Charlemagne Meets Roland His Nephew

July 25, 2019

Charlemagne, painted by Albrecht Dürer

On a certain day a great noise was hear in the precincts of the palace; quite a “bombardment” of youthful feet. A valet was seen to descend the staircase, followed by thirty damoiseaux de gente faucon [young men]. Not one of them boasted a beard, but what a refined appearance, and what good clothes they wore! Their young chief wore an ermine cloak upon his shoulders, he wore heuses—African boots—and (although he was not yet a knight) golden spurs.

He was well made, upright, and had the head and features of a true baron. We can only compare his gaze to that of a leopard or a lion. With determined steps he ascended the staircase of the palace and came into the presence of the emperor.

“In the name of Him who was crucified, I salute you,” he said to Charles.

And the king replied immediately—

Roland de Roncevaux. The statue of Roland, is located in the centre of the town hall square in front of the House of Blackheads in Riga, Latvia. Photo by Patrick Mayon

“In the name of Him who ransomed us, I salute you. Who are you, and whence do you come? What is your name?”

“Sire,” replied the valet, “they call me Roland, and I am the son of your sister with the fair face.”

Charles listened to him, raised his head, took the “infant” by the sleeve of his fur cloak, and, kissing him four times on the mouth and chin, replied:

“Fair nephew, we will make a knight of you!”

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 176.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 684


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