Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Part 4 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and sealed them with our ring.'"

Here were clearly no vague and meaningless words, written to satisfy
solicitation, and without a thought of their consequences: they were
urgent recommendations and precise injunctions, the most proper for
securing success to the protected in the name of the protector.
Accordingly St. Boniface wrote, soon after, from the heart of Germany,
"Without the patronage of the prince of the Franks, without his order and
the fear of his power, I could not guide the people, or defend the
priests, deacons, monks, or handmaids of God, or forbid in this country
the rites of the Pagans and their sacrilegious worship of idols."

At the same time that he protected the Christian missionaries launched
into the midst of Pagan Germany, Charles Martel showed himself equally
ready to protect, but with as much prudence as good-will, the head of the
Christian Church. In 741, Pope Gregory III. sent to him two nuncios, the
first that ever entered France in such a character, to demand of him
succor against the Lombards, the Pope's neighbors, who were threatening
to besiege Rome. These envoys took Charles Martel "so many presents that
none had ever seen or heard tell of the like," and amongst them the keys
of St. Peter's tomb, with a letter in which the Pope conjured Charles
Martel not to attach any credit to the representations or words of
Luitprandt, king of the Lombards, and to lend the Roman Church that
effectual support which, for some time past, she had been vainly
expecting from the Franks and their chief. "Let them come, we are told,"
wrote the Pope, piteously, "this Charles with whom ye have sought refuge,
and the armies of the Franks; let them sustain ye, if they can, and wrest
ye from our hands." Charles Martel was in fact on good terms with
Luitprandt, who had come to his aid in his expeditions against the Arabs
in Provence. He, however, received the Pope's nuncios with lively
satisfaction and the most striking proofs of respect; and he promised
them, not to make war on the Lombards, but to employ his influence with
King Luitprandt to make him cease from threatening Rome. He sent, in his
turn, to the Pope two envoys of distinction, Sigebert, abbot of St.
Denis, and Grimon, abbot of Corbie, with instructions to offer him rich
presents and to really exert themselves with the king of the Lombards to
remove the dangers dreaded by the Holy See. He wished to do something in
favor of the Papacy to show sincere good-will, without making his
relations with useful allies subordinate to the desires of the Pope.

Charles Martel had not time to carry out effectually with respect to the
Papacy this policy of protection and at the same time of independence; he
died at the close of this same year, October 22, 741, at Kiersy-sur-Oise,
aged fifty-two years, and his last act was the least wise of his life.
He had spent it entirely in two great works, the reestablishment
throughout the whole of Gaul of the Franco-Gallo-Roman empire, and the
driving back from the frontiers of this empire, of the Germans in the
north and the Arabs in the south. The consequence, as also the
condition, of this double success was the victory of Christianity over
Paganism and Islamism. Charles Martel endangered these results by
falling back into the groove of those Merovingian kings whose shadow he
had allowed to remain on the throne. He divided between his two
legitimate sons, Pepin, called the Short, from his small stature, and
Carloman, this sole dominion which he had with so much toil reconstituted
and defended. Pepin had Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, and the suzerainty
of Aquitaine; Carloman, Austrasia, Thuringia, and Allemannia. They both,
at their father's death, took only the title of mayor of the palace, and,
perhaps, of duke. The last but one of the Merovingians, Thierry IV., had
died in 737. For four years there had been no king at all.

But when the works of men are wise and true, that is, in conformity with
the lasting wants of peoples, and the natural tendency of social facts,
they get over even the mistakes of their authors. Immediately after the
death of Charles Martel, the consequences of dividing his empire became
manifest. In the north, the Saxons, the Bavarians, and the Allemannians
renewed their insurrections. In the south, the Arabs of Septimania
recovered their hopes of effecting an invasion; and Hunald, Duke of
Aquitaine, who had succeeded his father Eudes, after his death in 735,
made a fresh attempt to break away from Frankish sovereignty and win his
independence. Charles Martel had left a young son, Grippo, whose
legitimacy had been disputed, but who was not slow to set up pretensions
and to commence intriguing against his brothers. Everywhere there burst
out that reactionary movement which arises against grand and difficult
works when the strong hand that undertook them is no longer by to
maintain them; but this movement was of short duration and to little
purpose. Brought up in the school and in the fear of their father, his
two sons, Pepin and Carloman, were inoculated with his ideas and example;
they remained united in spite of the division of dominions, and labored
together, successfully, to keep down, in the north the Saxons and
Bavarians, in the south the Arabs and Aquitanians, supplying want of
unity by union, and pursuing with one accord the constant aim of Charles
Martel--abroad the security and grandeur of the Frankish dominion, at
home the cohesion of all its parts and the efficacy of its government.
Events came to the aid of this wise conduct. Five years after the death
of Charles Martel, in 746 in fact, Carloman, already weary of the burden
of power, and seized with a fit of religious zeal, abdicated his share of
sovereignty, left his dominions to his brother Pepin, had himself shorn
by the hands of Pope Zachary, and withdrew into Italy to the monastery of
Monte Cassino. The preceding year, in 745, Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine,
with more patriotic and equally pious views, also abdicated in favor of
his son Waifre, whom he thought more capable than himself of winning the
independence of Aquitaine, and went and shut himself up in a monastery in
the island of Rhe, where was the tomb of his father Eudes. In the course
of divers attempts at conspiracy and insurrection, the Frankish princes'
young brother, Grippo, was killed in combat whilst crossing the Alps.
The furious internal dissensions amongst the Arabs of Spain and their
incessant wars with the Berbers did not allow them to pursue any great
enterprise in Gaul. Thanks to all these circumstances, Pepin found
himself, in 747, sole master of the heritage of Clovis and with the sole
charge of pursuing, in State and Church, his father's work, which was the
unity and grandeur of Christian France.

Pepin, less enterprising than his father, but judicious, persevering, and
capable of discerning what was at the same time necessary and possible,
was well fitted to continue and consolidate what he would, probably,
never have begun and created.

Like his father, he, on arriving at power, showed pretensions to
moderation, or, it might be said, modesty. He did not take the title of
king; and, in concert with his brother Carloman, he went to seek, Heaven
knows in what obscure asylum, a forgotten Merovingian, son of Chilperic
II., the last but one of the sluggard kings, and made him king, the last
of his line, with the title of Childeric III., himself, as well as his
brother, taking only the style of mayor of the palace. But at the end of
ten years, and when he saw himself alone at the head of the Frankish
dominion, Pepin considered the moment arrived for putting an end to this
fiction. In 751, he sent to Pope Zachary at Rome, Burchard, bishop of
Wurtzhurg, and Fulrad, abbot of St. Denis, "to consult the Pontiff," says
Eginhard, "on the subject of the kings then existing amongst the Franks,
and who bore only the name of king without enjoying a tittle of royal
authority." The Pope, whom St. Boniface, the great missionary of
Germany, had prepared for the question, answered that "it was better to
give the title of king to him who exercised the sovereign power;" and
next year, in March, 752, in the presence and with the assent of the
general assembly of "leudes" and bishops gathered together at Soissons,
Pepin was proclaimed king of the Franks, and received from the hand of
St. Boniface the sacred anointment. They cut off the hair of the last
Merovingian phantom, Childeric III., and put him away in the monastery of
St. Sithiu, at St. Omer. Two years later, July 28, 754, Pope Stephen
II., having come to France to claim Pepin's support against the Lombards,
after receiving from him assurance of it, "anointed him afresh with the
holy oil in the church of St. Denis to do honor in his person to the
dignity of royalty," and conferred the same honor on the king's two sons,
Charles and Carloman. The new Gallo-Frankish kingship and the Papacy, in
the name of their common faith and common interests, thus contracted an
intimate alliance. The young Charles was hereafter to become

The same year, Boniface, whom, six years before, Pope Zachary had made
Archbishop of Mayence, gave up one day the episcopal dignity to his
disciple Lullus, charging him to carry on the different works himself had
commenced amongst the churches of Germany, and to uphold the faith of the
people. "As for me," he added, "I will put myself on my road, for the
time of my passing away approacheth. I have longed for this departure,
and none can turn me from it; wherefore, my son, get all things ready,
and place in the chest with my books the winding-sheet to wrap up my old
body." And so he departed with some of his priests and servants to go
and evangelize the Frisons, the majority of whom were still pagans and
barbarians. He pitched his tent on their territory and was arranging to
celebrate there the Lord's Supper, when a band of natives came down and
rushed upon the archbishop's retinue. The servitors surrounded him, to
defend him and themselves; and a battle began. "Hold, hold, my
children," cried the arch-bishop; "Scripture biddeth us return good for
evil. This is the day I have long desired, and the hour of our
deliverance is at hand. Be strong in the Lord: hope in Him, and He will
save your souls." The barbarians slew the holy man and the majority of
his company. A little while after, the Christians of the neighborhood
came in arms and recovered the body of St. Boniface. Near him was a
book, which was stained with blood, and seemed to have dropped from his
hands; it contained several works of the Fathers, and amongst others a
writing of St. Ambrose "on the Blessing of Death." The death of the
pious missionary was as powerful as his preaching in converting
Friesland. It was a mode of conquest worthy of the Christian faith, and
one of which the history of Christianity had already proved the

St. Boniface did not confine himself to the evangelization of the pagans;
he labored ardently in the Christian Gallo-Frankish Church, to reform the
manners and ecclesiastical discipline, and to assure, whilst justifying,
the moral influence of the clergy by example as well as precept. The
Councils, which had almost fallen into desuetude in Gaul, became once
more frequent and active there; from 742 to 753 there may be counted
seven, presided over by St. Boniface, which exercised within the Church
a salutary action. King Pepin, recognizing the services which the
Archbishop of Mayence had rendered him, seconded his reformatory efforts
at one time by giving the support of his royal authority to the canons of
the Councils, held often simultaneously with and almost confounded with
the laic assemblies of the Franks, at another by doing justice to the
protests of the churches against the violence and spoliation to which
they were subjected. "There was an important point," says M. Fauriel,
"in respect of which the position of Charles Martel's sons turned out to
be pretty nearly the same as that of their father: it was touching the
necessity of assigning to warriors a portion of the ecclesiastical
revenues. But they, being more religious, perhaps, than Charles Martel,
or more impressed with the importance of humoring the priestly power,
were more vexed and more anxious about the necessity under which they
found themselves of continuing to despoil the churches and of persisting
in a system which was putting the finishing stroke to the ruin of all
ecclesiastical discipline. They were more eager to mitigate the evil and
to offer the Church compensation for their share in this evil to which it
was not in their power to put a stop. Accordingly at the March parade
held at Leptines in 743, it was decided, in reference to ecclesiastical
lands applied to the military service: 1st, that the churches having the
ownership of those lands should share the revenue with the lay holder;
2d, that on the death of a warrior in enjoyment of an ecclesiastical
benefice, the benefice should revert to the Church; 3d, that every
benefice by deprivation whereof any church would be reduced to poverty
should be at once restored to her. That this capitular was carried out,
or even capable of being carried out, is very doubtful; but the less
Carloman and Pepin succeeded in repairing the material losses incurred by
the Church since the accession of the Carlovingians, the more zealous
they were in promoting the growth of her moral power and the restoration
of her discipline. . . . That was the time at which there began to be
seen the spectacle of the national assemblies of the Franks, the
gatherings of the March parades transformed into ecclesiastical synods
under the presidency of the titular legate of the Roman Pontiff, and
dictating, by the mouth of the political authority, regulations and laws
with the direct and formal aim of restoring divine worship and
ecclesiastical discipline, and of assuring the spiritual welfare of the
people." (Fauriel, _Histoire de la Gaule,_ &c., t. III., p. 224.)

Pepin, after he had been proclaimed king and had settled matters with the
Church as well as the warlike questions remaining for him to solve
permitted, directed all his efforts towards the two countries which,
after his father's example, he longed to reunite to the Gallo-Frankish
monarchy, that is, Septimania, still occupied by the Arabs, and
Aquitaine, the independence of which was stoutly and ably defended by
Duke Eudes' grandson, Duke Waifre. The conquest of Septimania was rather
tedious than difficult. The Franks, after having victoriously scoured
the open country of the district, kept invested during three years its
capital, Narbonne, where the Arabs of Spain, much weakened by their
dissensions, vainly tried to throw in re-enforcements. Besides the
Mussulman Arabs the population of the town numbered many Christian Goths,
who were tired of suffering for the defence of their oppressors, and who
entered into secret negotiations with the chiefs of Pepin's army, the end
of which was, that they opened the gates of the town. In 759, then,
after forty years of Arab rule, Narbonne passed definitively under that
of the Franks, who guaranteed to the inhabitants free enjoyment of their
Gothic or Roman law and of their local institutions. It even appears
that, in the province of Spain bordering on Septimania, an Arab chief,
called Soliman, who was in command at Gerona and Barcelona, between the
Ebro and the Pyrenees, submitted to Pepin, himself and the country under
him. This was an important event indeed in the reign of Pepin, for here
was the point at which Islamism, but lately aggressive and victorious in
Southern Europe, began to feel definitively beaten and to recoil before

The conquest of Aquitaine and Vasconia was much more keenly disputed and
for a much longer time uncertain. Duke Waifre was as able in negotiation
as in war: at one time he seemed to accept the pacific overtures of
Pepin, or, perhaps, himself made similar, without bringing about any
result, at another he went to seek and found even in Germany allies who
caused Pepin much embarrassment and peril. The population of Aquitaine
hated the Franks; and the war, which for their duke was a question of
independent sovereignty, was for themselves a question of passionate
national feeling. Pepin, who was naturally more humane and even more
generous, it may be said, in war than his predecessors had usually been,
was nevertheless induced, in his struggle against the Duke of Aquitaine,
to ravage without mercy the countries he scoured, and to treat the
vanquished with great harshness. It was only after nine years' war and
seven campaigns full of vicissitudes that he succeeded, not in conquering
his enemy in a decisive battle, but in gaining over some servants who
betrayed their master. In the month of July, 759, "Duke Waifre was slain
by his own folk, by the king's advice," says Fredegaire; and the conquest
of all Southern Gaul carried the extent and power of the Gallo-Frankish
monarchy farther and higher than it had ever yet been, even under Clovis.

In 753, Pepin had made an expedition against the Britons of Armorica, had
taken Vannes, and "subjugated," add certain chroniclers, "the whole of
Brittany." In point of fact Brittany was no more subjugated by Pepin
than by his predecessors; all that can be said is, that the Franks
resumed, under him, an aggressive attitude towards the Britons, as if to
vindicate a right of sovereignty.

Exactly at this epoch Pepin was engaging in a matter which did not allow
him to scatter his forces hither and thither. It has been stated
already, that in 741 Pope Gregory III. had asked aid of the Franks
against the Lombards who were threatening Rome, and that, whilst fully
entertaining the Pope's wishes, Charles Martel had been in no hurry to
interfere by deed in the quarrel. Twelve years later, in 753, Pope
Stephen, in his turn threatened by Astolphus, king of the Lombards, after
vain attempts to obtain guarantees of peace, repaired to Paris, and
renewed to Pepin the entreaties used by Zachary. It was difficult for
Pepin to turn a deaf ear; it was Zachary who had declared that he ought
to be made king; Stephen showed readiness to anoint him a second time,
himself and his sons; and it was the eldest of these sons, Charles,
scarcely twelve years old, whom Pepin, on learning the near arrival of
the Pope, had sent to meet him and give brilliancy to his reception.
Stephen passed the winter at St. Denis, and gained the favor of the
people as well as that of the king. Astolphus peremptorily refused to
listen to the remonstrances of Pepin, who called upon him to evacuate the
towns in the exarchate of Ravenna, and to leave the Pope unmolested in
the environs of Rome as well as in Rome itself. At the March parade held
at Braine, in the spring of 754, the Franks approved of the war against
the Lombards; and at the end of the summer Pepin and his army descended
into Italy by Mount Cenis, the Lombards trying in vain to stop them as
they debouched into the valley of Suza. Astolphus beaten, and, before
long, shut up in Pavia, promised all that was demanded of him; and Pepin
and his warriors, laden with booty, returned to France, leaving at Rome
the Pope, who conjured them to remain a while in Italy, for to a
certainty, he said, king Astolphus would not keep his promises. The Pope
was right. So soon as the Franks had gone, the King of the Lombards
continued occupying the places in the exarchate and molesting the
neighborhood of Rome. The Pope, in despair and doubtful of his
auxiliaries' return, conceived the idea of sending "to the king, the
chiefs, and the people of the Franks, a letter written, he said, by
Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, to announce to
them that, if they came in haste, he would aid them as if he were alive
according to the flesh amongst them, that they would conquer all their
enemies and make themselves sure of eternal life!" The plan was
perfectly successful: the Franks once more crossed the Alps with
enthusiasm, once more succeeded in beating the Lombards, and once more
shut up in Pavia King Astolphus, who was eager to purchase peace at any
price. He obtained it on two principal conditions: 1st, that he would
not again make a hostile attack on Roman territory or wage war against
the Pope or people of Rome; 2d, that he would henceforth recognize the
sovereignty of the Franks, pay them tribute, and cede forthwith to Pepin
the towns and all the lands, belonging to the jurisdiction of the Roman
empire, which were at that time occupied by the Lombards. By virtue of
these conditions, Ravenna, Rimini, Pesaro, that is to say, the Romagna,
the Duchy of Urbino and a portion of the Marches of Ancona, were at once
given up to Pepin, who, regarding them as his own direct conquest, the
fruit of victory, disposed of them forthwith, in favor of the Popes, by
that famous deed of gift which comprehended pretty nearly what has since
formed the Roman States, and which founded the temporal independence of
the Papacy, the guarantee of its independence in the exercise of the
spiritual power.

At the head of the Franks as mayor of the palace from 741, and as king
from 752, Pepin had completed in France and extended in Italy the work
which his father, Charles Martel, had begun and carried on, from 714 to
741, in State and Church. He left France reunited in one and placed at
the head of Christian Europe. He died at the monastery of St. Denis,
September 18, 768, leaving his kingdom and his dynasty thus ready to the
hands of his son, whom history has dubbed Charlemagne.


The most judicious minds are sometimes led blindly by tradition and
habit, rather than enlightened by reflection and experience. Pepin the
Short committed at his death the same mistake that his father, Charles
Martel, had committed: he divided his dominions between his two sons,
Charles and Carloman, thus destroying again that unity of the Gallo-
Frankish monarchy which his father and he had been at so much pains to
establish. But, just as had already happened in 746 through the
abdication of Pepin's brother, events discharged the duty of repairing
the mistake of men. After the death of Pepin, and notwithstanding that
of Duke Waifre, insurrection broke out once more in Aquitaine; and the
old duke, Hunald, issued from his monastery in the island of Rhe to try
and recover power and independence. Charles and Carloman marched against
him; but, on the march, Carloman, who was jealous and thoughtless, fell
out with his brother, and suddenly quitted the expedition, taking away
his troops. Charles was obliged to continue it alone, which he did with
complete success. At the end of this first campaign, Pepin's widow, the
Queen-mother Bertha, reconciled her two sons; but an unexpected incident,
the death of Carloman two years afterwards in 771, re-established unity
more surely than the reconciliation had re-established harmony. For,
although Carloman left sons, the grandees of his dominions, whether laic
or ecclesiastical, assembled at Corbeny, between Laon and Rheims, and
proclaimed in his stead his brother Charles, who thus became sole king of
the Gallo-Franco-Germanic monarchy. And as ambition and manners had
become less tinged with ferocity than they had been under the
Merovingians, the sons of Carloman were not killed or shorn or even shut
up in a monastery: they retired with their mother, Gerberge, to the court
of Didier, king of the Lombards. "King Charles," says Eginhard, "took
their departure patiently, regarding it as of no importance." Thus
commenced the reign of Charlemagne.

The original and dominant characteristic of the hero of this reign, that
which won for him, and keeps for him after more than ten centuries, the
name of Great, is the striking variety of his ambition, his faculties,
and his deeds. Charlemagne aspired to and attained to every sort of
greatness, military greatness, political greatness, and intellectual
greatness; he was an able warrior, an energetic legislator, a hero of
poetry. And he united, he displayed all these merits in a time of
general and monotonous barbarism, when, save in the Church, the minds of
men were dull and barren. Those men, few in number, who made themselves
a name at that epoch, rallied round Charlemagne and were developed under
his patronage. To know him well and appreciate him justly, he must be
examined under those various grand aspects, abroad and at home, in his
wars and in his government.

In Guizot's _History of Civilization in France_ is to be found a complete
table of the wars of Charlemagne, of his many different expeditions in
Germany, Italy, Spain, all the countries, in fact, that became his
dominion. A summary will here suffice. From 769 to 813, in Germany and
Western and Northern Europe, Charlemagne conducted thirty-one campaigns
against the Saxons, Frisons, Bavarians, Avars, Slavons, and Danes; in
Italy, five against the Lombards; in Spain, Corsica, and Sardinia, twelve
against the Arabs; two against the Greeks; and three in Gaul itself,
against the Aquitanians and the Britons; in all, fifty-three expeditions;
amongst which those he undertook against the Saxons, the Lombards, and
the Arabs, were long and difficult wars. It is undesirable to recount
them in detail, for the relation would be monotonous and useless; but it
is obligatory to make fully known their causes, their characteristic
incidents, and their results.

It has already been seen that, under the last Merovingian kings, the
Saxons were, on the right bank of the Rhine, in frequent collision with
the Franks, especially with the Austrasian Franks, whose territory they
were continually threatening and often invading. Pepin the Short had
more than once hurled them back far from the very uncertain frontiers of
Germanic Austrasia; and, on becoming king, he dealt his blows still
farther, and entered, in his turn, Saxony itself. "In spite of the
Saxons' stout resistance," says Eginhard (_Annales,_ t. i., p. 135), "he
pierced through the points they had fortified to bar entrance into their
country, and, after having fought here and there battles wherein fell
many Saxons, he forced them to promise that they would submit to his
rule; and that, every year, to do him honor, they would send to the
general assembly of the Franks a present of three hundred horses. When
these conventions were once settled, he insisted, to insure their
performance, upon placing them under the guarantee of rites peculiar to
the Saxons; then he returned with his army to Gaul."

[Illustration: Charlemagne at the Head of his Army----212]

Charlemagne did not confine himself to resuming his father's work; he
before long changed its character and its scope. In 772, being left sole
master of France after the death of his brother Carloman, he convoked at
Worms the general assembly of the Franks, "and took," says Eginhard, "the
resolution of going and carrying war into Saxony. He invaded it without
delay, laid it waste with fire and sword, made himself master of the fort
of Ehresburg, and threw down the idol that the Saxons called _Irminsul_."
And in what place was this first victory of Charlemagne won? Near the
sources of the Lippe, just where, more than seven centuries before, the
German Arminius (Herrmann) had destroyed the legions of Varus, and
whither Germanicus had come to avenge the disaster of Varus. This ground
belonged to Saxon territory; and this idol, called _Irminsul,_ which was
thrown down by Charlemagne, was probably a monument raised in honor of
Arminius (Herrmann-Saule, or Herrmann's pillar), whose name it called to
mind. The patriotic and hereditary pride of the Saxons was passionately
roused by this blow; and, the following year, "thinking to find in the
absence of the king the most favorable opportunity," says Eginhard, they
entered the lands of the Franks, laid them waste in their turn, and,
paying back outrage for outrage, set fire to the church not long since
built at Fritzlar, by Boniface, martyr. From that time the question
changed its object as well as its aspect; it was no longer the repression
of Saxon invasions of France, but the conquest of Saxony by the Franks,
that was to be dealt with; it was between the Christianity of the Franks
and the national Paganism of the Saxons that the struggle was to take

For thirty years such was its character. Charlemagne regarded the
conquest of Saxony as indispensable for putting a stop to the incursions
of the Saxons, and the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity as
indispensable for assuring the conquest of Saxony. The Saxons were
defending at one and the same time the independence of their country and
the gods of their fathers. Here was wherewithal to stir up and foment,
on both sides, the profoundest passions; and they burst forth, on both
sides, with equal fury. Whithersoever Charlemagne penetrated he built
strong castles and churches; and, at his departure, left garrisons and
missionaries. When he was gone the Saxons returned, attacked the forts
and massacred the garrisons and the missionaries. At the commencement of
the struggle, a priest of Anglo-Saxon origin, whom St. Willibrod, bishop
of Utrecht, had but lately consecrated, St. Liebwin in fact, undertook to
go and preach the Christian religion in the very heart of Saxony, on the
banks of the Weser, amidst the general assembly of the Saxons. "What do
ye" said he, cross in hand; "the idols ye worship live not, neither do
they perceive: they are the work of men's hands; they can do nought
either for themselves or for others. Wherefore the one God, good and
just, having compassion on your errors, hath sent me unto you. If ye put
not away your iniquity, I foretell unto you a trouble that ye do not
expect, and that the King of Heaven hath ordained aforetime; there shall
come a prince, strong and wise and indefatigable, not from afar, but from
nigh at hand, to fall upon you like a torrent, in order to soften your
hard hearts and bow down your proud heads. At one rush he shall invade
the country; he shall lay it waste with fire and sword, and carry away
your wives and children into captivity." A thrill of rage ran through
the assembly; and already many of those present had begun to cut, in the
neighboring woods, stakes sharpened to a point to pierce the priest, when
one of the chieftains named Buto cried aloud, "Listen, ye who are the
most wise. There have often come unto us ambassadors from neighboring
peoples, Northmen, Slavons or Frisons; we have received them in peace,
and when their messages have been heard, they have been sent away with a
present. Here is an ambassador from a great God, and ye would slay him!"
Whether it were from sentiment or from prudence, the multitude was
calmed, or at any rate restrained; and for this time the priest retired
safe and sound.

Just as the pious zeal of the missionaries was of service to Charlemagne,
so did the power of Charlemagne support and sometimes preserve the
missionaries. The mob, even in the midst of its passions, is not
throughout or at all times inaccessible to fear. The Saxons were not one
and the same nation, constantly united in one and the same assembly and
governed by a single chieftain. Three populations of the same race,
distinguished by names borrowed from their geographical situation, just
as had happened amongst the Franks in the case of the Austrasians and
Neustrians, to wit, Eastphalian or eastern Saxons, Westphalian or
western, and Angrians, formed the Saxon confederation. And to them was
often added a fourth peoplet of the same origin, closer to the Danes and
called North-Albingians, inhabitants of the northern district of the
Elbe. These four principal Saxon populations were sub-divided into a
large number of tribes, who had their own particular chieftains, and who
often decided, each for itself, their conduct and their fate.
Charlemagne, knowing how to profit by this want of cohesion and unity
amongst his foes, attacked now one and now another of the large Saxon
peoplets or the small Saxon tribes, and dealt separately with each of
them, according as he found them inclined to submission or resistance.
After having, in four or five successive expeditions, gained victories
and sustained checks, he thought himself sufficiently advanced in his
conquest to put his relations with the Saxons to a grand trial. In 777,
he resolved, says Eginhard, "to go and hold, at the place called
Paderborn (close to Saxony) the general assembly of his people. On his
arrival he found there assembled the senate and people of this perfidious
nation, who, conformably to his orders, had repaired thither, seeking to
deceive him by a false show of submission and devotion. . . . They
earned their pardon, but on this condition, however, that, if hereafter
they broke their engagements, they would be deprived of country and
liberty. A great number amongst them had themselves baptized on this
occasion; but it was with far from sincere intentions that they had
testified a desire to become Christians."

[Illustration: Charlemagne inflicting Baptism upon the Saxons----215]

There had been absent from this great meeting a Saxon chieftain called
Wittikind, son of Wernekind, king of the Saxons at the north of the Elbe.
He had espoused the sister of Siegfried, king of the Danes; and he was
the friend of Ratbod, king of the Frisons. A true chieftain at heart as
well as by descent, he was made to be the hero of the Saxons just as,
seven centuries before, the Cheruscan Herrmann (Arminius) had been the
hero of the Germans. Instead of repairing to Paderborn, Wittikind had
left Saxony, and taken refuge with his brother-in-law, the king of the
Danes. Thence he encouraged his Saxon compatriots, some to persevere in
their resistance, others to repent them of their show of submission. War
began again; and Wittikind hastened back to take part in it. In 778 the
Saxons advanced as far as the Rhine; but, "not having been able to cross
this river," says Eginhard, "they set themselves to lay waste with fire
and sword all the towns and all the villages from the city of Duitz
(opposite Cologne) as far as the confluence of the Moselle. The churches
as well as the houses were laid in ruins from top to bottom. The enemy,
in his frenzy, spared neither age nor sex, wishing to show thereby that
he had invaded the territory of the Franks, not for plunder, but for
revenge!" For three years the struggle continued, more confined in area,
but more and more obstinate. Many of the Saxon tribes submitted; many
Saxons were baptized; and Siegfried, king of the Danes, sent to
Charlemagne a deputation, as if to treat for peace. Wittikind had left
Denmark; but he had gone across to her neighbors, the Northmen; and,
thence re-entering Saxony, he kindled there an insurrection as fierce as
it was unexpected. In 782 two of Charlemagne's lieutenants were beaten
on the banks of the Weser, and killed in the battle, together with four
counts and twenty leaders, the noblest in the army; indeed the Franks
were nearly all exterminated. "At news of this disaster," says Eginhard,
"Charlemagne, without losing a moment, re-assembled an army and set out
for Saxony. He summoned into his presence all the chieftains of the
Saxons and demanded of them who had been the promoters of the revolt.
All agreed in denouncing Wittikind as the author of this treason. But as
they could not deliver him up, because immediately after his sudden
attack he had taken refuge with the Northmen, those who, at his
instigation, had been accomplices in the crime, were placed, to the
number of four thousand five hundred, in the hands of the king; and, by
his order, all had their heads cut off the same day, at a place called
Werden, on the river Aller. After this deed of vengeance the king
retired to Thionville to pass the winter there."

[Illustration: A Battle between Franks and Saxons----216]

But the vengeance did not put an end to the war. "Blood calls for
blood," were words spoken in the English parliament, in 1643, by Sir
Benjamin Rudyard, one of the best citizens of his country in her hour of
revolution. For three years Charlemagne had to redouble his efforts to
accomplish in Saxony, at the cost of Frankish as well as Saxon blood, his
work of conquest and conversion: "Saxony," he often repeated, "must be
christianized or wiped out." At last, in 785, after several victories
which seemed decisive, he went and settled down in his strong castle of
Ehresburg, "whither he made his wife and children come, being resolved to
remain there all the bad season," says Eginhard, and applying himself
without cessation to scouring the country of the Saxons and wearing them
out by his strong and indomitable determination. But determination did
not blind him to prudence and policy. "Having learned that Wittikind and
Abbio (another great Saxon chieftain) were abiding in the part of Saxony
situated on the other side of the Elbe, he sent to them Saxon envoys to
prevail upon them to renounce their perfidy, and come, without
hesitation, and trust themselves to him. They, conscious of what they
had attempted, dared not at first trust to the king's word; but having
obtained from him the promise they desired of impunity, and, besides, the
hostages they demanded as guarantee of their safety, and who were brought
to them, on the king's behalf, by Amalwin, one of the officers of his
court, they came with the said lord and presented themselves before the
king in his palace of Attigny [Attigny-sur-Aisne, whither Charlemagne had
now returned] and there received baptism."

Charlemagne did more than amnesty Wittikind; he named him Duke of Saxony,
but without attaching to the title any right of sovereignty. Wittikind,
on his side, did more than come to Attigny and get baptized there; he
gave up the struggle, remained faithful to his new engagements, and led,
they say, so Christian a life, that some chroniclers have placed him on
the list of saints. He was killed in 807, in a battle against Gerold,
duke of Suabia, and his tomb is still to be seen at Ratisbonne. Several
families of Germany hold him for their ancestor; and some French
genealogists have, without solid ground, discovered in him the
grandfather of Robert the Strong, great-grandfather of Hugh Capet.
However that may be, after making peace with Wittikind, Charlemagne had
still, for several years, many insurrections to repress and much rigor to
exercise in Saxony, including the removal of certain Saxon peoplets out
of their country and the establishment of foreign colonists in the
territories thus become vacant; but the great war was at an end, and
Charlemagne might consider Saxony incorporated in his dominions.

[Illustration: THE SUBMISSION OF WITTIKIND----218]

He had still, in Germany and all around, many enemies to fight and many
campaigns to re-open. Even amongst the Germanic populations, which were
regarded as reduced under the sway of the king of the Franks, some, the
Frisons and Saxons as well as others, were continually agitating for the
recovery of their independence. Farther off towards the north, east, and
south, people differing in origin and language--Avars, Huns, Slavons,
Bulgarians, Danes, and Northmen--were still pressing or beginning to
press upon the frontiers of the Frankish dominion, for the purpose of
either penetrating within or settling at the threshold as powerful and
formidable neighbors. Charlemagne had plenty to do, with the view at one
time of checking their incursions and at another of destroying or hurling
back to a distance their settlements; and he brought his usual vigor and
perseverance to bear on this second struggle. But by the conquest of
Saxony he had attained his direct national object: the great flood of
population from East to West came, and broke against the Gallo-Franco-
Germanic dominion as against an insurmountable rampart.

This was not, however, Charlemagne's only great enterprise at this epoch,
nor the only great struggle he had to maintain. Whilst he was
incessantly fighting in Germany, the work of policy commenced by his
father Pepin in Italy called for his care and his exertions. The new
king of the Lombards, Didier, and the new Pope, Adrian I., had entered
upon a new war; and Dither was besieging Rome, which was energetically
defended by the Pope and its inhabitants. In 773, Adrian invoked the aid
of the king of the Franks, whom his envoys succeeded, not without
difficulty, in finding at Thionville. Charlemagne could not abandon the
grand position left him by his father as protector of the Papacy and as
patrician of Rome. The possessions, moreover, wrested by Didier from the
Pope were exactly those which Pepin had won by conquest from King
Astolphus, and had presented to the Papacy. Charlemagne was, besides, on
his own account, on bad terms with the king of the Lombards, whose
daughter, Desiree, he had married, and afterwards repudiated and sent
home to her father, in order to marry Hildegarde, a Suabian by nation.
Didier, in dudgeon, had given an asylum to Carloman's widow and sons, on
whose intrigues Charlemagne kept a watchful eye. Being prudent and
careful of appearances, even when he was preparing to strike a heavy
blow, Charlemagne tried, by means of special envoys, to obtain from the
king of the Lombards what the Pope demanded. On Didier's refusal he at
once set to work, convoked the general meeting of the Franks, at Geneva,
in the autumn of 773, gained them over, not without encountering some
objections, to the projected Italian expedition, and forthwith commenced
the campaign with two armies. One was to cross the Valais and descend
upon Lombardy by Mount St. Bernard; Charlemagne in person led the other,
by Mount Cenis. The Lombards, at the outlet of the passes of the Alps,
offered a vigorous resistance; but when the second army had penetrated
into Italy by Mount St. Bernard, Didier, threatened in his rear, retired
precipitately, and, driven from position to position, was obliged to go
and shut himself up in Pavia, the strongest place in his kingdom, whither
Charlemagne, having received on the march the submission of the principal
counts and nearly all the towns of Lombardy, came promptly to besiege

To place textually before the reader a fragment of an old chronicle will
serve better than any modern description to show the impression of
admiration and fear produced upon his contemporaries by Charlemagne, his
person and his power. At the close of this ninth century a monk of the
abbey of St. Gall, in Switzerland, had collected, direct from the mouth
of one of Charlemagne's warriors, Adalbert, numerous stories of his
campaigns and his life. These stories are full of fabulous legends,
puerile anecdotes, distorted reminiscences, and chronological errors, and
they are written sometimes with a credulity and exaggeration of language
which raise a smile; but they reveal the state of men's minds and fancies
within the circle of Charlemagne's influence and at the sight of him.
This monk gives a naive account of Charlemagne's arrival before Pavia and
of the king of the Lombards' disquietude at his approach. Didier had
with him at that time one of Charlemagne's most famous comrades, Ogier
the Dane, who fills a prominent place in the romances and epopoeas,
relating to chivalry, of that age. Ogier had quarrelled with his great
chief and taken refuge with the king of the Lombards. It is probable
that his Danish origin and his relations with the king of the Danes,
Gottfried, for a long time an enemy of the Franks, had something to do
with his misunderstanding with Charlemagne. However that may have been,
"when Didier and Ogger (for so the monk calls him) heard that the dread
monarch was coming, they ascended a tower of vast height, whence they
could watch his arrival from afar off and from every quarter. They saw,
first of all, engines of war such as must have been necessary for the
armies of Darius or Julius Caesar. 'Is not Charles,' asked Didier of
Ogger, 'with this great army?' But the other answered, 'No.' The
Lombard, seeing afterwards an immense body of soldiery gathered from all
quarters of the vast empire, said to Ogger, 'Certes, Charles advanceth in
triumph in the midst of this throng.' 'No, not yet; he will not appear
so soon,' was the answer. 'What should we do, then,' rejoined Didier,
who began to be perturbed, 'should he come accompanied by a larger band
of warriors?' 'You will see what he is when he comes,' replied Ogger,
'but as to what will become of us I know nothing.' As they were thus
parleying appeared the body of guards that knew no repose; and at this
sight the Lombard, overcome with dread, cried, 'This time 'tis surely
Charles.' 'No,' answered Ogger, 'not yet.' In their wake came the
bishops, the abbots, the ordinaries of the chapels royal, and the counts;
and then Didier, no longer able to bear the light of day or to face
death, cried out with groans, 'Let us descend and hide ourselves in the
bowels of the earth, far from the face and the fury of so terrible a foe.
Trembling the while, Ogger, who knew by experience what were the power
and might of Charles, and who had learned the lesson by long consuetude
in better days, then said, 'When ye shall behold the crops shaking for
fear in the fields, and the gloomy Po and the Ticino overflowing the
walls of the city with their waves blackened with steel (iron), then may
ye think that Charles is coming.' He had not ended these words when
there began to be seen in the west, as it were a black cloud, raised by
the north-west wind or by Boreas, which turned the brightest day into
awful shadows. But as the emperor drew nearer and nearer, the gleam of
arms caused to shine on the people shut up within the city a day more
gloomy than any kind of night. And then appeared Charles himself, that
man of steel, with his head encased in a helmet of steel, his hands
garnished with gauntlets of steel, his heart of steel and his shoulders
of marble protected by a cuirass of steel, and his left hand armed with a
lance of steel which he held aloft in the air, for as to his right hand
he kept that continually on the hilt of his invincible sword. The
outside of his thighs, which the rest, for their greater ease in mounting
a horseback, were wont to leave unshackled even by straps, he wore
encircled by plates of steel. What shall I say concerning his boots?
All the army were wont to have them invariably of steel; on his buckler
there was nought to be seen but steel; his horse was of the color and the
strength of steel. All those who went before the monarch, all those who
marched at his side, all those who followed after, even the whole mass of
the army, had armor of the like sort, so far as the means of each
permitted. The fields and the highways were covered with steel: the
points of steel reflected the rays of the sun; and this steel, so hard,
was borne by a people with hearts still harder. The flash of steel
spread terror through-out the streets of the city. 'What steel! alack,
what steel!' Such were the bewildered cries the citizens raised. The
firmness of manhood and of youth gave way at sight of the steel; and the
steel paralyzed the wisdom of graybeards. That which I, poor
tale-teller, mumbling and toothless, have attempted to depict in a long
description, Ogger perceived at one rapid glance, and said to Didier,
'Here is what ye have so anxiously sought:' and whilst uttering these
words he fell down almost lifeless."

The monk of St. Gall does King Didier and his people wrong. They showed
more firmness and valor than he ascribes to them: they resisted
Charlemagne obstinately, and repulsed his first assaults so well that he
changed the siege into an investment and settled down before Pavia, as if
making up his mind for a long operation. His camp became a town; he sent
for Queen Hildegarde and her court; and he had a chapel built, where he
celebrated the festival of Christmas. But on the arrival of spring,
close upon the festival of Easter, 774, wearied with the duration of the
investment, he left to his lieutenants the duty of keeping it up, and,
attended by a numerous and brilliant following, set off for Rome, whither
the Pope was urgently pressing him to come.

On Holy Saturday, April 1, 774, Charlemagne found, at three miles from
Rome, the magistrates and the banner of the city, sent forward by the
Pope to meet him; at one mile all the municipal bodies and the pupils of
the schools carrying palm-branches and singing hymns; and at the gate of
the city, the cross, which was never taken out save for exarchs and
patricians. At sight of the cross Charlemagne dismounted, entered Rome
on foot, ascended the steps of the ancient basilica of St. Peter,
repeating at each step a sign of respectful piety, and was received at
the top by the Pope himself. All around him and in the streets a chant
was sung, "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" At his
entry and during his sojourn at Rome Charlemagne gave the most striking
proofs of Christian faith and respect for the head of the Church.
According to the custom of pilgrims he visited all the basilicas, and in
that of St. Maria Maggiore he performed his solemn devotions. Then,
passing to temporal matters, he caused to be brought and read over, in
his private conferences with the Pope, the deed of territorial gift made
by his father Pepin to Stephen II., and with his own lips dictated the
confirmation of it, adding thereto a new gift of certain territories
which he was in course of wresting by conquest from the Lombards. Pope
Adrian, on his side, rendered to him, with a mixture of affection and
dignity, all the honors and all the services which could at one and the
same time satisfy and exalt the king and the priest, the protector and
the protected. He presented to Charlemagne a book containing a
collection of the canons written by the pontiffs from the origin of the
Church, and he put at the beginning of the book, which was dedicated to
Charlemagne, an address in forty-five irregular verses, written with his
own hand, which formed an anagram: "Pope Adrian to his most excellent son
Charlemagne, king." (_Domino excellentissimo filio Carolo Magno regi
Ipadrianus papa_). At the same time he encouraged him to push his
victory to the utmost and make himself king of the Lombards, advising
him, however, not to incorporate his conquest with the Frankish
dominions, as it would wound the pride of the conquered people to be thus
absorbed by the conquerors, and to take merely the title of "King of the
Franks and Lombards." Charlemagne appreciated and accepted this wise
advice; for he could preserve proper limits in his ambition and in the
hour of victory. Three years afterwards he even did more than Pope
Adrian had advised. In 777 Queen Hildegarde bore him a son, Pepin, whom
in 781 Charlemagne had baptized and anointed king of Italy at Rome by the
Pope, thus separating not only the two titles, but also the two kingdoms,
and restoring to the Lombards a national existence, feeling quite sure
that, so long as he lived, the unity of his different dominions would not
be imperilled. Having thus regulated at Rome his own affairs and those
of the Church, he returned to his camp, took Pavia, received the
submission of all the Lombard dukes and counts, save one only, Aregisius,
duke of Beneventum, and entered France again, taking with him as prisoner
King Didier, whom he banished to a monastery, first at Liege and then at
Corbie, where the dethroned Lombard, say the chroniclers, ended his days
in saintly fashion.

The prompt success of this war in Italy, undertaken at the appeal of the
Head of the Church, this first sojourn of Charlemagne at Rome, the
spectacles he had witnessed, and the homage he had received, exercised
over him, his plans, and his deeds, a powerful influence. This rough
Frankish warrior, chief of a people who were beginning to make a
brilliant appearance upon the stage of the world, and issue himself
of a new line, had a taste for what was grand, splendid, ancient, and
consecrated by time and public respect; he understood and estimated at
its full worth the moral force and importance of such allies. He
departed from Rome in 774, more determined than ever to subdue Saxony, to
the advantage of the Church as well as of his own power, and to promote,
in the South as in the North, the triumph of the Frankish Christian

Three years afterwards, in 777, he had convoked at Paderborn, in
Westphalia, that general assembly of his different peoples at which
Wittikind did not attend, and which was destined to bring upon the Saxons
a more and more obstinate war. "The Saracen Ibn-al-Arabi," says
Eginhard, "came to this town, to present himself before the king. He
had arrived from Spain, together with other Saracens in his train, to
surrender to the king of the Franks himself and all the towns which the
king of the Saracens had confided to his keeping." For a long time past
the Christians of the West had given the Mussulmans, Arab or other, the
name of Saracens. Ibn-al-Arabi was governor of Saragossa, and one of the
Spanish Arab chieftains in league against Abdel-Rhaman, the last offshoot
of the Ommiad khalifs, who, with the assistance of the Berbers, had
seized the government of Spain. Amidst the troubles of his country and
his nation, Ibn-al-Arabi summoned to his aid, against Abdel-Rhaman, the
Franks and the Christians, just as, but lately, Maurontius, duke of
Arles, had summoned to Provence, against Charles Martel, the Arabs and
the Mussulmans.

Charlemagne accepted the summons with alacrity. With the coming of
spring in the following year, 778, and with the full assent of his chief
warriors, he began his march towards the Pyrenees, crossed the Loire,
and halted at Casseneuil, at the confluence of the Lot and the Garonne,
to celebrate there the festival of Easter, and to make preparations for
his expedition thence. As he had but lately done for his campaign in
Italy against the Lombards, he divided his forces into two armies one
composed of Austrasians, Neustrians, Burgundians, and divers German
contingents, and commanded by Charlemagne in person, was to enter Spain
by the valley of Roncesvalles, in the western Pyrenees, and make for
Pampeluna; the other, consisting of Provenccals, Septimanians, Lombards,
and other populations of the South, under the command of Duke Bernard,
who had already distinguished himself in Italy, had orders to penetrate
into Spain by the eastern Pyrenees, to receive on the march the
submission of Gerona and Barcelona, and not to halt till they were before
Saragossa, where the two armies were to form a junction, and which Ibn-
al-Arabi had promised to give up to the king of the Franks. According to
this plan, Charlemagne had to traverse the territories of Aquitaine and
Vasconia, domains of Duke Lupus II., son of Duke Waifre, so long the foe
of Pepin the Short, a Merovingian by descent, and in all these qualities
little disposed to favor Charlemagne. However, the march was
accomplished without difficulty. The king of the Franks treated his
powerful vassal well; and Duke Lupus swore to him afresh, "or for the
first time," says M. Fauriel, "submission and fidelity; but the event
soon proved that it was not without umbrage or without all the feelings
of a true son of Waifre that he saw the Franks and the son of Pepin so
close to him."

The aggressive campaign was an easy and a brilliant one. Charles with
his army entered Spain by the valley of Roncesvalles without encountering
any obstacle. On his arrival before Pampeluna the Arab governor
surrendered the place to him, and Charlemagne pushed forward vigorously
to Saragossa. But there fortune changed. The presence of foreigners and
Christians on the soil of Spain caused a suspension of interior quarrels
amongst the Arabs, who rose in mass, at all points, to succor Saragossa.
The besieged defended themselves with obstinacy; there was more scarcity
of provisions amongst the besiegers than inside the place; sickness broke
out amongst them; they were incessantly harassed from without; and rumors
of a fresh rising amongst the Saxons reached Charlemagne. The Arabs
demanded negotiation. To decide the king of the Franks upon an
abandonment of the siege, they offered him "an immense quantity of gold,"
say the chroniclers, hostages, and promises of homage and fidelity.
Appearances had been saved; Charlemagne could say, and even perhaps
believe, that he had pushed his conquests as far as the Ebro; he decided
on retreat, and all the army was set in motion to recross the Pyrenees.
On arriving before Pampeluna, Charlemagne had its walls completely razed
to the ground, "in order that," as he said, "that city might not be able
to revolt." The troops entered those same passes of Roncesvalles which
they had traversed without obstacle a few weeks before; and the
advance-guard and the main body of the army were already clear of them.
The account of what happened shall be given in the words of Eginhard,
the only contemporary historian whose account, free from all
exaggeration, can be considered authentic. "The king," he says,
"brought back his army without experiencing any loss, save that at the
summit of the Pyrenees he suffered somewhat from the perfidy of the
Vascons (Basques). Whilst the army of the Franks, embarrassed in a
narrow defile, was forced by the nature of the ground to advance in one
long, close line, the Basques, who were in ambush on the crest of the
mountain (for the thickness of the forest with which these parts are
covered is favorable to ambuscade), descend and fall suddenly on the
baggage-train and on the troops of the rear-guard, whose duty it was to
cover all in their front, and precipitate them to the bottom of the
valley. There took place a fight in which the Franks were killed to a
man. The Basques, after having plundered the baggage-train, profited by
the night, which had come on, to disperse rapidly. They owed all their
success in this engagement to the lightness of their equipment and to
the nature of the spot where the action took place; the Franks, on the
contrary, being heavily armed and in an unfavorable position, struggled
against too many disadvantages. Eginhard, master of the household of the
king; Anselm, count of the palace; and Roland, prefect of the marches of
Brittany, fell in this engagement. There were no means, at the time, of
taking revenge for this cheek; for after their sudden attack, the enemy
dispersed to such good purpose that there was no gaining any trace of
the direction in which they should be sought for."

[Illustration: Death of Roland at Roncesvalles----227]

History says no more; but in the poetry of the people there is a longer
and a more faithful memory than in the court of kings. The disaster of
Roncesvalles and the heroism of the warriors who perished there became,
in France, the object of popular sympathy and the favorite topic for the
exercise of the popular fancy. The _Song of Roland,_ a real Homeric poem
in its great beauty, and yet rude and simple as became its national
character, bears witness to the prolonged importance attained in Europe
by this incident in the history of Charlemagne. Three centuries later
the comrades of William the Conqueror, marching to battle at Hastings for
the possession of England, struck up _The Song of Roland_ "to prepare
themselves for victory or death," says M. Vitel, in his vivid estimate
and able translation of this poetical monument of the manners and first
impulses towards chivalry of the middle ages. There is no determining
how far history must be made to participate in these reminiscences of
national feeling; but, assuredly, the figures of Roland and Oliver, and
Archbishop Turpin, and the pious, unsophisticated and tender character of
their heroism are not pure fables invented by the fancy of a poet, or the
credulity of a monk. If the accuracy of historical narrative must not be
looked for in them, their moral truth must be recognized in their
portrayal of a people and an age.

The political genius of Charlemagne comprehended more fully than would be
imagined from his panegyrist's brief and dry account all the gravity of
the affair of Roncesvalles. Not only did he take immediate vengeance by
hanging Duke Lupus of Aquitaine, whose treason had brought down this
mishap, and by reducing his two sons, Adairic and Sancho, to a more
feeble and precarious condition, but he resolved to treat Aquitaine as he
had but lately treated Italy, that is to say, to make of it, according to
the correct definition of M. Fauriel, "a special kingdom," an integral
portion, indeed, of the Frankish empire, but with an especial
destination, which was that of resisting the invasions of the Andalusian
Arabs, and confining them as much as possible to the soil of the
Peninsula. This was, in some sort, giving back to the country its
primary task as an independent duchy; and it was the most natural and
most certain way of making the Aquitanians useful subjects by giving play
to their national vanity, to their pretensions of forming a separate
people, and to their hopes of once more becoming, sooner or later, an
independent nation. Queen Hildegarde, during her husband's sojourn at
Casseneuil, in 778, had borne him a son, whom he called Louis, and who
was, afterwards, Louis the Debonnair. Charlemagne, summoned a second
time to Rome, in 781, by the quarrels of Pope Adrian I. with the imperial
court of Constantinople, brought with him his two sons, Pepin aged only
four years, and Louis only three years, and had them anointed by the
Pope, the former King of Italy, and the latter King of Aquitaine. "On
returning from Rome to Austrasia, Charlemagne sent Louis at once to take
possession of his kingdom. From the banks of the Meuse to Orleans the
little prince was carried in his cradle; but once on the Loire, this
manner of travelling beseemed him no longer; his conductors would that
his entry into his dominions should have a manly and warrior-like
appearance; they clad him in arms proportioned to his height and age;
they put him and held him on horseback; and it was in such guise that he
entered Aquitaine. He came thither accompanied by the officers who were
to form his council of guardians, men chosen by Charlemagne, with care,
amongst the Frankish 'leudes,' distinguished not only for bravery and
firmness, but also for adroitness, and such as they should be to be
neither deceived nor seared by the cunning, fickle, and turbulent
populations with whom they would have to deal." From this period to the
death of Charlemagne, and by his sovereign influence, though all the
while under his son's name, the government of Aquitaine was a series of
continued efforts to hurl back the Arabs of Spain beyond the Ebro, to
extend to that river the dominion of the Franks, to divert to that end
the forces as well as the feelings of the populations of Southern Gaul,
and thus to pursue, in the South as in the North, against the Arabs as
well as against the Saxons and Huns, the grand design of Charlemagne,
which was the repression of foreign invasions and the triumph of
Christian France over Asiatic Paganism and Islamism.

Although continually obliged to watch, and often still to fight,
Charlemagne might well believe that he had nearly gained his end. He had
everywhere greatly extended the frontiers of the Frankish dominions and
subjugated the populations comprised in his conquests. He had proved
that his new frontiers would be vigorously defended against new invasions
or dangerous neighbors. He had pursued the Huns and the Saxons to the
confines of the empire of the East, and the Saracens to the islands of
Corsica and Sardinia. The centre of the dominion was no longer in
ancient Gaul; he had transferred it to a point not far from the Rhine, in
the midst and within reach of the Germanic populations, at the town of
Aix-la-Chapelle, which he had founded, and which was his favorite
residence; but the principal parts of the Gallo-Frankish kingdom,
Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, were effectually welded in one single
mass. What he had done with Southern Gaul has but just been pointed out:
how he had both separated it from his own kingdom and still retained it
under his control. Two expeditions into Armorica, without taking
entirely from the Britons their independence, had taught them real
deference, and the great warrior Roland, installed as count upon their
frontier, warned them of the peril any rising would encounter. The moral
influence of Charlemagne was on a par with his material power; he had
everywhere protected the missionaries of Christianity; he had twice
entered Rome, also in the character of protector, and he could count on
the faithful support of the Pope at least as much as the Pope could count
on him. He had received embassies and presents from the sovereigns of
the East, Christian and Mussulman, from the emperors at Constantinople
and the khalifs at Bagdad. Everywhere, in Europe, in Africa, and in
Asia, he was feared and respected by kings and people. Such, at the
close of the eighth century, were, so far as he was concerned, the
results of his wars, of the superior capacity he had displayed, and of
the successes he had won and kept.

In 799 he received, at Aix-la-Chapelle, news of serious disturbances
which had broken out at Rome; that Pope Leo III. had been attacked by
conspirators, who, after pulling out, it was said, his eyes and his
tongue, had shut him up in the monastery of St. Erasmus, whence he had
with great difficulty escaped, and that he had taken refuge with
Winigisius, duke of Spoleto, announcing his intention of repairing thence
to the Frankish king. Leo was already known to Charlemagne; at his
accession to the pontificate, in 795, he had sent to him, as to the
patrician and defender of Rome, the keys of the prison of St. Peter and
the banner of the city. Charlemagne showed a disposition to receive him
with equal kindness and respect. The Pope arrived, in fact, at
Paderborn, passed some days there, according to Eginhard, and returned to
Rome on the 30th of November, 799, at ease regarding his future, but
without knowledge on the part of any one of what had been settled between
the king of the Franks and him. Charlemagne remained all the winter at
Aix-la-Chapelle, spent the first months of the year 800 on affairs
connected with Western France, at Rouen, Tours, Orleans, and Paris, and,
returning to Mayence in the month of August, then for the first time
announced to the general assembly of Franks his design of making a
journey to Italy. He repaired thither, in fact, and arrived on the 23d
of November, 800, at the gates of Rome. The Pope received him there as
he was dismounting; then, the next day, standing on the steps of the
basilica of St. Peter and amidst general hallelujahs, he introduced the
king into the sanctuary of the blessed apostle, glorifying and thanking
the Lord for this happy event. Some days were spent in examining into
the grievances which had been set down to the Pope's account, and in
receiving two monks arrived from Jerusalem to present to the king, with
the patriarch's blessing, the keys of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary, as
well as the sacred standard. Lastly, on the 25th of December, 800, "the
day of the Nativity of our Lord," says Eginhard, "the king came into the
basilica of the blessed St. Peter, apostle, to attend the celebration of
mass. At the moment when, in his place before the altar, he was bowing
down to pray, Pope Leo placed on his head a crown, and all the Roman
people shouted, 'Long life and victory to Charles Augustus, crowned by
God, the great and pacific emperor of the Romans!' After this
proclamation the pontiff prostrated himself before him and paid him
adoration, according to the custom established in the days of the old
emperors; and thenceforward Charles, giving up the title of patrician,
bore that of Emperor and Augustus."

Eginhard adds, in his Life of Charlemagne, "The king at first testified
great aversion for this dignity, for he declared that, notwithstanding
the importance of the festival, he would not on that day have entered the
church, if he could have foreseen the intentions of the sovereign
pontiff. However, this event excited the jealousy of the Roman emperors
(of Constantinople), who showed great vexation at it; but Charles met
their bad graces with nothing but great patience, and thanks to this
magnanimity, which raised him so far above them, he managed, by sending
to them frequent embassies and giving them in his letters the name of
brother, to triumph over their conceit."

No one, probably, believed in the ninth century, and no one, assuredly,
will nowadays believe, that Charlemagne was innocent beforehand of what
took place on the 25th of December, 800, in the basilica of St. Peter.
It is doubtful, also, if he were seriously concerned about the ill-temper
of the emperors of the East. He had wit enough to understand the value
which always remains attached to old traditions, and he might have taken
some pains to secure their countenance to his title of emperor; but all
his contemporaries believed, and he also undoubtedly believed, that he
had on that day really won and set up again the Roman empire.


What, then, was the government of this empire of which Charlemagne was
proud to assume the old title? How did this German warrior govern that
vast dominion which, thanks to his conquests, extended from the Elbe to
the Ebro, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean; which comprised nearly
all Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the north of Italy and of
Spain, and which, sooth to say, was still, when Charlemagne caused
himself to be made emperor, scarce more than the hunting-ground and the
battle-field of all the swarms of barbarians who tried to settle on the
ruins of the Roman world they had invaded and broken to pieces? The
government of Charlemagne in the midst of this chaos is the striking,
complicated, and transitory fact which is now to be passed in review.

A word of warning must be first of all given touching this word
government, with which it is impossible to dispense. For a long time
past the word has entailed ideas of national unity, general organization,
and regular and efficient power. There has been no lack of revolutions
which have changed dynasties and the principles and forms of the supreme
power in the State; but they have always left existing, under different
names, the practical machinery whereby the supreme power makes itself
felt and exercises its various functions over the whole country. Open
the Almanac, whether it be called the Imperial, the Royal, or the
National, and you will find there always the working system of the
government of France; all the powers and their agents, from the lowest to
the highest, are there indicated and classed according to their
prerogatives and relations. Nor have we there a mere empty nomenclature,
a phantom of theory; things go on actually as they are described--the
book is the reflex of the reality. It were easy to construct, for the
empire of Charlemagne, a similar list of officers; there might be set
down in it dukes, counts, vicars, centeniers, and sheriffs (seabini), and
they might be distributed, in regular gradation, over the whole
territory; but it would be one huge lie; for most frequently, in the
majority of places, these magistracies were utterly powerless and
themselves in complete disorder. The efforts of Charlemagne, either to
establish them on a firm footing or to make them act with regularity,
were continual, but unavailing. In spite of the fixity of his purpose
and the energy of his action, the disorder around him was measureless and
insurmountable. He might check it for a moment at one point; but the
evil existed wherever his terrible will did not reach, and wherever it
did the evil broke out again so soon as it had been withdrawn. How could
it be otherwise? Charlemagne had not to grapple with one single nation
or with one single system of institutions; he had to deal with different
nations, without cohesion, and foreign one to another. The authority
belonged, at one and the same time, to assemblies of free men, to
landholders over the dwellers on their domains, and to the king over the
"leudes" and their following. These three powers appeared and acted side
by side in every locality as well as in the totality of the State. Their
relations and their prerogatives were not governed by any generally-
recognized principle, and none of the three was invested with sufficient
might to prevail habitually against the independence or resistance of its
rivals. Force alone, varying according to circumstances and always
uncertain decided matters between them. Such was France at the accession
of the second line. The co-existence of and the struggle between the
three systems of institutions and the three powers just alluded to had as
yet had no other result. Out of this chaos Charlemagne caused to issue a
monarchy, strong through him alone and so long as he was by, but
powerless and gone like a shadow when the man was lost to the

Whoever is astonished either at this triumph of absolute monarchy through
the personal movement of Charlemagne, or at the speedy fall of the fabric
on the disappearance of the moving spirit, understands neither what can
be done by a great man, when without him society sees itself given over
to deadly peril, nor how unsubstantial and frail is absolute power when
the great man is no longer by, or when society has no longer need of him.

It has just been shown how Charlemagne by his wars, which had for their
object and result permanent and well-secured conquests, had stopped the
fresh incursions of barbarians, that is, had stopped disorder coming from
without. An attempt will now be made to show by what means he set about
suppressing disorder from within and putting his own rule in the place of
the anarchy that prevailed in the Roman world which lay in ruins, and in
the barbaric world which was a prey to blind and ill-regulated force.

A distinction must be drawn between the local and central governments.

Far from the centre of the State, in what have since been called the
provinces, the power of the emperor was exercised by the medium of two
classes of agents, one local and permanent, the other despatched from the
centre and transitory.

In the first class we find:--

1st. The dukes, counts, vicars of counts, centeniers, sheriffs
(scabini), officers or magistrates residing on the spot, nominated by the
emperor himself or by his delegates, and charged with the duty of acting
in his name for the levying of troops, rendering of justice, maintenance
of order, and receipt of imposts.

2d. The beneficiaries or vassals of the emperor, who held of him,
sometimes as hereditaments, more often for life, and more often still
without fixed rule or stipulation, lands; domains, throughout the extent
of which they exercised, a little bit in their own name and a little bit
in the name of the emperor, a certain jurisdiction and nearly all the
rights of sovereignty. There was nothing very fixed or clear in the
position of the beneficiaries and in the nature of their power; they were
at one and the same time delegates and independent, owners and enjoyers
of usufruct, and the former or the latter character prevailed amongst
them according to circumstances. But, altogether, they were closely
bound to Charlemagne, who, in a great number of cases, charged them with
the execution of his orders in the lands they occupied.

Above these agents, local and resident, magistrates or beneficiaries,
were the _missi dominici,_ temporary commissioners, charged to inspect,
in the emperor's name, the condition of the provinces; authorized to
penetrate into the interior of the free lands as well as of the domains
granted with the title of benefices; having the right to reform certain
abuses, and bound to render an account of all to their master. The
_missi dominici_ were the principal instruments Charlemagne had,
throughout the vast territory of his empire, of order and administration.

As to the central government, setting aside for a moment the personal
action of Charlemagne and of his counsellors, the general assemblies,
to judge by appearances and to believe nearly all the modern historians,
occupied a prominent place in it. They were, in fact, during his reign,
numerous and active; from the year 776 to the year 813 we may count
thirty-five of these national assemblies, March-parades and May-parades,
held at Worms, Valenciennes, Geneva, Paderborn, Aix-la-Chapelle,
Thionville, and several other towns, the majority situated round about
the two banks of the Rhine. The number and periodical nature of these
great political reunions are undoubtedly a noticeable fact. What, then,
went on in their midst? What character and weight must be attached to
their intervention in the government of the State? It is important to
sift this matter thoroughly.

There is extant, touching this subject, a very curious document. A
contemporary and counsellor of Charlemagne, his cousin-german Adalbert,
abbot of Corbic, had written a treatise entitled _Of the Ordering of the
Palace (De Ordine Palatii),_ and designed to give an insight into the
government of Charlemagne, with especial reference to the national
assemblies. This treatise was lost; but towards the close of the ninth
century, Hincmar, the celebrated archbishop of Rheims, reproduced it
almost in its entirety, in the form of a letter or of instructions,
written at the request of certain grandees of the kingdom who had asked
counsel of him with respect to the government of Carloman, one of the
sons of Charles the Stutterer. We read therein,

"It was the custom at this time to hold two assemblies every year. . .
In both, that they might not seem to have been convoked without motive,
there were submitted to the examination and deliberation of the grandees
. . . and by virtue of orders from the king, the fragments of law
called _capitula,_ which the king himself had drawn up under the
inspiration of God or the necessity for which had been made manifest to
him in the intervals between the meetings."

Two striking facts are to be gathered from these words: the first, that
the majority of the members composing these assemblies probably regarded
as a burden the necessity for being present at them, since Charlemagne
took care to explain their convocation by declaring to them the motive
for it and by always giving them something to do; the second, that the
proposal of the capitularies, or, in modern phrase, the initiative,
proceeded from the emperor. The initiative is naturally exercised by him
who wishes to regulate or reform, and in his time it was especially
Charlemagne who conceived this design. There is no doubt, however, but
that the members of the assembly might make on their side such proposals
as appeared to them suitable; the constitutional distrusts and artifices
of our times were assuredly unknown to Charlemagne, who saw in these
assemblies a means of government rather than a barrier to his authority.
To resume the text of Hincmar:--

"After having received these communications, they deliberated on them
two or three days or more, according to the importance of the business.
Palace-messengers, going and coming, took their questions and carried
back the answers. No stranger came near the place of their meeting until
the result of their deliberations had been able to be submitted to the
scrutiny of the great prince, who then, with the wisdom he had received
from God, adopted a resolution which all obeyed."

The definitive resolution, therefore, depended upon Charlemagne alone;
the assembly contributed only information and counsel.

Hinemar continues, and supplies details worthy of reproduction, for they
give an insight into the imperial government and the action of
Charlemagne himself amidst those most ancient of the national assemblies.

"Things went on thus for one or two capitularies, or a greater number,
until, with God's help, all the necessities of the occasion were

"Whilst these matters were thus proceeding out of the king's presence,
the prince himself, in the midst of the multitude, came to the general
assembly, was occupied in receiving the presents, saluting the men of
most note, conversing with those he saw seldom, showing towards the
elders a tender interest, disporting himself with the youngsters, and
doing the same thing, or something like it, with the ecclesiastics as
well as the seculars. However, if those who were deliberating about the
matter submitted to their examination showed a desire for it, the king
repaired to them and remained with them as long as they wished; and then
they reported to him with perfect familiarity what they thought about all
matters, and what were the friendly discussions that had arisen amongst
them. I must not forget to say that, if the weather were fine,
everything took place in the open air; otherwise, in several distinct
buildings, where those who had to deliberate on the king's proposals were
separated from the multitude of persons come to the assembly, and then
the men of greater note were admitted. The places appointed for the
meeting of the lords were divided into two parts, in such sort that the
bishops, the abbots, and the clerics of high rank might meet without
mixture with the laity. In the same way the counts and other chiefs of
the State underwent separation, in the morning, until, whether the king
was present or absent, all were gathered together; then the lords above
specified, the clerics on their side, and the laics on theirs, repaired
to the hall which had been assigned to them, and where seats had been
with due honor prepared for them. When the lords laical and
ecclesiastical were thus separated from the multitude, it remained in
their power to sit separately or together, according to the nature of the
business they had to deal with, ecclesiastical, secular, or mixed. In
the same way, if they wished to send for any one, either to demand
refreshment, or to put any question and to dismiss him after getting what
they wanted, it was at their option. Thus took place the examination of
affairs proposed to them by the king for deliberation.

[Illustration: Charlemagne and the General Assembly----239]

"The second business of the king was to ask of each what there was to
report to him, or enlighten him touching the part of the kingdom each had
come from. Not only was this permitted to all, but they were strictly
enjoined to make inquiries, during the interval between the assemblies,
about what happened within or without the kingdom; and they were bound to
seek knowledge from foreigners as well as natives, enemies as well as
friends, sometimes by employing emissaries, and without troubling
themselves much about the manner in which they acquired their
information. The king wished to know whether in any part, in any corner
of the kingdom, the people were restless, and what was the cause of their
restlessness; or whether there had happened any disturbance to which it
was necessary to draw the attention of the council-general, and other
similar matters. He sought also to know whether any of the subjugated
nations were inclined to revolt; whether any of those that had revolted
seemed disposed towards submission; and whether those that were still
independent were threatening the kingdom with any attack. On all these
subjects, whenever there was any manifestation of disorder or danger, he
demanded chiefly what were the motives or occasion of them."

There is need of no great reflection to recognize the true character of
these assemblies: it is clearly imprinted upon the sketch drawn by
Hincmar. The figure of Charlemagne alone fills the picture: he is the
centre-piece of it and the soul of everything. 'Tis he who wills that
the national assemblies should meet and deliberate; 'tis he who inquires
into the state of the country; 'tis he who proposes and approves of or
rejects the laws; with him rest will and motive, initiative and decision.
He has a mind sufficiently judicious, unshackled, and elevated to
understand that the nation ought not to be left in darkness about its
affairs, and that he himself has need of communicating with it, of
gathering information from it, and of learning its opinions. But we have
here no exhibition of great political liberties, no people discussing its
interests and its business, interfering effectually in the adoption of
resolutions, and, in fact, taking in its government so active and
decisive a part as to have a right to say that it is self-governing,
or, in other words, a free people. It is Charlemagne, and he alone,
who governs; it is absolute government marked by prudence, ability,
and grandeur.

When the mind dwells upon the state of Gallo-Frankish society in the
eighth century, there is nothing astonishing in such a fact. Whether it
be civilized or barbarian, that which every society needs, that which it
seeks and demands first of all in its government, is a certain degree of
good sense and strong will, of intelligence and innate influence, so far
as the public interests are concerned; qualities, in fact, which suffice
to keep social order maintained or make it realized, and to promote
respect for individual rights and the progress of the general well-being.
This is the essential aim of every community of men; and the institutions
and guarantees of free government are the means of attaining it. It is
clear that, in the eighth century, on the ruins of the Roman and beneath
the blows of the barbaric world, the Gallo-Frankish nation, vast and
without cohesion, brutish and ignorant, was incapable of bringing forth,
so to speak, from its own womb, with the aid of its own wisdom and
virtue, a government of the kind. A host of different forces, without
enlightenment and without restraint, were everywhere and incessantly
struggling for dominion, or, in other words, were ever troubling and
endangering the social condition. Let there but arise, in the midst of
this chaos of unruly forces and selfish passions, a great man, one of
those elevated minds and strong characters that can understand the
essential aim of society and then urge it forward, and at the same time
keep it well in hand on the roads that lead thereto, and such a man will
soon seize and exercise the personal power almost of a despot, and people
will not only make him welcome, but even celebrate his praises, for they
do not quit the substance for the shadow, or sacrifice the end to the
means. Such was the empire of Charlemagne. Amongst annalists and
historians, some, treating him as a mere conqueror and despot, have
ignored his merits and his glory; others, that they might admire him
without scruple, have made of him a founder of free institutions, a
constitutional monarch. Both are equally mistaken. Charlemagne was,
indeed, a conqueror and a despot; but by his conquests and his personal
power he, so long as he was by, that is, for six and forty years, saved
Gallo-Frankish society from barbaric invasion without and anarchy within.
That is the characteristic of his government and his title to glory.

What he was in his wars and his general relations with his nation has
just been seen; he shall now be exhibited in all his administrative
activity and his intellectual life, as a legislator and as a friend to
the human mind. The same man will be recognized in every ease; he will
grow in greatness, without changing, as he appears under his various

There are often joined together, under the title of Capitularies
(_capitula,_ small chapters, articles) a mass of Acts, very different in
point of dates and objects, which are attributed indiscriminately to
Charlemagne. This is a mistake. The Capitularies are the laws or
legislative measures of the Frankish kings, Merovingian as well as
Carlovingian. Those of the Merovingians are few in number and of slight
importance, and amongst those of the Carlovingians, which amount to one
hundred and fifty-two, sixty-five only are due to Charlemagne. When an
attempt is made to classify these last according to their object, it is
impossible not to be struck with their incoherent variety; and several of
them are such as we should nowadays be surprised to meet with in a code
or in a special law. Amongst Charlemagne's sixty-five Capitularies,
which contain eleven hundred and fifty-one articles, may be counted
eighty-seven of moral, two hundred and ninety-three of political, one
hundred and thirty of penal, one hundred and ten of civil, eighty-five of
religious, three hundred and five of canonical, seventy-three of
domestic, and twelve of incidental legislation. And it must not be
supposed that all these articles are really acts of legislation, laws
properly so called; we find amongst them the texts of ancient national
laws revised and promulgated afresh; extracts from and additions to these
same ancient laws, Salle, Lombard, and Bavarian; extracts from acts of
councils; instructions given by Charlemagne to his envoys in the
provinces; questions that he proposed to put to the bishops or counts
when they came to the national assembly; answers given by Charlemagne
to questions addressed to him by the bishops, counts, or commissioners
(_missi dominici_); judgments, decrees, royal pardons, and simple notes
that Charlemagne seems to have had written down for himself alone, to
remind him of what he proposed to do; in a word, nearly all the various
acts which could possibly have to be framed by an earnest, far-sighted
and active government. Often, indeed, these Capitularies have no
imperative or prohibitive character; they are simple counsels, purely
moral precepts. We read therein, for example,--

"Covetousness doth consist in desiring that which others possess, and in
giving away nought of that which one's self possesseth; according to the
Apostle it is the root of all evil."


"Hospitality must be practised."

The Capitularies which have been classed under the heads of political,
penal, and canonical legislation are the most numerous, and are those
which bear most decidedly an imperative or prohibitive stamp; amongst
them a prominent place is held by measures of political economy,
administration, and police; you will find therein an attempt to put a
fixed price on provisions, a real trial of a maximum for cereals, and a
prohibition of mendicity, with the following clause:--

"If such mendicants be met with, and they labor not with their hands, let
none take thought about giving unto them."

The interior police of the palace was regulated thereby, as well as that
of the empire:

"We do will and decree that none of those who serve in our palace shall
take leave to receive therein any man who seeketh refuge there and cometh
to hide there, by reason of theft, homicide, adultery, or any other
crime. That if any free man do break through our interdicts, and hide
such malefactor in our palace, he shall be bound to carry him on his
shoulders to the public quarter, and be there tied to the same stake as
the malefactor."

Certain Capitularies have been termed religious legislation in
contradistinction to canonical legislation, because they are really
admonitions, religious exhortations, addressed not to ecclesiastics
alone, but to the faithful, the Christian people in general, and notably
characterized by good sense, and, one might almost say, freedom of

For example,

"Beware of venerating the names of martyrs falsely so called, and the
memory of dubious saints."

"Let none suppose that prayer cannot be made to God save in three tongues
[probably Latin, Greek, and Germanic, or perhaps the vulgar tongue; for
the last was really beginning to take form], for God is adored in all
tongues, and man is heard if he do but ask for the things that be right."

These details are put forward that a proper idea may be obtained of
Charlemagne as a legislator, and of what are called his laws. We have
here, it will be seen, no ordinary legislator and no ordinary laws: we
see the work, with infinite variations and in disconnected form, of a
prodigiously energetic and watchful master, who had to think and provide
for everything, who had to be everywhere the moving and the regulating
spirit. This universal and untiring energy is the grand characteristic
of Charlemagne's government, and was, perhaps, what made his superiority
most incontestable and his power most efficient.

It is noticeable that the majority of Charlemagne's Capitularies belong
to that epoch of his reign when he was Emperor of the West, when he was
invested with all the splendor of sovereign power. Of the sixty-five
Capitularies classed under different heads, thirteen only are previous to
the 25th of December, 800, the date of his coronation as emperor at Rome;
fifty-two are comprised between the years 801 and 804.

The energy of Charlemagne as a warrior and a politician having thus been
exhibited, it remains to say a few words about his intellectual energy.
For that is by no means the least original or least grand feature of his
character and his influence.

Modern times and civilized society have more than once seen despotic
sovereigns filled with distrust towards scholars of exalted intellect,
especially such as cultivated the moral and political sciences, and
little inclined to admit them to their favor or to public office. There
is no knowing whether, in our days, with our freedom of thought and of
the press, Charlemagne would have been a stranger to this feeling of
antipathy; but what is certain is, that in his day, in the midst of a
barbaric society, there was no inducement to it, and that, by nature, he
was not disposed to it. His power was not in any respect questioned;
distinguished intellects were very rare; Charlemagne had too much need of
their services to fear their criticisms, and they, on their part, were
more anxious to second his efforts than to show towards him anything like
exaction or independence. He gave rein, therefore, without any
embarrassment or misgiving, to his spontaneous inclination towards them,
their studies, their labors, and their influence. He drew them into the
management of affairs. In Guizot's _History of Civilization in France_
there is a list of the names and works of twenty-three men of the eighth
and ninth centuries who have escaped oblivion, and they are all found
grouped about Charlemagne as his own habitual advisers, or assigned by
him as advisers to his sons Pepin and Louis in Italy and Aquitania, or
sent by him to all points of his empire as his commissioners (_missi
dominici_), or charged in his name with important negotiations. And
those whom he did not employ at a distance formed, in his immediate
neighborhood, a learned and industrious society, a school of the palace,
according to some modern commentators, but an academy, and not a school,
according to others, devoted rather to conversation than to teaching. It
probably fulfilled both missions; it attended Charlemagne at his various
residences, at one time working for him at questions he invited them to
deal with, at another giving to the regular components of his court, to
his children and to himself, lessons in the different sciences called
liberal, grammar, rhetoric, logic, astronomy, geometry, and even theology
and the great religious problems it was beginning to discuss.

[Illustration: Charlemagne presiding at the School of the Palace----246]

Two men, Alcuin and Eginhard, have remained justly celebrated in the
literary history of the age. Alcuin was the principal director of the
school of the palace, and the favorite, the confidant, the learned
adviser of Charlemagne. "If your zeal were imitated," said he one day to
the emperor, "perchance one might see arise in France a new Athens, far
more glorious than the ancient--the Athens of Christ." Eginhard, who was
younger, received his scientific education in the school of the palace,
and was head of the public works to Charlemagne, before becoming his
biographer, and, at a later period, the intimate adviser of his son Louis
the Debonnair. Other scholars of the school of the palace, Angilbert,
Leidrade, Adalhard, Agobard, Theodulph, were abbots of St. Riquier or
Corbie, archbishops of Lyons, and bishops of Orleans. They had all
assumed, in the school itself, names illustrious in pagan antiquity;
Alcuin called himself Flaeens; Angilbert, Homer; Theodulph, Pindar.
Charlemagne himself had been pleased to take, in their society, a great
name of old, but he had borrowed from the history of the Hebrews--he
called himself David; and Eginhard, animated, no doubt, by the same
sentiments, was Bezaleel, that nephew of Moses to whom God had granted
the gift of knowing how to work skilfully in wood and all the materials
which served for the construction of the ark and the tabernacle. Either
in the lifetime of their royal patron, or after his death, all these
scholars became great dignitaries of the Church, or ended their lives in
monasteries of note; but, so long as they lived, they served Charlemagne
or his sons not only with the devotion of faithful advisers, but also as
followers proud of the master who had known how to do them honor by
making use of them.

It was without effort and by natural sympathy that Charlemagne had
inspired them with such sentiments; for he, too, really loved sciences,
literature, and such studies as were then possible, and he cultivated
them on his own account and for his own pleasure, as a sort of conquest.
It has been doubted whether he could write, and an expression of
Eginhard's might authorize such a doubt; but, according to other evidence
and even according to the passage in Eginhard, one is inclined to believe
merely that Charlemagne strove painfully, and without much success, to
write a good hand. He had learned Latin, and he understood Greek. He
caused to be commenced, and, perhaps, himself commenced the drawing up of
the first Germanic grammar. He ordered that the old barbaric poems, in
which the deeds and wars of the ancient kings were celebrated, should be
collected for posterity. He gave Germanic names to the twelve months of
the year. He distinguished the winds by twelve special terms, whereas
before his time they had but four designations. He paid great attention
to astronomy. Being troubled one day at no longer seeing in the
firmament one of the known planets, he wrote to Alcuin, "What thinkest
thou of this Mars, which, last year, being concealed in the sign of
Cancer, was intercepted from the sight of men by the light of the sun?
Is it the regular course of his revolution? Is it the influence of the
sun? Is it a miracle? Could he have been two years about performing the
course of a single one?" In theological studies and discussions he
exhibited a particular and grave interest. "It is to him," say M.M.
Ampere and Haureau, "that we must refer the honor of the decision taken
in 794 by the Council of Frankfort in the great dispute about images; a
temperate decision which is as far removed from the infatuation of the
image-worshippers as from the frenzy of the image-breakers." And at the
same time that he thus took part in the great ecclesiastical questions,
Charlemagne paid zealous attention to the instruction of the clergy,
whose ignorance he deplored. "Ah," said he one day, "if only I had about
me a dozen clerics learned in all the sciences, as Jerome and Augustin
were!" With all his puissance it was not in his power to make Jeromes
and Augustins; but he laid the foundation, in the cathedral churches and
the great monasteries, of episcopal and cloistral schools for the
education of ecclesiastics, and carrying his solicitude still farther,
he recommended to the bishops and abbots that, in those schools, "they
should take care to make no difference between the sons of serfs and of
free men, so that they might come and sit on the same benches to study
grammar, music, and arithmetic." (_Capitularies_ of 789, art. 70.) Thus,
in the eighth century, he foreshadowed the extension which, in the
nineteenth, was to be accorded to primary instruction, to the advantage
and honor not only of the clergy, but also of the whole people.

After so much of war and toil at a distance, Charlemagne was now at Aix-
la-Chapelle, finding rest in this work of peaceful civilization. He was
embellishing the capital which he had founded, and which was called the
king's court. He had built there a grand basilica, magnificently
adorned. He was completing his own palace there. He fetched from Italy
clerics skilled in church music, a pious joyance to which he was much
devoted, and which he recommended to the bishops of his empire. In the
outskirts of Aix-la-Chapelle "he gave full scope," said Eginhard, "to his
delight in riding and hunting. Baths of naturally-tepid water gave him
great pleasure. Being passionately fond of swimming, he became so
dexterous that none could be compared with him. He invited not only his
sons, but also his friends, the grandees of his court, and sometimes even
the soldiers of his guard, to bathe with him, insomuch that there were
often a hundred and more persons bathing at a time. When age arrived he
made no alteration in his bodily habits; but, at the same time, instead
of putting away from him the thought of death, he was much taken up with
it, and prepared himself for it with stern severity. He drew up,
modified, and completed his will several times over. Three years before
his death he made out the distribution of his treasures, his money, his
wardrobe, and all his furniture, in the presence of his friends and his
officers, in order that their voice might insure, after his death, the
execution of this partition, and he set down his intentions in this
respect in a written summary, in which he massed all his riches in three
grand lots. The first two were divided into twenty-one portions, which
were to be distributed amongst the twenty-one metropolitan churches of
his empire. After having put these first two lots under seal, he willed
to preserve to himself his usual enjoyment of the third so long as he
lived. But after his death or voluntary renunciation of the things of
this world, this same lot was to be subdivided into four portions. His
intention was, that the first should be added to the twenty-one portions
which were to go to the metropolitan churches; the second set aside for
his sons and daughters, and for the sons and daughters of his sons, and
redivided amongst them in a just and proportionate manner; the third
dedicated, according to the usage of Christians, to the necessities of
the poor; and, lastly, the fourth distributed in the same way, under the
name of alms, amongst the servants, of both sexes, of the palace for
their lifetime. . . . As for the books, of which he had amassed a
large number in his library, he decided that those who wished to have
them might buy them at their proper value, and that the money which they
produced should be distributed amongst the poor."

Having thus carefully regulated his own private affairs and bounty, he,
two years later, in 813, took the measures necessary for the regulation,
after his death, of public affairs. He had lost, in 811, his eldest son
Charles, who had been his constant companion in his wars, and, in 810,
his second son Pepin, whom he had made king of Italy; and he summoned to
his side his third son Louis, king of Aquitaine, who was destined to
succeed him. He ordered the convocation of five local councils which
were to assemble at Mayence, Rheims, Chalons, Tours, and Arles, for the
purpose of bringing about, subject to the king's ratification, the
reforms necessary in the Church. Passing from the affairs of the Church
to those of the State, he convoked at Aix-la-Chapelle a general assembly
of bishops, abbots, counts, laic grandees, and of the entire people, and,
holding council in his palace with the chief amongst them, "he invited
them to make his son Louis king-emperor; whereto all assented, saying
that it was very expedient, and pleasing, also, to the people. On Sunday
in the next month, August 813, Charlemagne repaired, crown on head, with
his son Louis, to the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, laid upon the altar
another crown, and, after praying, addressed to his son a solemn
exhortation respecting all his duties as king towards God and the Church,
towards his family and his people, asked him if he were fully resolved to
fulfil them, and, at the answer that he was, bade him take the crown that
lay upon the altar, and place it with his own hands upon his head, which
Louis did amidst the acclamations of all present, who cried, 'Long live
the emperor Louis!' Charlemagne then declared his son emperor jointly
with him, and ended the solemnity with these words: 'Blessed be Thou, O
Lord God, who hast granted me grace to see with mine own eyes my son
seated on my throne!'" And Louis set out again immediately for

He was never to see his father again. Charlemagne, after his son's
departure, went out hunting, according to his custom, in the forest of
Ardenne, and continued during the whole autumn his usual mode of life.
"But in January, 814, he was taken ill," says Eginhard, "of a violent
fever, which kept him to his bed. Recurring forthwith to the remedy he
ordinarily employed against fever, he abstained from all nourishment,
persuaded that this diet would suffice to drive away or at the least
assuage the malady; but added to the fever came that pain in the side
which the Greeks call pleurisy; nevertheless the emperor persisted in his
abstinence, supporting his body only by drinks taken at long intervals;
and on the seventh day after that he had taken to his bed, having
received the holy communion," he expired about nine A.M., on Saturday,
the 28th of January, 814, in his seventy-first year.

"After performance of ablutions and funeral duties, the corpse was
carried away and buried, amidst the profound mourning of all the people,
in the church he himself had built; and above his tomb there was put up a
gilded arcade with his image and this superscription: 'In this tomb
reposeth the body of Charles, great and orthodox emperor, who did
gloriously extend the kingdom of the Franks, and did govern it happily
for forty-seven years. He died at the age of seventy years, in the year
of the Lord 814, in the seventh year of the Indiction, on the 5th of the
Kalends of February.'"

If we sum up his designs and his achievements, we find an admirably sound
idea and a vain dream, a great success and a great failure.

Charlemagne took in hand the work of placing upon a solid foundation the
Frankish-Christian dominion by stopping, in the north and south, the
flood of barbarians and Arabs--Paganism and Islamism. In that he
succeeded: the inundations of Asiatic populations spent their force in
vain against the Gallic frontier. Western and Christian Europe was
placed, territorially, beyond reach of attacks from the foreigner and
infidel. No sovereign, no human being, perhaps, ever rendered greater
service to the civilization of the world.

Charlemagne formed another conception and made another attempt. Like
more than one great barbaric warrior, he admired the Roman empire that
had fallen, its vastness all in one, and its powerful organization under
the hand of a single master. He thought he could resuscitate it,
durably, through the victory of a new people and a new faith, by the hand
of Franks and Christians. With this view he labored to conquer, convert,
and govern. He tried to be, at one and the same time, Caesar, Augustus,
and Constantine. And for a moment he appeared to have succeeded; but the
appearance passed away with himself. The unity of the empire and the
absolute power of the emperor were buried in his grave. The Christian
religion and human liberty set to work to prepare for Europe other
governments and other destinies.

Great men do great things which would not get done without them; they set
their mark plainly upon history, which realizes a portion of their ideas
and wishes; but they are far from doing all they meditate, and they know
not all they do. They are at one and the same time instruments and free
agents in a general design which is infinitely above their ken, and
which, even if a glimpse of it be caught, remains inscrutable to them--
the design of God towards mankind. When great men understand that such
is their position and accept it, they show sense, and they work to some
purpose. When they do not recognize the limits of their free agency, and
the veil which hides from their eyes the future they are laboring for,
they become the dupes, and frequently the victims, of a blind pride,
which events, in the long run, always end by exposing and punishing.

Amongst men of his rank, Charlemagne has had this singular good fortune,
that his error, his misguided attempt at imperialism, perished with him,
whilst his salutary achievement, the territorial security of Christian
Europe, has been durable, to the great honor, as well as great profit, of
European civilization.


From the death of Charlemagne to the accession of Hugh Capet,--that is,
from 814 to 987,--thirteen kings sat upon the throne of France. What
then became, under their reign and in the course of those hundred and
seventy-three years, of the two great facts which swayed the mind and
occupied the life of Charlemagne? What became, that is, of the solid
territorial foundation of the kingdom of Christian France, through
efficient repression of foreign invasion, and of the unity of that vast
empire wherein Charlemagne had attempted and hoped to resuscitate the
Roman empire?

The fate of those two facts is the very history of France under the
Carlovingian dynasty; it is the only portion of the events of that epoch
which still deserves attention nowadays, for it is the only one which has
exercised any great and lasting influence on the general history of

Attempts at foreign invasion of France were renewed very often, and in
many parts of Gallo-Frankish territory, during the whole duration of the
Carlovingian dynasty, and, even though they failed, they caused the
population of the kingdom to suffer from cruel ravages. Charlemagne,
even after his successes against the different barbaric invaders, had
foreseen the evils which would be inflicted on France by the most
formidable and most determined of them, the Northmen, coming by sea, and
landing on the coast. The most closely contemporaneous and most given to
detail of his chroniclers, the monk of St. Gall, tells in prolix and
pompous, but evidently heartfelt and sincere terms, the tale of the great
emperor's far-sightedness. "Charles, who was ever astir," says he,
"arrived by mere hap and unexpectedly, in a certain town of Narbonnese
Gaul. Whilst he was at dinner, and was as yet unrecognized of any, some
corsairs of the Northmen came to ply their piracies in the very port.
When their vessels were descried, they were supposed to be Jewish traders
according to some, African according to others, and British in the
opinion of others; but the gifted monarch, perceiving, by the build and
lightness of the craft, that they bare not merchandise, but foes, said to
his own folk, 'These vessels be not laden with merchandise, but manned
with cruel foes.' At these words all the Franks, in rivalry one with
another, run to their ships, but uselessly: for the Northmen, indeed,
hearing that yonder was he whom it was still their wont to call Charles
the Hammer, feared lest all their fleet should be taken or destroyed in
the port, and they avoided, by a flight of inconceivable rapidity, not
only the glaives, but even the eyes of those who were pursuing then.

[Illustration: Northmen on an Expedition??----254]

"Pious Charles, however, a prey to well-grounded fear, rose up from
table, stationed himself at a window looking eastward, and there remained
a long while, and his eyes were filled with tears. As none durst
question him, this warlike prince explained to the grandees who were
about his person the cause of his movement and of his tears: 'Know ye, my
lieges, wherefore I weep so bitterly? Of a surety I fear not lest these
fellows should succeed in injuring me by their miserable piracies; but it
grieveth me deeply that, whilst I live, they should have been nigh to
touching at this shore, and I am a prey to violent sorrow when I foresee
what evils they will heap upon my descendants and their people.'"

[Illustration: He remained there a long while, and his eyes were filled
with tears.----255]

The forecast and the dejection of Charles were not unreasonable. It will
be found that there is special mention made, in the chronicles of the
ninth and tenth centuries, of forty-seven incursions into France of
Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Irish pirates, all comprised under the
name of Northmen; and, doubtless, many other incursions of less gravity
have left no trace in history. "The Northmen," says M. Fauriel,
"descended from the north to the south by a sort of natural gradation or
ladder. The Scheldt was the first river by the mouth of which they
penetrated inland; the Seine was the second; the Loire the third. The
advance was threatening for the countries traversed by the Garonne; and
it was in 844 that vessels freighted with Northmen for the first time
ascended this last river to a considerable distance inland, and there
took immense booty. . . . The following year they pillaged and burnt
Saintes. In 846 they got as far as Limoges. The inhabitants, finding
themselves unable to make head against the dauntless pirates, abandoned
their hearths, together with all they had not time to carry away.
Encouraged by these successes, the Northmen reappeared next year upon the
coasts and in the rivers of Aquitaine, and they attempted to take
Bordeaux, whence they were valorously repulsed by the inhabitants; but in
848, having once more laid siege to that city, they were admitted into it
at night by the Jews, who were there in great force; the city was given
up to plunder and conflagration; a portion of the people was scattered
abroad, and the rest put to the sword." Tours, Rouen, Angers, Orleans,
Meaux, Toulouse, Saint-Lo, Bayeux, Evreux, Nantes, and Beauvais, some of
them more than once, met the fate of Saintes, Limoges, and Bordeaux. The
monasteries and churches, wherein they hoped to find treasures, were the
favorite objects of the Nortlimen's enterprises; in particular, they
plundered, at the gates of Paris, the abbey of St. Germain des Pres and
that of St. Denis, whence they carried off the abbot, who could not
purchase his freedom, save by a heavy ransom. They penetrated more than
once into Paris itself, and subjected many of its quarters to
contributions or pillage. The populations grew into the habit of
suffering and fleeing; and the local lords, and even the kings, made
arrangement sometimes with the pirates either for saving the royal
domains from the ravages, or for having their own share therein. In 850,
Pepin, king of Aquitaine, and brother of Charles the Bald, came to an
understanding with the Northmen who had ascended the Garonne, and were
threatening Toulouse. "They arrived under his guidance," says M.
Fauriel, "they laid siege to it, took it and plundered it, not halfwise,
not hastily, as folks who feared to be surprised, but leisurely, with all
security, by virtue of a treaty of alliance with one of the kings of the
country." Throughout Aquitaine there was but one cry of indignation
against Pepin, and the popularity of Charles was increased in proportion
to all the horror inspired by the ineffable misdeed of his adversary.
Charles the Bald himself, if he did not ally himself, as Pepin did, with
the invaders, took scarce any interest in the fate of the populations,
and scarcely more trouble to protect them, for Hincmar, archbishop of
Rheims, wrote to him in 859, "Many folks say that you are incessantly
repeating that it is not for you to mix yourself up with these
depredations and robberies, and that every one has but to defend himself
as best he may."

It were tedious to relate or even to enumerate all these incursions of
the Northmen, with their monotonous incidents. When their frequency and
their general character have been notified, all has been done that is due
to them from history. However, there are three on which it may be worth
while to dwell particularly, by reason of their grave historical
consequences, as well as of the dramatic details which have been
transmitted to us about them.

In the middle and during the last half of the ninth century, a chief of
the Northmen, named Hastenc or Hastings, appeared several times over on
the coasts and in the rivers of France, with numerous vessels and a
following. He had also with him, say the chronicles, a young Norwegian
or Danish prince, Bieern, called Ironsides, whom he had educated, and who
had preferred sharing the fortunes of his governor to living quietly with
the king, his father. After several expeditions into Western France,
Hastings became the theme of terrible, and very probably fabulous
stories. He extended his cruises, they say, to the Mediterranean, and,
having arrived at the coasts of Tuscany, within sight of a city which in
his ignorance he took for Rome, he resolved to pillage it; but, not
feeling strong enough to attack it by assault, he sent to the bishop to
say he was very ill, felt a wish to become a Christian, and begged to be
baptized. Some days afterwards, his comrades spread a report that he was
dead, and claimed for him the honors of a solemn burial. The bishop
consented; the coffin of Hastings was carried into the church, attended
by a large number of his followers, without visible weapons; but, in the
middle of the ceremony, Hastings suddenly leaped up, sword in hand, from
his coffin; his followers displayed the weapons they had concealed,
closed the doors, slew the priests, pillaged the ecclesiastical
treasures, and re-embarked before the very eyes of the stupefied
population, to go and resume, on the coasts of France, their incursions
and their ravages.

Whether they were true or false, these rumors of bold artifices and
distant expeditions on the part of Hastings aggravated the dismay
inspired by his appearance. He penetrated into the interior of the
country in Poitou, Anjou, Brittany, and along the Seine; pillaged the
monasteries of Jumieges, St. Vaudrille, and St. Evroul; took possession
of Chartres, and appeared before Paris, where Charles the Bald,
intrenched at St. Denis, was deliberating with his prelates and barons as
to how he might resist the Northmen or treat with them. The chronicle
says that the barons advised resistance, but that the king preferred
negotiation, and "sent the Abbot of St. Denis, the which was an exceeding
wise man," to Hastings, who, "after long parley, and by reason of large
gifts and promises," consented to stop his cruisings, to become a
Christian, and to settle in the count-ship of Chartres, "which the king
gave him as an hereditary possession, with all its appurtenances."
According to other accounts, it was only some years later, under the
young king Louis III., grandson of Charles the Bald, that Hastings was
induced, either by reverses or by payment of money, to cease from his
piracies, and accept in recompense the countship of Chartres. Whatever
may have been the date, he was, it is believed, the first chieftain of
the Northmen who renounced a life of adventure and plunder, to become, in
France, a great landed proprietor and a count of the king's. Prince
Bieern then separated from his governor, and put again to sea, "laden
with so rich a booty that he could never feel any want of wealth; but a
tempest swallowed up a great part of his fleet, and cast him upon the
coasts of Friesland, where he died soon after, for which Hastings was
exceeding sorry."

A greater chieftain of the Northmen than Hastings was soon to follow his
example, and found Normandy in France; but before Rolf, that is, Rollo,
came and gave the name of his race to a French province, the piratical.
Northmen were again to attempt a greater blow against France, and to
suffer a great reverse.

In November, 885, under the reign of Charles the Fat, after having, for
more than forty years, irregularly ravaged France, they resolved to unite
their forces in order at length to obtain possession of Paris, whose
outskirts they had so often pillaged without having been able to enter
the heart of the place, in the Ile de la Cite, which had originally been
and still was the real Paris. Two bodies of troops were set in motion;
one, under the command of Rollo, who was already famous amongst his
comrades, marched on Rouen; the other went right up the course of the
Seine, under the orders of Siegfried, whom the Northmen called their
king. Rollo took Rouen, and pushed on at once for Paris. Duke Renaud,
general of the Gallo-Frankish troops, went to encounter him on the banks
of the Eure, and sent to him, to sound his intentions, Hastings, the
newly-made count of Chartres. "Valiant warriors," said Hastings to
Rollo, "whence come ye? What seek ye here? What is the name of your
lord and master? Tell us this; for we be sent unto you by the king of
the Franks." "We be Danes," answered Rollo, "and all be equally masters
amongst us. We be come to drive out the inhabitants of this land, and to
subject it as our own country. But who art thou, thou who speakest so
glibly?" "Ye have sometime heard tell of one Hastings, who, issuing
forth from amongst you, came hither with much shipping and made desert a
great part of the kingdom of the Franks?" "Yes," said Rollo, "we have
heard tell of him; Hastings began well and ended ill." "Will ye yield
you to King Charles?" asked Hastings. "We yield," was the answer, "to
none; all that we shall take by our arms we will keep as our right. Go
and tell this, if thou wilt, to the king, whose envoy thou boastest to
be." Hastings returned to the Gallo-Frankish army, and Rollo prepared to
march on Paris. Hastings had gone back somewhat troubled in mind. Now
there was amongst the Franks one Count Tetbold (Thibault), who greatly
coveted the countship of Chartres, and he said to Hastings, "Why
slumberest thou softly? Knowest thou not that King Charles doth purpose
thy death by cause of all the Christian blood that thou didst aforetime
unjustly shed? Bethink thee of all the evil thou hast done him, by
reason whereof he purposeth to drive thee from his land. Take heed to
thyself that thou be not smitten unawares." Hastings, dismayed, at once
sold to Tetbold the town of Chartres, and, removing all that belonged to
him, departed to go and resume, for all that appears, his old course of

[Illustration: PARIS BESIEGED BY THE NORMANS----259]

On the 25th of November, 885, all the forces of the North-men formed a
junction before Paris; seven hundred huge barks covered two leagues of
the Seine, bringing, it is said, more than thirty thousand men. The
chieftains were astonished at sight of the new fortifications of the
city, a double wall of circumvallation, the bridges crowned with towers,
and in the environs the ramparts of the abbeys of St. Denis and St.
Germain solidly rebuilt. Siegfried hesitated to attack a town so well
defended. He demanded to enter alone and have an interview with the
bishop, Gozlin. "Take pity on thyself and thy flock," said he to him;
"let us but pass through this city; we will in no wise touch the town; we
will do our best to preserve for thee and Count Eudes, all your
possessions." "This city," replied the bishop, "hath been confided unto
us by the Emperor Charles, king and ruler, under God, of the powers of
the earth. He hath confided it unto us not that it should cause the ruin
but the salvation of the kingdom. If peradventure these walls had been
confided to thy keeping, as they have been to mine, wouldst thou do as
thou biddest me?" "If ever I do so," answered Siegfried, "may my head be
condemned to fall by the sword and serve as food to the dogs! But if
thou yield not to our prayers, so soon as the sun shall commence his
course, our armies will launch upon thee their poisoned arrows; and when
the sun shall end his course, they will give thee over to all the horrors
of famine; and this will they do from year to year." The bishop,
however, persisted, without further discussion; being as certain of Count
Eudes as he was of himself. Eudes, who was young and but recently made
count of Paris, was the eldest son of Robert the Strong, count of Anjou,
of the same line as Charlemagne, and but lately slain in battle against
the Northmen. Paris had for defenders two heroes, one of the Church and
the other of the Empire: the faith of the Christian and the fealty of the
vassal; the conscientiousness of the priest and the honor of the warrior.

[Illustration: The Barks of the Northmen before Paris----260]

The siege lasted thirteen months, whiles pushed vigorously forward with
eight several assaults, whiles maintained by close investment, and with
all the alternations of success and reverse, all the intermixture of
brilliant daring and obscure sufferings, that can occur when the
assailants are determined and the defenders devoted. Not only a
contemporary but an eye-witness, Abbo, a monk of St. Germain des Pres,
has recounted the details in a long poem, wherein the writer, devoid of
talent, adds nothing to the simple representation of events; it is
history itself which gives to Abbo's poem a high degree of interest. We
do not possess, in reference to these continual struggles of the Northmen
with the Gallo-Frankish populations, any other document which is equally
precise and complete, or which could make us so well acquainted with all
the incidents, all the phases of this irregular warfare between two
peoples, one without a government, the other without a country. The
bishop, Gozlin, died during the siege. Count Eudes quitted Paris for a
time to go and beg aid of the emperor; but the Parisians soon saw him
reappear on the heights of Montmartre with three battalions of troops,
and he re-entered the town, spurring on his horse and striking light and
left with his battle-axe through the ranks of the dumfounded besiegers.
The struggle was prolonged throughout the summer; and when, in November,
886, Charles the Fat at last appeared before Paris, "with a large army of
all nations," it was to purchase the retreat of the Northmen at the cost
of a heavy ransom, and by allowing them to go and winter in Burgundy,
"whereof the inhabitants obeyed not the emperor."

Some months afterwards, in 887, Charles the Fat was deposed, at a diet
held on the banks of the Rhine, by the grandees of Germanic France; and
Arnulf, a natural son of Carloman, the brother of Louis III., was
proclaimed emperor in his stead. At the same time Count Eudes, the
gallant defender of Paris, was elected king at Compiegne and crowned by
the Archbishop of Sens. Guy, duke of Spoleto, descended from Charlemagne
in the female line, hastened to France and was declared king at Langres
by the bishop of that town, but returned with precipitation to Italy,
seeing no chance of maintaining himself in his French kingship.
Elsewhere, Boso, duke of Arles, became king of Provence, and the
Burgundian Count Rodolph had himself crowned at St. Maurice, in the
Valais, king of transjuran Burgundy. There was still in France a
legitimate Carlovingian, a son of Louis the Stutterer, who was hereafter
to become Charles the Simple; but being only a child, he had been
rejected or completely forgotten, and, in the interval that was to elapse
ere his time should arrive, kings were being made in all directions.

[Illustration: Count Eudes re-entering Paris right through the Besiegers-

In the midst of this confusion, the Northmen, though they kept at a
distance from Paris, pursued in Western France their cruising and
plundering. In Rollo they had a chieftain far superior to his vagabond
predecessors. Though he still led the same life that they had, he
displayed therein other faculties, other inclinations, other views. In
his youth he had made an expedition to England, and had there contracted
a real friendship with the wise King Alfred the Great. During a campaign
in Friesland he had taken prisoner Rainier, count of Hainault; and
Alberade, countess of Brabant, made a request to Rollo for her husband's
release, offering in return to set free twelve captains of the Northmen,

Book of the day: