Charlemagne was the first leader since the fall of the Roman Empire to achieve a unifying rule across much of Europe as he paved the way for all future European empire builders to draw inspiration from his methodology to achieve greater dictatorships. At a time when Europe was fragmented by tribal rulers whose savagery matched their lack of organisation an opportunity was there for the taking for an ambitious leader like Charlemagne who was equipped with the military strategies to satisfy his lust for power and domination.
After the death of his father Pepin the Short he shared rule for 3 years with his brother Carloman until his siblings sudden and unexpected death in 771ad. For the next 30 years Charlemagne was in a perpetual war across multiple European fronts as he expanded his power base as the King of the Franks by conquering the kingdom of the Lombard's in northern Italy, Saxony to the east and Bohemia.
It was a blood thirsty campaign both on and off the battlefield as the vanquished survivors were expected to convert to Roman catholicism or face execution. In one infamous incident he oversaw the "Massacre of Verden" where 4,500 Saxons were decapitated for refusing to convert to Christianity. On 10th July 774 he was crowned the King Of The Lombard's and by the turn of the century he even gained the title of the First Holy Roman Emperor such was the extent of his power base and allegiance to the papacy.
As an administrator he was equally adept as he was on the battle field as his wide ranging reforms became appreciated by the people of Europe. His legal reforms were stern when it came to religion but he was smart enough to allow local laws to be respected in each of his conquered territories. He standardised language and introduced education which would use Latin as its basic form of learning and communication.
The standardisation continued with money, weights, measures and taxes all coming into line across his territories. As a soldier he led from the front and he cut an intimidating figure as he stood at 6' 4" (1.93m) which was far taller than the nutritionally deprived enemies he faced on the battlefield who averaged about 5' 5" (1.65m).
Charlemagne surrounded himself with educated people and encouraged art and literature for which history has rewarded his contribution to the people with the term the "Carolingian Renaissance" which was the first of the three great medieval renaissances. As a ruler he was well respected and he tried to be fair to his subjects once they came under his dominion.
The legacy of Charlemagne became an inspiration for dictators all the way through to the 21st century as he inspired Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and the European Union. He also made some memorable speeches and was good for a one liner so this is my compilation of 17 of the best Charlemagne quotes
Quotes About Charlemagne
The writer Walahfrid recognised his wisdom when he said:
"Charles was the keenest of all kings to seek out and support wise men so that they might philosophize with all delight. Almost all of the kingdom entrusted to him by God was so foggy and almost blind, but he made it luminous with the new ray of knowledge, almost unknown to this barbarous land"
The monk Bobbio said mournfully at the time:
"From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, people are crying and wailing ... the Franks, the Romans, all Christians, are stung with mourning and great worry ... the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar"
The biographer Einhard got straight to the point by describing him thus:
"The most famous and greatest of men"
French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was quoted to say at an EU meeting held in Aachen:
"Perhaps when we discussed monetary problems, the spirit of Charlemagne brooded over us"