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Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, became the undisputed ruler of Western Europe, 'By the sword and the cross.' (Compton's 346) As Western Europe was deteriorating Charlemagne was crowned the privilege of being joint king of the Franks in 768 A.D. People of Western Europe, excluding the church followers, had all but forgotten the great gifts of education and arts that they had possessed at one time. Charlemagne solidly defeated barbarians and kings in identical fashion during his reign. Using the re-establishment of education and order, Charlemagne was able to save many political rights and restore culture in Western Europe.

Early Life

Charlemagne was born in 742 A.D., to a very famous and well-known family. Charlemagne's grandfather was Charles Martel, the man who was responsible for the defeat of the Saracens. Charlemagne was also the eldest son of Bertrade (also known as Bertha Greatfoot) and Pepin the Short, the first to become king of the Franks. With the almost full extinction of schools in the 8th century, many historians say that Charlemagne received very little education, but did learn the art of reading from Bertrade.

The one thing that kept Charlemagne motivated throughout his entire life was his deep devotion to the church. Charlemagne was a tall young man with light blond hair, and was described by his secretary as, 'face laughing and merry. . . his appearance was always stately and dignified.' (World book 452) Charlemagne had great wit, but was stern at times. He had simple and moderate tastes; he enjoyed hunting, riding and swimming. Charlemagne had a large wardrobe with many Frankish dresses, linen shirts and breeches, silk-fringed tunics, hoses wrapped with bands, and for the winter he had coats made of otter or marten skins. Charlemagne asked his people to improve their lifestyles, but he divorced two of his four fives without any given cause.

Charlemagne's Reign

In 768 A.D., Charlemagne at the age of 26, along with his brother Carloman inherited the kingdom of Franks. However, in 771 A.D. Carloman died, making Charlemagne the sole ruler of the kingdom. At this time the northern part of Europe was out of order and unruly. In the south, the Roman Catholic Church was asserting itself alongside the Lombard kingdom in Italy. While in Charlemagne's own kingdom, the people were becoming and acting as barbarians and neglecting education and faith.

But Charlemagne was determined to make his kingdom as strong as possible. In 772 A.D., Charlemagne put forth a 30-year campaign to conquer and Christianize the extremely mighty Saxons in the north. He charged over the Avars, a large tribe on the Danube. He forced the Bavarians to surrender to him. When possible Charlemagne attempted to settle his conflicts peacefully. However, he was forced to use brute in some situations. For instance, Charlemagne offered to pay Desiderius for the return of lands to the pope, but after Desiderius refused, Charlemagne seized the kingdom of Desiderius and restored the Papal States.

The most important aspect of Charlemagne's conquests was his uncanny ability to organize. Charlemagne sent out more than 50 military missions during his time in power and he led the missions as commander more than half of the time. He was able to lead his troops through vast lands in unprecedented times, but his every move was planned ahead of time. Before every crusade, he informed all those involved the number of men needed, the weapons required, and he even went as far as to tell what should be in the supply wagons. These tactics were later studied and used by another great man, Napoleon.

One of the smallest campaigns undertaken by Charlemagne became on of the most well known. In 778 A.D., Charlemagne led ...

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