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The Life of Charlemagne: Descriptive Essay

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The Life of Charlemagne (pp. 248-252) According to Einhard, what made Charlemagne an effective ruler? What were your strengths? What were his weaknesses? What was the status of women at Charlemagne’s court? Give specific examples of how women were treated? How does Einhard explain any problems occurring in the empire? How did Charlemagne treat Christianity, Christians, and the Catholic Church?

The ways in which Einhard described Charlemagne was as a kind and noble leader that many people respected for “protect[ing] and enlarg[ing] his kingdom, and … embelesh[ing] it.” (Einhard 248). He was not a king that would flaunt his power or overindulge in material things. Einhard explained that Charlemagne, on ordinary days would dress in clothes almost similar to commoners and would eat and drink in moderation, not liking the idea of getting drunk unlike other kings shown through history (Einhard 250). Einhard detailed on Charlemagne’s strengths as being an involved father in his children’s lives and having a strong and open personality. He made sure his children were all well educated and had them learn the necessary trades they would need in life. Not only did he care for his children well, but he also made sure to feel outsiders feel welcome and treated the people who worked under him well. He was also diligent with his own education by making the effort to learn other languages and about astrology, however, a weakness he possessed was not having learned to write. He makes the attempt to learn but “he had begun too late in life and he made little progress.” (Einhard 251). Charlemagne treated the women in his court (his mother and daughters) with much respect. He respected his mother and her decisions even once marrying a woman just because his mother advised it. For his daughters, he assured that they received the same education as his sons and equipped them with the necessary knowledge of women in their time like “spinning and weaving wool”. Charlemagne identified himself as a Christian from a very young age so as an adult “As long as his health lasted, he went to church morning and evening with great regularity” (Einhard 251). Being a Christian himself, “wherever he heard that Christians were living in want, he took pity on their poverty and sent them money regularly” (Einhard 252). Charlemagne even took the lengths to build a fully embellished cathedral in Aachen and would donate fortunes worth of gold and other items to the churches.

The Book of the Courtier (pp. 404-408) According to Castiglione, what is “grace”? Is it a product of birth or nature? Is “grace” different in men than in women? If so, explain the differences. (In other words, what is grace for man? What is grace for a woman?) Is the courtier a product of nature, cultivation, or education? Explain.

Castiglione describes grace as one being “sight pleasing and agreeable to all who see him.” (Castiglione 405). While Castiglione states those who were born with the most grace come from nobility, the courtier is a production of education, meaning anyone who is willing to become “graceful” may be entitled to the position. For men, grace consists of being courageous, knowledgeable, and well educated, as well as well-spoken in multiple languages. The same goes for women, though women are expected to showcase their grace with more “tenderness”. Giving them more lady-like qualities, especially beauty. Both men and women are expected to not overstep their boundaries. If they were to make even just one slip-up, they would “[remain] forever infamous before the world and full of ignominy” (Castiglione 405).

The Prince (pp. 412-416) What gives a “prince” political authority and power? What should a prince do to gain, maintain and increase his power/authority? Since the prince must appear to be different things to different people, what is Machiavelli suggesting about human nature? What role does artifice or trickery play in political authority?

According to Machiavelli, a prince must first be strong enough to stand up for himself when need be. A prince must not seek hatred by his people if he wants to thrive. A prince should instill fear amongst his people, but in a way that his feared actions are always justified with moral intent. If a prince looks to maintain and increase his authority, he should demonstrate generosity whenever he can. He should let his parsimony cover costs that save him from imposing higher taxes on his people. A prince must find the balance between love and hate in the response from his people. Since the prince must appear to put on different fronts to different people, Machiavelli suggests that it is human nature to portray multiple personas dependent on the circumstance. One way a prince can artifice his authority is by loading his people with high taxes, then using those funds for generous acts, portraying himself as a generous prince.

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A. What role did Christianity play in Western Civilization from the fall of Rome in 476 through 1500? Does the Catholic Church play a significant leadership role in Europe after the fall of Rome? Does this role create problems? What outside forces impacted the Church and its development? How different was the Muslim experience at this time?

While Rome fell, Christianity ascended with the help of Roman philosophy, Roman emperors (such as Constantine), and the German invaders who converted. As the Roman Empire continued to decline, signs of weakness were associated with the emperors. As this was taking place, the Roman Catholic Church became organized into a complex hierarchy where the Pope eventually amassed power over Europe, which is how it continued up through the 16th century. Muslims, during Islam’s emergence, were creating new trade routes between Asia and Africa, and, following the word of Muhammad, began embarking on their Hijrah. Once Muhammad dies, his following caliphs Abu Barkr and Umar, engage their Muslim armies in attacks invading Syria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and others, looking to spread their beliefs through conquest.

B. Francesco Petrarch referred to the 1000-year period between the fall of Rome and his own time as a ‘dark age’ or medieval period. Is this an accurate assessment of the middle ages? If not, why is this period not a dark age? What events would make the period seem like a Dark Age?

Francesco Petrarch’s hypothesis that this 1000-year period was a “dark age” is very inaccurate. The Carolingian Renaissance alone invalidates this claim. With the “dark age” referring to basically “no record of writing”, then a time where a resurgence in academia occurs would be contradicting. When Charlemagne ruled from 768-814, he ingeniously created a renaissance in Europe through reviving classical learning. Charlemagne would use war loot to attract scholars and even created a new style of writing known as Carolingian minuscule (which definitely means this couldn’t be a dark age). Charlemagne believed education was the key to salvation and made sure that he, his family, and his people, received the best training in grammar, rhetoric, logic, and math. Events that would have led

Petrarch believed this was a dark age is the Viking invasions during the 10th century. The Vikings attacked many monasteries, disposing of a vast amount of wealth and literature, which would, in turn, cause a dark age.

C. Explain the development of long-distance trade, towns, universities, and state development in England and France. Why are these developments important to the advancement of Europe in the Middle Ages? Why are these developments considered some of the most significant turning points in Western Civilization?

During the 8th and 9th centuries, towns began to develop as trade centers. The growth in agriculture revitalized these towns. Creating safe places for travelers and commerce to flourish. Towns were free from lords and monasteries, allowing for freedom amongst its inhabitants. Communities formed, and people were working together to make advances. The emergence of credit was a result, in addition, multiple currencies lead to jobs for bankers and money exchangers. Eventually, territorial lords moved into these towns and built castles to protect themselves, their families, and their followers. Castles now became the centers of newborn towns. In whole, towns not only allowed for more goods to be traded, but new words were inducted into the European language, Classical texts in science, math, literature, and art were brought to Europe, all leading to the eventual Renaissance of Europe.

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