The Carolingian Emperor Charlemagne

Charlemagne had fallen in love with Archbishop Turpin.

And, from that moment on, he followed him everywhere, declared that he could not live without him, looked at him with passionate eyes, caressed his hands and called him “my gentle doe”…

Frightened, the prelate ran to barricade himself inside his chamber, took off the German lady’s ring which he had imprudently slipped onto his finger, and tried to think what to do.  He knew that if the magic object were to fall into the hands of unscrupulous people, the Emperor, blinded by a new passion, would risk being led to perform the most senseless acts…

And, in the end, Turpin went out and threw the ring into the lake.

Then, Charlemagne fell in love with the lake.

And his passion was so great that he could be seen walking by it for whole days at a time, talking to his beloved.  He said to those close to him:

“Nothing is sweeter to me than to be near it.  Look how amiable it is!”

And, so as not to be separated from it, he had the town of Aix-la-Chapelle built on its banks.  This town became his residence, and he asked to be buried there when he died…

***

This story was believed for five hundred years.  When Petrarque, who had heard it in Aix, reported it in his Lettres familieres, it seems that a slight doubt crossed his mind.  But only a slight one…  He believed it, like everybody else.

***

It was believed because it was about Charlemagne.  The people always has a tendency to magnify those whom it admires and to make them heroes of legends, endowed with supernatural powers.  It seemed normal to them that Charlemagne, whose exploits marvelled crowds, had played a role in a fairy story.  There are other examples.  In 1821, thousands of people refused to believe that Napoleon was dead:  Napoleon could not die…  They accused the English of spreading false rumours:  legends circulated and it was said that he had escaped from Sainte-Helene, that he was in America, that he was going to return…  The people believed him to be supernatural.

Another more recent example:  it was said of General de Gaulle that he was especially lucky, that bullets could not harm him, that he couldn’t have an accident.  Such a person already has a special aura.  Therefore, it was quite normal that Charlemagne’s contemporaries, for whom he was an exceptional being, were able to believe the story of the magic ring.

***

Another hypothesis is that the story is true.  Ethnologists and explorers report things about objects endowed with magical powers that are used by certain sorcerers in Amazonia, Australia or black Africa.  In particular, there is the witness statement of Doctor Jean-Rene Lambert, who lived in different parts of the Congo from 1930 to 1939.  Let us look at the extraordinary story that he relates in his Souvenirs.  We can see that it has a few points in common with that of Charlemagne…

“One day, a young man from the village came to find me in the hut where I was giving my consultations.  I knew him from having treated his panaris a few months beforehand.  His name was Mumba and he could have been about twenty-five years old.

“I asked him what he was suffering from.  He lowered his head like a guilty person and remained mute.  I am not a patient person:

“”Well, answer me,” I said to him.  “If you come to see me, it is because you are ill.  Where are you suffering?”

“As he continued in his silence, I shook him:

“”Listen, I have no time to waste.  Tell me what’s wrong with you, or go away!”

“Then I heard this astounding sentence:

“”Give me something to make her love me!…”

“Understanding that I had to change my tone of voice, I gently and affectionately interrogated him, and he confided to me that he loved a young girl in the village, whose name was Mayi, that she didn’t want him and that he was very unhappy.

“Not knowing what to say, I advised him to be patient.  He shook his head:

“”No, if I wait, she will love another.  Help me, Doctor, give me one of your little bottles.”

“I explained to him that none of my little bottles could make a woman fall in love, and that, also, I knew of nothing in this world that had that power.  He looked at me, very astonished.

“”Then, I’ll ask the nyanga,” he said to me with a sigh.

“The nyanga was a sort of sorcerer.  A few days later, Mumba came back to see me.  He was smiling.

“”Now she is going to love me,” he told me.  “The nyanga gave me this stone which I must carry on me day and night.”

“He showed me a little stone engraved with mysterious signs.

“”It will attract Mayi to me!…”

“The fine boy’s confidence was both so absolute and so touching that I didn’t want to cast any shadow on it by my white man’s scepticism.

“A few more days passed and Mumba visited me again.  This time, he was radiant:

“”It’s done,” he told me.  “Yesterday, she came to join me while I was near the river…  Since then, she hasn’t left me…  Look!”

“Outside, Mayi was waiting, with a submissive air.  When Mumba left me, she ran towards him with an ecstatic smile and tenderly caressed his shoulders.

“From then on, they were always seen together and they married.

“However, one day, Mumba came to consult me.  He was suffering from atrocious intestinal pain.  I had him undress, examined him, diagnosed enteritis and gave him a few remedies.

“”Drink that and go home to bed,” I told him.

“He dressed, stumbling with pain, and fell to the floor in a fainting fit.  I picked him up and handed him over to Mayi who was waiting outside.”

To be continued.

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