You’re Descended from Royalty and So Is Everybody Else


Image: NAUTILUS
Charlemagne, Carolingian King of the Franks, Holy Roman Emperor, the great European conciliator; your ancestor. I am making an assumption that you are broadly of European descent, which is not statistically unreasonable but certainly not definitive. If you’re not, be patient, and we’ll come to your own very regal ancestry soon enough.

By Adam Rutherford | NAUTILUS

Along with Alexander and Alfred, Charlemagne is one of a handful of kings who gets awarded the post-nominal accolade “the Great.” His early life remains mysterious and the stories are assembled from various sources, but it seems he was born around 742 A.D., just at the time when the Plague of Justinian was dispatching millions at the eastern edge of the moribund Roman Empire. The precise place of his birth is also unknown, but it’s likely to be in a town such as Aachen, now in contemporary Germany, or Liège in Belgium. Even Einhard, his dedicated servant and biographer, wouldn’t get drawn into the specifics of Charlemagne’s early life in his fawning magnum opus, The Life of Charles the Great. The very fact that this account exists—probably the first biography of a European ruler—is testament to how important he was (or at least was seen to be). In many European languages, the word “king” is itself derived from Charlemagne’s name.

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