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Medieval Sourcebook:

Charlemagne (r. 768-814):

Letter to Otto, King of Mercia, 796


[Introduction]

In 796 Charlemagne wrote to Offa; the letter survives and refers to a previous letter of Offa's to Charlemagne. This correspondence between the two kings produced the first surviving documents in English diplomatic history. The letter is primarily concerned with the status of English pilgrims on the continent and with diplomatic gifts, but it reveals much about the relations between the English and the Franks. Charlemagne refers to Offa as his "brother", and mentions trade in black stones, sent from the continent to England, and cloaks (or possibly cloths), traded from England to the Franks. Charlemagne's letter also refers to exiles from England, naming Odberht, who was almost certainly the same person as Eadberht Praen, among them. Egbert of Wessex was another refugee from Offa who took shelter at the Frankish court. It is clear that Charlemagne's policy included support for elements opposed to Offa; in addition to sheltering Egbert and Eadberht he also sent gifts to Æthelred I of Northumbria. [From Wikipedia]

Letter to Otto

Charles, by the grace of God king of the Franks and Lombards, patrician of the Romans, to his esteemed and dearest brother Offa, king of the Mercians, sendeth health; First, we give thanks to God Almighty for the purity of the Catholic faith, which we find laudably expressed in your letters. Concerning pilgrims, who for the love of God or for the salvation of their souls wish to visit the residence of the holy apostles, let them go peaceably without any molestation; but if persons not seeking the cause of religion but that of gain be found among them, let them pay the customary tolls in proper places. We will, too, that traders have due protection within our kingdom, according to our mandate, and if in any place they suffer wrongful oppression, let them appeal to us or our judges, and we will see full justice done. Let your grace also be apprised that we have sent some token of our regard, out of our dalmatics and palls, to each episcopal see of your kingdom and of Ethelredās, as an almsgiving, for the sake of our apostolical lord Adrian (the late pope) earnestly begging that you would order him to be prayed for, not as doubting that his blessed soul is at rest, but to show our esteem and regard to our dearest friend. Moreover we have sent somewhat out of the treasures of those earthly riches which the Lord Jesus has granted to us of his unmerited bounty, for the metropolitan cities; and for yourself a belt, an Hungarian sword, and two silk cloaks.


Source. From Edward P. Cheyney, Readings in English History, Boston: Ginn and Company, 1922, p. 56.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© [Electronic format] Paul Halsall, 2019
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