Remembering a Carolingian Queen
Charlemagne and Fastrada: A new discovery changes how we think about queens, kings, and the medieval European past
Sometimes very tiny things can mean very big things. A just-published article in the journal Early Medieval Europe by Simon Coupland tells us about a newly-examined coin that bears the name of one of Charlemagne’s wives - Fastrada (d. 794). This is the earliest evidence we have of a Frankish queen named on a coin, so Coupland (working with the Centre Charlemagne in Aachen) tried to figure out the context in which it was minted. He argues that the coin, “reflects both the affection in which Charlemagne held Fastrada and the power he was prepared to share with her.”
Married to Charlemagne from 783-94, we actually know a bit about her (unlike other Carolingian queens). She came from an important East Frankish family and immediately stepped into the role as court matron and responsible for Charlemagne’s many children - both legitimate and illegitimate. Moreover, Janet Nelson has argued convincingly, using a variety of sources, that the two actually felt quite affectionate for one another. On this basis, Coupland argues, the fact that this coin was struck signified their close connections - both personal and political.
There’s all sorts of really interesting questions that this discovery raises. How was this connected to a (very serious) coup attempt by Charlemagne’s son Pepin the Hunchback in the previous year? Why was the project of naming queens abandoned so quickly (coin struck in 793/4 then never again after her death in 794)? What nature of kingship was Charlemagne attempting to portray if the coin was indeed modeled after a Mercian one from the 780s?
The article is open access and you can read it here!
We’re going to share more interesting pieces of scholarship, old and new, from our work as we draft Oathbreakers (on things Carolingian, or just other pieces of scholarship that catch our eye).
Really looking forward to *Oathkeepers*!