Good morning, we are going to explore the story of Charlemagne. This is a German-produced documentary series with English subtitles. This episode has a run time of 50:42.
Charlemagne was the most important Emperor of the Middle Ages. The story begins with a monk gathering wood for a fire. He was a scholar in Charlemagne’s court and was his friend. He is the narrator of Charlemagne’s story. He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day. He was the most powerful ruler of his time. Even the pope was intimidated by him. He was superhuman. However, what is a myth, and what is reality?
The story continues with King Pepin, he wanted to be the King of the Franks. Pepin was ambitious for a son and wanted to establish a dynasty. Finally, his wife gave birth to a son. It had taken years for his wife to have a son. The Frankish kingdom was made up of a variety of communities. Pepin wanted to unite the people under one leader: him. Under Pepin, the territory was expanded and had become a major power player in Europe. Pepin sought the blessing of the Pope for his crusade for power. Pepin would promise the Pope that he would defend the faith. Additionally, he allowed Charlemagne and his brother Carloman were anointed by the pope.
Charlemagne and Carloman were joint heirs to the empire. They were bitter rivals rather than brothers. On Pepin’s death bed, he made his will. The empire that Pepin had built would be divided equally between them. The division was strange: Charlemagne’s lands encircled Carloman’s lands. What was the reasoning behind this arrangement? Did Pepin want to force both his sons to get along? However, he could not foresee the consequences that this would have.
Both boys were crowned the same day, however, they soon started fighting for dominance. Carloman was planning a marriage in order to strengthen his empire. Their mother tried to make peace between the boys, but she had a clear preference for Charlemagne. Soon, there was a rebellion on the borders. Charlemagne marched, and Carloman was supposed to help him put down the rebellion. Carloman did not show up at the agreed meeting place. The sources are unclear as to why Carloman did not assist Charlemagne.
Charlemagne went to battle on his own. With advances in technology, Charlemagne was able to put down the rebellion without his brother’s help. While putting down the rebellion, his wife had a son. He then declared all of Aquitaine his, taking over his brother’s portion. Charlemagne legitimized his reign with a victory in battle. What did Carloman think when he heard of Charlemagne’s victory?
Charlemagne’s mother made her way to Lombardy. She was looking to seek an alliance. It is clear from the sources that Charlemagne’s mother was a political force in her own right. She was arranging the marriage between Charlemagne and the King of Lombardy’s daughter. This marriage would surround Carloman’s empire on all sides. The Pope was skeptical of this marriage. He wrote to Charlemagne, begging him to not marry the Lombard Princess.
Charlemagne divorced and banished his first wife and then married the Lombard Princess. It would seem that Charlemagne’s mother would win out. It would be Carloman’s move and he would request that the Pope himself would baptize his second son. However, this would not happen and Carloman was so angry he wanted to march on Rome itself. Would Carloman march on Rome? Would Charlemagne and his brother finally get along? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more.
I was a little bit skeptical when I saw this documentary pop up on as newly published. I had made the mistake of skimming through some of the comments and I did not like how Chronicle had titled it. Chronicle did not have to title it in the way they did because I am still working on building up my Middle Ages collections. It could have been titled Charlemagne and it would have gotten my attention.
Now that I have that business out of my way, wow. I was really impressed with this first episode. It was interesting to see the relationship between Carloman and Charlemagne. The monk’s perspective was good and the explanations of the historians were good. So far, this could turn out to be a good series to show in a classroom. If you have a biography project for students and they are researching Charlemagne, this could be a potential start.
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