Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Ancestry of Charlemagne

The Salian Franks lived north of the Rhine River in today's Netherlands. In a later blog we will show the ancestry from King Priam of Troy down to these early Franks, who were the ancestors of the first historical King of France of the Merovingian dynasty, who ruled for more than 300 years, starting with the semi-legendary Merovek I.  Although I am showing a much longer ancestry for him with a dynasty going back to Francus, the first King of the Western Franks, these are all somewhat legendary.

These genealogies are found in both the O'Clery Book of Genealogies and Roderick Stuart's book, Royalty for Commoners.

By the time that Clovis I became King in 481, these western Franks had conquered a wide territory of northern France which was expanded considerable under following leaders. Clovis is also known as an early Christian convert. Of course, in those days there was no such thing as religious freedom or separation of church and state, so all of France became Christian. This conversion and later Charlemagne's crowning by the Pope as the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, cemented Europe as the bastion of Christianity for centuries to come.

Source: By SĂ©mhur - Own work, from Image: Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File: Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.), CC BY-SA 3.0,

As often seems to be the case in these old kingdoms's, sons and heirs fight over the right to rule, once the old leader has passed away. This weakened France after Clovis' death. The rulers of Austrasia are also in my database as my ancestors. However, they are not shown on Chart #9 since they are not direct ancestors of Charlemagne. Towards the end of the Merovingian rulers, the power was shifting towards the Mayors of the Palace of Austrasia (or Majordomo). Pepin the Short (the Fat) managed to depose Childeric III, and was crowned in his place.

The new Carolingian dynasty was named for his son, Charles the Hammer. His even more famous grandson was also called Charles who became known as "the Great" or in French, Charlemagne. In old German, as the Franks were a Germanic tribe, he was born as Karl, becoming Karl der Grosse. In Norwegian he was known as Karl den Store. In Latin he was known as Carolus Magnus. Eventually the Norwegians came to use the name Magnus as a given name for even some of their later Kings. Charlemagne was the originator of this Scandinavian given name.

Charlemagne united much of Western Europe which became the beginnings of modern France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. And in 800 he became the first Holy Roman Emperor.

Almost every name on my charts cries out for a story to go with it, but in these blogs I don't intend to do a thorough review of history but simply to identify key figures and a short overview of their role in history. Chart #9 also shows Charlemagnes direct paternal ancestry from Rome. His purely paternal side actually comes from Ferreolus, a Roman Senator, then his ancestor, Maximianus Constans (on the left of the chart) the grandson of Eutropius and Claudia Crispina shown near the center of Chart #8.

One of Charlemagne's more interesting ancestors is Attila the Hun, whom we will discuss more in a later blog. The Huns had moved from the east into Eastern Europe and had formed a united front during Attila's life (died 454). Their attacks against the Roman Empire were part of the cause of Rome's demise. The Huns were supposedly descended from the Hsiung-Nu, a nomadic peoples from the third century BCE, northern neighbors of China in today's Mongolia. Chart #9 shows that one of Attila's ancestors, Kokkhan Laoshan was married to a daughter of Liu Ying, Emporer Hui, the second ruler of the Chinese Han Dynasty. His father, Emperor Gauzu (Liu Bang), was the founder of the Han Dynasty. It may be strange to think that all Europeans may well be descended from the early Emperors of China, but here we can trace how such a thing can happen, which confirms what we have seen in prior blogs about the large calculated number of ancestors that we are descended from.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog. Also see the prior blog for other books.

Cumberland Family Software:

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you


  1. Itta de Nivelles who married Pipin I, her father was Arnoldus of Saxony and her mother, Dode Clothilde de Herstal.
    In you chart, you show Grimoald (who is this)? as Itta's father.

  2. You can always go to the links I have provided to see the complete genealogy I have posted - which includes sources. I have only a single source for Grimoald (son of Theobald, King of Franks). The source is not a primary source. However, you do not state your source for saying that her father was Arnoldus. According to wikipedia "There is no direct record of her parents", although they say it has been "suggested" that her father was Arnoldus as you state. So "perhaps" you are correct. But "perhaps" not. No one can be certain. Much of these very old genealogies for lesser known persons have to be taken as "best guesses" anyway. Valid primary records are often nonexistent.