In the life of Theon: A Memoir

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
short story of being a member of Charlemagne's court

Submitted: April 24, 2012

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Submitted: April 24, 2012

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In the life of Théon: A Memoir

 

by

 

Thomas J. Kelly

 

 

 

 

Early Middle Ages History 203-401 Section 602

Professor Martha Carlin

November 8, 2011


 

 

 

This written in dedication to Charlemagne. An impeccable leader to the whole of France, a great teacher and friend. May you rest well old friend until we meet again with our heavenly father

 


 


My name is Théon of Aachen; I was born in the year of our lord 765. I decided to write this memoir in the preface to honor a great friend.I was of a noble birth and spent most of my entire life growing up in Charlemagne’s Palace[i]. I remember a lot of my childhood, playing around in the palace courtyard chasing many of the animals Charlemagne had kept there; all sorts of wonderful animals - peacocks, swans, pheasants, ducks, pigeons, partridges and even turtle doves. Charlemagne told me as a boy that he liked to keep these animals on the estate for they were a sign of dignity.[ii] He had even given me the nickname of “Théon the graceful duck” as a child in lieu of  my physical appearance, walking with a slight limp that looked to him I guess as a waddle. He always made an effort to make my physical ailment to be transparent to others that he even gave animal nicknames to his inner circle[iii].

Often times he would take me along to spectate in his royal hunt. Only men in his royal court were allowed to such a spectacle. He said to me once that it “was a way to escape the confines of domesticating court”[iv]. His favorite things to hunt were wolves and always compared them to Satan.[v] It brought all of us together and in many ways showed how well everyone he had in his court worked well with one another. He had given me a small wooden sword he had crafted by one of his weaponsmiths. I called it the “Sword of Justice”. I would bang it along tree trunks and bushes in the forest as we moved through on the hunt.  My mother was always terrified whenever I would go along on a royal hunt but being alongside my father, I think eased some of her tension. When King Canloanan had died during a royal hunt from a misguided spear[vi], my mother forbade me from ever going along again. Even when I confided in Charlemagne to sneak me along he never disobeyed my mother’s orders. It made me deeply miss those nights in the forest with everyone, gazing up at the stars wondering how they connected to the heavens.[vii]

From that time on, I was stuck in the palace. Charlemagne had told me it was time for me to “become a man”. A life of academia was now all I had known and it was here were I had learned to both read and write in our native language as I shadowed Charlemagne and my Father in court sessions. It was apparent that Charlemagne wanted more for me and at the age of twelve had sent me to study alongside Albin of Britain, surnamed Alcuin, a former scholar of Charlemagne[viii], where I learned how to read and write in additional languages such as Latin and Greek. Alcuin had also taught me how to be rhetoric in my writing, as well as the workings of astronomy, a particular study I favored bringing me back to my days with everyone star gazing in the forest during royal hunts. Shortly after my thirteenth year of life in the year of our lord 778, I had received word from one of Charlemagne’s emissaries that my father died at the battle of Roncevaux pass, where he along with Anselm, Count Palatine, Roland and many others fell under an ambush set by the treacherous Gascons.[ix] It was when I returned home four years later after completing my studies with Alciun that I found out that my mother, had died the following year after my father, assumingly by the devastating loss of her husband.  

Now aged seventeen I had become a man. Upon returning to the palace for the first time, Charlemagne had taken me into private quarters and told me of the horrors of my father’s death and the untimely death of my mother. It was then at that time, for the first time I saw the large and strong, and of lofty stature man[x] burst into tears. He would tell me stories of my father and how he thought of him as a brother. During their battles together during the Aquitanian Wars when they crushed a revolt[xi], the difficulty they had crossing the Alps[xii] as they crushed Lombard Independence in 774[xiii] and then in his numerous battles in an attempt to bring the Saxons under his control.[xiv] Charlemagne continued to weep[xv] alongside me as I stood there in daze; wanting to wake up from what felt like a dream. How could my parents be gone? It felt almost surreal. Eventually, Charlemagne came to and handed me a book. It was St. Augustine's book, entitled City of God. “It’s my personal favorite[xvi]” he said. “I want you to have it. Welcome home.” Not soon after returning home, I became an integrate part of Charlemagne’s court.

In the months and years that followed, I was put under the direction of Adalhard, his leading adviser[xvii] and helped Charlemagne construct geographical maps. A project which I am particularly proud of was three engraved table top maps[xviii]. One of these depicted the city of Rome and another, the city of Constantinople; the third was a map of the entire world.[xix] The agenda of these meetings were mainly tactical in the terms of to deal with matters of war and peace throughout his kingdom[xx]. We traveled together as a small entourage,[xxi] often along river banks not only for faster travel but to always be near an adequate water supply and camped near royal abbeys that had suitable unrocky, flat land mainly during the summer months to escape winters.[xxii] It was again, during these times spent in the royal abbeys with the entourage and time with Charlemagne gazing at the night sky that I realized why he had sent me to go study under Albin of Britain, the importance of learning and the desire to instruct others.[xxiii]  During our travels throughout the kingdom, I was tasked with creating itineraries of travel routes which Charlemagne saw as crucial information[xxiv] .  I assume to create safe travel routes while on roads to avoid any hostilities. These meetings for the matters of the kingdom were particularly secret in the eyes of Charlemagne, for he barely ever let anything be written down and valued spoken word.[xxv]

Charlemagne at this time started to expand and defend his reign. I, in turn was ordered by him to stay behind in the palace; for in many ways, I think he still saw me as “Théon the graceful duck”. I honored him and did not disobey his command. It was in this time he had me on diplomatic missions for the Roman church and I secured the delivery of large amounts of gold, silver and precious stones to the church. He appeared to have a love for the church of St. Peter[xxvi] among all holy lands we visited within his kingdom and while on these diplomatic missions, I saw why. In the year of our lord 786, he sent out to crush a rebellion of Bretons in the western point of Gaul.[xxvii] It was also in this year that Charlemagne required an oath of allegiance from his followers after an attempt on his life[xxviii]. Then in the following year, he crushed another uprising in northern Italy against the Beneventans. [xxix]. The following year 788, Charlemagne appeared in person to confront Duke Tassilo of Bavaria for his insubordination, in retaliation he striped the duke of his title and distributed his lands between his counts.[xxx]Once Charlemagne secured his kingdom he set his sights on expansion. Then in the year of our lord 789 he crushed the forces of the Slavs, known in their own language as Welatabians to bring their region under his influence.[xxxi] With stability growing in his kingdom he moved his forces against the Huns in the year of our lord 791. This campaign possibly the most deadly in his military career spanned a total of eight years and saw the death of two of his chief men, Eric, Duke of Friuli, who was killed in Tarsatch, and Gerold, Governor of Bavaria, who met his death in Pannonia.[xxxii]. In between this time in the year of our lord 792, he survived another attempt on his life. This time conducted by his own son, Pepin the hunchback. Pepin persuaded by promises of royal authority from the rebellion. Charlemagne quickly deposed of the plot and then forced his son to live a life of religious monastery in Prüm.[xxxiii] His kingdom also is struck with a poor harvest in the year of our lord 792 which causes widespread famine[xxxiv] to which at one time, I myself became gravely ill and almost die. I am forced to spend the rest of my days in the palace from the illness unable to travel.

What happened next to Charlemagne, changed the course of any revelation he himself or anyone would have thought. In the year of our lord 800, Charlemagne had received word that his friend, Pontiff Leo had come under attack by Romans, cutting out his eyes and tongue. Charlemagne entered Rome to restore order and on Christmas day, was crowned Emperor of Rome.[xxxv] The years that followed were also kind to Charlemagne in a military fashion. The war with the Saxons came to an end while the Bohemian and Linonian wars that followed were quickly concluded. Shortly after, a Danish king by the name of Godfred who began his career as a pirate had declared war on Charlemagne, and promised at one time that he would invade Aachen and take control of Charlemagne’s empire, however, in the year of our lord 810 King Godfred was assassinated by one of his bodyguards and all threats against Charlemagne and his empire ceased.[xxxvi]

In the year of our lord 813, Charlemagne became ill. He summoned his last reaming son, Louis of Aquitaine and all his chief men throughout the kingdom, to court. It was here that Charlemagne did the duty of coronation to Louis of Aquitaine, making him co-emperor of his father’s empire which was found of unanimous consent.[xxxvii] This was the first time I saw Charlemagne since we parted ways back during the start of his military expeditions in the year of our lord 786. Shortly after this grand event, Charlemagne sent out on a royal hunt.[xxxviii] I was lucky enough to gather enough strength from my own illness and joined him in his adventure. It was just as I remembered as a child, the sheer skill and teamwork involved in such a gathering, except this time I actually got to wield a sword. All that time as a child with my “Sword of Justice” would finally pay off. At night we did as we had always done when out in the countryside, and gazed up at the stars. “I’m very proud of the man you have become Théon” he said to me. “Your parents would be as well”. “Thank you” I replied. “I tried to become a great man, I miss them deeply”. It was silent for a while and he began to speak again, “Out of everything I’ve done, everything I’ve accomplished; I never wanted this – to be emperor.”[xxxix] I sat in a silent obedient state and after a short while, we continued a conversation on our past experiences, reminiscing, and discussing astronomy throughout the night and eventually went back into our routine of the hunt after a nights rest. We returned from the royal hunt after autumn’s end and then a short time after, Charlemagne became ill with fever.[xl]

Charlemagne passed away on the twenty eighth day of January in the year of our lord 814, and was laid to rest in the basilica here in Aachen which he himself funded.[xli] There was a small viewing for members of the court upon the burial. The tears come down my face as I said goodbye to an old friend, I placed the two items he had given me that changed my life forever within his sarcophagus. St. Augustine's book, entitled The City of God and the wooden sword I had kept since my adolescence, “Sword of Justice”. “May these treat you well in the next life as they did me in this one, friend.” I said with a whimper.



[i] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp - Section 14.

[ii] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 51

[iii] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 47

[iv] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 49

[v] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Pages 63-66

[vi] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 49

[vii] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 100

[viii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 25

[ix] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 9.

[x] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 22.

[xi] Charlemagne

François L. Ganshof

Speculum , Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 520-528

Published by: Medieval Academy of America

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2854638 Accessed on 28-Oct 2011- Pg 520

[xii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  -Section 6

[xiii] Charlemagne

François L. Ganshof

Speculum , Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 520-528

Published by: Medieval Academy of America

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2854638  Accessed on 28-Oct 2011- Pg 521

[xiv] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 7

[xv] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 19

[xvi] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 24

[xvii] Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff

Author(s): Bernard S. Bachrach

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 313-357

Published by: Society for Military History

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093063  Accessed: 28/10/2011 17:50 – page 317

[xviii] Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff

Author(s): Bernard S. Bachrach

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 313-357

Published by: Society for Military History

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093063Accessed: 28/10/2011 17:50 – page 329

[xix] Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff

Author(s): Bernard S. Bachrach

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 313-357

Published by: Society for Military History

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093063  . Accessed: 28/10/2011 17:50 – page 329

[xx] Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff

Author(s): Bernard S. Bachrach

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 313-357

Published by: Society for Military History

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093063Accessed: 28/10/2011 17:50 – page 326

[xxi] McKitterick, Rosamond. Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print. Page 212

[xxii] McKitterick, Rosamond. Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print. Page 187

[xxiii] Charlemagne: De Litteris Colendis

In Boretius, No. 29, p. 78, trans. by D. C. Munro, in - University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1900]. Vol. VI, No. 5, pp. 12-14

[xxiv] Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff

Author(s): Bernard S. Bachrach

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 313-357

Published by: Society for Military History

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3093063  .Accessed: 28/10/2011 17:50 – page 332

[xxv] Dutton, Paul E. Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print. Page 130

[xxvi] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 27.

[xxvii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp  - Section 10.

[xxviii] Charlemagne

François L. Ganshof

Speculum , Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 520-528

Published by: Medieval Academy of America

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2854638 page 523

[xxix] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 10.

[xxx] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 11.

[xxxi] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 12.

[xxxii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 13.

[xxxiii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 20.

[xxxiv] Charlemagne

François L. Ganshof

Speculum , Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 520-528

Published by: Medieval Academy of America

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2854638 page 523

[xxxv] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 28.

[xxxvi] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 14.

[xxxvii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 30.

[xxxviii] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 30.

[xxxix] Charlemagne, the Saxons, and the Imperial Coronation of 800Author(s): Henry Mayr-Harting

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The English Historical Review, Vol. 111, No. 444 (Nov., 1996), pp. 1113-1133

Published by: Oxford University Press

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/575852  .  Accessed: 21-October 2011 14:25

[xl] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne,

 Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 30.

[xli] Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne, Aurhor: translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880) [in 1960 the University of Michigan Press reprinted this translation, with a copyrighted forward by Sidney Painter] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp- Section 31.

 


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