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Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles

Emperor Charles of West Francia is one of the many great rulers in Vikings. However, there’s plenty of information about him that’s hidden.

In Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok slashes and burns his way to several victories before meeting his match in Emperor Charles. Though the Frankia ruler doesn’t step on the battlefield, he marshalls his skilled forces to successfully fend off two well-coordinated attacks on Paris by the Northmen.

Fans mostly know Charles for the Paris victories and for convincing Rollo to betray his own brother, making him one of the generals of the West Frankia forces. But there are plenty of details that aren’t too obvious. The details range from historical information to behind-the-scenes facts, as well as trivia from the show itself.

His Crown

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Emperor Charles’s crown has an image showing the fleur de lis, a symbol that means perfection, life, and light. The fleur de lis has been used as a symbol of the French monarchs up until recent times, as well as appearing on the Quebec flag.

It’s a difficult item to spot since Charles’ gold crown always blends with his gold chair, creating an excessive gold color scheme that covers everything else. As one of the little details fans never noticed about the costumes in Vikings, the symbol shows just how much the producers are focused on keeping things as historically accurate as possible.

Number Of Children

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

On the show, Charles is shown to only have one daughter, Gisla. In real life, Frederuna, who is also the emperor’s wife on the show, had 6 children and died at the age of 30.

The decision to only focus on Gisla is understandable since the show is already populated by a wide variety of characters by the time the Frankians are introduced. Placing the focus on Gisla also enables her character to be developed more efficiently. Within a short amount of time, she is presented as a strong-willed and brave woman who plays an instrumental role in defeating the Northmen.

The Meaning Of His Name

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

In the ancient Germanic language, which the Frankia natives spoke, Charles means “Free Man.” The name is inherited from Charles’ great grandfather, Charles The Great, aka Charlamagne.

Unlike in the Norse regions, the throne was mostly inherited in Germanic regions, hence the reason most Frankia rulers had the name Charles. They were all related. As for the significance of the “Free Man” name, it lies in the fact that Charlemagne was the first recognized emperor after the fall of the Roman empire. His rule meant that the people were now free.

Inspiration For The Character

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

The Vikings version of Emperor Charles is inspired by 3 historical characters. There’s Charles The Bald who ruled West Frankia during the actual Siege of Paris by Ragnar Lothbrok. There’s also Charles III who had Count Odo as his right-hand man and Charles The Simple who made a deal with Rollo almost a century after the Paris raids.

Amalgamating 3 different rulers with the same name to create a super version is a smart move that creates room for more arcs. If the show had gone with actual events and focused on Charles The Bald, viewers could have failed to see two of the biggest betrayals in Vikings, those of Rollo and Count Odo.

His Empire

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Emperor Charles specifically rules over West Frankia, which evolved to modern-day France. East Frankia, on the other hand, went on to become Germany.

Despite cowardice being his most obvious trait, Charles does a great job of defending his empire during two of the best battles in Vikings, thus ensuring its continued existence. His cowardice, coupled with his lack of ambition, is presumably the reason he doesn’t annex East Frankia as King Ecbert does with Mercia.

His Affiliation

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Emperor Charles is said to belong to the House of Karlings. Before the Karlings took over, West Frankia was governed by the House of Merewīowings (Merovingians). The reign ended after Pepin The Short toppled Childeric III.

Vikings doesn’t place much focus on houses since the Northmen, who are the main focus, didn’t identify with them as much, compared to the Germanic tribes. Fans of medieval shows are much more familiar with the houses in Game Of Thrones, even though those are entirely fictional.

His Right-Hand Man’s Fate

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

On the show, Count Odo, Emperor Charles’ right-hand man, gets killed after his plan to overthrow the ruler is exposed. In real life, Count Odo went on to become an emperor.

Odo’s execution also closes the door to one of the historical figure’s biggest milestones. He not only get to sit on the throne but was also the first elected ruler of West Frankia. This development suggests that he was highly popular, compared to his screen version who is mostly portrayed as one of the most unlikable Frankia natives in Vikings.

He Has The Least Amount Of Dialogue Out Of All The Rulers

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Despite being the only person to defeat Ragnar, Emperor Charles has the least amount of quotes out of all the rulers. Throughout his run on the show, he speaks less than a dozen times.

Vikings characters with the best fighting ability are also the most popular ones. The same applies to those with amazing dialogue. It’s therefore surprising that Charles manages to be a formidable character without having neither words nor swords. Defeating Ragnar definitely gives him a boost and so does being surrounded with equally intriguing characters.

The Actor Who Portrays Him

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Emperor Charles is portrayed by Lothaire Bluteau who is best known for his role as French ambassador Charles de Marillac in The Tudors and Marcus Alvarez on 24.

Bluteau performs in both English and French, hence he has appeared in productions involving the two different languages. In his vast body of work, the majority of the early credits are French movies and TV shows while he has only appeared in American productions in the later stages of his career.

The Rollo-Gisla Marriage

Vikings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Emperor Charles
Vikings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Emperor Charles

Rollo marries Emperor Charles’ daughter Gisla after agreeing to betray his fellow Northmen on the show. However, this is not how things transpired in real life. Charles The Bald was the only French ruler whose daughter married a foreigner. That daughter was Judith, who married a foreigner, King Ecbert’s son Aethelwulf. On the show, Judith is King Aelle’s daughter.

This is yet another instance where the show’s creative liberties are demonstrated. Playing with history in order to come up with the most palatable arc is something that historical and period productions have done all too frequently. The decision to include Rollo is an interesting one too since he existed 100 years after the Paris raid and could have been a great character in Vikings: Valhalla which covers this timeline.

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