In the last lecture, we looked at the history of the Carolingian family up to Pippin of Herstal. In this lecture, we zoom in and look at the life of his son, Charles the Hammer, Charlemagne’s grandfather. As we will see, Charles rose to prominence because of his military prowess. He is largely regarded as one of the greatest medieval generals for, among other things, his halt of the Umayyad dynasty’s advance into southern France.
In the last lecture, we examined some of the key institutions of the Frankish realm. I briefly touched on some of the earlier figures of the Carolingian family. In this lecture, I want to take a closer look at the history of the Carolingian family up to Charles the Hammer. This will contextualize this Frankish family that would come to rule most of western Europe. Full disclosure for this lecture and the many to come.
In the last lecture, we saw some of the salient features of the Frankish world. Towards the end, I noted the rise of an important family, that is, the dynasty of the Merovingians. Under the Merovingians, Clovis would unify much of Western Europe. In this lecture, I want to zoom in and examine the salient institutions that made up the government and bureaucracy of the Frankish kingdom of the Merovingians. It is important to discuss this because these are the institutions in which Charlemagne’s grandfather, Charles the Hammer, and father, Pippin the Short operated. And these are the institutions that his family inherited when they overthrew the Merovingians.
Charlemagne is an oddity in the early medieval world. He’s odd not because of the things he did or how he acted. He’s odd because it is possible to construct an entire course around him. It is possible to do this because of the immense level of documentation we have about him and his time as king and emperor. In the next thirty or so lectures, we will explore the world of Charlemagne, his life, from boyhood, to his death. We will touch on his legacy and heir, his only surviving son, Louis the Pious. By the time these lectures are complete, you will have a clear understanding of who Charlemagne is and the world in which he operated. In this lecture we begin by contextualizing the man against the backdrop of his environment, that is, the Frankish world.