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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

William Shakespeare
Do you agree/disagree/partially agree that Charlemagne was an example of all three?

Clovis, king of the Franks, established the Merovingian Empire in 481. Then, in 511, he
split his empire between his four sons. The kings in the Merovingian line continued to hand
down their thrones to their later generations, which slowly started to make them weak. This was
because they were using nepotism instead of giving positions based on merit. So, after time,
positions called Mayors of the Palace were formed. Mayors of the Palace, were people who were
the assistants to the descendants of Clovis who helped them pick counts or dukes, administrated
the court, and even commanded the royal army. Over time, the descendants of Clovis became to
be known as Do-Nothing kings, because they relied on the Mayors of the Palace to do work.
The Do-Nothing kings began to have virtually no power, but they still held on to their title as
king. One of the most famous Mayors of the Palace was Charles Martel. His son, Pepin became
the Frankish king. Pepins son was Charlemagne. Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was the
emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who achieved many well-known accomplishments which
have shaped the political, military, and religious aspects of Europe today. Charlemagne was
known by Einhart as a good father, honest man, and a king who loved and cared for his people.
Charlemagne introduced many important ideas to Europe including his administrative reforms
and military techniques. Additionally, Charlemagne brought back civilization to Western Europe
which had not been seen since ancient Rome. Charlemagne is universally known as great, but it
is debated if he was born great, achieved greatness, or had greatness thrust upon him.
Charlemagne was not only born into a family with accomplished ancestors, but he achieved and
obtained greatness through hard work and dedication.

Charlemagnes achievements made him undoubtedly great, but his family enabled him to
have a great legacy before any of his accomplishments transpired. In 742 AD, Charlemagne was
born to his parents Pepin and Bertrada of Laon, probably in Francia. His father, Pepin, was the
first Carolingian king to become king of the Franks, while his mother was queen of the Franks.
Charlemagnes important connections went beyond his parents. His grandfather, Charles Martel,
was the first Mayor of the Palace. Additionally, Charles Martel defeated the Moors at Tours in
732, stopping the Muslim expansion into the Frankish kingdom. Neither Pepin nor Charles
Martel inherited the right to the throne. Childeric, a descendent of Clovis, was the real king (by
title) of the Franks, but, similar to Charles Martels experience, the power laid with the Mayor of
the Palace, Pepin. So, in 750, Pepin asked Pope Zacharias to appoint him king, and he agreed.
Later, the Church recognized Pepins claim to the throne when a missionary and former Boniface
appointed him king. This act gave Pepin the right to kingship, making Pepin a famous figure
across the empire. Pepin was also famous for his donation to Pope Stephen I, of the Papal States,
known as the Donation of Pepin. The Donation of Pepin started when Pope Stephen asked Pepin
for help defeating the Lombards in exchange for helping him become king. Pepin swore a pledge
of allegiance to the church and Pope Stephen consecrated Pepin (for the second time) along with
naming his sons (including Charlemagne) the future kings of the Franks. Having a famous figure
as his father did not only give him good status, but, it helped ensure his position in power as a
ruler of the Franks. He had a good early life. He was well educated and raised by nobles and
taught to speak many different languages including Latin and Greek. He had a strong build,
suitable for the military because he was tall, active, and exercised daily. At a young age,
Charlemagne accompanied his father on campaigns against the Aquitanians, helping him learn
military strategy and how to inspire his men, which he is now known for. Charlemagne and his

brother, Carloman both participated and learned from many campagins over the course of their
young lives. During one campaign, Carloman left Charlemagne to ward off the Aquitanians
alone, forcing Charlemagne to construct one of his most used battle strategies. When Pepin died
in 768, he gave Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman the empire to rule and govern. Then,
when his brother died unexpectedly in 771, Charlemagne became the sole ruler of his empire,
setting him up for many great achievements to come.
Over the years of Charlemagnes ruling of his empire, he accomplished many great
attainments which shaped the political future and military structure of the Franks and Europe.
His main goal was to unite all the Germanic people into one kingdom and convert his subjects to
Christianity. Charlemagne also conducted 6 major campaigns with a highly disciplined army,
filled with many well equipped uniformed foot soldiers. His army, the Paladins were highly
disciplined and well armored, unlike most armies during this time period. He additionally
finished what his father had started and conquered the Lombards. Afterwards, the Lombards tried
to regain the lands Pepin had given to the Pope, so the Pope asked Charlemagne to eradicate the
Lombards in Italy. Charlemagne to not only defeat them, but in order to prevent further trouble,
he seized the crown for himself. As a result of his achievement, he became king of Francia and
Lombardy. Charlemagnes achievements were not just military, he also introduced administrative
reforms. These reforms were instituted across his empire, established key representatives in each
region, and held a general assembly each year at his court in Aachen. Along with administrative
reforms, Charlemagne created his own school which was staffed with brilliant scholars. These
scholars made many contributions to the community including Carolingian writing (Carolingian
miniscule), which was a script that was developed so the Latin alphabet could become literate.
Because Charlemagne believed he was sent by god to convert Europe to Christianity, he decided

he had to conquer the people first, even if many of them died. He dreamed of making the Roman
church strong enough to survive the poor state it would become. In order to convert Europe to
Christianity, the clergy had to be educated. Charlemagne needed Pope Hadrian, a Roman of
noble family, to make copies of church law and sent clerics to Frankland to instruct the clergy.
The more powerful Charlemagne got, the more he intruded in religious policy. Hadrian did not
agree with this interference, but it was iconoclasm, the destruction of religious icons for religious
or political moves, which ruined their relationship. When the empress of Constantinople
summoned a council to re-instate religious images, Hadrian went, which made Charlemagne
furious. In response, he wrote the Libri Carolini, a work of four great books to refuse the
conclusions of the second Council of Nicea. One of Charlemagnes greatest achievements
occurred in 800. A rebellion against the Pope started, so he asked Charlemagne to help him shut
it down. Charlemagne was successful, and, as a gift of gratitude, on Christmas day Leo crowned
Charlemagne king of the Romans. Charlemagne ruled a vast, diverse empire, so he had to find a
way to effectively govern it. He had to delegate authority to efficient regional governors. He also
needed local rulers. So, he created missi dominici ("messengers of the lord"). Missi dominici
were officials with special authority to supervise the rest of the empire's leaders. Charlemagne
continued to standardize and emphasize this system, making it a staple not only in his years of
ruling, but in other kings rulings to come. Overall, Charlemagnes greatness was achieved by
hard work and dedication, but his benefits from his fathers period of ruling also provided great
Although Charlemagne had easy access to ruling the vast empire, he worked very hard to
achieve his title of great. Charlemagnes name did mean Charles the Great, so he had a
legacy to live up to, but his actions went above and beyond the expectations of the peers, making

his name have an even greater meaning. Charlemagne put in major amounts of effort to get extra
land and extra power. For example, when the Pope asked Charlemagne to defeat the Lombards,
Charlemagne did not only defeat them, but he went on to claim the crown for himself.
Charlemagne added to the glory of his reign by gaining strong alliances with other kingdoms,
which made him well liked among everyone. Charlemagne doubled the territory he was given
originally. Additionally, he expanded his empire to its greatest height, claiming a majority of the
land of present day Europe. This proves that even though Charlemagne initially got the title of
great handed over to him, he built upon it, reaching new heights. While Charlemagnes peers did
have high expectations for his ruling, Charlemagne did rise above his expectations with his
major achievements. This attests that even though Charlemagne was fated to be a leader,
leadership was not something that was thrust upon him. While his title or family gave
Charlemagne the legacy to be great, but Charlemagnes hard work and good thinking is what
overall gained him the title of great.
In conclusion, Charlemagnes many achievements and family connections, gained him
the title great across his empire. From the day he was born, Charlemagne was admired across
the country as Charles Martels grandson or Pepins son. But, as he grew up, his many
achievements are what generally made him known as great. Although the word great means
simply above average, Charlemagnes lineage and many accomplishments made him not only
great, but extraordinary. Although Charlemagne died in 814, centuries later, because of his hard
work and dedication, Charlemagne is remembered as a great family member, military officer,
politician, and so much more.