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Whilst the degenerate Emperors of the West were hastening to an inglorious extinction, the Barbarians, who had spread themselves over the continent of Europe, were engaged in the formation of new monarchies: and when at last (A.D. 476) the sword of Odoacer won the crown of Italy, the kingdoms of the Franks, Burgundians, Suevi, and Goths were already established in Gaul and Spain. But the Burgundian kingdom was overwhelmed by the Franks (A. D. 532) : the Suevi were lost in the Gothic kingdom of Spain (A. D. 585); and that kingdom was itself annihilated by the Saracens (A. D. 714). 

(The Goths settled in Aquitaine, under their King Adolphus, in 411. The Burgundian kingdom was established in Gaul, under Gundicar, in 413; the Frank kingdom, under Theodomir, in 420. Euric established the Visigoth kingdom in Spain in 476. The Suevi were already settled there).

In Italy, the Goths were superseded by the Lombards; the Greek Emperors were enabled to possess themselves of a portion of that kingdom, and the imperial exarchs and governors ruled Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the southern provinces. Meanwhile the Frank monarchy grew in power and extent, and at length produced a master-spirit, who was destined to reunite the shattered members of the Empire, and to emulate the greatness of the Caesars.

Though Pepin, King of the Franks, the father of the great Charles, was the first of his race who enjoyed the royal title, the family had long been illustrious, and by degrees absorbed the whole of the sovereign authority. Under them, the dominions of France had been secured and extended; and whilst the feeble successors of Clovis retained the name of King, Europe was taught to regard the Mayors of the Palace as the real monarchs of the kingdom.

The first distinguished member of the family appears to have been Pepin, Mayor of Austrasia (under Dagobert I, King of the Franks), who died in 639. Doda, daughter of this Pepin, gave birth to another Pepin, distinguished by the surname of Heristal. Having exchanged the title of Mayor for that of Prince or Duke, the second Pepin governed the province of Austrasia, and by a victory over Thierri III, King of Neustria (A.D. 690), gave the final blow to the authority of the Merovingian kings. The power of both these Pepins had been from time to time exerted in subduing the barbarous tribes of Frisons, Allemans, and Sclavonians, who had either revolted from the obedience they reluctantly yielded to the Franks, or threatened the kingdom with invasion. To the latter Pepin is to be attributed the revival of the annual assembly of the Champ de Mars.

The glory of the family was still farther illustrated by Charles, the natural son of Pepin d'Heristal. On his father’s death in 714, Charles found little difficulty in assuming Pepin’s rank and authority, and was even powerful enough to dispose of the crown of Austrasia to Clothaire IV (A.D. 717); and subsequently of the whole monarchy of France to Thierri IV (A.D. 720). The reign, indeed, of that feeble boy is little more than the history of Charles. Like his ancestors, he repressed the insurgent nations beyond the Rhine; he humbled the Frisons and Saxons; chastised the Allemans, Bavarians, and other Germanic tribes; and subdued Eudes, the powerful and rebellious duke of Aquitaine. But it was on his exploits against the Moors or Saracens that the military reputation of Charles was principally founded. Those formidable invaders having overrun Spain soon turned their ravages upon France. In the year 718, Zama, who governed Spain in the name of the Caliph Suliman, invaded Septimania, or Narbonnese Gaul, the last hold of the Visigoths; and penetrating the territories of the duke of Aquitaine, laid siege to Toulouse; where, however, he was utterly defeated and slain. Ambiza, the successor of Zama, in 725 again led the Saracens into Septimania, the greater portion of which, including the capital Narbonne, was subjected to the invaders. Still more terrible incursions were carried on under the Governor Abdurrahman; who advanced without opposition into the very heart of France. It was now that the arms of Charles were turned against the invaders; and in a great battle near Tours, or Poitiers (732), the Saracens were completely defeated, and compelled to retreat upon their conquests in Septimania. Abdurrahman perished in this memorable engagement; and on this occasion Charles acquired his surname of Martel, or the Hammer, indicative of the weight and certainty of his blows. He next laid siege to Narbonne; but the events of the siege are shrouded in darkness; and whatever fortune then befell that city, the final expulsion of the Saracens from Gaul was reserved for the son of Charles Martel.

The death of Thierri in 737 left the throne vacant; nor did Charles deem it necessary to obscure his own lustre by the shadow of a king. He himself made a peaceful end in 741. Shortly before his death he received from Pope Gregory III, whose territory was grievously harassed by the Lombards, a formal embassy, by which the holy father presented him with the keys of the sepulchre of St. Peter, and exhorted him to fly to his succour; promising to create him consul or patrician of Rome, and to transfer his allegiance from the Emperor of the East to the Duke of France. But Charles was not destined to extend his dominion into Italy ; and it remained for his grandson to establish in Rome a new imperial dynasty.

Charles Martel at his death divided the kingdom the between his two eldest sons, Carloman and Pepin : the former had Austrasia (east of the Meuse) and Germanic France with its dependencies (that is, the territory beyond the Rhine); the latter received Neustria (north of the Loire and west of the Meuse) and Burgundy (east of the Rhone), both retaining the title of Dukes, or Mayors of the Palace. To Grippo, the third son, a small territory was assigned; of which, however, he was deprived by his brothers in 742. Pepin thought proper to raise Childeric III, a scion of the royal family, to the regal state; but his own power was undiminished; and his possessions were enlarged by the voluntary retirement of his brother Carloman into a monastery. At length Pepin resolved to assume the royal title. Pope Zachary, too glad to conciliate the ruler of France, readily acquiesced in Childeric's deposition : Pepin was proclaimed King in 752, and received at the hands of Boniface, Archbishop of Mayence, the holy unction, “after the manner in which David had been anointed by Samuel”. Two years afterwards Pope Stephen II being driven to seek succour in France against the inroads of the Lombards, Pepin received anew from that Pope the royal unction, as did also his queen and his two sons Charles and Carloman; and at the same time the Pontiff conferred upon the three princes, in his own name and that of the Roman Republic, the title of Patricians of Rome, to them and their posterity. In recompence for this service Pepin undertook to march against the Lombards. He accordingly entered Italy; besieged Pavia, the Lombard capital; and by a treaty with the King Astolphus obtained possession of the Exarchate and the Pentapolis. The breach of this peace chapter called Pepin a second time into Italy; a new siege of Pavia diverted the Lombard King from Rome; a new peace was adjusted; and the Exarchate and Pentapolis were left in charge of the Pope. But the conquests of Pepin were not confined to Italy. Tassillo, Duke of Bavaria, the rebellious nephew of the King, was compelled to renew his oath of submission; the insurgent Saxons were reduced, and subjected to a new tribute of three hundred horses; and the Frisons and Bretons were in turn compelled to renounce their assumed independence. Pepin completed the great work of his father, the expulsion of the Moors from France : By the connivance of the Goths, Narbonne was delivered into his hands; and the whole of Septimania was at length rescued from the infidels. After a long struggle with Waifar, Duke of Aquitaine, Pepin completely vanquished his enemy; and on the duke's assassination in 768, the whole province became united to the crown. The King himself expired soon after this event.

The surviving sons of Pepin were Charles and Carloman. Charles (afterwards better known by the title of Charlemagne) was born at the castle of Ingelheim on the 26th of February 742; Carloman came into the world nine years later. Both, we have seen, received the royal title, with that of patrician of Rome, in their father’s life time ; and between them, Pepin at his death divided his ample territory. But the brothers were perpetually at variance; and France might have been afflicted by a civil war, but for the premature death of Carloman, which took place towards the close of the year 771. On this event, Charles, regardless of the rights of his brother’s infant children, took possession of the whole kingdom; and the widow of Carloman was driven to seek refuge at the court of her father Desiderius, King of the Lombards. But though Charles had thus assumed the rule of all his paternal dominions, he was denied the peaceful enjoyment of their possession. The territ0ry to which he laid claim comprehended the whole country corresponding with ancient Gaul, as comprised between the sea, the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees; together with a considerable portion of country on the further side of the Rhine. But throughout this extensive tract lay a multitude of tribes varying in speech and manners, who for a moment were compelled to submit, yet could scarcely be called the subjects of the French monarch. The Bretons in the north of France, and the Gascons in the south, still retained their distinction from the Franks. On the right of the Rhine the various tribes of Saxons with their Frison and Sclavonian neighbours, harassed their sovereign and one another; whilst on the south of the Danube the Allemans and Bavarians seemed ever ready to throw off the yoke. In the remoter regions were the fierce Huns and Avars, whose very name had once spread dismay through Gaul and Italy. In the life of Charles, each of these people acts a part more or less conspicuous; and it becomes important here to distinguish them, though time and civilization have long since effaced their more prominent peculiarities.


I. The Bretons

As early as the fourth century, a colony from the island of Britain had settled in that part of Gaul called Armorica; and in the next century a new swarm of Bretons, driven out by the Saxon invasions, took shelter amongst their expatriated countrymen, and continued to preserve their peculiar manners and language. Their assumption of independence had drawn down upon them the chastisement of Clovis; their King was degraded into a count; and they were compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of the sovereign of the Franks. Their territory occupied much of the modern Brittany; and their incursions beyond their own limits excited the wrath of Pepin, who took their capital Vannes, and humbled their count into submission.

II. The Gascons

The Gascons were a people of Tarragonese Spain, who crossed the Pyrenees during the reign of the grandsons of Clovis, and established themselves, under a duke, in that district of Gaul situated between those mountains, the Garonne, and the Ocean. In 630 Aribert, King of Toulouse, and brother of Dagobert I reduced their country and united Gascony to his own possessions. The Gascons, however, continued to exist as a people distinct from the Franks,

III. The Frisons

East of the Rhine, the Frisons occupied the country between that river and the Ems. Their reduction had been begun by Pepin d'Heristal in 689, who planted a body of missionaries in the town of Utrecht, in order to the conversion of the barbarians. Their final reduction was accomplished by Charles Martel.

IV. The Saxons.

The Saxons were settled between the rivers Ems, Eyder, and Trave. They were divided into four tribes; between the Ems and the Weser, were the Westphalians and Angrarians; between the Weser and the Elbe, the Oestphalians; and beyond the Elbe the Nordlingians. The Saxons had been reduced by Charles Martel about 738, and in common with most of their neighbours were heathens.

V. The Abodrites

Nearer the Oder, lay two tribes of Sclavonian descent, the Abodrites and the Wilzes; the former already tributary to France ; the latter hereafter to be taught submission.

VI. The Allemans and Bavarians

South of the Danube, in the ancient provinces of Rhaetia and Noricum, were the Allemans and Bavarians. Both had been conquered by Clovis in 496: but the Bavarians were still permitted to choose their own duke, though the right of approving his election was reserved to the king of the Franks.

Charles, being now sole monarch of the Franks, resolved to subdue the turbulent spirit of his Saxon subjects. Having concerted measures in an assembly held at Worms in 772, he crossed the Rhine and attacked the Saxons, who were headed by a renowned chief named Witikind. After signally defeating the rebels, he took possession of the strong fortress of Ehresburg in Westphalia, where was deposited the sacred column, or Irmensaul, the object of the heathens’ peculiar veneration. (The Irmensaul is by some supposed to represent the Greek Mars, or Mercury, or Juno; it was more probably a memorial of the destruction of the legions of Augustus by Arminius). The temple and the idol were overthrown; and the Saxons reduced to despair sought and obtained peace, for the maintenance of which they were compelled to give hostages to the conqueror.

The following year (773) led Charles to a new conquest which greatly extended his dominions, and paved the way to the most important event of his life. Charles had taken for his second wife Gisella, daughter of Desiderius, King of Lombardy, whom he soon afterwards thought fit to repudiate; and the dishonoured princess was dismissed to her father’s court, where she was joined by her sister Gerberga, the fugitive widow of Carloman, in the following year. This injurious treatment of his daughters naturally excited the wrath of the Lombard monarch; and his wrath might have been fomented by a bitter enemy of Charles, then resident at Pavia. (Aquitaine, comprising the country south of the Loire and west of the Saone and Rhone, including Gascony and Septimania, which last was united to France on the expulsion of the Saracens, was erected into an hereditary dutchy in 637 in favour of Boggis by his uncle Dagobert I. Boggis was succeeded by his son Eudes, who died in 734; Hunald, who abdicated 765; and Gaifre, or Waifar, assassinated 768). Upon the death of Waifar, Duke of Aquitaine in 768, his father Hunald, who had some time before resigned his duchy to his son and retired into a monastery, emerged from his religious confinement and attempted to regain his former possessions. In the first year of his reign Charles marched against Hunald, whom he defeated and made prisoner; but who, after a short imprisonment, found means of escape, and placed himself under the protection of the king of the Lombards.

The smouldering flame of discord soon found occasion to burst forth. Desiderius, like his predecessors, had indulged in aggressions on the territory of the bishop of Rome; not only had the conquests of Pepin in Italy been regained by the Lombards, but the Immortal City itself was once more threatened by the conquerors. To Charles the holy father represented his danger; and as Pepin had listened to the exhortation of Stephen, so the son of Pepin was easily persuaded to succour Adrian. Having collected his army he repaired to Geneva; and dividing his forces, marched the one division over Mount Cenis, and the other over the Great St. Bernard. Desiderius, unable to resist his new adversary, suffered himself to be blockaded in Pavia; whilst Verona, which was defended by his son Adalgiso, capitulated to the Franks. The Lombard prince effected his escape to Constantinople and was reserved for new adventures; but by the capture of Verona the widow and children of Carloman fell into the hands of Charles; and having been removed into France were involved in a fate open to that suspicion which ever attends upon mystery.

Leaving his uncle Bernard to carry on the blockade of Pavia, Charles descended to Rome, (774), where he was received with the utmost reverence by the Pope and the Romans. To him as their Patrician they rendered all the honours once bestowed on the exarch of the eastern emperor; and in return Charles assumed the right of investing the see of Rome with those lands already assigned to the Pope by his father Pepin. His return to Pavia was quickly followed by the surrender of that city (the Pavians, reduced to the last stage of famine and disease, stoned to death Hunald, the former duke of Aquitaine, who opposed their cries for surrender); and the title of King of Lombardy, for ever lost to the Lombards, was assumed by the King of the Franks. But this conquest scarcely altered the general state of Italy. The Lombards were permitted to retain their laws and institutions. From the three great Duchies of Friuli, Spoleto, and Benevento, no more was required than the fealty they had been accustomed to yield to the Lombard kings; and the less important duchies were still confided to their respective dukes. The Exarchate of Ravenna (with the exception of Ferrara and Faenza), the Pentapolis, and the Dutchy of Rome, chapter were confirmed to the Pope, subject, however, to the sovereign rights of Charles. The Greek possessions in the south were respected (the Exarchate and Pentapolis, enclosed between the Apennines and the Adriatic, extended from the Po to the south of Ancona. The Duchy, governed by a duke subordinate to the exarch, extended from Viterbo to Terracina, and from Narni to the mouth of the Tiber). The residue of Italy, as Liguria, Aemilia, Venetia, Tuscany, and the Cottian Alps, was appropriated to the conqueror; who subsequently entrusted the limits, or marches, to the government of Marquises and the cities to Counts; over whom the royal Commissaries were invested with an extraordinary authority for the good government of the whole (these Missi were only created on occasion, and thus differed from the Counts of the Palace, who were permanent judges attendant upon the Sovereign). The cities were required to take the oath of fealty; upon them, as well as the feudatories and ecclesiastical bodies, were imposed the tributes of Fodrum, Parata, and Mansionaticum, an easy burthen, and only enforced whilst the sovereign sojourned in Italy. (The terms Parata and Mansionaticum are frequently confounded; but the distinction seems to be, that the former sig­nified the expense which the host incurred in receiving his guest; the latter, the money collected and paid to the guest to provide for his own maintenance). To the general meetings of the nobles Charles added the ecclesiastical authorities; and with him originated those legislative assemblies which were afterwards accustomed to be held in the plain of Roncaglia.

Charles returned to France, carrying with him, as his captives, Desiderius and his queen. But whatever submission the three great duchies had affected to yield, it was soon manifest that they entertained no friendly disposition towards their new sovereign. Scarcely had Charles crossed the Revolt of Alps than Radagaiso, Duke of Friuli, threw off the mask, and sought to restore Prince Adalgiso to the throne of his father. Upon the tidings of insurrection Charles hastened back to Italy, and speedily completed his vengeance. The duchy of Friuli was dismembered; and the Duke paid by decapitation the penalty of his rashness. Awed by this terrible example, Hildebrand, Duke of Spoleto, deemed it prudent to renew his declarations of obedience. But the more distant duchy of Benevento maintained a doubtful position, and for the present evaded any express submission.

During the absence of Charles at the siege of Pavia, the restless Saxons, incited by their former second leader Witikind, a second time revolted (775), and drew the King, on his first return from Italy, to the banks of the Weser. Though beaten and apparently reduced, they found occasion to surprise, by a midnight inroad, the slumbering camp of Charles; and many of his soldiers perished ere the danger was discovered. They were soon, however, repulsed; and the slaughter of their troops and the desolation of their country once more reduced them to submission. But no sooner had the King returned to Friuli than the Saxons were a third time in revolt (776). The arrival of Charles at Worms for the third time damped their rebellious spirit; and he now resolved to spare the insurgents on no other terms than their consenting to embrace the Christian faith. In compliance with their promises of submission and conversion, many appeared in the following year in an assembly at Paderborn, and received baptism: but the inexorable Witikind still disdained to submit; and retiring into the more northern regions awaited a new occasion for revolt.

It was in this assembly that the thoughts of Charles were first invited to the conquest of Spain. That country had been completely overrun by the Arabs at the beginning of the eighth century: the Christians were subjected to the yoke of the infidels, who exacted from them a moderate tribute, incorporated them with their own people, and even permitted them to maintain the Christian religion in the midst of their conquered cities. But in the fastnesses of the Asturias the spirit of independence was still kept alive by a small band of fugitives; who, being headed by Pelayo a member of the Gothic royal family, created him their King, and devoted themselves to the arduous labour of reconquering Spain. In the valley of Cangas the standard of liberty was displayed; the Moorish force which was sent to overwhelm the little band of heroes was miraculously annihilated; and Pelayo, being joined by Alfonso a noble Spaniard at the head of a troop of Biscayans, possessed himself of Gijon, and some other places in Asturia and Galicia. After a reign of nineteen years, Pelayo was succeeded by his son Favila (737), whose death two years afterwards made room for the Catholic Alfonso (739). Under him the conquests of the Spaniards were more widely spread. Having reduced the greater part of Gallicia and the mountainous district of Asturia, he extended his kingdom by many acquisitions in Leon, Castile, and Biscay. Dying in 757, he was succeeded by his son Froila, who defeated the Moors in a pitched battle, and built Oviedo, which he constituted as the capital of his kingdom; and there his immediate successors continued to reign.

These conquests were not a little promoted by the fruitless expeditions of the Moors across the mountains, which led to their great defeat by Charles Martel, and their final expulsion from France by Pepin. But a still more advantageous circumstance for the Christians was the disordered and factious state of the Moorish government. Far distant from the newly-acquired conquest, the caliph of the East committed the care of Spain to a governor nominated by himself; or, upon urgent occasions, by his viceroy in Africa. These governors were perpetually exposed to sedition and perfidy; and were at length entirely extinguished by Abdurrahman (756), who restored the splendour of the Ommyade race; and seating himself upon the throne of Cordoba, for ever renounced the dominion of the Abasside caliph.

Amongst those Emirs who had been deprived of their local governments by this revolution, was Eben-al-Arabi, governor of Saragossa. At the same assembly in which Charles assisted at the conversion of his Saxon subjects, he listened to the voice of the infidel Al-arabi, who had journeyed as far as Paderborn to implore the aid of the Christians against the usurper Abdurrahman. Charles readily undertook to march into Spain; and entering Navarre at the head of a considerable army, laid siege to the capital Pampluna. That city immediately surrendered; and Charles crossing the Ebro (778), advanced upon Saragossa, which soon fell into his hands. Other Saracen cities hastened to place themselves under the protection of the conqueror: Huesca, Barcelona, and Girona swore fealty to the French king; and Charles, having spread his authority from the Pyrenees to the Ebro, established the march of Spain, which he committed to the government of a newly-created count of Barcelona. It was upon the occasion of his return into France that a conflict took place between the rear of the French army and the treacherous Gascons, who had formed an ambush amidst the mountains. The valley of Roncesvalles has been marked by tradition as the theatre of Charles's disgrace. After the main body of the army had been suffered to advance in security, the rear was suddenly attacked and cut to pieces, the baggage seized and plundered, and many principal officers numbered among the slain. Of these, the names of three only appear in any accredited narration; Eghart, Steward of the royal table; Anselm, Count of the palace; and Rutland, Roland, or Orlando, Governor of the march of Bretainy. The names of Orlando and Roncesvalles cannot fail to conjure up the dreams of chivalry and enchantment; but the dry annals of that age refuse to realize these splendid visions. The death of Orlando first announces that he ever existed; and the gorgeous meteors of Poetry and Romance are scarcely visible through the dense atmosphere of History.

Not long after this expedition, a fourth revolt (779) of the Saxons called for the presence of Charles in Germany. Witikind had again returned from the north, and led his countrymen to the massacre of the Franks who occupied the eastern bank of the Rhine. On the borders of the Eider the rebels received a complete overthrow; nor was the wrath of the avenger appeased until multitudes of the barbarians had fallen. Resolved to tame their insurgent spirit by the spread of Christianity, Charles not only distributed among them a number of missionaries, but enacted laws by which the infraction of the smallest ordinance of the Church was made punishable with death. The callous Witikind once more sought refuge in the regions of the north.

In the ensuing year Charles deemed it expedient again to visit Italy (781). He had too much reason to suspect the intentions of Arechis, or Aregiso, Duke, of Benevento, who was in correspondence with the Lombard prince Adalgiso, then resident at Constantinople; and had even entered into a negotiation with the imperial court. Taking with him his queen Hildegarde (whom he married immediately after repudiating his Lombard consort), and his two youngest sons Carloman and Lewis, Charles crossed the Alps and arrived at Rome early in the year 781. His presence hushed all clamours; every thing breathed peace and conciliation. At his desire, Adrian I invested the two young princes each with a kingly crown. Carloman, then little more than seven years old, was baptized by the name of Pepin and crowned King of Italy by the Pope; and Lewis, then about three, received the crown of Aquitaine. Nearly at the same time, Charles was gratified by a proposal from the Empress Irene which promised to dispel all fears on the side of Constantinople. This was no other than an offer to contract in marriage the young Emperor Constantine with Rotrude, Princess of France; an union which, though only prospective from the present youth of the royal couple, was readily assented to by Charles; and the intended empress was forthwith instructed in the Greek language.

If the mild precepts of the gospel failed to produce their due effect upon the unquiet Saxons, perhaps the pageantry of their new form of worship might have consoled them for the loss of their idols. But Witikind once more appeared amongst them, and the pious, or politic, labours of Charles were again frustrated (782). The ministers of his religion were barbarously massacred; two of his generals, whom he had despatched against the rebels, received a disgraceful defeat; and the royal presence again chapter became necessary in Saxony. The moment Charles appeared there, order and submission were restored; and Witikind hastily retreated beyond sea. But a dreadful retribution awaited the wretched people who had been deluded or encouraged by his rebellion. Charles summoned before him at Verden the principal persons of the nation; nor was his vengeance satiated until four thousand five hundred of the rebels had been butchered in his presence. This ferocious act of carnage defeated its own object: a general insurrection immediately followed; and Witikind and his brother Alboin were quickly at the head of the Saxons. But the arms of Charles were too potent for resistence; two signal victories broke the Saxon spirit; and either party seemed weary of the war. Witikind and Alboin, who had braved the conqueror’s fury, were softened by his pacific offers; both submitted and were baptized; and a longer interval of peace (785) ensued than Charles had yet experienced from this rebellious people. From the Saxons, the attention of Charles was called towards the western extremity of his kingdom. The Bretons, who had learned from Pepin the dangers of insubordination, now ventured to renounce the authority of his son; and Charles resolved to complete the work which his father had begun, and dissipate this illusion of independence. His very menaces seem to have had the desired effect without forcing him to a conflict. At an assembly at Worms he received their oath, whereby they acknowledged themselves vassals of the French; in token of which they submitted to the galling terms of hostages and a tribute.

To one who aimed at universal dominion it was against but reasonable that repose should be denied. The duke of Benevento had perpetually been an object of suspicion to Charles. His connexion with Desiderius, the last Lombard king (for he had married Adelburga daughter of the monarch), and the natural rancour of his duchess at the injuries and misfortunes of her dearest relations, were too strong incentives to rebellion, had not prudence whispered respect for the vigour and promptitude of the French King. At length, however, Arechis summoned courage openly to renounce the authority of Charles; and, in assertion of his independence, ventured to assume the title of Prince of Benevento. But this bold step was hardly taken, ere the self-created prince learnt with consternation that the rapid march of the King had already brought him as far as Rome; and terrified at this sudden and unlooked for vicinity he now sought to avert the ruin he had heedlessly drawn down upon him. He immediately despatched an embassy to Charles with protestations of repentance and submission, which met the King at Capua, and induced him to pardon his penitent vassal, and receive the children of Arechis as pledges for his future obedience. The dark fate of their cousins might have justified alarm for the young Grimbald and Adelgisa; but they had no reason to complain of the rigours of captivity. Adelgisa was suffered to return to the duke at Salerno; and Grimbald, though compelled to accompany Charles into France, was treated with conciliatory kindness.

Another victim was to be offered at the shrine of universal dominion. Tassillo, Duke of Bavaria, was closely connected with Charles by both blood and marriage. Odilo, the father of Tassillo, had married Hiltrude the daughter of Charles Martel; and Tassillo himself espoused Liutberge, daughter of Desiderius, and sister of the repudiated wife of Charles. Tassillo had already in the reign of Pepin incurred suspicions of disaffection; and Charles on more than one occasion found it necessary to admonish and overawe his refractory kinsman. On the first news of the Beneventine defection, the wife of Tassillo prevailed upon him to take part in the rebellion; but ere any blow had been struck, the Bavarian was summoned by his sovereign to vindicate himself, before his peers, at the Assizes of Ingelheim. Tassillo was in no condition to disobey the call. His subjects had learned, from the fate of the Saxons, a lesson which made them anxious to separate their cause from that of their chief. They even appeared as his accusers, and the convicted traitor was doomed to death. Charles, however, vouchsafed to spare his life, but upon no light conditions. The duchy of Bavaria was abolished and divided into counties; and the duke, his wife, and his children were immured in different monasteries.

Meanwhile (788) Charles received from Adrian an of the intimation which convinced him of the insincerity of his Beneventine vassal, and of the hostile views of the court of Constantinople towards himself and the Pope. The return of the King to France had emboldened Arechis to renew his negotiations with Irene and Adalgiso. The friendly relations between the Empress and the King were already dissolved; the concerted match between their children was broken off; and Irene, jealous of the still increasing power of Charles, lent herself to the attempts of Adalgiso to regain the crown of Lombardy. But before their schemes were ripe for execution, death surprised the prince of Benevento, and the decease of his eldest son Romoald left Grimbald heir to the principality. That youth had been won by the kind offices of Charles, and still resided at his court; and the Beneventines now eagerly desired that he might be permitted to return amongst them. To this the King assented; but upon two conditions; the one calculated to perpetuate his own supremacy; the other to abolish a peculiar chapter mark of distinction, which seemed too national to be retained by a portion of the subjects of one great monarchy: the coin and public acts were to bear the name of Charles, and the Lombards were to trim their beards after the Frank fashion. The young duke’s fidelity was speedily put to the test; Adalgiso, supported by a Greek force, landed on the coast of Italy, and Charles despatched an army from France to repel the invaders. This army was immediately joined by Grimbald and Hildebrand, Duke of Spoleto; and the united forces obtained a complete victory near Benevento. The Greek general falling into the hands of the Lombards was cruelly put to death; and Adalgiso escaping to Constantinople ended his days in obscurity.

The following year (789) extended the dominions of Charles as far as the shores of the Baltic. We have already noticed the two tribes of Abodrites and Wilzes, situated between the Elbe and the Oder; the former professing submission to Charles; the latter disdaining obedience, and manifesting their love of liberty by continued attacks upon their more pacific neighbours. The cries of his Abodrite subjects drew Charles into the more northern district of Germany; and the ravages and prowess of the Franks threw the Wilzes into astonishment and consternation. They lost no time in appeasing this new enemy; they at once surrendered their lands to the invader; agreed to hold them as his vassals; and delivered over to him a band of hostages.

A more important foe was next to be subdued, and a new kingdom added to the French monarchy. After a year’s repose, Charles resolved again to enjoy the excitement of war; and an expedition (791) was concerted against the Huns or Avars, who looked with jealousy on the dismemberment of Bavaria, and even ventured to attack the French possessions in Lombardy and Germany. The chastisement of these incursions was entrusted by the King to his generals; and three signal victories abated the ferocious ardour of the Huns. They even condescended to despatch ambassadors to Worms to settle with Charles the boundaries of his new Bavarian acquisitions. But the negotiation proved abortive; and Charles resolved to put himself at the head of his army and proceed to the reduction of his heathen neighbours. This savage people had spread themselves over the ancient Pannonia as far as the river Ens, and occupied the modern Bohemia and Austria, with much of the more distant country. Their towns, or rather villages, were fortified by strong fences which protected their homes, whilst they sallied forth into the surrounding countries, and returned laden with wealth which their uncivilized state rendered superfluous. The invading army of Charles exceeded any that he had hitherto commanded. His entry into the territory of the Huns was preceded by fasting and prayer, by masses and processions, and by all the ingenious expedients for propitiating heaven which the darkness of that age encouraged. But the overwhelming multitude of the invaders might have secured success without the special interference of Providence. The Huns in vain endeavoured to stem the torrent; and after fighting with the utmost bravery were driven back in all directions. Town after town fell rapidly into the hands of the conquerors: Vienna and other strong fortresses were plundered and dismantled; an immense booty was secured; and Charles now pushed the limits of his territory from the banks of the Ens to the junction of the Danube with the Drave. After this important conquest, he took up his winter quarters at Ratisbon.

But whilst Charles thus carried his victorious arms through foreign regions, he was threatened by domestic danger; and on his return from the Hunnic war (792) had nearly perished by the daggers of conspirators, amongst whom was his own son. The King had now been four times married. The issue of the first marriage (if marriage it really were) was Pepin. The mother, Himiltrude, had been cast off when Charles found it convenient to espouse the daughter of the king of Lombardy. After his divorce from Gisella, her place was quickly supplied by Hildegarde, a lady of Swabia, who gave him three sons, Charles, Carloman, and Lewis. Hildegarde, whose virtues gained her the esteem of her husband and his people, died in 783; and the disconsolate widower shortly afterward solaced himself by a fourth marriage with Fastrade, daughter of a German count. In the appropriation and division of conquered territory, the eldest son Pepin had been entirely overlooked. His very existence seemed forgotten when at the baptismal font his name was conferred on Carloman his brother. Pepin was deficient neither in courage nor understanding, but his person was deformed and forbidding; and whilst he was neglected by his father, he was doomed to endure the injurious treatment of his new step-mother, who in no wise resembled the mild and virtuous Hildegarde. Incensed by this usage, the gloomy youth brooded over his wrongs till his mind engendered the black design of destroying his king and father. Congenial spirits were not wanting to participate in his dark purpose, and the King’s sojourn at Ratisbon was chosen for executing the murderous intention. Shortly before the time appointed for striking the blow, the conspirators assembled to take their last council in a church, and in the eagerness of their discussion overlooked the person of a Lombard priest, who reposed in an obscure corner of the building. The intruder was already in possession of their secret, when they discovered their error; and even then they were content to spare his life on his swearing to preserve silence. But no sooner was the priest liberated from his mortal danger than he hastened to the King and laid open all he had discovered. The conspirators were immediately seized; the greater number were condemned to death; and Pepin himself was saved from the last punishment by the lenity of his father, who caused him to be immured for life within the walls of a monastery. The priest was rewarded with the Abbey of St. Denys. Fastrade, whose excesses had assisted to provoke this tragedy, did not long survive its completion; and Charles by a fifth marriage raised to the throne Liutgarde of Swabia.

The retreat of Charles to Ratisbon had enabled the fugitive Huns to return to their deserted territories, to repair their dismantled towns, and put themselves in a position to repel a new invasion. For the present the disordered state of Charles’s dominions was their best protection. Italy, Saxony, and Spain were filled with revolt and confusion. In the first, Grimbald, Duke of Benevento, once the strict ally of the King, gradually relinquished his allegiance; and having espoused Uvantia, niece of the Greek Emperor, openly rejected the dominion of France (793). Against him Pepin, King of Lombardy, and Lewis, King of Aquitaine, were despatched, and a desultory and fruitless war was commenced in Benevento. In Saxony, the restless infidels had surprised the French garrison, massacred the missionaries, burnt the churches, and once more set up their idols. In Spain the Moors had attacked and captured Barcelona, and even overleaped the Pyrenees and carried their ravages to the gates of Narbonne. Fortunately their war with Alfonso II King of Leon, diverted them from further prosecuting their invasion; and the caliph Hissem was compelled to strengthen his forces in Spain by the recall of his troops from Languedoc. Charles therefore resolved in the first instance to chastise the rebellious Saxons, and to make their reduction the prelude to his attack upon the Huns. With a view of facilitating this latter conquest he formed the design of uniting the rivers Rhine and Danube. This project, which has extorted the admiration of his historians, would scarcely deserve notice in an age of more advanced civilization. The Mayne, which flows into the Rhine, forms a junction with the Retnitz near Bamberg, whose source is near Weissenburg in Franconia. Near Weissenburg also rises the Altmuhl, which flows into the Danube by Kelheim in Bavaria. To connect the Retnitz with the Altmuhl is, therefore, to connect the Rhine with the Danube; the German Ocean with the Euxine Sea. Charles resolved to accomplish this desirable object by means of a canal. The distance to be cut through was scarcely two leagues, and the work was actually commenced. But the mechanical arts of the eighth century were unable to execute the suggestions of Charles’s genius, and the great project was never accomplished. In the midst of his warlike preparations, the King found time to hold a Council at Frankfort (794), where were promulgated his strenuous, though tolerant, censures on the worship of images, and the condemnation of the doctrines of Nestorius, then newly revived by Felix, the heretical bishop of Urgel.

From Frankfort, Charles proceeded to the castigation of the Saxons. He divided his forces into two bodies, commanding one in person, and entrusting the other to his eldest son, Charles, Duke of Maine. The very presence of the King disarmed the barbarians; their submission was received on two conditions; first, that they should receive a new body of missionaries; secondly, that one third of those who had taken up arms should be delivered over to the conqueror. With a policy not remarkable for sagacity, Charles caused these prisoners to be distributed through the remotest provinces of his kingdom; they were cut off, indeed, from their country, but they carried with them the spirit of rebellion; and when afterwards the Flemish subjects broke out into that insubordination which they learned from the Saxon settlers, it was quaintly said, that instead of one devil, Charles had now raised up two. Nor did this measure tame the obdurate residue. Wiltzan, the ally of Charles and king of the Abodrites, was surprised and slain; and the annals of the five succeeding years are marked by new revolt, new chastisement, new submission, and new dispersion of the rebels into other territories.

This succession of revolts afforded Charles no time to visit the Huns in person: his arms were nevertheless irresistible. Under the command of Henry, Duke of Friuli, and of Pepin, King of Italy, the Huns were repeatedly defeated; their Khan was slain; and the limits of the French monarchy were now extended as far as the river Saave. An immense booty rewarded the bravery of the army; the Huns were compelled to receive Christianity and the heavier yoke of Charles, whose dominions were enlarged by the junction of Pannonia (796).

Whilst his brother was thus engaged in overthrowing the Huns, Lewis, King of Aquitaine, was sent into the south to curb the insolence of the Saracens. The exploits of this prince have scarcely been thought worthy of relation, a sure sign of their insignificance. But the troops of Charles were soon after enabled to rescue the Balearic Islands from the descents of the infidels (799); and the grateful inhabitants of those isles voluntarily surrendered themselves into the protecting hands of the king of the Franks.

In the midst of these wars, Charles lost a sincere and zealous friend by the death of Pope Adrian I, who expired at Rome in the year 795. But his successor Leo III was no less friendly, and the views of the King and Pope were exceedingly well suited for their mutual advantage. Immediately after his election, Leo transmitted to the royal residence at Aix-la-Chapelle, the standard of Rome with other gifts; and exhorted Charles to delegate one of his nobles, who might receive, in his name, the oath of fealty from the Roman people. In compliance with this agreeable request, the Abbot Angelbert was despatched to Rome; and the present of a portion of the Hunnic spoils was at the same time transmitted to the Pope. The proffered oath was pronounced; the equivocal title of Patrician was explained by that of Lord; the allegiance due to the eastern Empire was entirely forgotten; and thenceforth the Commissaries of the King of France administered justice in the capital of the west. Happy indeed was it for Leo that he had secured so powerful an ally and protector. In the fifth year of his pontificate, a fearful conspiracy burst out in Rome; the person of the Pope was cruelly lacerated, and with difficulty his life was preserved from the violence of his aggressors. To Charles he flew for refuge; at Paderborn he was kindly received by the monarch, who sympathized with his sufferings, and listened with complacency to his protestations of innocence of the charges which his enemies had promulgated against him. Justice, however, required that both parties should be heard; and with a view to a full investigation, the Pope was conducted back to Rome under a magnificent escort of bishops and nobles, at once his protectors and judges. The hearing of the cause terminated in the acquittal of the Pope and the confusion of his accusers; and the authors of the revolt were transmitted to the King to be punished according to his pleasure. But Charles had meanwhile resolved to visit Italy in person. The stillness which reigned in Saxony and Pannonia permitted his absence from Germany; the protracted war in Benevento, the wrongs of the Pope, and perhaps some secret understanding with the holy father, were sufficient motives for this expedition; and on the 24th of November, 800, Charles I King of the Franks arrived in Rome. Assisted by the spiritual and temporal lords of Italy and France, Charles immediately proceeded to the judgment of the Pope. But Leo’s accusers were already silenced; and the absence of accusation ensured his acquittal. The Pope thus absolved deemed it prudent to be fortified by the judgment of God; and mounting the pulpit solemnly swore his innocence on the Holy Gospels. This gratuitous appeal entirely convinced the applauding multitude.

The benefits which Leo had received from Charles called for remuneration, and a cheap remuneration lay in the hand of the Pope. The bond which connected Rome with the eastern Empire was already loosened; the conqueror of Europe was now Patrician or Lord of Rome; and the name of Emperor seemed only wanting to fill up the measure of his greatness. Accordingly on the anniversary of the birth of Christ, when multitudes of every nation thronged the church of St. Peter, whilst Charles was immersed in prayer at the foot of the apostolic sepulchre, the Pope drew near him with a golden crown and imperial mantle. No sooner had Charles risen from his devotions than Leo, placing the crown upon the monarch’s head, exclaimed aloud, “To Charles, Augustus, crowned by God, the great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, life and victory”. Acclamations re-echoed throughout the assembly; and the Senate, the Romans, and the strangers simultaneously repeated the important sentence which once more gave an Emperor to the western world. At length the joyous sounds being hushed, the Pope proceeded to anoint the new Emperor with the sacred unction, and invested him with the imperial mantle. All present paid their homage to their sovereign, and Charles swore to protect the holy church of Rome to the utmost of his power.

Europe now beheld once more two emperors. But how different their situations! In the East, Constantine, the legitimate successor of his father Leo, lay blind and captive; whilst his ambitious mother Irene wielded the sceptre she had wrung from the hand of her son, and governed the still decreasing territories of the empire. In the West, shone forth Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, the hereditary lord of a regal dominion, the conqueror of nations, and the founder of a new dynasty. Ill as the proud Irene might brook this assumption of the imperial title, her weakness compelled her to dissemble. Her throne was shaken by internal discord; the favourable moment for her destruction was eagerly watched; and she opened a negotiation with Charlemagne, which included a proposal of her marriage with that monarch and the consequent union of the ancient and modern empires (802). But in the midst of these negociations Irene was dethroned and exiled, and Nicephorus ascended the throne. A friendly intercourse was soon afterwards established between the two emperors: to Nicephorus were guaranteed Sicily, the Greek cities of Calabria, and the sovereign rights over Naples, Gaieta, and Amalfi; whilst Rome and the residue of Italy, with Istria, Croatia, and Dalmatia (excepting the maritime cities) were surrendered to Charlemagne. Nor was Nicephorus the only eastern sovereign who recognized the title of the western Emperor. On the throne of Bagdad sat the renowned caliph Haroun-al-raschid. Twice after the coronation of Charlemagne the ambassadors of Haroun visited the imperial court; and amongst other magnificent presents conferred upon the Emperor, the pious beheld with delight the keys of the city of Jerusalem.

But whilst Charlemagne was thus securing the friendship of distant princes, the disquietude of his own subjects called for the interference of his arms. The Saxons were for the twelfth time in rebellion (803); the treacherous governor of Barcelona had betrayed his trust; the new subjects in Pannonia were harassed by the Sclavonians of Bohemia; and the undaunted duke of Benevento still refused to succumb. Against the Saxons the Emperor headed his army in person; little resistance appears to have been offered; and in pursuance of his former policy he thinned the numbers of the insurgents by transplanting ten thousand families into distant regions. At a Diet at Saltze in Franconia (804) he subsequently received the capitulation of the whole Saxon nation. Their laws and liberties were preserved to them; they were released from tribute and other burthens and admitted to the privileges of the Franks, though the nomination of their governors and judges was reserved to the Emperor. But the same measure of indulgence was denied them in matters of religion; the Christian faith was imposed upon them; the former bloody decrees were renewed and extended; and the punishment of death awaited the transgression of the minutest religious institution. Little applause could be claimed by the politic prince who taught the best of religions by the most unchristian means, merely as a curb to his unruly subjects. Idolaters by education or choice, they became hypocrites by compulsion; and the double stain was only to be effaced by the gradual course of time.

The reduction of Barcelona, Bohemia, and Benevento was entrusted to the sons of the Emperor. The youngest, Lewis King of Aquitaine, marched into Catalonia, and quickly overwhelmed Zaddo the rebel governor, who vainly looked for assistance from the court of Cordoba. The arms of the eldest, Charles Duke of Maine, were no less prevalent in Bohemia: the Sclavonians were defeated, their chief perished in battle; and Bohemia, Lusatia, and Misnia were added to the imperial dominions. But to Pepin, King of Italy, a harder task had been assigned. During the life of Prince Grimbald the arms of that king reaped but little harvest: continued incursions into the Beneventine territory left the Lombards still unbroken; nor was it until after the deaths both of Grimbald and Pepin that the duchy became tributary to the Empire. The pacific disposition of the successor of Grimbald, rather than the arms of the Franks, effected the long-desired object; and after a war of nearly eighteen years, Grimbald II purchased peace by the payment of a moderate tribute (811).

At the mature age of sixty-four Charlemagne made his Will, which, having been approved of by the States, was sent to Rome to be confirmed and signed by the Pope. He divided his dominions between his three sons, Charles, Pepin, and Lewis; and gave liberty to his subjects, after the death of those princes, to choose their own sovereign, provided the person elected were of the royal house. One other clause in this instrument is too remarkable to be omitted. The sons of Charles were forbidden to put to death, or to mutilate, or blind, or consign to a cloister, any one of his grandsons, upon any pretext whatsoever. Perhaps in dictating this extraordinary prohibition the remembrance of the children of his brother Carloman might have oppressed the soul of the Emperor. That the prohibition would itself be ineffective he might easily anticipate; that it was not wholly superfluous or inconsistent with the feeling of the times, the sequel of the Carolingian history will sufficiently testify.

Charlemagne might now abandon himself to that repose which his age required; and for his personal exploits his reign might here be closed. But his sons were active and warlike: new aggressors were to be repulsed; and new conquests to be achieved. About the year 808 the shores of France and Germany were for the first time visited by a ferocious band of strangers, afterwards but too well known to the rest of Europe. The northern boundary of the dominions of Charlemagne was the ocean, excepting only where the river Eyder (then the Daene) divides the extreme regions of the north from the mainland: there this river placed a limit to the Empire. Beyond this limit, in the narrow isthmus which parts the Baltic from the German Ocean, were settled the Danes or Normans, who had already infested the shores of Britain. The incursions of these people across the Eyder were checked by the imperial troops; but in their navy the Normans possessed the means of surprise and devastation against which the Franks were very inadequately provided. The Emperor was not remiss upon this occasion; he caused watch-towers to be built upon the coast; a number of new vessels to be constructed; and by such expedients he diminished a grievance which he was unable wholly to remedy. The Normans continued their periodical incursions; and finally obtained a footing in one of the fairest provinces of France.

The last days of Charlemagne were cruelly embittered by domestic loss. Scarcely had the afflicted father closed the grave over the princess Rotrude ere the news of the death of Pepin, King of Italy, again demanded the paternal tears; and the succeeding year he was bereaved of his eldest son Charles, whom he had destined to succeed him in the largest share of his dominions. Lewis was now his only surviving son; but Pepin left a bastard named Bernard, on whom Charlemagne conferred the crown of Italy. To secure the residue of his dominions to Lewis, the Emperor resolved to associate him in the Empire; and having assembled the States at Aix-la-Chapelle (813), he obtained their approbation of his design. On the appointed day, Lewis attended his father to the holy altar, on which had been placed a second imperial crown. By the old Emperor’s command, the Emperor elect raised the diadem and placed it on his own brow;—the first, though not the last, example of a self-crowned Emperor. Charlemagne did not long survived this ceremony. He expired at Aix early in the year 814, in the seventy-second of his age, forty-sixth of his reign.

In person, Charlemagne was lofty and majestic; in manner and disposition, courteous and affable; and in spite of the sequestration of his nephews, and the coldblooded butchery of his prisoners, panegyric has declared him just and merciful. His enterprizing spirit, his active bravery, his persevering energy need no other record than the simple statement of his life. History appears content to charge him but with one fault—incontinence. The censure of this constitutional error he seems willing to have avoided, since in lawful wed­lock he was the husband of five consecutive wives; and the loss of the one, repudiated or dead, was immediately replaced by another. At the decline, however, of his life after the death of his last queen we are informed that he solaced himself with four successive concubines; and a numerous illegitimate progeny bore evidence that the trammels of wedlock were insufficient for the confinement of his passions. Scandal has even converted his paternal affection for his daughters into too intense a sentiment. He loved them at least too well to suffer their separation by marriage; and they were sedulously instructed under his own eye in the laudable pursuits of housewifery and embroidery.

We have already seen the extent of his paternal dominions and watched the progress of their increase. At his death he was lord of Gaul, including the modern states of France, the Netherlands, Holland, Switzerland, and Savoy; of the county of Barcelona, including the greater portion of the north of Spain between the Pyrenees and the Ebro; of the most part of modern Germany from the Eyder to the Alps, and from the Rhine to the Oder; of the modern Bohemia; of much of the modern Hungary as far south as the Saave; of Istria, Croatia, and Dalmatia; of Italy, except the southern possessions of the Greek Empire; of Corsica and the Balearic Islands. Even the Saxon kings of Britain acknowledged his sovereign authority; and he was sufficiently influential to restore Ardulph to the kingdom of Northumberland. 

In the government of his dominions, Charlemagne consigned the administration of the palace to the great officers of state. The Grand Almoner presided over spiritual matters; the Palatine count was the minister of justice within the court itself. Two great assemblies were annually convened;— at the Field of May, the lay and spiritual magnates were bound, under penalty, to attend and assist in the deliberation of the national affairs; and all other freemen were permitted to be present and ratify by their voices the enactments of their superiors. Into the autumnal meeting the nobles were alone admitted, and by them were imposed the taxes and other contributions. At these meetings, the clergy were divided from the nobles; and the nobles were again divided from the third estate. In the administration of the laws, Charlemagne exercised great liberality. The conquered nations were allowed to retain their own institutions; and thus the Salic, the Ripuarian, the Saxon, the Bavarian, and the Lombard laws were concurrently administered in the Empire. But the choice of the ministers of Justice was, in general, reserved to the Emperor himself; and on extraordinary occasions, his Commissaries were despatched into the provinces to hear and determine. For the government of France, Charlemagne from time to time promulgated his Ordinances or Capitularies, which bound the Franks alone, unless when other nations were specially designated. These capitularies extended from the highest to the minutest objects; by some the great Fiefs of the nation were regulated; by others the private economy of the imperial household was provided for, even to the sale of superfluous eggs and vegetables. The Coinage and the weights and measures of the Kingdom were reformed; and to Charlemagne is attributed the division of money into Livres, Sous, and Deniers.

The nobles of Charlemagne were rich and powerful; but he prudently endeavoured to prevent their independence; and, to guard against their acquiring too great influence over his people, continually insisted on their attendance in his expeditions. The possessions of many were hereditary; but in the bestowing of new Benefices (and he was by no means sparing in his bounty) he usually reserved to himself the right of resumption; and by prohibiting the alienation of lands by his feudatories repressed the increase of allodial estates, and the consequent curtailment of the crown possessions.

To the affairs of Religion, Charlemagne delighted to apply himself. But it was the vice of his policy or zeal to propagate the mildest of Religions by the edge of the sword; and never were the doctrines of Mahommed written in more bloody characters, than was the faith of Christ in the eighth century. He frequently summoned Councils at which he himself presided; and points of doctrine the most subtle were discussed in his presence. He hazarded a breach with Pope Adrian by denouncing the adoration of images; and even attempted to grasp the perplexing question of the procession of the Holy Ghost. Nor did the difficulties of this delicate matter embarrass the conqueror of nations; he decided for the double procession, though he was willing to obtain the confirmation of the Pope. An evasive answer by Leo appears to have satisfied the conscience of the Emperor, and France was still permitted to believe in the procession from the Son as well as the Father. He diligently advanced the wealth and power of the clergy: made laws for the good government of the Church; and enforced the payment of tithes. He founded several Bishoprics; and increased the episcopal authority, by investing the Bishops with judicial powers; admitting them into the national Council; and entirely exempting them from secular jurisdiction.

In the various revolutions of Europe from the fall of the Western Empire to the accession of Charlemagne, literature and the arts had been well nigh extinguished. Under the Gothic Kings of Italy, learning had obtained some protection, and the structures of the Goths might be entitled to admiration. But throughout the rest of Europe was darkness; and in the eighth century Italy herself could boast but a scanty catalogue of learned names ; amongst whom Paul the Deacon, Peter of Pisa, Paolino of Aquileia, and Dungalo of Pavia, were the most conspicuous. Patrons were wanting to excite emulation; and the scarcity and dearness of books damped the energies of the most ardent. The toilsome mode by which copies were to be multiplied, the expensive materials upon which they were to be written,110 and the almost general ignorance of the language in which they were composed, restricted their circulation; for even those who occupied the most conspicuous posts in the Church could lay claim to but small proficiency in the Latin language, though that language still continued to be used in all public documents. In the various incursions of the barbarians, a multitude of strange dialects had spread themselves over Europe. In Italy the Greek tongue was not wholly extinguished; whilst the Latin was dishonoured and enriched by an admixture of Gothic and Lombard. In Germany the Teutonic overwhelmed the Latin; in France the corruption of pure Latinity produced a bastard dialect called the Roman, entirely distinct from the Teutonic of the Franks, and the Celtic of the Bretons. In Spain, the Roman seems early to have taken root; but easily permitted engrafting the language of its Saracen conquerors. No wonder then if the age of the first Carolingian sovereign could produce but one historian, and a puny band of ecclesiastical casuists and Latin versifiers. It was the merit of Charlemagne to dispel this chaotic darkness; and by calling the small and scattered particles of learning into action to produce collision and vivification. To his native tongue, Charlemagne united a competent knowledge of the Latin and some acquaintance with the Greek. He eagerly sought out the few who in the general ignorance were comparatively learned; and Britain may be proud in having supplied one of the most erudite men of the day. He collected around him those capable of imparting knowledge, founded schools, purchased books, and became himself a student. His sons were no less carefully imbued with the reviving taste for literature; and whilst they were trained in the favourite military exercises, were taught to value the less dazzling acquisitions of peace. Knowledge was with him the sure path to preferment both in Church and State. Nor will the fame of Charlemagne as the reviver of learning be seriously injured, if we admit that he himself was unable to write.

The arts are also indebted to this Monarch for his cheering regard to their forlorn condition. At Aix-la-Chapelle, which he made his capital, he raised a Cathedral and a Palace; he drew out from obscurity the mosaics and precious relics of antiquity; and under his auspices the service of religion was rendered more solemn and imposing by music worthy its celebration. If little were done under his reign, his anxiety for improvement deserves approbation: and it is surely no small praise to Charlemagne that his voice was the first to call the slumbering artist into action.

These strenuous exertions in favour of civilization may fairly entitle this prince to the surname of “The Great”. Born at a time when idolatry and superstition usurped the place of religion; when the sciences of government and legislation were a mystery; when literature and art were neglected and unknown; this renowned emperor, soared above the cloud which covered the face of Europe, and became himself the luminary from which others derived their light. But to his unjustifiable and successful aggressions upon the neighbouring nations he probably owed his honourable appellation; and in the eyes of his barbarous contemporaries the blood-stained conqueror of the Saxons was an object of higher estimation than the reviver and encourager of the peaceful arts.