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King of the Franks and
Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
742 - 814 AD
Are We Related To Charlemagne?
By Edward G. Pickett
and edited February, 2003
If some genealogists are to be believed, we have the fortunate circumstance to be able to trace our ancestry back to royalty of France -- Normandy and before that Burgundy -- and even to Charlemagne, Charles the Great, the predominant figure of the middle ages in Europe.
Much of the information from the Middle Ages is disputed, however, and our best answer to the question is, possibly. However, there seems a very good chance that the data we can confirm does take us back at least to Rollo, the First Duke of Normandy and beyond.
If their listings are correct, and our lineage can be confirmed as including Charlemagne, then we can actually trace our roots back to about 450 AD, to what is now France to a region known as Burgundy -- a time span of over 1,500 years. On a different path, following the ancestors of Rollo, genealogist have recently published charts taking his ancestors back to about the year 200.
Our ability to trace back to these links comes about principally because of these factors:
Part of the path depends on which wife of Rollo was the mother of William Longsword. Payne and many French historians say the daughter of King Charles (The Simple), named Gisela was the mother. Others claim the other wife of Rollo, a Danish woman named Poppa de Bayeux, was the mother.
Apparently, only if Poppa was the mother does our line go back to Charlemagne.
The path back from our times for the first thousand years is, remarkably, fairly clear. There are some uncertain links -- we may not know for sure if there was one or two George Poindexters (see EPARC) in the early 17th Century in the U.S. -- but the family tree is pretty well confirmed.
Payne was a recognized genealogist and historian of the 19th. Century. He published a document in London in 1862 that links the Lempriere family with a line to Charlemagne.
Payne says that Claudia de la Riviere, who married Phillip de Lempriere in the 11th Century, is a direct descendent of Charles The Great (Charlemagne).
A chart in the Lempriere paper, however, is not clear on this link. It does show Augustus de la Riviere as her father, but it does not show the exact connection back to the Dukes of Normandy, who descended from Rollo..
Is any of this fanciful? Wishful thinking? If so, not on our part. The path is through recognized, published genealogical information. But, we must add, the material from Payne and Settipani has not been confirmed by us.
We have confirmed with other reliable sources most, but not all, of the path Payne outlines. There are three generations he shows we have not yet confirmed . But every other generation listed by Payne has been proved correct when we were able to find proper sources.
Payne cites some earlier historians. He says that Orderic Vital and Le Roque connect Augustus Riviere as a descendent of the first Norman Dukes, and thus Rollo. In that assertion Payne is correct.
A study done by this author at the Widener Library at Harvard and at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, in Boston, found citations in "Dictionnaire de la Noblesse" (Third edition, 1876) concerning Riviere and his ancestry. Payne was almost certainly relying primarily on an earlier edition of this book as his source.
The "Dictionnaire" states that the Riviere family is "one of the ancient families of Normandy." It also says that Augustus de la Riviere is the first of this line, and that he is a direct descendant of Robert, count of Evreux and Archbishop of Rouen, who was himself the son of Richard 1, Duke of Normandy.
The book goes on to say that Augustus (or Auguste) was the lord of several land holdings, including Caligny and Moncy. It says he married Francoise de Montmorency, and goes on to list his sons. But it does not say who his father was.
Payne seems to imply in his chart, but does not specifically say in his writings, that Augustus is the son of Auvery de Vassy, and there is no doubt that the de Vassy line is directly descended from the Counts of Evreux and thus from Rollo. The de Vassys are also mentioned prominently in the "Dictionnaire."
We know that the de la Riviere family was along with William the Conqueror in 1066 when he invaded and defeated the armies of the British Isles and became king of England, and that some Rivieres were along on the Crusades. (The "Dictionnaire" says Augustus went on one of the Crusades in 1102.)
The family became prominent in both Normandy and England. British genealogists have attempted to trace the family back to the Norman dukes. The family, called variously as Rivers, Redvers and other spellings, has good documentation of that line back to Rollo, but in none of the British descendency lists so far does the name Augustus de la Riviere show up.
But since Augustus is clearly identified as the earliest known such named individual in French writing, and the same name is linked by British genealogist, the case seems strong that Augustus, and thus we, his descendants, are related to Rollo, then back to Charlemagne, and then back to previous generations identified by Settipani and others.
In the meantime, here is the path back starting from Claudia de la Reviere, (as Payne shows it) with a little of what we know about each ancestor. (Note: To reach my particular heritage to de la Riviere, we go back through a line of Pickett to Bennett to Womack to Constant to Delozier to our American immigrant, George Poindexter, to the Isle of Jersey to the surname Messervy and finally to Lempriere. Remember, as I stated above, Claudia de la Riviere married Phillip de Lempriere in the 11th Century.)
Rollo is said to have married Aegidia (Gisela) in 912. Payne says she was either the daughter or sister of Charles The Simple, but this is not in accord with more recent works by historians of the Carolingians.
Other sources list his wife as Poppa de Bayeux, and its through her that historians and genealogist follow a direct path back to Charlemagne. A path back for four generations leads to Louis the Pious, a son of Charlemagne. A study by K.S.B. Keats-Rohan in the July/October, 1997 issue of The American Genealogist provides the heritage of Poppa, and it leads back to Gisela, daughter of Louis the Pious, the son of Charlemagne
Rollo had been a subject of King Harald I of Norway, but breaking free he and a group of other Scandinavians began to raid Scotland, England, Flanders and France, and about 911 he established a land base along the Seine River.
Louis The Pious succeeded his father, Charlemagne. He and his second wife, Judith, produced Charles I. His rule was troubled by internal dissension and wars with pagan tribes.
Charlemagne, also know as Charles The Great, (742-814) is considered the greatest leader of medieval Europe. He ruled over what now, with some geographic changes, are the countries of Germany, France and Italy. He was the son of Pippin the Short.
Pippin the Short (714-768), the father of Charlemagne, was proclaimed King of the Franks in 752. Having served Childerich, the last of a weak line of royalty in early France, Pippin deposed him in 751 and a year later the Pope proclaimed Pippin the lawful king. His wife, often listed as Bertrada theYounger, became known to history as Bertha of the Big Foot. He was the son of Charles Martel. (Barbara Tuckman, the famed historian of the 20th Century, cites a 14th Century romantic novel about Pippin and Bertha, but we have been unable to find out anything more on this.)
Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer)(688-741), although he held only the title of "Mayor of the Castle" during the reign of a Morovingian king, was considered the real ruler. He is listed as having three wives: Chrotrude, Sunnichild and Ruodhaid.
He was the illegitimate son of Pippin of Heristal, and was given no role in the will of Pippin, but he first escaped imprisonment and then established himself as the Mayor. Many documents of the time acknowledge him as King, although he never took that title.
Martel is most famous for having halted the spread of the Moslems into Europe when he met and defeated them at Poriters, near Tours, in 723.
Pippin of Heristal (c. 650/660 - 714), whose name has variously been listed as Pepin and Peppen, was the major-domo of the court of Dagobert II. After the death of the king he was named Duke of the Franks and regent for the young royal successor. Pippin was said to have held the real power, and to have ruled with almost despotic sway. His wife was Alpaide.
Pippin the Elder (Pippin of Landen) (c.570/639) was the first line of governmental officials in very early medieval France who, by holding the title of "Mayor of the Castle," exercised ruling power while nominally serving the royal family of the Morovingians. His wife was Itte Idoberge, who was known to be alive in the year 592.
Some genealogists say the line continues back through Carloman, whose wife may have been Gertrude, to Garibald, the Duke of Bavaria, and his wife, Waldrade, Queen of Austria.
Christian Settipani, in his Les Ancestres de Charlemagne, then takes us back to at least 450 AD and a man called Gondioc, king of the Burgondes. Other recognized genealogy sources, including Royalty for Commoners and The Heimskringer, trace the history of Rollo back to various kings and nobility of early Scandinavia, as far back as Njord, King of Sweden in the year 214 AD
In summary, we must conclude that proving that the Poindexter family is directly descended from Charlemagne would seem to fall on one vital unproved link: That of Augustus de la Riviere. The writings of respected historians from that period say he is descended from Rollo, but we still need to prove the link to the Dukes of Evreux.
There is a society of descendants of Charlemagne, and a book listing the "Descendants of Charlemagne" (It is three large volumes long!) but neither mentions de la Riviere.
Ed Pickett, email:
Ed's bio: I am not a professional genealogist, although sometimes I feel like one. For the past 12 years I have spend much time in such research. I am a journalist and writer. For some time I was a winter sports announcer for ESPN, I have been a daily reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and for most of the past 30 years have published small newspapers in Vermont, Maryland and now Maine. I am a Poindexter descendant.