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Charlemagneby Derek Wilson
Synopses & Reviews
"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." — from Charlemagne
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.
"Christian warrior, scholar prince, pilgrim saint and emperor, Charlemagne (742814) has influenced modern rulers from Napoleon to Charles de Gaulle. As acclaimed British historian Wilson (Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women, and Society in Reformation England) points out in this fast-paced biography, the Frankish king who was named emperor by the pope brought civilization and peace to Europe in the Early Middle Ages. An acquisitive king intent on expanding Francia's borders and connecting politics and religion, Charles the Great, according to Wilson, is responsible for the shape of Europe as we know it today. Wilson deftly chronicles Charlemagne's military exploits, political intrigues and religious devotion. In addition to his military leadership, the emperor initiated a revival of humane learning (the Carolingian Renaissance) and the establishment of a clerical hierarchy that could preach, administer the sacraments properly and oversee matters of the empire. Although, as Wilson points out, Charlemagne's sometimes megalomaniacal personality drove his armies to the brink of disaster, he fostered a unity and a culture in his empire that have lasted to modern times. Maps. (On sale June 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Wilson writes with clarity and passion, and his thesis is food for thought for both general readers and students." Library Journal
"Wilson shows a paradoxical Charlemagne...a man who wished to conquer in the name of the Prince of Peace; who revered both learning and the learned...whose two favorite books were the Bible and Augustine's City of God; yet a man whose coevals respected and feared him for his military prowess." Kirkus Reviews
"Wilson embroiders Charlemagne's actions with the broad-minded personality that has come down to us: Charlemagne may have beheaded thousands, but he also kept his scriptoria busy, preserving many texts from oblivion." Booklist
"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
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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