Allan Massie

Frankishly, My Dear

Emperor of the West: Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire

By

Quercus Publishing 460pp £25 order from our bookshop

Historians no longer speak dismissively of the ‘Dark Ages’, that deep trench between the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, and the emergence of the city-states of Italy and the coherent kingdoms of medieval Europe. Many discarded the notion long ago and wrote of the Carolingian Renaissance. Nevertheless, for the common reader, the centuries between the last days of Rome and, let us say, the Norman Conquest of England and the First Crusade some thirty years later do indeed remain shrouded in obscurity. How many figures of these centuries can we name? A few saints and popes, such as Gregory the Great (who reputedly remarked on seeing captive English boys, ‘non Angli sed Angeli’) and Hildebrand of Sovana, that other Pope Gregory who humiliated an emperor, whose name we probably forget, at Canossa – but that was a few years after 1066 and all that. Here we recall Arthur, who may never have existed, and Alfred who certainly did, though he may never have burned those cakes, and Ethelred the Unready, because of his nickname which we misunderstand, and Cnut, who did not believe that he could command the waves to withdraw. And that’s about it.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,