The Carolingians (also known as the "Carlovingians") were a dynasty of rulers that eventually controlled the Frankish realm and its successors from the 8th to the 10th century, officially taking over the kingdoms from the Merovingian dynasty in 751. The name Carolingian itself comes from Charles Martel, who defeated the Moors at Poitiers in 732. The dynasty's most prominent member is Charlemagne (in Latin: Carolus Magnus).
However, the dynasty is usually considered to have been founded by Arnulf of Metz, Bishop of Metz in the late 7th century, who wielded a great deal of power and influence in the Merovingian kingdoms. Pippin of Herstal, Mayor of the Palace of the Kingdom of Austrasia, was succeeded by his son Charles Martel as Mayor, who in turn was the father of Pippin III, called "the Short". Pippin had become king after having used his position as Mayor to garner support among many of the leading Franks, as well as Pope Zacharias, in order to depose the last Merovingian king, Childeric in 751. Charlemagne, Pippin's son, became King of the Franks in 768 and was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800.
After the division of the empire among Charlemagne's three grandsons in the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the Carolingians initially continued to hold the throne in all three sections that were created.
- In the West, which was the nucleus of later France, they continued to be the ruling dynasty until a minor branch of the family, the Capetians, ascended the (by that time) French throne in 987.
- In the Middle, with the empty title of "Emperor" and the kingdom of Lotharingia which included Northern Italy, the major branch of the family ruled till 887, but further division was based on the Treaty of Mersen in 870.
- In the East, the kernel of the later Holy Roman Empire, the Carolingians ruled only until 911, the death of Louis the Child. Here, the dukes of the stem duchies eventually acclaimed a Saxon dynasty, commonly referred to as the Ottonians, who consciously modelled themselves as Carolingian successors.
Last updated: 08-13-2005 10:07:13