This is part 2 of a 2-part article. Part 1 appeared on May 16, 2003.
Several weeks ago, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated he would be judged on the Iraq war by "my Maker." This gave some of his closest advisors fits. But the record shows that some of the West's greatest leaders have been praying people—and that this has not necessarily been a bad thing.
Last week we looked at the Roman emperors Constantine, Theodosius I, and Justinian I. This week, we jump forward in time to three pious European leaders: the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, the French King Louis IX, and England's Elizabeth I.
Though none of these monarchs was a perfect Christian (there is, of course, no such thing!), nor a perfect ruler, the faith of each made a difference to the way they conducted their political business.
Charlemagne (742-814) was the grandson of Charles Martel ("Hammer"), defender of Anglo-Saxon missionaries and defeater of the Muslim Saracens. Educated by his mother, Bertrada, and the monks of Saint Denis, he became sole ruler of the Franks when his brother Carloman died in 771.
For the next decade and more, Charlemagne fought and won wars that expanded his control in all directions—most notably, among the Saxons just below modern Denmark. Everywhere he conquered, he converted his new subjects, in the day's accepted manner: at the point of a sword. Pope Hadrian, who himself was rescued by Charles from Lombard aggressors, called Charlemagne "another Constantine, who has risen in our times."
The greatest triumph of Charlemagne's career came at Christmas in the year 800, when Pope Leo III crowned him "Emperor of the Romans." The monarch treasured this title for reasons not merely political. Charles was a great student of Augustine's City ...1