Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

a

pleurisy. Till within a short period of his death he had still followed the chase, an amusement in which he had always delighted; and, notwithstanding some degree of lameness and bodily infirmity, he still continued to enjoy the luxury of swimming in the warm and capacious baths which he had erected at Aix-la-Chapelle. A few days of illness, in which he persevered to taste nothing but water, proved fatal to this great monarch, and he expired on the 28th of January, A.D. 814, in the seventy-second year of his age, and the forty-seventh of his reign.

He was buried in a vault beneath the great church which he had built. It is related also that he was interred in his imperial robes; that the pilgrim's wallet which he carried in his journeys to Rome, was deposited with his body; that by the side of it was placed his long and heavy sword; and that upon his breast was laid the book of the Gospels which he continually used. Yet time, which annihilates all distinctions, and shows their nothingness and vanity, invaded the tomb of the dead hero, though it is said to have been sealed up with peculiar care. In 1847 his bones were discovered at Aix-la-Chapelle, in an old chest, that lay abandoned in a dark closet adjoining the sacristy, having been exhumed by Frederic Barbarossa (A.D. 1165), who took up the bones of the monarch after his canonization by Paschal the Third. Frederic (so the story runs) kept these mortal spoils in a chest; but the vestments and insignia of the Emperor became the coronation robes and insignia of the Franco-Roman Empire; and after Francis the Second (A.D. 1792) had invested himself with them as king and emperor elect, they were conveyed to Vienna, where they still remain.

38. It is melancholy to contemplate the fallen greatness of such a mighty sovereign as Charlemagne, in these traditions. But still more melancholy is the record of the family, and of the empire which he raised to so exalted a pitch of grandeur. The Carlovingian race and their splendid inheritance was of a shorter duration than usually falls to the lot of the descendants even of ordinary monarchs. The following summary from Gibbon will suffice to convey a general idea of the sequel of the history of this great hero and his empire.

“ The pious Lewis survived his brothers, and embraced the whole empire of Charlemagne ; but the nations and the nobles, his bishops, and his children, quickly discerned that this mighty mass was no longer inspired by the same soul; and the foundations were undermined to the centre, while the external surface was yet fair and entire. After a war or a battle, which consumed one hundred thousand Franks, the empire was divided by a treaty between his three sons, who had violated every filial and fraternal duty. The kingdoms of Germany and France were for ever separated : the provinces of Gaul, between the Rhone and the Alps, the Meuse, and the Rhine, were assigned with Italy to the imperial dignity of Lothaire. In the partition of his share, Lorraine and Arles, two recent and transitory kingdoms, were bestowed on the younger children; and Lewis the Second, his eldest son, was content with the realm of Italy, the proper and sufficient patrimony of a Roman emperor. On his death, without any male issue, the vacant throne was disputed by his uncles and cousins, and the popes most dexterously seized the occasion of judging the claims and merits of the candidates, and of bestowing on the most obsequious, or most liberal, the imperial office of advocate of the Roman church. The dregs of the Carlovingian race no longer exhibited any symptoms of virtue or power, and the ridiculous epithets of the bald, the stammerer, the fat, and the simple, distinguished the tame and uniform features of a crowd of kings alike deserving of oblivion. By the failure of the collateral branches, the whole inheritance devolved to Charles the Fat, the last emperor of his family: his insanity authorized the desertion of Germany, Italy, and France; he was deposed in a Diet, and solicited his daily bread from the rebels by whose contempt his life and liberty had been spared. According to the measure of their force, the governors, the bishops, and the lords, usurped. the fragments of the falling empire; and some preference was shown to the female or illegitimate blood of Charlemagne. Of the greater part, the title and possession were alike doubtful, and their merit was adequate to the contracted scale of their dominions.” *

Gibbon, c. 49.

SUMMARY OF ERA THE TENTH.

1. The name and character of Charlemagne.-2. The nation of the Franks; their early history.-3. The subject continued.—4. The rise of Pepin d'Heristal; of Charles Martel.-5. Pepin the Short deposes Childeric and becomes king; Charlemagne is sent on an embassy to Pope Stephen. -6. Pepin defends the cause of the Pope against the King of Lombardy; is crowned with his sons by the Roman Pontiff.—7. Astolphus is conquered; the Exarchate yielded up and granted to the Pope.-8. Charlemagne as a soldier; succeeds to the crown ; acquires by his brother's death the whole empire of the Franks; his enemies.-—9. His early wars with the Saxons.-10. Witikind their general ; the Franks sustain a defeat; again conquer ; the Saxons suffer a cruel massacre.-11. Their subjugation; are compelled to receive baptism, and to renounce their religion ; Charlemagne's policy in this measure.-12. His conciliatory overtures; Witikind and Albion are baptized; the Saxons brought generally to receive Christianity.-13. They again cast off the yoke ; final and effectual measures taken by their expatriation.-14. Charlemagne's wars in Spain.-15. Reduces Navarre and Arragon; the calamity of part of his army on their return through the pass of Roncesvalles.16. Subsequent wars and operations in Spain.-17. Causes of the war with Lombardy.-18. Charlemagne's passage over the Alps; his difficulties; his victory; the siege of Pavia.—19. His march to Rome; received as Exarch ; his fine person ; splendid dress; welcomed as a deliverer. 20. He is crowned as Exarch and renews the grant of Pepin ; Pavia surrenders ; Charlemagne receives the crown of Lombardy; Desiderius and his family; their treatment. -21. Charlemagne's subsequent visit to Rome; the trial of Pope Leo; his accusers, &c.; he purges himself from the charges against him.--22. He crowns Charlemagne Emperor of the West, or Imperator Romanorum.-23. The at

tendant ceremonies.-24. The Emperor's correspondence with Irene, empress of the East; her history.—25. Her conduct in reference to the worship of images ; a council held at Frankfort, which condemns this worship.-26. Alcwin's influence in this and other matters ; his history ; bible-letter, &c.—27. Schools established by the Emperor in various places.—28. The means taken to promote learning and knowledge, and to repress superstition.-29. Charlemagne's generosity to his people; the spoils of the Avars given to the Franks; the Ring.–30. The Emperor builds a palace at Aix-la-Chapelle ; its magnificence, &c.-31. He receives embassies from Spain, and from the East; Haroun Al Raschid ; his great regard for Charlemagne ; sends him the keys, &c., of Jerusalem.--32. List of the wars carried on during the reign of Charlemagne; extent of his dominions.-33. His advanced age and past life; his journey round the shores of the northern ocean; his reflections.84. He inaugurates Louis his son with the royal dignity; the ceremony on this occasion.—35. Prognostics of his death.-36. The Emperor's habits at this time.-37. His last illness; decease and burial.—38. His descendants; the fortunes of his empire.

.

4

223

ERA THE ELEVENTH.

THE LIFE OF ALFRED THE GREAT.

THE FOUNDATION OF THE ENGLISH MONARCHY; AND THE

RISE OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION.

1. ALFRED is the first of our Anglo-Saxon kings whose history can be read with much pleasure or advantage. The early period of our national annals is singularly obscure and uncertain, and what is known of it is chiefly filled

up

with the scanty details of battles and contentions between the rival tribes, who endeavoured to gain a superiority over each other by war or murder. c7 This history,” says Hume, 6 abounds in names, but is extremely barren of events,” and our great poet Milton observes, that “the skirmishes of kites and crows as much merit a particular narrative, as the confused transactions and battles of the Saxon Heptarchy.” It is not until we arrive at the age of Alfred, that we meet with any prince whose life constitutes a very remarkable era in English history.

The nation to which Alfred belonged was one, however, that had long been settled in this country before it gave birth to so great a prince. Its origin may be traced to the northern parts of Germany, and the Cimbrian Chersonesus, a contracted territory, forming the present Duchy of Sleswig, or perhaps of Holstein. Under the reign of Valentinian (A.D. 371) the Saxons attacked the maritime provinces of Gaul; and in order to oppose their inroads the Romans appointed an officer, whom they called Count of the Saxon shore. By degrees they became more formidable, and, from being at first little better than roving pirates, at

« AnteriorContinuar »