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Third in Allan Massie's celebrated Dark Ages series
A truly European monarch, Charlemagne was king of the Franks from 768 to 814 and for some of that time king of the Lombards, too. From 800, when at Mass on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Imperator Romanorum (Emperor of the Romans) he became the renewer of the Western Empire, which had expired in the 5th century. His dual role as Emperor and King of the Franks provided the historical link between the Imperial dignity and the Frankish kingdoms and later Germany. Today both France and Germany look to him as a founding figure of their respective countries.
His nephew, Roland, was also renowned for his prowess in battle and was the inspiration for the Chanson de Roland which recounts the story of the battle of Roncesvalles, in which he died.