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Ganelon and his supporters are eventually found guilty and put to death. Interestingly, when the trial begins, there does not seem to be any guarantee that Charlemagne will get his way. This may simply be a dramatic device used by the poet to add intrigue to the performance. However, with such an emphasis placed on the trial and the process, it is likely to have been more than a dramatic element. Although Charlemagne ultimately does get his way, there is an inherit respect for the process and proper ‘custom’ in his actions. It may also be interpreted as a feeling of impotence or lack of power, in that he La Chanson de Roland, ed. Durfournet, p. 352, lines 3747-3756.

has little or no control as to the outcome of trial. However, issues of law and Charlemagne’s influence may have been inherited from an earlier period. In particular, “Einhard seems always conscious of a ruler’s devotion to law and justice as the constant criterion for his greatness. He presents Charlemagne as a great lawgiver and judge for his people.”19 Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence that the author of Roland was familiar with Einhard’s text. However, in the twelfth-century issues of ‘custom’ and ‘law’ were becoming more prevalent and the relationship between the monarchy and the law considerably more complex.

The poet of Roland presents a complicated picture of Charlemagne and twelfthcentury kingship. God favors Charlemagne partly because of his personal characteristics and partly because of the position he occupies. There is a sense of holiness associated with the position of King and Emperor. There is a sense of legitimacy associated with Charlemagne’s role and position – one that has been passed down form Constantine and Justinian to Charlemagne himself. As a sovereign, Charlemagne is an ideal knight who leads and participates in battles. He is a just king and lord, who does not exercise absolute power, and perhaps most important, he is extremely devout. There is never really a question as to his faith. In this respect, Charlemagne is a rex christianissimus.

The religious element cannon be ignored, especially considering that the author may well have been a cleric and felt the need to emphasize this part of Charlemagne’s character. It also indicates that in the twelfth-century, the ideal faithfully defended the Church.

However, as pious and devout as Charlemagne is, there still seems to be a divide between Henry A Myers, Medieval Kingship. In cooperation with Herwig Wolfram, (Chicago, Nelson-Hall, 1982), p. 131.

the secular and religious authorities. Charlemagne is servant to no one, but God. As Richard Kaeuper points out; “we need only recall how dominant and even sacerdotal a role Charlemagne plays in the Song of Roland – blessing in Jesus’ name and in his own, conversing with his companion angels, convincing God to extend the daylight (in order to effect his revenge).”20 Charlemagne does not answer to the archbishop Turpin; rather Turpin answers to him. This becomes quite clear near the beginning of the poem when Turpin questions one of Charlemagne’s decisions.

–  –  –

Charlemagne may serve as the defender of the Church, but the churchmen are ultimately his servants. He is God’s emissary re-emphasizing the image of the king as both a political and religious figure. However, it may be a critique from the poet. It is relevant Kaeuper, Chivalry and Violence, p. 104.

The Song of Roland, Burgess, p. 172, lines, 264-274.

that the poet illustrates so vividly the king putting the churchman in his place. It is clearly at variance with contemporary texts, such as the Norman Anonymous’ Treatise, but represents pretty well the developments of the early twelfth-century, especially the relations between kings and popes after ca. 1130. Perhaps more importantly, it reflects the mindset of the Norman barons, who controlled their bishops, a situation confirmed by the 1107 agreement between the Church and Henry I of England.22

–  –  –

The representation of Charlemagne in Turpin is an extension of the picture presented in Roland. The Roland story is retold within the Turpin Chronicle along with Charlemagne’s liberation of Compostella and eventual conquest of all of Spain. The crusading image is arguably more explicit here. Charlemagne remains the powerful crusading king who confidently leads his armies into battle against the enemies of Christendom. This is not surprising considering that by the time the Turpin had been written, the mid- to late twelfth-century, crusading had become well established in the culture of the High and Late Middle Ages.

Charlemagne is presented in line with previous kings and Roman emperors.

However, Charlemagne’s exploits, particularly in Spain are much more powerful and successful. After discussing the various cities that have been conquered, the author talks about what previous kings of the Franks had done in the region and then compares them to Charlemagne’s successes.

Et post eius mortem multi reges et principes in Hyspania Sarracenos expugnaverunt. Chlodoveus namque primus rex Francorum christianus, Chlotarius, Dagobertus, Pippinus, Karolus Martellus, partim Hyspaniam adquisierunt, partim David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery; The Penguin History of Britain 1066-1284, (London, Penguin Books, 2003), pp. 138-139.

dimiserunt. Sed hic Karolus magnus totam Hyspaniam suis temporibus subiugavit.23 (And after their death, many ancient kings and princes were able to expel the Saracens from Spain. Clovis, the first Christian King of the Franks, and Lothar, Dagobert, Pepin, and Charles Martel conquered Spain, but abandoned part of it.

But Charlemagne was able, in time, to subjugate all of Spain.) There is a clear indication here that Charlemagne had surpassed all previous kings in his conquests and achievements. There is an implicit indication that previous kings had achieved a great deal, but that Charlemagne more than any other king has separated himself from the others. In the memory of twelfth-century culture, he represents the peak of Christian kingship. In addition, it is Charlemagne’s service to the Church that is emphasized as well.

After liberating Compostella and all of Spain, Charlemagne builds new churches, monasteries, and nunneries. He distributes the finest gold and silver to the poor of many of the conquered cities. He appoints bishops and abbots to their offices. He converts non-Christians to the faith and distributes the new Christian lands among his many knights and nobles who have fought by his side.

His itaque gestis terras et provincias Hyspanie pugnatoribus suis, illis scilicet qui in patria manere volebant, Karolus dimisit: terram Navarrorum et Basclorum Britannis, et terram Castel-lanorum Francis, it Nageram et Cesaraugustam Grecis et Apuleis qui in nostro exercitu erant, et terram Aragonis Pictavis, et terram Alandaluf iuxta maritima Teutonicis, et terram Portugallorum Dacis et Flandris.

terram Galicie Franci inhabitare noluerunt, quoniam nimis aspera illis videbatur.

Nemo postea fuit qui auderet in Hyspania Karolum impugnare.24 Charlemagne left Spain, while giving the lands and territories to his knights who wished to stay. To the Bretons, he gave the lands of Navarre and that of the Basques; and to the French, he gave the land of Castile, and to the Apulians, he gave the land of Nadre, Aragon, and Saragossa, to the Germans he gave the land of The Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle, Smyser, p. 60.

The Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle, Smyser, p. 79.

Landauluf which is close to the sea; and the land of Portugal was given to the Danes and Flemish. The French did not wish to inhabit the Galician lands, because they saw them as too harsh. No one was able to fight with Charlemagne after this.

The Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle is not the only source to emphasize the generosity of Charlemagne; it is rather part of a larger corpus of works that places a premium on depicting kings in this manner. It also reflects the complex relationship between monarchs and their vassals in twelfth-century society.

Interestingly, although the Turpin contained an image of an ideal king in Charlemagne, it may have also been used as a critique of the Capetian monarchy in the early thirteenth-century. Prominent nobles in conflict with the monarchy commissioned a number of prose vernacular translations. Gabrielle Spiegel argues that these vernacular versions of the pseudo-history were political propaganda and an anti-Capetian polemic.

With the increasing power of the monarchy under the reign of rulers such as Philip II Augustus, the French aristocrats in various areas including Flanders feared for their autonomy. The texts were used by the nobility as a kind of propaganda to emphasize their own familial connections with the Carolingian dynasty and the lack of connection that existed between Philip and the Carolingians, or more precisely between Philip and Charlemagne.25 Charlemagne is presented as an ideal king in order to emphasize how opposite Philip and the Capetians are to that ideal.

The Capetian kings and the ruling families that were to follow were not oblivious to the powerful influence the Carolingian legacy had in the twelfth-century. In particular, the use of the name of Charlemagne is often used to imply legitimacy or to indicate a Gabrielle M. Spiegel, “Forging the Past: The Language of Historical Truth in Middle Ages,” in The History Teacher 17, (1984), pp. 267-283.

legal precedent of some sort. This was quite common during and after the reign of Philip II Augustus.

–  –  –

The picture of twelfth-century kingship is no less complicated in the Chanson d’Aspremont. In this source, there is an ideal image of a valiant crusading king in the portrait of Charlemagne. However, there is also a rebellious vassal in the character of Girart, who often mocks Charlemagne and claims to have no loyalty or feudal obligations to the king. There is an emphasis on localized power and in some sense even an antiroyalist stance. In addition, there is the presence of a number of anti-clerical scenes throughout the poem. The century after the beginning of the ‘Investiture Conflict’ witnessed numerous dramatic episodes that illustrate the on-going conflictual relationship between church and state. This particular poem may be a reflection of the continued uneasy relationship between church and state that helped define the political and religious make-up of the High Middle Ages.

The roles of kings and vassals are laid out in a number of speeches by various characters. Despite the anti-clerical aspect and the ‘royal-noble’ feud with Girart, there is still a strong theme of ‘duty’ and ‘order’ in the story. In fact, Girart, although not a king himself, gives a speech on kingship in which he lays out all the duties of a proper king.

He says to Charlemagne and others;

“Rices rois, sire, ne vos en doit peser.

Icil om doit corone desirer Qui Deu voldra et croire et apeler, En sainte eglise servir et anorer, Les fauses lois abatre et oblier, Les bones lois essauchier et lever, Les orphenins et norir et garder, Les veves femes a salveté mener, Le felon ome de mal conseil oster

–  –  –

There are a number of themes in this short passage. First, there is an emphasis on faith and service to the Church. This is the most basic, but at the same time, the most important characteristic of any king. Second, there are obvious concerns for legal issues.

This was another prominent theme during the twelfth-century. With the increased concern for the law, it became the king’s duty to ensure that proper and good laws were La Chanson d’Aspremont, ed. Brandin, vol II, p. 34-35.

The Song of Aspremont, Newth, p. 172, lines 7159-7178.

maintained and poor laws abandoned. Third, is the concern for widows and orphans, which seems to have become part of the standard statement about a king’s duties in virtually every source examined. The last major theme in this section is the idea of keeping and using the nobility as councilors. The emphasis here is on power below the king. The passage indicates that potentially, the king can learn much from their council and advice. In fact, the language of the passage is an indicator that the model of the ideal prince is the counseling baron. He is the only one who knows how to properly ‘govern’ his soul and heart and he is the only one with the ability to exercise the proper self-discipline and self-control. Without the baron, the king is without the needed council. With the Baron, the king will be more successful and the kingdom more prosperous.

Girart gives a very similar speech at the end of the poem to one of his nobles (Florent) whom Charlemagne has made ruler of the region in southern Italy taken from the Muslim enemy. Ironically, it is Girart, not Charlemagne, who gives the speeches on proper kingship. However, it is Charlemagne who is the embodiment of the ideal king.

The way Charlemagne deals with Girart, the rebellious vassal, is an important indicator of the problems kings faced in the twelfth-century. Charlemagne’s power is far from absolute. Kings continually feuded and warred with lesser nobles for land and power.

However, the poet indicates an important sense of order in the poem. In the beginning of the story, Girart pledges no loyalty to Charlemagne and does not plan to send military aid to the cause. However, Girart is eventually convinced of the higher cause and leads his knights to fight in the ‘crusade.’ It is only after Girart submits to Charlemagne, even if only for the present military campaign, that the Christian side is victorious.

–  –  –

There are a number of sources within the literary corpus that deal not only with kingship, but also with such issues as legitimacy and social order. What is the king’s role in society; what makes a good king, and so forth. The image and representation of Charlemagne plays a major role in these sources without him actually being a main character in the stories. In fact, to understand fully the role and impact the Charlemagne legend had, it is critical to consider sources and stories where he is used only as a minor character or even as a rhetorical symbol.28 There are two literary sources that are prime examples of this practice; the mid-twelfth-century French epic Le Couronnement de Louis and the German work Willehalm.

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