Great Dads of the Dark Age

Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great dad, but for these dark age fathers, my criteria for what makes them great will be very simple. Each of these fathers had a son known as ‘the Great’. These fathers paved the way to their son’s greatness, yet are not remembered or celebrated as their famous sons are. So let’s remember them this Father’s Day!

Pepin the Short

Pepin was the first of the Carolingians to become king. He was a great reformer of the Frankish church, evangelising the Saxons, who were continually in revolt against him, as were plenty of members of his own family. He was one of the most successful rulers of his time, but little is known about the boyhood of his sons. However in young adulthood his son, Karl/Charles campaigned alongside his father undoubtedly helping to account for his rise to military genius. This son is more commonly known as Charlemagne, the Faher of Europe.

Athelwulf of Wessex (Discover more on Athelwulf in Three Times the Lady

Judith WFrancia2

This man was a fairly successful king, who managed the Viking threat well and helped raise the profile of Wessex on the continent through his pilgrimage to Rome and his somewhat outrageous second marriage to Judith of West Francia, the teenage daughter of Charles the Bald when Athelwulf was well into his fifties. He appears to have been a  devoted father, fighting alongside his oldest son and later forgiving him for a rebellion against him. Athelwulf is known to have been of a scholarly inclination, a tendency his youngest son at least seems to have inherited. He also took his youngest son with him on his travels to Rome and the court of Charles the Bald. The impact of this on the young boy must have been immense. That boy grew up to be Alfred the Great. Athelwulf died when Alfred was eight or nine, but the influence of his father surely helped him on his way to greatness.



Henry the Fowler

We’ve had two great dads, but if any man deserves the title Greatest Dad of the Dark Ages it is Henry the Fowler. He had not just one, but two sons known as the Great. It is hard to say how much credit he deserves for the younger – Bruno the Great, Archbishop of Cologne since Bruno was placed in the care of the Bishop of Utrecht from the age of five, but perhaps Henry recognised even then his son’s intelligence and planned accordingly. However Henry’s actions definitely helped in the success of his older son Otto. He fought alongside Henry from an early age on the Slavic Marches and it was Henry’s decision to leave his whole realm to Otto, rather than dividing it among his brothers as had previously been the custom. It was also Henry who arranged an advantageous marriage for Otto with a princess from one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, thus increasing the prestige of his son. Henry’s actions as much as Otto’s own helped create his title of Otto the Great.

To great dads everywhere



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