When one thinks of Carolingian reformation, and the people related to

it directly the first person that comes to mind is the king Charles the

Great, and along with him one involuntarily thinks of his faithful

servant Einhard because he is the one that introduces him to us. But on

top of being a simple biographer Einhard has done far more greater things

in life, and today one has the opportunity to study what kind of man

Einhard was, what hed done during his life, and why is he important

through his works and documents related to him that survived until our

time. 9th century documents presented in Charlemagnes Courtier portray

Einhard as a well educated person, a talented poet, writer, and artist in

different kinds of arts, religious, humble and faithful man, as well as the

most prudent and influential courtiers of his time.

One of the most important and prominent figures of Early Medieval

Europe was the persona of Charles the Great. Charlemagne lived between 742

and 814. During the forty-seven years of his kingship, the great warrior

king was able, for a short while, to create kingdom of similar in size to

that of the Western Roman Empire. The greatness of his kingship, however,

was not in the successful war campaigns or his conquest of several

kingdoms, but in the vision that he had for his peoples and as well as the

other peoples of Europe. Often called an apostle with iron tongue

Charlemagne had seen himself as King David was for the Jewish nation. His

mission and vision were perfectly described in one of his letters to the

Pope: Our task is, with the aid of Divine Piety, to defend the holy church

of Christ with arms against the attack of Pagans and devastation by

infidels from without, and to fortify it within the knowledge of the

catholic faith. Your task most Holy Father, is to lift us your hands to

God, like Moses, so as to aid our troops, so that through your

intercession, the Christian people may with God as its leader and giver

always and everywhere be victorious over the enemies of his hole name, and

so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be famous throughout the

world. King Charles mission, the Carolingian Reformation, was to

Christianize and educate his kingdom by means of military force, the

restoration of old church documents, and the creation of educational


[ii]One of the instruments of this reformation was the palace school

because of the many great European scholars it housed. Their job was to

restore and preserve the early church documents, to guide and support the

spread of Christianity. One of the noticeable scholars of the court was

Einhard. He was born around 770. Einhard studied the Bible and the

classics at the monastery of Fulda. When he was in his twenties he was

recommended by his chief abbot Baugulf to serve in Charlemagnes court. At

court Einhard served as a courtier to Charles the Great and his son Louis

the Pious. Around the year of 815 Einhard and his wife Emma were granted

land at Michelstadt and Mulinheim. As a result of this he became not only a

courtier at kings courts, but he also was a lay abbot. Some of Einhards

contemporaries suggest that he had become rich along with other poets of

Charlemagnes court. Therefore it is a reasonable assumption to say that

Einhard was a wealthy man. He was a very prominent figure at the court, and

it is thanks to this faithful courtier that we have some of the best

medieval poetry and writing.[iii]

There is no doubt that Einhard was very well educated. Walahfrid

Strabo has these things to say on Einhards education and intelligence:

From there Baugulf sent him to the palace of Charles .because of the

specialness of his capacity for learning and his intelligence. For even in

that monastery he had shown great signs of the wisdom that later on shone

forth so clearly from him.[iv] While at Fulda, it is believed that he

studied the Bible and classics.[v] He new not only Latin, but possibly

Greek, the proof of that can be found on one of the letters of Lupus to

Einhard in May 836, where Lupus asks for explanation of some Greek words

from the book of Boethius.[vi]

To understand what Einhards interests were one would have to look at

the scholarly work he did. Information supplied to us by historians, other

royal courtiers, and surviving works of Einhard reveal that he was a poet,

a writer, and an artist. Maurus who composed The Epitaph of Einhard said:

And he was skillful in the art of many things. Modoin in his eclogues on

poets of his age mentions Nard [Einhards nickname] in the poem. This

leaves us with no doubt that Einhard was a poet.[vii]

In documents provided on Einhard one can see that he was into the

visual arts.[viii] Paul Dutton raises the question however, of whether

Bezaleel(another name for Einhard) was the mere executor of the works

accredited to him. It is obvious in the documents provided that in many

cases Einhard, just ordered the process. Einhard moved in a world of

painters, reliquary-makers, tile-makers, royal scribes, organ builders, and

palace workmen, and he knew how to use them to advantage. But it is

possible that our view on artists is very different from the view of that

time. Nevertheless he used his talent, and was accredited for it. Paul

Dutton provides a detailed drawing of the arc constructed around the time

of Charlemagne that he says can be connected to Einhard with confidence.

Einhard according to Dutton used his talent of visual arts in the

decoration of buildings and churches that were built at the time of Charles

the Great.[ix]

It is evident that Einhard was an expert in the aforementioned types

of arts, but it is the authorship of Life of Charlemagne, and The

Translation and Miracles of Marcellinus and Peter that brought a great deal

of popularity for him. In fact Life of Charlemagne is thought to be one of

the masterpieces of ninth century Europe.[x] This book reveals some of the

character traits as well as personality of Einhard. Interestingly enough,

Life of Charlemagne does not contain a lot of the facts that we know about

him. This lack of information has raised many questions around this book.

Another interesting issue about this biography is Einhards criticism of

Charles on small matters, but he fails to criticize him on big matters like

slaying of thousands of people. Overall the portrait of Charles in Life of

Charlemagne is very positive. It hardly contains any of the bad traits of

Charlemagne. This once again proves to us that Einhard was a very prudent

courtier. He didnt want say anything that may threaten him, and his

reputation, for he knew that others in court will read the biography.[xi]

Einhard displayed his great intellect, and writing talent in his book

The Translation and Miracles of Marcellinus and Peter. The content of the

book contains records about translation of remains of St. Peter and St.

Marcellinus, and the events related to this enterprise.[xii] This book is

written very carefully in my opinion. Portrait of Einhard is displayed in

contrast to the one of Hilduin who stole the relics of the holy martyrs. .

In this book a reader could see Einhard being unusually critical, of

Hilduin, for a careful and prudent courtier.[xiii] But when one starts to

analyze it in depth it is easy to realize that Einhard had a reason to be,

after all Einhard is portrayed a religious man, he spent a fortune on

bringing these relics to Fracia. He portrayed Hilduin in highly adverse

light. A part of the reason why Einhard wrote this book, as Paul Dutton

Suggests, was to address the rumors that relics did not poses real power of

saints due to separation.[xiv] That may explain why there are so many

stories of miracles in the book. Thus summing up aforementioned, Einhard

using his prudence and the power of the word, which definitely possessed,

strengthened his own reputation, as a preserver of the relics, while

weakened that of Hilduin, and he also was able to regain peoples trust in


Looking at Einhards career one can see that he assumed a lot of

different roles. Einhard was a high advisor of both Charlemagne and Louis

the Pious. He was also a lay abbot of properties in Michelstadt, and

Seligenstadt. Einhards contemporaries describe him to be always busy, and

preoccupied with the courts business, running around with books. The

letters show us Einhard acting as an agent of the emperor, as a local

patron, as a lay abbot, as the holder of properties, as an influential

referee, as a marriage broker, and as an intellectual friend.[xv] In the

court of Charlemagne we see Einhard being involved in different high state

affairs. One of those was Charlmanges partition of the kingdom among his

sons. Royal Frankish Annals states: All these things were set down in

writing and conveyed by Einhard to Pope Leo III, so that he might assent to

them with his own signature[xvi] Another time Eihanrd took part in state

business with Charles was in 813 at the diet of Aachan when he spoke in

favor of elevating of Louis the Pious to co-emperor status. As Ermold the

Black recorded it Einhard characterized Louis the Pious as a very able

person for kings throng: .You have a son with an extremely fine

character, who, because of his merits, is able to hold your

kingdoms.[xvii] These are the two times when Einhards officially involved

in making of Frankish history, although it wasnt a big part he played. But

if we look at the writing of fellow courtiers it is evident that he and the

king were very close.[xviii] It may be possible that this close friendship

that they both shared might have shaped Charlemagnes decisions. It is only

an idea, which is not evident and not necessarily true, but nevertheless

should be considered when ones analyzing position of Einhard in the court

of Charles the Great. Thus it may well be a fair assumption to say that

Einhard did have a bit of influence and power in that court when compared

to other courtiers.

During the reign of Louis the Pious Einhard and his wife Emma

received properties from the emperor in the year of 815, as a reward for

his services to both emperors.[xix] As a lay abbot he was often preoccupied

with the maters like building churches and legal issues. One could see him

at court only at certain times of the year to perform duties he usually did

with the emperor Charles the Great. On top of these duties, it is also

believed that Einhards writings were done outside of court, most likely

when he was at his residences. Perhaps it was the health problems that he

had, that made him spent certain times of the year in his residences, but

never the less he still participated in Louis the Pious government.[xx]

Another responsibility of Einhard at Louis the Pious court was to tutor and

guard Louis son Lothar, though in one of the letters it is clear that the

emperor to be wasnt too happy of this, and thus this tutorship did not

prevent the rebuke of Charles grandchildren against their father.[xxi]

Analyzing Einhards personality is no easy task. For in his

correspondence there are only a few that actually talk about his personal

life. Einhard did not trust the communication through letters, one can

especially see his position on reporting important information via letters

in his message to a certain R. in which Einhard says that letter will

reveal all of the information in it if it got into wrong hands, but a loyal

messenger will not, even if hes tortured.[xxii] Looking at this very trait

of Einhard one can conclude that he was a very careful man. But the main

characteristic of Einhard is that he was very prudent. The Astronomer calls

him the most prudent man of his time.[xxiii] The proof of this

extraordinary prudence maybe found in the fact that Einhard new how to deal

with people. He knew just when to be bold with people, and criticize them,

in a way that will profit him and leave him with spotless reputation. Also

he knew when to be patient, and not offend people. For example in the

documents collected we see just a few cases when he actually does criticize

someone, but he has the grounds to do so.

Faithfulness and loyalty was the quality of Einhard that made and

still makes people to respect him. When one looks at Einhards life, as

portrayed by the documents we have, one cant find even one that suggests

the opposite. In fact Einhard first of all demonstrated faithfulness to the

kings he served. To show his great loyalty, faithfulness and appreciation

to his king, Einhard wrote a beautiful biography called The Life of

Charlemagne. Einhard also speaks with love, and loyalty to Louis, in one of

his letters to Louis sons. He says: I have always equally loved you and

my most pious lord, your father, and have always equally wished for the

well-being of both of you. Another point that greatly suggests that Eihard

was a faithful man was his strong belief in Christianity and upholding of

commandments. Not only did he follow the commandments he also built

churches and brought the holy martyrs to Francia.[xxiv]

As was mentioned before Einhard was faithful and loyal to his kings.

He spoke with love of both of them. Looking at the documents presented to

us, one can argue that Einhard was closer with Charlemagne, it is his

biography that he write, and it is his deeds that he praises the most. And

Ermold the Black said: .Einhard, who was much loved by Charles.[xxv] We

cannot find such kind and warm word to describe relationship of Louis the

Pious and Einhard in any of the reflection on Einhard. But that doesnt

mean that they had a bad relationship. They just werent as close as with

Charles. We can find EInhard praising Louis of his ability to rule the

kingdom, and we can also find Einhard claiming to love Louis. And on the

part of Louis, he granted lots of land to Einhard, and praised him for his

valuable service. Thus theres no doubt that Einhard had a good and working

relationship with both emperors.[xxvi]

Looking at the life of Einhard one gets a sense that the topic of

religion in his life became more and more important as he progressed in

age. The fact that two of his later works, Translation and Miracles and his

letter On the Adoration of the Cross to Lupus are both on religious topic

seem to support that theory. Although it was closer towards the later years

of his life that he had much to say about religion, it is certain that he

perceived the world as a good Christian for the all of his life. But it

seems like towards the end of his life he started to spend more time on

meditating upon the wonders he saw, and theological questions he might have

had. We can find proof of his devotion to religion in his big investment of

building churches and transport of relics of saints-which was a costly

enterprise. He also paid close attention to the signs and prophecies he

received, and whenever was necessary he fasted at times for days. Summing

up theres no doubt that Einhard was a very spiritual man, he was very

committed to his faith, and it was a big part of his life.

Summarizing the aforementioned argument indeed 9th Century documents

presented in Charlemagnes Courtier portray Einhard as a well educated

person, a talented poet, writer, and artist in different kinds of arts,

religious, humble and faithful man, as well as the most prudent and

influential courtiers of his time. We discussed Einhards personality, his

responsibilities at different courts, and what they offered to him, his

beliefs, and interests, and his relationship to the two kings he served.

Einhard was a person with a wide variety of interests, strong religious

beliefs, and faithful character. He is important to the Medieval Europe,

because he was one of the faithful courtiers that carried out Carolingian




[i] Dr. Joyce Lorimer, The Achievements of Charlemagne, HI 101, Wilfrid

Laurier University, October 27, 2004

[ii] Dr. Joyce Lorimer, Carolingian Renaissance, HI 101, Wilfrid Laurier

University, November 1, 2004

[iii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, (Peterborough, Ontario,

Broadview Press, 2003), pg. xi

[iv]Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, Pg. 8

[v] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.xi

[vi] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 182

[vii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 3

[viii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.63-68

[ix] Paul Edward Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtie, rpg. xiii

[x] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. xx

[xi] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.15-62

[xii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 69-130

[xiii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, 83-89

[xiv] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.xxiv

[xv] Paul Edward Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. xxxii

[xvi] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.2

[xvii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.6

[xviii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 7-8

[xix] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 43-45

[xx] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, xv-xviii

[xxi] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 145-147

[xxii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg.158

[xxiii] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 7

[xxiv] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 177-175

[xxv] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 6

[xxvi] Paul Dutton, Charlemagnes Courtier, pg. 145


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