Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

King of Lombardy
Charlemagne [768-814]

When Pepin died, his kingdom was once more divided between his two sons Charles and Carloman. Charles made for himself so great a name that he was called Carolus Magnus, or Charles the Great. The "magnus" has come to be looked upon as part of his name, and he is known to us as Charlemagne.

Very soon after their father's death the two brothers were crowned, Charlemagne at Noyon, Carloman at Soissons. Almost at once the two young Kings were plunged in wars, and almost at once it was seen that they could not agree with each other; and when, after little more than two years, Carloman died, Charlemagne quietly took possession of the whole kingdom. Carloman, it is true, had two sons, but they were only little boys. The idea that the son must succeed the father was by no means so settled as it is with us. The Franks, too, claimed the right of choosing their King, and when the choice lay between being governed by boys, and being governed by a wise and skillful soldier, the Franks chose the soldier.

During all his long reign Charlemagne had battles to fight. He fought with every people and tribe of the southwestern half of Europe, but his chief enemies were perhaps the Saxons. The Franks were themselves of the Saxon race, but they had become Christian, while the many tribes of the Saxons, who lived beyond the Rhine, were still heathen. That alone made them deadly enemies of Charlemagne, who did more than any King before him to spread Christianity over Europe.

Charlemagne began his conquests by marching into Germany and destroying a mysterious idol called Irmen's Column. For three days the Franks labored destroying this column and temple, amid fearful heat, beneath a blazing sun. The summer had been so hot that even the streams had run dry, and the Franks were weary with heat and thirst and scarcely able to work. Then, suddenly, it seemed a miracle happened. At mid-day the dried-up bed of a river all at once began to flow with water, so that every soldier in the army was able to quench his thirst. After this the Franks completely destroyed Irmen's Column and the sacred wood which surrounded it. Many of the Saxons then allowed themselves to be baptized, and taking strong hostages with him, Charlemagne marched away. But the Saxons were by no means subdued, and for thirty-three years Charlemagne had to fight them again and yet again.

Meanwhile he was called southward to help the Pope against the Lombards. With a great army he advanced to besiege the town of Pavia. The King of the Lombards, standing upon the ramparts with a friend, Ogger the Dane, watched him come.

At first they saw the huge engines of war in the distance. "Charlemagne is surely with this great army," said the King.

"No," replied Ogger.

Next came a great crowd of soldiers gathered from every corner of the Frankish kingdom.

"Surely Charlemagne comes in triumph in the midst of this great crowd," said the King.

"No, not yet. He will not come so soon," replied the Dane.

"What can we do, then?" said the King, who began to be afraid. "What can we do against him if he comes with so huge a company of warriors?"

"You will see what kind of man he is when he comes," said Ogger, "but as for what will be our lot I know naught."

While they thus talked, the main body of the troops appeared. They were old and tried soldiers who had already seen many victories under their great leader. At the sight of them the Lombard King was seized with fear. "Now of a certainty Charles comes," he cried.

"No," replied Ogger, "not yet."

Now followed in long and glittering array the Bishop:?, the Abbots, the Clerks of the Royal Chapel, and the Counts. As they came streaming on and on, their arms and ornaments glittering in the sunshine, the King of the Lombards covered his eyes. He could not bear to look upon the blaze and splendour.

'Let us go down," he cried. "Let us hide ourselves in the bosom of the earth far from the face and the fury of so terrible an enemy."

Ogger, the Dane, even although he knew of old the power and the strength of Charles, trembled also as the mighty host rolled on. But in answer to the King's outcry, he shook his head. 'When you see the very harvest in the field stricken with fear then you may know that Charles has arrived," he murmured.

Scarcely had he finished speaking when they saw in the west a dark cloud rising. It was Charlemagne, who came at last. He seemed to the trembling King a very man of iron. His head was covered with an iron helmet, his gauntlets were of iron, his breast and his broad shoulders were covered with an iron corselet. In his left hand he held a lance, in his right his mighty sword. His horse, too, was clad in armor, and all those who surrounded him, all the great men of the army, were clad like their leader. It seemed as if all the great plain was covered with men of iron.

"There," said Ogger, "there at length is the man you seek.' And as he gazed the heart of the King sank within him.

But in spite of Charlemagne's great army, in spite of the fear his great name carried to the hearts of his foes, Pavia did not give in. Other places all over the north of Italy yielded, but still Pavia held out.

Then at Easter Charlemagne left the camp and went to Rome, in order to keep the feast there. The Pope received him with every mark of honor. As he came near the city, vast crowds went out to meet him, grave senators in their robes of office, soldiers and priests carrying banners and crosses. And as he entered the city, children dressed in white and carrying branches of palm went before him singing songs of praise.

Upon the threshold of the great church of St. Peter, the Pope awaited Charlemagne. When the King reached the steps, he knelt down and kissed them. But the Pope raised him, kissed him upon the cheek, and, taking him by the hand, led him into the church. They were followed by all the Frankish nobles and the Roman monks and clerks who sang, "Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord."

After the King and Pope had sworn faith and friendship to each other, Charlemagne returned once more to Pavia. The people there were now in great misery from hunger and disease. So at length they gave in.

Charlemagne took the King prisoner, added Lombardy to his empire, and set upon his own head the iron crown of the Lombards. This crown was a slender iron circlet, said to be made of one of the nails of the Cross. But the iron circlet was covered with gold and set with gems. The poor King who had last worn it was sent from one prison to another, until at length his head was shaved, and he was forced to become a monk, and spend the rest of his days in prayer and fasting.

While Charlemagne had been fighting in Lombardy, the Saxons had again risen, and he had no sooner returned from Italy than he had to set out against them. But we cannot follow Charlemagne in all his battles, for they were many and long. He went against the Saxons as it were with the sword of conquest in one hand and the water of baptism in the other. Those who would not yield to his sword he slew, and those w T ho yielded he baptized. It was by the might of his sword that he made these rough heathen bow to the Cross.