Page images

ambassadors. Late in the year 8oo Charles moved down into Italy, and held a synod at Rome in which he carefully investigated the conduct of Leo, and pronounced him blameless, while his enemies were executed or thrown into prison. The Pope then purged himself by an oath from all the charges that had been made against him, and was reinstated in his place with much solemnity. It was only a few days after Charles had thus restored and commended Leo, that the Pope paid the debt of gratitude by crowning his saviour as emperor. The details of this all-important ceremony are curious. The royal and papal courts were thronging St. Peter's basilica to celebrate the festival of Christmas. When the service was ended, and while the emperor was still kneeling before the altar in silent prayer, Leo advanced with a diadem in his hand, and charis, placed it upon the bowed head of the great king, crowned crying, ‘God grant life and victory to Charles the *P* Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific Emperor of the Romans.’ Frankish warriors and Italian clergy and citizens joined in the cry, and all present, including the Pope himself, bent their knees to Charles as he rose, and saluted him with the fashion of adoration paid to the ancient emperors. Charles himself was wont to declare that the ceremony took place without his consent having been obtained, and that he would never have entered St. Peter's that day, if he had known of the Pope's intention. Yet there is no doubt that he had seriously taken the matter into consideration long before ; it is probable that Leo in his outburst of gratitude for his restoration did no more than force Charles's hand, by sweeping away by his sudden act the king's lingering objections to the coronation. He knew that the act would be hailed with joy both by Frank and Roman, and that Charles himself was rather doubtful as to the proper form for assuming the title than opposed to its actual adoption. The way in which the coronation was viewed by the majority of his subjects may be gathered from an extract from the Frankish chronicle of Lauresheim:— ‘The name of emperor had ceased among the Greeks, for they were enduring the reign of a woman, wherefore it seemed good both to Leo the apostolic Pope, and to the holy fathers (bishops) who were in council with him, and to all Christian men, that they should hail Charles king of the Franks as emperor. For he held Rome itself, where the ancient Caesars always dwelt, and all these other possessions of his own in Italy and Gaul and Germany. Wherefore, as God had granted him all these dominions, it seemed just to them that he should accept the imperial title also, when it was offered him by the consent of all Christendom.’ That there was much to be said against the legality of the assumption by Charles of his new style, cannot be disputed. Certainly the Pope had no right to give it: nor had there been a precedent for many centuries for the conferring of the imperial title by the decayed body of nobles and the miscellaneous gathering of citizens who might still call themselves ‘the senate and people of Rome.’ Apparently the Pope, when he saluted Charles as ‘crowned by God,” claimed that. the impulse to hail him by the great name of emperor, descended by a direct inspiration from heaven upon the multitude gathered in St. Peter's. But such a plea would hardly appeal with much force, either to the Byzantine Court The meaning or to the modern historian. In truth, there was of the . much to be said for the assumption of the im“ perial style by Charles, as recognising an accomplished fact, but little for the particular forms by which it was carried out. Most especially did the fact that the Pope seemed to confer the title, by his own act and impulse, prove of incalculable harm in future years. If the coronation of the great king had taken some other form, it would have been impossible for the Popes of later generations to bring forward their preposterous claim to have the power of giving or taking away the imperial crown. The successors of Charles would have been spared many a weary journey to Rome, and many a bitter wrangle with the Holy See, if there had been a formal


election-ceremony lostriáich all the nations of the West could have taken part, or if Charles, like Napoleon in a later age, could have placed the crown on his own head instead of receiving it from the pontiff's hand. The assumption of the imperial title by the great king had many practical consequences at the moment, and many and yet more important influences upon the history of Europe for long centuries to come. The most notable of the immediate results of the coronation was that Charles and all his subjects regarded his regal authority as being reaffirmed in a new and more hallowed shape by the ceremony. Formerly his power rested on his election as king by the Franks, and afterwards by the Lombards: now he was ‘crowned by God’ as well as chosen by the people. For the future he showed an increasing tendency to insist on the omnipotence of his authority in things ecclesiastical and moral as well as in civil matters. As Heaven's anointed he claimed to be the guardian of morality and the reformer of Christendom, as well as the protector chames, of the Church. Charles had always shown a views of the deep interest in the spiritual welfare of his *P* dominions. We have seen already what energy he displayed in enforcing the conversion of Saxony, of the Slavs, and of the Avars. He had presided at innumerable councils and synods, stirring up his bishops to enforce strict discipline and sober life among the clergy, and to root out heathen survivals and immorality among the laity. Now that he had become emperor he insisted even more than before on the moral side of his authority: he thought of himself not only as the successor of Constantine and Theodosius, but even as inheriting the theocratic powers of the ancient kings of Israel—of David or of Josiah. When Charles recrossed the Alps after his coronation and held his next great council in Austrasia, he took the opportunity of bringing home his views to his liegemen. He made all his subjects, lay and secular, swear allegiance to him for a second time under his new name of emperor: every

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

person above the age of twelve was loor eve the oath administered to him by the local clergy, and to be warned “that his vow of homage was not merely a promise to be true to the emperor and to serve him against his enemies, but a promise to live in obedience to God and His law according to the best of each man's strength and understanding. It was a vow to abstain from theft and oppression and injustice, no less than from heathen practices and witchcraft: a vow to do no wrong to the Churches of God, nor to injure widows and orphans, of whom the emperor is the chosen protector and guardian.” Much more followed to the same effect: Charles formally claimed that the defence of all law and morality was involved in the imperial name, and warned his subjects that any offence against him and his ordinances was a direct crime against the anointed of God. It was not only in the mind of Charles that this high and holy view of the duty and power of the emperor found a place. He succeeded in impressing it on his own contemporaries and on long centuries to come : with him starts the idea of the ‘Holy Roman Empire,’ which affected so deeply the whole secular and religious life of the Middle Ages. The Frankish kingship, a mere rule of force, had no exalted and spiritual meaning: the new empire represented a close and conscious union of Church and State for the advantage of The Holy both. It started with the conception that the Roman emperor should be the protector and overseer of Empire. the Church: by an unhappy development it ended in making the Pope the overseer of the State. But the generation which had seen Pope Leo on his knees ‘adoring' the majesty of the great Charles, could not have foreseen the day when the successor of Charles should humbly wait for hours before the unopened door of the successor of Leo, or beg as a favour the privilege of holding his stirrup. A new age then commences in Europe with the coronation of Charles the Great. The reign of pure barbaric force is ended: there follows a time when the history of Europe is complicated by the strife of ideas no less than by the strife of armed nations. For the future we must always be on the watch to detect the influence on politics of the ideal conception of Christendom as a great empire, under a single ruler chosen by God to sway the sword, and the rival conception of it as a great Church under a single Patriarch at Rome, appointed to hold the keys of heaven and hell, and to guide kings in the way they should go. The internal government of the vast realm of Charles was a difficult problem. In his own lifetime the great king provided for it by delegating his authority in certain large sections of it to his sons: we have already spoken of his nomination of Charles, Pippin, and Lewis to be kings in Neustria, Italy, and Aquitaine. Charles contemplated the possibility of a single empire existing while yet many of its parts should be governed by vassal sovereigns. In his own time the plan worked well enough : he did not, perhaps, foresee that the problem would be far harder in the next generation, when the charles and homage and obedience of the lesser kings would his *. have to be paid to a brother, an uncle, and at last to a mere distant cousin. Charles publicly issued in 806 the scheme on which his realm was to be ruled after his death : the title of emperor and all the Frankish lands, both Neustrian and Austrasian, were to go to his first-born Charles ; with them went Saxony, Thuringia, and Burgundy. Pippin, the second son, had Italy, together with Bavaria and eastern Suabia. Lewis, the youngest child, was to take Aquitaine, Provence, and the Spanish March. This division, however, was rendered fruitless by the unexpected decease of the two elder kings: to the great grief of their father, Pippin died in 810, and Charles in 81 I. This necessitated a new division of the empire: Lewis was now the only grown man in the family: to him, therefore, was left the imperial name and all the realm save Italy, which was to be a vassal-kingdom for Bernard, the young son of Pippin. Charles, while all his sons yet lived, gave over the charge

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »