On this day in 771, Carloman I died. He was King of the Franks — for a couple of years anyway. He was the son of Pepin the Short, although I don’t know if that means he was actually short. Anyway, so Pepin was King of the Franks, and after he croaks, Carloman becomes King of the Franks, and after he croaks, his brother Charlemagne takes over. And Charlemagne is the great man who brought the Holy Roman Empire back together. Hooray!
Actually, I don’t really care. What I do care about is that Charlemagne, like most “great” leaders, was no kind of self-made man. They were almost all of them born into it. War was the family business just like farming was for the vast majority of other people. It’s the way with humans. Look at Hollywood. I’m a great admirer of George Clooney, but he was born into the business.
I don’t especially have anything against any of this. Genghis Khan’s daddy was a Mongol ruler. Fine! What I do have a problem with is this creepy cultural tendency — especially in America — to attribute success to some personal greatness. It just ain’t so. Let’s go back to actors again. I’ve noticed something about great old British actors like Laurence Olivier or Alec Guinness. Again: I admire them both greatly. Neither man was born into the business. But you could say they were born for the business. They were both very attractive young men. It wasn’t their acting talent that made them stars.
So hooray for King Charlemagne! I’m sure he did about as well as any other person put in his position.