College of Arts and Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)


Jennifer Depold


Charlemagne, crusades, sacral kingship, France, England, King Arthur, Song of Roland, Matter of France, divine kingship




The current scholarship on medieval European sacral kingship does not address the significance of Charlemagne’s legacy on the practice but rather it enshrines him in the public imagination. This dissertation explores the means by which Charlemagne influenced the development of sacral kingship, thereby contributing to both focused and broad scholarship. Charlemagne’s legacy, primarily reflected in romanticized literature, impacted the development and practices of sacral kingship in France and England most explicitly demonstrated during the period spanning from the Norman Conquest to the 15th century. The research is based, in part, on the interpretation of contemporary fantastic, preferential, and romanticized literature including the Royal Frankish Annals, The Matter of France, and the writings of various French, Anglo-Norman, and Anglo-Saxon chroniclers. By drawing parallels across the contemporary, romanticized literature and analyzing the allegorical ties of biblical kingship in the context of the Crusades and the necessity of chivalric principles in kingship, reflected in practice and governance it is evident that Charlemagne served as a significant influence. The idealized persona of Charlemagne as the champion of Christianity and patron saint of the Crusades was widely invoked, enabling Charlemagne to serve as a dynastic saint of kingship in both France and England to convey divine will. Whereas France relied primarily on relic culture to illustrate ties to Charlemagne, a notion heavily bolstered by literature and stained-glass programs, England relied predominantly on romanticized literature cultivated within Crusade rhetoric, eventually replacing Charlemagne with British figures while maintaining the framework. The histories of medieval sacral kingship in France and England are better understood when Charlemagne’s legacy is accounted for, providing an idealized Christian figure to venerate and emulate.

Available for download on Friday, May 24, 2024

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