Tradition and folklore hold that Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope on Christmas, but in real life it apparently did not happen until the following February. Still, Charlemagne’s anointing as Holy Roman Emperor on top of the kingly titles he already held was recounted as a Christmas tale for quite a while.
Most importantly, so much attention is paid to King Arthur – who may not have existed at all – that the real-life Charlemagne gets overlooked. But then reality has no place in the following look at the legends surrounding Charlemagne’s Paladins (Knights).
FOR PART TWO CLICK HERE
THE TWELVE PEERS – This term was the Charlemagne equivalent of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
If you’ll recall the reason that King Arthur’s table was round was so that nobody could be considered above the others in rank or status. The same reasoning applied with Charlemagne’s designation of his Paladins as Twelve PEERS or equals.
MAUGRIS THE ENCHANTER aka MALAGIGI – This magician was the Frankish equivalent of Merlin from King Arthur lore. Maugris was raised by a Fairy named Oriande and appears in a supporting role in many tales of Charlemagne’s Paladins, often in a mystical disguise.
Maugris was generally depicted as younger than Merlin is depicted, and often used a sword in combat. This Frankish Wizard had an Enchanted Tome in which information he needed could magically appear. Maugris often conjured up winged demons to use as flying mounts to transport him from one location to another.
BRADAMANTE – This female Paladin was the sister of Renaut de Montaubon. She wore a suit of all-white armor, making her the original White Knight.
Bradamante, who wielded an enchanted lance that unseated any opponent it touched, rescued her true love, the Saracen warrior Ruggiero from his captivity in a glass dome atop Mount Carena in Northern Africa.
The wizard Atlante was holding Ruggiero captive there in a mystical garden to prevent him from converting to Christianity and aiding Charlemagne. After Bradamante rescued Ruggiero he converted from Islam to Christianity and joined his true love as one of Charlemagne’s Paladins.
Bradamante’s parents preferred that she marry a nobleman named Leo but the female Paladin insisted she would only wed a man who could survive against her in battle. Ruggiero did so and the two were married. Legend holds that their descendants were the nobles of the House of Este.
Yes, it’s round two of this Christmas-time tradition of examining the folklore surrounding Charlemagne and his Paladins (Knights). For the first installment click HERE
And remember, this is the folklore, not the historical facts about Charlemagne and his empire.
ARCHBISHOP TURPIN OF RHEIMS – This Paladin was the legendary “Battling Bishop” who fought alongside Charlemagne and his other men in the field.
Turpin would take part in the battles, then clean up, don his robes and conduct masses of thanks to God for delivering another victory. Sort of a more badass version of Friar Tuck from Robin Hood legends.
OGIER THE DANE – Though he would go on to serve as one of Charlemagne’s most storied Paladins, Ogier was born to Geoffrey, the first Christian King of Denmark. Shortly before the child was to be baptized, six beautiful fairy maidens appeared and took turns holding the infant in their arms before kissing him and passing him on to the next maiden in line.
The first Fey gifted Ogier with bravery, the second with ample opportunities to serve in war, the third granted that he would never be vanquished in battle, the fourth gave him the gift of being pleasing for women to look upon and the fifth granted him the capacity to return the love he would inspire.
The sixth and youngest maiden was Morgana le Fey, who has a much different history in the legends of Charlemagne than in Arthurian lore. Morgana told the baby Ogier that she claimed him for her own (“imprinted” on him, you Twilight fans might say). She decreed that he would never die until he had come to visit her on the Isle of Avalon.
When Ogier was in his early teens emissaries from Charlemagne arrived in Denmark to demand a pledge of loyalty to Charlemagne as all the other Christian kingdoms had done. Geoffrey refused and so Charlemagne launched a military campaign which soon saw Geoffrey defeated and humbled.
To ensure Geoffrey’s continued loyalty his son Ogier was taken to live in Charlemagne’s court at first as a hostage, but soon the young man charmed Charlemagne and his nephew Roland. Ogier served alongside Roland as a Squire and eventually as a full Paladin.
ROLAND (Orlando to the Italians) – The most famous of Charlemagne’s Paladins. Roland’s mother was Charlemagne’s sister Bertha. When Bertha married the Paladin Milon without first securing Charlemagne’s permission he exiled the couple.
The wanderings of the now-penniless couple took them to Sutri, in Italy. Milon and Bertha lived in a cave and it was in that cave that Roland was born. After a few years Milon was slain serving in a foreign army, so Bertha and young Roland earned a living as beggars.
At length, when Charlemagne and his court were on their way to Rome for the great man to be crowned Emperor by the Pope himself, they paused at Sutri. The governor of the province held a great feast for the illustrious visitors.
Christmas Day was approaching and the cold made Roland and his mother even more uncomfortable than ever. The boy heard of the great feast being held and – all unaware that Charlemagne was his uncle – he slipped into the banquet hall to steal some food for himself and his mother. When challenged Roland angrily said he was taking the food to his mother and made his escape.
Charlemagne had had a dream recently about his exiled sister Bertha and sent some Paladins with a white horse to follow Roland at a distance. They did so, found the cave and reunited Bertha with her brother Charlemagne, who welcomed her back and promised to raise Roland like a son.
Roland grew to be a page, then a squire and finally a Paladin. He used red and white as his colors because the rags he was wearing the day he stole food for his mother were those colors.
MORE ON THE ADULT ROLAND’S ADVENTURES NEXT TIME, PLUS MORE PALADIN TALES.
MORE TO COME SOON.
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