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Charlemagne’s personal life resembled a soap opera. After all, he was married five times. Or four. It depends on what scholar you ask and what contemporary source you chose to believe.

Equally fascinating is how politics played a role in each of his decisions to marry or divorce, something I wish I had learned in middle or high school. It certainly would have interested me in a history class, but more important is the contrast between the Middle Ages and our modern times.

Today, we consider a leader’s love life a personal matter, fodder for the tabloids. If the scandal is really bad, someone loses their job, but for the most part, only the individuals and their families are affected. In the Middle Ages, the consequences of the king’s marital choices affected the whole country and beyond. Visit Unusual Historicals for more about Charlemagne’s marriages and why I contend he was married five times, not four.

Image of Hildegard, Charlemagne’s third wife, is on the left. Wikimedia Commons image provide by Flo Sorg, released to the public domain.