Charlemagne is seen by historians as the bridge between ancient and modern Europe. His Holy Roman Empire was the embodiment of an ideal that inspired leaders as different as Charles V, Napoleon, and Hitler, each of whom sought to make a unified Europe a reality again in his own time.
In this new biography, the first major study of Charlemagne in more than twenty-five years, Derek Wilson provides an absorbing and lively account of his life, character, and accomplishments. Charlemagne transcends every notion we have of the traditional historical hero. A military strategist of Julius Caesar’s caliber, he had no knowledge of classical history. A ruler with the sagacity of Marcus Aurelius, he ordered summary executions more reminiscent of Caligula or Nero. A devout believer who ensured the survival of Christianity in the West, he considered himself above the Church, sired numerous bastard children, and generated accusations of incest.
As Wilson describes a Church divided between the Latin West, with its capital in Rome, and the Greek Church of the East, with its capital in Constantinople, we see not only the emergence of Europe but the trials of a Church in flux. The politics of the day were in constant play and were mastered by Charlemagne with cunning and force. By marrying the military might of his army to the spiritual might of the Church in Rome, Charlemagne dominated his world and forged Western Christendom.
Written by one of England’s most respected biographers, Charlemagne is a masterful, multidimensional portrait of a great historical figure—a man whose earthly passions were surpassed only by his religious devotion, and whose religious devotion was exceeded only by his will to power.
Derek Wilson graduated from Cambridge in 1961. He spent several years traveling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971. His highly acclaimed books include Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power , Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man , and Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women and Society in Reformation England . The organizer of the Cambridge History Festival, Wilson is married and lives in Devon, England.
Praise for Derek Wilson
“Derek Wilson’s prose style is both masterful and lively. He writes with great conviction and a breathtaking attention to the kind of personal detail that makes his books such compelling reading.”
Praise for Charlemagne
“Brilliant…an utterly captivating and exquisitely written narrative about the rise and fall of the Carolingian empire. Wilson’s reconstruction of the very different interior world that Charlemagne inhabited alone makes this a valuable book. Charlemagne is also a timely and provocative essay on the idea of Europe. Wilson convincingly argues that Charlemagne’s vision of Latin Christendom has animated ideas of Europe ever since.”
—Donald Yerxa, editor, Historically Speaking