Royal Frankish Annals

Royal Frankish Annals
   One of a number of chronicles of the Carolingian period that describe events in the kingdom or in a particular monastery or bishopric, the Royal Frankish Annals (in Latin, Annales regni Francorum, as they have been called since the nineteenth century) are the most important record of events in the early generations of the Carolingian dynasty. The Royal Frankish Annals are an official, or at least semiofficial, account of the major political, military, and religious events of Carolingian history from 741 to 829. The Royal Frankish Annals thus cover events during the reigns of Pippin the Short, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious, the later part of whose reign is surveyed also in the history of Nithard. The chronicle includes the official Carolingian version of such significant moments as the replacement of the Merovingian line by Pippin and his coronation in 751, the wars and imperial coronation of Charlemagne, and the early and successful years in the reign of Louis the Pious. The Royal Frankish Annals were divided after 829 and continued in the Annals of St. Bertin, which surveyed events in the Western Frankish kingdom until 882 and were written in part by Hincmar of Rheims, and the Annals of Fulda, which covered the Eastern Frankish kingdom until 887.
   The Royal Frankish Annals were most likely composed by a number of different authors over a prolonged period. First written in 787 or 788 as part of the general revival of letters, especially history, under Charlemagne, the Royal Frankish Annals were written by several distinct hands and can be divided into three or four sections. Like the minor annals of the period, the Royal Frankish Annals were divided into year-by-year entries, with short discussions of the major events of each year.
   The first section of the work, from 787/788 to 793, begins with an entry on the year 741, noting the death of Charles Martel and the elevation of his sons Pippin and Carloman. The entries for the year 741 to 787/788 were drawn largely from the continuation of the chronicle of Fredegar and the minor annals composed in the various monasteries of the empire, but from 788 on the authors were contemporary with the events they described. The next section covers the period from 793 to 809, and again its author or authors recorded events that they lived through. The final section before the division into two main annals covers the period from 809 to 829; it can be subdivided even further, with a break at 820.
   The style of the final section seems to have improved over the earlier sections, and it has been suggested that the author of part of it was the archchaplain of Louis the Pious. But the identity of any of the annalists remains uncertain, although it is likely that the archchaplain of the royal palace had a hand in the composition of the Royal Frankish Annals and equally as likely that Einhard did not. Although he is no longer held to be responsible, Einhard was traditionally associated with the revision of the Royal Frankish Annals ordered by Louis the Pious. The entries for the years 741 to 812 were revised to improve the style and were expanded with information from other sources, with the entries for several years being completely or almost completely rewritten. Although written from the Carolingian perspective, the Royal Frankish Annals remain one of the most important sources for the events of the Carolingian period.
   See also
 ♦ Innes, Matthew, and Rosamond McKitterick. "The Writing of History." In Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, ed. Rosamond McKitterick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 193-220.
 ♦ Laistner, Max L. W. Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman 1983.
 ♦ Nelson, Janet, trans. The Annals of St. Bertin: Ninth Century Histories. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1991.
 ♦ Reuter, Timothy, trans. The Annals of Fulda : Ninth Century Histories. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1992.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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