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Charlemagne (Vintage)by Derek Wilson
Synopses & Reviews
An absorbing biography of the great leader who was the bridge between ancient and modern Europe — the first major study in more than twenty-five years.Charlemagne was an extraordinary figure: an ingenious military strategist, a wise but ruthless leader, a cunning politician, and a devout believer who ensured the survival of Christianity in the West. He also believed himself above the rules of the church, siring bastards across Europe, and coldly ordering the execution of 4,500 prisoners. Derek Wilson shows how this complicated, fascinating man married the military might of his army to the spiritual force of the Church in Rome, thereby forging Western Christendom. This is a remarkable portrait of Charlemagne and of the intricate political, religious, and cultural world he dominated.
"Every country has its heroes; men and women, part fact, part legend, who exist to explain and reinforce elements of the national psyche. None has been as powerful and influential as Charles the Great.... While the Charlemagne story illuminates some of the grand themes of our shared past, it remains essentially a "story"--and an adventure story at that."
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 their own times.
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 hisarmy 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.
About the Author
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.
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