Charlemagne became the ruler of all Gaul and the surrounding territory along the Rhine down to the the shores of the Mediterrean Sea. After he had consolidated his domain he decided it was time to have his reign recognized by the known and civilized world at the time. It was a prestige thing. It also carried significant real political clout since many of the local lords of the realm were not accustomed to having a King or
Emporer as such interfere with their jurisdiction and enforcement of the law as they determined it to be. The only authority with universal reach at the time was the Church as embodied in the person of the Pope. There had been no European- wide recognized leader since the fall of the Roman Empire toward the end of the 5th century AD. Everything had been pretty well chopped up into small fiefdoms by the strongest lord around with very little fealty to higher authority of any kind.
Charlemagne came from good bloodlines. Breeding matters. His grandfather was Charles Martel who had defeated the Moors (Muslims) at the battle of Tours in 732 AD. The Muslims had ravaged and pillaged their way all across north Africa and had made the jump to Spain a few decades earlier and were plunging deep into the heartland of Europe. Because there was no central and large states at the time the resistance had been pretty much willy nilly by whoever the locals were to oppose the Moors. Charles Martel organized most of central and northern France to oppose them and won a great victory. The Moors retreated permenantly back over the Pyerenees to Spain and remained there in total control until El Cid forced them out centuries later. Ferdinand and Isabella were famous in their own time much more for finally evicting the Moors from almost all of Spain much more than they were for their exploits with explorers like Colombus. All Europe praised their victory over the Moors. They were viewed as saviors of Christendom.
Charlemagne had a true spectacle for his coronation as Emporer of the Holy Roman Empire. Yes, he was trying after all those centuries to evoke the memory and prestige of the Roman Empire. The Pope did agree to come. It was the politically expedient thing to do. Otherwise Charlemagne might have moved forward without him and then would “owe” him nothing politically in return. The Coronation took place on Jan. 1, 800 AD. An auspicious date for sure. There weren’t millions there that day but everyone that mattered was there. The events in Washington today couldn’t hold a candle to that celebration. Charlemagne gave rise to the whole concept of knighthood and chivalry during the middle ages. Legends, tales, poems and ladies in waiting were all born from his rule. It was his memory and that of his chief paladins as his knights were called that brought the romantic Knighthood genre to fruition. He brought together all the learned men and scholars of the day. He pretty much let them do as they liked. He allowed them to do what today we would call pure research.
He wasn’t French, at least not what we would consider French today. He was German. There is nothing new under the Sun including celebrations of inaugurals for new leaders.