Monday, December 19, 2022


Charlemagne, as has been mentioned many times over the years, brought many educated people to his court (Alcuin, for example), promoting learning and art to the point where there was a Carolingian Renascence long before the Renaissance of common knowledge. One of those scholars and historians was the Frankish Eginhard, in Latin called Einhardus; we simply call him Einhard.

Born about 775, when Charlemagne was already king of the Franks and the Lombards, Einhard was sent to be educated at Fulda. He was physically small, and so focused on scholarship and Latin rather than fencing and riding. (His Latin style is considered superior to that of most writers of the time.) Around 791-2 he was accepted to Charlemagne's court and was made "Clerk of the Works" for several construction projects.

His wife was named Emma; legend says she was a daughter of Charlemagne, and that the two eloped but were forgiven by her father. The woodcut above shows the diminutive Einhard being carried by Emma as they flee Court. There is no evidence to support this story, but folklore liked the idea. The Count of Erbach in 1810 claimed descent from Charlemagne through Einhard and Emma.

He was never given a title or a permanent position until after Charlemagne's death, when Louis the Pious made Einhard his private secretary. Einhard spent about 40 years serving the father and son kings, retiring in 830. Before he retired, however, he made use of the Royal Frankish Annals to compose the Vita Karoli Magni ("Life of Charlemagne"), the most thorough—and, of course, biased—contemporary biography we have for Charlemagne. He died in 840.

Einhard was responsible for other works: On the Adoration of the Cross, On the Translations and the Miracles of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus, and a collection of letters. But the biography of Charlemagne is worth taking a closer look, next time we meet.

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