Charlemagne (c.742-814) was a warrior, a king, and a crusader for the Christian Church. He ruled most of early medieval Europe after inheriting it from his father, Peppin The Short. More accurately it was split up between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman, but that didn’t last for long after Carloman died giving the entire region over to Charlemagne.
From that point on, Charlemagne rampaged through Europe seeking a united force under Christianity. He is most well known for his 30 year long conflict with the Saxons where he is rumored at killing 4,500 people in one day. Needless to say, he was ruthless.
Throughout his bloody wars, he held firm that this was all in the name of Christ. Even with his rumored 19 children birthed by several different woman, he was canonized by a Pope in 1165. The church no longer stands by this act, but that doesn’t erase the amount of money and land he gave to the church during his plunders. He was named Emperor of the Romans in 800, he then shared that title with his son Louis close to his death. Pepin the Hunchback, his son, was a beautiful and smart boy who never got far due to his disability. He had another son named Pepin shortly after, and it is thought the musical blends these two princes into one.
The ties between Charlemagne and the church are wildly important because of the religious background of the show. During this time and later in theatrical history, medieval cycle or miracle plays began cropping up around Europe. These were acts put together either by a group of actors or the townspeople themselves. They would pick a saint or story and perform it on moving wagons in the center of town. These shows would be put on scene by scene all at once, each scene with its own wagon and performers. People could walk from place to place learning the clear morals these stories usually had.
Now, I wrote a final on this topic because I find it WILDLY interesting. The reason I bring it to your attention today is to remind you the origins of the episodic nature of Pippin. We see him go from clear moment to moment each with its own song and dance. A section on war, a section on sex/love, a section on everyday ect. Furthermore, the main character at the end of a cycle play usually dies in some fiery act of spectacle, warning the patrons of the consequences of sins. Sound like a show you know?