work, but it is conjectured that 
in the time of Gregory the Great they would, if all 
massed together, have formed a district as large as 
Lancashire, and that the yearly revenue derived 
from them amounted to £420,000. It is to be 
observed that we are here dealing not with sovereignty 
but with ownership, and that the wide domains thus 
actually owned by the Bishop of Eome had probably 
been increased rather than diminished in the century 


and a half that had elapsed since the death of 

As to the purposes to which this vast wealth was 
applied, even a severe critic of the mediaeval papacy 
must admit that they were, in the main, right and 
noble ones. We have no hint now of that nepotism 
which was the disgrace of the Roman see in much later 
ages. None of these early popes, as far as we know, ever 
" founded a family," The maintenance of the large and 
brilliant papal household was doubtless a first charge 
on the revenues of the see. The costly and somewhat 
ostentatious gifts of plate to St. Peter's Church, which 
are punctually recorded in the Liber Pontificalis, were 
perhaps a second charge upon them. But after all, si large 
proportion of these revenues must have gone towards the 
relief of poverty, sickness, and distress. The pope was 
now what the emperor had once been, the great relieving 
officer of Eome ; not only in the Eternal City, but all 
over Italy, at any rate while such a pope as the first 
Gregory sat in St. Peter's chair, whenever a bishop 
brought a case of distress under his notice, there was a 
strong probability that he would receive a grant in aid 
from the papal revenues. 

It is needless to point out what enormous power the 
ownership of such vast estates and the distribution 
of such princely revenues must have placed in the 
hands of the elderly ecclesiastic who was acclaimed as 
pope by the assembled multitude in the basilica of St. 
Peter. In the year 751 he was not yet a sovereign, but 
he was that kind of territorial magnate out of whom a 
sovereign might easily be made. 

The curious and difficult relation which had subsisted 


for so long between the three great powers in Italy was 
ended in 751, the year of Pippin's coronation, when Aistulf, 
King of the Lombards, captured the city of Kavenna and 
terminated the exarch's rule in Italy. Believing evi- 
dently that the time had come for the long postponed 
consolidation of Italy under the Lombard rule, he drew 
nigh to the city of Eome, and in some way or other 
threatened its independence. What he actually did it 
is difficult to discover from the verbose and passionate 
declamation of the papal biographer, but it seems clear 
that his soldiers committed some depredations on the 
" Patrimony of St. Peter," and it is probable that 
without laying formal siege to the city he threatened it 
with war unless the citizens would consent to pay him 
a poll-tax in acknowledgment of his sovereignty over 

These depredations, or these schemes of conquest, 
were not needed to arouse the fierce and passionate 
hostility of the pope to the all-absorbing Lombard. So 
long as there had been three great powers in Italy there 
had been an equilibrium of a certain kind between 
them. In fact, the pope had more than once invoked 
the help of the Lombard, "unspeakable" as he called 
him, against his " most Christian " sovereign in Con- 
stantinople, when the latter pressed him too hard. But 
now the pope and the Lombard king stood face to face 
with no other rival to their greatness, and each of them 
probably felt, dimly but certainly, that it would be a 
duel to the death between them. 

It was probably in the year 752, some months after 
the conquest of Ravenna, and when the hostile inten- 
tions of King Aistulf against Rome had been sufficiently 



indicated, that Pope Stephen II. sent a secret message 
by a pilgrim who had visited Eome, imploring the King 
of the Franks to give him a formal invitation to his 
court. In the spring of 753 the envoys of Pippin 
brought the desired invitation, and a letter, in which 
there was probably some promise of protection against 
the Lombards. Just about the same time a messenger, 
the silentiarius John, arrived from the Emperor Con- 
stantine V., desiring the pope to repair to the court of 
Pavia and solicit King Aistulf to grant the restoration of 
Ravenna to the empire. The pope had sent more than 
one urgent message to the emperor imploring his pro- 
tection, and this futile commission was the only reply. 
The form of the despatch showed that the emperor still 
regarded the pope as his subject, but its substance was 
certainly some justification to Stephen for that transfer 
of his allegiance from Constantino to Pippin, which had 
now begun to present itself to his mind as a possible way 
of escape from his difficulties. In itself the Imperial 
Commission was not unwelcome, since it necessitated a 
safe conduct from Aistulf for the journey to Pavia. 

On the 13th of October, 753, Pope Stephen set forth 
from Rome. Many of the Romans followed him out of 
the gates, weeping and wailing, and striving in vain to 
prevent him from undertaking the journey. But, though 
weak in body, he had a stout heart, and was not to be 
turned from his purpose. When he reached Pavia he 
was met by the envoys of Aistulf, who brought him the 
king's command not to mention the word restitution 
in connection with Ravenna or the exarchate. He 
answered boldly that no intimidation should procure 
his silence on that subject. When admitted to the 


royal presence he exhibited the gifts which he had 
brought for the king, and, with many tears, implored 
him to restore the captured cities to the empire. The 
request was utterly vain; probably even the imperial 
silentiariuSj who was standing by, hardly expected that 
it would be anything else. But then came another 
request of much more serious import. Bishop Chrode- 
gang and Duke Autchar, the high-born and powerful repre- 
sentatives of the King of the Franks, asked, in no obse- 
quious tones, that the pope should be allowed to visit 
their master. The pope was summoned to the royal 
presence, and questioned as to his desire to cross the 
Alps. Several of the officers of the court had been sent 
to Stephen to warn him that he would incur the severe 
displeasure of the king if he persisted in his project ; but 
when questioned by Aistulf himself, he boldly answered, 
" If it be your will to relax my bonds, it is altogether 
my will to undertake the journey." King Aistulf, we 
are told, " gnashed his teeth like a lion." He knew too 
well what danger this journey foreboded to himself and 
the whole Lombard state, but the request, so made and 
so supported, was one that he dared not refuse, and he 
most reluctantly gave his consent. On the 15th of 
November the pope started from Pavia, and travelled 
rapidly lest Aistulf should after all seek to detain him. 
When he reached Aosta he was already in Frankish 
territory, though on the Italian side of the Alps. The 
dangers which after that point terrified the pope and 
his long train of trembling ecclesiastics were only the 
dangers of nature's contriving, the steep cliffs and 
impending avalanches of the Great St. Bernard; hence- 
forth they were safe from the fear of man. Having 


arrived at the great monastery of St. Maurice, in the 
valley of the Ehone, the pope and his followers rested 
there certain days. That had been the appointed place 
of meeting with the Frankish king, but apparently the 
impetuous old pope had reached it before he was expected, 

" But the king," says the papal biographer, " hearing 
of the pope's arrival, went with great speed to meet 
him, together with his wife, his sons, and his chief 
nobles. For which purpose also he directed his son, 
named Oarolus, to meet that quasi-angelic pope, together 
with some of his nobles. Then he himself, starting 
from his palace at Ponticum [Ponthieu], dismounted from 
his horse, and going three miles to meet him, with great 
humility prostrated himself before him on the ground, 
and so, together with his wife, sons, and nobles, received 
that most holy pope, to whom also he served the office 
of a groom, running for some distance by his stirrup. 
Then the aforesaid health-bringing man, with all his train, 
in a loud voice giving glory and ceaseless praises to 
Almighty God, marched to the palace, together with the 
king, with hymns and spiritual songs. This befell on 
the 6th day of January (764), on the most holy festival 
of the Epiphany." 

This journey of the pope across the Alps is not only 
the first of a long and fateful series, but affords us our 
first glance at that young lad who was then only " the 
king's son Carolus," but who was one day to deal with 
popes on his own account, and was to be known, the world 
over, as Carolus Magnus. The date, as well as the place 
of his birth, is uncertain, but it is probable that he was 
born in 742, the year after his father's accession to the 
mayoralty, and was therefore under twelve years of age 




when he was sent by his father to accompany Pope 
Stephen II. on his journey of not less than 200 -miles 
from St. Maurice in Switzerland, to Ponthion (Pons 
Hugonis) in Champagne. 

At the entry of the pope, the Frankish king had 
humbled himself before him. On the next day the 
parts were reversed. "The pope appeared, together 
with his clerical companions, in the presence of Pippin. 
Clothed in sackcloth, and with ashes on his head, he 
cast himself on the ground, and besought the king, by 
the mercies of Almighty God, and by the merits of the 
blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that he would free 
himself and the Roman people from the hand of the 
Lombards, and from slavery to the proud king Aistulf ; 
nor would he arise until King Pippin, together with his 
sons and the nobles of the Franks, stretched forth their 
hands and lifted him from the ground as a sign of their 
future support and a pledge of his liberation." 

There are some indications that the nobles and 
warriors of the Frankish Court were averse to under- 
taking the risks and hardships of a Transalpine cam- 
paign, and it was probably for the sake of winning 
their concurrence that this scene was enacted. The 
king, though not perhaps very eager in the cause, was 
sufficiently bound to the pope by the memory of past 
favours, and the hope of favours to come, in the shape 
of papal blessings on his newly-assumed royalty. 

The winter months of 754 were passed in embassies 
between the two kings. Pippin called upon Aistulf to 
cease from his impious presumption, and to leave 
unmolested the city of St. Peter and St. Paul. His 
ambassadors brought back naught but words of pride 

,x .-X 


and obstinacy from the Lombard. War was resolved on, 
but before it began, Pippin, mindful of the chances of 
war, and determined to secure the succession in his 
family, resolved to have another confirmation of his 
doubtful title from the hands of his venerable guest. 
Pope Stephen, who had passed the winter at the 
wealthy convent of St. Denis, " anointed the most pious 
Prince Pippin King of the Franks and Patrician of the 
Eomans with the oil of holy anointing, according to the 
custom of the ancients, and at the same time crowned 
his two sons, who stood next him, in happy succession, 
namely, Charles and Carloman, with the same honour." 

This passage is an important one, and we must pause 
upon it for a few minutes. 

First, as to the rite of anointing. The writers who 
have most carefully enquired into the matter, are clear 
that this rite, though it had been practised upon the 
later Visigothic kings of Spain, and upon some of the 
British kings in Wales, was new to the Prankish mon- 
archy, when performed first by Boniface and then by 
Stephen on the head of Pippin. It really rested upon 
Old Testament precedents, such as the anointings of 
Saul and of David : and it was possibly intended, as 
already hinted, to replace in some degree the religious 
sanction which in old heathen days royal families, such 
as the Merovingians, had possessed in their fabled descent 
from gods and demi-gods. 

Secondly : as to the bestowal on Pippin of the title 
" Patrician of the Eomans." Long ago, before the series 
of Western emperors came to an end, the word patrician 
had ceased to denote an aristocratic class, and had been 
used of a single powerful individual, otherwise called 



" the Father of the Emperor," who in fact bore to the 
sovereign a relation not unlike that which the Frankish 
mayor of the palace bore to the Merovingian king. 
Thus, in the fifth century, Aetius and Ricimer had 
successively borne the dignity of patrician, and in the 
sixth, the Ostrogothic king Theodoric, speaking by the 
mouth of his minister Cassiodorus, had said, " The great 
distinction of the patriciate is that it is a rank held for 
life, like that of the priesthood from which it sprang. 
The patrician takes precedence of all other dignities 
save one, the consulship, and that is one which we our- 
selves sometimes assume. Since then, the imperial 
lieutenant in Italy had apparently always assumed the 
title of patrician at Rome, in addition to that of exarch 
by which he was best known at Ravenna. Now that 
the exarchs were gone, the sonorous and imposing title 
might perhaps be said to be nobody's property. If any 
one had a right to bestow it the emperor at Constanti- 
nople was the man : but he was far off and unpopular. 
There was an obvious temptation to the Bishop of Rome 
to pick the shining bauble out of the dust and present 
it to his powerful friend on the other side of the Alps. 
It is not likely that it included any definite functions of 
government, but it probably carried with it, in a some- 
what ill-defined and shadowy form, the right and the 
duty of defending from external attacks the people and 
city of Rome. 

Thirdly : the pope included in his coronation-service* 
the two boyish sons of Pippin, Charles and Carloman, 
and at the same time (if we may trust a curious memo- 
randum, the Clausula de Pippino, which professes to have 
been written in 767 and which is now generally con- 


sidered authentic) the pope "blessed the Queen Bertrada 
and the nobles of the Frankish nation, and while con- 
firming them in the grace of the Holy Spirit, he bound 
them under penalty of interdict and excommunication 
never to presume to elect a king who should come forth 
from the loins of any other than these persons whom 
Divine Providence had raised to the throne, and who 
through the intercession of the holy Apostles had been 
consecrated and confirmed by the hands of their vicar, 
the pope." Even so : that which had been done in the 
case of the last Merovingian was never to be repeated 
in the case of any Arnulfing however inefficient. The 
ruler who four years ago was only king de facto must 
now claim to the uttermost all the rights of a king de jure 
descended from a long line of regal ancestors. 

This solemn coronation of Pippin took place, we are 
told, on the 28th of July 754. We naturally ask what 
had so long delayed the intended expedition into Italy. 
There had been a dangerous illness of the pope, the 
result of the hardships of his journey and of the un- 
accustomed rigours of a Gaulish winter. There had also 
been more embassies : apparently Pippin would exhaust 
all the resources of negotiation before he proceeded to 
war. And lastly there had appeared at the royal villa 
of Carisiacum an unexpected advocate to plead for the 
Lombard king. This was none other than Pippin's 
brother Carloman, lately ruler of Austrasia, and the 
'senior partner in the semi-royal firm, now a tonsured 
monk, humbly though earnestly advocating the cause of 
peace. The papal biographer sees in him only a dupe 
tempted forth from his monastery by the " devilish per- 
suasions of the unspeakable tyrant, Aistulf," and "striving 


vehemently with all his might to subvert the cause of 
God's Holy Church." Certainly this intervention of 
the newly -made monk against the great Head and 
Patron of all monks, is one of the strangest incidents in 
his strange career : but it may be permitted us to con- 
jecture that during his seven years' residence in Italy 
he had acquired somewhat of an Italian heart and had 
learnt to dread the ravages of 

" the arm^d torrent poured 
Down the steep Alps." 

Possibly too in the silence of his convent he had learned 
to estimate at their true value the papal claims to 
wealth and wide dominion, and with prophetic soul 
foresaw that the armed interference of the Franks in 
the quarrels of pope and Lombard king would in the 
end bring good neither to the Church nor to his father's 

But whatever Carloman's motives might be, his inter- 
position on behalf of Aistulf was firmly, perhaps un- 
graciously, repelled. He was not allowed to return to 
Italy, but was confined in a monastery in France, " where 
after certain days," says the biographer, "at the call of 
God he migrated from the light of day." He died on 
the 17th of August 755. There is no suggestion of foul 
play, and indeed Pippin's character, as far as we know 
it, is too noble to warrant any such inference. It 
seems probable that Carloman died broken-hearted by 
the sense of failure in his life and the discovery that 
conflict and doubt were not ended by his retirement 
into the cloister. 

After this episode of the intervention of Carloman, 
his sons were shorn and ^ent to a convent. Grifo also, 


as we have seen, perished a little before this time. 
There now remained only Pippin and his sons visibly 
before the world as representatives of the great Arnul- 
fing House. 

At last all negotiations were ended, and in the late 
summer Pippin with his whole army marched against 
Aistulf. He had reached S. Jean de Maurienne : the 
pass of Mont Cenis rose before him, by which he must 
make his way into Italy. He was still, however, on 
Prankish ground, for, as the result of the wars between 
Lombards and Franks two centuries previously, both 
Mont Cenis and (as has been already said) the Great 
St. Bernard with their adjacent towns of Susa and Aosta 
formed part of the Prankish kingdom. The Lombard 
king had come as far as Susa and had there accumulated 
great store of warlike machines, "for the nefarious 
defence of his kingdom against the republic and the 
Roman Apostolic see." He had, however, neglected the 
obvious precaution of sending soldiers forward to secure 
the heights and harass the Prankish army in their 
passage over the mountain. Thus it came to pass that 
a small but brave body of men, the advance-guard of 
Pippin's army, emerged unhindered into the valley of 
Susa. Thinking to win an easy victory Aistulf launched 
the Lombard host upon them. But the Pranks, strong in 
their pious faith in God and St. Peter, and fighting also 
in a narrow valley, where the superior numbers of the 
enemy gave them no advantage, bravely repelled the 
Lombard onset. After Aistulf had seen many of his 
dukes and counts fall around him he turned to flee, and 
halted not till with few followers he had reached his 
capital of Pavia. Now was the path clear before the 


Frankish king, who without difficulty crossed the 
mountains, sacked the rich Lombard camp, laid waste 
the valley of the Po with fire and sword, and appeared 
with all his host under the walls of Pavia. After some 
days Aistulf sounded the trumpet for parley, and sought 
terms of peace. This was granted to him on condition 
of his paying 30,000 solidi (£18,000) to Pippin and 
promising to restore to the papacy all the estates which 
he had torn from the papal patrimony and to live 
henceforth at peace with the successor of St. Peter, who 
had by this time returned to Rome. Possibly there was 
also included in the terms of this peace the far more 
important condition that he should surrender to the pope 
the Pentapolis and the cities of Ceccano and Narni in 
the neighbourhood of Rome, as well as pay a yearly 
tribute of 5000 solidi (£3000) to the Frankish king. 

Though hostages had been given and solemn oaths 
sworn for the performance of these conditions, the 
Lombard king did not keep, perhaps had never intended 
to keep them. Narni indeed was handed over to the 
pope, but apparently none of the other cities or lands 
which Aistulf had promised to restore; and on New 
Year's day 756 he appeared with a large army before 
the gates of Rome. The men of Tuscany blockaded 
the gate of St. Peter's ; the Beneventans, the gates of St. 
Paul and St. John Lateran ; while Aistulf himself, like 
another Alaric, appeared before the Salarian gate and 
called upon the citizens as , they valued their lives, to 
open the gate and hand over the pontiff to his tender 
mercies. For nearly two months had the siege lasted 
when Stephen IL contrived, through the agency of the 
abbot Warnehar, to make audible to Pippin his piteous 


cries for help. In the last and most urgent of these 
letters the pope associates St. Peter with himself, repre- 
sents the Apostle as praying Pippin to hasten his aid, 
"lest you should allow this city of Rome to perish, 
in which the Lord has appointed that my body should 
rest, and which He has commended to my protection 
and made the foundation of the faith." This letter 
is certainly a very daring rhetorical artifice, but it is 
probable that it was understood to be that and nothing 
more, both by the sender and the receiver. 

This time the Prankish king required but little per- 
suasion. The flagrant breach of the treaty made with him- 
self, as well as with the pope, was an insult which called 
for vengeance. In the spring of 756 he put his army in 
motion, and after a rapid march by way of Chalons and 
Geneva he was once more under the snows of Mont 
Cenis. The Lombard soldiers again failed to prevent 
his passage over the crest of the pass, and when he had 
descended into the higher valleys where they were 
stationed, the Franks, who had evidently among them 
many trained mountaineers (no doubt from the regions 
now known as Dauphine, Savoy, and Switzerland) turned 
the position of the Lombards by mountain tracks which 
they had left unguarded, and descending upon them 
with that furia Francese of which in a later day 
Italy was to have so many and such fatal examples, 
slew a multitude of the enemy and put the rest to flight. 
Again was all the upper valley of the Po devastated by 
the Prankish troops, and again did Pippin pitch his 
tents on either side of the Ticino under the walls of 
Pavia. At the sight thereof, Aistulf, abandoning all 
hope of successful resistance, obtained the mediation of 



the nobles and bishops in the invading army, and, 
imploring pardon for his broken promises, submitted to 
the conditions, hard as they were, imposed by the con- 
queror. These were, the surrender to Pippin of one 
third of the royal hoard stored up through many 
generations at Pavia, the bestowal of large presents on 
the nobles of the Prankish court, the payment of long 
arrears of tribute, and, now at length in very deed, the 
cession of the cities of the exarchate and the Pentapolis. 
But to whom were these cities, wrested as they had 
been by the Lombards from the representative of the 
Eastern Emperor, to be ceded 'J- That was a question 
which, though it had probably been discussed and decided 
by the Pope and the King of the Franks, had not received 
a definite answer in the face of Europe till this summer of 
756. It happened that at the very time when Pippin was 
opening his campaign, there arrived in Eome, George 
and John, Chief Secretary and Captain of the Guard, 
from the Emperor Constantine V. on a mission to the 
Prankish king. Journeying by sea to Marseilles, and 
then crossing the Alps, the Secretary found Pippin 
under the walls of Pavia, and entreated him with much 
earnestness and with the promise of many gifts from 
the emperor, to hand over the city of Ravenna and the 
other cities of the exarchate to the imperial rule. 
"But not thus," says the papal biographer, "did he 
avail to bend the strong will of that most Christian and 
most benign man, so loyal to God and such a lover of 
St. Peter, King Pippin, to hand over those cities to the 
imperial dominion; for that devout and most mild- 
mannered king declared that never should those cities 
be alienated from the power of St. Peter, and the rights 


of the Eoman Church and the pontiff of the Apostolic 
see : affirming with an oath that not to win the favour 
of any mortal man had he twice addressed himself to 
the fight, but solely for love of St. Peter and for the 
pardon of his sins: and vowing too that no amount 
of money should induce him to take away what he had 
once given to St. Peter. With this answer he gave the 
imperial messenger leave to return to his country by 
another way, and he having failed in his commission 
returned to Eome." 

This is apparently the critical point from which we 
must date the pope's independence of the Eastern, or as 
we ought still to call him, the Roman Emperor. Up to 
this time, whatever divergencies there may have been in 
doctrine or in policy, the Bishop of Rome has always 
been in theory the subject of the Emperor of Rome. 
Now he distinctly asserts, by the mouth of his powerful 
friend from over the Alps, that certain broad domains 
which have been conquered from the empire, shall be 
handed over not to the emperor but to himself. He 
shakes himself loose from his old subjection and becomes 
by the same act a sovereign prince, not only — and this 
is an important point — in the newly-acquired territory 
of the exarchate, but also in his old home of the Ducatus 

The cities now handed over to the see of Rome were 
twenty-two in number, and stretched along the Adriatic 
coast from the mouths of the Po to within a few miles 
of Ancona and inland as far as the Apennines. The 
plenipotentiary of the Prankish king, Fulrad, Abbot of 
St. Denis, travelled through the Pentapolis, and the 
exarchate, together with Aistulf's commissioner, entered 


each city, received its keys and was introduced to the 
chief magistrates, who journeyed onward in his train. 
All these arrived at Eome," The local magistrates were 
doubtless presented to their new sovereign. The keys 
of Ravenna and all the other cities were laid on St. 
Peter's tomb along with the donation by which King 
Pippin granted them for ever to St. Peter and the pope. 
This done Abbot Fulrad returned to Paris having ac- 
complished his world -historical mission. Stephen II., 
94th Bishop of Rome, was now in fact not only pope but 
king, and a beginning was made of those " States of the 
Church" which with one brief interval have down to 
our own day intersected the map of Italy. 

I have dwelt at considerable length on Pippin's 
relations with the papacy, because they are inseparably 
connected with the most important event in the history 
of his son. His other achievements, though remarkable, 
and though they were evidently much nearer to his 
heart (for his intervention in Italian affairs was done 
grudgingly and almost against his will), must be dis- 
missed in a few words. 

In the first place, in the year 759 a Prankish army 
besieged Narbonne. A solemn oath was sworn to the 
Goths, that if they would surrender the city to Pippin 
they should be allowed to keep their own separate laws, 
and on this the Goths rose, slew the Saracens who 
held the city for the Caliph of Cordova, and handed it 
over to the Prankish generals. With this capture ended 
the Moslem domination in Southern Gaul, though it was 
not the last time that the turbans of the Moors were to 
be seen north of the Pyrenees. 

The conditions upon which the Christian inhabitants 


of Narbonne consented to help the Frankish host against 
the Saracens, show how strong was still the spirit of 
separate Gothic nationality in that part of Gaul. Some- 
thing of the same spirit, blended with other elements, 
tended to make all that great region south and west of 
the Loire, which went by the name of Aquitaine, seek 
for independence from the Franks whom she still looked 
upon as strangers and foreigners. We have seen how 
this spirit of independence was working when Eudo was 
Duke of Aquitaine and Charles Martel major domus of 
Francia, and how it was only the pressure of a terrible 
danger which caused Eudo to seek the help of Charles 
before the battle of Poitiers. Eudo was succeeded (735) 
by his son Hunold, who seven years after, on the death 
of Charles Martel, strove to throw off the Frankish 
yoke, but soon found that what the father had won his 
two sons were well able to maintain. In 744 Hunold, 
by false oaths, enticed into his power his brother Hatto, 
who apparently aspired to share his dominion, put out 
his eyes and thrust him into prison. Then, apparently 
in penitence for this crime, he, like Carloman, retired 
into a monastery and was succeeded in his duchy by his 
son Waifar. 

This Waifar, Duke of Aquitaine, is a man of whom 
we would gladly know more, but of whose deeds no 
song or saga has preserved the memory. Only a few 
dry sentences in chronicles, written by the flatterers of 
his foe, tell us that for nine years (760-768) King Pippin 
carried on with him a war which, beginning with com- 
plaints about the withholding of the revenues of some 
Frankish churches, was more and more embittered as 
time went on, and in the end became nothing less than 


a struggle for the absolute subjugation of Aquitaine and 
the destruction of the dynasty of Eudo. In 768 the 
Frankish king took the mother, sister, and nieces of 
Waifar prisoners in the town of Saintes. Still the chief 
fugitive escaped him. In the forests of Perigord, among 
the mountain-caves of the Dordogne where, ages before, 
neolithic man had graven the likeness of the reindeer 
and the bear, the grandson of Eudo made his ever- 
changing hiding-places. At length the warriors of 
Pippin dividing themselves into four bands ran him to 
earth somewhere in Saintonge. He was at once put to 
death, and the dream of an independent Aquitaine 

While Pippin was labouring over the work, so 
necessary from his point of view, of the subjugation of 
Aquitaine, Bavaria, which held a somewhat similar 
position of semi-independence on the south-east of the 
kingdom, was escaping from his grasp. The work of 
the reconquest of this great duchy had to be left to his 
sons, and I must postpone to a future chapter the story 
of the changing fortunes of Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria. 

It was while tarrying at Saintes and celebrating his 
triumph over Waifar that Pippin was attacked by his 
last and fatal sickness. In vain did he visit the shrines 
of St. Martin at Tours and St. Denis at Paris. The 
hand of death was upon him, and having convoked all 
the nobles, dukes, and counts of the Franks, and all the 
bishops and chief ecclesiastics of the kingdom to an 
assembly at Paris, he there solemnly, " with the consent 
of his chiefs," divided his dominions between his two 
sons, Charles and Carloman. He then after a few days 
died (24th September 768) and was buried at St. Denis 


82 CHARLES THE GREAT chap, iv 

with great pomp. He had governed the people of the 
Franks either as major domus or as king for twenty-six 
years, and he had probably reached about the 54th year 
of his age. The princes of the Arnulfing line, though 
not like the debauched and short-lived Merovings, 
seldom saw the end of their sixth decade of life. 

What Pippin did for the foundation of the monarchy 
which was to be the basis of the new settlement of 
Europe, was in its way quite as important and even more 
enduring than that which was done by his more 
illustrious son, upon whose reign we now enter. 




The situation of affairs after the death of Pippin seems 
at first sight almost the exact counterpart of that which 
existed at the death of Charles Martel. We have again 
two brothers ruling, one of them a Carloman, and the 
Frankish dominions are divided between them. There 
are however some important differences. In the first 
place the two young princes are now not mere majores 
domus but acknowledged kings. Moreover, the division 
of the Frankish territories between the brothers pro- 
ceeds on a different principle from that adopted in 741. 
The dividing line then ran north and south : now it is 
more nearly east and west. Thus Charles, the elder 
son, again has Austrasia and the North German lands 
dependent upon it, but probably also the larger part of 
Neustria ; while Burgundy, Provence, and Alamannia 
(Swabia) fall to the lot of Carloman. Aquitaine, which 
Pippin looked upon as his own conquest, was probably 
included in Charles's portion. But the general tendency 
of this division, even more perhaps than of the division 
of 741, must have been to give the lands where the 
memories of Roman civilisation were strong and where 


the Latin tongue was used, to the younger brother, and 
all the specially Teutonic, Frankish lands, the cradle of 
the Arnulfing race, to the elder. 

Another, and what might have been a more impor- 
tant difference between the two partitions lay in the 
relation between the brothers. So long as the partner- 
ship lasted between the elder Carloman and Pippin they 
appear to have lived in mutual loyalty and love : but the 
relation between Charles and the younger Carloman was 
one of scarcely veiled enmity. Their mother, the good 
and clever queen Bertrada did her best to keep the peace 
between them, but some of Carloman's friends fanned 
the flame of discord. Dislike might have broken out 
into actual civil war but for the opportune death of 
Carloman, which occurred on the 4th of December 771, 
after a little more than three years of joint sovereignty. 
This Carloman is a much less strongly marked figure 
than his uncle and namesake, and in fact, the quarrel 
with his far more famous brother, and his marriage to a 
noble Frankish maiden named Gerberga, are almost the 
only events in his life that history records. 

On hearing the tidings of his brother's death, Charles 
at once proceeded to the villa of Corbonacus near Sois- 
sons which had probably been Carloman's chief residence, 
and there, with the consent of Archbishop Wiltchar, of 
Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis and royal chaplain, and of 
some of the nobles of Carloman's court, he was solemnly 
proclaimed King of all the Franks. The claims of the 
two infant sons of Carloman were thus set aside, it 
would seem, rather by the influence of the great ecclesi- 
astics of the realm than with the hearty consent of the 
nobles, some of whom shared the exile of the widowed 


Gerberga, who with her children crossed the A.lps and 
sought shelter at the Court of the King of the Lombards. 
We may probably discern in this action of Wiltchar and 
Fulrad somewhat of the same statesman -like spirit 
which caused the great Anglo-Saxon churchmen to work 
for the consolidation of the Heptarchy into one kingdom. 
None knew better than they the evils which a long 
minority and protracted dissensions between north and 
south would bring upon the kingdom, and for the safety 
of the state they were perhaps justified in encouraging 
Charles to seize the auspicious moment for reuniting the 
divided realm. 

When Charles thus became sole ruler of the Frankish 
state he was probably a little under thirty years of 
age. He was a man of commanding presence, more 
than six feet high, with large and lustrous eyes, a 
rather long nose, a bright and cheerful countenance and 
a fine head of hair, which we may suppose to have been 
now yellow like that of his Teutonic forefathers, though 
when his biographer Einhard knew him best it had the 
beautiful whiteness of age. 

Already in the three years of the joint kingship he had 
had some experience of war. Though his father seemed 
to have thoroughly subdued Aquitaine, the embers of 
disaff'ection were still smouldering there, and on the 
appearance of a certain Hunold, probably of the family 
of the well -remembered Eudo, they broke out into a 
flame (769). Charles, having vainly called on his 
brother Carloman for aid, marched to Angouleme, 
where he concentrated his forces. On his appearance 
the insurrection collapsed and Hunold had a narrow 
escape of capture. By his superior knowledge of the 


country he succeeded in baffling his pursuers and made 
his way into Gascony. Lupus, duke of that region, was 
minded to give him shelter, but on receiving a message 
from Charles that if the fugitive were not surrendered 
he would march his army into Gascony and not depart 
thence till he had thoroughly subdued it to his obedience, 
the Gascon duke lost heart and surrendered Hunold and 
his wife to their conqueror. We hear nothing more of 
their fate. Gascony, unlike Aquitaine, kept its duke, 
and though it must have vaguely recognised the over- 
lordship of Charles, it was probably the least thoroughly 
subdued and assimilated of all the regions of that which 
we now call France. 

But meanwhile the whole current of events — 
marriages, deaths, worldly ambition and ghostly counsel 
— was sweeping Charles onward to the great exploit of 
his reign, the conquest of Italy. When we last glanced 
at Italian affairs we saw Abbot Fulrad, together with the 
commissioner of the Lombard king Aistulf, gathering 
up the keys of the cities of the exarchate and bringing 
them to lay at the feet of Pope Stephen II. That im- 
portant event, the beginning of the temporal dominion of 
the pope, occurred in 756, twelve years before the 
accession of Charles. In the interval many changes had 
occurred, and several new actors had appeared upon the 

In the first place, only a month or two after he had 
performed the long-delayed surrender of the exarchate, 
Aistulf died. His death was due to an accident in the 
hunting-field, but as he had been so often at war with 
the Church, of course the papal biographer sees in it "a 
blow from the Divine hand." Desiderius, Duke of 


Tuscany, now aimed at the Lombard crown : but 
Ratchis, the long since dethroned king, emerged from 
his convent and succeeded in reigning once more for 
three months. as King of the Lombards. Desiderius, 
however, sought the intervention of the pope — probably 
the return of the monk Ratchis to secular life was dis- 
approved of on religious grounds — and by the promise 
of adding yet more cities to the new papal dominions 
succeeded in procuring his powerful interference on his 
behalf. Abbot Fulrad, too, that able chargd d'affaires of 
the Frankish king, exerted himself on the same side, 
probably threatening his master's intervention. The 
result of the negotiations was that the matter was settled, 
apparently without bloodshed. Ratchis stepped back 
into his convent, Desiderius surrendered the cities for 
which the pope had bargained, and became King — as it 
proved the last native king — of the Lombards (March 
757). Li the following month Pope Stephen IL died, 
and was succeeded by his brother Paul I. The ten 
years of this prelate's pontificate seem to have been a 
time of comparative peace between pope and Lombard 
king. Then came a stormy interregnum, the invasion 
of the papal see by an intrusive Tuscan nobleman, his 
expulsion after thirteen months, and the elevation to 
the papal chair of the Sicilian, Stephen III. We need 
not here enter into the history of these obscure revolu- 
tions in which two parties, a Lombard and a Frankish, 
are dimly seen struggling for the mastery. We note 
only that Stephen ^ III.'s elevation (7th August 768) 
happened but a few months before the death of Pippin. 
About two years after, we find him addressing an extra- 
ordinary letter full of passionate animosity against the 


Lombards, to the two young Frankish kings. He has 
heard that Desiderius King of the Lombards is seeking 
to persuade one or other of the royal brothers to dis- 
miss his lawfully wedded wife and marry a Lombard 
princess, his daughter. Perish the thought ! To say 
nothing of the impiety of putting away a wedded wife to 
marry another woman, what folly, what madness it would 
be in the kings of so noble and illustrious a nation as 
the Franks to pollute themselves by marrying a woman 
of the stinking Lombard race, which is not counted in 
the number of the nations, and from which it is certain 
that the brood of lepers has sprung ! " Remember and 
consider that ye have been anointed with holy oil with 
celestial benediction by the hands of the vicar of St. 
Peter, and take care that you do not become entangled 
in such crimes. Eemember, too, that you have promised 
the blessed Peter, his vicar [Pope Stephen IL] and his 
successors that you would be friends to his friends and 
enemies to his enemies, as we have promised to you the 
like and do firmly continue therein. How, then, can you 
escape the guilt of perjury if you ally yourselves with that 
perjured nation of the Lombards, who, for ever attacking 
the Church of God and invading this our province of the 
Romans, are proved to be our deadliest foes ? " 

This passionate, almost insolent letter of dissuasion 
was of no avail. Carloman indeed kept his wedded 
wife Gerberga, but Charles, some time in the year 770, 
put away his wife, a noble Frankish lady, named Himil- 
truda, and married the daughter of Desiderius, whom 
his mother Bertrada, a friend of the Lombard alliance, 
had brought back with her from Italy after a pilgrimage 
to the tombs of the Apostles. 


The tie of kinship between Frank and Lombard, 
thus formed, was soon and rudely broken. After a 
year of wedlock the daughter of Desiderius was back 
again in her father's court a divorced and rejected wife 
(771). What were the motives of her husband for such 
insulting treatment of his young queen none of his 
contemporaries have told us. The monk of St. Gall, 
writing a century after the event, tells us that the lady 
was a delicate invalid, unlikely ever to become a mother, 
and that for this reason Charles, acting by the advice of 
his most saintly bishops, put her away as if she were 
dead. It is a plausible conjecture that the king, remem- 
bering the passionate endeavour of the pope to dissuade 
him from this marriage, may have recognised a Divine 
judgment in its threatened sterility, and may for that 
reason have decided on ending it. 

This harsh termination of an alliance on which Queen 
Bertrada had set her heart, and which she had been the 
chief agent in bringing to p'kss, caused, for the time, an 
estrangement between mother and son, the only one, we 
are told, that ever took place between them. 

The repudiation of the Lombard princess of course 
did not improve the relations between Desiderius and 
Charles. Still more strained did those relations become 
when, on the death of Carloman, a few months later, 
his widow, with her infant children and some trusty 
adherents crossed the Alps and placed herself under the 
protection of the Lombard king. Charles, we are told, 
considered this proceeding on the part of his sister- 
in-law to be "superfluous," but nevertheless bore it 
patiently. The year 772 was fully occupied with the 
first of those great campaigns against the Saxons which 


will form the subject of a later chapter; and Charles 
had no time or energy to spare for the complicated 
affairs of Italy. 

But during that year (772) these Italian complications 
were rapidly increasing. At the end of January came 
the death of Pope Stephen III, the Sicilian, a weak and 
ineffectual man, who during all his short pontificate had 
been pulled this way and that by the two factions, 
the Lombard and the Frankish, which divided the 
nobility of Kome. When his insolent letter to Charles 
failed to divert him from the Lombard alliance, he had 
thrown himself into the arms of Desiderius, and allowed 
the Lombard faction, headed by a certain Paulus Afiarta, 
to work their lawless will in Rome, banishing, blinding, im- 
prisoning, putting to death the chiefs of the opposite party. 

Now, however, on the death of the Sicilian, a very 
different man was raised to the vacant papal chair. This 
was Hadrian I., a man of Roman birth, of spotless if 
somewhat ambitious character, capable of forming and 
executing large and statesmanlike plans, a man not 
altogether unworthy in point of intellect to be com- 
pared to the great Emperor whose name he bore. His 
pontificate, one of the longest in the papal annals, lasted 
very nearly twenty -four years (772-795), so that he 
narrowly missed " seeing the years of St. Peter," and 
during this long space of time, common hopes, common 
dangers, common enterprises drew him and Charles 
sometimes very close together, and though there were 
also some sharp disputes between them, the king, we 
are told, " regarded the pope as his chief friend, and 
when he received the tidings of his death wept for him 
as for a much loved son or brother." 


As soon as Hadrian assumed the pontifical robe it 
was manifest to all men that the unnatural friendship 
between pope and Lombard king had come to an end. 
The prison doors were opened for the anti-Lombard 
partisans, the civil and military officers who had been 
driven into exile were recalled. Paulus Afiarta himself 
was tried and put to death by the Archbishop of 
Ravenna. Hadrian indeed seems to have exerted him- 
self that the sentence might be commuted to banishment, 
but there is no doubt that he thoroughly approved of 
criminal proceedings of some kind being taken against 
the great unscrupulous Lombard partizan. 

The action of Desiderius at this eventful crisis of his 
nation's history is not easy to understand : it is only 
possible here to describe its general course without 
entering into details. He seems to have recognised that 
he had an enemy in the new pope and one of a more 
determined kind than either Paul I. or Stephen IIL, 
whose demands for a further cession of territory he had 
been for the last fifteen years successfully evading. 
Apparently, however, he cherished the hope that by a 
judicious mixture of threats and entreaties he might 
draw the pope over to his side and induce him to anoint 
the infant sons of Carloman as Kings of the Franks. 
For to this desperate act of defiance to Charles was he now 
impelled both by the memory of his daughter's wrongs 
and by the conviction that, sooner or later, war must 
again break out between the Frank and the Lombard. 
In this frame of mind he despatched alternately embassies 
to sue for the pope's friendship and armies to invade 
his territory. The rapid changes of his attitude prob- 
ably irritated the pontiff then as much as they perplex 


the historian to-day. First Faenza, Ferrara, and Com- 
acchio, the latest acquisitions of the papacy, were 
occupied; then Eavenna was closely pressed; Urbino 
and the greater part of the Pentapolis were invaded ; 
Blera and Otriculum, not a day's journey from Eome, 
were entered by the Lombard troops, who in the former 
city are said to have perpetrated a cruel massacre of 
the unresisting inhabitants. But all these violent 
measures failed to shake the resolution of Hadrian or 
induce him to consent to an interview with Desiderius. 
His uniform answer to the Lombard ambassadors was, 
" First let your master restore the possessions of which 
he has unjustly despoiled St. Peter ; and then, but not 
till then, will I grant him an interview." 

At last, when the Lombard king was evidently pre- 
paring to tighten his grip on Eome itself, Pope Hadrian 
sent a messenger named Peter to beg for the help of the 
great King of the Franks. At the same time he did 
what he could to put the city in a state of defence, 
gathering in soldiers from Tuscany, Campania, and the 
Pentapolis, removing the most precious adornments of 
the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul to safer custody 
within the walls of the city, and barring up all the doors 
of St. Peter's so that the Lombard king, without some 
violent act of sacrilege, should not be able to enter. 

At last, in February or March 773, Peter the papal 
messenger (having travelled by sea to Marseilles, as all 
the land routes were beset by Lombard soldiers) arrived 
at Theodo's villa where Charles was holding his court. 
This is the place which the Neustrian citizens of the 
French Eepublic still call Thionville, while the Austrasian 
subjects of Kaiser Wilhelm, who have wrested it from 


the Neustrians, speak of it as Diedenhofen. It is now 
a strong border fortress on the Moselle, sixteen miles 
north of Metz. Hither, then, came the papal messenger 
to utter his master's piteous cry for help. Probably 
the ambassadors of Desiderius appeared there also to 
deny the charges brought against him, or to declare that 
whatever he had forcibly taken from the papal see he 
had already surrendered. Charles resolved on war if 
war was needful, but, even as his father Pippin had 
done, he tried diplomacy first. Three messengers, a 
bishop, an abbot, and a courtier, were sent to Italy to 
enquire into the rights of the quarrel, and on their 
return and report that the cities violently taken from 
St. Peter were not restored, Charles, still treading in his 
father's footsteps, sent one more embassy to Desiderius, 
offering the Lombard 14,000 golden solidi (£8000) if 
he would restore the conquered cities, and fully satisfy 
all the Papal demands. The offer was refused, and 
Charles having summoned the Prankish host to his 
standard, set forward for Italy. . 

According to a plan which he frequently adopted, 
and one reason for which was probably the desire to 
lessen the difficulties of commissariat, Charles, after 
mustering his troops at Geneva, divided his host into 
two parts — one of which under his uncle Bernard was 
to cross by the Great St. Bernard and to descend upon 
Aosta, while the other which he himself commanded, 
crossing the Mont Cenis, was to take the road to Susa. 
Both divisions, as in his father's time, traversed the 
highest points of their respective passes without hind- 
rance, but when Charles descended into the long and 
narrow valley of the Dora Susa, he found his further 


progress barred by the fortifications and the army of 
Desiderius. He renewed his ofifers of a money payment 
in return for the papal cities, he even expressed his 
willingness to be satisfied with a mere promise to 
surrender those cities, if three Lombard nobles were 
handed over to him as hostages ; but all was in vain. 
Strong in the impregnability of his fortifications 
Desiderius refused every offer of accommodation, until 
a sudden panic seized his host, the fortresses were 
abandoned, and again, as in Pippin's time, all the 
Lombard army retreated down the valley and shut 
itself up behind the walls of Pavia. 

So sudden and scarce hoped for a termination to 
what looked like an evenly balanced game was naturally 
attributed by the papal biographer to a divinely inspired 
terror; but a Prankish chronicler tells us of a picked 
squadron of troops which Charles had sent over an un- 
guarded pass, and later local tradition spoke of a certain 
Lombard minstrel who for a brilliant reward guided the 
Prankish troops by untrodden ways to the rear of his 
countrymen's position. We know from other evidence 
that there were Lombards who were disaffected to 
Desiderius, and had opened negotiations with the 
Prankish king ; but the story of treachery in this case 
is not well vouched for. It is possible that Bernard's 
successful transit over the pass which preserves the 
memory of his namesake saint, may have turned the 
rear of the Lombard position, and compelled Desiderius 
to seek safety in flight. 

The siege of Pavia, which was now formed by Charles, 
began probably about the end of September 773, and 
lasted for ten months. The other great focus of 


Lombard resistance was the city of Verona, where 
Adelchis, son of Desiderius, commanded the garrison, 
and where those important guests Gerberga, widow of 
Carloman, her children and her trusty counsellor Autchar 
had taken refuge. Thither, Charles proceeded at an 
early period of the siege of Pa via. The resistance seems 
to have been slight, perhaps the garrison half-hearted. 
Very soon after Charles's arrival, Gerberga and her 
train came forth from the city and surrendered themselves 
to his will. The city itself was probably surrendered at 
the same time; and the young prince Adelchis made 
his escape to Constantinople. After this point the 
widow and children of Carloman vanish from the scene. 
We should certainly have been informed if any of them 
had been put to death, and we may therefore safely 
assume that Charles was merciful. There are faint and 
doubtful traces of one of the sons as holding the bishopric 
of Mce. 

Charles appears to have spent his Christmas under 
canvas before the walls of Pavia, or else in one of the 
numerous expeditions by which he brought the cities on 
the left bank of the Po into his obedience. But as the 
siege still dragged on, though there could be little doubt 
of its final event, when Easter approached, Charles, with 
a brilliant train of dukes and counts, of bishops and 
abbots, journeyed through Tuscany to Eome. Never 
had his father. King Pippin, though he had twice crossed 
the Alps, visited the Eternal City, and this was Charles's 
first visit to that Eome with which his name was to be 
inseparably linked in after ages. He went by forced 
marches, hastening to be in Eome on the eve of Easter 
Sunday. At thirty miles from the city. Pope Hadrian 


ordered that he should be met by the nobles of the 
Ducatus Romae^ displaying the banner of St. Peter. At 
one mile from the city the various squadrons of the 
Eoman militia with their officers and the boys out of 
the schools met him, all bearing palm-branches and 
olive-branches and crosses, and singing loud his praises, 
for Hadrian had ordered that in all things the reception 
of the King of the Franks should do him as great honour 
as ever had been done of old to the patrician and 
exarch arriving from Ravenna. ' When Charles saw the 
crosses and the banners he dismounted from his horse, 
and went on foot with all his nobles to the church 
of St. Peter. There on the top of the steps stood Pope 
Hadrian, with all the clergy and people of Rome who 
had risen at dawn to be ready to welcome the victorious 
king. As he ascended each step, Charles knelt down 
and kissed the venerable stones ; and so he reached the 
summit where, in the long atrium outside the doors of 
the church the pope stood waiting to receive him. 
King and pontiff were clasped in mutual embrace (we 
hear nothing of the humble prostrations performed by 
later emperors before later popes), and then holding 
Hadrian's right hand Charles entered the great basilica, 
while all the clergy and all the monks shouted with 
loud voices, " Blessed is he that cometh in the name of 
the Lord." Then the king and all the Prankish nobles 
and churchmen in his train knelt at the tomb of St. 
Peter, thanking God for the great victories already 
wrought through the intervention of the Prince of the 
Apostles. On the three following days, at Sta. Maria 
Maggiore, at St. Peter's and St. Paul's, the king, after 
humbly imploring the papal permission, offered up his 


prayers to God, and on Easter Sunday there was a 
great banquet at the Lateran. Thus we come to the 
Wednesday on which an important piece of business 
was transacted between the two potentates. So much 
here turns on a few words that it will be well to give 
a literal translation of the passage in the Liber Ponti- 
ficalis (our only authority), which describes this memor- 
able interview. . 

" On the fourth day of the week, the pope, with his 
staff of officers, both civil and ecclesiastical, went forth to 
the church of St. Peter, and there meeting the king in 
conference, earnestly prayed him, and with paternal 
affection exhorted him, to fulfil in its entirety that pro- 
mise which his father, the late King Pippin of blessed 
memory, had made, and which he himself with his 
brother Carloman and all the nobles of France had con- 
firmed to St. Peter and his vicar Pope Stephen II., 
when he visited Frankland, that they would grant 
divers cities and territories in that province of Italy 
to St. Peter and his vicars for a perpetual possession. 
And when he (Charles) had caused that promise which 
was made in Frankland in a place called Carisiacum to 
be read over to him, all its contents were approved by 
himself and his nobles. And of his own accord, with 
good and willing mind, that most excellent and most 
Christian king Charles caused another promise of gift like 
the first to be drawn up by Etherius his chaplain and 
notary, and in this he granted the same cities and terri- 
tories to St. Peter and promised that they should be 
conveyed to the pope with their boundaries set forth as is 
contained in the aforesaid donation, to wit : From Luna 
with the island of Corsica, thence to Surianum, thence 



to Mons Bardonis (that is Vercetum), thence to Parma, 
thence to Ehegium, and from thence to Mantua and 
Mons Silicis, and moreover the whole exarchate of 
Ravenna such as it was of old time, and the provinces of 
Venetia and Istria : moreover the whole duchies of 
Spoletium and Beneventum." 

The papal biographer then goes on to describe the 
signing of this donation by Charles himself with all his 
bishops, abbots, dukes, and counts, its being laid upon 
the altar of St. Peter, and afterwards placed within his 
tomb, and the "terrible oath" which was sworn by all 
the signers, promising to St. Peter and Pope Hadrian that 
they would keep all the promises contained in the 

Let us look at the extent of the territories which 
according to the papal biographer were thus conveyed 
to the Eoman pontiff. The island of Corsica : that is 
clear, though introduced in a curious connection. Then 
the line starts from the coast of Italy, just at the point 
where the Genoese and Tuscan territory join : it crosses 
the Apennines and strikes the Po a little north of 
Parma. From Mantua it works round to the head of 
the Adriatic and includes the peninsula of Istria. The 
exarchate of Ravenna, "as it was of old time," reached 
inland to the Apennines and probably is here to be 
taken as including the Pentapolis. The extent of the 
two great Lombard duchies of Spoleto and Benevento is 
perfectly well known ; they included the whole of Italy 
south of Ancona except the duchy of Rome, a little 
territory round Naples and the district which is now 
called Calabria in the extreme south, the toe of Italy. 

Instead, therefore, of asking what this donation in- 


eluded, it is more to the purpose to enquire what it 
excluded. As the duchy of Eome is apparently treated 
as already an undoubted part of the papal dominions, 
we may say, using modern geographical terms, that if 
this donation had ever been carried into effect the popes 
would have become sovereigns of the whole of Italy 
except the Eiviera, Piedmont, part of Lombardy north 
of the Po, the city of Naples, and Calabria. 

It is almost impossible to believe that Charles, even 
in the fervour caused by his first visit to Eome, his 
meeting with St. Peter's vicar, and his prayers in the 
great Eoman basilicas, can have meant to convey such 
vast territories as these to an ecclesiastic, however 
eminent, whose pretensions to rank as a civil ruler of 
any territory, however small, were only twenty years 
old. It is absolutely impossible to believe that his 
father can (as is here implied) have promised to endow 
the pope with territories such as those of Venetia and 
Istria, which were in no sense Lombard, and were still in 
close connection with the Eastern Empire. The whole 
subsequent course of history shows that Charles, with all 
his lavish generosity to the Holy See, never seriously 
contemplated making its occupant the virtual lord of 

What solution of the enigma is possible ? The idea of 
an absolute fabrication of the document naturally occurs 
to the mind, especially to the mind of a student who is con- 
stantly confronted with charters forged in the interests 
of some church or monastery. This is the view taken 
by many modern enquirers, amongst others by Malfatti 
(the careful author of " Imperatori e Papi "), who inclines 
to assign the fabrication of the document to the ninth 


century, "famous for so many other fictions of that 

On the other hand, Abb^ Duchesne, the learned and 
impartial editor of the Liber Pontificalis, declares that he 
looks upon this passage as the work of an • absolutely 
contemporary author, and that he cannot accept the 
theory of a later fabrication. At the same time he fully 
admits that this vast cession of territory to the pope 
never took practical effect, and he suggests that some- 
where about 781 the pope, finding that there was no 
chance of realising the splendid dream of sovereignty 
over the whole of Italy in which he had indulged at the 
interview of 774, liberated Charles from the promises 
then made, in consideration of some important addition 
to the duchy of Eome over which his rule was undis- 
puted. In point of fact we find at that time the pope 
unable to maintain himself even in the territory of the 
exarchate, which was wrested from him by the ambitious 
Archbishop of Eavenna. Prudence may therefore have 
suggested to him the expediency of concentrating his 
attention on the duchy of Eome, and at least strengthen- 
ing the frontiers of that possession. 

Another theory for which some good arguments may 
be adduced, is that in this promised gift we are still 
dealing not with a grant of sovereignty but with a 
restitution of property ; that for instance when Spoleto 
and Benevento are mentioned, all that Charles under- 
took, or at least meant to undertake, was that any 
" patrimonies " in either of those duchies of which the 
see of St. Peter had been unjustly despoiled by the 
Lombards should be restored to it. 

It is not for the present author to pretend to decide 


a question on which so many able scholars are at issue, 
and to which so many special treatises have been 
devoted ; but the impression produced on his mind is 
that at least the hand of the interpolator, if not that 
of the wholesale fabricator, must have been at work in 
the passage which he has quoted from the Liber Pontificalis. 

Having finished his conferences with the Pope, in 
which he discussed with him many matters ecclesiastical 
as well as civil, Charles returned to his camp under the 
walls of Pavia. It was now the tenth month of the 
siege : disease and probably famine were pressing the 
defenders hard : and Desiderius, who had never been a 
popular sovereign, heard on every side of the defection 
of his countrymen. At length on a certain Tuesday in 
June (774) the city opened her gates to her conqueror. 
The great hoard was handed over, the nobles and chief 
men from all the cities of northern Italy came to 
Charles seated in the royal palace of Pavia, and ac- 
knowledged him as their lord : the dominion of the 
Lombards in Italy was at an end. 

To Desiderius and his family Charles showed himself 
merciful in his triumph. The fallen king was carried 
across the Alps, accompanied by his wife and one daughter 
(whether this was the divorced wife of Charles we know 
not), and was invited to enter the seclusion of a monas- 
tery, in Austrasia, where, if any faith is to be placed in 
the stories that were current a century or two after his 
death, he devoted himself with assiduity to the duties 
of the cloister, and even declared that he would not 
desire to resume his crown, having entered the service 
of the King of Kings. 

Very soon after the capture of Pavia, Charles was 


back again on the Ehine, as the affairs of North 
Germany required his immediate attention. It was 
perhaps in part from the scantiness of his leisure, 
but it was surely in part also from his statesmanlike 
insight into the conditions of the problem before him, 
that he made so little change in the internal constitu- 
tion of his new kingdom. There was no attempt to 
amalgamate the regions north and south of the Alps : 
Italy did not become a part of " Francia," but Charles 
took his place as successor of the long line of kings 
from Alboin to Desiderius who had reigned over 
Lombard Italy. "Eex Francorum et Langobardorum 
atque Patricius Romanorum " : that was now his full title. 
As King of the Franks he ruled the wide regions north 
of the Alps : as King of the Lombards he ruled all of 
Italy that the Lombards had once held : as Patrician of 
the Romans he seems to have been recognised as supreme 
ruler of all the rest of Italy except the little fragments 
on the coast which still held by their allegiance to the 
eastern emperor. 

What, then, during the years of transition between 
774 and 800, were his relations to that eastern emperor ? 
Some answer to this question will be given in a sub- 
sequent chapter. And what were his relations to the 
pope, in those territories in which his or his father's 
donation had taken effects A question almost im- 
possible to answer. Never was there a more striking 
case of that phenomenon of the Middle Ages to which 
M. Guizot has drawn attention, the co-existence of two 
opposing theories of law without any apparent percep- 
tion of their discord in the minds of the men who had 
to carry them into practice. But though both Charles 


and the pope are spoken of as sovereigns in these 
territories it appears probable — we cannot say more — 
that Hadrian, had he been closely questioned on the 
subject, would have^recognised that even in the duchy of 
Eome he was, in a manner difficult to define, subject to 
the over-lordship of the Frankish king. 

As has been said, the conduct of Charles in reference 
to the kingdom of Italy, if that of an ambitious man, 
was on the whole w^ise and statesmanlike. This praise 
can hardly be given to his relations to the papacy, in 
which there was a want of that clear and frank state- 
ment of what was granted and what was withheld, which 
is the only means of avoiding future misunderstandings 
between the giver and the receiver of a benefit. And 
the consequences of this omission weighed heavily on 
Europe for centuries, and often involved two really 
upright and honest men, a Pope and an Emperor, in 
hopeless quarrels. 

If we may recur to the simile of a country parish 
which was used in a foregoing chapter, the old absentee 
squire and the big Nonconformist farmer have both 
vanished from the scene. In their stead we have a new 
squire, young, enthusiastic, and devoted to the Church, 
who, as all the rustics see, is " hand and glove with the 
parson." But he has other large estates in a distant 
county which claim the greater portion of his time ; and, 
partly in his haste to return to them, partly in the 
effusion of his ecclesiastical zeal, he makes or is under- 
stood to make to his clerical friend such promises of 
subscriptions, endowments, rebuildings, and upholdings 
as he finds in after days of calmer calculation would 
practically exhaust his whole rent-roll. 



The year 772, which opened upon a reunited Frankish 
kingdom (Carloman having died at the close of the year 
preceding), and which was a blank as far as Frankish 
operations in Italy were concerned, was memorable as 
witnessing the beginning of that long struggle with 
Saxon independence and Saxon heathenism which was 
to occupy thirty-two central years in the life of Charles 
the Great. 

Whether he entered upon this struggle with a light 
heart it is impossible for us to say. Many a time he 
thought it was ended, but found that he had only 
bent not broken the stubborn spirit of his foes, and 
assuredly it was with no light heart that he found 
himself, when past middle life and entering on his sixth 
decade, still obliged to resume his Sisyphean labour. 

The different tribes which made up the loosely bound 
confederation of the Saxons occupied those territories 
reaching to the Elbe on the east, and nearly to the 
Ehine on the west, which now bear the names of 
Hanover, Brunswick, Oldenburg and Westphalia. This 
block of territory was divided in nearly equal parts 


between the three tribes of the Westphalians, the 
Angarians and the Eastphalians, the first and the last, as 
we should expect from their names, occupying the 
western and eastern and the Angarians (or Engern) 
the central portion. Then, beyond the Elbe, between 
the German Ocean and the Baltic was seated a fourth 
section of the Saxon people who bore the name of 
the Nord - albingians, and whose territory must have 
pretty nearly corresponded with the modern duchy of 

Thus the Saxons had no connection with the present 
kingdom of Saxony, though part of Prussian Saxony was 
probably within their borders. As Professor Freeman 
says in his Historical Geography of Europe (p. 207), "After 
the breaking up of the great Saxon duchy (1191), from 
most of the old Saxon lands the Saxon name may be 
looked on as having altogether passed away. The name 
of Saxony as a geographical expression clave to the 
Eastphalian remnant of the old duchy, and to Thuringia 
and the Slavonic conquests to the East." One might add, 
that by a curious coincidence, Hanover, the home of the 
old continental Saxons, was for 123 years (1714-1837) 
ruled by descendants of Alfred the Great who were kings 
of the Saxons over the sea. 

These Saxon neighbours of the Franks are not to be 
thought of as mere savages. They had probably to 
some extent exchanged the nomad life of the shepherd 
for the more settled habits of the tiller of the ground. The 
old Germanic institution of the Folksthing as described 
by Tacitus, still apparently flourished among them. They 
had already been brought into a sort of loose connection 
with the Frankish kingdom, having at intervals paid a 


yearly tribute of 500 cows to a Merovingian king and 
an Arnulfing mayor of the palace. There does not seem 
any reason to suppose that at the time of the accession 
of Charles they nourished any thought of deadly enmity 
to their Frankish neighbours, or would have dreamed of 
uniting their tribes in a well-organised invasion of the 
prosperous Ehine-lands — in fact, throughout the struggle 
which followed, the inability of the Saxons to combine 
for the mere purpose of defence against impending 
invasion is conspicuous and absurd. But no doubt they 
were lawless and disagreeable neighbours, often in- 
dulging in such raids as for centuries kept the Scottish 
Border in turmoil, and above all the majority of them were 
still heathens. The missionaries who like Boniface had 
crossed the sea from England to convert their German 
kinsfolk had hitherto laboured chiefly among the 
Frisians, but had also made some impression on the 
mass of Saxon heathenism. From the fierce wars which 
Penda, the heathen King of Mercia, waged with Christian 
Northumberland, we can imagine what suspicious rage 
the success of these English missionaries would arouse 
in the minds of the still heathen chiefs of the East and 

But, after all, it is probable that on the religious as 
well as on the political question the attack came from 
the Frankish side. It was not so much because the 
Saxons resented the presence of Christian missionaries 
among them, as because Charles resented the fact of the 
Saxons continuing in heathenism, that the Thirty Years' 
War of the eighth century was resolved on. Through- 
out his kingly and imperial career Charles took the 
religious part of his duties seriously. It was not for 


nothing that he bore the title of Chrisfianissiimis Bex, not 
for nothing that St. Augustine's famous treatise, De 
Civitate Dei, was the favourite companion of his leisure. 
In his interviews with Pope Hadrian at Kome the reform 
of the Church's discipline was apparently the chief 
subject of conversation ; and in the thirty-three Ecclesi- 
astical Councils which were held during his reign he 
zealously co-operated with the churchmen towards the 
same end. To such a ruler it was intolerable that 
tribes which were connected, however loosely, with his 
kingdom should still profess a belief in the absurdities 
of heathenism. They must be persuaded, or, if per- 
suasion failed, they must be forced, to become Christians. 
At an assembly of the Frankish nation held at 
Worms (July? 772) Charles announced his purpose of 
carrying war into the country of the Saxons, and in the 
early summer he marched with a large army, accom- 
panied by a multitude of bishops, abbots, and presbyters, 
into the territory of the Angarii, the central tribe. The 
frontier fortress of Eresburg was taken, and the invaders 
pressed on to the place where, in the midst of a sacred 
grove, stood the celebrated Irminsul, a column fashioned 
to imitate the great world - sustaining ash Yggdrasil, 
which was the chief object of worship of the Saxon 
tribes. The idol was hewn down, the temple over- 
thrown, the hoard of gold and silver ornaments 
deposited there by generations of devout Saxons carried 
off into Frank-land. The work of destruction lasted 
three days. It chanced that there was a great scarcity of 
water in the place where the Irminsul had stood. The 
army was parched with thirst, and perhaps began to be 
stirred by superstitious fears that the drought was a 


punishment for the destruction of the idol. Suddenly, 
at noonday, while all the army was resting, there was a 
rush of water along a dry river bed. All the army had 
enough to drink, and recognised with thanks the Divine 
approval of their destructive labours. Charles after this 
marched to the banks of the Weser, held there with the 
Saxons a great palaver (to borrow a word from modern 
reports of similar conferences), and received their sub- 
mission, for what it was worth, accompanied by the 
surrender of twelve hostages. 

It would be tedious to copy the particulars, meagre 
as they are, given by the chroniclers concerning the 
eighteen campaigns in which Charles slowly and 
remorselessly beat down the resistance of the Saxons. 
It will be sufficient to notice some of the chief moments 
of the struggle. 

In 774 Charles, intent on his operations in Italy, had 
left the Saxon March comparatively unguarded. Seizing 
their opportunity, and apparently heedless of the fate of 
the twelve hostages who were in the hands of Charles, 
the heathen crossed the frontier in great force and 
entered Hesse, which they laid waste with fire and 
sword. The objective of their attack was the abbey 
and church of Fritzlar, which had been founded near 
half a century before by the great Englishman, St. 
Boniface. The saint had prophesied that his church 
should never be destroyed by fire, and the barbarians 
certainly seem to have been prevented — by supernatural 
means, says the legend — from wrapping it in flames, 
but there can be little doubt that they robbed it of all 
its treasures, thus taking speedy revenge for the destruc- 
tion of their own Irminsul. Charles meanwhile returned 


from Ins triumphant campaign in Italy only to hear 
of the insult that had been offered to his crown and his 
creed by a barbarous foe. The season was far advanced, 
but, mustering his troops at Ingelheim (a little south- 
west of Mainz), he sent them in four squadrons into 
Saxon-land. Three of the squadrons found the Saxons 
and fought them; the fourth marched through their 
land unopposed. All returned laden with booty to the 

Charles spent the winter of 774-775 in his palace at 
Quierzy, on the Oise, and there came to the conclusion 
" that he would attack the perfidious and truce-breaking 
nation of the Saxons in war, and would persevere therein 
until they were either conquered and made subject to 
the Christian religion or were altogether swept off the 
face of the earth." It was. easier to form a ruthless 
resolution like this in the privacy of the palace 
than to carry it into actual execution. The campaign 
of 775, though planned on a large scale, does not differ 
greatly from previous campaigns in character. The 
king held a general assembly at Diiren, at which 
apparently the programme of " Christianity or death" 
for the Saxons was submitted and approved. Then, in 
August, Charles marched eastwards, took from the West- 
phalians their strong fortress of Sigiburg, on the Ruhr ; 
retook Eresburg, which had been taken by the Angarii ; 
and then pressed on into the land of the Eastphalians, 
who do not appear to have offered any serious resistance 
to his arms. But both with the Angarii and the East- 
phalians the campaign ended with the usual formalities 
of oaths of fealty and surrender of hostages ; we do not 
yet hear of that wholesale conversion or extirpation 


which Charles had vowed at his setting forth. More- 
over, while he was thus penetrating into the recesses of 
the enemies' country, part of his force, which he had 
left in Westphalia to guard his communications with the 
Rhine, suffered a serious loss from a Saxon surprise. 
Their camp was pitched at Lidbach, near Minden ; it 
was three o'clock in the afternoon ; some of the cavalry- 
had gone forth to forage for their horses ; the rest of 
the army was indulging in a siesta ; a troop of Saxons 
mingled with the returning foragers, feigning themselves 
to be their comrades (of course the warriors of that day 
wore no uniform), and thus obtained admission to the 
camp, where they made great slaughter of the half- 
asleep and unarmed soldiers. It is said that the 
Franks succeeded at last in driving the invaders out of 
the camp, and that Charles, hurrying from the east, slew 
a multitude of the retreating Saxons, but it is probable 
that we have here the story, only slightly veiled, of a 
serious Frankish reverse. Next year (776) Eresburg, 
taken and retaken, was again the prize of war. 
Sigiburg was attacked, but bravely and successfully 
defended. Charles came with impetuous rush to the 
sources of the Lippe, and found there a multitude of 
Saxons, who had flocked thither from all quarters, and 
who, terrified by Charles's successes, declared their 
willingness to embrace Christianity, to become faithful 
subjects of Charles and of the Franks, and to perform 
the symbolical act by which they would give him corporal 
possession of the soil of their country. An innumerable 
multitude of Saxons, with their wives and children, were 
baptized in the Lippe stream that flowed past the 
Frankish camp; hostages, as many as Charles asked 


for, were given ; Eresburg was rebuilt, many other castles 
were reared, detachments of Franks were posted through- 
out the country, and the king returned into Frank-land 
to keep his Christmas at Heristal and his Easter at 
Nimeguen, feeling probably that the programme of 
Quierzy was now realised, and that the heathen and 
truce-breaking Saxons had at last become Christians and 
stable subjects of his realm. 

But the subjugation was only apparent; there was 
one man ready, at least for a time, to play the part of 
Arminius, and to resist foreign domination to the death. 
The next nine years of the long contest (777-785) may 
be best characterised as the years of Widukind's strife 
for freedom. 

In the year 777 King Charles held a public synod 
at Paderborn in the heart of Saxon-land. It was at- 
tended, not only by all the Frankish nobles, but also by 
nearly all the chiefs of the Saxon tribes. "Perfidi- 
ously," says the chronicler, " did they promise to mould 
their manners to the king's mind, and to devote them- 
selves to his service. They received pardon from the 
king on this condition, that if thereafter they violated 
his statutes, they should be deprived of fatherland and 
freedom. At the same place there were baptized a very 
great multitude who, although falsely, had declared that 
they wished to become Christians." 

But at this great assembly there was not seen the 
face of Widukind, a Westphalian chief who had large 
possessions both in Westphalia and also in Mid Saxony, 
and who must have already taken a leading part in the 
resistance to the Frankish arms, since he was, says the 
chronicler, " conscious of having committed many crimes 


and feared to face the king, wherefore he had fled to 
Sigfrid, King of the Danes." 

Next year Charles led his army into Spain on that 
memorable expedition which ended in the disaster of 
Eoncesvalles. Hearing that he was engaged in so remote 
a region, and perhaps also having some tidings of his 
ill -success, the Saxons, headed by Widukind, rose in 
rebellion, crossed the hills which formed their Western 
boundary and poured into the valley of the Ehine. The 
great river itself, not the Frankish armies, barred their 
further progress, but they rushed along the right bank 
from Deutz to Coblentz ravaging and burning. " Build- 
ings sacred and profane were equally laid in ruins. No 
distinction of age or of sex was made by their hostile 
fury, so that it was plainly manifest that not for the 
sake of booty but in order to wreak vengeance they had 
crossed the frontier of the Franks." Incidentally we 
learn that so great was the terror caused by this inroad 
that the monks of Fulda took from the tomb their 
greatest treasure, the body of the holy Boniface, and 
journeyed with it two days into Frankish territory, but 
then hearing that the tide of invasion was turned, went 
back to redeposit their treasure at Fulda. For Charles, 
on learning the tidings of the Saxon invasion, had not 
thought it necessary with his war-wearied army to under- 
take a regular campaign, but had sent a flying squadron 
of Franks, who by forced marches came up with the 
Saxons at the river Eder, attacked them while crossing 
the stream, and inflicted upon them grievous loss. 

In the next few years we hear the oft-repeated story 
of rapid marches right through Saxon-land even to the 
Elbe, no effectual stand made by the Saxons, but raid^ 


and insurrections headed by the restless Widukind: In 
780 Charles begins to busy himself with the ecclesiastical 
organisation of the conquered country. In 782 (appa- 
rently) he holds a placitum at the sources of the Lippe, 
and there promulgates his stern Capitidatio de partibus 
Saxoniae. On any one who violently enters a church and 
robs it, shall be inflicted the punishment of death ; on 
any one who despises the Christian custom of Lent and 
eats flesh therein, death (but his life may be saved if 
the priest shall certify that flesh was necessary for his 
health); on any one who slays bishop or presbyter, 
death; on any one who in pagan fashion believes in 
witchcraft and bums the supposed witch, death ; on any 
one practising cremation instead of burial, death ; on any 
Saxon hiding himself in order to escape baptism and 
remain in paganism, death ; on any one offering sacrifice 
to the demons of the pagans, death ; on any one who 
shall conspire with the pagans against the Christians, or 
seek to continue with them in hostility to the Christian 
faith, death. Yet if, after privily committing any of 
these crimes, the criminal shall flee to a priest, make con- 
fession and do penance, on the priest's testimony the 
capital punishment shall be remitted. At the same time 
a strict tithe-law was passed. " We enact that accord- 
ing to the command of God, aU men, whether nobles, 
freeborn men or liti (serfs), shall give the tenth part of 
their substance and labour to the churches and priests, 
so that as God shall have given to every Christian he 
shall restore a part to God." 

This rigorous Act of Uniformity stirred the deep 
resentment of the Saxons. But perhaps discontent 
might not have burst into a flame but for the return of 



Widukind from his wonted Danish refuge, and for the 
harangues with which he stirred the vain hopes of the 
Saxons and roused them to revolt (782). At the same 
time tidings were brought to Charles of an incursion of 
a Sclavonic tribe, the Sorabi, from beyond the Elbe. The 
Frankish king presumed too far on the apparent pacifica- 
tion of Saxon-land. Like his great imitator. Napoleon, 
he would use the last-conquered people to subdue the 
enemy next beyond them, and he sent an army com- 
posed of Saxons as well as Austrasian Franks to repel 
the Sclavonic incursion. Adalgisus the chamberlain, 
Geilo the count of the stables, and Worad the count of 
the palace, commanded the motley host ; but when they 
entered Saxon-land they found the whole country already 
in a flame, and the Saxons, by the advice of Widukind, 
about to march into Francia. Wisely postponing the 
expedition against the Sorabi, they marched with their 
Frankish troops — the Saxon contingent had doubtless 
deserted — to the place where they heard that the rebel 
host was gathered. In the heart of the enemies' country 
they met Count Theodoric, a relation of the king's, who 
had made a hasty levy of troops in Ehine-land on hear- 
ing of the Saxon revolt. Seeing the over-zeal of the 
three courtiers, Theodoric advised them to make careful 
reconnaissances of the enemy's position, and proposed 
that, if the ground proved favourable, a joint attack 
should be made on the Saxon camp at the hill Suntal, 
near Minden. In pursuance of the suggested plan, they 
crossed the Weser and pitched their camp on the north 
bank of the river. Then, fearing that the renown of the 
joint victory would accrue to the king's cousin Theodoric, 
they determined to attack the Saxons alone. Underrating 


the steadfastness of their foes they dashed headlong and 
in loose order into the camp, more as if they were pur- 
suing a flying foe than charging an enemy drawn up in 
order of battle. This time the Frankish fury failed 
before the stolid Saxon stubbornness. They were sur- 
rounded by the enemy, and terrible slaughter was made in 
their ranks. A few Franks escaped, not to their quarters 
of the morning, but to the camp of Theodoric ; but 
Adalgisus and Geilo, four counts, twenty nobles of high 
rank, and a multitude of followers, who, in the true spirit 
of the old German comitatus, preferred to die rather than 
survive their lords, fell on the field of fight. The battle 
of Mount Suntal was certainly the greatest disaster that 
befell the Frankish arms in the whole course of the 
Thirty Years' War. 

Terrible was the anger of Charles when he heard of 
the Saxon rising, of the murders of priests and monks 
with which it had been accompanied, and lastly of the 
deep humiliation inflicted on his race by the defeat of 
the three generals. He collected a large army and 
entered the land of the Saxons. When thus in earnest 
he seems to have been always able to crush their resist- 
ance. Widukind fled for the fourth or fifth time to 
Denmark, and the land lay prostrate at the feet of 
Charles. He summoned before him all the chiefs of the 
Saxons, and made inquisition concerning the author of 
the revolt. With one voice all named Widukind, the 
absent Widukind. As he could not be arrested, the 
men who had listened to his persuasions must sufi'er. 
Four thousand five hundred men (including probably 
some of the chiefs of the nation) who had shown them- 
selves foremost in the revolt were surrendered to Charles. 


It was expected probably that the ringleaders only out 
of this number would suffer ; but Charles was evidently 
in a Berserk rage. All the 4500 Saxons were beheaded 
in one day at Verden on the banks of the Aller. " Hav- 
ing perpetrated this act of vengeance, the king went into 
winter quarters at the villa of Theodo, and there cele- 
brated the birth of our Lord, and there also the festival 
of Easter, according to his wonted custom." 

The year 783 was to Charles a year of domestic 
sorrow but of military triumph. His wife Hildegard 
(whom he had married immediately after the repudiation 
of the daughter of Desiderius) died on the 30th of April ; 
his loved and honoured mother, Bertrada, on the 12th 
of July; but immediately after his wife's funeral he 
entered Saxon-land with a powerful army, vanquished 
his enemies with great slaughter at Detmold, vanquished 
them again in the neighbourhood of Osnabriick, where 
*' there was slain of the Saxons an infinite multitude, 
great booty was taken, and a large number of captives 
was led away." He then swept with his victorious 
army from the Weser to the Elbe, ravaging wherever he 
went — for it was thus that this great preacher of 
Christianity argued for the faith — and then returning to 
Frank-land married his fourth wife, Fastrada, the 
daughter of the Frankish count Radolf. 

The next year (784) was somewhat less successful, 
owing to widespread inundations, the result of sudden 
and heavy rains, which stopped the victor's progress 
northward; but his young son Charles, who had been 
left with a part of the army in Westphalia while Charles 
himself went southward towards Thuringia, won a great 
cavalry battle on the banks of the Lippe. And this 


year Charles msde a new departure. After a short 
autumnal visit to Frank-land, he returned into Saxon- 
land, spent his Christmas in the neighbourhood of 
Pyrmont, and went into winter quarters at the now 
strongly fortified Eresburg. 

" And when he had decided to winter there," says the 
chronicler, " having sent for wife and children to join 
him, and having left in the said camp a sufficiently 
staunch and strong garrison, he went forth himself with 
a flying squadron to lay waste the townships of the 
Saxons and to plunder their farms, and thus by 
himself and by the generals whom he sent in different 
directions, marching everywhere, and everywhere carrying 
fire and slaughter, he paid back the Saxons in their own 
coin and gave them a sufficiently uneasy winter." After 
holding a general assembly at Paderborn, Charles 
marched unopposed through Saxon-land as far as the 
Elbe. In the district of Bardengau, near the mouth of 
that river, Charles halted, looking across the river to the 
territory of the yet unsubdued Transalbian Saxons who 
dwelt in the land that is now called Holstein. While he 
was here news was brought to him that Widukind and a 
confederate, perhaps a kinsman, named Abbio were 
willing to surrender themselves and forswear further 
resistance if they could be assured of their personal 
safety. A Prankish courtier named Amalwin was sent 
across the Elbe with hostages for the safe-conduct which 
he bore to the two Saxon chiefs. They accompanied him 
on his return, and were brought into the presence of 
Charles, who was by this time back again across the 
Rhine and at his palace of Attigny on the Aisne, near 
the forest of Ardennes. Charles received his fallen foes 


graciously. They were both baptized, Charles himself 
acting as godfather to Widukind and presenting him 
with costly gifts. As far as we can see, both honestly 
accepted the duties which the pledge of fealty to the 
most Christian king involved. Authentic history after 
this point is silent as to the name of Widukind, but 
legends, for which there is very likely some foundation, 
represent him as not only a contented but even an 
ardent votary of his new faith, a founder of churches 
and convents, and an endower of the bishopric of 
Minden. It is probable that he was allowed to retain 
his large possessions in Westphaha, and he has been 
chosen as a favourite peg by German genealogists on 
which to hang the descent of their Serene and Princely 
patrons. The least doubtful of these pedigrees appears 
to be that which makes the great Emperor Otho a de- 
scendant, through his mother Matilda, of the Saxon hero. 

The submission of Widukind ended for the time the 
resistance of the Saxons. " That obstinacy of the Saxon 
perfidy rested for some years, chiefly for this reason, 
that they could not find opportunities for revolting 
suitable to the matter in hand," is the quaint remark of 
the chronicler. 

This peace lasted for six or seven years, in one of 
which (789) we are told that the king " arranged all 
matters pertaining to the Saxons, suitably to the time." 
That is to say, no doubt, the yoke of Church and State 
was being fitted to the stubborn Saxon neck. So confi« 
dent was Charles of the subjugation of his foe that he 
employed both Saxons and Frisians in the campaigns in 
which he was now busily engaged on the Middle Danube 
against the kingdom of the Avars. 


The fact, however, that the Frankish power was thus 
engaged in a tough struggle with an enemy in the south, 
at last emboldened the Saxons to make another stand 
for freedom. Again they allied themselves with the 
Frisians, and on the 6th of July 792 the first blow was 
struck. A portion of Charles's army which had, for 
some unexplained purpose, been sent in ships to the 
mouth of the Elbe was set upon by the insurgents of the 
two allied nations and cut to pieces. This evidence of 
unslumbering hostility does not seem to have effectually 
diverted Charles's attention from his Danubian campaign, 
but next year (793) tidings of a similar but more over- 
whelming disaster were brought to him at his quarters 
in Bavaria. Count Theodoric, the king's kinsman and a 
valiant and trusted general (the same who had saved 
the Frankish army from annihilation on the disastrous 
day of Suntal), had been leading an army through the 
district of Eustringen, on the borders of Friesland and 
Saxon-land, and at some little distance to the west of 
the Weser. The reason for his presence in that region is 
not told us, but it was probably the desire to check the 
revolt which had burst forth in the preceding summer. 
What is certain is that he was set upon by the Saxons, 
his army destroyed, and apparently himself slain. Now, 
at any rate, if not already in the previous year, the 
rebellion assumed that character of ruthless vindictive- 
ness, especially against churchmen, which showed how 
sorely the Saxons had been galled by Charles's ecclesi- 
astical ordinances. "As a dog returneth to his vomit," 
says an annalist, " so did they return to the paganism 
which they had aforetime renounced, again deserting 
Christianity, lying not less to God than to their lord the 


king, who had coDferred upon them so many benefits, 
and joining themselves to the pagan nations who dwelt 
round about them. Sending their emissaries to the 
Avars, they endeavoured to rebel first against God, then 
against the king and the Christians. They laid waste 
all the churches which were within their borders with 
burning and destruction ; they rejected the bishops and 
presbyters who were set over them; some they took 
prisoners and others they slew, and, in short, they turned 
themselves right round to the worship of idols." 

When the news of Theodoric's defeat reached the 
king it found him, as before stated, in camp in the 
centre of Bavaria. The war with the Avars was pros- 
pering, but it was still a long way from completion. To 
deal with two enemies in such widely^ separated regions 
as Hanover and Hungary was a hard problem for a 
commander-in-chief in the eighth century. Charles sought 
to solve it by a characteristic stroke of his truly imperial 
genius, and though he failed, even the failure attests the 
grandeur of his conceptions. Near the Bavarian town of 
Weissenburg a little stream called the Schwabische 
Rezat takes its rise, within a few miles of a larger river, 
the Altmiihl. The Rezat flows northward into the 
Main, and so eventually into the Rhine and the German 
Ocean. The Altmiihl, on the other hand, soon reaches 
the Danube, and so sends its waters at last into the 
Black Sea. Charles's idea (suggested to him by some 
professed experts, but eagerly embraced) was to make a 
navigable canal between the Rezat and the Altmiihl, 
and thus transport his troops and their provisions at 
will by river navigation either northward against the 
Saxons or eastward against the Avars. During the 


whole autumn of 793 a vast multitude of men laboured 
at the great enterprise. They dug a fosse two miles 
long and three hundred feet wide, but it was all in vain. 
Nature was too strong for them. The marshy quality 
of the soil, made worse by autumnal rains, thwarted the 
operations of the diggers, and however much they dug 
out by day, by night the heaps had all sunk back into 
the swampy level. There is still, however, a trench 
about five miles south-west of Weissenburg called the 
Fossa Carolina, which remains as a monument of the great 
king's project. "What a change" (as has been truly 
said by Pastor Meier, a Bavarian priest who traced the 
course of the Roman Limes Imperii through these 
regions), "what stir, and what activity would have 
filled all those quiet plains if the grand scheme of 
Kaiser Karl [not yet Kaiser] had been realised, and this 
tiny streamlet, the Rezat, had seen the interchange of 
the products of the east and west." The scheme itself, 
or something like it, was carried into execution by King 
Louis I. of Bavaria, but owing to the introduction of the 
railway system Konig-Ludwigs-Kanal, like so many 
other artificial waterways, has lost much of its importance. 
Foiled in this endeavour King Charles allowed the 
year 793 to pass without an attempt to punish the 
Saxon rebellion. The next six years (794-799) each 
had its Saxon campaign. The general features of the 
war are very similar to those which we have already 
noticed : rapid marches of the Frankish king, devasta- 
tion of the Saxon country, oaths of submission and 
Saxon hostages. It is noteworthy that Charles now 
carries back into Frank-land large numbers of these 
hostages — all apparently young lads — has them educated 


as Christians, generally as ecclesiastics, and when peace 
is restored instals them in the various churches and 
convents wherewith, as the Eoman imperator of old with- 
his colonice, he fastens down the conquered country. It 
is also to be observed that the struggle is now chiefly 
confined to the northern part of Saxon-land, to the 
great gau of Wigmodia, which stretched between Bremen 
and Hamburg, and to the Nordalbingi who, as has been 
said, occupied what is now the duchy of Holstein. 
Further, that Charles, Teuton as he was, did not object 
to avail himself of the help of a Sclavonic people, the 
Abodrites, who were the eastern neighbours of the 
Saxons, and that he bitterly avenged the death of their 
king Witzin on "the perfidious Saxon nation," into 
whose snares he had fallen (795). 

In several of these campaigns the Prankish king was 
effectually seconded by his son Charles, now a young 
man of between twenty and thirty, to whom it was the 
father's custom to entrust a portion of his army that a 
combined attack might be made from different points of 
the compass. The plan of operations seems to have 
been generally well laid, for we never hear of these 
concerted invasions failing to meet at the point agreed 

One of the fiercest campaigns was that of 798 against 
the Nordalbingi, who had grievously enraged Charles by 
the murder of his missi or plenipotentiaries, one of whom 
was clothed with the sacred character of an ambassador 
to the King of Denmark. In his vengeance for this 
murder Charles was powerfully seconded by Thrasco, 
Duke of the Abodrites. 

During the next four eventful years (800-803) Charles 


had abundant occupation south of the Alps. In 804 he 
led his army into Saxon-land, " transferred all the Saxons 
who dwelt beyond the Elbe and in Wigmodia with their 
wives and children into Frank-land, and gave the shires 
beyond the Elbe to the Abodrites." As these Sclavonian 
allies of Charles were heathens, this handing over to 
them of the duchy of Holstein was so far a confession 
of failure in the attempt to win the whole of the Saxon 
territory for Christianity. The number of the Saxons 
on both banks of the Elbe thus transported is given by 
Einhard at 10,000. When the inhabitants of whole dis- 
tricts were thus forcibly removed, much injustice, even 
from the point of view of Frankish " law and order," 
must often have been committed. In the next generation 
complaints reached the ears of Charles's successor from 
the sons of loyal and peaceable dwellers by the Weser 
who had been swept off into exile together with the 
rebel Wigmodians, and had never recovered the property 
of which they were then despoiled. 

The resistance of the Saxons was powerfully aided 
by their Danish neighbour on the north. " Godofrid, 
King of Denmark," says the chronicler, " with his fleet 
and all the cavalry of his kingdom came to a place 
which is called Sliesthorp, on the borders of his kingdom 
and Saxon -land, for a conference with Charles, but 
would not venture further. Charles remained close to 
the river Elbe in a place which is called Holdunsteti, 
from whence he sent an embassy to Godofrid to treat 
about the surrender of deserters." As " the place called 
Sliesthorp " is Schleswig, and " the place called Holdun- 
steti " is Holstein, the student of contemporary history 
will recognise in this passage the germs of that con- 

124 CHARLES THE GREAT ohap. vi 

troversy on "the Schleswig-Holstein question" which 
was settled in our day by the Dano-German war and led 
eventually to the supremacy of Prussia in the Germanic 

At last the Saxon war was ended. The wholesale 
transportation of inhabitants to which Charles had at 
length resorted, and which was balanced by the invitation 
to Franks to settle in the evacuated lands — acts which 
remind us of the proceedings of Shalmaneser and Nebu- 
chadnezzar towards the people of Israel — had the desired 

" Freedom's battle once begun 
Bequeatlied from bleeding sire to son " 

in this instance was not " ever won." Christianity, or 
a religion which believed itself to be Christianity, was 
triumphant from the Rhine to the Elbe, and three fat 
bishoprics, Bremen, Miinster, and Paderborn, divided 
between themselves the conquered land. "Saxonia" 
was henceforth an inseparable part of the newly -founded 
Prankish Empire. 



In tracing the history of Charles's long struggle with 
the Saxons we have come down to a very late point in 
the story of his reign. We must now retrace our steps 
and notice some of the more important events that hap- 
pened during that struggle of thirty years. And first 
it will be well to deal with some of the unsuccessful 
attempts that were made in various parts of his 
dominions, other than Saxon-land, to throw off the yoke 
of this strong and masterful ruler. 

Less than two years after the downfall of the Lom- 
bard monarchy, at the end of 775, when Charles was 
fully committed to his life -and -death contest with 
Saxon heathenism, he received tidings of an attempt on 
the part of at least one Lombard duchy to recover its 
independence. Before leaving Italy he had either 
appointed a Lombard noble named Hrodgaud, Duke of 
Friulij or had confirmed him in the possession of that 
duchy. Forum Julii, which we now know by the name 
of Friuli, and whose chief city is now called Cividale, 
included the fertile lands north of the Venetian Gulf, 
and was of primary importance to the Frankish king as 


it touched on the one side the provinces of Venetia and 
Istria (wavering at this time between allegiance to him 
and their old allegiance to Constantinople) and on the 
other side the lands of the Duke of Bavaria, who, as we 
shall soon see, was one of the most untrustworthy of 
subject princes. 

Hrodgaud appears to have been engaged in some 
obscure negotiations with the Lombard dukes of Chiusi 
and Benevento for cutting short the new papal terri- 
tories, perhaps also for bringing in the exiled son of 
Desiderius and raising once more the standard of Lom- 
bard independence. But the combination failed, owing 
perhaps in part to the death of the Emperor Constantine 
v., which happened in the autumn of 775. The young 
Lombard prince Adelchis failed to make his appearance in 
Italy ; the Dukes of Chiusi and Benevento hung back from 
the dangerous enterprise and Hrodgaud of Friuli was left 
alone to meet the Frankish avenger. His courage did 
not fail; he seems to have proclaimed himself king, 
doubtless " King of the Lombards," and persuaded many 
cities in Northern Italy to join his standard. But 
Charles, warned of his revolt before the end of 775, 
crossed the Alps in the early months of 776. The 
passes cannot yet have been open, and it must have 
been with a small but select body of troops that he 
made his rapid descent upon Friuli. Hrodgaud seems 
to have fallen in battle. Cividale surrendered. Tre- 
viso, where Hrodgaud's father-in-law, Stabilinus, sought 
to prolong the struggle, was also captured and was the 
scene of Charles's Easter festivities. All the other 
revolted cities were taken, and in June Charles recrossed 
the Alps to march swiftly northward to recapture the 


oft-taken Eresburg, and to baptize some thousands of 
Saxons in the Lippe. 

Considering the difficulties of locomotion at that 
time this short Italian campaign against Hrodgaud 
seems to have been one of the most rapid and brilliant 
of all the military operations of King Charles. The 
suppression of the revolt was followed, not indeed by 
bloodshed, but by severe confiscations of the property 
of the insurgents. We have a piteous account by the 
great Lombard historian, Paulus Diaconus, of the seven 
years' captivity of his brother, who is generally believed 
to have been punished for his share in this insurrection. 
" My brother languishes a captive in your land, broken- 
hearted, in nakedness and want. His unhappy wife, 
wdth quivering lips, begs for bread from street to street. 
Four children must she support in this humiliating 
manner, whom she is scarce able to cover even with 

The next threatening of internal disafi'ection came 
from a quarter in which the sky had long looked lower- 
ing. Tassilo III., Duke of Bavaria, was the most inde- 
pendent and high-spirited of all the subject nobles in 
the Frankish kingdom. Sprung from the old Agilolfing 
line, which for more than two centuries had ruled the 
Bavarian people, he had some pretensions to a descent 
from Merovingian royalty, and was the undoubted 
grandson of Charles Martel, and therefore first cousin of 
King Charles, with whom he was strictly contemporary, 
having been born in the year 742. The dependence of 
Bavaria upon the Frankish crown had always been of 
the slightest kind, consisting of little more than a verbal 
recognition of the supremacy of the Frankish king, and 


the sending of a contingent to serve in the Frankish 
army, while, in all the details of ordinary administration, 
the will of the Agilolfing duke seems to have been 
practically supreme. Moreover, close ties of affinity and 
common interests had long united the ducal house of 
Bavaria and the regal house of Lombard Italy. Together 
they had resisted the incursions of their turbulent 
neighbours on the east, the Avars and the Sclaves ; 
together they had sought, rather by diplomacy than by 
war, to keep at a distance from them the domineering 

In the later years of Pippin, as has been already 
stated, this tendency of Bavaria to independence was 
openly displayed. It is true that in the year 757, when 
Pippin was holding his placitum at Compi^gne, thither 
came the young Tassilo with the chiefs of his nation, and, 
" after the Frankish manner placing his hands in the 
hands of the king, commended himself unto him in 
vassalage, and promised fidelity both to King Pippin 
himself and to his sons Charles and Carloman by an 
oath on the body of St. Dionysius, and not only there, 
but also over the bodies of St. Martin and St. Germanus 
with a similar oath promised that he would keep faith 
towards his aforesaid lords all the days of his life. And 
similarly all the chiefs and seniors of the Bavarians who 
had come with him into the presence of the king pro- 
mised at the said holy places that they would keep faith 
towards the king and his sons." But the very insistence 
on this ceremony probably showed that the loyalty of 
the Bavarians was deemed precarious. It is certain that 
six years later (763), in the very crisis of the war with 
Aquitaine, "Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria, neglected his oaths 


and all his promises, forgot all the benefits which he had 
received from his uncle, King Pippin, and, making a 
fraudulent excuse of sickness, withdrew himself from 
the campaign. Then, strengthening his resolution to 
revolt, he stoutly declared that he would come no more 
into the king's presence." ^ This was nothing less than to 
commit the crime of harisliz (military desertion), which, 
according to Frankish law, was punishable by death. 
But as we saw, King Pippin wisely determined to fight 
with one enemy at a time, and devoted all his energies 
to the long war with Waifar of Aquitaine, a war which 
practically occupied him till the end of his days. Thus 
the harisliz of Tassilo III. went for the time unpunished. 

Then came Charles's accession to the throne, and his 
marriage with the daughter of Desiderius. By this 
marriage a tie of aflSnity was formed between the two 
cousins, — the lord and the contumacious vassal, — for 
Tassilo also about the same time married another daughter 
of Desiderius, named Liutberga. It seemed for a short 
time as if Frank, Bavarian, and Lombard might dwell 
together in amity ; but only for a short time. Soon 
followed the repudiation of the Lombard princess. Pope 
Hadrian's cry for help, tlje invasion of Italy, the fall 
of the Lombard kingdom. During all these stirring 
events Tassilo seems to have remained quiescent, yet 
assuredly then, if ever, would have been his chance to 
assert the independence after which he yearned. 

So too during the rebellion of Hrodgaud of Friuli, 
when doubtless he might have intercepted Charles's 
passage, and made the suppression of that rebellion a 
much more tedious affair than it actually was, Tassilo 
made no sign. He seems to have thought his sulky 


attitude of isolation and de facto independence of his lord 
would maintain itself without any trouble on his part, 
but he was greatly mistaken. His Frankish over-lord 
was no roi faineant to let his rights thus quietly glide 
into desuetude. 

Charles tried first spiritual means, which were perhaps 
suggested by the fact of his finding himself in the 
presence of the pope. Towards the end of 780, in one 
of those short lulls in the storm which made him deem 
the work of the subjugation of the Saxons complete, 
Charles visited Italy, kept his Christmas in the old 
Lombard palace at Pavia, held a pladtum at Mantua, and 
at Easter visited Rome. He was accompanied by his 
wife and his sons, Carloman and Louis, children of four 
and three years old. Carloman, who had not yet been 
baptized, was raised from the baptismal font by Pope 
Hadrian, who gave him the ancestral name of Pippin, 
and being anointed by the pope was declared by his 
father to be King of Italy. At the same time his yet 
more infantile brother, Louis, was anointed King of 
Aquitaine. Of course in both cases all kingly power 
remained in the hands of the great War-lord; but 
apparently the object of the ceremony was something 
like that which caused our Edward I. to name the baby 
Edward of Caernarvon, Prince of Wales. National pride 
was soothed, and national patriotism in some degree 
reassured, by the presence of a court and the assurance 
of a separate administration, even though the nominal 
head of the court was a little child in the nursery. 

While Charles was at Rome there was converse 
between him and the pope concerning the Duke of 
Bavaria. Tassilo had been a liberal friend to the 


Church, and had successfully prosecuted the enterprise 
of the conversion of the Sclaves on his eastern frontier. 
Hadrian well knew how strained were the relations 
between duke and king, and was, we may believe, 
sincerely anxious to reconcile Tassilo to his mighty 
cousin. A joint embassy was despatched to the Bavarian 
court : the pope being represented by the bishops, 
Damasus and Formosus, the king by the deacon Eichulf 
and Eberhard the arch-cupbearer. "And when," says 
the chronicler, "these emissaries, obedient to their in- 
struction, had conversed with the aforesaid duke, and 
reminded him of his old oaths to King Pippin, King 
Charles and the Franks, his heart was so much softened 
that he declared his willingness to hasten at once to the 
king's presence, if such hostages were given him as to 
remove all doubt of his personal safety. These having 
been given, he came without delay to the king at 
Worms, swore the oath which v.ras dictated to him, and 
gave twelve chosen hostages for the fulfilment of his 
promise that he would keep as towards King Charles 
and his loyal subjects all the oaths which he had sworn 
aforetime to King Pippin. These hostages were 
promptly brought to the king in his villa of Quierzy by 
Sindbert, Bishop of Eatisbon. But the said duke re- 
turning home did not long remain in the faith which he 
had promised." 

Notwithstanding the ominous words with which the 
chronicler concludes, a great moral victory had certainly 
been gained by Charles, and the attitude of sullen semi- 
independence which Tassilo had maintained for nearly 
twenty years was now abandoned. 

For six years (781-787) the name of Tassilo disappears 


from the chronicles, and we may conclude that he was for 
so long a fairly loyal subject of the Frankish kingdom, 
or rather perhaps that he committed no such open act 
of rebellion as to compel Charles, engrossed as he was 
during these years by the war with Widukind, to send 
any of his sorely needed Frankish warriors for the 
chastisement of his Bavarian vassal. 

Moreover, the open enmity of the Saxons was not 
the only danger that at this time menaced the security 
of the Frankish throne. In the year 785, immediately 
after the baptism of Widukind, we have the following 
mysterious entry in the chronicles : " There was made 
in that same year on the other side of the Rhine a vast 
conspiracy of the eastern Franks against the king, of 
which it was proved that Count Hardrad was the author. 
But information thereof was speedily brought to the king, 
and by his shrewdness so mighty a conspiracy shortly 
collapsed without any great danger, the authors thereof 
being condemned, some to death, some to privation of 
sight, and some to deportation and exile." Even the 
king's life was aimed at by the conspirators, yet Einhard 
assures us that none of the conspirators were actually 
killed save three who drew their swords upon the officers 
who were sent to arrest them. The cause of this sudden 
outbreak of Austrasian jealousy and rage against the great 
Austrasian hero must remain a mystery. Some of the 
authorities seem to speak of it as a specially Thuringian 
conspiracy, and one attributes it to the refusal of a 
Thuringian chief to hand over his daughter to a Frankish 
suitor to whom she was betrothed. An attempt has 
been made to account for it as the last struggle of 
Thuringian independence, dismayed at seeing the Saxons 


on the north and the Bavarians on the south subjected 
to the all-mastering Frankish king. It seems, however, 
more probable that it was a personal, palace conspiracy. 
Possibly Einhard gives us the requisite clue when he 
attributes both this and a subsequent conspiracy to the 
cruelty of Charles's queen Fastrada who " diverted her 
husband from the kindness and accustomed gentleness 
of his nature." 

Towards the end of 786 Charles again marched into 
Italy, where the not only independent but even hostile 
attitude of Arichis, Prince of Benevento, called for his 
attention. Having spent his Christmas at Florence, and 
paid his devotions at the tombs of the Apostles in Eome, 
he proceeded southward (787), and on the confines of 
the Beneventan territory was met by Romwald, son of 
Arichis, with gifts and promises and entreaties that he 
would not enter his father's territory. But Charles, 
says the chronicler, "thinking that he must deal very 
differently with an enterprise once begun, kept Romwald 
with him and marched with all his army to Capua, where 
he pitched his camp, and would have carried on the war 
from thence, unless the aforesaid duke had anticipated 
his intention by wholesome counsel. For leaving his 
capital, Benevento, he betook himself with all his 
followers to the seaport of Salerno, as being a more 
fortified city, and, sending an embassy, he off'ered both 
his sons to the king, promising that he would willingly 
obey all his commands. Listening to these prayers, and 
moved also by the fear of God, the king abstained from 
war; and keeping the younger son Grimwald as a 
hostage, sent the elder son back to his father. He, 
moreover, received eleven hostages from the rest of the 


nation, and sent ambassadors to strengthen the covenant 
of the prince and all the people of Benevento by oaths." 
Thus had the Frankish king, without striking a blow, 
extended his dominion to the southernmost corner of 
Italy. It was, however, a precarious conquest ; and the 
princes of Benevento were almost to the end of Charles's 
reign either doubtful vassals or open enemies of the 
Frankish ruler. 

Easter of 787 was spent by King Charles in Eome, 
and this visit, like that of five years before, was followed 
by a further development of the contest between him 
and Duke Tassilo. Doubtless the hollow reconciliation 
of 782 had been followed by mutual suspicion and 
estrangement: and the Bavarian duke must have felt 
that, with the Saxon rebellion now apparently quelled, 
his turn for subjugation would come next. While the 
king was still in Rome, there appeared in that city two 
Bavarian envoys, Amo Bishop of Salzburg, and Huneric 
Abbot of Mond See, who besought the pope to mediate 
between Charles and their master. The pope, as before, 
expressed his hearty goodwill towards Tassilo, and an 
interview between king and envoys followed in his 
presence. But when Charles called upon the bishop 
and the abbot to state what guarantee their master had 
empowered them to give for the fulfilment, this time, of 
his often violated promises, they could only answer that 
they had no instructions on this head, being not pleni- 
potentiaries on Tassilo's behalf, only messengers whose 
duty it was to carry back to their master the propositions 
of the king and pontiff. Apparently, then, the duke had 
reverted to that old position of all but equality with the 
Frankish king which he took up twenty-four years 


before at the time of the great harisliz, and the solemnly 
plighted oaths sworn at Worms were to go for nothing, 
Hadrian was not less indignant than Charles at this 
exhibition of fickleness and bad faith, and appears to 
have visited his displeasure on the two churchmen- 
ambassadors themselves, telling them that they and 
their master were all liars together, and that they should 
all be visited by the papal anathema unless Tassilo kept 
the oaths which he had sworn to Charles and to Pippin. 
We have here one of the earliest instances of that use 
of ecclesiastical censures to enforce political claims which 
was so characteristic a feature of the Middle Ages. 

The ambassadors returned to Bavaria empty-handed : 
and the king, recrossing the Alps, went to rejoin his 
wife, the hard and haughty Fastrada, at Worms. Prob- 
ably her influence was not used to soften his temper 
towards the rebellious duke. A general assembly was 
called, to which the king rehearsed all the events of his 
Italian journey, concluding with the story of the abortive 
negotiations with Tassilo. By the advice probably of 
his nobles, one more embassy was sent to claim from the 
Bavarian the fulfilment of his promises and to summon 
him to the royal presence. On his refusal, Frankish in- 
vaders from three diff'erent points entered the devoted 
duchy. Italian Pippin from the South marched from 
Trient up the valley of the Adige and over the water- 
shed of the Inn ; Charles himself crossed the Lech and 
entered Bavaria from the west by way of Augsburg. 
A little further to the north, near Ingoldstadt, came an 
army of Austrasian Franks, including not only Thurin- 
gians but even Saxons, so great was Charles's confidence 
in that pacification of the country which, as after events 


showed, was then but half completed. Seeing himself 
thus surrounded, and also knowing that many of his own 
subjects would side with the invaders — for apparently 
to the ordinary Bavarian landowner the prospect of a 
distant lord paramount at Aachen or Quierzy was more 
acceptable than the reality of a present and stringent 
master on the banks of the Danube — Tassilo gave up 
the game, presented himself at Charles's headquarters, 
handed over to him a stick, carved into some re- 
semblance of a man, as a symbol of the land for which 
he did homage, and gave as a hostage his son Theodo, 
who for the last ten years had been associated with him 
as ruler of the duchy. Hostages, as usual, twelve in 
number, were given for Tassilo's adherence to his freshly 
made promises, and at the same time the people of the 
land were in some way, the details of which are not dis- 
closed, made parties to his oath of fidelity to Charles. 

It is not easy to account for the harsh proceedings of 
the next year (788) after this apparent reconciliation of 
the vassal to his lord. Possibly something had come to 
light which justified Charles in the belief that Tassilo 
would never honestly accept the position of vassal from 
which he had so often endeavoured to escape. An 
assembly was convened at Ingelheim, probably in the 
month of June. Tassilo, now helpless and unarmed, 
was summoned to appear before it, and was there 
accused, on the evidence of some of his own subjects 
who were loyal to Charles, of having opened negotia- 
tions with the barbarous Avars on the east after his 
last submission to the Frankish king. Liutberga, his 
Lombard queen, mindful of the old feud and of her 
father's wrongs, was said to have been the ceaseless 


preacher of revenge. Even against the life of Charles, 
Tassilo was accused of having conspired, and when men 
spoke to him of the danger in which he thus placed 
his hostage-son, he is said to have answered : " Had I 
ten sons I would lose them all in this cause, since it 
were better for me to die than to live a vassal on such 
ignominious terms as I have sworn to." Then the old 
accusation of the harisliz of 763 was brought up against 
him, and on this and other charges he was found guilty 
by the assembled nobles, Franks, and Bavarians, 
Lombards and Saxons, assembled from all parts of 
Charles's realm, and by their united voice was adjudged 
worthy of death. This sentence, however, was commuted 
by " the most pious Charles, moved by compassion and 
the love of God and because he was his kinsman : and he 
obtained from his own servants and the servants of God 
[the nobles secular and religious] this favour, that he 
should not die. Then Tassilo, being asked by the most 
clement king what he wished, begged that he might have 
leave to assume the tonsure and enter a monastery, 
there to do penance for so many sins, that he might 
save his soul. Similarly his son Theodo was sentenced, 
tonsured, and sent into a monastery, and the few 
Bavarians who chose to remain in opposition to King 
Charles were banished." 

According to one authority, Tassilo, while accepting 
tranquilly the decree which consigned him for the rest 
of his days to the monotonous seclusion of a convent, 
begged that his long hair, the symbol of his Frankish or 
even Merovingian descent, might not be shorn off in 
public, in the sight of his Frankish compeers, liis 
Bavarian followers and companions in arms, and this 


favour was granted him by the clemency of the king. 
He was sent at once to the monastery of St. Goar on 
the Ehine, and afterwards to the safer seclusion of 
Jumi^ges in Normandy. His sons and his daughters 
were also persuaded or compelled to enter various con- 
vents : his wife, scion of that unhappy race which 
seemed doomed to disaster in all its members, was either 
banished or like the rest of her family accepted the 
sentence of seclusion in the cloister. Once more does 
Tassilo appear upon the stage of history, when in the 
year 794 he was brought to the assembly at Frankfort 
(an assembly convened ostensibly for a purely theological 
purpose) and there " made his peace with the lord the 
king, renouncing all the power which he had once held 
in Bavaria and handing it over to the king." It is 
suggested that the law had been somewhat strained by 
Tassilo's condemnation in the assembly at Ingelheim 
and that this formal and professedly voluntary surrender 
of his rights was deemed necessary to perfect Charles's 
title as ruler of Bavaria. After this event Tassilo 
vanishes from the scene, the year and place of his death 
being alike unrecorded by authentic history. 

For the later history of Europe and especially of 
Germany, the deposition of Tassilo and the vindication 
of the imperilled Frankish supremacy over Bavaria were 
perhaps even more important than the perpetually re- 
curring Saxon campaigns which fill so large a space in 
Charles's annals. Sooner or later Saxon -land was 
almost certain to become Christian and civilised, and 
so to enter the Frankish orbit : but at Charles's 
accession there seemed to be a great probability that 
Bavaria would turn her de facto independence into 


separation de jure from the Frankish realm. This would 
have caused a separation of the Germany of the future 
into two independent states, a kingdom of the North 
and a kingdom of the South, which, as we know, never 
actually took place in the Middle Ages. 

With one more conspiracy, this time of a domestic 
character, the tale of treasons is ended. In the year 
792 (the year in which Charles had an Avar war and a 
Saxon rebellion on his hands at once, and made his 
abortive attempt to join the Danube and the Ehine by 
a canal), there was added to all his other cares a rebellion 
headed by one of his own flesh and blood. His eldest 
son Pippin was apparently not born in wedlock, though 
his mother Himiltrud, after her son's birth, probably 
became Charles's lawfully wedded wife. This defect of 
legitimacy would not have been an insuperable bar to 
succession in a house which derived its chief glories from 
the illegitimate Charles Martel ; but there was another 
and more fatal circumstance in the case of Charles's 
firstborn. Though beautiful in face he was deformed, 
probably dwarfish in figure, an unsuitable person there- 
fore to be presented to the assembled Frankish warriors 
as heir to his father's kingdom. Thus Pippin, though 
to a certain extent maintaining his princely rank, and 
named next to his father in the litanies of the Church, 
seems to have been silently edged out from all hope 
of succeeding to any portion of that father's power. 
Charles, the eldest son of Hildegard, was apparently 
recognised as principal heir. Carloman and Louis were 
taken to Eome in their infancy and anointed Kings of 
Italy and Aquitaine, while Pippin was left unnoticed. 
Perhaps even the imposition of the ancestral name of 

140 CHARLES THE GREAT chap, vii 

Pippin on the child Carloman was meant as a hint to 
his elder namesake that he would never be saluted as 
Pippin, King of the Franks. 

This exclusion doubtless galled the firstborn ; and to 
these wrongs of his, real or imaginary, appear to have 
been added some inflicted on him and on his friends and 
followers by the unloved Fastrada. Thus, while most 
of the other chroniclers can see in the conspiracy of 
Pippin only the unholy attempt of a bastard, like 
another Abimelech, to seize the royal power at the cost 
of the lives of all his legitimate brethren, the honest 
Einhard in the following passage of his annals puts a 
different colour on the enterprise. 

"When the king was spending his summer at Ratis- 
bon, a conspiracy was made against him by his eldest 
son, named Pippin, and certain Franks who declared that 
they could not bear the cruelty of the queen Fastrada, 
and therefore conspired for the death of the king. And 
when this was detected by means of Fardulf the Lombard, 
he, to reward him for his loyalty, was presented with 
the monastery of St. Dionysius [St. Denis], but the 
authors of the conspiracy, as being guilty of treason, 
were partly slain by the sword and partly hung from 
gallows, and so with their lives paid forfeit for the 
meditation of such a crime." 

Pippin's own life was spared, but his head was shorn, 
and he was sent "to serve God in a monastery." The 
place of his confinement was Prum in the Moselle 
country, and there apparently he remained till his death, 
which happened in 811. So ended the last and prob- 
ably the most dangerous of the conspiracies against 
King Charles's life and government. 



Though the greater part of his life was passed in war, 
and though he was undoubtedly a man of great personal 
courage, Charlemagne cannot be considered a great 
military commander. We have the testimony of Einhard 
that in the whole long Saxon war he himself was person- 
ally engaged in only two pitched battles, and most of 
his campaigns seem to have consisted rather of military 
promenades, against brave but ill-armed foes, than of 
hard-fought battles in which the genius and courage of 
the king at a critical moment secured victory to his 
troops. But if not a great captain, he was a great and 
successful planner of campaigns; not so much a Han- 
nibal or a Napoleon as an " organiser of victory " like 

It is remarkable that in the most famous battle which 
he fought, neither his strategy nor his tactics were 
successful. The Spanish campaign of 778 was a failure, 
and ended vrith an event of no great importance in 
itself, but of imperishable memory in song, the disastrous 
day of Eoncesvalles. 

To understand the cause of this expedition, so remote 


from the usual orbit of the Frankish king, we must 
glance for a moment at the condition of the Mohammedan 
world, and must leave the marshes and forests of Saxon- 
land for the desert-girdled gardens of the oldest of cities, 
Damascus. For a hundred years the Ommayad caliphs 
in a long line, consisting of Moawiyah and thirteen 
successors, had governed the vast regions which owned 
the faith of Mohammed, with absolute sway. The 
caliph, as the successor of the Prophet, wielded a power 
religious as well as military ; he was at once the pope 
and the emperor of the Saracen world. It was in the 
name of the Ommayad caliph and by his lieutenants that 
Spain was conquered; in his name that Gaul was 
invaded by those swarming myriads whom Charles 
Martel with difficulty repulsed on the great day of 
Poitiers. But now at last in the year 750, eighteen 
years before the accession of Charlemagne, there had 
come a change ; the unity of Islamism was broken and 
the divisions that thus crept in, even more than the 
sword of Charles Martel, saved Europe from Moslem 
domination. The Ommayad caliphs in the luxurious 
delights of Damascus had forgotten some of the stern 
simplicity of their earlier predecessors. A new and more 
austere claimant to their religious throne presented 
himself in the person of Abul Abbas, who was descended 
from an uncle of the Prophet ; and the old feud between 
the two tribes of the Koreish and the Haschimites flared 
up into fierce civil war, the reigning Ommayads belonging 
to the former, and the revolting Abbasides to the latter 
class. In the great battle of Mosul (750), the Abbasides 
gained the upper hand; Merwan the last Ommayad 
caliph fled to Egypt, where he was slain, and a bloody 


massacre of eighty Ommayads at a banquet completed 
the ruin of the family. 

From this ruin of a princely race one only escaped. 
The young Abderrahman son of Merwan fled from 
Syria, and after many adventures and many narrow 
escapes, ever journeying westward, reached the tents 
of a tribe of Bedouins in Morocco with whom he claimed 
kinship through his mother, and who gladly granted 
him the asylum which he needed. While he was 
sharing their hospitality, there came an embassy from 
some of the chief Mussulmans of Spain to offer him 
supreme power in that country. The various emirs and 
walls who had been misgoverning that unhappy land 
for forty years since the Moorish conquest, had given 
it neither prosperity nor peace; probably also there 
was a feeling that they had failed as champions of 
Islamism against Christianity. At any rate there was 
a strong desire to try what unity and concentration 
under a resident and independent sovereign would 
accomplish, and for this purpose to take advantage of 
the presence of a high-spirited and courageous youth, 
the descendant of a long line of sovereigns. The 
invitation was gladly accepted. Abderrahman crossed 
over into Spain (755), won victory after victory over 
the representatives of his Abbaside foe, the chief of 
whom was named Yussuf-el-Fekri, and (though he did 
not himself assume the title of caliph), virtually founded 
the Caliphate of Cordova which, for nearly three cen- 
turies, often with brilliant success, guided the destinies 
of Mohammedan Spain. 

But Abderrahman, though deservedly one of the 
favourite heroes of Saracen literature, did not win 


supreme power in Spain without a hard struggle, and 
even after he had conquered there was many a fresh 
outbreak of opposition to his rule. Though Yussuf-el- 
Fekri fell in battle (759), his sons, continually rebelling 
and continually pardoned by the magnanimous Ab- 
derrahman, filled the next twenty years with turmoil. 
It was one of these sons and a son-in-law of Yussuf 
who, together with a certain Ibn-el-Arabi (perhaps 
the governor of Barcelona), sought out Charles while 
he was holding his placifum at distant Paderborn, and 
begged his assistance against Abderrahman, promising 
that they would procure the surrender of several cities 
in Spain if he appeared in arms at their gates. 

The offer came during one of those deceptive lulls in 
the Saxon war, when Charles was flattered with the 
hope that his work was completed. It was from this 
very assembly that Widukind was conspicuously absent, 
but Charles knew not as yet how much that absence 
imported. The offer was a tempting one and harmonised 
with Charles's general policy. Abderrahman was the 
enemy of the Abbaside caliph, and the Abbasides were 
Charles's friends. There was, too, a prospect of con- 
tinuing the work which his father had so prosperously 
begun when he won back Narbonne from the infidels. 
As he listened, the three Mussulmans enlarged on the 
brilliant prospect before him, and very probably held 
out hopes of the conquest of the whole peninsula. The 
question of the rival faiths, though of course it must 
have been present to Charles's mind, does not seem to 
have been the determining motive to this expedition as 
it was to the Saxon war. There is no foundation for 
the suggestion of some later chroniclers that he was 


moved to this enterprise by pity for the groans of the 
Spanish Christians under Saracen oppression. In fact, 
the situation of the Christians under Abderrahman 
seems to have been a very tolerable one : and as we 
shall see, the valiant little kingdom of the Asturias, 
which from its mountain stronghold was so gallantly 
maintaining the cause of Christian freedom against the 
Moors, got small help at this time from its mighty co- 

Whatever the cause, Charles determined to accept 
the invitation to interfere in the affairs of the Spanish 
peninsula. At Easter (778) he was at Chasseneuil, in 
Aquitaine, about forty miles south of his grandfather's 
battle-field at Poitiers. He opened his campaign early : 
of course the warmer climate of Spain justified much 
earlier operations than were possible in the late spring 
of und rained Saxon-land. Having spent the winter in 
preparations he had a large army at his disposal, and 
dividing it according to his usual custom, he ordered the 
Austrasian part of it to cross the Eastern Pyrenees. In 
this division of the army there were not only, as we might 
naturally expect, men of Septimania, of Provence and 
Burgundy, but some of Charles's new Lombard subjects 
from Italy : and even a contingent sent by the Bavarian 
Tassilo. Charles himself, with the western portion of 
his army, marched probably by the old Eoman road, 
passing from St. Jean de la Port over a crest of the 
Pyrenees 5000 feet high, into that which has since 
become the kingdom of Navarre. The highest point of 
this road, the " Summus Pyreneus " of the Roman road- 
books, looked down on the wild and narrow defile of 



It had been ordered that the two sections of the 
army should meet at Caesar-Augusta, now Saragossa, on 
the Ebro. Both sections appear to have crossed the 
Pyrenees without difficulty, and Charles, descending 
into Navarre, laid siege to Pampelona and took it 
apparently with little difficulty. The reader learns with 
some surprise that Pampelona had previously belonged 
to the little Christian kingdom of the Asturias, against 
whom Charles must therefore have now been waging war. 

And this was really the only warlike deed in the 
whole campaign : for all the rest of the operations re- 
corded by the chroniclers (who evidently have some- 
thing to conceal in this part of their story) cannot be 
dignified by the name of war. Charles is said to have 
crossed the Ebro by a ford, to have approached, perhaps 
entered, Saragossa, to have received the hostages whom 
Ibn-el-Arabi and another Saracen chief whom the 
chronicler calls Abuthaur (probably Abu Taker) brought 
to him. No doubt the hostages represented the 
surrender of a certain number of cities in the corner of 
Spain between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, but how 
many we have no means of deciding. In the month of 
August Charles set out on his return march, taking Ibn- 
el-Arabi with him in chains. Evidently the expedition 
had been a comparative failure : the large promises of 
Ibn-el-Arabi had not been fulfilled, and Charles, re- 
sentful, perhaps suspecting treachery, determined not to 
suffer the evil counsellor to be at large. 

The cause of the failure was probably in part to be 
found in the premature rising of Abderrahman-ibn- 
Habib, son-in-law of Yussuf, who, before Charles entered 
Spain, had landed in Murcia with an army of Berbers, 


and had raised the standard of the Abbaside caliphs 
against his namesake Abderrahman-ben-Merwan. The 
utter failure of this expedition probably made it hopeless 
for Charles to proceed beyond the Ebro. 

Returning to Pampelona Charles levelled the walls 
of that city to the ground, to prevent its rebelling 
against him, and then began his march across the 
Pyrenees. On the highest point of the pass an ambush 
had been planted by the Wascones whose operations 
were concealed by the dense forests growing there. 
When the baggage-train and rear-guard came in sight 
they dashed down upon them. The surprise and the 
possession of the higher ground fully compensated for 
the mountaineers' inferiority in arms and discipline ; in 
fact, in such an encounter the heavier armour of the 
Franks was a positive disadvantage. By the confession 
of the biographer of Charlemagne at least the whole of 
the rear-guard were cut to pieces, and with them fell 
many of the nobles of Charles's court, notably Eggihard 
the seneschal, Anselm the count of the palace, and 
Hruodland the governor of the Breton March. As 
night soon fell and the nimble invaders dispersed rapidly 
to their homes and hiding-places, revenge was impossible, 
and Charles returned to Chasseneuil with clouded brow, 
all his satisfaction at his successes in Spain — such as 
they were — being marred by this dishonour to his arms 
and by the loss of so many of his friends. 

The date of this disaster is fixed by the epitaph of 
the seneschal Eggihard to the 18th of August 778. 
The place, by undeviating tradition, has been identified 
with the wild gorge of Eoncesvalles. It is indeed 
somewhat difficult to understand how even the main 


body of the Frankish army could have escaped, if the 
foes were on the very summit of the pass, and if the 
skirmish took place at Roncesvalles on the Spanish side 
of the mountain : but this may be accounted for by the 
distance at which the baggage-train and the rear-guard 
lagged behind the van. 

It was at this same point of the Pyrenean ridge and 
through this same defile of Koncesvalles that Soult's 
gallant soldiers forced their way in 1813, when the 
French marshal made his brilliant, but unsuccessful, 
attempt to turn Wellington's position and raise the siege 
of Pampelona. 

But who were these Wascones, and what was their 
quarrel with Charles ? Certainly they were not Saracens 
or Mussulmans as the minstrels of later centuries sup- 
posed. A part of the mysterious Basque race, which has 
throughout the historic period occupied the high upland 
valleys on either side of the Western Pyrenees, and has 
given its name to Biscay in Spain and to Gascony in 
France, these mountaineers represent probably the oldest 
population of Europe of which any traces now remain. 
Their language, bearing no relation to any Aryan or 
Semitic tongue, is to this day one of the great unsolved 
enigmas of philology. As has been said, they were 
certainly not Mussulmans, and they may have professed 
and called themselves Christians, but it is not necessary 
to seek for any deep political combination. Christian or 
Mohammedan, to account for their attack on Charles's 
baggage-train. The men whose ancestors had been 
driven, perhaps two thousand years before, into those 
mountains by the Celts, were determined, and had been 
determined ever since, to keep their last asylum free 


from the foot of the invader. Roman and Goth had 
vainly tried to subdue them, and now this Frankish 
interloper should have a lesson that should prevent his 
paying too frequent visits to their mountains. Theirs 
was a savage love, not merely of independence but of 
absolute isolation : that, and the attractions of the 
Frankish baggage-train seem quite sufficient to account 
for the disaster of Roncesvalles. 

Among the nobles who fell was, as has been said, 
Hruodland, governor of the Breton March. This is 
none other than the far-famed Roland of mediaeval 
romance. The minstrels and trouveurs of much later 
centuries have invented for him a relationship to Charle- 
magne, have mated him with Oliver, and have said a 
thousand beautiful things concerning his life and his 
heroic death ; but, of all this, authentic history knows 
nothing. And yet authentic history cannot afford 
altogether to ignore even the Roland of romance, since 
it was — 

De L'AUemaigne et de Rollant 

Et d'Olivier et de Yassaux 

Qui morurent en Rainschevaux, 

that Norman Taillefer sang as he spurred his horse and 
tossed his sword aloft before the battle of Hastings. 
Even the mythical Roland had become, three centuries 
after the rout of Roncesvalles, a great name to conjure 

As for Charles's attempt to annex territory to his 
kingdom south of the Pyrenees, it had to be abandoned 
for a time. The Saxon revolt under Widukind broke 
out, more stubborn and difficult to quell than ever. For 
the next eight years (778-785) Charles was too much 


occupied with the hard reality of strife in the 
marshes and forests of Saxon-land to have leisure for 
pursuing a visionary sovereignty on the banks of the 
Ebro. Then came the trouble with Tassilo, and, im- 
mediately following upon it, those wars with the Avars 
which will be described in the next chapter. But though 
during this period most or all of the cities in Spain which 
had accepted Charles as their lord were probably won back 
by Abderrahman, the hope of reconquering a Spanish 
kingdom was never abandoned, and the execution of the 
scheme was committed to the King of Aquitaine, or 
rather to his counsellors. For this King of Aquitaine 
was Charles's fourth son Louis, who with a twin brother 
had been born in 778, while Charles himself was prose- 
cuting the war in Spain. Born in Aquitaine, this child 
— one day to be the gentle and much worried Emperor, 
Louis the Pious — was, as we have seen, when only three 
years old, anointed in Rome by the pope as king of his 
native land: and in that land his boyhood and early 
manhood appear to have been spent. During those 
years of immaturity the government was of course in 
the hands of counsellors, who seem to have executed the 
commands of the real ruler Charles with vigour and 

In 788 Abderrahman died, and was succeeded by his 
youngest son Hescham, a Mussulman pietist. The 
fierce, and for the time successful, invasion of the Nar- 
bonese province which was made by Hescham's general 
Abd- el -Melee, was perhaps the cause which stirred 
Louis's council to commence a war of reprisals. In 
796 the country of the Saracens was ravaged by a 
Frankish army. In 797 Huesca was besieged, but in 


vain. In 801 Barcelona, which had changed hands 
two or three times between Christian and Mussulman, 
was subjected to a rigorous siege, which lasted according 
to one account seven months, and according to another 
two years. The city was at last forced to surrender, and 
Zaid, its governor, who had in former years played fast 
and loose with the Prankish alliance, was sent in chains 
to Charles's court. Between 809 and 811 there were 
three attempts, the last a successful attempt, to capture 
Tortosa, the strong city which commanded the mouth of 
the Ebro. All these conquests seem to have been retained 
during the lifetime of Charles. What was perhaps more 
important, a firm alliance was formed with the young 
Alfonso the Chaste, who, during his fifty years' reign 
(791-842) extended the frontiers and consolidated the 
strength of the Christian kingdom of the Asturias. 
This alliance, so obviously for the interest of both 
parties, cannot have existed in the year of Roncesvalles : 
but now we are told that " there came to the court of 
Charles an ambassador of Hadefonsus, King of Gallicia 
and the Asturias, presenting a tent of wonderful beauty," 
and that " Charles so bound Hadefonsus to him as an 
ally that the latter whenever he sent him letters or 
ambassadors w^ould never allow himself to be called 
anything else than ' King Charles's own man.' " 

At first sight the result of these wars beyond the 
Pyrenees, and the consequent foundation of the Spanish 
March, which stretched from those mountains to the 
Ebro, may seem unimportant, as we know that the 
Frankish kings made no permanent acquisition of 
territory in Spain. But on the other hand, by the 
diversion which they caused, they perhaps prevented the 

152 CHARLES THE GREAT chap, vin 

Saracen rulers of Spain from crushing the infant 
kingdom of the Asturias : and the counts of Barcelona, 
whom they settled in the Spanish March, after having 
gradually relinquished the position of vassals to the 
French kings, became independent Christian sovereigns, 
and eventually acquired by marriage the rich heritage 
of the kingdom of Aragon. 



It is a remarkable ethnological fact, and one for which 
there does not seem any obvious explanation, that, almost 
ever since the great barbarian migrations of the fourth 
century, the country between the Danube and the 
Carpathian mountains has been occupied by a people 
belonging to that which, for want of a better word, we 
call the Turanian stock; and yet that this Turanian 
deposit should not have been one and the same through- 
out, but was the result of three distinct migrations. In 
the fourth century the great non- Aryan nation on the 
Middle Danube was the Huns ; from the tenth century 
to the present day it has been that noble nation whom 
their Sclavonic neighbours have named Hungarians, but 
who call themselves Magyars ; between 567 and 800, it 
was the savage and somewhat uninteresting people of 
the Avars. The power of the Avars was at its height 
in the reign of the emperor Heraclius (626) when they 
formed the siege of Constantinople, and, joining hands 
with the Persians, had well-nigh accomplished the ruin 
of the eastern Empire. Soon after this came the revolt 
of the Bulgarians from the Avar sway, and from that 


time onward, the power of the Avars steadily declined, 
but though no longer formidable to Constantinople they 
were still securely quartered in the vast plains of 
Hungary, and were most unwelcome neighbours to their 
old allies the Lombards of Italy. Twice in the course 
of the seventh century had they descended upon the 
duchy of Friuli, and each time their invasions had been 
marked by that character of destruction and purpose- 
less brutality which has ever been the especial note of 
the Tartar conqueror. 

If the Avars were at all like their Hunnish kinsmen 
(which is not improbable) they were small of stature, 
and swarthy in colour. Their long locks hanging 
down behind, in a kind of woven pigtails, are specially 
noticed by the Frankish poets. They were essentially 
a predatory nation, and (again arguing from the analogy 
of the Huns) we may presume that they were a nation 
of horsemen, dashing hither and thither on their nimble 
and hardy ponies, and vanishing ere the heavy squadrons 
of the Greeks or the Lombards could come up with 
them. They had one chief ruler, who was called the 
chagan of the Avars — the same title with which we are 
familiar as the Tartar khan — and under him, in a degree 
of subordination which it would be hopeless now to 
determine, were lieutenants or sub-kings, who bore the 
title of tudim. We hear also of the jugur, apparently 
not a proper name, but the title of a chief who contests 
the supremacy with the chagan. Tarchan seems to be 
a collective word for the Avar nobility. 

The capital of the Avars consisted of a series of earth- 
works, which were known (probably to their German 
neighbours, not to themselves) by the collective name 


of the Hring. Of this Hring an interesting description 
is given by the monk of St. Gall, who wrote some 
ninety years after its destruction, but who professes to 
tell the story as he heard it in his boyhood from an old 
soldier named Adalbert, who had served in the Avar 
campaigns. With a charming touch of nature, the old 
monk describes how the veteran used to prose on about 
his warlike experiences, and how he as a boy resisted, 
and often escaped from the tedious tale, but yet was in 
the end forced to listen and to learn. 

He says : " The land of the Huns [or Avars] as 
Adalbert used to tell me was girdled with nine circles. 
Then said I, who had never seen any circles [circular 
fences] except those made of osiers, 'What sort of 
marvel was that, sir ? ' and he answered, * It was fortified 
with nine hegin.' I, who had never seen any hedges 
except those with which the crops are guarded, asked 
him some more questions, and he said, ' One circle was 
as vnde as the distance from Zurich to Constance [thirty 
miles] : it was made of stems of oak, beech, or fir, twenty 
feet high, and twenty feet broad. All the hollow 
part [between the walls] was filled either with very 
hard stones, or with most tenacious chalk, and then the 
top of the structure was covered with strong turfs. In 
between the turfs were planted shrubs which were pruned 
and lopped, so as to make them shoot forth boughs and 
leaves. Between one mound and another the villages 
and farms were placed, always within earshot of one 
another ; and opposite to them, the walls (in themselves 
impregnable) were pierced by narrow gateways, through 
which the inhabitants, both those who lived in the 
inner circle and those who were in the outer ring, used 


to sally forth for the sake of plunder. From the second 
circle, which was constructed like the first, there was a 
distance of twenty Teutonic or forty Italian miles to 
the third, and so on to the ninth, though [of course], 
each successive circle was smaller than the one before 
it. And from circle to circle the farms and dwellings 
were so arranged on all sides, that an alarm could be 
given by sound of the trumpet from each circle to its 

It is easy to see that this description cannot be 
scientifically accurate (the distance between the " rings " 
especially must be greatly over-stated) : but still, this 
sketch of the camp-city of a robber horde, entrenched 
in the plains of Hungary in order to make war on the 
growing civilisation of the west, is surely worthy of our 
attention, and helps us to understand what were the 
difl3[culties of Charles and his subject princes in breaking 
the power of this barbarous race. 

It will be remembered that one of the grounds of 
accusation against the insubordinate Duke of Bavaria 
was, that he had been intriguing with the Avars against 
his lord. It is probable that, sooner or later, when he 
found Charles bent on his destruction, Tassilo did make 
overtures of some kind for a league of mutual defence 
with his formidable eastern neighbours. Certain it is 
that they came, though too late to help him, with two 
armies against the Franks (788). One army went south- 
ward against the duchy of Friuli, the other westward 
against Bavaria. Both were defeated, the latter at Ips 
on the Danube (about forty miles south of Linz), having 
only just touched the frontier of Bavaria. Enraged at 
meeting such a hostile reception from the Bavarians 


whom, as they said, they came to help, they made 
another invasion later in the same year; but the two 
brave missi of Charles, Grahamann and Audacer, who 
had repelled the previous invasion now again won a 
signal victory. Great was the slaughter on the field, 
and multitudes of the flying Avars were whelmed in 
the waters of the Danube. 

It is probable that Charles was already revolving in 
his mind plans for the entire subjugation of the 
barbarous Avar nationality, but he knew that such an 
enterprise would require long preparations, and mean- 
while events were again occurring on the Elbe which 
required his immediate attention. The Saxons, it is 
true, were still apparently submissive to the yoke — we 
are now in that seven years' peace (785-792) which 
followed the submission of Widukind — but there was a 
fierce and warlike Sclavonic tribe called by themselves 
Welatabi, but by the Franks Wiltzi, who dwelt beyond 
the Elbe in the country which has since been named 
Pomerania, and these people, having by the subjugation 
of the Saxons become next-door neighbours to the 
Frankish State, were displaying those qualities which 
generally bring the less civilised race into collision with 
the more civilised, when a narrow boundary divides 
them. As the chronicler puts it : " This people was ever 
hostile to the Franks, and was wont to pursue with 
their hatred, to oppress and harass in war all their 
neighbours who were either subject to the Franks or in 
league with them. Whose insolence the king thought 
he ought no longer to put up with, and he therefore 
determined to attack them in war, and, having collected 
a large army, he crossed the Ehine at Cologne " (789). 


He marched through Saxon-land, crossed the Elbe by 
two bridges, led his army (in whose ranks fought many 
of the lately subdued Saxons), into the hostile territory, 
and, according to the usual formula, laid everything 
waste with fire and sword. The Wiltzi, though a war- 
like people, lost heart, and when the oldest and most 
powerful of their chiefs, a man named Dragawit, came 
in and made his submission to Charles, all the others 
followed his example. There were the usual oaths of 
vassalage, surrender of hostages, perhaps a promise of 
tribute : but although, from the way in which it is 
mentioned by Charles's biographer it is evident that this 
campaign against the Wiltzi was an arduous one, it 
cannot be said to have produced any enduring results. 
Speaking generally, the Elbe remained the boundary of 
the Frankish kingdom. The various Sclavonic tribes 
on the other side of it were, to borrow a term from 
modern diplomacy, " in the Frankish sphere of influence," 
but they were not obedient citizens of the Frankish 

We return to the affairs of the Avars. The year 
790 was a quiet one, so much so that Charles, now 
verging on his fiftieth year, and " fearing to grow torpid 
through lack of exercise," sailed up the Main and the 
Franconian Saale to his palace of Konigshofen by the 
banks of the latter river, and returned in like manner 
to Worms. But even in this year there were dis- 
cussions and altercations concerning boundaries with 
the ambassadors of the Avars. Charles was evidently 
making his preparations and accumulating materials for 
his case against the doomed nationality. 

Next year, 791, the storm burst, and Charles made 


his great, his only personally commanded expedition, 
into Avar-land. At a council of Franks, Saxons, and 
Frisians held at Ratisbon, it was decided that "on 
account of the great and intolerable malice which the 
Avars had shown towards the Holy Church and the 
Christian people, and the impossibility of obtaining 
justice at their hands by means of the royal messengers, 
a hostile expedition should march against them." The 
whole army marched to the river Enns, the boundary of 
Avar-land, and there for three days sang litanies and 
heard solemn masses imploring God "for the safety 
of the army, the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, and 
victory aiid vengeance against the Avars." Charles 
then, according to his usual custom, divided his army, 
marching himself along the south bank of the Danube, 
and sending the Saxon and Frisian auxiliaries with 
some Franks along the northern bank. The Avars had 
erected two strongholds, one on each side of the river, 
at a little distance above the modern city of Vienna : 
but they were struck with panic fear when they saw the 
two columns marching on either side of the river, and 
the ships (laden probably with provisions) sailing 
majestically between them. They abandoned their 
strongholds without striking a blow, "and so, Christ 
leading on his own people, both armies entered the 
country without sustaining any loss." It was, in fact, 
a military promenade. Charles marched through the 
country, ravaging as he went, as far as the river Raab, 
and then, "after traversing and laying waste a great 
part of Pannonia, carried back his army safe and sound 
into Bavaria. This expedition was made without 
inconvenience of any kind, save that in that part of the 


army which the king commanded, so great a pestilence 
arose among the horses that scarcely the tenth part out 
of so many thousands of horses is said to have remained 
alive." The king returned to Eatishon, which he evi- 
dently intended now to make his headquarters till the 
end of the Avar war, and kept his Christmas there. 

Next year, however (792), broke out the conspiracy 
of Pippin the Hunchback, and this probably occupied so 
much of Charles's attention as to make it impossible to 
undertake an expedition into Avar-land. He remained, 
however, during the whole year in Bavaria, and ordered 
the construction of a bridge of boats which he might in 
the next campaign throw across the Danube,* and so at 
any moment unite the two armies marching along the 
opposite banks of the river. 

In 793 came the terrible tidings of the destruction 
of Theodoric's army by the banks of the Weser, and 
the rekindling of the Saxon war, deadlier and fiercer 
than ever. The abortive attempt to canalise the 
feeders of the Danube and the Ehine, and so unite those 
two great arteries of his kingdom, occupied Charles all 
the summer of that year. On its failure he recognised 
that the war against the Avars must be suspended for a 
season, at any rate as far as his personal share in it was 
concerned. He set his face northward and made 
Frankfurt, Aachen, and the towns of Saxon-land itself, 
his abiding places during the six years that followed. 

But it seems that the great campaign of 791 had been 
even more successful than it was thought to be at the 
time. There appear to have been jealousies and 
rivalries in the Avar kingdom which, as soon as the 
restraint of fear was removed, as soon as it was seen 


that the chagan was not invincible, broke forth into 
open dissension and completed the wreck of the 
barbarous state. In the summer of 795, while Charles, 
keenly intent on the Saxon war, was encamped by the 
Elbe in a place near to the present site of Liineburg, 
there came to him messengers from a tudun of the 
Avars announcing his willingness to be baptized and to 
hand over his people and land to the Frankish king. 
And in fact next year this tudun came according to 
his promise to Aachen, and there made his formal 
submission to Charles. He and his followers were 
baptized and returned home enriched by royal gifts. 

But meanwhile there had been more evident tokens 
of the utter collapse of the Avar kingdom. The conduct 
of the war after Charles's departure had apparently 
been left to the Duke of Friuli, who inherited the 
hatred of two centuries of border wars between his 
duchy and the Avars. The duke now ruling was a 
Frank named Eric, a man distinguished in the wars, 
and who might truly be called a Paladin of Charles's 
court, but also a generous benefactor of the poor, a 
friend of the Church, a man to Vhom Paulinus, Bishop 
of Aquileia, addressed a treatise on practical religion 
(perhaps something like Jeremy Taylor's treatise on 
Holy Living), evidently with the assurance that it would 
meet with a hearty welcome from his friend. This 
devout and valiant warrior, in the late autumn of 795, 
invaded Avar-land, penetrated to the far-famed Hring, 
pierced through all its seven circles, and made himself 
master of the immense hoard which the chagans had been 
piling up there for two centuries. It was no wonder 
that he found an enormous accumulation of treasure, 



for, besides the results of the mere robber raids which 
the predatory Avars had made on all the surrounding 
peoples, during a great part of the seventh century the 
eastern emperors had been forced to pay 80,000 or 
100,000 golden solidi as a yearly tribute to these terrible 
neighbours ; nay, on one occasion the Emperor Heraclius 
had to purchase peace from them at the price of 200,000 
solidi. The locking up of such a vast quantity of the 
only considerable European currency in this barbarian 
stronghold must have sensibly affected the economic 
condition of Europe, and it would not be surprising if 
future inquirers should discover that there was a great 
rise of prices as the consequence of its dispersion. 
Besides the hoarded solidi there were gorgeous arms, 
silken tissues, and many other precious things ; and all 
these, according to one annalist, were sent piled on fifteen 
great waggons, each drawn by four oxen, to Charles at 
Aachen. The courtiers and nobles received generous 
presents from the king out of the great hoard ; the pope 
and his chief ecclesiastical friends were not forgotten, 
but much also was laid up in the royal treasury and not 
distributed till the king^s death. 

In the next year (796) Charles's son Pippin, King of 
Italy, followed up Eric's success; again visited the 
mysterious Hring to complete the work of spoliation, 
drove the Avars across the Theiss, and visited his father 
at Aachen, bringing with him the plunder of the 
conquered people. 

There were indeed some upflickerings of the ap- 
parently extinguished fire. The baptized tvdun failed 
to keep his oath of fealty to Charles, and had to be 
punished for his perfidy. In 799 Gerold, the Frankisb 


governor of Bavaria, brother of Charles's late queen 
Hildegard, fell in battle with the insurgent Avars. But 
this Turanian people made not near so obstinate or 
long continued a resistance as the Teutonic Saxons. 
In the year 805 we find the capchan, who was a 
Christian, and bore the Greek name Theodore, humbly 
petitioning the Emperor Charles that on account of the 
needs of his people a place of habitation might be 
assigned to them between Sabaria and Carnuntum (the 
country round the Neusiedler See). His request was 
granted, and he returned to his people enriched by 
presents from the emperor, but soon after died. The 
new chagan soon after " sent one of his nobles praying 
that he might have the ancient honour which the chagan 
used to have among the Avars. To which prayer the 
emperor gave his assent, and ordered that the chagan 
should have the supremacy over the whole kingdom 
according to the old custom of the Avars." 

After this we practically hear no more of the Avars 
during the lifetime of Charles. The power of the great 
Tui'anian kingdom was utterly broken, and possibly, but 
for the invasion of the Hungarians, who appeared upon 
the scene about seventy years after the death of Charle- 
magne, there would have been a complete reconquest of 
the lands of the Middle Danube by the Teutonic race. 
It must not be forgotten, however, that here, as well as 
further north, Sclavonic tribes were hovering round the 
eastern border of the Frankish kingdom, and, in fact, it 
was in a war with one of these tribes, the Croatian 
inhabitants of Tarsatica, on the Adriatic, that the valiant 
Eric of Friuli lost his life (799). The news was brought 
to King Charles at Paderborn at the same time as the 

164 CHARLES THE GREAT chap, ix 

tidings of the death of his brother-in-law, Grerold, and 
saddened him in the midst of his Saxon victories. 
Bishop Paulinus wrote a Latin elegy on the death of his 
friend, in which, like David in his lament over Saul, he 
prayed that neither dew nor rain might fall on the 
Libumian shore, nor corn nor wine might gladden the 
hills on which the noble Eric met his doom. 



Now that we are approaching the most important event 
in the life of Charlemagne, his assumption of the imperial 
title, it will be necessary to glance at his relations with 
the line of sovereigns who alone up to the year 800 wore 
the title of Emperor, the Caesars of Constantinople. 

It will be hardly needful here to repeat the warning 
given by many recent historians against considering the 
State which was governed from Constantinople, between 
476 and 800, as anything else than the Roman empire. 
As its centre of gravity was now on the Bosphorus 
instead of being on the Tiber, and as its chief posses- 
sions were situated on the east of the Gulf of Venice, or 
even on the east of the Archipelago, it is difficult to 
avoid speaking of it as the eastern empire ; but for all 
the centuries between the fifth and the ninth we must 
remember that this is not a strictly accurate expression. 
It was during all that period "^Ae empire" "the 
dominion of the world," nay, it was still the " Eoman 
republic," though the man who sat in Julius Caesar's 
seat was practically the uncontrolled despot of the 
Eoman world. 


And during all these intermediate centuries, though 
the empire might be cut very short, by Frank and 
Goth and Saxon in the west, or by the Saracen in the 
east, it would be safe to say that it never acquiesced in 
its limitations. Pre-eminently the wonderful reconquests 
of Italy, of Africa, of part of Spain, which were wrought 
in the sixth century by the generals of Justinian, might 
well keep alive the hope that, after the " little systems " 
of barbarian and infidel had " had their day," the true 
Divinely-appointed world-ruler would emerge from his 
temporary eclipse and be again supreme all round the 
shores of the Mediterranean. 

Doubtless, though the name " Eoman " was still kept 
and still gloried in, the empire was, with each succeed- 
ing century, becoming more thoroughly Greek, or rather 
Graeco-Asiatic, in its character. From this point of 
view it has been observed by a modem historian that 
the great pestilence which raged in 747 (five years after 
the birth of Charles) was an important factor in the 
transformation of the empire. " A vast portion of the 
inhabitants of Byzantium, who maintained Roman 
character and many Eoman traditions amid all their 
half-Hellenic, half-Oriental ways, had been carried ofi" by 
the plague, and were replaced by pure Greeks who had 
not inherited the effect of Eoman influence. This was 
an important step in the direction of becoming a Greek 
nationality, to which goal the Eoman empire was steadily 
tending" (Bury, Histoi'y of the Later Roman Empire, ii. 

But, notwithstanding this, the emperor at Byzantium 
never forgot that he was Eoman, but always looked 
upon Italy as his lawful, his almost inalienable, posses- 


sion. Gaul, Spain, Britain — it might be necessary to 
abandon these to the barbarians — but Italy, but Eome, 
were rightfully his, and all the shades of all the buried 
Csesars would pass in angry procession before the eyes 
of the degenerate successor who should be so base as 
formally to abandon his right to hold them. This, or 
something like this, we may believe to have been the 
secret underlying thought of the Leos and the Con- 
stantines when they heard what the Frank was doing in 

Through the greater part of the eighth century the 
Iconoclastic controversy was the dominating element in 
the politics of the empire. We have already seen some- 
thing of the career of the first great image-breaker, Leo 
III. On his death, which happened in 740 (two years 
before the birth of Charlemagne) he was succeeded by 
his son Constantino V., as able a general, as strong a 
statesman, and as determined an image-breaker as his 
father. He was a great enemy also of the monks, and 
both they and the image -worshippers suffered at his 
hands a persecution which (at any rate according to 
their account of it) might seem to recall the days of 
Decius and Diocletian. 

To the court of Constantino V. fled the young Adel- 
chis, son of Desiderius, on the downfall of the Lombard 
kingdom (774). He was well received by the emperor, 
who bestowed upon him the high-sounding title of 
Patrician, thus making him, as far as rank in the empire 
went, at least the equal of his conqueror, Charles. We 
have seen how the combination of rebellious Italian dukes, 
independent princes, and Byzantine generals, which was 
formed to restore Adelchis to the Lombard throne, failed, 


owing to the death of Constantine V. (September 775), 
and how Hrodgaud of Friuli was left alone to bear and 
to sink under the vengeful might of the Frankish king. 

The Emperor Constantine V. was succeeded by his 
son Leo TV., surnamed the Khazar, his mother having 
been a princess of that barbarous Tartar tribe, who 
dwelt by the Sea of Azof and under the Caucasus. The 
strain of barbarian blood did not bring strength to the 
character of the young emperor. Leo IV., though an 
earnest image-breaker, was distinctly a weaker man than 
his father, and during his short reign the cause of Icono- 
clasm probably retrograded rather than advanced. 

The five years during which Leo the Khazar was on 
the throne (775-780) were years during which Charles 
gave little attention to the affairs of Italy, having much 
to occupy him elsewhere, for these were the years of 
Roncesvalles and of the fresh outbreak of the Saxon 
revolt. His friend and clamorous dependant, however, 
Pope Hadrian, sent him frequent cries for help. " The 
Greeks hateful to God " (that is the generals and minis- 
ters of Leo the Khazar) were conspiring with the " most 
unutterable" Lombards of Benevento to seduce the 
towns in Campania from their allegiance to Charles and 
Hadrian. The island of Sicily, the one secure strong- 
hold of the Byzantine power during all these centuries, 
was the focus of this strife, but in order to prosecute it 
more successfully the patrician of Sicily took up his 
headquarters at Gaeta, and from thence, in concert 
with the Duke of Naples, was pressing hard upon those 
Campanian and Latian cities which kept their loyalty to 
the pope. Moreover, when Hadrian wrote one of his 
most urgent letters, in 779, it was daily expected that 


"the son of the ipost unutterable and long ago absolutely 
unmentionable king Desiderius " would land in Italy with 
soldiers lent him by his Imperial ally and head the anti- 
Papal, anti-Frankish coalition. 

Still, however, Adelchis lingered in Constantinople 
and once again a vacancy in the palace of the Caesars 
saved Italy from a war. On the 8th of September 780, 
Leo the Khazar died and was succeeded by his son 
Constantine VI., a boy of nine years old, ruling not 
under the regency of, but jointly with, his mother 
Irene. This woman was a daughter of Athens and a 
secret worshipper of images, though in her father-in-law's 
lifetime she had solemnly sworn always to adhere to the 
party of the Iconoclasts. Like Queen Athaliah of old, 
she was passionately fond of power, both for its own 
sake and as helping her to maintain the cause of idolatry 
against the religious reformers, and she was ready, in 
defence of her darling schemes of ambition, to violate 
not only the oath which she had given to her father-in- 
law — that was a light and pardonable offence — but the 
deepest and holiest instincts of a woman's heart, the 
love of a mother for her only son. 

For the first ten years of the joint reign (780-790) the 
lad, Constantine VI., quietly submitted to his mother's 
ascendency, and only her will and her projects require 
the historian's attention. The Iconoclastic spirit was 
strong among the soldiers of her late husband's family, 
and she had to wait four years before she could openly 
take steps towards the restoration of the worship of 
images; but she seems at once to have ceased the 
attacks on Hadrian's subject cities, and to have assumed 
a more friendly attitude towards Charles, who was not 


himself at this time interested in the Iconoclastic con- 
troversy, but whose friendship was important if the 
Patriarchate of Constantinople was to be reconciled with 
that of Rome. Thus it came to pass that in 781, during 
Charles's second visit to Rome, there appeared in that 
city two high nobles of the Byzantine Court, the sacel- 
larius Constans and the primicerius Mamalus, who brought 
proposals for a marriage between the young emperor 
and Charles's daughter Hrotrud, whom the Greeks called 
Eruthro. It was only an alliance at some future day 
that was talked of, for the prospective bridegroom was 
but ten years old, and the Frankish princess was prob- 
ably about eight. But the match was a splendid one, 
there having been no previous instance of a matrimonial 
alliance between the Roman Csesars and the Frankish 
kings, and Charles gladly accepted the offer. A tutor 
named Elissseus was sent to the Frankish court to 
instruct the future empress in the Greek tongue, and 
there was peace in Italy between the Franks and the 
generals of the empire. 

During these years of peace Irene was maturing her 
plans for the restoration of image- worship. In 784, 
Paul the Patriarch of Constantinople resigned his great 
office and became a monk, acknowledging to all the 
world that his conscience was troubled by the isolation 
of Constantinople from all the other Patriarchates on 
the ground of Iconoclasm. Nothing could have suited 
Irene's plans better than this resignation. Her secretary 
Tarasius, though a layman, was made patriarch in the 
room of Paul, evidently on the understanding that 
images were to be restored. In August 785 an imperial 
letter from Constantine and Irene was addressed to 


Pope Hadrian begging him to fix a time for the convoca- 
tion of a general council at Constantinople to settle the 
question of Iconoclasm. The pope of course gladly con- 
sented, though he took advantage of the reopened 
intercourse with Constantinople to demand the restora- 
tion of the "patrimonies" (probably in Sicily) which 
had been taken away from St. Peter's see by the first 
Iconoclastic emperor: and though he also held up to 
the Byzantine rulers the admirable example of Charles, 
"King of the Franks and Lombards, and Patrician of 
Rome, who had in all things obeyed the admonitions of 
the pope his spiritual father, had subdued to himself 
the barbarous nations of the west, and had given back 
to the church of St. iPeter many estates, provinces, and 
towns, of which it had been despoiled by the faithless 

The general council was opened at Constantinople in 
August 786, but failed of its purpose. The Iconoclastic 
spirit was still too strong among the soldiers who were 
quartered in Constantinople, old comrades of Leo III. 
and his son. The church was invaded by them, and 
the image- worshipping bishops departed in fear. Next 
year, however, care having been taken to dispose of the 
Iconoclastic troops elsewhere, a general council was held 
at Nicaea (24th September to 23rd October 787), and 
there the cuUus of images was re-established in full glory, 
only with one of those distinctions dear to theologians 
which defined " that it was right to salute and grovel in 
adoration before the holy images, but not to give them 
that peculiar worship which is due to God alone." 

Thus, then, the great cause of ecclesiastical contention 
was removed, and we might expect that the joyful event 



would be celebrated by the marriage of the young 
affianced pair, Constantino and Hrotrud, now aged six- 
teen and fourteen respectively. On the contrary, this 
was the very year in which, after mysterious embassies 
backwards and forwards between the two Courts, the 
marriage treaty was broken off and the relations became 
more openly hostile than ever ; but curiously enough 
(as is not unfrequently the case in such affairs) there is 
a conflict of testimony as to which side had the credit 
or discredit of breaking off the match. The Frankish 
annalists say or hint that Charles refused his daughter 
to the young Emperor, who was much angered by the 
refusal. A Byzantine historian says that " Irene broke 
off the treaty with the Franks and sent the Captain of 
the Guard to fetch a damsel from Armenia named Mary 
whom she married to her son the Emperor Constantine, 
he being much grieved thereat, and not liking his bride 
because his inclination was towards the daughter of 
Charles, King of the Franks, to whom he had been pre- 

It is hopeless with our scanty materials to discover 
the reason of this mysterious rupture between the Courts. 
One of the most careful of the German writers who have 
treated of this period attributes it entirely to Charles's 
invasion of Benevento and reduction of its prince Arichis 
to vassalage, which, as has been already related, occurred 
in the year 786. This, he considers, was a breach of the 
tacit agreement to maintain the Italian status qiio ante 
entered into in 781, and was resented accordingly. 
Others have seen in it a stroke of policy on the part of 
Irene, who was already becoming jealous of her son's 
share in the Imperial authority, and feared to see him 


provided with a ^oo powerful father-in-law. If it be 
permitted to hazard yet another conjecture, where all 
is conjectural, I would point out that in the interval 
between 781 and 787, Hildegard, the mother of Hrotrud, 
had died, and Charles had married another wife, the 
haughty and unpopular Fastrada. Possibly that proud 
and jealous woman resented the idea of seeing her little 
step-daughter raised higher than herself by her exalta- 
tion to the throne of the Caesars, and may have used her 
influence with her husband to entangle still further the 
already ravelled hank of the negotiations with Constanti- 
nople, and at last in disgust to break off the match 
altogether 1 The whole story is a remarkable illustration 
of the fact, so clearly shown in the negotiations for the 
Spanish marriage of Charles I. when Prince of Wales, 
that a marriage treaty, if not very carefully conducted, 
is quite as likely to embroil two sovereigns as to unite 

One curtous, though not immediate, result of the 
rapidly increasing estrangement between Franks and 
Greeks was that in the great synod which Charles held 
at Frankfurt in 794 for the condemnation of the 
" Adoptian heresy," Charles induced his bishops to pass 
a severe condemnation of " the synod held a few years 
before under Irene and her son which called itself the 
Seventh Ecumenical Council, but which was neither the 
seventh nor ecumenical, but was rejected by all present 
at Frankfurt as absolutely superfluous." At the same time 
it was declared by the assembled bishops that neither 
worship nor adoration was to be paid to the images of 
the saints. Thus was Charles, the great patron and 
defender of the papacy, actually brought into contro- 


versy with the pope on an important point of Christian 

The immediate effect of the rupture of the marriage 
treaty was seen in an invasion of Italy by the Greeks, 
in which at last the long lingering Adelchis took part. 
The intention was to make an attack on Charles's 
dominions in combination with the Prince of Benevento 
(on whom the dignity of patrician was conferred) per- 
haps also with Tassilo the Bavarian; but before the 
Imperial troops landed in Italy, Arichis of Benevento 
was no more. He died on the 26th of August 787, a 
man still in the flower of his age. It is striking to 
observe how much Charles's upward course to empire 
was facilitated by the opportune deaths of his competitors. 
Carloman, Constantine V., Leo IV., and now Arichis of 
Benevento, all died at the most seasonable time for the 
success of Charles's projects. At the time of the death 
of Arichis, his son and heir Grimwald III. was in 
Charles's keeping as a hostage. Pope HadriS-n earnestly 
besought the king never to permit one of the God-hated 
dynasty to ascend the Beneventan throne, but Charles, 
after some delay, allowed Grimwald to return and take 
his place in the palace of Benevento. He was, however, 
compelled to promise to pay a yearly tribute of 7000 
solidi, to coin money with Charles's ef^gj, to date his 
charters by the years of the Prankish king, and in 
all things to acknowledge him as his over-lord. For the 
present these conditions were kept, and at the crisis of 
the Byzantine invasion Grimwald HI. comported him- 
self as a loyal vassal of Charles. So it came to pass 
that when at last the Byzantine troops landed in Calabria 
they were met by the united forces of the Prankish 


king under his general Winighis, and the Lombard 
dukes of Spoleto and Benevento. The defeat of the 
Greeks was crushing (788). Four thousand of their 
warriors were slain, among them the sacellarius John, 
commander of the expedition ; and one thousand were 
taken prisoners. Adelchis appears to have made his 
escape. He reappeared no more on the soil of Italy, but 
died many years after, an elderly, probably a wealthy, 
patrician at Constantinople. This last scion of the 
Lombard kings is not an interesting figure in history. 

Charles's reply to this direct attack on his dominions 
in the south of Italy was to lay hands on the Imperial 
province of Istria in the north, a conquest desirable in 
itself, for the cities of Istria were numerous and wealthy, 
and also one that facilitated the operations which he 
was planning against the Avars. The Court of Constan- 
tinople, probably dispirited by the defeat of the great 
armament under the sacellarius John seems to have 
accepted the rebuff. For several years after this we 
hear nothing more of Greek expeditions to Italy, though 
there may have been intrigues with the young Prince of 
Benevento, who married a Greek wife named Wantia, 
a relative of the Emperor, and in various ways showed 
that he fretted under his galling vassalage to the 
Frankish king. 

But in Constantinople itself during these years of 
truce with the West, strange and terrible events were 
happening. The young Emperor Constantino VI. found 
as he grew up to manhood that he was an absolute 
cipher in his empire and in his palace. All power was 
kept by Irene in her own hands, all orders went through 
her confidential minister the eunuch Stauracius. To 


these two all suppliants addressed their petitions. Con- 
stantino himself was treated as of no account to any 
man. Brooding over the daily slights which he had to 
endure, and resenting also, it is said, the manoeuvre 
which had deprived him of his fair young Frankish 
bride, and tied him to the unloved and childless Armenian, 
he began in 790 to look around for partisans who would 
enable him to eflfect a revolution and become a real 
instead of a puppet emperor. The plan of the conspira- 
tors (among whom were two patricians and the great 
minister called magister officiorum), was to arrest the 
empress, send her off to banishment in Sicily, and pro- 
claim Constantino sole emperor. The ever watchful 
Stauracius, however, obtained intelligence of the plot, 
arrested the conspirators, ordered some of them to be 
flogged, tonsured, and sent into the Sicilian exile which 
they had planned for Irene ; the magister officiorum re- 
ceived some degrading punishment and was imprisoned 
in his own house ; and lastly this- same punishment of 
seclusion was inflicted on Constantino, after his mother 
had herself struck him and attacked him with an angry 
woman's invective. Then a new and strange oath was 
administered to all the soldiers in the capital and its 
neighbourhood. " So long as thou livest, Empress ! 
we will not suffer thy son to reign." These events took 
place in the spring or summer of 791. In September 
of that year there came a change. The soldiers who 
were stationed in Armenia, when they were required to 
take the new oath, refused. "We will not put the 
name of Irene before that of Constantine," said they, 
"but will swear obedience as of old to Constantine and 
Irene." The disaffection spread ; the regiments which 


had sworn the now oath to Irene forgot their vows 
and joined the soldiers from Armenia. By the end of 
October the revolution was complete. Irene was com- 
pelled by the clamour of the soldiers to liberate her son 
from confinement ; she was deprived of all power, and 
Constantine was hailed as sole emperor. Stauracius 
was beaten, tonsured and sent into exile in Armenia. 
Aetius, another eunuch and confidant of Irene, was also 
banished, and a clean sweep was made of all the menial 
eunuch train, through whom apparently for ten years 
the empire had been governed. 

But, unfortunately, the character of the young 
emperor, weakened by the subjection in which his 
mother had kept him, was utterly inadequate to the 
duties of his new position. With extraordinary folly, 
after a few months he drew Irene forth from the seclu- 
sion of her palace, and allowed the people to shout once 
more, " Long life to Constantine and Irene." He went 
forth to war with the Bulgarians and was badly beaten. 
This humiliation of the imperial arms caused the soldiers 
in the city to plot for the elevation of Nicephorus, a 
half-brother of Leo IV. and uncle of Constantine VI. 
The young emperor arrested Nicephorus and ordered 
him to be blinded ; and at the same time the tongues 
of four other of his uncles were cut out (792). These 
barbarous punishments, blinding and mutilation, were 
characteristic of the Constantinople of that day, but 
the resort to them on so large a scale proved the alarm 
as well as the cruelty of the young emperor, and must 
have helped to lose him the hearts of his subjects. His 
mother and Stauracius (who was now back again in the 
palace) were thought to have counselled these cruel 


deeds ; and they certainly succeeded in embroiling him 
with his old supporters, the Armenian soldiers, whose 
revolts plunged the empire in civil war. 

The climax of the emperor's unpopularity seems to 
have been reached when (in January 795) he put away 
his Armenian wife, compelling her to enter a convent, 
and in September of the same year publicly celebrated 
his union with a lady of her bedchamber named 
Theodote. He had now lost the favour of the multi- 
tude, while his mother was ever at work forming a 
party among the ofl&cers by promises and bribes, 
suggesting that they should depose her son and 
proclaim her sole empress. On the 14th of June 
797 Constantine went, after witnessing an equestrian 
performance in the circus, to worship in the church 
of St. Mamas in the environs of Constantinople. 
The conspirators, whose movements were directed by 
Stauracius, endeavoured to seize him there, but he 
seems to have been warned, and escaped in the imperial 
boat to the Bithynian shore. Unhappily his mother's 
friends and his own bitterest foes accompanied his 
flight. There was hesitation and delay, and there 
seemed a possibility that the soldiers would rally round 
him and his cause might yet triumph. The ruthless 
Irene sent a secret message to his adherents, "Unless 
in some way or other you effect his capture I will 
inform the emperor of all the plot which you and I 
have formed against him." Fear made the conspirators 
bold; they seized the emperor while at his prayers, 
forced him to re-embark, and hurried him back across 
the Sea of Marmora to Constantinople. There, after the 
lapse of some weeks, in the Purple Chamber of the palace, 


they put out his eyes, purposely performing the cruel 
operation with such brutajity as to endanger his life. It 
was, in fact, supposed by many that he was dead, but 
he appears to have lingered on through many revolu- 
tions, an obscure and forgotten sufferer, for more than 
twenty years after his mutilation. 

The deed was done on Saturday the 15th of August 
797, at the ninth hour of the day. On the same day 
of the week and at the same hour, five years before, 
had his uncle suff'ered the same punishment. Men 
observed the coincidence and traced a divine retribution 
therein. But with greater horror did they learn that 
the emperor had suffered this brutal punishment in the 
Purple Chamber which was always reserved for the 
birth of an emperor's children. Here, in the very same 
room of the palace where he first saw the light, did he 
with the connivance, if not by the express command, 
of his mother lose the light of day and all that makes 
life worth living. "For seventeen days," says the 
historian, himself an image-worshipper and adherent of 
Irene, "the sun was darkened and did not give forth 
his rays, so that vessels lost their course and drifted 
helplessly, and all men said and confessed that because 
of the blinding of the emperor the sun did not show 
his beams. Thus did Irene his mother obtain supreme 

The character of the Empress Irene receives un- 
bounded praise from the writers of the image-worshipping 
party. She is for them "the most pious Irene," "that 
strong-minded and God -guided woman, if, indeed, it 
be right to call her a woman, who was armed against 
all foes and all calamities with truly masculine temper." 


"Irene, that strong-minded and God -beloved woman, 
if we ought to call 'woman' one who surpassed evei\ 
man in her pious disposition, one through whom God 
mercifully expelled the crooked heresy which had crept 
snakelike into the Church and brought back orthodoxy." 
But neither these flatteries of the monkish image- 
worshippers, nor her outward show of magnificence when, 
on Easter Monday (799), the proud Athenian rode forth 
from the Church of the Apostles in a golden car drawn 
by four white horses, which were driven by four 
patricians, and showered money among the multitude 
after the fashion of the ancient Consuls of Eome, repre- 
sented the real place of the empress in the hearts of 
her subjects. The rule of Irene meant, as every one 
knew, the rule and the bickerings of the eunuchs who 
advised her. Moreover, there was really no precedent 
for a woman sitting alone in the seat of empire. When 
Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II., was hailed as 
Augusta, it was on condition of her giving her hand to 
the soldier Marcian. Theodora and Sophia were 
Augustse, but ruled only during the lifetime of their 
husbands. "When Martina, widow of Heraclius, tried 
to pose as joint-ruler with her son and stepson (641), the 
multitude shouted an indignant denial of her claims. 
" How can you sit upon the throne and answer foreign 
envoys when they come to the royal city. God forbid 
that the polity of the Eomans should come into 
such a plight as that." It was a hundred and fifty- 
six years since the Byzantine populace had hurled 
these words at Martina and compelled her to descend 
from the throne, but we may be sure that the spirit 
which prompted them still dwelt in the hearts of the 


mass of the people who yet called themselves Eomans. 
To be ruled by a woman, and such a woman, the despoiler 
and all but murderer of her own son, was felt to be 
an unendurable humiliation. The insecurity of Irene's 
position was shown by the shortness of her reign, but 
that short reign of five years (797-802) was long enough 
to include, in a certain sense to necessitate, the great 
event which will be the subject of the following chapter. 



The events described at the end of the last chapter 
happened in August 797. In the autumn of the follow- 
ing year, when Charies was resting at Aachen from the 
fatigues of a Saxon campaign on the banks of the Elbe, 
there appeared before him two Byzantine ambassadors, 
Michael, aforetime Patrician of Phrygia, and Theophilus, 
a priest of Blachernse, who, on behalf of the Empress 
Irene, sought for and obtained the restoration of friendly 
relations between the empire and the kingdom. The 
covenant of peace was ratified by the return of an 
illustrious Greek captive, Sisinnius, brother of the 
Patriarch Tarasius, who had been taken prisoner prob- 
ably in the Apulian war of 788. 

But a far more distinguished visitor than either 
Michael or Theophilus was to visit Charles's court in 
the following year, and to plead in lowlier fashion for 
his help. To understand the nature of this visit we 
must go back for a few years and glance at the events 
which had been happening not in the New, but in the 
Old Rome. 

On the day after Christmas Day, 795, died Pope 


Hadrian I. after a long and eventful pontificate. The 
relations between him and Charles had not been always 
friendly, for Hadrian had found that no more than 
the Lombard king would the Frank grant the exorbi- 
tant demands for towns and lordships which were un- 
ceasingly urged in the name of St. Peter. Still there 
had been a certain similarity of spirit and temper 
which had drawn these two strong men together, and, 
as we have already seen, Charles mourned for the 
death of Hadrian as if he had been the dearest of his 

On the death of Hadrian, Leo III. was immediately 
elected to the papal throne. He was a Eoman by birth, 
an inmate from his childhood of the Lateran palace, and 
had gone through the regular gradation of ecclesiastical 
offices till he had reached the high position of papal 
vesfararius. It would seem probable that he was the 
candidate most acceptable to the clerics of the Eoman 
Church, though the result showed that there was a 
large party among the great lay-officers of the papal 
court to whom his elevation was by no means welcome. 
He was, at a crisis of his fortunes, accused by bitter 
enemies of adultery and forgery, but no proof was 
offered of these charges, and there seems no reason to 
believe that his moral character was not stainless. 
There are some indications, however, that he was not 
loved by the people of Eome. Possibly his temper may 
have been harsh : possibly too they were beginning to 
chafe under the yoke of the dignitary who but lately 
was their spiritual pastor, sometimes their champion, 
but who now asserted himself as their sovereign. 

Immediately on his elevation. Pope Leo sent 


messengers to Charles announcing his election and carry- 
ing to him the keys of St. Peter's tomb and the banner 
of the city of Rome. This act of submission to the 
great Patrician of Eome, to whom the pope looked for 
confirmation of his rights and protection from his 
enemies, was represented in the celebrated mosaic in 
the Triclinium of the Lateran palace, of which a toler- 
ably accurate seventeenth-century copy still exists on 
the outside wall of the oratory called the Sancta 
Sanctorum^ immediately in front of the Lateran. In it 
the Apostle Peter, of colossal size, is represented sitting 
with the keys on his lap. Before him, on his right, 
kneels Pope Leo, to whom he is giving the pallium; 
on his left "our lord Carulus," to whom he gives a 
banner ; and underneath is an inscription in barbarous 
Latin stating that the blessed Peter gives life to Pope 
Leo and victory to King Charles. Charles is repre- 
sented as wearing a moustache, but no beard. He has 
a broad pleasant face and is crowned with a conical 

The Frankish king replied to the new pope by 
sending to him his friend and chaplain Angilbert, 
bearing a letter in which he dilated on the various 
duties which Providence had assigned to its sender and 
its receiver. "It is ours with the help of the divine 
piety externally to defend the Holy Church of Christ by 
our arms from all pagan inroads and infidel devastation, 
and internally to fortify it by the recognition of the 
Catholic faith. It is yours, most holy father, with 
hands raised to God like Moses, to help our warfare ; 
that by your intercession the Christian people may every- 
where have the victory over its enemies, and the name 


of our Lord Jesus Christ may be magnified throughout 
the whole world." At the same time Angilbert brought 
the share of the Avar booty which Charles had set 
aside for Hadrian, but which came too late to gladden 
the heart of the aged pontiff. 

This exchange of embassies took place in 796. Three 
years later the Christian world was horrified by the 
news of a brutal outrage enacted in the streets of Eome. 
On the 25th of April 799, the pope was mounted and 
preparing to ride forth from Rome along the Flarainian 
Way, in order to celebrate what was called the Greater 
Litany, a religious function which had taken the place 
of the heathen RoUgalia and in which the Divine pro- 
tection was implored for the springing corn against the 
perils of blasting and mildew. Suddenly, ere he had 
emerged from the city, he was set upon by a band of 
ruffians who had been lying in wait at the church of St. 
Silvestro in Capite, on the right hand of the Corso. 
They tore him from his horse, they belaboured him 
with cudgels ; according to one account they tried to 
practise upon him the Byzantine atrocities of pulling 
out the eyes and cutting out the tongue ; at any rate 
they left him speechless and helpless in the solitary 
street, for all his long train of attendants, as well as the 
crowd which had gathered after him to go forth in 
bright procession along the Flaminian Way, forsook 
him and fled. 

There is some reason to suppose that this attack was 
an outburst of civic fury, exasperated by some acts of 
the unpopular pontiff; but there is no doubt that the 
movement was directed by two men, Paschalis and 
Campulus, who were high in office in the papal house- 


hold, and one or both of whom were nephews of the 
pope's predecessor Hadrian. A lurid light is shed by 
this fact on the heart-burnings and angry disappoint- 
ments which were often caused among the clients of a 
deceased pope by the election of his successor. 

After suffering many indignities the unhappy Leo was 
dragged at night to the monastery of St. Erasmus on 
the Coelian hill. Here he was closely confined for some 
days, but he recovered somewhat from his bruises, and 
sight returned — ^miraculously the next generation said 
— to his injured eyes. By the help of a faithful servant, 
his chamberlain Albinus, he succeeded in escaping — 
probably by a rope — down the wall of the convent, and 
was taken by his friends to St. Peter's. Here he was 
soon in perfect safety, for the Frankish duke of Spoleto, 
Winighis, who had heard of the murderous assault, came 
with an army to his rescue and escorted him to his own 
city, a safe stronghold among the mountains of Umbria. 
The foiled conspirators, who had heard with terror of 
their victim's flight, vented their rage on the house of 
Albinus, which they gave to the flames. Probably for 
many subsequent months anarchy ruled in Eome. 

In the disturbed state of Italy, and with Eome given 
over to his unscrupulous foes, the only resource left for 
the pope was in the protection of Charles ; and to his 
court, or rather to his camp, for he was immersed in the 
Saxon war, Leo III. repaired in the summer of 799. It 
was now more than forty -five years since a pope (Stephen 
II.) had crossed the Alps on a similar errand. Much 
had happened in the interval. The monarchy of the 
"most unspeakable" Lombards had been overthrown; 
the successor of St. Peter had become one of the great 


princes of the esrth ; and yet, as Leo must with sadness 
have reflected, not even sovereignty had brought safety. 
" Wounded in the house of his friends," the Bishop of 
Rome had received from the hands of his own courtiers 
and subjects treatment infinitely more cruel and contu- 
melious than any that the much vituperated Lombard 
had ever inflicted on his predecessors. Musing on these 
things Pope Leo doubtless saw that the day-dream of a 
papal sovereignty extending over all Italy could not be 
realised. Eather must he make his Frankish friend and 
protector stronger in Italy. The Patrician of Rome must 
take some higher and more imposing title, and must be 
induced to give more assiduous attention to the affairs 
of the Italian peninsula. 

As in that earlier papal visit Charles, then a lad of 
twelve, had been sent to meet Stephen 11. , so now did 
Charles send his son Pippin (a young man of twenty-two, 
and the crowned king of Italy) to meet Pope Leo. 
Pippin escorted the venerable guest into his father's 
presence. Pope and king embraced and kissed with 
tears. The clergy in the papal train intoned the Gloria 
in Excelsis, and the nobles and courtiers round added 
their joyful acclamations. This meeting took place at 
Paderborn, where Charles had built a new and splendid 
church in the place of the edifice often destroyed by the 
Saxons. In this church Pope Leo hallowed an altar, 
which he enriched with relics of the protomartyr Stephen 
brought by him from Rome, and assured the king that 
by the powerful intercession of that saint the church 
would be preserved from future devastation. 

Leo remained probably for about two months, from 
July to September, at Paderborn, in constant inter- 


course with Charles. Much would doubtless be said in 
the conferences between the two potentates concerning 
the condition of the Church, the heresy of the Adoptians, 
the Iconoclastic controversy, and above all concerning 
the charges brought against the pope's character by his 
relentless enemies in Eome. Was there also something 
said about that great event towards which, as we know, 
the course of history was tending, the bestowal of the 
imperial title on Charles 1 Here we have only conjec- 
tures to guide us, but in these conjectures we must take 
account of one most powerful influence upon which I 
have hitherto been silent, the influence of the absent, but 
continually consulted Northumbrian, Alcuin. 

Alcuin, born of a noble Anglian family about the year 
735, and therefore some seven years older than Charles, 
was brought up from childhood in the monastic seminary 
of York, and there drank in with eager lips the learning, 
deepest and best of its day in all Europe, which that 
celebrated school imparted to its pupils, Bede, it is 
true, had died about the time of Alcuin's birth, but 
from Bede's pupil Ecgbert, Archbishop of York (732-766), 
and from his successor Albert (767-778), he acquired a 
knowledge, not only of theology, but also of many secular 
arts and sciences. To astronomy he was led by the 
intricate calculations and endless discussions concerning 
the true date of Easter. But in the archiepiscopal 
library, as Alcuin himself tells us, there was also a re- 
spectable collection of the Latin classics, Pliny, Cicero, 
Virgil, Lucan, Statius are all enumerated by him, as 
well as Aristotle, who was probably represented only by 
a Latin translation. To the study of these authors the 
young Northumbrian gave many industrious years ; 


Virgil especiall} was long the master of his soul, and 
the legends of a later generation told how the visit of 
an evil spirit to his cell was necessary to frighten him 
away from the nocturnal study of the Mantuan bard into 
the repetition of the Psalms appointed for the midnight 
service. Certain it is, however, that he did not forsake 
the study of the profane authors, until they had thoroughly 
permeated his style. Unlike some of his brother ecclesi 
astics he wrote Latin, both prose and verse, of which no 
Roman in the first century need have been ashamed. To 
pass from the continual barbarisms, obscurities, puerilities 
of Gregory of Tours, of Fredegarius, or even of the authors 
of the Liber Fontificalis, to the easily flowing prose, or 
hexameter verse of Alcuin is like going from the ill-spelt 
productions of a half-educated ploughman to the letters 
of Cowper or the poetry of Goldsmith. 

Alcuin has been called the Erasmus of the eighth cen- 
tury, and though in one respect the comparison is too 
flattering, since the Northumbrian did but little for 
critical science, it gives on the whole not an incorrect 
impression of the literary position of this man, the 
"child and champion" of the Carolingian Renascence. 
It is evident that he and the men with whom he asso- 
ciated, Angles, Saxons, or Franks, were tired of the 
barbarism M^hich had pervaded Europe for three centuries, 
and looked back with longing, perhaps sometimes with 
unwise longing, to the great days of Roman supremacy 
and peace. Even their Teutonic names were to them 
somewhat of a humiliation. In the literary circle or 
academy which formed itself in Charles's court, chiefly 
under Alcuin's influence, the members assumed classical 
names (like the Melancthon and G^]colampadius of a later 


Renascence), and corresponded with one another under 
these disguises. Thus Alcuin himself was Flaccus 
Albinus, Riculf (afterwards Archbishop of Mainz) was 
Damoetas ; Angilbert, Charles's chaplain, was Homer ; 
Arno, Archbishop of Salzburg, was Aquila. The name of 
the great king himself was David, a name admirably- 
chosen to express his piety, his success in war, and his 
love of women. 

The event which brought " Albinus " and his " dearest 
David " together was a journey which Alcuin undertook 
to Rome in 781, in order to obtain the pallium for his 
friend and superior, Eanbald II., Archbishop of York. 
Alcuin himself was at this time, and in fact throughout 
middle life and old age, only a deacon, though from his 
learning and piety he wielded more influence than many 
bishops. Returning from Rome, he met Charles at 
Parma, and was entreated by him to return to Frank- 
land on the accomplishment of his mission. He protested 
that he could only do this with the consent of his king 
and his archbishop, and these consents having been 
obtained he returned to Charles's court and resided 
there, a sort of literary prime minister, from 782 to 
796, with the exception of a visit to his own country 
between 790 and 792. Though apparently he never 
entered the monastic state, he received from Charles, as 
a piece of preferment, the headship of two abbeys, that 
of Bethlehem at Feni^res and that of St. Lupus at 
Troyes. In 796, feeling the need of repose, he obtained 
his master's reluctant permission to retire to the great 
monastery of St. Martin at Tours, which was placed 
under his rule, and where he spent the remainder of his 
days. This absence from the court is a fortunate thing 


for us, for to it we owe the letters between Charles and 
Alcuin, of which a considerable number are still preserved, 
and which show both king and deacon in no unpleasing 
light. Sometimes Alcuin advises the king to treat the con- 
quered Saxons and Avars tenderly, and not to gall them 
with the yoke of tithes. Sometimes he explains to his 
royal friend the meaning of the terms Septuagesima and 
Sexagesima. Then he enters into long discussions 
about the calendar, the date of Easter, the intercalations 
necessary to bring the solar and the lunar years into 
harmony. The king half mischievously refers these cal- 
culations to the well-taught pages of his palace, who dis- 
cover in them some errors, which, after much mutual 
banter, the elder scholar is compelled to acknowledge. 
Always, however, the intercourse is friendly, sincere, 
elevating. The king does not patronise, and the deacon 
does not cringe. One caimot but feel in reading these 
letters that both men were made to be loved. 

Such was the man who, as there is every reason to 
believe, had whispered to many of his friends the fateful 
word "Imperator" before Pope Leo III. arrived, a 
hunted and half-blinded fugitive, at Charles's court. 

In the month of May (799) Alcuin had written to 
his royal master a remarkable letter, commenting on the 
tidings which Charles had sent him of the assault on 
Pope Leo. From this letter it will be well to extract 
some sentences. 

"To his peace-making lord King David, Albinus 
wishes health. I thank your Goodness, sweetest David, 
for remembering my littleness and making me ac- 
quainted with the facts which your faithful servant 
has brought to my ears. Were I present with 


you I should have many counsels to offer to your 
Dignity, if you had opportunity to listen or I eloquence 
to speak. For I love to write concerning your pro- 
sperity, the stability of the kingdom given you by 
God and the advancement of the Holy Church of 
Christ. All which are much troubled and stained by 
the daring deeds of wicked men which have been 
perpetrated, not on obscure and ignoble persons, but 
on the greatest and the highest. 

"For there have been hitherto three persons higher 
than all others in this world. One is the Apostolic 
Sublimity who rules by vicarious power from the seat 
of St. Peter, prince of the apostles. And what has 
been done to him, who was the ruler of the aforesaid 
see, you have in your goodness informed me. 

" The second is the Imperial dignity and power of 
the second Rome. How impiously the governor of that 
empire [Constantine VI.] has been deposed, not by 
aliens but by his own people and fellow citizens, 
universal rumour tells us. 

" The third is the royal dignity in which the decree 
of our Lord Jesus Christ has placed you as ruler of the 
Christian people, more excellent in power than the other 
aforesaid dignities, more illustrious in wisdom, more 
sublime in the dignity of your kingdom. Lo ! now on 
you alone the salvation of the churches of Christ falls 
and rests. You are the avenger of crimes, the guide 
of the wanderers, the comforter of the mourners, the 
exalter of the good. 

" Have not the most frightful examples of wickedness 
now made themselves manifest in the Roman see where 
of old there was the brightest religion and piety*? These 


men, blinded in their own hearts, have blinded him who 
was their true head. There is in that place no fear of 
God, no wisdom, no charity. What good thing can you 
look for where these are absent *? These are the perilous 
times long since foretold by Him who was Himself the 
Truth, and therefore the love of many waxes cold." 

Alcuin then advises his royal friend to make peace 
if possible with the " unutterable " people (the Saxons), 
to forbear threats in dealing with them and to intermit, 
at any rate for a time, the exaction of tithes. Evidently 
this prudent counsellor felt that the affairs of Italy 
had now the most pressing claim on his master's 
attention, and that it would be wise to concentrate 
all his forces for the solution of the problem which 
there awaited him. 

It was then to a monarch thus prepossessed in his 
favour by the representations of one of his nearest 
friends that Leo HI. appealed in the interview at 
Paderbom. The pope's accusers sent their representa- 
tives to the Saxon town, repeating the charges of 
adultery and perjury, and claiming that the pope should 
be called upon to deny the truth of these charges on 
oath. Privily they gave him the advice of professed 
well-wishers that he should give up the contest, lay 
down his papal dignity and retire in peace to some 
convent. But the king, while reserving the investigation 
into these charges for some future assembly to be held 
in Eome, showed by his conduct that he attached to 
them but little importance. After several weeks' 
sojourn at Paderborn, Leo was dismissed with all 
honour from the camp and was escorted by royal missi 
reverently back to Rome, where he received an enthusi- 


astic welcome from his penitent subjects (30th Novem- 
ber 799). 

The close of this year was saddened by the tidings 
of the death of those two brave champions of Frankish 
civilisation, Gerold and Eric. In the spring of 800, 
Charles set forth on an expedition into Neustria, a part 
of his dominioils which he had apparently not visited 
for two -and -twenty years. Piratical raids of the 
Northmen seem to have been the determining cause 
of this expedition, the object of which was to put the 
coast of the Channel in a proper state of defence. He 
also, however, received the submission of some Breton 
chiefs who had long been in a chronic condition of revolt; 
he made the round of his villas and country palaces in 
Neustria ; and above all he visited the tomb of St. 
Martin at Tours, and had a long spell of close and 
confidential intercourse with his friend Alcuin. Here 
at Tours his fifth and last wife Liutgard died (4th 
June 800), and her illness probably lengthened his stay 
in that city. At length, after revisiting Ehine-land and 
holding a placUum at Mainz (August 800) he began 
his last and most celebrated journey into Italy. 

Having rested for seven days at Kavenna, where he 
probably inhabited the palace built by Theodoric wherein 
the Byzantine exarch had dwelt, he marched down the 
coast of the Adriatic to Ancona. From thence he 
despatched his son Pippin to lay waste the territories of 
that unruly vassal, Grimwald of Benevento. Charles 
himself proceeded through the Picene and Sabine 
districts by the old Via Salaria, and arrived at Momen- 
tum, fourteen miles from Eome. Here he was met by 
the pope, who accosted him with every show of humility 


and deference. Pope and king supped together at 
Nomentum, and then Leo returned to arrange for the 
triumphal entry into Rome. Next day (24th November 
800) this great pageant was enacted. The banners of 
the city of Rome borne by citizens, the gilt crosses 
borne by ecclesiastics, came in long procession to meet the 
great Patrician. Groups of citizens and of the foreigners 
resident in Rome, Franks, Frisians, Saxons (among the 
latter doubtless many of our own countrymen), stationed 
at intervals along the Salarian Way, thundered forth 
their laudes as the king rode by. St. Petej's Church, 
now as before, was the goal of his pilgrimage, and on 
the broad marble stairs stood the pope, with all his 
train of bishops and clergy, to welcome him. He sprang 
from his horse, mounted the steps (not now apparently 
on his knees), and after receiving the papal blessing 
went in and paid his devotions at the tomb of St. Peter. 
The chief business which had brought King Charles 
to Rome was, of course, the enquiry into the brutal 
assault on the pope and the clearing of his character 
from the charges brought against him. Already the 
Frankish missi "jvho accompanied Leo to Rome had held 
a preliminary enquiry, the result of which was that 
Paschalis and Campulus had been sent across the Alps to 
Charles for judgment. Now apparently they returned 
in his train, not so much to defend themselves on the 
score of the outrage (for their guilt was too clear) as to 
prove, if they could, their often-repeated accusations. 
A great synod was assembled at St. Peter's on the 1st 
of December, and was opened by a speech from the 
king. According to the papal biographer, the ecclesi- 
astics composing the synod all with one accord declared : 


" We do not dare to judge the Apostolic see, which is 
the head of all the Church of God ; for by it and by the 
Apostle's vicar we all are judged, but the see itself is 
judged of no man, and this has been the custom from 
old time." "Whether this high papal doctrine was pro- 
claimed and accepted or not, it certainly seems as if 
Paschalis and Campulus entirely failed to make good 
their charges ; but the pope offered, if his conduct were 
not drawn into a precedent against his successors, to 
accept the challenge to clear himself by oath from the 
charges brought against him. It is possible that the 
pope was only slowly brought to make this concession, 
for it was not till more than three weeks after the 
assembling of the synod that the next step was taken. 
On the 23rd of December, in the presence of the Koman 
clergy, as well as of the Frankish followers of the king, 
Pope Leo appeared in the amho of St. Peter's, bearing a 
copy of the four gospels, which he clasped to his breast, 
and then he swore with a loud and clear voice : "Of all 
those charges which the Eomans, my unjust persecutors, 
have brought against me, I declare in the presence of 
God and St. Peter, in whose church I stand, that I am 
innocent, since I have neither done those things whereof 
I am accused nor procured the doing of them." 

The result of the whole investigation was that 
Paschalis and Campulus and their accomplices were 
found guilty of high treason and condemned to death, a 
sentence which, on the intercession of the pope, was 
commuted to perpetual banishment into Frank-land. 

During the weeks that the papal trial was proceeding 
Charles, of course, abode in Eome, whether in one of the 
old imperial dwellings on the Palatine, or as an honoured 


guest of the pope at the Lateran we are not informed. 
It was observed that now, as on the occasion of a 
previous visit to Eome, out of courtesy to the pope he 
laid aside his Frankish dress — a tunic with silver border, 
a vest of otterskins and sable, and a blue cloak — and 
wore instead, after the Eoman fashion, a long tunic and 
a chlamys over it, shoes also made like those of the 
Romans, instead of his Frankish boots with stockings 
and garters. 

It was precisely during this month of December that 
by a fortunate coincidence, the priest Zacharias, whom 
more than a year before Charles had sent on a mission to 
the holy places, returned from the East. Two monks 
came with him, from Olivet and St. Saba, sent by the 
Patriarch of Jerusalem, and bringing by way of blessing 
from that ecclesiastic the keys of the Holy Sepulchre 
and of Calvary, of Jerusalem and Mount Zion, together 
with a consecrated banner. A more striking testimony 
to the world-wide fame of the Frankish conqueror could 
hardly have been rendered than this, which must have 
been meant to invest Charles with a kind of protectorate 
over the most sacred sites in Christendom. 

The pope's solemn oath of self- exculpation was sworn 
on the 23rd of December. Two days later was trans- 
acted that yet more solemn ceremony by which the 
Patriarch of the Western Church, thus purged from the 
stains which his assailants had sought to cast upon his 
character, bestowed upon his royal champion that title 
which set him highest among the rulers of the Christian 
world. The scene was again laid in the great basilica 
of St. Peter, a building, of course, utterly unlike to the 
vast Renaissance temple of Bramante and Michael 



Angelo. There, on Christmas morning, Charles the 
Frank was worshipping before the Confessio or tomb of 
St. Peter. The stately E-oman chlamys hung around 
his shoulders; the crowd that filled the basilica could 
see with satisfaction the dainty Eoman buskins of the 
kneeling monarch. When he rose from prayer Pope 
Leo approached him, placed upon his head a costly 
golden crown, and clothed him in the purple mantle of 
empire. "Then," says the papal biographer, "all the 
faithful Romans, beholding so great a champion given 
them, and knowing the love which he bare to the Holy 
Roman Church and its vicar, in obedience to the will of 
God and of St. Peter, the key-bearer of the kingdom of 
heaven, cried out with deep accordant voices : * To 
Charles, most pious and august, crowned by God, the 
great and peace-bringing emperor, be life and victory! '" 
Thereupon the people sang their jubilant laudes, and the 
pope performed that lowly adoration wherewith his 
predecessors had been wont to greet a Valentinian or a 

The deed was done, and the Holy Roman Empire, 
which lasted a thousand years, and only in the days of 
our fathers was shattered by the fist of Napoleon, was 
established, or (as Alcuin and Leo would have said) was 
re-established in Europe. It was a revolution, no doubt, 
that was enacted on that morning of the 25th of 
December 800. It could not have been justified out of 
the Digest or the Code. According to all the maxims 
of legitimacy which had prevailed for many preceding 
centuries, Charles was an usurper and Leo an inter- 
meddling traitor. And yet, if one could go back still 
earlier to the first days of the empire, the bestowal 


of the imperial title on Charles was not so utterly 
lawless a proceeding. The Roman Imperator in those 
early centuries was not by any elaborate process elected, 
but was always acclaimed. Acclaimed by the army, it is 
true, but also by the people, and there were doubtless 
many soldiers of the militia cohortalis of Rome present 
among the crowd who shouted for life and victory to 
the peace-bringing emperor. When acclaimed by army 
and people the Caesar was, or ought to be, accepted by 
the Senate; and there are some indications that after 
centuries of suspended animation a body calling itself 
the Senate was at this time existing in Rome and con- 
senting to the elevation of Charles. And these bodies, 
Senate, people, army, however insignificant in them- 
selves, were at any rate Roman : they belonged to the 
true old Rome ; they trod the forum of the republic, and 
looked up to the Palatine of the emperors ; they were 
not like the bastard Romans of the Bosphorus, who 
chattered in Greek and wore the robes of Asia, but who 
had usurped for so many centuries the profitable trade- 
mark of the Senate and People of Rome. So, though 
there was but one precedent — and that the bad one of 
Maximin the Thracian — for conferring the dignity of 
emperor on a man of purely Teutonic descent, and 
though it is quite impossible to find a place for the 
chief actor, the Bishop of Rome, in the drama as played 
by all the earlier Caesars, we may on the whole conclude 
that Charles became Roman Emperor by as good a title 
as any who had worn the purple since the days of 

What were the chief causes which led to this great 
change in the political constitution of Europe? They 


have been already hinted at, and we shall probably 
not be wrong in enumerating them as follows. 

First. — The great revival of classical learning, due 
chiefly to the labours of Anglo-Saxon scholars; a 
movement of which men like Bede and Alcuin were the 
standard-bearers. The minds which were influenced by 
this revival perceived plainly that the interests of civilisa- 
tion, and to a certain extent of Christianity, had been in 
past centuries identical with those of the great Roman 
Empire; and from a genuine revival of that Empire 
(not from a mere ephemeral reconquest of certain cities 
or provinces by a spatharius or cubicularius setting sail 
from Constantinople), they anticipated, not altogether 
erroneously, great gains for the civilisation and the 
Christianity of the future. 

Second. — The anomalous position of that which called 
itself the empire, which for the first time in its history 
found itself under what John Knox called "the monstrous 
regiment of a woman," and that woman the murderess 
of her child. 

Third. — The brutal attack on Pope Leo made by the 
disappointed kinsmen of his predecessor. This event 
may well have produced an important change in the 
attitude of the pope towards the question of reviving 
the empire in the west. Before that day of April 
when he was assaulted by his own courtiers and left 
half dead in the streets of Rome, he may (as has been 
already hinted) have looked forward to a time when he 
should reign over the best part of Italy, subject to no 
king or governor; and when whispers reached him of 
the use of the words "Emperor" and "Imperial" by 
the learned ecclesiastics of Charles's court he may in that 


mood of mind have shown that their proposals were 
little to his taste. After that fatal day, his reluctance, 
if he had any, to see one man in the Italian peninsula 
holding an indisputably higher position than his own, 
was changed into eager acquiescence in the scheme. 
He was willing, nay anxious, to see the purple robe 
encircling the stalwart limbs of the Prankish conqueror, 
if only he himself might take shelter under that robe 
from the dagger of the assassin. 

In all this it may be truly said that we have failed 
to consider one important factor in the problem, the 
desires and ambitions of Charles himself. Unfortunately 
a mystery which we cannot penetrate hangs over that 
very subject. One of his most intimate friends, his 
secretary Einhard, expressly says that Charles "at 
first so greatly disliked the title of Emperor and 
Augustus that he declared that if he could have known 
beforehand the intention of the pope he would never 
have entered the church on that day, though it was one 
of the holiest festivals of the year." 

It used to be assumed that this reluctance on the 
part of Charles to receive the new dignity was only a bit 
of well-played comedy between him and Leo, that the 
Frankish king had been long aspiring to the imperial 
dignity, and had even put constraint upon the pope to 
force him to take part in the coronation. More recent 
discussion has shaken our confidence in this easy solution 
of the problem : and probably the greater number of 
writers on the history of this period now hold that 
Charles was speaking the truth when he expressed his 
dissatisfaction with the pope's proceedings. The cause 
of that dissatisfaction can only be conjectured. Einhard 


seems to hint that it was fear of the resentment of the 
Byzantine Caesars, but this hardly seems a sufficient 
cause to one who remembers the low estate of the 
eastern monarchy under Irene. 

With much more probability Professor Dahn argues 
that what Charles disliked was not the bestowal of the 
title in itself but its bestowal by the pope. He thinks 
that Charles and his counsellors had already, in 799, 
virtually resolved on the revival of the empire, that 
the pope penetrated their design, and determined that if 
that step were taken he at least would be chief actor in 
the drama; that by his adroit tactics he, so to speak, 
forced Charles's hand, and that the latter, foreseeing the 
evil consequences which would result from the precedent 
thus established, of a pope-crowned emperor, expressed 
his genuine feelings of vexation to his friend Einhard 
when he said, "Would that I had never entered St. 
Peter's on Christmas Day." Certainly the remembrance 
of all the miserable complications caused during the 
Middle Ages by the pope's claim to set the crown on 
the head of the emperor would do much to justify the 
unwillingness of a statesman such as the Prankish king 
to bind this chain round the limbs of his successors. 

But even beyond this it seems possible that Charles's 
own mind was not fully made up as to the expediency of 
accepting the imperial diadem, by whomsoever bestowed. 
That the plan had been discussed (perhaps often 
discussed, through many years), by his more highly 
educated courtiers, cannot be denied. He may have 
been dazzled by the brilliancy of the position which was 
thus offered him ; and yet the calmer judgment of 
that foreseeing mind of his may not have been satisfied 


that it was altogether wise for him to accept it. The 
Prankish kingdom, as it had been built up by the valour 
and patience of Charles and his forefathers, was a 
splendid and solid reality. This restored empire of 
Rome that they talked of, would be even more splendid, 
but would it be equally substantial^ After all, the 
whole Eoman Orbis Terrarum was not subject to his sway. 
Was it wise to assume a title which seemed to assert a 
shadowy claim to vast unsubdued territories? Was it 
wise to claim for a Teuton king that all-embracing 
authority wherewith the legists had invested the Eoman 
Imperator 1 The controversies of Guelphs and Ghibel- 
lines, which distracted Italy for centuries, show that 
these questions, if they presented themselves to the 
mind of Charles, were questions which greatly needed 
an answer. And there was also a difficulty, which has 
perhaps not been sufficiently dwelt upon, arising from 
Charles's prospective division of his dominions among 
his sons. Charles, the eldest, was to succeed him in 
that Austrasian region which was the heart and strong- 
hold of his kingdom. If any son were to inherit the 
Imperial dignity, sitting on a higher throne than his 
brethren and holding a certain pre-eminence over them, 
that son must be Charles. Yet Pippin, the second son, 
was the actual king and destined heir of Italy, and 
would rule over Rome, the city from which the Roman 
Emperor was to take his title. Here was the germ of 
probable future embroilments between his sons, such as 
the prudent Charles may well have feared to foster. 

Upon the whole, therefore, it appears a probable 
conclusion that Charles, though he accepted the imperial 
crown, accepted it with genuine reluctance, and that he 



was the passive approver rather than the active and 
ambitious contriver of the great revolution of 800. 

In the summer of 801 Charles recrossed the Alps to 
his home in Rhine-land. In the thirteen years of life 
which remained to him he never again entered Italy, but 
he was, during the greater part of that time, well repre- 
sented there by his son, the able and courageous Pippin. 

A question which doubtless excited much interest in 
all the Frankish world was, how Charles's assumption 
of the imperial title would be viewed at Constantinople. 
There must have been many among the Byzantine 
statesmen who bitterly resented it, but Irene's position 
was too insecure to permit of her giving utterance to 
their indignation. It is indeed stated by a Greek 
chronicler that Charles sent an embassy to Constantinople 
proposing to unite the two empires by his own marriage 
with Irene, and that the project was only foiled by the 
opposition of the eunuch Aetius who was scheming to 
secure the succession for his brother. Whether this be 
true or not (and the entire silence of the Frankish 
authorities on the subject is somewhat suspicious), there 
is no doubt that a friendly embassy from Irene appeared 
at Charles's court in 802, and was replied to by a return 
embassy, consisting of Bishop Jesse and Count Helmgaud, 
who were despatched from Aachen in the same year, 
and that this embassy may have carried a declaration of 
love from the elderly Frank to the middle-aged Athenian. 
But not in such romantic fashion was the reconciliation 
of the two empires to be effected. While the bishop 
and the count were tarrying at Constantinople they 
were the unwilling spectators of a palace -revolution, 
which possibly may have been hastened by their presence 


and by the fear of a treaty, wounding to the national 
pride. On the 31st October 802, Irene was deposed 
and the Grand Treasurer of the empire, Nicephorus, 
was raised to the throne. Irene's life was spared, but 
she was banished to an island in the Sea of Marmora, 
and afterwards to the isle of Lesbos, where according 
to one account she was so meanly supplied with the 
necessaries of life by her penurious successor, that this 
proud and brilliant lady had to support herself by 
spinning. She died on the 9th August 803. 

Again the precariousness of the new ruler's position 
compelled him to assume a courteous tone towards 
the Frankish sovereign. Charles's ambassadors were 
accompanied on their return journey by three en- 
voys from Nicephorus, a bishop, an abbot, and a life- 
guardsman, who were charged with many professions 
of amity and good-will to the Frankish king. In all 
this, however, there was no sign of recognition of Charles 
as Emperor, and for any such recognition Charles 
apparently waited for eight years in vain. 

In 806 there was actual war between the two states, 
the bone of contention being the little island-state of 
Venice, which was now rising into commercial importance 
and in whose obscure and entangled history two parties, 
a Frankish and a Byzantine, are dimly discernible. 
After a long time a fleet from Constantinople appeared 
for a second time in Venetian waters, but was not able 
to prevent the victory of Pippin, who made a grand 
attack by land and sea, and subdued apparently the 
cities of the lagunes, whose capital was at this time 
shifted to the Eialto. This occurred in 810, but in the 
same year there appeared at Aachen an ambassador 

206 CHARLES THE GREAT chap, xi 

from Nicephorus who probably, amid the usual unmean- 
ing professions of friendship, conveyed a hint that his 
master might be willing, for a suitable compensation, to 
recognise Charles as Eoman Emperor. On this hint, 
for which he had waited with statesmanlike patience, 
the Frankish monarch acted. He expressed his willing- 
ness to surrender the Adriatic territories, Venetia, 
Liburnia, and Dalmatia, to " his brother Nicephorus " 
and sent Heito, Bishop of Basel, with two colleagues to 
settle the terms of the new treaty. 

Unhappily, when Heito and his colleagues arrived in 
Constantinople they found a change in the occupant of 
the palace. Nicephorus had fallen in battle, a most 
disastrous battle, with Krum, the King of the Bulgar- 
ians (25th July 811); but his son-in-law and successor, 
Michael Rhangab^, was abundantly willing to confirm 
the proposed accommodation with the most powerful 
sovereign of the west. In truth the suggestion must 
have come at a most welcome season, for Constantinople 
was just then as hard pressed by the Bulgarian as she 
had ever been by the Avar or the Saracen. So it came 
to pass that yet another embassy from the Byzantine 
court appeared at Aachen in January 812. A formal 
document containing the terms of the treaty of peace 
was handed to them by Charles in the church of the 
Virgin, and possibly the counterpart was received from 
the ambassadors. But the essential point was, that 
they sang a litany in the Greek tongue in which they 
hailed the Frankish sovereign as Imperator and Basileus. 
That was a formal recognition of Charles's equality, and 
thenceforth no one could doubt that there was an 
Emperor by the Rhine as well as by the- Bosphorus. 



The somewhat tedious tale of the wars of the August 
and Pacific Emperor is happily almost at an end. 

We hear of repeated ravages by Scandinavian pirates 
along the shores of the German and Atlantic oceans : 
by Moorish pirates along the shore of the Mediter- 
ranean : and with neither class of freebooters does 
Charles appear to have grappled very successfully, for 
the good reason that he never devoted a sufficient 
portion of his energies to the establishment of a navy. 
The well-known story that Charles saw from the windows 
of his palace at Narbonne the Danish sea-rovers scudding 
over the waters of the Gulf of Lyons, and foretold with 
tears the miseries which these freebooters should bring 
upon his posterity and their realm, comes to us on the 
late and doubtful authority of the Monk of St. Gall and 
need not be accepted as authentic history : but that was 
one of the thunderclouds looming up on the horizon of 
the ninth century whether Charles was ware of it or no. 
While the pirate barks of the Scandinavians were 
spreading terror over the islands of the west, the land 
forces of the King of Denmark were threatening the 


north-eastern boundary of Charles's kingdom. Here 
the Saxons, at last subdued into loyalty, were, as we 
have seen, bounded on the east by the Sclavonic nations, 
the Abodrites, and the Wiltzi, and on the north, in 
Sleswik, by the Danes. The usual arrangement of 
parties in the perpetually recurring frontier wars was 
this : the Saxons (that is the Frankish kingdom) in 
alliance with the Abodrites on one side, and the Danes 
with the Wiltzi on the other. The king of the 
Abodrites was named Drasko; the king of the Danes 
was Godofrid, a proud, high-soaring king of pirates, who 
ventured to put himself on an equality with the mighty 
Frankish Emperor, declaring that Friesland and Saxon- 
land were of right his territories, and that he would 
appear one day with all his warriors round him at 
Aachen and would try conclusions with Charles. 

It was in the years from 808 to 810 that this menace 
to the tranquillity of the Frankish kingdom showed itself 
in its most alarming shape. In the first of those years 
Godofrid invaded the territory of the Abodrites and 
ravaged their lands. Drasko fled before him, but 
another chieftain, Godelaib, was treacherously taken 
and hung. The Wiltzi joined forces with the Danes : 
and after much slaughter on both sides (for the flower 
of the Danish nobility fell in this campaign), the 
Abodrites were made subject to tribute to the Danish 
king. In retaliation for this onslaught on a friendly 
tribe, the younger Charles was sent across the Elbe with 
an army, but though he ravaged the lands of some 
Sclavonic allies of the Danes he seems to have returned 
home without achieving any decisive victory. Then 
both the two chief powers, knowing that a war of 


reprisals was imminent, took to fortifying their frontier. 
Godofrid drew across Holstein that line of forts which 
has since become famous as the Dannewerk, and Charles 
erected fortresses on his side of the border, especially 
restoring the stronghold of Hohbuoki which had been 
destroyed by the Wiltzi. 

Next year (809) Godofrid sought and obtained an 
interview with Charles at Badenfliot (in Holstein), de- 
siring to exculpate himself from the charge of having 
provoked the previous war. But the interview came to 
nothing. The Danish king did not sincerely desire 
peace, and probably showed too plainly the arrogance of 
his ignorant soul and his foolish pretensions to equality 
with Charles. He succeeded, however, in patching up a 
temporary peace with the Abodrite chief Drasko who 
returned to his own land, but only to fall a victim some 
months later to the treacherous attack of a vassal of 
Godofrid's, who was believed to have been incited to 
the deed by the Danish king. In 810 the contest 
seemed to be growing desperate, and the wild hopes of 
Godofrid to be approaching fulfilment. A fleet of two 
hundred Danish ships sailed to Friesland, laid waste all 
the multitudinous islands on the Frisian shore, and 
landed an army on the mainland, which defeated the 
Frisians in three pitched battles and laid upon them a 
tribute, of which 100 lbs. of silver had been already paid 
when tidings of the disaster reached the emperor in his 
palace at Aachen. He at once set about the too long 
delayed construction of a fleet : and at the mouths of 
all the rivers which poured into the German Ocean, the 
Channel, and the Atlantic, the sound of the ship- 
builder's hammer was heard. Then in the midst of hi? 



anxieties he received two welcome pieces of intelligence. 
The first was that the Danish fleet had returned home : 
the second that Godofrid was dead, murdered by one of 
his vassals, a fitting retribution for the assassination of 
Drasko, which he himself had instigated. 

After this there was peace for the rest of Charles's 
•life between him and the Danes. Hemming, the 
nephew and successor of Godofrid, was not strong 
enough to continue the aggressive policy of his uncle, 
and on Hemming's death (812) there was a bloody civil 
war between his family and the rival dynasty of Harald. 
However, Charles wisely did not relax his naval prepara- 
tions, but in the year 811 repaired to Boulogne in order to 
review the fleet which he had commanded to be assembled 
there from the various estuaries of his kingdom. Was 
it partly in remembrance of this event, that nearly a 
thousand years later. Napoleon, that great imitator of 
Charlemagne, caused his flotilla to assemble at Boulogne 
for the long meditated, never accomplished, invasion of 
Britain ? 

The last years of the great emperor's life were 
saddened by a succession of domestic afflictions : but 
before describing them it will be well to give a glance 
at his family life in his happier middle age before these 
troubles fell upon him. As we have seen, Charles was 
five times married. Of his first wife Himiltrud, mother 
of the hunchback Pippin, we know nothing, save that, 
according to Pope Stephen's account, she was "sprung 
from the very noble race of the Franks," and that she 
must have either died or been divorced before 770, when 
he married the daughter of the Lombard king, who is 
by one writer called Desiderata, and by another 


Bertrada. She Lore him no children, and on her divorce 
after something less than a year of matrimony, Charles 
married Hildegard, a noble Swabian lady, the best beloved 
of all his wives. Her life, though splendid, was not 
an easy one. She was only thirteen years old when she 
married the Frankish hero who was verging on thirty : 
she accompanied him on his campaigns and pilgrimages : 
she bore him nine children, and after twelve or thirteen 
years of wedlock she died on the 30th of April 783, and 
was buried at Metz in the chapel of St. Arnulf, her 
husband's revered ancestor. From this marriage sprang 
all the three sons, Charles, Pippin, Louis, among whom 
Charlemagne hoped to divide his kingdom, also another 
son who died in infancy, and five daughters. The eldest 
of these daughters was that princess Hrotrud who learned 
Greek of Elissaeus, and who so narrowly missed sharing 
the Byzantine throne. 

A few months after the death of Hildegard, Charles 
married (about October 783) Fastrada, daughter of the 
Austrasian count Radolf, with whom he shared eleven 
years of married life, and whose baneful influence on 
his character and conduct is described to us by Einhard. 
She bore him two daughters (both of whom eventually 
became abbesses) but no son, and died on the 10th of 
August 794, shortly after the great council of Frankfurt. 

Not many years after Fastrada's death Charles 
married his fifth wife, the Alamannian Liutgard, who had 
previously lived with him as his concubine, and who 
died on the 4th of June 800, a few months too soon to 
wear the title of Empress. We are not told of any 
issue of this marriage, the last legal union which Charles 
contracted — the magnificent scheme of a marriage alii- 


ance with Irene having never been realised. We hear, 
however, of four additional concubines and several 
illegitimate children, some of whom rose to high honours 
in the Church. 

The home which the great emperor favoured above 
all others was that city which his love alone made 
eminent, though he did not absolutely found it, the city 
which the Romans called Aquisgranum, which the 
Germans now call Aachen, and the French Aix-la- 
Chapelle. Here, on the southern slope of the Lousberg 
hills, in the pleasant land between Ehine and Meuse, 
Charles made the dwelling-place of his old age. With 
all his wide, far-reaching schemes he remained, it would 
seem, at heart a Ripuarian Frank — Ripuarian not 
Salian — and we may conjecture that Neustria was to 
him as little of a homeland as Aquitaine or even Italy. 
The river Rhine with its great bordering bishoprics, 
Mainz, Koln, Trier, and its grand Romanesque churches, 
bore for centuries the character which it had received 
from the greatest of its sons, the friend alike of Hadrian 
the Pope and of Alcuin the scholar : and, if not on the 
actual banks of the Rhine, at least in the near neighbour- 
hood of Rhine-land it was fitting that Charles should 
die. Doubtless the nature-heated baths which had been 
known since the time of Severus Alexander, and which 
are said to have been named from Apollo Granus, 
were the chief determining causes which led Charles to 
visit the place, at which indeed his father Pippin had 
kept Christmas and Easter as long ago as 765. But 
having visited it, and probably derived benefit from the 
waters, he evidently became more and more attached to 
the place. We first hear of Charles keeping his Christ- 

xii OLD AGE 213 

mas there in 78£ : but after that the name is of frequent 
recurrence in the Annals till at last Worms and Frankfurt 
which had before been his favourite abiding-places are 
almost entirely superseded, and "Imperator celebravit 
natalem Domini Aquisgrani," becomes the regular formula 
•of the chronicles. 

Here, then, at Aachen, Charles built himself a lordly 
palace and a church, joined together by a colonnade. 
For both these structures he or his architect, Master Odo, 
borrowed the plan from Kavenna ; the palace being 
built after the pattern of Theodoric's palace, and the 
church, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, being 
a copy of that dedicated to San Vitale. Nor was the plan 
the only thing which was borrowed. Columns and marble 
tablets were brought from Kome as well as from Eavenna. 
The mosaics from Theodoric's palace and the equestrian 
statue in gilded bronze of the great Ostrogoth — a work 
apparently of more artistic merit than most of the pro- 
ductions of the sixth century, were all carried off from 
the city on the Eonco to adorn the Belgic palace of the 
new emperor. Near the palace was a wide-stretching 
forest surrounded with walls, full of game, resounding 
with the song of birds and watered by the little stream 
of the Worm. 

Of all these memorials of the great emperor probably 
nothing now remains but the church. The deer-park 
has doubtless long since disappeared : of the palace 
all that can be said is that the Eathhaus is built upon 
its site : but the Capella in Palatio still stands, and is 
included in the much later building which is known 
as the Miinster. It is about 100 feet high and 50 feet 
in diameter, surmounted by an octagonal cupola and 


surrounded by a sixteen -sided cloister. The resem- 
blance to San Vitale at once strikes the visitor who is 
acquainted with the churches of Ravenna. 

It was certainly a triumphant era for the Prankish 
nation — still one, not yet fallen asunder into diverse and 
hostile nationalities — when the embassies of mighty 
kings from east and west trod the streets of the little 
city in Rhine-land which their ruler, sprung, not from a 
long line of kings but from a family of Austrasian 
nobles, had made the seat of his empire. Thither came 
swarthy Saracens from Bagdad, ambassadors from the 
court — 

Of Haroun, for whose name by blood defiled, 
Genius hath wrought salvation. 

Common enmities (for they both were hostile to the 
Ommayad Caliphs and the eastern emperors), drew 
together these two men whose names for so long were 
dear to the story-tellers of east and west, Charlemagne 
and Haroun-al-Raschid. Haroun sent to Charles in 807 
some sort of message or letter confirming the act of the 
Patriarch of Jerusalem which by the surrender of the 
keys constituted him guardian of the Holy Places. 
Some years before he had sent, besides other rich and 
costly presents, one which especially impressed the 
minds of the Franks, an enormous elephant named Abu-1- 
Abbas. Under the guidance of its keeper, Isaac the 
Jew, the elephant safely reached Aachen, where it abode 
for eight years. In the year 810 it was taken across 
the Rhine, apparently that its great strength might be 
made use of in the expected campaign against Godofrid 
the Dane ; and its sudden death at Lippeham in West- 


phalia is solemnly recorded by the chroniclers among 
the memorable events of that melancholy year. 

It was in this same year, in the month of October, 
that the emperor saw with pride two embassies, from 
east and west, meet at his court. The long delayed 
overtures for reconciliation from the Emperor Nicephorus 
were brought by the one, and proposals for a treaty of 
peace with El Hakem the Cruel, Emir of Cordova, were 
brought by the other embassy and graciously accepted 
by Charles. 

Nor was our own island unrepresented among the 
embassies which visited the Frankish Court. With 
OfFa of Mercia, most powerful of English kings before 
the rise of Ecgbert, the relations were not altogether 
friendly. A treaty for the marriage of the younger 
Charles with the daughter of Offa broke down (789), it is 
said, because of Offa's counter-proposal on behalf of his 
son for the hand of Charles's daughter Bertha. Some 
passages in this abortive *' double marriage negociation " 
so annoyed the Frankish king that English merchants 
were forbidden to land on the shores of Gaul. However, 
though no marriage was brought to pass, friendly rela- 
tions between the two kings were restored, perhaps 
through the mediation of OfFa's subject, Alcuin ; and in 
796 when the great Hring of the Avars had been de- 
spoiled by Eric of Friuli, an Avar sword was graciously 
sent by Charles as a present to the King of Mercia. 

It was not at Aachen but at Nimeguen on the Ehine 
that another English king, driven from his realm by 
revolution, Eardulf of Northumberland, visited Charles's 
court in 808 and besought his aid to restore him to his 
throne. Charles seems to have embraced his cause and 


sent him on to Rome with a letter of recommendation 
to Pope Leo whose help was needed, as the Archbishop 
of York had taken an active part in Eardulf 's deposition. 
With the help of emperor and pope, Eardulf was re- 
stored (809) to a throne which he seems to have justly 
forfeited by various acts of tyranny ; but the reign of 
the restored king was of short duration. 

It may be permitted to conjecture that the happiest 
period of the life of Charles consisted of the fifteen years 
which he spent mainly at Aachen between 795 and 810. 
The Saxon and Avar wars were drawing to a close, his 
labours for the reform of the Church and for the spread 
of learning were bearing manifest fruit : the haughty 
and difficult -tempered Fastrada was dead, and his 
children, whom he loved with fondness not often found 
in palaces, were growing up around him. The few 
words in which Einhard sketches his family life give 
one an impression of joyous magnificence not unlike 
that which the poets have feigned concerning the purely 
imaginary court of King Arthur : — 

" He determined so to bring up his children that all, 
both sons and daughters, should be well grounded in 
liberal studies, to which he himself also gave earnest 
attention. Moreover, he caused his sons as soon as they 
were of the proper age to learn to ride after the manner 
of the Franks, to be trained to war and the chase : but 
his daughters he ordered to learn the spinning of wool, 
to give heed to the spindle and distaff, that they might 
not grow slothful through ease, but be trained to all 
kinds of honest industry. . . . 

" So great was the attention which he paid to the 
education of his sons and daughters that when he was 


at home he would never sup without them; when he 
journeyed they must accompany him, the sons riding 
by his side and the daughters following a little behind, 
while a band of servants appointed for this purpose 
brought up the rear. As for these daughters, though 
they were of great beauty and were dearly loved by 
him, strange to say he never gave one of them in 
marriage either to a man of his own nation or to a 
foreigner, but he kept them all with him in his own 
house till his death, saying that he could not dispense 
with their company. On this account, prosperous as he 
was in other ways, he experienced the imkindness of 
adverse fortune, as to which, however, he so skilfully 
dissembled that no one would suppose that any suspicion 
of a stain on their fair fame had ever reached his ears." 

This last sentence of Charles's usually enthusiastic 
biographer hints at court scandals which could not be 
always concealed, and the results of some of which 
appear in the Carolingian pedigrees. But the previous 
statement concerning his unwillingness to have his 
merry family circle broken in upon by the unwelcome 
claims of a son-in-law, may possibly help to explain 
what has perplexed us in the rupture of the matrimonial 
treaty with Byzantium or even with the King of Mercia. 
Instead of seeking for deep state-reasons of policy for 
these failures, we ought, perhaps, simply to see in them 
the pardonable weakness of a father who, when the 
crisis came, gave more heed to the voice of family 
affection than to the maxims of state-craft. 

A notice of Charles's home life would be incomplete 
without some allusion to the circle of friends by whom 
he was surrounded, and whom he seems to have inspired 


with a genuine love for himself as a man, apart from 
their loyalty to him as sovereign. 

The great ecclesiastics who, under the name of Arch- 
chaplains, held a place similar to that of a modern prime 
minister, Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis, who had been 
chaplain to his father and who died in 784; his suc- 
cessor Angilram, Bishop of Metz, who died while ac- 
companying Charles on his Avar campaign in 791 ; 
Hildibald, Archbishop of Cologne, who stood by the 
emperor's death-bed : all these men, though highly 
trusted and able servants, have not left many evidences 
by which we can judge of their individual characters. 
Much more interesting is Charles's relation to the men 
of letters whom he delighted to gather around him. 
Chief among these were Alcuin, Peter of Pisa, Paul the 
Lombard, and Einhard. 

Of Alcuin, who might truly be called Charles's literary 
prime minister, no more need be said, save that he died 
at Tours in 804, full of years and in unclouded friend- 
ship with the emperor. 

It was apparently about the year 780 that Peter of 
Pisa, a deacon who had once taught in the Lombard 
capital, Pavia, and had there held a celebrated disputa- 
tion with a Jew named Lullus, came to Charles's court. 
He was then an old man. Grammar was his main 
subject, and Charles regularly attended his lectures. 
The date of his death is uncertain, but it was before the 
year 799. 

Paul the Lombard, generally known as Paulus 
Diaconus, probably made Charles's acquaintance during 
his second visit to Italy (780-781). At any rate, some- 
where about the year 782 he followed Charles across the 


Alps, and was fo^ some two or three years in pretty close 
attendance at the Frankish court. The main object of 
his journey was to obtain pardon and the restitution of 
confiscated property for his brother Arichis who, as has 
been already stated, seems to have been involved in the 
rebellion of Duke Hrodgaud, and was carried captive 
into Frankland, leaving his wife and children destitute. 
There can be little doubt that the pardon of Arichis 
was granted to the intercession of his brother, for 
whom Charles seems to have conceived an especial 
affection. An amusing but fearfully perplexing series 
of poems exists, in which enigmas, compliments, and 
good-natured banter are exchanged between the king, 
Paulus Diaconus, and Petrus Pisanus. At dawn of 
day a trim young courtier with a hopeful little beard 
brings to Peter the grammarian a riddle which the king 
has thought of in the night and desires him to guess it. 
In despair Peter turns to Paul begging for his aid. In 
a hexameter poem of forty-seven lines (all the corre- 
spondence is in verse) Paul gives his version of the 
answer, which, if correct, certainly proves the riddle to 
have been a very foolish one. At another time the king 
poetically asks Paul which of three penalties he would 
prefer — to be crushed under an immense weight of iron, 
to be doomed to lie in a gloomy dungeon-cave, or to be sent 
to convert and baptize Sigfrid who " wields the impious 
sceptre of pestilential Denmark." Paul replies in a 
strain of enthusiastic devotion that he will do anything 
which the king desires him to do, but that as he knows 
no Danish he will seem like a brute beast when he 
stands in the presence of the barbarian king. Yet 
would he have no fear for his own safety if he under- 


took the journey : for if Sigfrid knew that he was one 
of Charles's subjects, so great is his dread of the 
Frankish king that he would not dare to touch him 
with his little finger. And so on through many hexa- 
meter and pentameter verses. A harsh critic might 
describe the whole correspondence as "gracious fooling," 
but in view of the hard and toilsome life of the slayer 
and converter of so many Saxons, it is a consolation to 
find that he had leisure and spare brain-power even for 
occasional nonsense. 

Paulus Diaconus, after a few years' sojourn at the 
Frankish court, returned to Italy to the shelter of his 
beloved convent of Monte Cassino, where he died, 
probably in one of the closing years of the eighth 
century. We are indebted to him, not only for his 
well-known Historia Laiigdbardorum — almost the only 
record of the history of Italy from 568 to 744 — but also 
for a book on the Gesta JEpiscoporum Mettensium which 
gives us valuable information as to the lives of the 
early Arnulfings. 

The last of Charles's literary courtiers who can be 
noticed here is Einhard or (as his name is commonly but 
less correctly written) Eginhard. This man, who was 
born near the time of Charles's accession to the 
kingdom, and who survived him about thirty years, 
was the son of Einhard and Engilfrita, persons of good 
birth and station who dwelt in Franconia near the 
Odenwald. He was educated in the monastery of 
Fulda, and came as a young man to the Frankish court, 
where his nimbleness of mind, his learning and his skill 
in the administration of affairs so recommended him to 
Charles that for the remaining twenty years or more of 


his reign the little Franconian — he was a man of con- 
spicuously short stature — was the great king's inseparable 
companion. His skill in all manner of metal work 
earned for him in that name-giving circle of friends the 
name of Bezaleel, by which he is pleasantly alluded 
to in one of Alcuin's letters. He was employed to 
superintend some of Charles's great architectural works : 
notably the palace and basilica at Aachen, the palace at 
Ingelheim and the great bridge over the Ehine at 
Mainz. A twelfth -century chronicler connected his 
name unpleasantly with that of one of the daughters 
of Charles : but for this scandal there does not seem 
to be the slightest foundation. None of Charles's 
daughters was named Emma, the name attributed 
to the alleged mistress, afterwards wife, of Einhard. 
His real wife appears to have been Emma, sister of 
Bernhard, Bishop of Worms. About the year 826 he 
and his wife parted by mutual consent and "gave 
themselves to religion." He was ordained priest and 
retired to the monastery of Seligenstadt on the Main 
where he died about the year 840. 

Einhard had a share (how large is a subject of 
constant discussion), in the composition of the oflScial 
Annals which are our most trustworthy authority for 
the history of his master's reign. But we are far more 
indebted to him for his short tract De Vitd Caroli Magni 
from which several extracts have already been made. In 
this life there is an evident ambition on the part of the 
writer, who calls himself " a barbarian little skilled in 
Roman speech " to follow the example of the gi*eat classi- 
cal authors. His imitation, especially, of the Life of 
Augustus by Suetonius, is almost servile, and provokes 


much laughter on the part of modern scholars; but 
however he may be derided, the fact remains that 
almost all our real, vivifying knowledge of Charles the 
Great is derived from Einhard, and that the Fita Caroli 
is one of the most precious literary bequests of the 
early Middle Ages. 

Here are some features of the picture of his master by 
Einhard which have not been copied in the preceding 

"This king, whose prudence and magnanimity sur- 
passed that of all contemporary princes, never shunned 
on account of toil, nor declined on account of danger, 
any enterprise which had to be begun or carried through 
to its end ; but having learned to bear every burden as 
it came, according to its true weight, he would neither, 
yield under adversity, nor in prosperity trust the flatter- 
ing smiles of fortune." 

" He loved foreigners and took the greatest pains to 
entertain them, so that their number often seemed a 
real burden, not only to the palace but even to the 
realm. But he, on account of his greatness of soul, 
refused to worry himself over this burden, thinking 
that even great inconveniences were amply compensated 
by the praise of his liberality and the reward of his 

" His gait was firm, all the habit of his body manly : 
his voice clear, but scarce corresponding to his stature : 
his health good, except that during the last four years of 
his life he was often attacked by fever, and at the last 
he limped with one foot. Moreover he guided himself 
much more by his own fancy than by the counsel of his 
physicians, whom he almost hated because they tried to 


persuade him to give up roast meats, to which he was 
accustomed, and to take to boiled. He kept up 
diligently his exercises of riding and hunting, wherein 
he followed the usage of his nation, for scarcely any 
other race equals the Franks herein. He delighted, too, 
in the steam of nature-heated baths, being a frequent 
and skilful swimmer, so that hardly any one excelled 
him in this exercise. This was his reason for building 
his palace at Aquisgranum where he spent the latter 
years of his life up to his death. And not only did he 
invite his sons to the bath, but also his friends and the 
nobles, sometimes even a crowd of henchmen and body- 
guards, so that at times as many as a hundred men or 
more would be bathing there together." 

" He was temperate in food and drink, especially the 
latter, since he held drunkenness in any man, but most 
of all in himself and his friends, in the highest 
abhorrence. He was not so well able to abstain from 
food, and used often to complain that the fasts [of the 
Church] were hurtful to his body. He very seldom 
gave banquets, and those only on the chief festivals, but 
then he invited a very large number of guests. His 
daily supper was served with four courses only, except 
the roast, which the huntsmen used to bring in on spits, 
and which he partook of more willingly than of any other 
food. During supper he listened either to music or to 
the reading of some book, generally histories and accounts 
of the things done by the ancients. He delighted also in 
the writings of St. Augustine, especially that one which 
is entitled De Civitate Dei. He was so chary of drinking 
wine or liquor of any kind, that he seldom drank more 
than three times at supper. In summer, after his mid- 



day meal, he would take some fruit and would drink 
once, and then laying aside his raiment and his shoes, 
just as he was wont to do at night, he would rest for 
two or three hours. At night his sleep used to be 
interrupted, not only by awaking but by rising from his 
bed four or five times in one night. When he was 
having his shoes or his clothes put on he used not only 
to admit his friends, but even if the Count of the 
Palace informed him of some law-suit which could not 
be settled without his order, he would direct the 
litigants to be at once introduced into his presence, and 
would hear the cause and pronounce sentence exactly 
as if he were sitting on the judgment seat. And not 
only so, but he would also at the same time tell each 
official or servant of the palace what duty he had to 
perform that day." 

" He was full even to overflowing in his eloquence, and 
could express all his ideas with very great clearness. 
And not being satisfied with his native language alone, 
he also gave much attention to the learning of foreign 
tongues, among which was Latin, which he learned so 
perfectly that he was accustomed to pray indifferently in 
that language or in his own. Greek, however, he learned 
to understand better than to pronounce. He was in 
truth so eloquent that he seemed like a professional 
rhetorician. In learning grammar he attended the 
lectures of Peter of Pisa, an old man and a deacon : in 
other studies he had for his teacher another deacon, Al- 
binus, surnamed Alcuin, from Britain, a man of Saxon 
race and extremely learned in all subjects, with whom 
he gave a great deal of time and toil to the study 
of rhetoric and dialectic, and pre-eminently to that of 


X[i OLD AGE 225 

astronomy. He learned the art of computation, and 
with wise earnestness most carefully investigated the 
courses of the stars. He tried also to write, and for 
this purpose used to carry about with him tablets and 
manuscripts [to copy] which were placed under the 
pillows of his bed in order that he might at odd times 
accustom his fingers to the shaping of the letters : but 
the attempt was made too late in life and was not 

"He was a devout and zealous upholder of the 
Christian religion, with which he had been imbued from 
infancy. He regularly attended the church v/hich he 
had built at Aquisgranum morning and evening, and 
also in the hours of the night and at the time of 
sacrifice, as far as his health permitted; and he took 
great pains that all the rites celebrated therein should 
be performed with the greatest decorum, constantly 
admonishing the ministers of the church that they 
should not allow anything dirty or unbecoming to be 
brought thither or to remain within it. He provided 
so large a supply of holy vessels of gold and silver and 
of priestly vestments, that in celebrating the sacrifices 
there was no necessity even for the doorkeepers, who 
were of the lowest grade of ecclesiastics, to minister in 
their private dress. He took great pains to reform the 
style of reading and singing, in both of which he was 
highly accomplished, though he did not himself read in 
public nor sing, save in a low voice and with the rest of 
the congregation." 

" He was very earnest in the maintenance of the poor 
and in almsgiving, so that not only in his own country 
and kingdom did he thus labour, but also beyond 



sea. To ^Syria, to Egypt, to Africa, to Jerusalem, to 
Carthage, wherever he heard that there were Christians 
living in poverty, he was wont to send money as a proof 
of his sympathy, and for this reason especially did he 
seek the friendship of transmarine kings, in order that 
some refreshment and relief might come to the 
Christians under their rule. But before all other sacred 
and venerable places he reverenced the church of St. 
Peter at Rome, and in its treasure chamber great store 
of wealth, in gold, silver, and precious stones was piled 
up by him. Many gifts, past counting, were sent by 
him to the popes, and through the whole of his reign 
no object was dearer to his heart than that the city of 
Rome by his care and toil should enjoy its old pre-emin- 
ence, and that the church of St. Peter should not only 
by his aid be safely guarded, but also by his resources 
should be adorned and enriched beyond all other churches. 
Yet though he esteemed that city so highly, in all the 
forty-seven years of his reign he went but four times 
thither to pay his vows and offer up his supplications." 

Amid such interests and such friendships the later 
years of Charles's life glided away, comparatively little 
disturbed by the clash of arms, since his two elder sons 
Charles and Pippin, brave and capable men both of 
them, now relieved him of most of the drudgery of war. 
It is hinted that there were some occasions of variance 
between the two brothers, but it is not certain that Pippin 
the Hunchback is not the person here alluded to as at 
enmity with the younger Charles ; and the difference, 
whatever it may have been, is said to have been removed 
by the mediation of St. Goar, whose cell on the banks of 
the Rhine was visited by the two princes. 


In 806, at the Villa Theodonis, Charles, in the 
presence of a great assembly of his nobles, made a 
formal division of his dominions between his three sons. 
Pippin was to have Italy, or as it was called, Langobardia, 
with Bavaria and Germany south of the Danube, also 
the subject realms of the Avars and southern Sclaves. 
Louis was to have Aquitaine, Provence, and the greater 
part of Burgundy. All the rest, that is Neustria, 
Austrasia, the remainder of Burgundy, and Germany 
north of the Danube was to go to Charles, who was 
probably to have some sort of pre-eminence over his 
brothers, though nothing was expressly said as to the 
imperial title. The division was so ordered that each 
brother had access to the dominions of the other two, and 
both Charles and Louis were earnestly enjoined to go to 
the help of Pippin — then apparently the most exposed 
to hostile attack — if he should require their help in 
Italy. Elaborate arrangements were also made as to 
the succession, in case of the death of any of the 

Unhappily all these dispositions proved futile. The 
year 810, in which Godofrid of Denmark died, and also 
Haroun's elephant Abu-1-Abbas, was in other ways a 
sore year for Charles. On 6th June his eldest daughter 
Hrotrud, once the affianced bride of the Eastern Caesar, 
died, unmarried but leaving an illegitimate son, Louis, 
who afterwards became Abbot of St. Denis. Ere 
Charles had time to recover from this blow came the 
tidings that Pippin, the young King of Italy, had died 
on 8th July, possibly (but this is only a conjecture) of 
some malady contracted during his campaign of many 
months among the lagunes of Venice. 


So, though Pippin left a son, the lad Bernhard, who, 
if things went well with him, might hope to inherit his 
father's kingdom, already a breach was made in Charles's 
arrangements for the succession to his dominions. But a 
yet heavier blow fell upon him next year (4th December 
811), when his eldest son Charles, that one of all 
his children who most resembled him in aptitude for 
war and government, in strength of body and manly 
beauty, was torn from him by death. Now, of all his 
sons, there was only left that pathetically devout and 
incapable figure who is known to posterity as Louis the 
Pious or Louis the Debonnair, but whose piety and 
whose good nature were alike to prove disastrous when 
he should be called upon to guide with his nerveless 
hands the fiery steeds which had drawn his father's car 
of empire. 

However, there was no other heir available. In 
September 813 a generalis conventus was held at Aachen, 
at which, after taking the advice of his nobles, Charles 
placed the imperial crown on the head of Louis, and 
ordered him to be called Imperafcor and Augustus, 
thereby designating him as his successor, but not, as it 
should seem, admitting him to a present participation in 
his power. With that keen insight into character which 
Charles undoubtedly possessed, he must have perceived 
the weakness of his son's disposition, and fears for the 
future of the empire which he had built up with so 
much toil and difficulty probably saddened his last 

The great emperor had now entered on the eighth 
decade of his life. His health was apparently failing, 
and there were also signs and portents betokening the 


approaching enc', which, with proper regard to classical 
precedent, are duly recorded by Einhard. For the 
last three years of his life there was an unusually large 
number of eclipses of the sun and moon. A big spot 
on the sun was observed for seven days. The colonnade 
between the church and palace at Aachen, constructed 
with great labour, fell in sudden ruin on Ascension-day. 
The great bridge over the Rhine at Mainz, which had 
been ten years in building, and for which Einhard 
himself had acted as clerk of the works, was burnt to 
the water's edge in three hours. Then, in his last 
expedition against Danish Godofrid (but that was as far 
back as 810), a fiery torch had been seen to fall from 
heaven, in a clear sky, on the sinister side, and Charles's 
horse at the same moment falling heavily had thrown 
his master to the ground with such violence that the 
clasp of his cloak was broken, his sword-belt burst, and 
the spear which he held in his hand was hurled forwards 
twenty feet or more. Moreover there were crackings of 
the palace-ceilings ; the golden apple which was on the 
roof of the church was struck by lightning and thrown on 
to the roof of the archbishop's palace hard by. In the 
inscription which ran round the interior of the dome, and 
which contained the words KAROLVS PRINCEPS, 
the letters of the second word, only a few months 
before Charles's death, faded and became invisible. 
All these signs convinced thoughtful persons that an 
old man of more than seventy, who had led a hard and 
strenuous life, and who was bowed by many recent 
sorrows, had not long to live. 

In the year 811, the emperor, feeling that the end 
was not far off, had given elaborate orders as to the 


disposal of his personal property, consisting of gold, 
silver, and precious stones. The details, though curious, 
need not be quoted here. It is sufficient to say that 
only one-twelfth of the whole was to be divided among 
his children and grand-children. About two-thirds were 
to be divided among the ecclesiastics of twenty-one 
chief cities in his dominions. The remainder was for 
his servants and the poor. It is interesting to observe 
that the division of the property was to be completed 
" after his death or voluntary renunciation of the things 
of this world." There was therefore a possibility that 
the first Emperor Charles might have anticipated the 
fifth in retiring from a palace into a convent. Also we 
note with interest a square silver table containing a 
plan of the city of Constantinople, which was to be sent 
as a gift to St. Peter's at Eome ; a round one containing 
a similar plan of Eome, which was to be sent to the 
Archbishop of Eavenna; and a third, "far surpassing 
the others in weight of metal and beauty of workman- 
ship, which consisted of three spheres linked together, 
and which embraced a plan of the whole world with 
delicate and minute delineation," and which was to be 
sold for the benefit of the residuary legatees and the 

At last the time came for all these dispositions to take 
efi'ect. After the great assembly in which the imperial 
diadem was placed on the head of Louis of Aquitaine 
(Sept. 813), Charles, though in feeble health, went on one 
of his usual hunting expeditions in the neighbourhood of 
Aachen. The autumn was thus passed, and at the begin- 
ning of November he returned to the palace to winter 
there. In January (814) he was attacked by a severe fever 

jcii OLD AGE 231 

and took to his bod. According to his usual custom he 
thought to subdue the fever by fasting, but pleurisy was 
added to the fever, and in his reduced state he had no 
power to grapple with the disease. After partaking of 
the Communion he departed this life at nine in the 
morning of the 28th of January 814. He was then in 
the seventy-second year of his age, and the forty-seventh 
of his reign. On the day of his death he was buried in 
his own church of St. Mary, amidst the lamentations of 
his people. On a gilded arch above his tomb was in- 
scribed this epitaph. "Under this tomb-stone is laid 
the body of Charles, the great and orthodox Emperor, 
who gloriously enlarged the kingdom of the Franks and 
reigned prosperously for 47 years (sic). He died, a septua- 
genarian, in the year of our Lord 814, in the 7th Indic- 
tion on the 5th day before the Kalends of February." 

Before many years had passed, the adjective Magnus 
was universally affixed by popular usage to the name 
Carolus: and 351 years after his death he received the 
honour of canonisation from the Eoman Church.^ 

^ It should be remarked, however, that the formal decree of canon- 
isation came from one who is himself considered an Antipope — 
Paschal III. (1164-1168), and was perhaps never fully accepted by 
the Church. 



No ruler for many centuries so powerfully impressed 
the imagination of western Europe as the first Frankish 
Emperor of Rome. The vast cycle of romantic epic 
poetry which gathered round the name of Charlemagne, 
the stories of his wars with the Infidels, his expeditions 
to Constantinople and Jerusalem, his Twelve Peers of 
France, the friendship of Roland and Oliver and the 
treachery of Ganelon — all this is of matchless interest 
in the history of the development of mediaeval literature, 
but of course adds nothing to our knowledge of the 
real Charles of history, since these romances were con- 
fessedly the work of wandering minstrels and took no 
definite shape till at least three centuries after the 
death of Charlemagne. 

In this concluding chapter I propose very briefly to 
enumerate some of the chief traces of the great emperor's 
forming hand on the western church, on Literature, on 
Laws, and on the State-system of Europe. 

I. Theologically, Charles's chief performances were 
the condemnation of the Adoptianist heresy of Felix of 
Urgel by the Council of Frankfurt (794) : the condem- 


nation of the adoration of images by the same Council ; 
and the addition to the Nicene Creed of the celebrated 
wordr, "Filioque," which asserted that the Holy Spirit 
"proceedeth from the Father and the Son." In these 
two last performances Charles acted more or less in 
opposition to the advice and judgment of the pope, and 
the addition to the Creed was one of the causes which 
led to the schism between the eastern and western 
churches, and which have hitherto frustrated all schemes 
for their reunion. 

In the government of the church Charles all through 
his reign took the keenest interest, and a large — as 
most modern readers would think a disproportionate — 
part of his Capitularies is dedicated to this subject. 
Speaking generally, it may be said that he strove, as 
his father before him had striven, to subdue the anarchy 
that had disgraced the churches of Gaul under the 
Merovingian kings. He insisted on the monks and the 
canonical priests living according to the rules which 
they professed : he discouraged the manufacture of 
new saints, the erection of new oratories, the worship 
of new archangels other than the well-known three, 
Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael. He earnestly exhorted 
the bishops to work in harmony with the counts for 
the maintenance of the public peace. While not slow 
to condemn the faults of the episcopacy he supported 
their authority against mutinous priests : and pre- 
eminently, by the example which he set to Gaul in the 
powerful and well-compacted hierarchy which he estab- 
lished in Germany, he strengthened the aristocratic 
constitution of the church under the rule of its bishops. 
At the same time there can be no doubt that by his 

234 CHARLES THE GREAT ' chap. 

close relations with the Eoman Pontiff and by the 
temporal sovereignty which he bestowed upon him, he 
contributed, consciously or unconsciously, to the ultimate 
transformation of the western church into an absolute 
monarchy under the headship of the pope. That 
Charles, with all his zeal for the welfare of the church, 
was not blind to the faults of the churchmen of his day 
is shown by the remarkable series of questions — possibly 
drawn up from his dictation by Einhard — which are 
contained in a Capitulary of 811 written three years 
before his death : 

"We wish to ask the ecclesiastics themselves, and 
those who have not only to learn but to teach out of 
the Holy Scriptures, who are they to whom the Apostle 
says, ' Be ye imitators of me ' : or who that is about 
whom the same Apostle says, 'No man that warreth 
entangleth himself with the business of this world ' : in 
other words, how the Apostle is to be imitated, or how 
he (the ecclesiastic) wars for God 1 " 

" Further, we must beg of them that they will truly 
show us what is this 'renouncing of the world' which 
is spoken of by them : or how we can distinguish those 
who renounce the world from those who still follow it, 
whether it consists in anything more than this, that they 
do not bear arms and are not publicly married 1 " 

" We must also enquire if that man has relinquished 
the world who is daily labouring to increase his posses- 
sions in every manner and by every artifice, by sweet 
persuasions about the blessedness of heaven and by 
terrible threats about the punishments of hell; who 
uses the name of God or of some saint to despoil simpler 
and less learned folk, whether rich or poor, of their 


property, to deprive the lawful heirs of their inheritance 
and thus to drive many through sheer destitution to a 
life of robbery and crime which they would otherwise 
never have embraced 1 " 

Several more questions of an equally searching 
character are contained in this remarkable Capitulary. 

II. If doubts may arise in some minds how far 
Charles's ecclesiastical polic)'' was of permanent benefit 
to the human race, no such doilbts can be felt as to his 
patronage of literature and science. Herein he takes a 
foremost place among the benefactors of humanity, as 
a man who, himself imperfectly educated, knew how to 
value education in others ; as one who, amid the mani- 
fold harassing cares of government and of war, could 
find leisure for that friendly intercourse with learned 
men which far more than his generous material gifts 
cheered them on in their arduous and difficult work ; and 
as the__^ruler to whom more perhaps than to any other 
single individual we owe the fact that the precious 
literary inheritance of Greece and Rome has not been 
altogether lost to the human race. Every student of 
the history of the texts of the classical authors knows 
how many of our best MSS. date from the ninth century, 
the result unquestionably of the impulse given by Charles 
and his learned courtiers to classical studies. It is 
noticeable also that this reign constitutes an important 
era in Paleography, the clear and beautiful " minuscule " 
of the Irish scribes being generally substituted for the 
sprawling and uncouth characters which had gone by 
the name of Langobardic. In one of his Capitularies 
Charles calls the attention of his clergy to the necessity 



for careful editing of the Prayer-books ; otherwise those 
who desire to pray rightly will pray amiss. He enjoins 
them not to suffer boys to corrupt the sacred text either 
in writing or reading. If they require a new gospel, 
missal, or psalter, let it be copied with the utmost care 
by men of full age. In another Capitulary, he expresses 
his displeasure that some priests, who were poor when 
they were ordained, have grown rich out of the church's 
treasures, acquiring for themselves lands and slaves, but 
not purchasing books or sacred vessels for the church's use. 

Something has already been said as to the Academy 
in Charles's palace, which was apparently founded on 
the basis of a court-school established in his father's life- 
time, but became a much more important institution in 
his own. Probably it was then transformed from a 
school for children into an Academy for learned men, in 
the sense in which the word has been used at Athens, 
Florence, and Paris. Alcuin, after his departure from 
court, founded a school at Tours, which acquired great 
fame ; and we hear of schools also at Utrecht, Fulda, 
Wiirzburg, and elsewhere. Doubtless, most of these 
schools were primarily theological seminaries, but, as we 
have seen in the case of Alcuin, a good deal of classical 
literature and mathematical science was, at any rate in 
some schools, taught alongside of the correct rendering 
of the church service. 

The Monk of St. Gall (who wrote, as we have seen, 
two generations after Charlemagne, and whose stories 
we therefore accept with some reserve) gives us an 
interesting and amusing picture of one of the schools 
under Charles's patronage. After giving a legendary 
and inaccurate account of the arrival of two Irish 



scholars in Gaul, named Alcuin and Clement, he goes on 
to say that Charles persuaded Clement to settle in Gaul, 
and sent him a number of boys, sons of nobles, of 
middle-class men and of peasants, to be taught by him, 
while they were lodged and boarded at the king's 
charges. After a long time he returned to Gaul, and 
ordered these lads to be brought into his presence, and 
to bring before him letters and poems of their own 
composition. The boys sprung from the middle and 
lower classes offered compositions which were " beyond 
all expectation sweetened with the seasoning of wisdom," 
but the productions of the young nobility were " tepid, 
and absolutely idiotic." Hereupon the king, as it were, 
anticipating the Last Judgment, set the industrious lads 
on his right hand and the idlers on his left. He 
addressed the former with words of encouragement, " I 
thank you, my sons, for the zeal with which you have 
attended to my commands. Only go on as you have 
begun, and I will give you splendid bishoprics and 
abbacies, and you shall be ever honourable in my eyes." 
But to those on his left hand he turned with angry eyes 
and frowning brow, and addressed them in a voice of 
thunder, "You young nobles, you dainty and beautiful 
youths, who have presumed upon your birth and your 
possessions to despise mine orders, and have taken no 
care for my renown ; you have neglected the study of 
literature, while you have given yourselves over to 
luxury and idleness, or to games and foolish athletics." 
Then, raising his august head and unconquered right 
hand towards heaven, he swore a solemn oath, "By the 
King of Heaven, I care nothing for your noble birth 
and your handsome faces, let others prize them as they 



may. Know this for certain, that unless ye give earnest 
heed to your studies, and recover the ground lost by 
your negligence, ye shall never receive any favour at the 
hand of King Charles." 

There was one branch of learning in which Charles 
was evidently not enough helped by his friends of the 
classical revival, and in which one cannot help wishing 
that his judgment had prevailed over theirs. Einhard 
tells us that he reduced to writing and committed to 
memory " those most ancient songs of the barbarians in 
which the actions of the kings of old and their wars 
were chanted." Would that these precious relics of the 
dim Teutonic fore-world had been thought worthy of 
preservation by Alcuin and his disciples ! 

He also began to compose a grammar of his native 
^ speech; he gave names to the winds blowing from 
twelve different quarters, whereas previously men had 
named but four ; and he gave Teutonic instead of Latin 
names to the twelve months of the year. They were — 
for January, Wintarmanoth ; February, Hornung ; March, 
Lentzinmanoth ; April, Ostarmanoth ; May, Winnemanoth ; 
June, Brachmanoth ; July, Hewimanoih ; August, Aran- 
manoth ; September, Witumanoth ; October, Windumema- 
noth; November, HerUstmanoth ; December, Heilagmanoth. 

III. It is of course impossible to deal with more than 
one or two of the most important products of Charles's 
legislative and administrative activity. 

1. In the first place, we have to remark that Charles 
was not in any sense like Justinian or Napoleon, a 
codifier of laws. On the contrary, the title chosen by 
him after his capture of Pavia, " Rex Langobardorum," 


indicates the gereral character of his policy, which was 
to leave the Lombards under Lombard law, the Eomans 
under Eoman law ; even the Saxons, if they would only 
accept Christianity, to some extent under Saxon institu- 
tions. To turn all the various nationalities over which 
he ruled into Ripuarian Franks was by no means the 
object of the conqueror; on the contrary, so long as 
they loyally obeyed the great central government they ^ 
might keep their own laws, customs, and language 
unaltered. As this principle applied not only to tribes 
and races of men, but also to individuals, we find our- 
selves in presence of that most peculiar phenomenon of 
the early Middle Ages which is known as the system of 
" personal law." In our modern society, if the citizen 
of one country goes to reside in the territory of another 
civilised and well-ordered country, he is bound to con- 
form to the laws of that country. Where this rule does 
not prevail (as in the case of the rights secured by the 
"capitulations" to Europeans dwelling in Turkey or 
Morocco) it is a distinct sign that we are in the presence 
of a barbarous law to which the more civilised nations 
will not submit. But quite different from this was the 
conception of law in the ninth century under Charles 
the Great and his successors. Then, every man, accord- 
ing to his nationality, or even his profession, — according 
as he was Frank or Lombard, Alaman or Bavarian, Goth 
or Eoman, layman or ecclesiastic, — carried, so to speak, 
his own legal atmosphere about with him, and might 
always claim to be judged secundum legem patriae suae. 
Thus, according to an often-quoted passage, "so great 
was the diversity of laws that you would often meet 
with it, not only in countries or cities, but even in 




single houses. For it would often happen that five men 
would be sitting or walking together, not one of whom 
would have the same law with any other." 

But though Charles made no attempt, and apparently 
had no desire, to reduce all the laws of his subjects to 
one common denominator, he had schemes for improving, 
and even to some extent harmonising, the several 
national codes which he found in existence. But these 
schemes were only imperfectly realised. As Einhard 
says, " After his assumption of the imperial title, as he 
perceived that many things were lacking in the laws of 
his people (for the Franks have two systems of law, in 
many places very diverse from one another), he thought 
to add those things which were wanting, to reconcile 
discrepancies, and to correct what was bad and ill 
expressed. But of all this naught was accomplished by 
him, save that he added a few chapters, and those 
imperfect ones, to the laws [of the Salians, Eipuarians, 
and Bavarians]. All the legal customs, however, tbat 
were not already written, of the various nations under 
his dominion, he caused to be taken down and com- 
mitted to writing." 

While Charles's new legislation was in general of an 
/ enlightened and civilised character, a modern reader is 
surprised and pained by the prominence which he gives, 
or allows, to those barbarous and superstitious modes of 
determining doubtful causes — wager of battle, ordeal by 
the cross, and ordeal by the hot ploughshares. As to 
the first of these especially, the language of the Capitu- 
laries seems to show a retrogression from the wise dis- 
trust of that manner of arriving at truth expressed half 
a century earlier by the Lombard king, Liutprand, 


2. A question which we cannot help asking, though 
it hardly admits of an answer, is, " What was Charles's 
relation to that feudal system which, so soon after his 
death, prevailed throughout his empire, and whi<)h so 
quickly destroyed its unity?" The growth of that 
system was so gradual, and it was due to such various 
causes, that no one man can be regarded as its author, 
hardly even to any great extent as its modifier. It was 
not known to early Merovingian times ; its origin 
appears to be nearly contemporaneous with that of the 
power of the Arnulfing mayors of the palace ; it must 
certainly have been spreading more widely and striking 
deeper roots all through the reign of Charlemagne, and 
yet we can hardly attribute either to him or to his 
ancestors any distinct share in its establishment. It 
was, so to speak, "in the air," even as democracy, 
trades' unions, socialism, and similar ideas are in the air 
of the nineteenth century. Feudalism apparently had 
to be, and it " sprang and grew up, one knoweth not 

One of the clearest allusions to the growing feudalism 
of society is contained in a Capitulary of Charles issued 
the year before his death, in which it is ordained that 
no man shall be allowed to renounce his dependence on 
a feudal superior after he has received any benefit from 
him, except in one of four cases — if the lord have sought 
to slay his vassal, or have struck him with a stick, or 
have endeavoured to dishonour his wife or daughter, or 
to take away his inheritance. In an expanded version 
of the same decree a fifth cause of renunciation is 
admitted — if the lord have failed to give to the vassal 
that protection which he promised when the vassal put 



his hands in the lord's, and " commended " himself to his 
guardianship. Other allusions to the same system are 
to be found in the numerous Capitularies in which 
Charles urges the repeated complaint that the vassals of 
the Crown are either endeavouring to turn their heneficia 
into allodia^ or, if possessing property of both kinds, — a 
beneficium under the Crown and an allodium by purchase 
or inheritance from their fathers, — are starving and 
despoiling the royal beneficium for the benefit of their 
own allodium. 

3. An institution which was intended to check these 
and similar irregularities, and generally to uphold the 
imperial authority and the rights of the humbler classes 
against the encroachments of the territorial aristocracy, 
was the peculiarly Carolingian institution of missi 
dominici, or (as we may translate the words) "imperial 
commissioners." These men may be likened to the 
emperor's staff- officers, bearing his orders to distant 
regions, and everywhere, as his representatives, carry- 
ing on his ceaseless campaign against oppression and 
anarchy. The pivot of provincial government was still, 
as it had been in Merovingian times, the Frankish 
comes or count, who had his headquarters generally in 
one of the old Eoman cities, and governed from thence 
a district which was of varying extent, but which may 
be fairly taken as equivalent to an English county. 
Under him were the centenarii, who, originally rulers 
of that little tract of country known as the Hundred, 
now had a somewhat wider scope, and acted probably 
as vicarii or representatives of the count throughout the 
district subject to his jurisdiction. These governors, 
especially the count, were doubtless generally men of 


wealth and great local influence. They had not yet 
succeeded in making their offices hereditary and trans- 
mitting the countship, as a title of nobility is now 
transmitted, from father to son. The strong hand of 
the central government prevented this change from 
taking place in Charles's day, but it, too, like so much 
else that had a feudal tendency, was " in the air " ; and 
it may have been partly in order to guard against this 
tendency and to keep his counts merely life-governors 
that Charles devised his institution of missi. 

But a nobler and more beneficial object aimed at 
was to ensure that justice should be "truly and in- 
differently administered " to both rich and poor, to the 
strong and to the defenceless. It is interesting in this 
connection to observe what was the so-called " eight-fold 
ban " proclaimed by the Frankish legislator. Any one 
who (1) dishonoured Holy Church ; (2) or acted unjustly 
against widows ; (3) or against orphans ; (4) or against 
poor men who were unable to defend themselves; (5) 
or carried off" a free-born woman against the will of her 
parents; (6) or set on fire another man's house or stable; 

(7) or who committed harizhut — that is to say, who broke 
open by violence another man's house, door, or enclosure; 

(8) or who when summoned did not go forth against 
the enemy, came under the king's ban, and was liable 
to pay for each off'ence sixty solidi (£36). Here we 
see that three of the specified offences were precisely 
those which a powerful local count or centenarius would 
be tempted to commit against the humbler suitors in 
his court, and which it would be the business of a missus 
dominicus to discover and report to his lord. 

The missi had, however, a wide range of duties beyond 


the mere control and correction of unjust judges. It 
was theirs to enforce the rights of the royal treasury, 
to administer the oath of allegiance to the inhabitants 
of a district, to enquire into any cases of wrongful 
appropriation of church property, to hunt down robbers, 
to report upon the morals of bishops, to see that monks 
lived according to the rule of their order. Sometimes 
they had to command armies (the brave Gerold of 
Bavaria was such a missus) and to hold placita in the 
name of the king. Of course the choice of a person to 
act as missus would largely depend on the nature of 
the duties that he had to perform : a soldier for the 
command of armies or an ecclesiastic for the inspection 
of monasteries. As Charles, in his embassies to foreign 
courts, was fond of combining the two vocations, and 
sending a stout layman and a subtle ecclesiastic together 
to represent him at Cordova or Constantinople, so he 
may often have duplicated these internal embassies, 
these roving commissions, to enquire into the abuses of 
authority in his own dominions. 

We have, in one of Charles's later Capitularies, an 
admirable exhortation which, though put forth in the 
name of the missi, surely came from the emperor's own 
robust intellect: — "Take care," the missi say to the 
count whose district they are about to visit, " that 
neither you nor any of your officers are so evil disposed 
as to say ' Hush ! hush ! say nothing about that matter 
till those missi have passed by, and afterwards we will 
settle it quietly among ourselves.' Do not so deny or 
even postpone the administration of justice ; but rather 
give diligence that justice may be done in the case 
before we arrive." 


The institution of missi dominici served its purpose 
for a time, but proved to be only a temporary expedient. 
There was an increasing difficulty in finding suitable 
men for this delicate charge, which required in those 
who had to execute it both strength and sympathy, an 
independent position, and willingness to listen to the 
cry of the humble. Even already in the lifetime of 
Charles there was a visible danger that the missus might 
become another oppressor as burdensome to the common 
people as any of the counts whom he was appointed to 
superintend. And after all, the missus could only 
transmit to the distant regions of the empire as much 
power as he received from its centre. Under the feeble 
Louis the Pious, his wrangling sons and his inept 
grandsons, the institution grew ever weaker and weaker. 
Admirable instructions for the guidance of the missi 
were drawn up at headquarters, but there was no power 
to enforce them. With the collapse of the Carolingian 
dynasty towards the close of the ninth century the 
missi dominici disappear from view. 

4. Another institution was perhaps due to Charles's 
own personal initiative ; at any rate it was intro- 
duced at the outset of his reign, and soon spread 
widely through his dominions. It was that of the 
scabini, whose functions recall to us sometimes those 
of our justices of the peace, sometimes these of our 
grand-jurors, and sometimes those of our ordinary 
jurors. Chosen for life, out of the free, but not prob- 
ably out of the powerful classes, men of respectable 
character and unstained by crime, they had, besides 
other functions, pre-eminently that of acting as assessors 
to the comes or to the centenarius in his court of 


justice. Seven was the regular number that should 
be present at a trial, though sometimes fewer were 
allowed to decide. As in all the earlier stages of the 
development of the jury system, they were at least as 
much witnesses as judges — their own knowledge or 
common report forming the chief ground of their 
decision. It is not clear whether their verdict was 
necessarily unanimous, but it seems certain that the 
decision was considered to be theirs, and not that of 
the presiding functionary, whether comes, vicarius, or 
centenarius. It was, moreover, final; for, as one of the 
Capitularies distinctly says, "After the scabini have 
condemned a man as a robber, it is not lawful for either 
the comes or the vicarius to grant him life." 

The scabini were expected to be present at the 
meetings of the county — probably also, to some extent, 
at those of the nation, and they joined in the assent 
which was there given to any new Capitularies that 
were promulgated by the emperor. It is easy to see 
how, both in their judicial and in their legislative 
capacity, the scabini may have acted as a useful check 
on the lawless encroachments of the counts. There 
was probably in this institution a germ which, had the 
emperors remained mighty, would have limited the 
power of the aristocracy, and have formed in time a 
democratic basis upon which a strong and stable 
monarchy might have been erected. 

IV. Lastly, a few words must be said as to the 
permanent results of Charles's life and work on the 
state -system of Europe. In endeavouring to appraise 
them let us keep our minds open to the consideration 


not only of that which actually was, but also of that 
which might have been, had the descendants of Charles 
been as able men as himself and his progenitors. 

The three great political events of Charles's reign 
were his conquest of Italy, his consolidation of the 
Frankish kingdom, and his assumption of the imperial 

1. His conduct towards the vanquished Lombards 
was, on the whole, generous and statesmanlike. By 
assuming the title of King of the Lombards he showed 
that it was not his object to destroy the nationality of 
the countrymen of Alboin, nor to fuse them into one 
people with the Franks. Had his son Pippin lived and 
transmitted his sceptre to his descendants, there might 
possibly have been founded a kingdom of Italy, strong, 
patriotic, and enduring. In that event some of the 
glorious fruits of art and literature which were ripened 
in the independent Italian republics of the Middle 
Ages might never have been brought forth, but the 
Italians, though a less artistic people, would have been 
spared much bloodshed and many despairs. 

But we can only say that this was a possible con- 
tingency. By the policy (inherited from his father) 
which he pursued towards the papal see, Charles called 
into existence a power which would probably always 
have been fatal to the unity and freedom of Italy. 
That wedge of Church -Dominions thrust in between 
the north and south would always tend to keep 
Lombardy and Tuscany apart from Spoleto and Bene- 
vento ; and the endless wrangle between Pope and King 
would perhaps have been renewed even as in the days 
of the Lombards. The descendants of the pacific and 


God-crowned king would then have become the " un- 
utterable" and the "not-to-be-mentioned" Franks, and 
peace and unity would have been as far from the fated 
land as they have been in very deed for a thousand years. 

2. Charles's greatest work, as has been once or twice 
hinted in the course of the preceding narrative, was his 
extension and consolidation of the Frankish kingdom. 
One cannot see that he did much for what we now call 
France, but his work east of the Rhine was splendidly 
successful. Converting the Saxons, — a triumph of 
civilisation, however barbarous were the methods em- 
ployed, — subduing the rebellious Bavarians, keeping the 
Danes and the Sclavonic tribes on his eastern border 
in check, and utterly crushing the Avars, he gave the 
Teutonic race that position of supremacy in Central 
Europe which, whatever may have been the ebb and 
flow of Teutonism in later centuries, it has never been 
forced to surrender, and which, with all its faults, has 
been a blessing to Europe. 

3. As to the assumption of the imperial title, it is 
much more difficult to speak with confidence. We have 
seen reason to think that Charles himself was only half 
persuad^id of its expediency. It was a noble idea, this 
revival of the old world-wide empire and its conversion 
into a Civitas Dei, the realised dream of St. Augustine. 
But none knew better than the monarch himself how 
far his empire came short of these grand prophetic 
visions; and prof ounder scholars than Alcuin could 
have told him how little it had really in common with 
the state which was ruled by Augustus or by Trajan. 
That empire had sprung out of a democratic republic, 
and retained for centuries something of that resistless 



energy which the consciousness of self-government gives 
to a brave and patient people. Charles's empire was 
cradled, not in the city but in the forest ; its essential 
principle was the loyalty of henchmen to their chief ; 
it was already permeated by the spirit of feudalism, 
and between feudalism and any true reproduction of 
the Impenum Bamanum there could be no abiding union. 

I need not here allude to the divergence in language, 
customs, and modes of thought between the various 
nationalities which composed the emperor's dominions. 
The mutual antagonism of nations and languages was 
not so strong in the Middle Ages as it has been in our 
own day, and possibly a succession of able rulers might 
have kept the two peoples, who in their utterly different 
languages swore in 842 the great oath of Strasburg, 
still one. But the spirit of feudalism was more fatal 
to the unity of the empire than these differences of race 
and language. The mediaeval emperor was perpetually 
finding himself overtopped by one or other of his nominal 
vassals, and history has few more pitiable spectacles 
than some that were presented by the rulers of the 
Holy Roman Empire — men bearing the great names of 
Caesar and Augustus — tossed helplessly to and fro on 
the waves of European politics, the laughing-stock of 
their own barons and marquises, and often unable to 
provide for the ordinary expenses of their households. 

But all this belongs to the story of the Middle Ages, 
not to the life of the founder of the empire. It would 
be absurd to say that he could have foreseen all the 
weak points of the great, and on the whole beneficent, 
institution which he bestowed on Western Europe. 
And whatever estimate we may form of the good or 


the evil which resulted from the great event of the 
eight hundredth Christmas day, none will deny that 
the whole history of Europe for at least seven hundred 
years was profoundly modified by the life and mighty 
deeds of Charles the Great. 



A CURIOUS and somewhat difficult question arises as to the 
disposal of the remains of the great emperor. The account 
given in the text ^ rests on the authority of Einhard, and is 
fully confirmed by Thegan the biographer of Louis the Pious. 
But in the year 1000 the Emperor Otho IIL opened the 
tomb in the presence of two bishops, and a knight named 
Otho of Lomello, and according to the statement of that 
knight communicated to the author of the chronicle of 
Novalese, they found the emperor sitting on a throne with a 
golden crown on his head, and holding a golden sceptre in 
his hands. The hands were covered with gloves, through 
which the nails protruding had worked their way. A little 
chapel (tuguriolum) of marble and lime was erected over him, 
through the roof of which the excavators made their way. 
None of the emperor's limbs had rotted away, but a little 
piece had fallen from the end of the nose, which Otho caused 
to be replaced in gold. The four discoverers fell on their 
knees before the majestic figure. Then they clothed him 
with white robes, cut the finger nails, took away one tooth 
as a relic, closed the roof of the chapel and departed. 

The account is a very circumstantial one, and is given by 
a contemporary chronicler on the authority of one of the 
actors of the scene who is a fairly well-known historical per- 
sonage. Yet most modern enquirers accept the conclusion 
advocated by Theodor Lindner (Die Fabel von der 
Bestattung Karls des Grossen), that the story must be 

1 Page 231. 


rejected as untrne, in other words, that Otho of Lomello in 
relating it was playing on the credulity of his hearers. The 
chief reasons for this conclusion are, that the story is hope- 
lessly at variance with the statements of Einhard and Thegan. 
If the body was buried on the very day of death, there would 
be no time for the elaborate process of embalming which 
this story requires. The words of the epitaph " humatum," 
" sub hoc conditorio situm est," would not be applicable to 
such a mode of interment. Moreover, such a very unusual mode 
of dealing with the great emperor's body would surely have 
attracted some notice from the ninth-century authors who 
in prose and verse celebrate the deeds of Charles, not one of 
whom makes the slightest allusion to it. Lastly, though an 
industrious search has been often made, no one has ever been 
able to find a trace of the tuguriolum (necessarily a room of a 
certain size) in which the corpse was said to have been seated. 
In 11 65, at the time of the canonisation of Charles, his body 
was taken up by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, removed 
from the marble sarcophagus, in which it had lain for nearly 
352 years, and placed in a wooden coffer in the middle of the 
church. For this wooden coffer was substituted fifty years 
later, at the order of Frederick II., a costly shrine adorned 
with gold and jewels in which at the present day, every 
six years, the relics of " St, Charles the Great," are exhibited 
to the people. The head is separated from the body and 
enclosed in a silver portrait-bust of fourteenth - century 


the evil which resulted from the great event of the 
eight hundredth Christmas day, none will deny that 
the whole history of Europe for at least seven hundred 
years was profoundly modified by the life and mighty 
deeds of Charles the Great. 



A CURIOUS and somewhat difficult question arises as to the 
disposal of the remains of the great emperor. The account 
given in the text ^ rests on the authority of Einhard, and is 
fully confirmed by Thegan the biographer of Louis the Pious. 
But in the year 1000 the Emperor Otho IIL opened the 
tomb in the presence of two bishops, and a knight named 
Otho of Lomello, and according to the statement of that 
knight communicated to the author of the chronicle of 
Novalese, they found the emperor sitting on a throne with a 
golden crown on his head, and holding a golden sceptre in 
his hands. The hands were covered with gloves, through 
which the nails protruding had worked their way. A little 
chapel (tuguriolum) of marble and lime was erected over him, 
through the roof of which the excavators made their way. 
None of the emperor's limbs had rotted away, but a little 
piece had fallen from the end of the nose, which Otho caused 
to be replaced in gold. The four discoverers fell on their 
knees before the majestic figure. Then they clothed him 
with white robes, cut the finger nails, took away one tooth 
as a relic, closed the roof of the chapel and departed. 

The account is a very circumstantial one, and is given by 
a contemporary chronicler on the authority of one of the 
actors of the scene who is a fairly well-known historical per- 
sonage. Yet most modern enquirers accept the conclusion 
advocated by Theodor Lindner (Die Fabel von der 
Bestattung Karls des Grossen), that the story must be 

1 Paore 231. 


rejected as untrue, in other words, that Otho of Loraello in 
relating it was playing on the credulity of his hearers. The 
chief reasons for this conclusion are, that the story is hope- 
lessly at variance with the statements of Einhard and Thegan. 
If the body was buried on the very day of death, there would 
be no time for the elaborate process of embalming which 
this story requires. The words of the epitaph " humatum," 
" sub hoc conditorio situm est," would not be applicable to 
such a mode of interment. Moreover, such a very unusual mode 
of dealing with the great emperor's body would surely have 
attracted some notice from the ninth-century authors who 
in prose and verse celebrate the deeds of Charles, not one of 
whom makes the slightest allusion to it. Lastly, though an 
industrious search has been often made, no one has ever been 
able to find a trace of the tuguriolum (necessarily a room of a 
certain size) in which the corpse was said to have been seated. 
In 11 65, at the time of the canonisation of Charles, his body 
was taken up by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, removed 
from the marble sarcophagus, in which it had lain for nearly 
352 years, and placed in a wooden coffer in the middle of the 
church. For this wooden coffer was substituted fifty years 
later, at the order of Frederick II., a costly shrine adorned 
with gold and jewels in which at the present day, every 
six years, the relics of " St, Charles the Great," are exhibited 
to the people. The head is separated from the body and 
enclosed in a silver portrait-bust of fourteenth - century 

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Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinhtrg^h. 


3foreion Statesmen Series. 

Edited by J. B. BuRY, M.A., Regius Professor of 
Modern History at Cambridge. 

Crown Sz'o. 2s. 6d. each. 

CHARLES THE GREAT. By Thomas Hodgkin, 

D.C.L., Author of Italy and Her Invaders^ etc. 

Fellow and Tutor of St. John's College, Oxford. 



Colonel Martin Hume. 

RICHELIEU. By R. Lodge, Professor of History in 
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Hodgkin, Thomas 

Charles the Great 



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