Charlemagne and the Magic Ring
Charlemagne was a great and good king, of whom many wonderful stories are told, some of which are true, and many of which are mythical. He belonged to the age of heroes when people ascribed to those they admired far greater traits than they could possibly possess and of whom wonderful stories have been brought down to us at the present day.
When Charlemagne's third wife died, he married a beautiful eastern princess by the name of Frastrada. Now, this princess was possessed of a magic ring, whose power was such that the wearer of it or even the possessor of it became irresistible. When the princess saw the great Charlemagne on one of his travels she put the ring on her finger and at once Charlemagne was her devoted slave, and kneeling before her, said, "Madam, I have never beheld so beautiful a creature. I beg you to share with me my throne and my domains. My heart is entirely yours and I beg you to come at once with me to my castle in France." To this Frastrada agreed and they were happily married.
With great pomp and ceremony was she installed in her new home and so long as she wore the magic ring Charlemagne gave every evidence of devotion and love. Frastrada was a gentle and beautiful queen and deserved all the affection that the king lavished upon her.
At length the queen fell dangerously ill. She felt that she was going to die. On her hand she still wore the magic ring, which she would not remove under any circumstances. When she looked at it she said to herself, "After I die, some one else will wear this ring and have the affection of my lord and king. Would that I could take it with me beyond the grave."
Saying this, and almost with her dying strength, she slipped the ring from her finger and concealed it in her mouth. Shortly afterwards she breathed her last.
Solemn preparations were made to bury the dead queen. It was intended to inter her body in the cathedral of Mayence, but Charlemagne was so overcome with grief that he refused to part with the body of the beloved queen. He neglected all matters of state and sat day after day in the room where her body was placed, unwilling to have her buried.
The trusted officer of Charlemagne was Archbishop Turpin. Seeing the distress of his king he said to those around him, "Surely our master is under the influence of some strange spell. I suspect that the dead queen, lovely and beautiful as she was, in death holds him with the same magic power we have suspected she exercised over him when she was alive."
The archbishop resolved to discover the secret of Frastrada's power. Slipping into the room where the king sat overcome with fasting and weeping, he found him wrapped in slumber. He searched the body of the queen carefully and at last in her mouth he discovered the magic ring, which he had long thought to be the source of her power over the king.
It was but the work of a moment to secure this ring and slip it on his own finger. Just as he was about to leave the room the king awoke, and in awaking was completely relieved of the spell which bound him to his queen. He glanced with a shudder at her body and ordered her to be buried.
On the other hand, the archbishop became the object of the king's most ardent desire. He flung himself most passionately upon the neck of the archbishop, saying, "You shall never leave me, for I now transfer to you the affection I gave my dead wife. I shall be inconsolable in your absence."
With the power of the magic ring which Turpin wore, he induced the king to eat and drink and to cease his mourning and to resume the reins of government which he had almost abandoned. Turpin became the object of his unbounded admiration. This soon became a weariness and vexation to the old archbishop. He tired of the protestations of undying affection and wished to be rid of the king but did not well know how it should be done.
Turpin was advanced in years and Charlemagne was in the vigor of youth and strength. The king made Turpin accompany him everywhere, even on his hunting expeditions, made him sleep in the same tent, and when he awoke in the morning he inquired, "Where is Turpin?" When he started upon the chase, he said, "Saddle a horse for the archbishop." When he sat at meat he said to those around him, "Prepare the best food for my beloved Turpin," and he would not close his eyes at night without knowing that the archbishop had lain down near him.
The archbishop became weary and worn. This was a little more than he had counted on, and so he decided to get rid of the ring which was the source of all his trouble, but he did not know how to do this for fear it would fall into unscrupulous hands and the king be ruined.
The unhappy minister slipped away from the king one moonlight night, stole silently out of the imperial tent, and wandered alone in the woods, thinking of his misery. As he walked thus, he came to the opening of the forest and found himself beside a lake on whose surface the moonbeams played with silvery softness.
The archbishop sat down and began to consider. "What shall I do in the plight in which I find myself? The king follows me everywhere I go and makes my weary body attend him at the chase and the banquet as though I were as young as he. Would that I had buried the queen with the ring in her mouth." Thinking thus to himself he slipped the ring off his finger and the thought struck him that the best way to dispose of it was to consign it to the waters of the lake, where it could be hidden forever.
In a moment the ring was thrown far into the lake and the archbishop walked back to the king's tent and soon fell asleep.
The king awoke the next day and turned an indifferent eye upon the archbishop and said to him, "You may return to your duties, my friend, for I shall not need you any longer at my table. I can see that you are much worn in following me in the chase. You are my trusty counselor and I shall send for you when I need you, otherwise you are at liberty."
Charlemagne seemed unusually restless that day and appeared to be seeking for something that he had lost. Calling for his followers, he blew his horn and started upon his daily hunts. About noon he lost sight of his suite in the pursuit of game, and finding himself in an open spot, he dismounted and threw himself down upon the grass beside a beautiful lake.
As he gazed upon the waters he became enamored of the spot. "What beautiful water! What a charming place to dwell forever!" exclaimed Charlemagne. "There must be something within these waters to cure the restless spirit and make one long to linger here forever."
His followers found him gazing upon the water, softly lapping it in his hands and looking abstractedly into its depths. With difficulty they persuaded him to leave the spot. Only Turpin knew that the magic ring which had been thrown into this lake was the charm which had engaged the king's devotion, and he told no one of what had happened.
Before Charlemagne consented to leave the spot and return to his tent he said to those around him, "It is here that I shall build a chapel and shall call it Aix-la-Chapelle." In after years this was accomplished, to the satisfaction of the king, and the building thus erected was the beginning of his favorite capital.