Born April 2nd, 742 Charles became King of the Franks in 768, King of the Lombards in 774 and Emperor of the Romans and the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD. Charles I became Charles the Great: Charlemagne.
He was the power that reunited Europe militarily for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire. He cowed and converted the German Saxon tribes and he dispossed the Lombards of Northern Italy in service of the Pope. He drove the Muslims south of the Pyrenees, but when he tried to push his luck he was driven back. As he retreated through the mountains the Basques decided to revenge themselves for the sack of Pamplona. At the battle of Roncesvaux pass his rearguard was destroyed and a certain brave knight named Roland was slain. The moment was immortalised in the Song of Roland the classic epic of the Amour Courtois which inspired tales such as King Arthur and Robin Hood.
Charlemagne was the Grandson of Charles Martel (the hammer) the man who saved france from invasion by the Arabic armies at the Battle of Tours in 732. The wars won by Charlmagne were a continuation of the struggles of his Grandfather against Arabs, Saxons, Lombards and Burgundians.
His campaigns in Italy brought him into contact with the Saracens. With the Franks to the West of the Byzantine Empire the Arabic Sultan, Harun al Rashid, saw an opportunity to occupy his traditional enemy on a third front. They were already fully occupied with the Arabs to the East and the Bulgarians under Krum to the North. Baghdad presented Charlemagne with an elephant and a clock as gifts but the talks amounted to nothing other than many sleepless nights for the Byzantine rulers.
The rise of the Franks to become a power and the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire removed any lingering chance for the reunification of the Ancient Roman Empire. What followed was a clean separation of state and church alike underlined by the Great Schism of 1054.
The title of this post: Joyeuse is the name of Charlemagnes sword. Supposedly still preserved today in the Louvre the blade is thought to be genuinely from the 8th or 9th century. Other parts of the sword have been added or changed over the centuries. It was the blade used for the crowning of the kings of France, even including Napoleon. It translates simply as “Joy”.
Infant Joy; by William Blake
I have no name
I am but two days old.
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,
sweet joy befall thee!
Sweet joy but two days old,
sweet joy I call thee;
thou dost smile.
I sing the while
sweet joy befall thee.