30 Things Turning 30 in 2017

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If you were born in 1987, you're in good company! Here's our annual list celebrating 30 things (products, companies, TV shows, books, heck—even people!) turning 30 this year.

1. CHERRY GARCIA

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Ben & Jerry's introduced the flavor Cherry Garcia on February 15, 1987. Honoring the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, the flavor was originally suggested by Jane Williamson, a fan. She had contacted the company several times with the idea, and her suggestion turned into a hit. The company thanked her with a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's.

2. THE PRINCESS BRIDE

The Princess Bride hit theaters on September 25, 1987, and became an instant classic. Featuring the Cliffs of Insanity, the Pit of Despair, and Rodents of Unusual Size, the film struck a chord with lovers of adventure, romance, and fantasy. It also gave us a terrific revenge tale, as Mandy Patinkin's character says: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

If you're a super-fan, there's an entire website devoted to the movie. (We have our own facts about the movie here). They also sell "tweasure." And if you haven't read it, William Goldman's original book—published way back in 1973—is inconceivably good.

3. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (IN THE U.S.)

As with many Nintendo games, The Legend of Zelda has multiple birthdays. It was first released in Japan in 1986, but had its U.S. debut on August 22, 1987 in a signature gold-colored cartridge including a special battery pack to keep saved game data. Meanwhile, Japanese players had been enjoying Zelda II: The Adventure of Link since January 14, 1987.

In the three decades since Zelda reached America, more than a dozen sequels have emerged. It remains one of Nintendo's most popular franchises. The latest installment, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is slated for release this year.

4. PANERA BREAD

In 1987, the first St. Louis Break Company opened in Kirkwood, Missouri. It would go on to expand to several more locations before attracting the attention of Au Bon Pain, which was trying to enter the suburban market. By the late '90s, the chain was renamed to its current Panera Bread. The name "Panera" is derived from the Latin for, effectively, "breadbasket." The chain features soups, salads, and sandwiches in addition to typical bakery fare.

The company now has over 2000 locations, and in the mid-2000s gained fame for its free Wi-Fi. These days, your free Wi-Fi time may be capped at 30 minutes.

5. U2'S THE JOSHUA TREE

On March 9, 1987, U2 released their epic album The Joshua Tree, featuring smash hit singles "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The supporting tour was suitably epic, and during the tour they shot scenes for the upcoming album and film Rattle and HumThe Joshua Tree was U2's first album to reach No. 1 in the U.S.

Other big music releases in 1987 include Michael Jackson's Bad; George Michael's solo debut, Faith; The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation; Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night; Def Leppard's Hysteria; and Guns N’ Roses's seminal Appetite for Destruction.

6. FULL HOUSE

The quintessential American '80s sitcom Full House premiered on September 22, 1987. It had a slightly grim premise under its wacky surface: After the death of anchorman Danny Tanner's wife, he pulls his best friend and his brother-in-law into his San Francisco home to help care for his three daughters. Fortunately, hilarity ensued, and we all learned catch phrases like Dave Coulier's "Cut—it—out," the Olsen twins' "Aw, nuts!" and Jodie Sweetin's "How rude!"

Today, the web is full of fan sites and even a podcast. Netflix launched the spinoff series Fuller House in 2016, featuring an all-grown-up Candace Cameron Bure as D.J. Tanner-Fuller. Fuller. Get it? Huh? Oh well. Watch the hair!

7. THE SIMPSONS (ON THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW)

Before The Simpsons had their own show, they appeared in animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. The first short appeared on April 19, 1987. Entitled "Good Night," it showed Bart, Lisa, and Maggie going through their bedtime routines, inadvertently becoming terrified by their clueless parents' comments.

Looking back at the animated shorts, most of the show's DNA is already in place. Although the art is crude and some of the characters aren't full developed, the core dynamics are there—even including Itchy and Scratchy!

8. PRESIDENT REAGAN'S "TEAR DOWN THIS WALL" SPEECH

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin to deliver a speech. Standing by the Brandenburg Gate, he exhorted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" At the time, the Berlin Wall was just over 25 years old. It would begin to fall in late 1989. While the president's speech didn't cause the fall by itself, it sure felt like a big factor at the time. President Reagan said, in part:

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

The speech touched on a variety of other issues as well, including President Reagan's desire to limit nuclear weapons proliferation. At one point he called for the Soviets and the U.S. to "[eliminate], for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth."

You can watch the entire speech courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, or check out the money quote in the YouTube clip embedded above.

9. BLACK MONDAY

Monday, October 19, 1987 was a rough day. Stock markets crashed worldwide, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22 percent of its value in one day. In previous months, the Dow had soared more than 44 percent over the previous year's close. Starting in mid-October, the Dow was hit by a series of major losses, culminating in the crash of Black Monday (which is, incidentally, known as Black Tuesday in Australia and New Zealand, due to time zone differences).

While Black Monday brought us the biggest one-day drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the market recovered quickly. Over half the losses were regained in just two days of trading. Then, early in 1989, the Dow surpassed its previous high. The most notable effect of the crash was the creation of tools to temporarily halt trading (seen as a hedge against computer-trading programs running amok) to reduce volatility.

10. CANADA'S LOONIE

In June 1987, Canada introduced a new $1 coin to replace paper $1 notes. The coin featured the image of a loon, and the coin quickly earned the nickname "loonie." (Over the years, various non-loon versions have been minted; the Royal Canadian Mint maintains a nice list.)

In 1996, the Canadian $2 coin debuted. Predictably, it became known as the "toonie."

11. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

Star Trek fans rejoiced when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired on September 28, 1987. The original series had stopped producing episodes in 1969, though TV syndication, new movies, and fan conventions kept the series alive in the pop culture landscape.

Helmed by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, TNG followed a later iteration of the starship Enterprise on a "continuing mission" of exploration. It was set a hundred years after the original show, and Roddenberry had some odd rules of play. He suggested that conflict among members of the crew would not exist in this new future, which led to awkward plots in the first few years of the show. (This lack of internal conflict required external forces to emerge, constantly, to create conflict.)

TNG was the background TV of many '90s kids' childhoods, as hour-long episodes ran in reruns after school. The show ran for seven seasons and produced a staggering 178 individual episodes. It still runs in syndication today, and we write about it often.

12. DIRTY DANCING

Released on August 21, 1987, Dirty Dancing was a massive hit. Featuring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in period drama, the movie took us all the way back to 1963. (That's a gap of 24 years. If we made a modern Dirty Dancing with the same time gap, it would be set in the good old days of 1993.) As Grey's character "Baby" unleashes her inner dancer, Swayze's "Johnny" taught America to love dancing again. Dirty Dancing won one Academy Award, for Best Original Song: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." That song also picked up a Golden Globe and a Grammy.

Just remember: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

13. BABY JESSICA'S RESCUE

On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old "Baby Jessica" McClure fell down a well in her aunt's back yard. The well shaft was just 8 inches in diameter, and Baby Jessica was stuck 22 feet underground.

For the next 58 hours, TV viewers were glued to CNN TV coverage as rescuers worked to save Baby Jessica's life. They drilled a much wider hole parallel to the well, then tunneled from the larger hole to the smaller well shaft. While this went on, rescuers added oxygen to Baby Jessica's well shaft, hoping to keep her breathing. Adults spoke to her, singing songs and trying to stay in contact.

On October 16, 1987, the rescue was successful—and it was televised. Baby Jessica was safe, and she went on to live a normal life. Local news photographer Scott Shaw snapped a photo of her rescue that won a Pulitzer Prize.

14. THE MAX HEADROOM INCIDENT

On the evening of November 22, 1987, Chicago-area TV viewers saw something unexpected. A news broadcast on WGN was interrupted for just under 30 seconds by a guy wearing a Max Headroom mask. The audio didn't work, and the station successfully cut the pirate out quickly.

The TV pirate struck again that night during an episode of Dr. Who on WTTW. The show was interrupted for about 90 seconds when the faux Max Headroom cut into the signal and spoke in heavily distorted seeming non-sequiturs, ultimately showing himself being spanked by a fly swatter. The incident remains a mystery, as the perpetrator has never been identified or caught.

(For our younger readers, check out this article for an explanation of who or what Max Headroom was.)

15. PROZAC

In December 1987, the FDA approved Prozac, a prescription antidepressant known generically as Fluoxetine. The drug was a blockbuster hit, soon becoming a multibillion-dollar-a-year business for drugmaker Eli Lilly.

Prozac was also a cultural milestone, leading to a series of books about depression and medication, including Prozac Nation, Prozac Diary, and Listening to Prozac. Prozac quickly became synonymous with antidepressant drugs in general, and remains a true icon of the 1980s.

16. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN

When Fox launched in late 1986, it went head to head with the Big Three TV companies: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Fox was looking to join that lineup, and it quickly cemented itself as a player with a series of popular shows, including The Tracey Ullman Show, 21 Jump Street, and the instant classic Married... With Children.

The show focused initially on Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), a dimwitted women's shoe salesman with a feisty family. It launched on April 5, 1987 and ran for just over a decade, earning modest ratings for the channel as part of its Sunday night lineup (which would later be anchored by The Simpsons).

17. MICHAEL JORDAN'S 58-POINT GAME

On February 26, 1987, Michael Jordan set a Chicago record by scoring 58 points in a regular-season game. He led the Bulls to beat the Nets 128-113. He voluntarily stopped playing after setting the record, and told The New York Times:

"I knew the fans wanted me to get 60, then 63, and maybe 70. But the bottom line is, that by scoring more points I'll always have to shoot for more and more, and there's a lot more to the game."

Jordan had previously set a playoff game record in May 1986, scoring 63 points against the Celtics. His records are so numerous that Wikipedia has a long article devoted solely to his achievements.

18. LARRY BIRD'S 59-BASKET FREE THROW STREAK

Larry Bird had a habit of making free throws. In 1987, he went on a 59-basket streak from November 9 through December 4. Two years later, he went on a 71-basket streak, though even that one fell short of Calvin Murphy's 78-basket streak in 1981. (All of these records have since been broken.) But hey, it wouldn't be 1987 basketball without mildly dissing Larry Bird, right?

19. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE GIN

Although the bottle makes Bombay Sapphire look centuries old, it was first introduced in 1987. Designed to be a "luxury gin" akin to how Absolut was considered a "luxury vodka," Bombay Sapphire took the existing Bombay line and elevated it, going back to Bombay's famous 1761 recipe ... and adding a dash of new botanical ingredients.

20. ROBOCOP

Paul Verhoeven brought us his dystopian RoboCop on July 17, 1987. Featuring Peter Weller as the title character, the film shows us what happens when a private corporation takes over the Detroit Police Department ... and starts staffing it with cyborgs. What could possibly go wrong?

Fun fact: In the movie, the 1986 model Ford Taurus appears as a futuristic police cruiser—because that design was actually pretty sleek for its time! Various Ford models were also used in the sequels and reboot. "Your move, creep."

21. MACINTOSH SE

The Macintosh SE came out in on March 2, 1987, and it would set you back $2899 with two floppy drives—or $3899 with a 20 megabyte hard drive. Yikes.

Refining the design used in the original 1984 Mac and the Macintosh Plus, the SE ran at a decidedly non-blistering 8 MHz, but it could support up to 4 megabytes of RAM, and it became a common machine in computer labs across the U.S. Because it allowed for an internal hard drive and also had a built-in expansion slot, the SE was more expandable than previous Macs, which helped it hang on for more than two years.

22. CONGRESSIONAL BAN ON INFLIGHT SMOKING

On July 26, 1987, the U.S. Congress mandated a ban on inflight smoking for flights of two hours or less. The ban went into effect in 1988, and was eventually broadened. Interestingly, regulations still mandate the presence of ashtrays in airplane lavatories.

(Incidentally, starting on April 26, 1987, Air Canada started experimenting with its own smoking bans.)

23. AZT

On March 19, 1987, the FDA approved a drug called azidothymidine for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS infection. Because the drug's name was such a mouthful, everybody called it "AZT" from the start. It was the first-ever drug approved for treating HIV/AIDS, and its approval came in record time, after only a single 19-week trial on humans.

While AZT was the first effective medication for some cases to fight HIV/AIDS, it was only the first step. Over the coming decades, scientists added medications and refined dosages, arriving at modern treatments. But in 1987, AZT was the only medical hope for patients with HIV/AIDS.

24. "THE DRIVE" (JOHN ELWAY'S BIG WIN)

On January 11, 1987, the Denver Broncos made a legendary comeback known as "The Drive." Playing against the Cleveland Browns, the Broncos were down 20-13 with 5:32 left on the clock. Quarterback John Elway took over, and led his team on a 98-yard drive in just over five minutes. That left the game tied with 0:37 on the clock, and Elway's Broncos proceeded to win the game in overtime with a field goal.

That win allowed the Broncos to advance to Super Bowl XXI, which they lost to New York Giants. But still, The Drive is what football fans look to as a textbook example of a last-minute rally.

25. WINDOWS 2.0

Microsoft released Windows 2.0 on December 9, 1987. It was a transitional operating system, bridging the gap between the (borderline unusable) Windows 1.0 and the very successful Windows 3.0.

The banner features of Windows 2 were overlapping, freely resizable windows (previously, windows had to be "tiled" and couldn't overlap). Aside from the slightly improved user interface, Microsoft Word and Excel both arrived for Windows 2.0, and it also included a slightly updated version of the game Reversi!

Apple sued Microsoft in March 1988 over the graphical user interface in Windows 2.0. Microsoft won. Apple appealed repeatedly, attempting to get the case before the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. Tensions between Microsoft and Apple remained high until 1997, when Microsoft invested in Apple and the companies' CEOs buried the hatchet.

26. STEPHEN KING'S MISERY

On June 8, 1987, readers got a taste of the horrors of writing. In Stephen King's novel Misery, a famous writer is rescued from a car crash by a super-fan, but finds that his recuperation is not as pleasant as he'd hoped.

King mentions Misery in his 2000 book On Writing, saying that the story came to him while he slept on a 1984 flight from New York to London. When he woke up, he wrote the following fever-dream ramble on a cocktail napkin:

She speaks earnestly but never quite makes eye contact. A big woman and solid all through; she is an absence of hiatus. (Whatever that means; remember, I had just woken up.) “I wasn’t trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don’t think that. No, I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered.”

Upon arriving at his hotel in London, King proceeded to write more than a dozen pages of the story, longhand, on what was formerly Rudyard Kipling's desk.

Misery was made into a movie in 1990. Kathy Bates played Annie, the super-fan, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress for that performance.

27. RANDY SHILTS'S AND THE BAND PLAYED ON

Randy Shilts was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1987 he published the bestseller And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, exploring the history of the HIV/AIDS crisis in America, with a focus on how leaders reacted to the crisis. Shilts himself died of complications from AIDS in 1994.

And the Band Played On has been in the news lately; the book mentions Gaetan Dugas as "Patient Zero" and describes his international travel and promiscuity as vectors for virus transmission. Shilts wrote, "Whether Gaetan Dugas actually was the person who brought AIDS to North America remains a question of debate and is ultimately unanswerable." In 2016, scientists published a study in the journal Nature proving that Dugas was not the first vector in North America.

And the Band Played On was adapted into a movie in 1993, starring Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellan, Glenne Headly, and a stunning list of other major stars.

28. KENDRICK LAMAR, KESHA, RONDA ROUSEY, EVAN RACHEL WOOD, ZAC EFRON ...

Plenty of actors, musicians, and athletes were born in 1987. Here are just a few:

Ronda Rousey - February 1

Ellen Page - February 21

Kesha - March 1

(Lil') Bow Wow - March 9

Mackenzie Davis - April 1

Kendrick Lamar - June 17

Lionel Messi - June 24

Blake Lively - August 25

Evan Rachel Wood - September 7

Wiz Khalifa - September 8

Tom Felton - September 22

Hilary Duff - September 28

Zac Efron - October 18

29. FINAL FANTASY

The epic Final Fantasy game franchise began on December 18, 1987, when the first version of the game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the title's adjective "final" referred to the fact that if the game didn't work out, Sakaguchi was in serious trouble. He told Famitsu:

"The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends—it really was a ‘final’ situation."

Although this series of events has been disputed, FF was a hit, and it has gone on to spawn endless sequels and spinoffs. (The most recent is Final Fantasy XV, released in late 2016.)

30. thirtysomething

Unless you're at least 35, you probably won't recognize the TV show thirtysomething. It was a drama launched in September 1987, featuring Baby Boomers then in their mid-thirties, struggling with adulthood and parenthood in Philadelphia.

The term "thirty-something" became part of the popular lexicon, and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. The term refers broadly to people in their 30s, but more specifically to the generation of baby boomers who hit their 30s during the 1980s.

The 10 Best Stores to Shop for Deals on Black Friday

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iStock.com/svetikd

It’s that time of year again: Black Friday is almost upon us. That means killer deals—if you can manage to snag them. Getting good discounts during the shopping melee requires planning, since not every store offers the same sales, and not every Black Friday purchase represents a great deal. Before you start your shopping list this year, you may want to check out WalletHub’s new list of the best stores for Black Friday deals across the country.

WalletHub sifted through 7000 deals advertised in 2018 Black Friday ads from 35 major U.S. companies to figure out where you should concentrate your shopping energy this season.

While you might hear a lot about Black Friday at major retailers like Walmart and Best Buy each year, this data shows that focusing on smaller, regional department stores can net you the most savings. Stores like Belk (located across the South), Meijer (a Midwestern superstore), Fred Meyer (based in the Pacific Northwest), and Shopko (Wisconsin) all offer some of the steepest discounts, outpacing bigger corporations like Target and Kohl's. Stage, based in Houston with stores in 42 states, is offering some of the biggest discounts this year in four of the 11 categories WalletHub studied.

That said, this data is only looking at discount rates, not overall price, so it’s possible that outlets like Amazon that already offer lower base prices may be a better overall deal. With that in mind, here are the 10 stores with the highest overall discount rates:

1. Belk (68.91 percent)
2. JCPenney (65.13 percent)
3. Stage (62.08 percent)
4. Kohl's (60.76 percent)
5. New York & Company (54.52 percent)
6. Payless ShoeSource (50.34 percent)
7. Dick's Sporting Goods (49.94 percent)
8. Macy's (48.74 percent)
9. Fred Meyer (45.30 percent)
10. Shopko (45.23 percent)

These are the top five stores for consumer electronics discounts:

1. Fred Meyer (51.96 percent)
2. Academy Sports + Outdoors (46.28 percent)
3. Staples (42.26 percent)
4. Belk (41.32 percent)
5. Walmart (39.61 percent)

And the top five stores for discounts on phones and computers:

1. Lenovo (40 percent)
2. JCPenney (39.24 percent)
3. Office Depot and OfficeMax (37.94 percent)
4. Target (36.82 percent)
5. Kohl's (35.82 percent)

These are top 5 for appliances:

1. Stage (59.50 percent)
2. Belk (56.64 percent)
3. Fred Meyer (52.50 percent)
4. Big Lots (50.02 percent)
5. Newegg (46.17 percent)

And, last, the top five for toys:

1. Stage (55.78 percent)
2. Belk (53.89 percent)
3. JCPenney (47.41 percent)
4. Jet.com (43.91 percent)
5. Meijer (43.48 percent)

For the full rankings, head to WalletHub.

13 Facts About Charlemagne

A representation of Charlemagne from the Cathedral of Moulins, France
A representation of Charlemagne from the Cathedral of Moulins, France
Vassil, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Between 768 and 814 CE, Charlemagne—also known as Karl or Charles the Great—ruled an empire that spanned most of Western Europe. After years of relentless warfare, he presided over present-day France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other territories. The Carolingian Renaissance (a revival named for the dynasty founded by Charlemagne's grandfather) rose out of the bloodshed, with an accelerated artistic and literary output that both celebrated antiquity and pushed for a newly standardized Christian culture. Nevertheless, the might of this empire rested on Charlemagne alone, and after his death it quickly fell apart. Here are 13 facts about the first Holy Roman Emperor.

1. HIS FATHER WASN'T BORN A KING.

Charlemagne's father, Pepin III—often called Pepin the Short—was mayor of the palace (administrator of the royal court) before he was named the first King of the Franks. After a concerted campaign to become ruler, Pepin finally became king in 751, and three years later was officially anointed by the pope, who at the same time anointed Pepin's sons Carloman and Charles (the future Charlemagne) with the holy oil that demonstrated their special status. Pepin III served until 768.

2. HIS BROTHER DIED SOON AFTER BECOMING CO-KING.

After Pepin III died, Charlemagne shared power with his younger brother Carloman, with the two acting as joint kings. It wasn't a smoothly shared reign, however, as evidenced by a 769 episode in which Carloman seemed to undermine Charlemagne's authority by refusing to assist in quashing a revolt in Aquitane. Then, Carloman suddenly died in 771.

Exactly how Carloman perished so conveniently is mysterious. The most common account is that he died of a nosebleed, though what caused it is a matter of debate, with one historian proposing a peptic ulcer as the underlying issue. Whatever the cause, after his death Charlemagne concentrated all of Carloman’s land and power and became the sole King of the Franks.

3. HE IS CONSIDERED THE FATHER OF EUROPE.

As the King of the Franks, Charlemagne set out on an ambitious and bloody campaign to expand his territory. By the time of his death in 814, this kingdom included the majority of what is now considered Western, and some of Central, Europe. Not since the Roman Empire had this much of the continent been controlled by one ruler. Because of this (albeit fragile) unification, Charlemagne is sometimes called the father of Europe.

Over the centuries, the name Charlemagne became associated with European unification, whether through peaceful initiatives such as the European Union or war. For instance, Napoléon Bonaparte, who had his own dreams of empire, declared in 1806: "Je suis Charlemagne"—"I am Charlemagne."

4. BEING CROWNED EMPEROR MAY HAVE BEEN A SURPRISE.

Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor at Christmas mass in 800. Charlemagne had arrived in Rome a few weeks earlier at the request of the pope, but by many accounts, including that of his court scholar Einhard, he was not expecting his new role, and only realized what was happening when the pope put the imperial crown upon his head.

Since the crowning was advantageous to both parties, it's likely there was some partnership behind the event (it's also possible Einhard may have wanted his friend Charlemagne to appear more humble in his biography). Importantly, the coronation recognized Charlemagne as ruler of a Holy Roman Empire, which carried an associated ambition of outdoing the military and cultural achievements of the pagan Roman Empire. It also served to notify Charlemagne's enemies that his domination of Western Europe was sanctioned by the Church.

5. CHURCH MUSIC FLOURISHED DURING HIS REIGN.

Charlemagne loved church music, particularly the liturgical music of Rome. At his request, Pope Hadrian I sent monks from Rome to the court of Aachen to instruct his chapel's choir in 774. This event helped spark the spread of traditional Gregorian chant through the Frankish churches. In 789, Charlemagne also issued a decree to his empire's clergy, instructing them to learn (and sing properly) the Cantus Romanus, or Roman chant. Music schools were also founded under Charlemagne's reign, and monks transcribing music helped preserve the Gregorian chant into the present day.

6. MUCH OF WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT ANTIQUITY IS BECAUSE OF CHARLEMAGNE.

Charlemagne was a fierce proponent of Christianity, yet he had great respect for the culture of pagan antiquity. He also saw his empire as a direct successor to the glory of the Roman world. The scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance discovered and preserved as much of antiquity as possible, and its survival into the modern day is largely thanks to their efforts. On Frankish campaigns, soldiers would bring back ancient Latin literature alongside other loot. Carolingian monks meticulously copied these old texts into new volumes, helping preserve Cicero, Pliny the Younger, Ovid, and Ammianus Marcellinus. Even after Charlemagne’s reign, these European monasteries remained devoted to the preservation of Latin literature and knowledge.

7. CURRENCY WAS STANDARDIZED IN HIS EMPIRE.

As Charlemagne conquered Western Europe, he recognized the need for a standard currency. Instead of a variety of different gold coins, his government produced and disseminated silver coinage that could be traded across the empire—the first common currency on the continent since the Roman era. The currency’s system of dividing a Carolingian pound of pure silver into 240 pieces was so successful that France kept a basic version of it until the French Revolution.

8. HE DRESSED IN COMMON CLOTHES.

Charlemagne was an imposing figure, with a height estimated between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 4 inches, which was quite a bit taller than the average male height at the time. Yet he wasn't showy in his style. According to Einhard, he dressed in the ordinary clothes of the Frankish people, with a blue cloak over his tunic, linen shirt, and long hose. The one bit of flash he always had was a sword, worn on a belt of gold or silver. To dress up for special occasions, he'd sport a jeweled sword.

He also was not fond of flamboyant dress in the people around him. An anecdotal tale from the 9th-century De Carolo Magno relates how he spent a whole day tormenting some courtiers who returned from a festival decked out in silk and ribbons. He made them go hunting with him without a chance to change their clothes, and immediately upon returning had them attending him into the night. The next morning he ordered them to return, dressed in their wrecked finery, and ridiculed them for demeaning themselves by wearing such impractical clothes.

9. HE HAD MANY WIVES AND CHILDREN.

Amidst all those years riding around Europe waging war, Charlemagne somehow found time to get married to five different women and have relationships with several concubines. He fathered around 18 children. If there was one soft spot in the emperor's heart, it was for his kids, as he supported the education of both his sons and daughters. He didn't allow any of his daughters to get married during his lifetime—not necessarily to protect them from rakes like him, but probably because these marriages would have raised the status of their husband’s families too much for his comfort.

10. HIS ONE MAJOR DEFEAT WAS IMMORTALIZED IN POETRY.

Charlemagne's first campaign to conquer Spain was a disaster, culminating in his only major military defeat. After his army entered the Iberian Peninsula in 778, having been promised an alliance by Sulaiman Ibn al-Arabi in Barcelona that could spread Christendom into the Muslim territory, they made quick progress into the south towards Zaragoza. There, things went wrong. The governor, Hussain Ibn al-Ansari, resisted the Franks, and after some negotiation, offered gold in exchange for a Frankish retreat. Charlemagne accepted and left, destroying the defensive walls of Pamplona on the way back so they could not be used as a base for attack against his men.

As they moved through the wooded Roncevaux Pass in the Pyrenees, Charlemagne's forces were ambushed, mostly by Basques who may have been angered by the wreckage of Pamplona or their ill treatment by Charlemagne’s soldiers. Unfamiliar with the mountainous landscape, the Frankish rear guard was overwhelmed, losing many lives, including the prefect of Breton, Roland. The bold Roland was immortalized and mythologized in the medieval epic poem The Song of Roland, one of the oldest surviving examples of French literature.

11. HIS NAME NOW MEANS "KING."

Charlemagne's given name (Karl in German) was bestowed by his parents in honor of his grandfather, Charles Martel, and derives from the German for "free man." While in German kerl is understood to mean "guy," elsewhere variants of the name karl have come to mean "king." From the Czech král to the Polish król to the Lithuanian karalius to the Latvian karalis, languages all over Europe have traces of his influence in their word for king. Charlemagne's notoriety also popularized the name Charles throughout much of Europe, where it remains common today.

12. HE ORDERED A MASSACRE THAT BECAME NAZI PROPAGANDA.

Over three decades, Charlemagne warred against the Saxons in today’s northwest Germany. Most notoriously, in 782 he is said to have ordered the execution of around 4500 Saxons. Under his rule, any members of the pagan Germanic tribe who didn't convert to Christianity were also put to death.

The massacre gained new historical prominence in the 20th century, after the Nazis built a stone monument in 1935—the Sachsenhain memorial—remembering its victims. Charlemagne was reframed as an enemy of traditional Germanic culture and an example of the evils of the Catholic Church. Some 4500 stones were erected at the site where the Saxons were believed to have been killed. This demonization of Charlemagne was brief, however, and by 1942 the Nazis were celebrating the 1200th anniversary of his birth as a symbol of German superiority. The units of French volunteers who served in the German Schutzstaffel (SS) during World War II were named the Charlemagne Regiment.

13. THE EMPIRE FELL AFTER HIM.

Charlemagne died in 814, and his empire didn’t live on much longer. All of the strength of his government radiated from his reputation and the threat of war if he was not obeyed. The Frankish tradition was to divide power equally among male heirs, and although Charlemagne's only surviving legitimate son was Louis the Pious, he died in 840. The empire was soon separated between Louis's three sons. These three kingdoms continued to break down until the deposition of Charles III in 887, at which point most of the Carolingian power was gone. Not a century after his death, Charlemagne’s empire was no more.

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