Charlemagne

European - King of the Franks. Emperor of the West. Son of Pepin the Short and Bertha. Brother of Bertha, Carloman and Pepin. Father of Belisent, Charlot, Louis, Melisenda and Pepin. He was a real-life king, variously said to have been born in 742 or 747, described as eight feet (some say twenty feet) tall, whose exploits form the basis of many legends. He fought over fifty battles against Lombards, Moors (called Saracens in the stories) and Saxons in defence of Christianity. His personal companions were known as paladins or peers. In some accounts he had nine wives: these were Adalinda, Desiderata, Fastrade, Gersuinde, Hildegarde, Himiltrude, Luitgarde, Maltegarde and Regina. Some say that his second wife was Hermangarde, daughter of Desiderius. In one story he omittted to confess certain of his sins at mass and a tablet setting out his transgressions appeared in front of the ministrant, whereupon the emperor admitted his fault and was given absolution. On another occasion he dreamed that an angel instructed him to steal something from one of his ministers. En route, he was challenged by the highwayman Elbegast, and defeated him but spared his life. Elbegast helped the king, as he then was, to enter the minister's house where he overhead a plot to kill him. Armed with a trinket he had taken from the minister's bedroom he was able to expose the plotters, but nevertheless forgave them. Elbegast became one of the king's devoted followers. Charlemagne himself was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. Soon after his investiture he fathered a son, Roland, on Bertha, his own sister, whom he then married off to Milon who assumed that the baby, born seven months later, was his own. Another version of this story says that he went on a stealing expedition with a thief called Basin, adopting the name of Magnus, which became a favourite byname of the emperor. The Saxon king Widukund led a revolt against the rule of Charlemagne but his army was defeated and the king was killed or, some say, captured, tried and imprisoned, dying soon afterwards in captivity. At about this time, Charlemagne saw a knight being drawn along in a boat on the Rhine by a swan. This man, the Swan Knight, became a member of the emperor's court and, in some accounts, married his sister. Charlemagne's kingdom was attacked by Marsilius, king of Spain and Agramant, Emperor of Africa, but he defeated them with the help of his paladins. When many of these, including his nephew Roland, were killed at the battle of Roncesvalles, he hanged not only the Spanish king but also Gano, a member of his own court who had betrayed him. When he received a request for help from Pope Leo, he took an army into Italy to repel the Saracens besieging Rome or, in some accounts, the rebellious Romans. The invaders were forced to withdraw and the Pope was re-established. In the battle, Charlemagne's horse was killed and he would have died had not Ogier intervened to save him. When Charlot killed Ogier's young son, Baldwin, Ogier, in an attack on Charlot, accidentally knocked a cup of wine into the Emperor's face. Ogier fled but was later captured and imprisoned. When Bruhier, Sultan of Arabia, attacked Paris and challenged Charlemagne, the emperor agreed to hand over Charlot for punishment if Ogier would take up the challenge of Bruhier. Another story says that Charlemagne had a sister called Alif who was seduced by a courtier, Milon, and imprisoned by her husband, King Hugon, until, after seven years, she was rescued by her son, Landres. Charlemagne restored Alif to her proper position and incarcerated Milon in the same dungeon, which was filled with snakes and toads. It is said that Charlemagne was 200 years old when he died. He lies asleep, awaiting recall to defend Christendom against the Antichrist although some believe that he returns each year, crossing the Bridge of Gold over the Rhine, to bless the crops. In some accounts he is equated with King Arthur. In some references, known as Charlemagne, Carle, Carle, Carolus Magnus, Carolus Magnus, Charlemain, Charlemain, Charles I, Charles I, Charles the Great, Charles the Great, (c, (c, Mahavira, Patrick, Plautus, Thomas the Rhymer, 742-814), 742-814), Carolus Augustus, Carolus Augustus, David, David, Magnus or Magnus.

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