Louis Riel prophesied that a polyglot Métis nation would rise on the prairies five hundred years after his death, and that it would be called by the “joyous name” of the House of Charlemagne. This new polity would be built on the principles of Riel’s Massinahican, a radical philosophical system which now survives only in fragments. Its hallmarks would be justice, ontological accord, and the blurring of all separations dividing women and men, the earth and human beings. The House of Charlemagne tracks the birth of this ideal nation in the burning imagination of the young settler Henry Jackson, who took the name Honoré Jaxon after his encounter with Riel’s vision.
Commissioned by Edward Poitras as a text for dancers, Tim Lilburn’s poem gives voice and body to Riel’s prescient metaphysics. As the Jury citation said of his Governor General's Award winning Kill-Site, "Lilburn's work is richly figurative, but firmly rooted in colloquial speech. He is not only a virtuoso at the linguistic level, taking risks with metaphor and line, but also steeped in a metaphysics of place."