The Carolingians were a dynasty of rulers that eventually controlled the Frankish realm and its successors from the 8th to the 10th century, officially taking over the kingdom from the Merovingian dynasty in 751. The name Carolingian itself comes from the dynasty's most prominent figure, Charles the Great, better known as Charlemagne (in Latin: Carolus Magnus).
However, the dynasty is usually considered to have been founded by Arnulf of Metz, Bishop of Metz in the late 7th century, who wielded a great deal of power and influence in the Merovingian kingdoms. Pippin of Herstal, Mayor of the Palace of the Kingdom of Austrasia, was succeeded by his son Charles Martel as Mayor, who in turn was the father of Pippin III, called "the Short". Pippin had become king after having used his position as Mayor to garner support among many of the leading Franks, as well as the pope, in order to depose the last Merovingian king, Childeric in 751. Charlemagne, Pippin's son, became King of the Franks in 768 and was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800.
- In the West, which was the nucleus of later France, they continued to be the ruling dynasty until a minor branch of the family, the Capetians, ascended the (by that time) French throne in 987.
- In the East, the kernel of the later Holy Roman Empire, the Carolingians ruled only until 911, the death of Louis the Child. Here, the Carolingians were succeeded by a Saxon dynasty commonly referred to as the Ottonians.