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Many of the literary and historical sources of the late twelfth- and thirteenthcenturies that concern Charlemagne are compilations of the most popular epics, romances, chronicles, and histories of previous medieval tradition. Elements in everything from Roland to the book of St. James were digested and condensed into a kind of quasi-official version of Charlemagne’s life and deeds. Although Philip II and others often rejected these same sources of the literary tradition associated with the legend of Charlemagne and the Carolingian past, they also used various elements of them in order to create the ‘official’ version.

The art of ruling in the twelfth-century was a major concern for most monarchs and in particular, the Capetians. For many of the Capetian kings/monarchs, the issue of legitimacy versus illegitimacy was of constant concern. During the time of Philip II’s rule, there was a legend concerning the end of the Capetian reign. This is known as the ‘Valerian prophecy.’ This story is recounted in several sources including the Grandes Chroniques de France. However, it originated in 1040 where it appears in the Historia Relationis Corporis S. Walarici. According to the legend, Saint Valery appeared to Hugh Capet and told him that the Capetian rule would last seven generations.17 Philip II stood as the seventh Capetian king. During Philip’s time, much of the propaganda effort focused on connecting the present Capetians to the past Carolingians. Louis VIII, Morrissey, Charlemagne and France, p. 79.

Philip’s son, fulfilled this need by having a credible familial connection to Charlemagne through both his parents. Philip’s connection could only be established through his mother, however, Philip’s wife and Louis’s mother had a clear connection through both parents.

Out of this complex web of actual and perceived bloodline connections emerged the ideology of the reditus regni ad stirpem Karoli Magni – the return to the lineage of Charlemagne. There have been a number of interpretations of this ideology. K. F.

Werner argued that the reditus was primarily concerned with dynastic legitimation. The reign of Louis VIII re-instituted Carolingian leadership and symbolically wiped away the sometimes ‘perceived illegitimacy’ of Hugh Capet’s accession.18 Gabrielle Spiegel argues that only when the doctrine of the reditus was incorporated into the Grandes Chroniques did it become the keystone for legitimizing the Capetian dynasty.19 According to Spiegel, the royal policies of Philip’s reign were the immediate concern.

The new patterns of political behavior needed to be explained and justified. In addition, what better way to justify Philip’s policies than to “describe his deeds as the revival of Charlemagne’s imperial genius.”20 Philip in particular showed a continuous concern with connecting his family and reign with the Carolingian past, both symbolically and through actual familial lines – an actual bloodline connection. It was widely known that the ‘sword of Charlemagne’ was carried during the ceremony of Philip’s coronation. In addition, the connection was so K.F. Werner, “Die Legitimität der Kapetinger und die Entstehung der ‘reditus regni Francorum ad stirpem Karoli’,” Die Welt als Geschichte, 12 (1952), 203.

Gabrielle Spiegel, “The Reditus Regni ad Stirpem Karoli Magni: A New Look,” French Historical Studies, 7 (1971), 145-171.

Spiegel, “Reditus Regni,” p. 172.

important and so widely reported that in 1204 Pope Innocent III wrote the letter Novit ille, which noted that “Philip Augustus is known to have descended from Charlemagne.”21 Apparently, Philip’s propaganda effort was working well.

In the late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century and especially during the time of Philip’s reign a genuine royal ideology emerged from a small group of important writers.

One of the first, Pierre of Riga, a churchman from Reims wrote of the various conflicts between Louis VII and Henry II and devoted a poem to the birth of Philip Augustus.

Another author, Rigord, a monk of Saint-Denis, wrote a chronicle of Philip II’s deeds, painting a picture of the king that was nothing short of exemplary.22 A later work by Guillaume le Breton, a poet that continued much of the work and theme of Rigord’s work, composed a new work, the Philippidos, which enhanced the image of Philip and the monarchy. Finished after Philip’s death, the epic poem of 9,000 lines describes the many military victories of Philip, especially emphasizing Bouvines, and articulated a profound statement of royal ideology. 23 In fact, at the beginning of the poem, in the dedication, Philip is actually called ‘our Karolinde.’24 In this work, Philip is viewed as the ‘living virtue’ of the former emperor.25 Philip is also described as ‘blessing his army’ Andrew Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France: Studies in the Familial Order and the State, (Cambridge, Mass., London, England, Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 110.

Baldwin, The Government of Philip Augustus, pp. 362-63.

Baldwin, The Government of Philip Augustus, pp. 362-365.

H. François Delaborde (ed.), Oeuvres De Rigord et Guillaume Le Breton: Historiens de PhilippeAuguste, (Paris, Libraire De La Société de l’Histoire de France), p. 3.

Baldwin, The Government of Philip Augustus, 366. & Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France, p.


at the battle of Bouvines, a direct reflection of the epic representation of Charlemagne.26 The revival of the name of Charles speaks volumes as to the prominence of his name, bloodline, and his symbolic importance to the institution of the monarchy.

Karolinus Although Guillaume did use epic poetry and not the increasingly popular prose, there was a tendency among some of the authors to try to separate from the genre and style of the chanson de gestes and epic tradition. An ideal example of this trend is the poem Karolinus by Egidius Parisiensis (Giles of Paris). This Latin poem, begun c. 1195was presented to the future King Louis VIII on September 3, 1200 for his thirteenth birthday. The source is typical of a number of texts of this period, in that its author creates a compilation of previous legends, stories and histories. In includes the events of Roncevaux, although the enemy has reverted to the original Basques rather than the Saracens of Roland. This is probably due to the fact that significant material was taken directly from Einhard’s work, the Vita Karoli.27 This is a significant break with the earlier literary tradition, whose authors either disregarded or did not have access to Einhard’s version.

The poem in ‘five books’ tells of the life and virtues of Charlemagne. M.L. Colker writes;

The Karolinus is the work of a pedagogue who wants to instruct the future King of France, Louis VIII, by providing him with a manual of history, wants to instill in the young man a strong sense of national pride by glorifying the early Franks and descendants, and wishes to form his character on the example of Charlemagne.

The Charlemagne whom Egidius offers is pious, powerful, and serenely majestic.

In fact, the emperor represents the cardinal virtues of antiquity. Just as Vergil Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France, 112.

Folz, Souvenir et Légende, 335.

glorified Aeneas, ancestor of Augustus, so Egidius glorifies Charlemagne, reputed ancestor of Louis VIII. For the Capetians constantly strove to be regarded as the legitimate heirs of Charlemagne.28 The five divisions of the poem do in fact correspond with the classical virtues;

‘prudentia,’ ‘justitia,’ ‘fortitudo,’ ‘temperantia,’ and the last section deals with ‘utilitas.’ The focus on virtues is a reflection of the author’s decision to root his depiction of the monarch in an ethical dimension. However, the poet actually does not stray too far from the typical representation of Charlemagne. As Robert Morrissey points out, “the virtues are illustrated through deeds of war.”29 Charlemagne still represents the ideals of knighthood and combat. In addition, many of these deeds of war were in foreign territories. Giles writes of Charlemagne’s deeds in the Karolinus;

–  –  –

This is a possible connection to Charlemagne’s perceived deeds in Spain as well as a hint of crusading ideology that creeps into this passage. Made famous through the PseudoTurpin Chronicle and the Song of Roland, Charlemagne’s supposed exploits in Spain were some of the best known. However, perhaps more importantly, Charlemagne’s image is used to illustrate the king’s role as defender of the Church and kingdom. This is not a new concept. On the contrary, the idea that the king represented the ‘defense of the M. L. Colker, ed. “The ‘Karolinus’ of Egidius Parisiensis,” Traditio 29 (1973), 204.

Morrissey, Charlemagne and France, p. 80.

Colker, ed. “The ‘Karolinus’ p. 265.

realm’ was common throughout the early and late Middle Ages. In particular, “the chroniclers of Saint-Denis had always presented the king in his capacity as defender of the realm, the Church, and the spiritual interests of the medieval world.”31 Charlemagne represented the best of both of these royal attributes. Charlemagne’s reign is used in the Karolinus as a kind of didactic exercise. The poem is also used by the author to criticize the current French king Philip II Augustus. Philip had separated from his first wife, Ingeborg and then exiled any clergyman who openly opposed his actions. To the author, Philip is also “not sufficiently gentle, moderate, tolerant, and accessible.” Although this seems like an indication that Philip does not possess enough of the qualities of Charlemagne, this is never explicitly stated. Philip is, in fact, declared a ‘specimen boni rectoris.’32 The poet carefully chronicles the history and achievements of Charlemagne while implicitly arguing that his success is the result of his virtue. For example, he treats men with kindness and displays the virtue of prudence and generosity.

Munere percepit. Contra sibi gloria maior Instans certamen obnixaque lucta receptis Plura remetiri et meritis precedere cunctos,33 Giles’s emphasis on the impressive deeds and great achievements of Charles’s life is also accompanied by his implication of Louis’s bloodline connection to Charlemagne.34 Near Gabrielle Spiegel, “‘Defense of the Realm’: Evolution of a Capetian Propaganda Slogan,” Journal of Medieval History 3 (1977), 116.

Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” p. 204.

Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” p. 285.

A lengthy discussion of Charlemagne’s deeds can be found in book IV; Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” pp.

299-300, lines 316-37.

the end of book V, Giles strongly emphasizes Louis’s ‘blood’ connection to former French kings and his duty and place in history.

Vt quos monstrabit docili breuitate libellus Cum bene mirandos Karoli miraberis actus, Coniclas quanta est Francorum gloria regum Et quanti regni quamque alti sanguinis heres Existas, o care puer, quam laudibus illis35

–  –  –

In laudes Karoli, Karoline, clietulus esto.

In laudes Karoli zelo uirtutis amande.36 In praise of Charles, he follows Charles’s line In praise of Charles, the one who loves virtue.

Louis, like his father, is to become the new Charlemagne. This is a crucial part of the developing Capetian royal ideology concerning ‘blood-right’ and ‘descent.’ With these two passages, it becomes clear that a bloodline connection to Charlemagne created a sense of legitimacy. This is the same phrase (In laudes Karoli) that will be used later, by Guillaume of Breton, to describe Philip II. Symbolically, Charlemagne had become part of the institution of the monarchy. He is an example of proper ‘royal behavior’ for Philip, Louis VIII, and other future kings.

Giles’s text is at once a celebration of the great deeds of Charlemagne, a manual for proper kingship, and a condensed history of Charlemagne’s life. As for history, it is Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” p. 316.

Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” p. 316.

intended to be a correction of previous jongleurs and mithmi who, according to Giles, continued to spread lies. In book IV, he says;

–  –  –

Giles’s text is an ideal reflection of the increased obsession with creating an official version of the history of Charlemagne. This was necessary for a number of reasons.

First, Charlemagne represented the ideal king that all rulers should strive to emulate.

Second, any connection with Charlemagne would be seen as a legitimizing factor. In the late twelfth- and thirteenth-century, Charlemagne was at the center of the emerging body of writing that became French history.

Kaiserchronik The tendency of authors (poets and chroniclers) to take previous sources and traditions and combine them into a kind of comprehensive treatise or history on a particular subject, in this case the history of Charlemagne, is a rather early development.

Perhaps the first is the author of the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle already discussed at length in previous chapters. This author combined the material of Roland, the Pilgrims Guide to Santiago de Compostella, and other traditions in order to create a broader, more ‘complete’ history of the emperor. However, it was not just the French chroniclers and the French monarchy that were concerned with preserving the image of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne continued to be popular in German lands as well. After all, it was the Colker, “The ‘Karolinus,’” p. 315.

German Emperor who orchestrated the canonization of Charlemagne, a ceremony that the French king did not even attend.38 In addition, the same practice of combining previous sources into a kind of ‘critical edition’ or compilation was just as popular in Germany as well as France. During the same period that the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle was written, (c. 1140-1165), a German source, the Kaiserchronik also appeared (c. 1150).

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