“Carolingian” – The meaning of – medieval Latin ” Karolingi” – An altered form of Old High German – “Karling” meaning “descendent of Charles” derives from the latinised name of Charles Martel – The English female equivalent is Carolyn or Caroline.
Carolyn Booth couldn’t believe it when she found out her christian name had a direct link to her very ancient ancestors the Carolingians. She later told me her mother chose her name after she saw it in a knitting book.
The Carolingian Dynasty
Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) – (Carolyn Booths 41st Great Grandfather) Charles Martel was a Frankish statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death.
Martel is considered to be the founding figure of the European Middle Ages and the founder of the Carolingian Family Dynasty.
The illegitimate son of Frankish strongman, Pepin of Heristal, and a noblewoman named Alpaida, Martel successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the power behind the throne in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father’s work, he restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re–established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul. In foreign wars, Martel subjugated Bavaria, Alemannia, and Frisia, vanquished the pagan Saxons, and halted the Islamic advance into Western Europe at the Battle of Tours.
Skilled as an administrator and warrior, he is often credited with a seminal role in the development of feudalism and knighthood. Martel was a great patron of Saint Boniface and made the first attempt at reconciliation between the Papacy and the Franks. The Pope wished him to become the defender of the Holy See and offered him the Roman consulship. Martel refused the offer, but it was a sign of the things to come.
Although Martel never assumed the title of king, he divided Francia, like a king, between his sons Carloman and Pepin. Pepin was later to became the first of the Carolingians to become king. Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne, extended the Frankish realms to include much of the West, and became the first Emperor since the fall of Rome. Therefore, on the basis of his achievements, Martel is seen as laying the groundwork for the Carolingian Empire. Many historians regard Martel as “the hero of the age,” and some describe him as being the “champion of the Cross against the Crescent.
Pepin the Younger (c. 714 – 24 September 768) (Carolyn Booths 4oth Great Grandfather) Also known as Pepin the Short, was the King of the Franks from 752 until his death. He was the first of the Carolingians to become King.
The younger son of Frankish strongman, Charles Martel, Pepin’s upbringing was distinguished by the ecclesiastical education he had received from the monks of St. Denis. Succeeding his father as the Mayor of the Palace in 741, Pepin reigned over Francia jointly with his elder brother Carloman. Pepin ruled in Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, while his brother Carloman established himself in Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia. The brothers were active in subjugating revolts led by the Bavarians, Aquitanians, Saxons, and the Alemanni in the early years of their reign. In 743, they ended the Frankish interregnum by choosing Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian monarch, as figurehead king of the Franks.
Being well disposed towards the church and Papacy on account of their ecclesiastical upbringing, Pepin and Carloman continued their father’s work in supporting Saint Boniface in reforming the Frankish church, and evangelising the Saxons.
After Carloman, who was an intensely pious man, retired to religious life in 747, Pepin, became the sole ruler of the Franks. He suppressed a revolt led by his step-brother Grifo, and succeeded in becoming the undisputed master of all Francia. Giving up pretense, Pepin then forced Childeric into a monastery and had himself proclaimed king of the Franks with support of Pope Zachary in 751. The decision was not supported by all members of the Carolingian family and Pepin had to put down a revolt led by Carloman’s son, Drogo, and again by Grifo.
As King, Pepin embarked on an ambitious program to expand his power. He reformed the legislation of the Franks and continued the ecclesiastical reforms of Boniface. Pepin also intervened in favour of the Papacy of Stephen II against the Lombards in Italy. He was able to secure several cities, which he then gave to the Pope as part of the Donation of Pepin. This formed the legal basis for the Papal States in the Middle Ages. The Byzantines, keen to make good relations with the growing power of the Frankish empire, gave Pepin the title of Patricius.
In wars of expansion, Pepin conquered Septimania from the Islamic Ummayads, and subjugated the southern realms by repeatedly defeating Waifer of Aquitaine and his Basque troops, after which the Basque and Aquitanian lords saw no option but to pledge loyalty to the Franks. Pepin was, however, troubled by the relentless revolts of the Saxons and the Bavarians. He campaigned tirelessly in Germany, but the final subjugation of these tribes was left to his successors.
Pepin died in 768 and was succeeded by his sons Charlemagne and Carloman. Although unquestionably one of the most powerful and successful rulers of his time, Pepin’s reign is largely overshadowed by those of his more famous son Charlemagne.
Charlemagne – King of the Franks and Italy and First Holy Roman Emperor ( 2 April 742 – 28 January 814) (Carolyn Booths 39th Great Grandfather)
Also known as Charles the Great (German: Karl der Große; Latin: Carolus or Karolus Magnus) or Charles I, was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the First Holy Roman Emperor, and the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier.
The oldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman’s sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom.
Charlemagne continued his father’s policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, at times leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden. Charlemagne reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned as “Emperor” by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter’s Basilica.
Called the “Father of Europe”, Charlemagne’s empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.
Charlemagne died in 814 after having ruled as Emperor for just over thirteen years. He was laid to rest in his imperial capital of Aachen in today’s Germany. His son Louis the Pious succeeded him as Emperor.
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