When We Were Kings

It’s been raining a lot here lately and consequently, I’ve been trying to occupy my time with in-house entertainment opportunities. During this recent effort, I ran across a book that I bought when we toured the castle in Les Baux last year but never got around to reading. It’s called Genealogy of the Kings of France and Their Wives. I know. What can I say? I hate to leave a gift shop empty-handed. Anyway, I was flipping though it today and found this (pictured below).

Pepin the Elder, Pepin d’Heristal… The Pepins were kings! And whose name is that, just under King Pepin the Short? CHARLEMAGNE. Hell, yeah, man! Charlemagne! Charlemagne’s last name was Pepin! This fact was somehow left out of all the history books I was made to read in school. In case you’re not up on your turn-of-the-9th-century kings and don’t remember Sean Connery’s character mentioning him in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Charlemagne is considered one of the founding fathers of French royalty. He conquered the adjacent parts of Italy and Spain, as well as some huge swaths of Eastern Europe in the Saxon wars. You could do worse when it comes to a family tree.

After I got over my initial excitement of having married into a royal family (and without even KNOWING it, unlike that social-climbing Kate Middleton) I inspected the drawings of King Pepin and Charlemagne in the book and on the Internet, trying to spot a family resemblance. I can’t say that I can see much of one, but then again, I have almost no pictures of Johann in either a crown or a laurel wreath, so who’s to say? So next I consulted the text, which describes Charlemagne like this:

“He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, given that he stood seven feet tall. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and a slightly protruding stomach. His voice was clear, but a little higher than one would have expected for a man of his build. He enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat.”

Hmm… Well… Johann certainly also has a round head, lively eyes and a cheerful expression (except when he catches me buying things we don’t need at the secondhand shop, as as my wont). And he, too, enjoys general good health and is not a fan of boiled meat. But that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends. And while Johann is tall, he’s no seven feet tall. Seven feet tall? And that was considered “of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so?” If seven feet wasn’t considered quite the long drink of water back in the ninth century, then why do I always have to duck when going through the doorways of any French building more than 200 years old? Something’s not right, here. Given the history of recreational head-chopping amongst European royalty, I suspect it was likely in the best interest of the king’s biographer to exaggerate a bit. But still. Seven feet seems like overkill.

Then I noticed the descriptions of following generations of Pepins: Charles II the Bald, Charles the Fat, Louis II the Stammerer, Charles II
I the Simple… I can only assume that these kings’ biographers weren’t the sycophants that Charlemagne’s was. Either that, or these monikers were applied posthumously. I’m working on a short list of nicknames for Johann, as clearly you cannot afford to let these things be left to chance and/or historians. Vote for your favorite! Pepin the Benevolent, Pepin the Hilarious, Pepin the Liverpool Fan, Johann the Effervescent, King of the Hill, Pepin the Cheese-Hater, Pepin the Guinness-Drinking, Johann the Hungover, Frog One, Pepin the Nearly Vegetarian.

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6 thoughts on “When We Were Kings

  1. [this is good] This is hilarious, I simply adore it: when I think some guys like Douglas Kennedy (sorry for the fans but you shouldn’t be some anyway) are being published and you’re not…. YET!
    I am quite keen on Johann the Effervescent
    But what does it make you then, do you get a title or will you only be remembered as the “wife of Johann the Effervescent”, how awful, I think you should give yourself a really nice title too!
    Love

  2. I, too vote for “Johann the Effervescent,” which would, I think, make you “Lisa The Effervescentress.” I bet Johann didn’t tell you about him being royalty and all because he wanted to make sure you loved him for himself — now that the beans have been royally spilt, you should be moving into the Louvre or whatever France pretends is its capital pretty soon.I thought the same thing about him being 7 feet tall: Really? In the Middle Ages? This was excellent!

  3. How about Jo-handyman, JoMama’s handyman? Johann-Slayer of Dragons, finder of Diamonds and Pearls, Keeper of the Great Unicorn Of The Luberon? No? Sorry, I get carried away when I think of Unicorns…

  4. Who doesn’t get carried away when they think of Unicorns? “Finder of Diamonds and Pearls…” As always, I like the way you think.

  5. [this is good] Perhaps it was assumed that such an all-encompassing ruler should be seven feet tall? Just as it was generally accepted that Elizabeth Tudor was ageless and glowingly white. Rulers stand outside the laws of mere mortals.
    “Pepin From The Land Of Many Turrets”, “Pepin The Silver And Gilded”?
    I truly enjoyed this post.

  6. Hello my dear long lost relative! I am a descendent of Charlemagne as well. Which it is understandable that there are so many of us because he had several wives and had several concubines. Some may criticise him for that, but I think your husband and I are greatful! Hence, here we are! Charlemagne was a great man, a great ruler and took many unorthodox steps in the advancement of women’s rights to obtain an education during his reign. May God bless him for that. He was not perfect, but better than most! As far as resemblance goes, my family, mostly my brother and I share an uncanny resemblace to him. My brother, although in recent years has put on too much weight, looks hauntingly like Charlemagne. Yes, we have the nose, the eyes, shape of the face. That line of my family did tend to be tall…but not 7′, closer to 6′ or a little taller. I would like to think that Charlemagne did produce a great line of descendants with loving, compassionate hearts, strong willed, a sense to judge matters fairly, and a light hearted sense of humor. I would suspect that is why you married your husband!
    Blessings to you, your husband, and your children. May we continue to endeavor to make Charlemagne proud!

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