Saint Louis IX and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III

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Throughout the Middle Ages the French and the Germans have vied with each other in their attempts to integrate the figure of Charlemagne into their perceptions of national identity. Both legacies envisioned Charles the Great as a prototypical Christian ruler, crusader, pilgrim, and promoter of the arts of civilization. But for the French, as exemplified by St. Louis IX (1226–70), Charlemagne remained primarily a role model for their monarchs, including the Valois, and a hero of the chansons de geste. For the Germans, as personified by the Habsburg emperor Frederick III (1440–93), Charlemagne embodied the Roman Empire and the German nation. He was a saint with historical roots going back to the Trojans. Far more than the French, the late medieval Germans emphasized the imperial traditions as they were represented in the memory of Karl der Grosse.

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