Royal Courts in Dynastic States and Empires: A Global Perspective, Volume 1, Brill (2011)
In 1965, Adolf Gauert published a now famous map of Charlemagne’s itinerary. It was produced in association with the Council of Europe’s Charlemagne exhibition at Aachen and was a remarkable piece of reconstruction and investigation of battlefields and military camps, episcopal sees, monasteries and royal residences, and even the site of the canal Charlemagne tried to build to connect the Rhine and Dan- ube rivers. The map claimed to illustrate how the king at one time or another throughout his reign moved right across western Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Elbe, from the English Channel almost to the Danube Bend, and across the Alps as far south as Capua.1 This picture of a king on the move accorded with the received understand- ing of itinerant kingship, developed in relation to the Ottonian and Salian rulers of Germany in the late tenth and eleventh century and often extrapolated to many other medieval realms.
I shall argue in this paper that such an understanding of Charlemagne as an itinerant king in the technical sense is simply inappropriate in relation to early Caro- lingian government. I want to challenge in particular the validity of one category of information on which Gauert relied to map the king’s movements. This is the charter evidence, though in this respect Gau- ert was simply following standard practice in all studies of medieval rulers. In every existing study of a king’s movements in the Middle Ages, it is assumed that the charter or royal diploma in the king’s name is also confirmation of the king’s presence.