Charlemagne, Emperor of the West - Charlemagne's Birth Date/Place - How to show what we don't know

Started by Sharon Doubell on Friday, March 6, 2015
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Showing 31-60 of 80 posts
3/10/2015 at 8:42 AM

Thanks for the suggestion, Jacques. I wouldn't have thought to try Lahiri. I'm not as experienced with sidereal systems, but the computer does the calculations so I'll only have to worry about the interpretation.

3/10/2015 at 9:40 AM

Sharon, I'm belatedly doubling back to survey the sources. Do you know where we got the idea there might be something wrong with the date? I'm not seeing that there is any real reason to doubt the traditional date of April 2, 742 at an unknown place.

The date April 2 comes from a memorial calendar at Lorsch abbey. These calendars were a common feature of medieval monasteries, although I hadn't thought any would give a birthday. (More evidence that the Franks of Charlemagne's time knew their birthdays. At least among the higher orders.) The calendars told the monks which days to pray for which of the dead. Normally, they follow the Roman custom of remembering the dead on their date of death. Frustratingly, they typically list only month and day, not the year.

The year 742 comes from Charlemagne's biographer Einhard, who says he died 28 January 841 in his 72nd year. The problem here is that his parents weren't married until 744 so he would have been illegitimate, or among the polygamous Franks not quite as legitimate. That bothers a lot of people, but I think it's worth noting that France and Germany jointly celebrated the 1200th anniversary of birth in 1942:

I wouldn't say that governments are always accurate presenters of history, but that suggests the weight of scholarly evidence at the time. I couldn't find anything on a brief search about a celebration in 1842, but in 1742 Frederick II of Prussia just happened to "take the waters" at Aachen. where he was visited by Voltaire. That visit must have been fraught with understated political tension:

I don't find any source or evidence for 744, although many people assert it.

The year 747 comes from Annales Petaviani. Here, the entries prior to 771 were compiled from other sources, so this source does not seem to me to be as good as Einhard, although Einhard is later.

The problem here is that in 747 April 2 was Easter. There is a double problem here. First, it is highly unlikely that Charlemagne was born on an Easter Sunday and yet no thought to capitalize on the aura of magic that would have been associated with that. Secondly, if anyone at the time was going to publish a false date for propaganda purposes this would be a spectacular choice.

The year 748 comes from an attempt to make the Annales Petaviani work but avoid the problem of April 2 falling Easter. These annals are the only source for a couple of relatives not mentioned by any other source, so they seem to contain valuable information. Because of a problem with the chronology around the time of Charlemagne's birth it's possible to argue that when they say 747 they really mean 748.

What I would do, personally, is lock the traditional date 2 April 742, then put all the theories in the About Me. The best summary I've found is Stewart Baldwin and Todd Farmerie at The Henry Project. They come to a different conclusion than I do (748), but I think because they aren't as comfortable with Charlemagne being "illegitimate":

Wikitree grabs a bit of this, but gets it a bit garbled and doesn't really cite anything worthwhile:

The three main Wikipedia articles for Charlemagne also give pieces of the background but do it slightly differently:


3/10/2015 at 10:11 AM

One of the things that kept me going on this was the idea that people in Charlemagne's time probably weren't too careful about their ages. That struck me as unlikely. Maybe among peasants, but I thought it certainly couldn't be true of the nobility, so I've been jotting down some thoughts to see where they might take me.

One of the things that stands out for me is that our medieval ancestors divided childhood into three parts: infantia (0 to 7), pueritia (7 to 14), and adolescens (14 to say 21). This idea goes back to St. Isidore of Seville (died 636). The Franks converted to Christianity in 496, so by Charlemagne's time some of this idea must have filtered through to them, despite the low level of education (I think). In Carolingian times boys from noble families received arms at age 14. The canonical age for the marriage of boys (meaning, the age of consent) was 14 and for girls it was 12.

These divisions remained an important concept even down to the English colonists in America. Boys from knightly families (a later time) became pages at age 7, and squires at age 14. Boys from merchant and craft families were usually apprenticed at age 14.

There must have been other civil and religious obligations and privileges linked to age. Three that come to mind are the age at Confirmation, the age of entering military service, and the age at which oaths could be made. I can find details on a quick search, but I'd guess 14, 14, and 21 respectively. It's hard for me to imagine any boy who expects to receive weapons and be trained for war not being intensely interested in when that was going to happen.

There is also the matter of penitential books. These were medieval compilations of sins that prescribed the proper penance for each. Some of the penances were linked to the age of the sinner. I'll look for an example of one of those, but here is a link about the general idea of these penitential books:

Finally an interesting aside, although it doesn't work as early as Carolingian times. There was a later medieval custom of naming children for the saint's day on which they born (if they weren't being named after a relative or god parent). It's very late but the most famous example is probably Martin Luther, who was born on St. Martin's Day. Combined with the Catholic custom of celebrating one's own name day (saint's day), it would seem that many later medieval people would have known their birthdays without much thought.

Private User
3/10/2015 at 12:13 PM

It is not unthinkable to put a 5 year old boy in education of Christianity,
if, they were part of the highest in the social rank. people with power
and wealth do what suits them best and they surely need that advantage
more than others.

3/10/2015 at 1:16 PM

Justin, I do not see a problem with Charlemagne being born on Easter; people are born when they must, and as far as being legitimate or not is not of importance either since the concept arose from the social need of recorded recognition (a very important asset for genealogists !) which in this case apparently was required at a later date. Yes, Girls could marry as soon as they showed signs of being able to bare children, that is how the population (society) could secure its future..... (& as I understand Saxons never acknowledged majority of age until 28 for boys . Perhaps St. Isodore dealt with a different set of cousins !) Ulf is right, the most privileged members of society got their education as soon as possible and in as many subjects as their status and earthly condition could afford them.

3/10/2015 at 1:29 PM

All good points, but I'm personally still extremely suspicious of a problematic source that just happens to put Charlemagne's birthday on the highest Christian holiday. As we say in America, it seems to be gilding the lily.

3/10/2015 at 2:45 PM

Dear Ulf,

You have some examples of people of kingly rank around this time being very bookish from an early age (Alfred the Great being an obvious example), but not that many. (And Alfred the Great was a younger son).

Education wasn't that much of a comparative advantage when the basic division of society was "bellatores" (those who fight), "precatores" (those who pray), and "laboratores" (those who work), and where kings were supposed to fight themselves. Men in the fighting class may only have got "real" weapons at the age of 14, but you can bet that they were undergoing intensive weapons and fighting training well before that. When Earls Leofric and Morcar fought Harald Hardrada's huge army at Stamford Bridge in 1066 (they lost, but put up a surprisingly good showing against one of the most feared warriors of the age - his banner was, tellingly, known as the "Land-Waster") they were only teenagers, and were back in battle against him, under King Harold, within a week or so. They will have needed some training in leadership, and how to use literate people and labourers to best advantage. But time taken out to be "educated" in any modern sense would have been time wasted from the urgent necessity of survival and victory in battle. Only when things got (a little) more stable did other social graces enter into comparative advantages - most obviously with William IX Duc d'Aquitaine becoming a (very funny) poet in his own right. Remember, only a few hundred years before Charlemagne, the Franks had been united under Clovis (according to Gregory of Autun's deliciously cynical account) because Clovis tricked the son of a rival into agreeing to an assassination of a rival who had "a fabulous treasure". Clovis then appears as the avenger of this wicked deed. But what is striking about the story is that the whole fabulous treasure - the basic foundation at this time of keeping your warriors faithful, until you conquered someone else whose treasure you could divide as rewards - fitted into one single box.

Charlemagne knew enough to get the scholars he needed. The system he set up could not have worked without a bureaucratic machinery brought in from the Church. But that he could have had an advantage by being educated himself, any more than having experience grinding wheat, seems to me very unlikely.


Private User
3/10/2015 at 2:56 PM

Good points Mark, but it's still not unthinkable what I wrote.

3/10/2015 at 3:49 PM

Justin, Eastern is not only a "Christian" Holiday It has to do with the Spring Solstice. It has been celebrated time immemorial everywhere on earth.
Great accounts from Ulf...Note: the "scholars" rarely got themselves killed or wounded in battle !

3/10/2015 at 3:58 PM

The purpose of such personalty as Charlemagne went beyond a kingdom, it had to do with civilization; civilization is an ongoing process as we are all aware. Of course he also had to be a great warrior. Back to Ulf, great warriors are trained to be so from early.

3/10/2015 at 4:46 PM

Justin, I thought about the following, our days two hundred thousand children are born everyday, that includes Easter, also includes a number of them being born exactly at the time of the Spring Solstice where ever the time on earth it happens. In the times of Charlemagne fewer babies were born everyday, also on the Eastern Day, Maybe as he did himself. It will be interesting to see the results your program gets for the aforementioned date.

3/11/2015 at 6:38 AM

Yes, I found an interesting fact (please exchange in your reading the "spring solstice" (my mistake) to Spring Equinox and the dates coincides since the Julian Calendar removed 10 days in the Frankish Territory. The date propose date stands: April 2 742.

3/11/2015 at 9:24 AM

Jacques, I'm confused about your ideas. Earlier, you were arguing tor 2 April 742, the traditional date. Then you argued in favor of Easter, which would make it 747, so I thought you must have changed your mind. Now you say again you like 742.

If Charlemagne was born on April 2nd, and if April 2nd was Easter in the year he was born, then he was born in 747. But the evidence arrives at 747 in a different way -- the chronicle just says he was born in 747 without noticing that it would have been Easter. The argument that he was not born in 747 depends partly on the idea that if he was born on Easter then someone would have noticed that.

Our medieval ancestors used Easter tables as the pivot for the entire calendar. In fact, Charlemagne seems to have been the one who adopted the Dionysian Easter table, displacing the tables from Victorius of Acquitaine that had been adopted by the Franks in 541. April 2 747 was Easter in the Dionysian tables but I don't know if it was also Easter in the Victorine system.

I'm not sure what you're saying about the Julian calendar removing 10 days from the calendar. I've never heard anything about that. Are you saying that there was a difference in the calculation of Easter or really that the Franks had some kind of calendar reform?

Private User
3/11/2015 at 11:49 AM

I must say that I really do not see the point of having multiple possible years of birth, neither multiple possible places. If none of them are more likely, or proven than the others, I would go with the most commonly accepted, and
as result of that, I would just have it mentioned that it is not verified.
Therefor I would set the earliest discussed year, and that is 742,
I would also settle for just Liège, because of the same reason,
there's no need to have a couple of possible birthplaces, and in order to achieve what? Approximately and most likely, will end the discussion until further evidence turns up, that's my view.

3/11/2015 at 12:37 PM

Justin, (thank you, this is a good discussion) ..... Easter (Spring Equinox) in our Gregorian calendar in fact occurs on the 20 of March each year That is the date. In the Julian Calendar, and in the other calendars which I can deduct to be as based on the Julian Calendar which possibly was the reason it was recorded by Einhard his Biographer (as you noted), the date coincides exactly with April 2, 742, since since the gregorian calendar "moved" the dating system to actually match the stars. I see no confusion since April 2 742 was the actual date of the Spring Equinox and the Easter Celebration or Holiday which is the same event. & with that date I got the astrological yoga, previously described , which in my view fits Charlemagne

Justin, The Julian Calendar was not exact. The Gregorian Calendar was Designed with the required corrections, ( Advance in the measuring tools and more stellar understanding provided better measurements )

Ulf, I agree with you, April 2 742, Liege


3/11/2015 at 1:03 PM

A. Saarine, thank you, you always show us very interesting branches.

I just found this calendar coverter -

And we do have a dating problem. - The date would be April 7 742 - I will run the astro yogas program and tell you about.

3/11/2015 at 1:30 PM

........or April 7 747 - We will have to run both dates to see which chart best fits Charlemagne, and therefore we will have to study his life extensively.

3/11/2015 at 1:37 PM

Jacques, here's my problem with that.

The date is either April 2 or it's unknown. April 2nd is the date given in the memorial calendar of Lorsch, which is more or less contemporaneous with Charlemagne himself. In other words, the monks at Lorsch were praying for the repose of his on April 2 of each year because they believed it to have been Charlemagne's birthday. There is no way to move it to a different date without kicking out the reason for thinking we have any date at all.

You are correct that the people of Charlemagne's time used the Julian calendar and that it had internal problems that led to a slippage of dates. However, the adjustment to the Gregorian calendar didn't happen until 1582 -- 800 years after Charlemagne. Today, we customarily give all historical dates as they were given at the time. We don't adjust every pre-1582 so that it matches our modern calendar. We just do what the people of the time did -- one day it was 4 October 1582 and the next day it was 15 October 1582.

Important to note here that when this adjustment was made in 1582, the calendar was off by 11 days, but in Charlemagne's time it was only off by 9 days (one day every 310 years). And this problem of the calendar being off was not directly related to the date of Easter. Easter wasn't being moved to adjust for the calendar.

Easter is not the same as the Vernal Equinox. In our modern world Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. In the older system, the idea was was supposed to be something like that but Easter was actually calculated using tables that predicted when the Vernal Equinox would be. Those tables contained errors. They got out of sync with reality, so Easter was being celebrated on dates that had nothing to do with the Vernal Equinox.

Einhard didn't say Charlemagne was born on April 2, and no one ever until modern time said Charlemagne was born on Easter. The date April 2 comes from a calendar that doesn't specify a year, so it's not possible to link the two ideas, except to say that if Charlemagne was born on April 2 747 then he was born on the date that was celebrated as Easter at the time.

3/11/2015 at 1:54 PM

Yes, Justin that makes much sense, Mind you...I suppose they had no idea about Stonehenge. So as far as purpose goes, setting aside the astrological confirmation of his real birthdate, we should leave it as noted......(until one of us find the exact date...)
A. Saaringer, dates do matter a lot (astrology), and of course Charlemagne is of utmost importance, not only because he appears to be a common ancestor to us, but also because of his historical contribution to create order in Europe.

3/11/2015 at 1:57 PM

Dear, A. Saaringer, try looking for a calendar convertor site from you searcher, sometimes the electronic exchanges do not link, either due to traffic or due to allocations.

3/11/2015 at 1:58 PM

To show how we're getting to April 2, here is some background.

The calendar at Lorsch says "IIII. Non. Apr. Nativitatis domni et gloriosissimi Karoli imperatoris et semper Augusti."

Translated, that says "4 [days before] the Nones of April the nativity of the lord and most glorious Charles, emperor and eternal augustus".

This is the conventional Latin style notation for a date. Anyone who has ever taken Latin knows what a pain it is to parse Roman dates. First, you have to know which days of each month were the kalends, the nones, and the ides. The nones of April were April 5th.

Then you have to count backwards from one of these fixed points. IIII Nones means 4 ante diem Nones, or 4 a.d. Nones, or 4 days before the Nones.

And that might make you think April 1st. Some people online fall into this newbie mistake, but the Roman calendar counts it differently. The Nones counts as one of the four days, so 4 days before April 5th is April 2nd.

3/11/2015 at 2:04 PM

Correct; now we have the year problem.....742 ?

3/11/2015 at 2:32 PM

Jacques, I'll bet you already know this stuff, but I want to go through it briefly to help anyone who is trying to follow but having problems.

Many people are not aware that there is a difference between Western (Tropical) astrology and Vedic / Hindu (Sidereal) Astrology. It is clear that both systems evolved from an earlier system that was sidereal. Because of the differences Western astrology uses a earth-based system that varies about 23 degrees from the sky-based Vedic system.

One of the big questions in modern astrological research is when Western astrology stopped using a sidereal system and started using a tropical system. I know quite a few of the leading people in this field but I haven't been able to get a good answer from any of them.

No matter how far back you go in the West it looks astrologers were already using a tropical system, but the two systems didn't start to diverge until 290 or so, and the differences between the two systems were so small for so long it isn't clear that most astrologer had the technology to distinguish between them.

I made a little project a few years of collecting every old horoscope I could find for Jesus, then running my own calculations to see if they were tropical or sidereal. All of them turned out to be tropical.

Earlier, you suggested I use Lahiri, which is the most popular sidereal system. I still plan to do that, but probably I'm going to spend more time looking at a medieval system like Charlemagne would have been familiar with. I'll be interested to hear what you come up with in your own research.

3/11/2015 at 2:35 PM

742 is my favorite, because it's based on Einhard and because it's traditional. If France and Germany celebrated 1200 years in 1942 I don't see any reason to quibble ;)

3/11/2015 at 3:48 PM

Justin the chart done in a medieval astrological system will give very interesting results.

Justin & all.....Vedic astrology functions with different measurements than Western Astrology, the subject is intricate and very precise, without the use of computers it would take days to cast a chart and as Justin explained earlier, we use programs & computers.... The planetary position in a birth chart create planetary relations, in the Vedic astrology system these are known as yogas, harmonic or and disharmonic (malefic or benefic) sonant or dissonant.... these yogas result in specif life situations (which orderly occur in one's time cycle and according to the planetary status, qualities and sidereal progressions)
By standard 1001 yogas are used (each yoga has a definition), there are thousands of them... according to this system we all experience the yogas generated by our position at time of birth. We will experience our individual yogas in our lifetime,[ many of us share many yogas, in fact when you read this, we will be sharing one !] When I entered the data for Charlemagne April 2, 742 Liege in the program, one of the many yogas generated drew my attention:

Mahadirghayu Yoga (translated from the Sanskrit)
Jupiter and Venus are in Pisces, or Moon in Taurus and the Navamsha of Taurus, or Mars has gained Simhasanamsha (Jataka Parijata).

The classical text states that a person with this combination:
'' will attain to years untold by the recitation of sacred hymns.''

" We are made from the stars - Astrophysics "

Private User
3/11/2015 at 4:25 PM

Quasi here is a comparison between gothic and swedish,
the Gothic in this text was written around 500 and is a part
in the silver bible, an evangelical book that probably in
Charlemagne's era belonged to him. He could read, but not write according to sources. I am pretty sure that I passably would have understand him if we by time traveling would have meet. ; )

atta unsar þu in himinam,------------ fader vår du i himmelen,
weihnai namo þein,---------------------helgat varde namn ditt,
qimai þiudinassus þeins,------------ må komma rike ditt,
wairþai wilja þeins,----------------------varde vilja din
swe in himina jah ana airþai,---------så i himmelen även på jorden,
hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif----bröd vårt det dagliga giv
uns himma daga--------------------------oss denna dag.

What a typical school day for "little Charles" could? have consisted of.

Studies in
religious studies
and combat art.

3/11/2015 at 5:46 PM

All of the above !

Private User
3/12/2015 at 1:18 PM

Charlemagne, Emperor of the West is your 33rd great grandfather.

Very interesting discussion on Charlemagne. I've learned more about him reading all this than every before. Thanks!

3/14/2015 at 12:20 AM

I uploaded some natal astrology charts for Charlemagne this afternoon. They are photos attached to his profile.

There are 9 charts. Three using the Tropical (Western) system, three that are also Tropical but contain some more advanced horary info for anyone who is interested, and three using the Lahiri (Hindu) system. In each set, the three charts are for 742, 747 and 748. Those are the years that have some basis in the sources.

We don't have even a wild guess for the time of day Charlemagne was born. That means we can never know the angles (Ascendant, Midheaven), which are perhaps the most important points on a natal chart (as least in Western astrology). I used noon as the birth time. That's a standard practice when the actual time is unknown because it "averages" the position of the planets for that day.

Without an Ascendant, there can be no house system. In those cases, most astrologers either use a "natural" house system, with the eastern horizon at 0 degrees Aries, or they calculate a sunrise chart. I used the natural house system because it is (arguably) the older tradition. This gives all of the charts a similar orientation, without the differences that would exist if Charlemagne were really born at noon on each of these different days.

People who are interested in astrology can take a look. Everyone else, just be patient with us ;)

3/14/2015 at 8:20 AM

Fine, I will post some of the yogas for the April 2 742, Liege, In a few days.
The Sun in this chart is in Aries
there are listed 702 yogas for this date, of which 477 are Positive Yogas, and this in my view is extraordinary

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