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Rebel BaronsResisting Royal Power in Medieval Culture$
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Luke Sunderland

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198788485

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198788485.001.0001

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(p.138) 4 Charlemagne
Rebel Barons

Luke Sunderland

Oxford University Press

This chapter reconstructs the debate over the meaning of the figure of Charlemagne in chronicles which rewrite the chansons de geste. Charlemagne’s wars in Spain become glorious Christian triumphs over evil in the Pseudo-Turpin, a pan-European literary hit. They are presented as the beginnings of a great crusading history for France in the popular Grandes Chroniques de France, and in Girart d’Amiens’s Istoire le roy Charlemaine. For less straightforwardly pro-Charlemagne texts, like the Burgundian Croniques et conquestes and the Liégeois Myreur des histors, the Spanish wars set a different precedent: Charles’s trust in the traitor Ganelon led to disaster. The chronicles, depending on their political aims, omit, defuse, or exploit resistance narratives. Finally, the chapter argues that the poetic biography of Charlemagne, which veers between sins and holy heroism, and especially his death—Charles is being taken to hell, before his rescue by angels—encapsulates his ambivalent narrative legacy.

Keywords:   Chronicles, prose, Christian empire, relics, traitors, travel, resistance, heroic biography

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