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A Brief History of Charlemagne for Young Children

Updated on June 22, 2013

Charlemagne and Pope Adrian I


Day One: Geography and Basic History

As I’ve mentioned previously, it is best to start with a brief sentence (or sentences) that tell the child the basics of the who, when, where and why. If you can set the information to music or make it a poetic chant it will be that much easier for your child to remember the information. (On that note the Classical Conversations audio CD cycle 2 contains a Charlemagne history song.)

After informing your child of the basic information, look at a good map so that they can connect the information with a place. The Encyclopedia Britannica has a map that shows the boarders of the Frankish kingdom in 768, when Charlemagne inherited, as well as his later conquests.

As your child studies the map explain that Charlemagne inherited leadership of the Franks with his brother Carloman when their father, king Pepin the Short, died in 768. But Carloman died suddenly after only three years of joint rule. At that point Charlemagne began a series of campaigns to expand his kingdom.

In 800, Charlemagne aided Pope Leo III defeat a rebellion in Rome. As thanks he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor that Christmas. He already ruled through conquest but the title offered him respect and legitimacy. This allowed him to make many improvements including legal reforms, standardizing weights and measures, better farming methods and promoting education.

While you are giving this brief history your child can create a copy of the map of Charlemagne’s empire. Have them shade the initial Frankish kingdom in one color and Charlemagne’s conquests in another. Remember the purpose is to familiarize your child with the geography not create a carbon copy. Include the major dates on the map and file it in your child’s history book.

End your first lesson by again reciting your history sentence.

Map of Charlemagne's Empire


Day Two: Charlemagne on a Timeline

Begin day two by fitting Charlemagne in your timeline. Recite several points on your timeline before and after Charlemagne to remind your child when in history this information should be filed. (There are a variety of methods for tracking timelines like wall boarder displays, timeline books, or songs. Use whichever works best for your family.)

After review when in history the information about Charlemagne should be placed again go over the basics. In a brief sentence, two if you must, recite who you are talking about, why he is important and when the event took place. For example you could mention 768 when he first began to rule, 771 when he first began to rule on his own or 800 when he was crowned Emperor.

Provide your child with a coloring page as you give him another brief history of Charlemagne. The site Hello Kids has an easily printable image. Start with Charlemagne’s birth on April 2, 742.

The name Charlemagne means Charles the Great. He was tall. Despite his short father, he was actually 6’4”. During his lifetime he battled Saxons, Lombards, Slavs and Avars. His people, the Franks, were the Germanic tribes first united by King Clovis in 509.

Charlemagne himself is considered the founding father of both the French and German monarchies. He began ruling at only 26 years of age and ruled the Frankish kingdom for 46 years. For 14 of those years he was also considered a Roman Emperor. On January 28, 814 in what is present day Germany, Charlemagne died at the age of 72.

Add the dates of Charlemagne’s birth and death to the picture and file it in the history notebook. End the lesson by again chanting (or singing) your history sentence.

Palace of Aachen Construction


Day Three: The Palace of Aachen

Begin day three with a geography review. Knowledge Quest sells pdfs of historical maps with grade appropriate lesson ideas. The Charlemagne map is available in the sampler packet on page 24. Use the teacher copy to do a quick review.

For today’s lesson provide your child with a picture of Charlemagne’s castle. (Here is a pdf version courtesy of Highland Heritage Home School.) The castle was known as the palace of Aachen and is located at the north of the current city of Aachen in Germany.

After Charlemagne’s numerous successful military campaigns his treasury was full. So rather than following custom and migrating with a moving court, Charlemagne established a permanent capital at Aachen, which put him closer to the Saxon territory he had conquered throughout the 770s. The work began on his new palace in 794 before he was declared emperor in 799.

Charlemagne’s new palace contained a council hall where he could deliver speeches and receive high ranking officials and dignitaries. On the south side of the palace was the palatine chapel constructed in the shape of the cross. Treasury and archives were located in a northern tower. Justice was dispensed in the palace gallery. This palatial structure also included a library, a scriptorium, a goldsmith workshop, an ivory workshop, a mint, a gynaeceum (or women’s quarters), a barracks, a hospice, a hunting park and a menagerie.

Upon his death in 814, Charlemagne was actually buried in the palace chapel.

Add the construction date to your child’s picture and file it in his history notebook. End the day by again chanting your history sentence.

Day Four: Charlemagne's Battles

Start your fourth day with your history sentence. Then again pull out your maps. Either provide your child with a map to color (like the Knowledge Quest maps) or allow him to free draw using an illustrated map as reference.

In 768 Charlemagne’s father died leaving him a kingdom to co-rule. Three years later his brother Carloman also died leaving him the entire kingdom. One year later, in 772, Charlemagne invades Saxony. In 773 Charlemagne chased the Lombards across the Alps to Pavia, which he besieged until 774. In 778 he invaded northern Spain. Nine years later, in 787, he was besieging Salerno until they submitted to vassalage. By the year 812 Charlemagne had expanded his rule all around the Pyrenees.

Many years after his death in 843 the Treaty of Verdun partitioned Charlemagne’s empire. It was the first step toward the formation of the countries we see today in Western Europe.

Again add appropriate dates to your child’s map and file it in the history notebook. End with your history sentence.

Should you wish to add a fifth day of study the History channel has a three and a half minute video on Charlemagne. Or you could view the YouTube video below. It has good visuals. There is music but no words, although there is text to explain events. There are some images of war but no blood.


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    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 4 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Thanks, Mel Jay.

      Just trying to get a jump start on my lesson planning for the next year. Glad it was helpful. :)

    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 4 years ago from Australia

      Wow, what a fantastic way of teaching history to kids. Thanks for the idea and the links to the resources. Very impressive concept, thumbs and awesome from me.