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Charlemagne (April 2, 742 - January 28, 814; or Charles the Great, in German: Karl der Große, in Latin: Carolus Magnus, and hence the adjective form 'Carolingian'), was king of the Franks from 771 to 814, nominally King of the Lombards, and Roman Emperor.

Arguably the founder of a Frankish Empire[?] in Western Europe, Charlemagne was the elder son of Pippin the Short (751-768), the first Carolingian king. Pippin the Short, indulged in the monopoly of the coining of money, deciding on the opening and closure of minting shops, the weight, title and the subjects represented.

European coinage began with Pippin the Short who revived the system put in place by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and which had been kept going by the Eastern Roman Empire (1 livre[?] = 20 solidus[?] = 240 denari[?] ).

On the death of Pippin the kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman. Carloman died in 771, leaving Charlemagne with a reunified Frankish kingdom.

In 800 at Mass on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor, a title that had been out of use in the West since the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in 476.

Pursuing his fathers reforms, Charlemagne did away with the monetary system based on the gold sou[?]. Both he and king Offa of Mercia took up the system set in place by Pippin. He set up a new standard, the livre (pound -- both monetary and unit of weight) which was worth 20 sous (as per the solidus, and later the shilling) or 240 deniers[?] (as per the denari, and eventually the penny). During this period, the livre and the sou were counting units, only the denier was a coin of the realm.

Charlemagne applied the system to much of the European Continent, and Offa's standard was voluntarily adopted by much of England.

When Charlemagne died in 814, he was buried in his own Cathedral at Aachen. He was succeeded by his only son to survive him, Louis the Pious, after whose reign the empire was divided between his three surviving sons according to Frankish tradition. These three kingdoms would be the foundations of later France and the Holy Roman Empire.

After Charlemagne's death, continental coinage degraded and most of Europe resorted to using the continued high quality English coin until about AD 1100.

It is difficult to understand Charlemagne's attitude toward his daughters. None of them contracted a sacramental marriage. This may have been an attempt to control the number of potential alliances. After his death the surviving daughters entered or were forced to enter monasteries. At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne's court circle.

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Cultural significance

Charlemagne's reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art and architecture. Most of the surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. The pan-European nature of Charlemagne's influence is indicated by the origins of many of the men who worked for him: Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon; Theodulf, a Visigoth; Paul the Deacon, a Lombard; and Angilbert and Einhard, Franks.

Charlemagne enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture. One of the great medieval literature cycles, the Charlemagne cycle[?] or Matter of France[?], centers around the deeds of Charlemagne's historical commander of the Breton border, Roland. Charlemagne himself was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the 12th Century. He was a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies

It is frequently claimed by genealogists that all people with European ancestry alive today are probably descended from Charlemagne. However, only a small percentage can prove descent from him.

Unification[?] legacy

The greatest European unifiers: Frederick Barbarossa, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Jean Monnet[?], and present leaders such as Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder have all mentioned Charlemagne's name in the context of unification.


  1. . ?
  2. . ?
  3. . Hildegard (died 783)
  4. . Fastrada[?] (married 784) (died 794)
  5. . Luitgard[?] (married 794)

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