January 09, 2010

Carloman and Charlemagne

For the first two years of Charlemagne's reign, he reigned with his brother Carloman. The two were crowned together in 756 by Pope Stephen. They succeeded together in 768. One the great counterfactuals of European history is what would have happened had Carloman, instead of dying in 771, lived as long as his more famous brother did. We can only speculate about that if we understand the nature of their joint rule from 768 to 771 and understanding that is more difficult than you might think. Most of the sources come from Charlemagne's later reign so project his regime's concerns back on the late 60s and early 70s. The two brothers seem to have had separate establishments- they were crowned in distinct ceremonies in 768, their palaces and fortresses were in different places. In general Carloman's were orientated towards the South West and Charlemagne's towards the North East. They appear to have had separate followings, after his brother's death Charlemagne met his brother's fideles, followers and assured them of their continuance in power. There was some quarrelling but we have no idea about its extent and can only infer its causes. McKitterick suggests that Carloman was more friendly towards the Lombard kingdom to the south than Charlemagne, based on the fact that after Carloman's death his wife fled to the court of King Desidirus of Lombardy. Its a fair surmise based on the evidence she presents but we will never know for sure.

What we can know is that there were important things binding the brothers together. Their rule depended on the claim that they could make to Pippin III's succession. It is not neccessarily true that a divided monarchy means a monarchy divided against itself- in this case the two brothers seem to have sought to reinforce each other's authority rather than attack each other. Whatever happened in this period, that should reinforce a sense that Charlemagne's rule began precariously- which takes me back to my last post on this subject, we are in the period where the precedents for European monarchs were being established and defended. The dynasty was new- and McKitterick shows that succession was not straightforward- neither was the state neccessarily going to stick together. What we are looking at with Charlemagne and Carloman is a co-rulership but a co-rulership in a particular climate and it is one more piece of evidence that the world of early Frankia was not the world of later medieval kingship.


James Higham said...

It's a story I knew nothing of but do now.