Descendents of Charlemagne

Is is highly probable that every American is a descedent of Charlemagne? How about Western Europeans?

I don’t know if it’s probable, but it’s unprovable. There aren’t any known descendant of the guy, though some very ancient noble families are suspected to have been related.

I ust found this:

there is virtually no chance that anyone of European ancestry is not directly descended from Charlemagne.

Here’s my reasoning. Charlemagne was approximately 40 generations back from the present day. Each person has 2 parents, 22 = 4 grandparents, 23 = 8 great-grandparents, … and 240, or approximately 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion), 40th-generation ancestors, which means half a trillion male ancestors. Of course, since the entire male population of Europe at the time of Charlemagne was only about 15 million, these half trillion ancestors cannot all have been different men – obviously there has been a lot of cross-breeding, and many of our ancestral lines cross and re-cross, eventually ending up at the same person. Let’s assume that each of my 40th-generation male ancestors is a randomly-chosen man from eighth-century Europe (this is not really valid, but more on that below). Choosing any one such ancestor, say my father’s father’s … father’s father, the probability that that particular person is Charlemagne is one in 15 million. Pretty small. To put it another way, the probability that any particular ancestor was not Charlemagne is 1 - 1/15,000,000, or approximately 0.999999933


Any truth to this?

Ok, it looks like it whites are descendents of Charlemagne.

The analysis by Kel Varnsen depends on people having an average number of immediate descendants, and those contnuing to have an average number. For some historic people we know the opposite to be true: for example, no one living today is a descendant of Queen Elizabeth I of England, because she had no children. However, we can’t be sure with others: it is known that all of King Henry VIII’s legitimate children died without issue (the last to die being Elizabeth I), but it is possible that Henry VIII had one or more illegitimate children, and so that he has living decendants.

I know what you’re trying to say here, clair, but I think you’re out to lunch in what you actually said. There are a huge number of people who can prove descent from Charlemagne through the female line, including the British, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian royal families, nearly all the Debretts and Almanach de Gotha nobility, and a wide assortment of Europeans and Americans of no particular distinction. AFAIK there are no lineal male descendents left, though it’s possible that could be proven wrong.

Mathematical “proofs,” though, will not demonstrate anything as regards blood descent, because it’s quite possible that someone died without progeny, or that their progeny died without progeny. William the Marshall of England, for example, was represented in the fourth generation by only a few folks descended in the female line, because his five sons did not have heirs whose children lived. Nobody is a lineal descendent of Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England, who had no children. Queen Anne of England and her husband had nineteen children, but they all died young, not having reproduced. One could work the math for them, but the results would be invalid.

It might interest folks interested in genealogy to look up Isabel de Vermandois (fl. ca. 1150), a woman of no particular distinction, except that she married twice, had a large number of children who married into a variety of royal/noble lines, and was a lineal descendant of Charlemagne and of other historical figures.

Well, wait a minute, Kel. I find the arguments in your links spectacularly unconvincing. As the second link says,

Which, of course, is not true. A particular peasant in medieval France would be much more likely to marry someone from his own village than someone from, say, England.

I may be wrong, but I had the impression that the vast majority of peasants stayed within a few miles of their home village virtually all their lives. Acknowledging that fact implies, to me, that there was probably a lot of inbreeding, and thus the number of distinct individuals in a particular person’s family tree, even going back just a few generations, would be far less than the theoretical number (the same person showing up in multiple slots, in other words).

It could be that, even in a geographically static society like this, a relatively small number of transient people would still effectively join the entire gene pool in a few tens of generations. But I don’t think it’s fair to ignore issues of social structure and treat the question as a purely random mating dance.

What is going on in this message board. This exact same issue keeps coming up every few months. And one of the first replies is someone saying that no one is a descendant of Charlemagne.

Well, both me and Mrs. FtG are known descendants for one thing. QEII and all that ilk are too.

I go thru the usual summary of how I have proven this, etc.

So, clairobscur, this time, the ball is in your court. Prove your ridiculous claim or shut up.

Well, both me and Mrs. FtG are known descendants for one thing. QEII and all that ilk are too.


You married your 85th cousin? Whatever works for you pervert. I hope any present or future kids turn out Ok.

Well, along that chain we’re more in the 30-something cousin range. But we’re actually 18th cousins (or closer) in other chains.

Wasn’t there an essay by Cecil on relations to ancestors, or a thread here? I know it said anyone of English decent today is related to 85% of the British in the year 1200. It also said we’re up to about 50th cousins worldwide.

2, 4, 8, 16 … how can you always have MORE ancestors as you go back in time?

Caution: This is going to sound more like economics - with a dash of comparative fibers and their technology - than anthropology: sorry, but I don’t know a shorter way to really explain how and why you’re wrong.

Unfortunately, you are not taking into consideration the effect of the Crusades on the population of Europe as a whole. The nobles who went on crusade invariably carried along not just their squires and armsmen (horseback fighters), but also some of their peasants who had been trained as footsoldiers. Even if all who survived returned to their homes after crusade (a significant percentage did, but large numbers of survivors settled in other locales - including those who were captured by the Saracens and not ransomed), during the period of their absence from home, and with neither lords nor serfs practicing abstinence, nor having any effective means of birth control, there was quite a bit of gene mixing. IOW, “random mating dance” is a pretty fair description. :slight_smile:

I also wish to point out that there were two other factors which promoted outbreeding. First was the popular practice of pilgrimages to shrines. There were shrines throughout Europe (not to mention those who went to the Holy Land on pilgrimage). Granted that serfs would not usually be permitted to go to distant shrines, nevertheless they would have been permitted to go to relatively nearby shrines (say, within 50 miles).

{Why would their masters have allowed it? Because if the priest ordered a pilgrimage as penance for a serf, the lord of the manor would have risked sanction by said priest if he did not permit it. To be sure, such pilgrimages by serfs would not have been frequently required, nor as penance for any ordinary sin. However, they would have happened, at least occasionally. And do you suppose that there would not have been some of the lowliest pilgrims who would not have taken advantage of being in a place where they were both alone and strangers to take advantage of sexual opportunities? And, more importantly, by the time of the first crusade, there was a very obvious middle class - people who were neither serfs, peasants, nor nobles. Travel for these freemen would have been limited only by their finances.}

How did the multitude of shrines in the British Isles and across Europe have obtained their relics? Many of them were brought back from the Holy Land by either pilgrims or crusaders.

The most important means by which genes were circulated was the growth of commerce. The finances for the building of the great cathedrals which arose across Europe largely were provided by the burghers/bourgeoisie/merchants/traders. IIRC, it was before the first crusade that trade began to grow. Bear in mind that, although trade in goods from China (and other parts of Asia) was limited, there was a tremendous appetite for those goods which did arrive in the west. Silk was prized almost more than we can imagine. Don’t forget Marco Polo! :smack: :slight_smile:

As for the things which were both produced and consumed in Europe, the amazing number of beautiful cathedrals in England were mostly built with the money provided by the wool trade, according to what I’ve read. Substitute whatever the local burghers/bourgeoisie/merchants/traders made their money doing, and you’ve got the answer for nearly every cathedral in Europe. Yes, even Chartres, Notre Dame, Rheims, etc.

You are probably not aware, but none of the varieties of cotton that were grown in the Old World were remotely close to the quality available to us today (Native Americans had developed a variety of cotton plant with very long fibers (“staple”), much longer than any Old World variety; it is now grown around the world, just as tomatoes, potatoes, maize, squashes, pumpkins, etc., and nearly ad infinitum, are). As a result, cotton was not as much grown (and not easily grown anywhere in Europe, but rather mostly in Egypt) nor used as we would automatically assume, because the threads were much weaker than any of the alternatives…

The other raw materials which could be woven into cloth and made into clothing were linen and wool. Linen is very time consuming to produce; the processing of the raw flax takes quite a long time, and requires trained and experienced workers. Only after the retting (separating the linen fibers from the rest of the plant) has taken place can it be spun into threads, and woven. However, it is very durable, and for that reason it was used for certain things (tablecloths, for instance, and the Shroud of Turin, whenever it was made. Flax and its processing was a very ancient discovery).

Wool, by contrast, is sheared (annually) from the sheep, is washed, combed, and then spun. Compared to the cost of producing linen thread, the cost of producing woolen thread was much cheaper. Although a significant percentage of Europe’s wool was grown during that period in the British Isles, the vast majority of the wool grown in England, Scotland and Wales was processed into thread and woven into fabric in western Europe. Consequently, the raw wool was exported to the Continent, and reimported as cloth.

Given the limitations of the available transportation at the time, the owners of the sheep required both pack animals and men to manage them, to help him move the fleeces from the farms to the ports. Because they did not have purchase contracts for their fleeces, they required those same men to go with them all the way from the farm to the location of the the continental manufacturers. The owners would not have trusted anyone but their own men to handle the fleeces; the levels of xenophobia in that era would be incomprehensible to most modern folk. If the manufacturer turned the wool into thread and sold the thread to weavers (probably the case; there were guilds which minutely ruled the kinds of work which could be done by their own members, and would do whatever they thought necessary to preserve the rights of their own guildmembers, and prevent all others from doing the kind of work that their guildmembers did. Lawsuits were the least, and most civilized, actions taken. If the spinners and weavers were members of the same guild, the sheepowner might trade fleeces for cloth. If not, once the fleeces were sold, if he were able, he would then purchase finished cloth to take back to England (or wherever) with him.

In the end, the amount of trading done by the majority of wool producers was small, unless they had someone at home who was so thoroughly competent at managing both the farm and the shepherds that they really were not needed at home, except at shearing time. I trust it is obvious that a family which has been doing this for several generations will probably be able to expand the family business by going into trade, and I’ve sketched above how that would work. However, many of the wool producers would have simply sold their fleeces for money and rushed back home, so that the trader and his men (and pack donkeys) would go back home as fast as they possibly could, to relieve the burden on those who stayed behind to take care of the sheep. Even with the best of weather and luck, they would have been away from home at least a month. If you choose to believe that every single man of them would have been celibate throughout the trip, you may do so. My estimate of human nature is not that optimistic. :stuck_out_tongue:

The most painless way I can think of for anyone to obtain at least a general idea of how medieval life and culture worked is to read the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. Ms. Peters was a meticulous researcher, and most history students will concede that the background of that series is fairly accurate. Note, however, that I am recommending the books, not the TV series. :slight_smile:

…and with all of those wacky nomad invaders from Asia (Cumans, Avars, Magyars, Huns, Mongols, etc.) some of us may not be too distantly related to our Eastern kin!

My paternal grandmother’s ancestry, which is the one I can best trace, links back to two first cousins once removed who married sisters. This is fairly typical of early America, where families might end up distantly interrelated. So while in theory you might have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-grandparents, 32 great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-grandparents, etc., in point of fact the numbers tend to be somewhat below the theoretical maximum as you get back beyond two greats. What will happen is that, e.g., two or more children of one great[sup]6[/sup]-grandparent couple will have married different ancestors leading to you, and you will therefore be somewhat below the theoretical number of different great-grandparents. I can trace my ancestry to the prolific King Edward III of England in about a dozen different ways – and that’s pretty typical for anyone who can get trace their line back that far at all.

I have heard (but cannot provide a cite) that most Irish are pretty insulated from the gene lines of Western Europe (“Black Irish” doesn’t mean what my grandmother thought it did), as are most Basque and many Ashkenazi Jews (Isolated shtetls turn up from time to time in Russia, but I guess they’re irrelevant to a discussion of Western Europe). Irish involvement in the Crusades was pretty minimal, and they were pretty insulated from European affairs until the 16th Century.