Known as Charles (Latin Carolus, Karolus) during his own life, the form "Charlemagne" by which he is commonly known in English and French does not appear until the beginning of the twelfth century [See Settipani (1993), 191, n. 2]. On 9 October 768, shortly after the death of his father, king Pépin, he was named as joint king of the Franks along with his brother Carloman ["..., et rex Pippinus defunctus est in 8. Cal. Octobr. et Karlus et Karlomannus ad reges uncti sunt 7 Id. Octobris" Ann. S. Amandi, s.a. 768, MGH SS 1: 12; similarly in Annales Petaviani, s.a. 768, MGH SS 1: 13], and he reunited his father's possessions after Carloman's death on 4 December 771 [Annales Sancti Amandi, s.a. 771, MGH SS 1: 12]. In 774, he became king of the Langobards after the capture of king Desiderius and his wife and daughter [Annales Sancti Amandi, s.a. 774, MGH SS 1: 12; Annales Laubacensis, s.a. 774, MGH SS 1: 13], a kingdom which included northern Italy (but not southern Italy). On 25 December 800, Charles was crowned as Emperor by the Pope, becoming the first emperor in the west since the fifth century ["Ipsa die sacratissima natalis Domini, cum rex ad missam ante confessionem beati Petri apostoli ab oratione surgeret, Leo papa coronam capiti eius imposuit, et a cuncto Romanorum populo adclamatum est: 'Carolo augusto, a Deo coronato magno et pacifico imperatori Romanorum, vita et victoria!' Et post laudes ab apostolico more antiquorum principum adoratus est atque ablato patricii nomine imperator et augustus est appellatus." ARF, s.a. 801, 112; the year begins on Christmas in these annals, which is why the event appears under the year 801 in the reckoning of the annals]. With his two elder sons, Charles and Pépin, having predeceased him, he was succeeded by his third son Louis ("the Pious"), who succeeded to all but (northern) Italy, which had already been given given to Pépin's son Bernard.
Date of Birth: Probably 2 April 748.
The date of 2 April comes from a Lorsch calendar ["IIII. Non. Apr. Nativitatis domni et gloriosissimi Karoli imperatoris et semper Augusti." Becher (1992), 37, n. 5, quoting Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Philipps 1869]. Based on the statement by the annalist Einhard that he was aged about 71 at his death, many have given the date of his birth as 2 April 742, but this would place the birth of Charles prior to the marriage of his parents in 744. The year is given as 747 in Annales Petaviani ["Et ipso anno fuit natus Karolus rex." Annales Petaviani, s.a. 747, MGH SS 1: 11]. One reason which has been given for placing the birth later than 747 is the immediately preceding entry in Annales Petaviani, which records the pilgrimage of Charlemagne's uncle king Carloman to Rome ["Karolomannus migravit Romam." ibid.]. Now, it is known that Carloman's departure for Rome could not have taken place before 15 August 747, because he appears in a document of that date for the monastery of Stavelot-Malmédy [Becher (1992), 38]. Thus, if the annals describe the events in the correct order, then Charlemagne had to be born after 15 August 747. Since the annal for the birth of Charles is obviously not contemporary (it refers to him as rex), the order of the events cannot necessarily be assumed from the order that they appear in the annals. However, there is a very good reason for concluding that Charlemagne was not born on 2 April 747: As pointed out by Becher, that date was as Easter Sunday, and it is virtually unthinkable that Charlemagne could have been born on an Easter Sunday without that fact being widely noted in contemporary sources [Becher (1992), 41]. Becher also noted that if Easter were being used as the beginning of the year, then 2 April 748 would fall under the year 747 (because Easter 748 was on 21 April). [See Becher (1992) for further detailed discussion]
Place of Birth: Unknown.
Date of Death: 28 January 814
Place of Death: Aachen.
["Domnus Karolus imperator, dum Aquisgrani hiemaret, anno aetatis circiter septuagesimo primo, regni autem quadragesimo septimo subactaeque Italiae quadragesimo tertio, ex quo vero imperator et augustus appellatus est, anno XIIII., V. Kal. Febr. rebus humanis excessit." ARF, s.a. 814, 140]
Pépin "le Bref", d. 24
September 768, king of the Franks.
["..., et rex Pippinus defunctus est in 8. Cal. Octobr. et Karlus et Karlomannus ad reges uncti sunt 7 Id. Octobris" Ann. S. Amandi, s.a. 768, MGH SS 1: 12; similarly in Annales Petaviani, s.a. 768, MGH SS 1: 13]
Mother: Berthe, d. 8 June or 12×13 July 783
["Bertha obiit [6 Id Iun.]" Annales Laureshamenses, MGH SS 1: 32; "Berta obiit 6. Idus Iunii." Chronicon Moissiacense, s.a. 783, MGH SS 1: 297; "... et Bertrada regina 3. Idus Iulii in Cauciaco defuncts est, mater Karoli." Annales Sancti Amandi, MGH SS 1: 12; "Eodem anno defuncta est bonae memoriae mater regis Berhtrada IIII. Id. Iul." ARF, s.a. 783, 67]
(1) m. ca. 769×70, NN, daughter of Desiderius, king of the
The name Desiderata taken from one author [Vita Adalhardi, c. 7, MGH SS 2: 525] is very unlikely [see, e.g., Werner (1967), 443, Settipani (1993), 198, n. 44]. ["et hoc anno domna Berta fuit in Italia propter filiam Desiderii regis, et redditae sunt civitates plurimae sancti Petri." Ann. Petav. (Cont.), s.a. 770, MGH SS 1: 13; "... et Berta adduxit filiam Desiserii in Francia" Ann. Lauresh., s.a. 770, MGH SS 1: 30].
(2) m. 1 May 770 × 30 April 772, Hildegarde, d. in Saxony, 30 April 783, daughter of count Gerold, and a descendant of the Alamannian duke Gottfried. For the date of the marriage, see the page of Hildegarde.
(3) m. 783, Fastrada, d. 10 August 794 [Annales Guelferrytani, MGH SS 1: 45], daughter of count Radulf ["Inde reversus in Franciam duxit uxorem filiam Radolfi comitis natione Francam, nomine Fastradam, ex qua duas filias procreavit." ARF (Annales Einhardi), s.a. 783, 67; note that this entry must have been written some years later, since it mentions children of the marriage]
(4) m. Spring 794/796, Liutgard, d. 4 June 800 ["..., moratus ibi dies aliquot propter adversam domnae Liutgardae coniugis valitudinem, quae ibidem et defuncta et humata est; obiit autem die II. Non. Iunii." ARF, s.a. 800, 110], an Alamannian [Einhard, Vita Caroli, c. 18, MGH SS 2: 453 (see below)].
Known mothers of his
(See also below under children)
(a) ca. 768, Himitrud.
[Annales Laurissensis Minores, MGH SS 1: 119; Annales Laureshamenses, s.a. 792, MGH SS 1: 35]
In addition to numerous sources which give additional details, there are two contemporary sources which provide detailed outlines of Charlemgane's family. The earlier one, a history of the bishops of Metz by Paul Warnefrid (better known as Paul the Deacon), was written ca. 784, not long after the death of Charlemagne's wife Hildegard and his marriage to Fastrada. Charlemage's biographer Einhard, writing shortly after the emperor's death, provides later details for the family (but omits the three children of Charles and Hildegarde who died as infants).
"Hic ex Hildegard coniuge quattuor
filios et quinque filias procreavit. Habuit tamen, ante legale
connuium ex Himiltrude nobili puella filium nomine Pippinum.
Natorum sane eius quos ei Hildegard peprit, ista sunt nomina:
primus dictus est Karolus, scilicet patris ac proavi vocabulo
nuncupatus; secundus item Pippinus, fratri atque avo aequivocus;
tertius Lodobich qui cum Hlothario, qui biennis occubuit, uno
partu est genitus; ex quibus iam Deo favente minor Pippinus
regnum Italiae, Lodobich Aquitaniae tenent."
"Mortua autem Hildegard, rex excellentissimus Karolus Fastradam duxit uxorem. Quae Hildegard apud urbem Mettensium in beati Arnulfi oratiori requiescit. Pro eo denique, quod a beato Arnulfo iam fati reges originem ducerent, suorum ibi carorum defuncta corpora posuere. Nam ibi humatae sunt duae regis Pippini filiae, quarum una Rodthaid, altera Adelaid appellata est; ibi quoque et iunioris regis Karoli duae nihilominus tumulatae sunt natae, scilicet Adelaid det Hildegard; quae Hildegard materno nuncupata nomine, matrem morientum citius subsecuta est. Quarum omnium epitapha a nobis iussu gloriosi Caroli composita, ut de eis liquido lectori satisferet, subter annotare curavi."
[Paul the Deacon, Gesta Episcopum Mettensium, MGH SS 2: 265]
"... Deinde cum matris hortatu filiam Desiderii, regis Langobardorum, duxisset uxorem, incertumqua de causa, post annum eam repudavit, et Hildegardem de gente Suavorum, praecipuae nobilitatis feminam, in matrimonium accepit, de qua tres filios, Karolum videlicet et Pippinum et Ludowicum, totidemque filias, Hruodrudem et Bertham et Gislam, genuit. Habuit et alias tres filias, Theoderadam et Hiltrudem et Ruodhaidem, duas de Fastrada uxore, quae de orientalium Francorum, Germanorum videlicet, gente erat, tertiam de concubina quadam, cuius nomen modo memoriae non occurrit. Defuncta Fastrada, Liudgardam Alamannam duxit, de qua nihil liberorum tulit. Post cuius cuius mortem tres habuit concubinas, Gersuindam Saxonici generis, de qua ei filia nomen Adaltrud nata est, et Reginam, quae ei Drogonem et Hugum genuit, et Adallindem, ex qua Theodricum procreavit. Mater eius quoque Berthrada in magno apud eum honore consenuit. Colebat enim eam cum summa reverentia, ita ut nulla umquam invicem sit exorta discordia, praeter in divortio filiae Desiderii regis, quam illa suadente acceperat. Decessit tandem post mortem Hildegardae, cum iam tres nepotes suos totidemque neptes in filii domo vidisset; quam ille in, eadem basilica qua pater situe est, apud sanctum Dionisium, magno cum honore fecit humari. ..." [Einhard, Vita Caroli, c. 18, MGH SS 2: 453]
[For the dates of birth, see Werner (1967), 443-5.]
Charles/Karl "the younger", b. 772×3, d. 4 Dec. 811 ["Interea Carlus filius domni imperatoris, qui maior natu erat, II. Non. Decembr. diem obiit; ..." ARF, s.a. 811, 135], king of Neustria 788-811.
Adélaïde/Adelheid, b. Sep. 773×June
774, d. July or August 774.
[For her epitaph, see Paul the Deacon, Gesta Episcopum Mettensium, MGH SS 2: 267]
Rotrude, b. ca. 775, d. 6 June 810
["Hruodtrud, filia imperatoris, quae natu maior erat,
VII. (sic) Idus Iun. diem obiit.", ARF,
s.a. 810, 131 (with marginal note "Iun. 6"); the
earlier MGH edition of these annals, in MGH SS 1: 197 has "8.
Idus Iun."], mistress of Rorico,
d. ca. 840, count of Maine.
In 781, she was betrothed to the Byzantine emperor Constantine, but the marriage never took place [Annales Laureshamensis, s.a. 781, MGH SS 1: 32; Einhard, Vita Caroli, c. 19, MGH SS 2: 453-4].
Pépin (originally Carloman), b. 777, d. 8 July 810, king of Italy, 781-810.
I "der Fromme"), b. 778 (twin), d. 20 June
840, king of Aquitaine, 781-814, emperor 813-840 (jointly 813-4);
m. (1) 794, Ermengarde, daughter of count Ingram,
m. (2) 819, Judith, daughter of count Welf.
Lothair, b. 778 (twin), d. 779×780.
Berthe, b. 779×780, d. after 14 Jan.
823, mistress of Angilbert, d. 18 Feb. 814,
abbot of Saint-Riquier.
She was mother of the historian Nithard: "... Qui [i.e., Angilbert] ex eiusdem magni regis filia nomine Berchta, Harnidum, fratrem meum, et me Nithardum genuit." [Nithard iv, 5, MGH SS 2: 671] The title of "count of Ponthieu" given to Angilbert by some secondary sources is anachronistic, and there is no justification for the later genealogies which would make Angilbert and Berthe the ancestors of the later counts of Ponthieu.
Gisèle, baptized 781, living 800.
["Et inde revertente domno Carolo rege, Mediolanis civi-tate pervenit, et ibi baptizata est filia eius domna Gisola ab archiepiscopo nomine Thoma, qui et ipse eam a sacro baptismo manibus suscepit." ARF, s.a. 781, 56]
Hildegarde, b. 782 (after 8 June), d.
(bef. 8) June 783.
[For her epitaph, see Paul Warnefrid, Gesta Episcopum Mettensium, MGH SS 2: 267]
Théodrade, b. ca. 785, d. 844×853, abbess of Argenteuil, bef. 814.
Hiltrude, b. ca. 787, d. after 800, prob. after 814.
Pépin/Pippin "the hunchback",
b. bef. 770, d. 811 [Annales Laurissenses Minores,
s.a. 811, MGH SS 1: 121], monk at Prüm.
["Erat ei filius nomine Pippinus, ex concubina editus, cuius inter caeteros facere mentionem distuli; facie quidem pulcher, sed gibbo deformis. ..." Einhard, Vita Caroli, c. 20, MGH SS 2: 504] He plotted against his father in 792 and was put into a monastery [Annales Laureshamenses, s.a. 792, MGH SS 1: 35].
(by unknown woman)
Rotaïd (Hruodhaid), b. ca. 784, d. after 800, prob. after 814.
Rothilde, d. 22 or 24 March 852, abbess
The date is given as 22 March in the necrologies of Saint-Germain-des-Près ["XI kal. Dep. Rothildis, abbatissæ et monachæ, filiæ regis magni Karoli" Obit. Sens, 1 (pt. 1): 254], Saint-Denis ["Rotildis abbatissa" ibid, 312], and Argenteuil ["XI kal. Ob. Rotildis abbatissa." ibid, 345]. The necrology of Faremoutiers gives 24 March ["Commemoratio domnæ Rotildis, abbatissæ hujus ecclesiæ." ibid., xx, n. 3, citing Du Plessis, Histoire de l'église de Meaux, 2: 465 (which I have not seen)]. These obituaries have been sometimes incorrectly assigned to Rothilde, daughter of Charles the Bald [e.g., by Auguste Longnon, in the preface to Obit. Sens, 1 (pt. 1): xx-xxi; Werner (1967), 428; thanks to Peter Stewart for pointing out this error]. [For the year of death, see Werner (1967), 445, n. 14, who cites Wilmart, Codices Reginenses lat., 1 (1934): 344 (not seen by me)]
Drogo, b. 17 June 801, d. 8 December 855 [Catalogi Episcoporum Mettensium, MGH SS 13: 305 (date); Ann. Nec. Fuldenses, MGH SS 13: 177 (year)]; abbot of Luxeuil, 820; bishop of Metz, 28 June 823; archbishop and archchaplain, 834.
Hugues "the Abbot", b.
802×6, d. 14 June 844 [Annales
Fuldenses, s.a. 844, MGH SS 1: 364],
monk in Charroux; abbot of Saint-Quentin, 836; abbot of
Saint-Bertin, 834-40; archchancellor of Louis I.
["... Hugo, presbyter et abbas, filius Caroli magni quondam imperatoris ...", Annales Bertiniani, s.a. 844, MGH SS 1: 440]
Theoderich, b. 807, d. after 818, cleric in 818.
Daughter(s), who may or may not be the same as one of the above (or each other):
NN, mother of Ricbodo,
d. 14 June 844 [Annales Fuldenses,
s.a. 844, MGH SS 1: 364], abbot of
["... Richboto abbas, et ipse consobrinus regum, nepos videlicet Caroli imperatoris ex filia, ...", , s.a. 844, MGH SS 1: 440]
NN, mother of Bernard,
abbot of Moutier-Saint-Jean.
["... Unde pius Augustus avus vester Carolus paterque totius orbis." Werner (1967), 448]
by some to be a daughter):
Alpaïde, filia imperatoris, d. after 29 May 852, on a 23 September, m. Begon (Picco, Bicgo), d. 816, count of Paris.
["Picco, primus de amicis regis, qui et filiam imperatoris [nomine Elpheid] duxit uxorem, defunctus est." Annales Laurissenses Minores, s.a. 816, MGH SS 1: 122; "Bicgo de amicis regis, qui et filiam imperatoris nomine Elpheid duxit uxorem, eo tempore defunctus est." Annales Hildesheimenses, s.a. 815, MGH SS 3: 42; "... Quod monasterium Ludowicus imperator Alpheidi, filiae suae, uxori Begonis comitis, dono dedit, ..." Flodoard, Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, iv, 46, MGH SS 13: 595] Although the imperator in 816 was Louis the Pious, some have argued that Charlemagne was her father, on chronological grounds. However, the testimony of Flodoard would make Louis the father, and the chronological impediment to Louis being the father has been overstated. [See also Werner (1967), 429-441; Settipani (1993), 200-3].
Supposed daughter (doubtful):
NN, m. Eardwulf, king of Northumbria, 796-806, 808-10.
This supposed marriage is given by the Annals of Lindisfarne ["797. Eardulf regnavit 10. Iste duxit uxorem filiam regis Karoli." Ann. Lindisfarnenses, MGH SS 19: 506]. No other early source for the statement is known. [For Eardwulf, see Searle (1899), 311]
ARF = Georg Pertz & Friedrich Kurze, Annales Regni Francorum (Annals of the kingdom of the Franks), MGH SRG 6 (Hannover, 1895), a collective name commonly given to two closely related sets of annals, Annales Laurissenses Maiores and the so-called Einhardi Annales (Annals of Einhard), in parallel on alternate pages until the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 (s.a. 801).
Becher (1992) = Matthias Becher, "Neue überlegungen zum geburtsdatum Karls des Grossen", Francia 19/1 (1992), 37-60.
Brandenburg (1964) = Erich Brandenburg, Die Nachkommen Karls des Großen (Frankfurt, 1964).
MGH SRG = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptore rerum Germanicarum series.
MGH SS= Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores series.
Obit. Sens = Obituaires de la Province de Sens (2 vols. in 3, Paris, 1902-6).
PL = Migne's Patrologiæ (Latin)
RHF = Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France.
Searle (1899) = Anglo-Saxon Bishops, Kings and Nobles (Cambridge, 1899).
Settipani (1993) = Christian Settipani, La préhistoire des Capétiens 481-987 (Première partie - Mérovingiens, Carolingiens et Robertiens) (Villeneuve d'Ascq, 1993).
Werner (1967) = Karl Ferdinand Werner, "Die Nachkommen Karls des Großen bis um das Jahr 1000 (1.-8. Generation)", Karl der Große 4 (1967): 403-483.
Compiled by Stewart Baldwin
First uploaded 23 May 2007.
Minor revision uploaded 12 January 2008: Corrected typo in death date of Rothilde, and added sources for her death date.
Revision uploaded 28 July 2008: Rewrote the section on the birthdate of Charlemagne, based on Becher (1992) [with "2 April 748" replacing the previous "2 April 747 (or perhaps 748)"].
Minor revision uploaded 17 October 2009: Added supposed wife of Eardwulf.
Minor revision uploaded 16 August 2012: Revised account of Alpaïde to reject slim possibility that she was a daughter of Charlemagne.
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