King Charlemagne's Military Career and Legacy

Charlemagne | Source

King Charlemagne was the greatest warrior-king of the early Middle Ages due to his victorious battlefield campaigns and his social and educational reformations in the secular and religious world. He was a Frankish king and Roman emperor. His principal wars included the Saxon Wars from 772 to 799, the Lombard War from 773 to 775, the Spanish War from 778 to 801, the conquest of Bavaria from 787 to 788, the conquest of the Avars from 791 to 801, and the Byzantine War in 802.

The Franks and Charlemagne’s Campaigns

When the Franks invaded portions of the Roman Empire, they settled in what is now France. Their leader, Clovis, founded the Merovingian dynasty. When he died, the kingdom was divided among his sons, and this weakened the kingdom to the point where power fell into the hands of Charles Martel, who had led the Franks against the Muslims at Poitiers. In 751, Charles’s son, Pepin, overthrew the Merovingians and began the Carolingian dynasty. Following his death in 768, his sons, Carlomon and Charlemagne, inherited his kingdom. There years later, Carloman died, and Charlemagne took full control.

Charlemagne soon conquered the rest of the France, and then extended his kingdom into what is today Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. In central Europe, he forced the Saxons and the Avars to accept Christianity. He supported the pope and extended the power of the Church in his own kingdom. In return, the pope recognized Charlemagne’s power in 800 by making him Holy Roman emperor. Charlemagne encouraged scholars by founding schools in cathedrals and monasteries. The palace school in his capital city of Aachen was a great center for learning in western Christendom. After Charlemagne's death in 814, his empire was troubled by Viking raids and civil war. In 843, it was divided among his three grandsons.

Charlemagne’s Military Legacy

King Charlemagne was a physically imposing warrior king, standing at 6 feet 3.5 inches tall, and he was highly intelligent despite suffering from the reading disorder dyslexia. He learned to speak and read Latin, but he did not manage to write it. He was a ruler of extraordinary capabilities. He was a superb military commander because of his military strategy, battlefield tactics, and combat operations. His military campaigns demonstrated his determination, imagination, consistent strategy, and logistic excellence. By his administrative reforms, he sought to bring unity and order to his realm, especially through the missi dominici. He also promoted art and education, but most of his cultural and administrative initiatives collapsed following his death. Charlemagne's kingdom became the most powerful in Europe. He also tried to improve conditions in his lands, where most of the people were poor farmers. According to some historians, he was the light during the Dark Middle Ages.

Related Sources: Holmes, Richard; Battlefield Decisive Conflicts In History; Oxford University Press: New York, 2007. Lanning, LT. COL. (RET.) Michael Lee and Bob Rosenburgh; The Battle 100; Sourcebooks: New York, 2003. Zimmerman, Dwight Jon; The Book of War; Tess Press Publications, 2008. Zimmerman, Dwight Jon; The Book of Weapons; Tess Press Publications, 2009.

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