“Accordingly, I determined to pass that by as unknown, and to proceed at once to treat of his character, his deed, and such other facts of his life as are worth telling and setting forth, and shall first give an account of his deed at home and abroad, then of his character and pursuits, and lastly of his administration and death, omitting nothing worth knowing or necessary to know.”
He’s the first Holy Roman Emperor, and yet we have no idea where he was born or even precisely how many siblings he had. He conquered huge tracts of Europe, founded the first great institutions for learning and study since the fall or Rome, but remained almost entirely illiterate. He had masses of illegitimate children and refused to allow his daughters to marry, but let them carry on with their paramours and common-law husbands and enjoyed the bastard grandchildren they gave him openly. He campaigned against the Moors, who most people don’t know sent their armies deep into France and Germany in the 8th century and might have taken the continent but for him. Despite being absolutely brutal in warfare, he became renowned in the later age of chivalry for his deeds. He was crowned emperor of the Romans by the Pope himself, mostly to try and shake claims to the Byzantine Empire’s claims of cultural and authoritative inheritance, but which largely contributed to the destabilization of both the East and the West in the end. His power and commitment to art as well as war ushered in the first (of several, for what it’s worth) Renaissances.
So could somebody please explain what Charlemagne is doing with this highly unexpected piece of domestic equipment in this Paris statue? Inquiring minds want to know.