Charles of Arnulf, traditionally b. 2 April 742, d. 28 January 814, became known as Charlemagne in later years, this name derived from the French "Carolus Magnus" or Charles the Great. Charlemagne was thrust into the world of imperial leadership when his father, Pepin the Short, was recognized by Pope Zachary as King of the Franks. Shortly after his accession, Charles acquired the territories of his brother Carloman and set out to unify Europe under the Frankish crown. By 785 he had subdued both Christian and pagan armies and on Christmas Day in 800, the pope crowned him Emperor in the Roman fashion-- to the consternation of the Byzantine emperor, who claimed the title in East and West alike. Charlemagne's accomplishments included a brief revitalization of academic learning (including the invention of Carolingian miniscule, i.e. lower-case letters), trade and agricultural development, codification of law, and administrative reforms. His goal of unifying the formerly barbarian races of Europe under the aegis of the Catholic faith persisted for centuries, but squabbling among his heirs-- including a tripartite division of the Frankish empire by his grandsons-- led to the dissolution of the Frankish state by the end of the 9th century.
Charlemagne
Biography of the emperor covering his political, military, and religious entanglements.
Charlemagne (Charles the Great)
Biographical article on the Frankish ruler, in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. With bibliography.
The Life of Charlemagne
By Einhard. English translation by Samuel Epes Turner.
The Life of Charlemagne
By the Monk of St. Gall, thought by many to be Notker Balbulus.

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