Today on December 5th 771, Charlemagne becomes the sole King of the Franks after his brother Carloman mysteriously died.
After their father’s death in 768, Charlemagne and Carloman became co-rulers over the Frankish Kingdom. According to Frankish tradition, it was customary for any inheritance to be divided among male heirs. This immediately caused profound tension between the two brothers, and their struggle for power was coming to a head. In fact, the brothers were said to have only communicated via their mother. At the time, it was believed the country was on the brink of civil war.
But only three years after assuming joint control, Carloman had mysteriously died. Little was recorded about the event and no one knows for certain what caused his premature death. Some historians have suggested Charlemagne conspired to have his brother killed. Either way, his death was certainly convenient timing for Charlemagne. Carloman’s followers immediately abandoned his wife and son, and invited Charlemagne to annex his territory, which he of course accepted.
As the sole ruler over the Franks, Charlemagne went on to become one of the most famous kings of medieval Europe. After a series of successful military campaigns and conquests, he founded what eventually became the Holy Roman Empire. On Christmas Day in 800, Pope Leo III crowned him as the Emperor of the Romans.