Charlemagne: Father of Europe, Grandfather of Raymonds

While researching the Raymond family genealogy, I’ve made a list of areas I intend to conquer in honor of the Raymond name: Quebec, New York City, Pennsylvania. My list just got a whole lot longer. Grandma Nellie Stickles is a direct decedent of Charlemagne (742 – 814), Holy Roman Emperor, Father of Europe.


Charlemagne’s father, Pepin the Short, died September 24, 768 in Paris. In accordance with Visigoth tradition, Pepin’s kingdom was divided between his sons, Charlemagne and his brother Carloman I. This led to tension between the brothers, mediated only by their mother, Bertrada of Laon.

After her death, the brothers were poised for conflict. Tension were heightened when Charlemagne married Lombardy princess Desiderata in 770, only to repudiate and return her to her father’s court a year later. Lombardy was firmly in Carloman’s territory, and his people were ready to defend their homes and honor when Carloman died suddenly on December 5, 771. The people of Lombardy and Carloman’s other principalities initially held back Charlemagne’s armies, but with his famous sword Joyeuse by his side, the new boundaries of Charlemagne’s empire were soon firmly established. Joyeuse has been an honored guest at the Louvre since 1793.

charmapSorry, guys

In 799 Pope Leo III (750 – 816) was under assault. The relatives of his predecessor, Pope Adrian I, were enraged by his selection as Pope. It began with accusations of adultery and perjury, but when Leo tried to flee Rome, Adrian’s people attempted to remove the Pope’s eyes and tongue. He sought help from his longtime protector, Charlemagne, and was received with honor at Paderborn. Charlemagne marched on Rome and led negotiations to restore the Pope and reclaim the Vatican. In appreciation, Charlemagne was crowned Imperator Romanorum, Emperor of the Romans, during the Christmas mass at Old Saint Peter’s Basilica.

charpopeSave us, Emperor Charlemagne, you’re our only hope

Charlemagne died January 28, 814 at Aachen. His son, Raymond ancestor Louis the Pious, inherited his father’s kingdom and title of Holy Roman Emperor.

charlouisEmperor Charlemagne and young Louis the Pious

Other direct Raymond ancestors through this line include late Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Eparchius Avitus (384 – 426), and Clovis I,(466 – 511) the first King to unite the Franks in one empire. Clovis aided fellow Raymond ancestor Chlodoric the Parricide (d. 509) in the murder of his father Sigobert the Lame (d. 509). Once Chlodoric was on the throne, Clovis exposed him, had him executed and then took the throne for himself. Two generations later, Clovis’ granddaughter Blithilde Meroving (538 – 603) and Chlodoric’s grandson Ansbertus Moselle (535 – 611) were married, because nothing helps build peace like mutual grandchildren.

In his novel The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown claims Clovis and his Merovingian family are the decedents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

beggaSaint Begga of Landen, Nellie Stickles’ 42nd great grandmother

Our Roman ancestors were some of the first Christians, and we have a number of relatives who were later canonized. Ansbertus’ mother was Saint Dode of Reims (485 – 520). His granddaughter Saint Itta (592 -692) founded the Benedictine nunnery at Nivelles after the death of her husband, Pepin of Landen.

Two of Pepin and Itta’s daughters have been grated sainthood. Daughter Gertrude, later Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, was the abbess at the convent founded by her mother. Their other daughter, direct Raymond ancestor Begga of Andenne (613 – 694), married Ansegisel Herstal (602 – 685). Ansegisel’s father was Arnulf of Metz (582 – 640), and his grandfather was Saint Gondulf (524 – 607). Bishop Gondulf’s was himself the grandson of Saint Rusticus of Narbonne (d. 461) through his mother Artemia.

pepinii5th century Raymond bad boy Pepin II

With all of those saints, you knew we were going to have a few sinners. Ansegisel and Saint Begga’s son, Pepin Heristal (650 – 714), grandfather of namesake Pepin the Short, had a notorious affair with Raymond ancestor Alpaida. Their relationship produced two sons, Raymond ancestor Charles Martel (688 – 741)and Childebrand (678 – 751). Children give you grief, even when you’re Saint Begga.

charlesmartelThe statue of Charles Martel at the Palace of Versailles in Paris

Initially the illegitimate children were not considered true descendents of those noble emperors and saints, but over the years this illicit line of Pepin II became the most powerful family in Europe. Popular opinion changes when your decedents control the known world.

Charles Martel is considered to be a founding father of medieval Europe. He was a skilled administrator and warrior, a medieval multitasker and unifying force in Europe. He left a sizable, powerful kingdom to his son, Pepin the Short, but never could have imagined his namesake Charlemagne would expand it.

I intended for this article to be both about the ancestors and descendants of Charlamagne, but that proved impossible. This family is almost too fascinating, each of the people I briefly mention in this post could have their own article. Hopefully someday after the full family tree is sketched I can go back and write about some of them. Everyone mentioned in this post is a direct ancestor except Charlamagne’s brother Carloman, Henry I, William the Conquerer, Charles Martel’s brother Childebrand, and Saint Gertrude. Saint Gertrude is only your aunt.

My next post will be about the descendants of Charlemagne, including Louis II (846 – 879), Louis IV (920 – 954), and Charles III (879 – 929) of France. Charles married Anglo-Saxon king Edward‘s (871 – 924) daughter Eadgifu, granddaughter of Aelfread the Great  (849 – 901).

After crossing the Channel with William the Conqueror, Raymond ancestors became the prominent Namur family, and married the daughters and sons of other noble Norman families. Early Norman settler William d’Aubigny (1109 – 1176) married the young Dowager Queen Adeliza of Louvain.(1103 – 1151), widow of Henry I and daughter in law of William the Conqueror.

Many generations later Rev. John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims and founder of the Congregational Church, led his congregation away from England and persecution. But when the Mayflower departed the Netherlands with 102 of his parishioners, he chose to stay behind with the majority of his congregation. After his death, his family sailed for Plymouth colony.

His 1620 speech to the departing Pilgrims is the subject of Embarkation of the Pilgrims, painted in 1843 by Robert Weir and featured in the rotunda of the U.S. Capital, next to the Landing of Columbus.


Until next time, Saints and Sinners!