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In order to do what is right, we must know what is right.
~ Charlemagne

Charlemagne (April 2nd, 742 – January 28th, 814) also known as Karl, Charles I, and Charles the Great, was a medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814 as the first emperor and founder of what would become the Holy Roman Empire. In 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany before embarking on a mission to unite all Germanic peoples into one kingdom, and convert his subjects to Christianity.

Achievements

Charlemagne was able to halt the political and cultural disintegration of the early Middle Ages and lay the foundation for strong central government north of the Alps. He managed united most of Western Europe for the first time since the classical era of the Roman Empire and united parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish rule. Partially as a result of Charlemagne's activity, northern Europe emerged in the high and late Middle Ages as the dominant economic, political, and cultural force in the West after he stimulated European economic and political life to foster the cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance. He instituted economic and religious reforms, and was a driving force behind the Carolingian miniscule, a standardized form of writing that later became a basis for modern European printed alphabets despite his own inability to write and difficulty reading. His actions ensured unified Christianity would survive longer than thought possible given the disunited state of Europe.

Acts of Villainy

Despite his achievements, he gained success by committing numerous atrocities against innocents who were deemed as non-Christians. Once in power, Charlemagne sought to unite all the Germanic peoples into one kingdom, and convert his subjects to Christianity. In order to carry out this mission, he spent the majority of his reign engaged in military campaigns. As such, Charlemagne waged a bloody, three-decades-long series of battles against the Saxons, a Germanic tribe of pagan worshipers, and earned a reputation for extreme ruthlessness to force Christianity on the populace. In 782 at the Massacre of Verden, Charlemagne reportedly ordered the slaughter of some 4,500 Saxons. He eventually forced the Saxons to convert to Christianity, and declared that anyone who didn’t get baptized or follow other Christian traditions be put to death regardless of age. Charlemagne also had the sacred tree of the German Saxons cut down which they liked to a World Tree to consolidate his rule.

Despite his strong Christian foundations, Charlemagne had multiple wives and mistresses and perhaps as many as 18 children, making him an adulterer and polygamist. He was also militant towards his subjects. Charlemagne extended his authority over church and state so could discipline clerics, control ecclesiastical property and define orthodox Christian doctrine. However, despite the harsh legislation and sudden change, he had developed support from members of the clergy who approved his desire to deepen the piety and morals of his subjects

Death

Charlemagne died on January 28th, 814, leaving successors who lacked his vision of control and authority, and his empire did not long outlive him.

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