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AT the accession of Clovis, who succeeded his father Childeric about the year 481, the Salian Franks had advanced as far as the Somme. Between the Somme and the Loire the suzerainty of the Roman Empire was still maintained. The various Gallo-Roman cities preserved a certain independence, while a Roman official, by name Syagrius, exercised a kind of protection over them. Syagrius was the son of Aegidius, the former magister militumand he held the command by hereditary right. After the fall of the Roman Empire of the West in 476, he maintained an independent position, having no longer any official superior. Failing any regular title, Gregory of Tours designates him Rex Romanorum, and the former Roman official takes on the character of a barbarian king, free from all ties of authority. The seat of his administration was the town of Soissons.

To the south of the Loire began the kingdom of the Visigoths, which reached beyond the Pyrenees and across Spain to the Strait of Gibraltar. The country south of the Durance, that is to say Provence, also formed part of this kingdom. After having long been allies of the Roman Empire the Visigoths had broken the treaties which bound them to Rome; moreover since 476 there was no emperor in Italy, and they occupied these vast territories by right of conquest. Euric, who had been king since 466, had extended his dominions on every side and was quite independent.

In the valley of the Saone and the Rhone, as far as the Durance, the Burgundians had been enlarging their borders. Starting from Savoy, to which Aetius had confined them, they had extended their possessions little by little, until these now included the town of Langres. In 481 the kingship of Burgundy was shared by two brothers, of whom the elder, Gundobad, had his seat at Vienne, the younger, Godigisel, at Geneva. A third brother, Chilperic, who had reigned at Lyons, had just died. The rumor ran that he had met a violent death, his brothers having had him assassinated in order to seize upon his inheritance.

 The Visigoths and Burgundians endeavored to live at peace with the Gallo-Romans and to administer their territories wisely. The former subjects of Rome would willingly have submitted to them in exchange for the protection which they could afford and the peace which they could secure; they would willingly have pardoned them for dividing up their territories; but between the Gallo-Romans and the barbarians there was one grave subject of dissension. The former had remained faithful to orthodoxy, the latter were Arians; and although the rulers were willing to exercise toleration and to maintain friendly relations with the members of the episcopate, their Gallo-Roman subjects did not cease to regard them as abettors of heresy, and to desire their fall as a means to the triumph of the true faith.

To the north of the Burgundian kingdom, the Alemans had made themselves masters of the territory between the Rhine and the Vosges —the country which was to be known later as Alsace — and they were seeking to enlarge their borders by attacking the Gallo-Roman cities to the west, the Burgundians to the south and the Ripuarian Franks to the north-west. They also continued to hold the country on the right bank of the Rhine which had been known as the agri decumatesand they had established themselves in force upon the shores of the Lake of Constance and to the east of the Aar. The Ripuarian Franks remained in possession of a compact State round about Cologne and Treves, and, near them, the Thuringians had founded a little State on the left bank of the Rhine. It should be added that small colonies of barbarians, drawn from many different tribes, had established themselves here and there over the whole face of Gaul. Bands of armed barbarians ranged the country, seeking a home for themselves; Saxon pirates infested the coasts, and had established themselves in some force at Bayeux.

Beginnings of Clovis. 481-496  

Such was the general condition of Gaul at the time when Clovis became king of the Salian Franks. For five years the youthful king—he was only fifteen at his accession—remained inactive. He seems to have been held in check by Euric, the king of the Visigoths. But in the year following the death of Euric, 486, he took up arms and, calling to his aid other Salian kings, Ragnachar and Chararic, attacked Syagrius. The two armies came into contact with one another in the neighborhood of Soissons. During the battle Chararic held off, awaiting the result of the struggle. In spite of this defection Clovis was victorious, and Syagrius had to take refuge with the king of the Visigoths, Alaric II, who had succeeded Euric. Alaric however surrendered him, on the first demand of the Frankish king, who thereupon threw him into prison and had him secretly put to death. After this victory Clovis occupied the town of Soissons, which thenceforth ranked as one of the capitals of the kingdom. It is in the neighborhood of Soissons that we find the principal villae of the Merovingian kings, notably Brennacum (today Berny-Rivière). From Soissons he extended his sway over the cities of Belgica Secunda of which Rheims is the metropolis, and he entered into relations with Remi (Remigius), the bishop of this city. Then, gradually, meeting with more or less prolonged resistance, he gained possession of other cities, among them Paris — the defense of which was directed, so the legend runs, by Ste Geneviéve — and Verdun-sur-Meuse, which is said to have received honorable terms, thanks to its bishop, EuspiciusThus, little by little, the dominions of Clovis were extended to the banks of the Loire. In this newly conquered territory Clovis followed a new policy. In occupying Toxandria the Salians had expelled the Gallo-Roman population; here, on the contrary, they left the Gallo-Romans undisturbed and were content to mix with them. The ancient language held its ground, and the Gallo-Romans retained their possessions; there was not even a division of the lands, such as the Visigoths and Burgundians had made. Clovis was no doubt still a pagan, but he respected the Christian religion and showed an extraordinary deference towards the bishops—that is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the well-known incident of the bowl of Soissons—and the prelates already seemed to see before them a glorious work to be accomplished in the conversion of Clovis to orthodox Christianity.

Not content with bringing the Gallo-Romans under his sway, Clovis waged war also with the barbarian peoples in the neighborhood of his kingdom. In the year 491 he forced the Thuringians on the left bank of the Rhine to submit to him, and enrolled their warriors among his own troops. He also invited other barbarian auxiliaries to march under his standards as well as the Roman soldiers who had been placed to guard the frontier, and in this way he formed a very strong army.

The fame of Clovis began to spread abroad. Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, who had almost completed the conquest of Italy, asked the hand of his sister Albofleda in marriage, and Clovis himself, in 493, espoused a Burgundian princess, Clotilda, daughter of Chilperic, who had died not long before, and niece of the kings Gundobad and Godigisel.

Clotilda was an orthodox Christian and set herself to convert her husband—it would be possible to trace the influence of women in many of those great conversions which have had important political consequences. Half won-over, the king of the Franks allowed his children to be baptized, but he hesitated to abjure for himself the faith of his ancestors. He did not make up his mind until after his first victory over the Alemans.

Conversion of Clovis. 496-507

After his victory at Soissons, Clovis pushed his advance towards the east. The Alemans, already in possession of Alsace, were endeavoring to extend their territories towards the west, across the Vosges. It was inevitable that the two powers should come into collision. The struggle was severe. Clovis succeeded in crossing the Vosges, and, on the banks of the Rhine, probably in the neighborhood of Strassburg, he defeated his adversaries in a bloody battle (AD 496), but was unable to reduce them to subjection. He began to perceive at this time what strength he would gain by embracing Christianity. The bishops, who exercised a very powerful influence, would everywhere declare for him, and would support him in his struggles with the heathen tribes, and even against the barbarians who adhered to the Arian heresy. His wars would then assume the character of wars of religion—crusades, to use the term of later times. It was doubtless from such considerations of policy, rather than from any profound conviction, that he decided to be baptized. The ceremony, to which numerous persons of note were invited, took place at Rheims, whatever some modern historians may say to the contrary. It was celebrated on Christmas day of the year 496. Three thousand Franks went to the font along with their king. This conversion produced a profound and wide-spread impression. Throughout the whole of Gaul, in the kingdom of the Burgundians as well as that of the Visigoths, orthodox Christians spoke of it with enthusiasm. Avitus, bishop of Vienne, a subject of King Gundobad, wrote to Clovis, king of the Franks: “Your ancestors have opened the way for you to a great destiny; your decision will open the way to a yet greater for your descendants. Your faith is our victory”. And he urged him in emphatic language to propagate Catholicism among the barbarian peoples in more distant lands, “which have not yet been corrupted by heretical doctrines”. It was quite evident that if the Catholics of the Burgundian and Visigothic kingdoms did not precisely summon Clovis to their aid, they would at least not resist him if he came of his own motion.

Accordingly, four years after his baptism, in the year 500, Clovis commenced operations against the Burgundians. Coming to an understanding with Godigisel, he made war on Gundobad, king of Vienne. He first defeated him near Dijon, and then advanced along the Rhone as far as Avignon. But that was the limit of his success. On Gundobad's promising to pay tribute, Clovis retired. Gundobad, however, not only broke his word, but attacked his brother Godigisel, slew him in a church in Vienne and made himself master of the whole of Burgundy. Thus the attack of Clovis had the consequence of making Gundobad stronger than before. From the year 500 onwards Burgundy enjoyed a period of prosperity. It was at this period that the so-called Lex Gundobada and the Roman law of Burgundy were promulgated. Clovis, not being able to subdue Gundobad, notwithstanding the secret support of the orthodox clergy, came to terms with him, and later found him a useful ally in the war with the Visigoths.

Wars with Burgundians and Visigoths. 500-507

If Clovis did not push home his success against the Burgundians, it was doubtless because his own kingdom was menaced by the Alemans. About this time, therefore, he decided to expel that nation from the territories which they occupied; and from 505 to 507 he waged against them a war of extermination. He not only seized the country afterwards known as Alsace, but pursued the Alemans up the right bank of the Rhine and drove them to take refuge in the valley of the upper Rhine (Rhaetia). At this point Theodoric the Great, the king of the Ostrogoths, intervened in favor of the vanquished. Theodoric desired to exercise a kind of hegemony over the barbarian kings and with that view to maintain the balance of power among them. He wrote an eloquent letter to Clovis, in which, while sending him a player on the cither, he begged him to spare the remnant of the Alemans, and declared that he took them under his protection. The Alemans, who were now occupying the high valleys of the Alps, thus passed under the dominion of Theodoric, and paid tribute to him. They formed a kind of buffer-State between the kingdoms of the Franks and the Ostrogoths. We shall see how Witigis, a successor of Theodoric, gave up these remnants of the Alemans to the Franks (536).

Battle of Vouglé. 507-508

As early as 507 Clovis was bending all his energies to the project of wresting from the Visigoths the part of Gaul which they held. The orthodox bishops were now tired of being subject to Arian rulers, and besought the aid of the king of the Franks. Alaric II, who had succeeded Euric in 486, was undoubtedly a tolerant ruler. He gave to the Romans of his dominions an important code of law which is known by the name of the Breviarium Alarici; and he allowed the bishops more than once to meet in councils. But being obliged to take severe measures against certain bishops, he was counted a persecutor. Thus, two successive bishops of Tours, Volusianus and Verus, were driven from that see, Ruricius of Limoges was obliged to live in exile at Bordeaux; and all these bickerings made the bishops long for an orthodox ruler. Causes of contention between Franks and Visigoths were not lacking. One difficulty after another arose between the two neighboring kingdoms. In vain the kings endeavored to remove them, meeting for this purpose on an island in the Loire near Amboise; in vain Theodoric the Great wrote urging the adversaries to compose their quarrel. He advised Alaric to be prudent and not to stake the fate of his kingdom upon a throw of the dice. He reminded Clovis that the issue of a battle was always uncertain, and threatened to intervene himself if the king of the Franks proceeded to extremities. He invited Gundobad the king of the Burgundians to co-operate with him in maintaining peace. He warned three kings who held the right bank of the Rhine—the kings of the Herulians, the Warnians, and the Thuringians—of the ambitions of Clovis. It was too late; the war could not be averted. Beyond question, Clovis was the aggressor. He mustered his troops and made a vigorous speech to them: "It grieves me that these Arians should hold a part of Gaul. Let us march, with the help of God, and reduce their country to subjection." He had with him Chloderic, son of Sigebert, king of the Ripuarian Franks, while Gundobad king of the Burgundians co-operated by advancing upon the Visigoths from the east. The decisive battle took place at Vouglé, in the neighborhood of Poitiers (AD 507). The Visigoths made a heroic resistance, in which the Arvernians, led by Apollinaris the son of the poet Sidonius, especially distinguished themselves. But the Franks broke down all resistance, and Clovis slew Alaric with his own hand.

After the battle the Salians effected a junction with the Burgundians, and the combined forces advanced on Toulouse and burned that city. Then the conquerors divided their troops into three armies. Clovis subjugated the western part of the country, capturing Eauze, Bazas, Bordeaux, and Angouleme; his son Theodoric (Thierry) operated in the central region, and took the cities of Albi, Rodez, and Auvergne; Gundobad advanced towards the east, into Septimania, where a bastard son of Alaric II named Gisalic had just had himself proclaimed king, ousting the legitimate son, Amalaric. Soon there remained to the Visigoths, to the north of the Pyrenees, nothing but Provence, with its capital Arles, formerly the residence of the Praetorian Praefect and known as the “little Rome of Gaul” (Gallula Roma). The Franks and Burgundians had laid siege to this city when the army of the Ostrogoths came upon the scene. Theodoric had been unable to intervene earlier, for at the beginning of 508 a Byzantine fleet, perhaps at the instigation of Clovis, had landed a force on the shores of Apulia, and the king of the Ostrogoths had had to turn his attention thither. At length, in the summer, he sent an army across the Alps, and its arrival forced the Franks and Burgundians to raise the siege of Arles. His troops occupied the whole of Provence, but instead of restoring this territory to the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths kept it for themselves. Theodoric sent officials to the cities of Provence with orders to treat in a conciliatory fashion this people which had been “restored to the bosom of the Roman Empire”. The Ostrogoths did not however content themselves with this success. Their general Ibbas retook Septimania from the Franks and Burgundians, capturing Narbonne, Carcassonne, and Nimes. He left this territory, however, under the rule of Amalaric and rid him of his rival Gisalic. Communication was thus established along the coast of the Mediterranean between the kingdoms of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths.

Nevertheless Clovis gained considerable advantage from the war. If Septimania had eluded his grasp, he had extended his kingdom from the Loire to the Pyrenees. Gundobad alone obtained no profit from the struggle.

Clovis treated with clemency the Gallo-Roman populations whom he had just brought under his dominion. He ordered all clergy, widows, and serfs of the Church, who had been made prisoners by his troops during the campaign, to be set at liberty. There was no new distribution of lands. The Arians, indeed, were required to embrace the orthodox faith, but even their conversion was effected rather by persuasion than by force. The Arian clergy were allowed to resume their rank in the hierarchy after a reconciliation by laying on of hands. Their churches were not destroyed, but after reconsecration were made over to the use of the orthodox.

On his way back from the war, Clovis in 508 visited the town of Tours, where he made large gifts to the monastery of St. Martin. At Tours he received from the Emperor of the East, Anastasius, the patent of consular rank. He was not entitled consul, and his name would be sought in vain in the consular records; he was an honorary consul, tanquam consul, as Gregory of Tours quite accurately expresses it. He at once assumed the insignia of the consulship, with the purple tunic and mantle of the same color, and, starting from the church of St. Martin, he made a solemn entry into the town of Tours, and proceeded to the cathedral of St. Gatien, scattering largess as he went. Clovis was evidently proud of this new honor, which was a proof of the Emperor's friendship — perhaps he had come to an agreement with the Emperor directed against Theodoric — but his investiture with the consulship gave him no new authority. His rights were those of conquest; they were not dependent on the sanction of the Emperor, and he continued to govern the Gallo-Romans after 508 as he had governed them before it. If he wore the Roman insignia at his entry into Tours, he continued to wear also the crown characteristic of barbarian kings, and along with the title of honorary consul—translated in a prologue to the Salic law by Proconsul — he assumed that of Augustus.

From Tours, Clovis proceeded to Paris where he now established the seat of his government. The town was admirably situated, lying on an island in the Seine, at a point about the middle of its course, and not far from the points at which it receives its two great confluents, the Marne and the Oise; well placed also for communication with the northern plain, and with the south of France by way of the Gap of Poitou. Already the town had overflowed to the left bank, and there Clovis built a basilica dedicated to the Holy Apostles. This was later the church of Ste Genevieve, close to what is now the Pantheon. In the neighborhood of Paris there sprang up a number of royal villae, Clichy, Rueil, Nogent-sur-Marne, Bonneuil.

Clovis had won great victories; but there were still some Salian tribes which were ruled over by their own kings, and round about Cologne lay the kingdom of the Ripuarian Franks. By a series of assassinations Clovis got rid of the Salian kings, Chararic and Ragnachar, and the two brothers of the latter, Richar and Rignomer— the former killed near Mans—and took possession of their territories. The details which have come down to us of the assassination of these petty kings are legendary, but that they were murdered would appear to be the fact. There remained the kingdom of the Ripuarians.

 Clovis stirred up Chloderic against his father Sigebert the Lame and then presented himself to the Ripuarians in the character of the avenger of Sigebert. The Ripuarians hailed him with acclamations and accepted him as their king: "Thus day by day God brought low his enemies before him, so that they submitted to him, and increased his kingdom, because he walked before Him with an upright heart and did that which was pleasing in His sight." Such is the singular reflection which closes the narrative of all these murders. Gregory of Tours reproduces it, borrowing it from some traditional source, and the bishop does not seem to have been conscious how singular it was.

The Sons of Clovis. 508-558

Clovis died in the year 511, after holding at Orleans a council at which a great number of the bishops of his kingdom were assembled. He had accomplished a really great work. He had conquered nearly the whole of Gaul, excepting the kingdom of Burgundy, Provence, and Septimania. By subjugating the Alemans he had extended his authority even to the other side of the Rhine. He had governed this kingdom wisely, relying chiefly on the episcopate for support. He had codified the customary law of the Salian Franks—it is from his reign, between the years 508 and 511, that the first redaction of the Salic law is in all probability to be dated. He may be called with justice the founder of the French nation.

The Merovingians regarded the kingdom as a family inheritance, the sons dividing their father's dominions into portions as nearly equal as possible. This was now done by the sons of Clovis, Theodoric (Thierry), Clodomir, Childebert, and Chlotar. Each of them took a share of their father's original kingdom to the north of the Loire, and another share from among his more recent conquests to the south of that river. As their capitals, they chose respectively Rheims, Orleans, Paris, and Soissons. Each of the four brothers, urged by covetousness, sought to increase his portion at the expense of his neighbor, and they carried on a contest of intrigue and chicanery. On the death of Clodomir in 524, Childebert and Chlotar murdered his children in order to divide his kingdom between themselves. Two other families were also doomed to extinction. Theodoric died in 534, leaving a very able son Theudibertthe most remarkable among the kings of that period, but he died in 548, and his young son Theodebald fell a victim to precocious debauchery in 555. Childebert died in 558 and of all the descendants of Clovis there now remained only Chlotar I. He fell heir to the whole of the Merovingian dominions, and his power was apparently very great. His son Chramnus rebelled against him and fled to Chonobercount of Brittany, but the father mustered his forces and defeated him — "like another Absalom," says Gregory of Tours. Chlotar had him shut up in a hut with his wife and children, and caused it to be set on fire. Afterwards, however, he was overwhelmed with remorse. In vain he sought peace for his soul at the tomb of St. Martin of Tours. Struck down by disease he died at his palace of Compiègne, his last words being: "What think ye of the King of Heaven who thus overthrows the kings of earth?" His surviving sons buried him with great pomp in the basilica of St. Medard at Soissons (561).

In spite of the fact that during the greater part of this period the kingdom was divided into four parts, it was still regarded as a unity: there was only one Frankish kingdom, regnum Francorum. The sons of Clovis had a common task to accomplish in the carrying on of their father's work and the completion of the conquest of Gaul. In this they did not fail. Clovis' expedition against the Burgundians in 500 had miscarried; his sons subjugated that kingdom. Sigismund the son of Gundobad had been converted to the orthodox faith; he restored the great monastery of Agaunum in the Valais, on the spot where St. Maurice and his comrades of the Theban legion were slain. He reformed the Church at the great Council of Epaône in 517, where very severe measures were adopted against the Arian heresy. But it was now too late. Sigismund failed to win over the orthodox and he provoked a lively discontent among the Burgundian warriors. The sons of Clovis were not slow to profit by this. Clodomir, Childebert, and Chlotar invaded Burgundy in 523, defeated Sigismund in a pitched battle, and took him prisoner. He was handed over, with his wife and children, to Clodomir, who had them thrown into a well at St. Péravy-la ­Colombe near Orleans. And while the Franks were invading the kingdom of Burgundy from the north, Theodoric king of the Ostrogoths, resenting Sigismund's zeal against Arianism, had sent troops from Provence and captured several strong-places to the north of the Durance: Avignon, Cavaillon, Carpentras, Orange, and Vaison. Burgundy however regained some strength under the rule of a brother of Sigismund named Godomar, who defeated and slew Clodomir on 25 June 524, at Vézéronce near Vienne. He endeavored to re­establish some order in his dominions at the assembly of Amberieuxand his kingdom was thus enabled to prolong its existence until the year 534. At that date Childebert, Chlotar, and Theudibert seized Burgundy and divided it between them, each one taking a portion of the country and adding it to his dominions. The kingdom of the Burgundians had existed for nearly a century, not without a certain brilliance. A great legislative work had been accomplished, and among them we find a historian in Marius of Aventicum and a poet in Avitus, whom Milton was to recall in his Paradise Lost. For long Burgundy formed a separate division of the Frankish kingdom, and perhaps even today it is possible to recognize among the dwellers on the banks of the Saône and the Rhone certain moral and physical characteristics of the ancient Burgundians seven and a half feet in height, hard-workers but loving pleasure and good wine, and fond of letting their tongues run freely and without reserve.

Conquest of Provence536

The sons of Clovis also annexed Provence and the cities to the north of the Durance which the Ostrogoths had occupied. Witigis, who was defending himself with difficulty against the Byzantines, offered them these territories as the price of their neutrality, if they would refrain from siding with Justinian. The Frankish kings divided up Provence (536) as they had divided up Burgundy. They were now masters of the ancient Phocaean colony of Marseilles, with the whole coast-line; at Arles, the old Roman capital of Gaul, they presided over the games in the amphitheatre. Along with Provence, Witigis transferred to the Franks the suzerainty over the Alemans who in 506 had taken refuge in Rhaetia. From this time forward the Franks were masters of the whole of ancient Gaul, with the exception of Septimania which continued to be held by the Visigoths. Time after time did the sons of Clovis attempt to wrest this country from them, but all their expeditions failed for one reason or another. Septimania continued to be united to Spain and shared the fortunes of that country, passing along with it under the domination of the Arabs. It was not until the reign of Pepin that this fair region was incorporated with France.

But if the kingdom of the Franks had on the whole been greatly extended, in one quarter the limits of their dominion had been curtailed. In the course of the sixth century some of the Celts, driven out of Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxon invasions, themselves invaded the Armorican peninsula, which like the rest of Gaul had been completely Romanized. “They embarked with loud lamentations, and, as the wind swelled their sails, they cried with the Psalmist: Lord, Thou hast delivered us like sheep to the slaughter, and hast scattered us among the nations”. Arriving in small separate companies they gained a foothold at the western extremity of the peninsula. Gradually establishing themselves among the original population, before long they ousted it, pushing it further towards the east. The aspect of the Armorican peninsula underwent a rapid change; it lost its earlier name and became known as Brittany, after its new inhabitants. In the western districts the Romanic language disappeared entirely and Celtic took its place; and special saints with unfamiliar names were there held in honor, St. Brieuc, St. Tutwal, St. Malo, St. Judicaël. The Britons were divided into three groups, of which each one had its own chief; round about Vannes was the Bro-Waroch, so called from the name of one of the chiefs; the group of Cornovii, coming from Cornwall, established itself in the east; to the north, from Brest harbor to the river Couesnon extended the Domnonée, the inhabitants of which were natives of Devon. No doubt these various chiefs recognized in theory the suzerainty of the Frankish kings, but they were not appointed by the latter, and were in fact independent. The western extremity of France, the ancient Armorica, was thus separate from the rest of the country; and similarly, between the Gironde and the Pyrenees, the Basques, who belonged to a distinct race and spoke a peculiar dialect, maintained their independence under the rule of their dukes.

Such was the state of the Frankish kingdom proper; but, under the sons of Clovis, Frankish influence extended even over the neighboring countries. They came in contact with various Germanic peoples and imposed their suzerainty on some of them. Clovis himself had subjugated the Alemans; Theodebald his great-grandson entered into relations with the Bavarians beyond the Lech. Theodoric (Thierry) and Chlotar made war on the Thuringians and destroyed their independence (531). It was from Thuringia that Chlotar took his wife, Radegund, who left him in order to found the famous convent of Ste Croix, at Poitiers. Chlotar even made war upon the Saxons, who inhabited the great plain of northern Germany, and imposed upon them a yearly tribute of 500 cows. Spain and Italy, too, witnessed the warlike exploits of these Frankish princes. From an expedition against Saragossa in 542 Childebert brought back the tunic of St. Vincent, and in honor of this relic he founded at the gates of Paris the monastery of St. Vincent, later known as St Germain­des-Près. Theudibert made several incursions into Italy. Sometimes posing as a friend of the Ostrogoths, at others as a friend of the Byzantines, he plundered some of the wealthy cities and amassed large spoils. He even made himself master for a time of Liguria, Emilia, and Venetia, and had coins minted at Bologna. Indignant because the Emperor added to his titles that of Francicus, he even thought of penetrating by way of the valley of the Danube into Thrace, and of appearing in arms before Constantinople. He addressed to Justinian a haughty letter, which has come down to us. So far these sons of Clovis still bear themselves like kings. They had achieved the conquest of Gaul up to the frontiers assigned by nature to that country; they had also turned their arms against Germany, the country of their origin, and had opened up in that direction the pathway of civilization. Like the ancient Gauls whom they supplanted, they had descended upon Italy, where their incursions created wide-spread consternation.

The Grandsons of Clovis561-575

To all this the epoch of the grandsons of Clovis presents a striking contrast. The vigorous expansion of the Franks was checked. They failed to wrest Septimania from the Visigoths and make Gaul a united whole. No doubt they made several expeditions against the Lombards of Italy, but these were merely plundering-raids; there were no further conquests. The Merovingians began to turn their warlike ardour against each other; there follows a miserable period of civil war.

Of the four sons of Chlotar I —Charibert, Guntram, Sigebert, and Chilperic— who divided their father's kingdom in 561, Charibert the king of Paris early disappeared from the scene, dying in 567. Sigebert king of Metz and Chilperic king of Soissons were bitterly jealous of one another, each constantly endeavouring to filch some fragment of the other's territory. Between these two Guntram king of Orleans and Burgundy adopted a waiting attitude, in order to maintain the balance of power, and giving his aid at the opportune moment to the weaker side to prevent it from being crushed. The rivalry of the two brothers was intensified by that of their wives, which gives to these struggles a peculiarly ruthless character. Sigebert, whose morals were more respectable than those of his brothers, had sent an embassy to Toledo to the king of the Visigoths, Athanagild, to ask the hand of his daughter Brunhild (Brunehaut) in marriage. Brunhild renounced Arianism, professed the Trinitarian faith, and brought to her husband a very large dowry. The marriage was celebrated at Metz with great magnificence. The young poet Fortunatus also, who had just left his home at Treviso, indited an epithalamium in grandiloquent lines into which he dragged all the divinities of Olympus. The new queen was perhaps the only person present who understood these eulogies, for she had been brilliantly educated and spoke Latin excellently. At the half-barbarous court of Sigebert she made a profound impression. The news of this marriage fired Chilperic with envy. He had espoused a somewhat insignificant woman named Audovera, and had afterwards repudiated her in order to live in low debauchery with a serving-woman named Fredegund. But after the marriage of Sigebert, he asked of Athanagild the hand of the latter's eldest daughter, Galswintha. The king of the Visigoths did not dare to refuse. Galswintha came to Soissons, and at first her husband loved her much “because she had brought great treasures”. Before long however he went back to his mistress, and one morning Galswintha was found strangled in her bed. Very shortly afterwards the king married Fredegund, and ordered the execution of his first wife Audovera. In this way arose a bitter quarrel between Fredegund and Brunhild, the latter burning to avenge her sister; and it may well be conceived that a peculiarly vindictive and relentless character was thus imparted to the civil war. Almost at the beginning of the struggle Sigebert met his death. He had defeated Chilperic, had conquered the greater part of his kingdom, and compelled him to shut himself up in Tournai; he was about to be raised on the shield and proclaimed king at Vitry not far from Arras, when two slaves sent by Fredegund struck him down with poisoned daggers (scramasaxi) (575).

Chilperic. 561-584

The actors left upon the scene, from that time forward, were Chilperic who was now to get back his kingdom, and Brunhild who, after being held prisoner for a time, succeeded after the most romantic adventures in escaping from Rouen and reaching Austrasia, where her son, Childebert II (still a child), had been proclaimed king.

Chilperic is the very type of a Merovingian despot. He had two dominant passions, ambition and greed of gold. He desired to extend his kingdom, he wished to accumulate treasure. He ground down his people with taxes and caused a new assessment to be made. Many of his subjects refused to submit to this increase of taxation, preferring to leave the country and seek an easier life elsewhere. In his capacity as judge he imposed especially heavy fines upon the rich as a means of confiscating their property. He was envious of the great possessions of the Church, complaining that “Our treasury is empty, all our wealth has passed over to the churches; the bishops alone reign, our power is gone, it has been transferred to the bishops of the cities”. He therefore pronounced void all wills made in favor of the churches, he even revoked the gifts which his father had left to them. He sold the bishoprics to the highest bidder, and in his reign very few of the clergy attained to the episcopate; rich laymen purchased the priestly office and passed in one day through the various grades of orders. He was at once avaricious and debauched, gourmand and cruel. He delighted in low amours and he made a god of his belly. At the foot of his edicts he inscribes this formula: “Whosoever sets at nought our order shall have his eyes put out”.

But with all this he was a man of original ideas. He desired that, contrary to the strict provisions of the Salic law, women should in certain cases be allowed to inherit land. He was no less ready to attack religious dogma than ancient custom. He did not believe that it is necessary to distinguish three Persons in God; he scoffed at the anthropomorphic designations, the Father and the Son, as applied to the Deity. He issued an edict forbidding the Trinity to be named in prayer—the name God was alone to be used. Orthography as well as dogma must bow to his decree. He added to the alphabet four letters, borrowed from the Greek, to represent the long o, the “voiceless” ththe ce and the w. It was not the Germanic sounds which he wished to represent more exactly: Chilperic despised the Germanic tongue, and his reform was intended to apply to the Latin. He directed that children were to be taught by the new methods; in ancient manuscripts the writing was to be erased and reinserted with the additional letters. This barbarian king was a devoted admirer of the Roman civilization; he composed poems in the manner of Sedulius, and wrote hymns which he also set to music. His skepticism regarding the Trinity did not prevent him from being superstitious: he believed in portents, in relics, in sorcerers. He fancied himself able to outwit the Deity. Having sworn, for instance, not to enter Paris without the consent of his brothers, he broke the compact, but to avert misfortune he had a number of the bones of various saints carried in front of his troops. He was a fantastical and violent man, of a strange and complex character; and it is no very flagrant calumny when Gregory of Tours calls him the Nero and the Herod of his time. From all these characteristics it can well be imagined that the struggle which he carried on against Brunhild and her son was fierce and merciless.

Brunhild in Austrasia. 575-587

He wrested from them a number of towns, among them Poitiers and Tours, and it was thus that Gregory became, to his intense disgust, the subject of this debauched monarch, with whom he was constantly at odds. It may well be supposed that Chilperic had stirred up much wrath and many enmities and it is not surprising that he died by violence. One day as he was returning from Chelles where he had been hunting, a man came close to him and stabbed him twice with a dagger (584). Who his assassin actually was, remained unknown.

While Chilperic succeeded in imposing his authority upon the western Franks in the territories which formed the most recent Frankish conquests — known a little later as Neustria, from the word niust “the newest” —Brunhild made strenuous efforts to preserve intact all the prerogatives of the royal power in the eastern region, Austrasia. Exceedingly ambitious, eager to secure her authority by every possible means, it was she who in the name of her son Childebert II (575-596) actually held the reins of power. The great men of the kingdom threw themselves into an embittered struggle against her. Supported by Chilperic and Neustria they refused to give obedience to a woman and a foreigner. Ursio, Bertefried, Guntram-Boso and duke Rauching placed themselves at their head and attacked the adherents of the royal house, chief among whom was Lupus of Champagne. Brunhild tried in vain to separate the combatants; the rebels answered brutally: “Woman, get you gone, let it suffice you to have ruled during your husband's life­time; now it is your son who reigns and it is not under your protection but under ours that the kingdom is placed. Get you hence, or we shall trample you under the hoofs of our horses”. By vigorous action, however, the queen succeeded in re-establishing order. She formed an alliance with Guntram king of Burgundy, who at Pompierre adopted his nephew Childebert and recognized him as his heir (577). The pact was renewed ten years later at Andelot (28 November 587). Brunhild got rid of the most turbulent of her nobles by the aid of the assassin's knife; and she suppressed the revolt of Gundobald, a bastard son of Chlotar I, whom the nobles had brought back from Constantinople to set up in opposition to Guntram and Childebert. Besieged in the little town of Comminges situated in a valley of the Pyrenees, Gundobald was forced to surrender, and a Frankish count dashed out his brains with a great stone (585). Finally Brunhild besieged Ursio and Bertefried in a strong castle in Woëvre. The former perished in the flames of the burning castle; the latter took refuge at Verdun in the chapel of the bishop Agericus, but the soldiers tore up the roofing and killed him with the tiles (587). Thus, thanks to the inflexible determination of Brunhild, the Austrasian aristocracy was vanquished. The queen also succeeded in baffling all the plots devised against her and Childebert II by Fredegund, who since 584 had governed Neustria in the name of her infant son Chlotar II. She succeeded so well that when Guntram died on 28 March 593, Childebert was able to enter upon his heritage without the slightest opposition. And when Childebert in turn was carried off by disease while still young, Brunhild's authority was uncontested. Childebert's two sons Theodebert and Theodoric divided his kingdom between them, the former taking Austrasia, and the latter, Burgundy. In reality their grandmother Brunhild continued to rule in their name. Her authority extended over both Austrasia and Burgundy and she imposed the same measures upon both countries. The aristocracy, lay and ecclesiastical, were obliged to conform to her laws. Regarding the royal authority as a trust on behalf of her grandsons, she was determined on leaving it to them intact. She had the satisfaction of seeing her rival Fredegund die in 597; and her grandsons on several occasions defeated Chlotar II, who lost the greater part of his territories.

Death of Brunhild584-613  

But the great nobles of Austrasia rose in wrath against her, and Theodebert himself repudiated her tutelage. The incensed Brunhild withdrew to Burgundy, where she continued to rule. There she broke down all resistance, had the patrician Egila put to death, exiled Didier, bishop of Vienne, nominated her followers to every post of emolument, and levied the taxes with the utmost rigor. But she knew that the Burgundian rebels were encouraged by those of Austrasia. It was in Austrasia that she must strike the decisive blow, and in her thirst for power she did not hesitate to set Theodoric against Theodebert and so to provoke a fratricidal struggle. The king of Austrasia was defeated on the banks of the Moselle, in the neighborhood of Toul, taken to Zülpich and there put to death. Brunhild was now triumphant, but just in the moment of her triumph her grandson Theodoric died (613) in his palace of Metz, at the age of twenty-seven. Breaking with the Merovingian tradition of dividing the kingdom, Brunhild caused the eldest son to be declared sole king, in the hope of reigning in his name. But all the living forces of Austrasia banded themselves together to oppose her ambition. Arnulf, bishop of Metz, and Pepin, the two founders of the Carolingian family, appealed to Chlotar II the son of Fredegund. Brunhild made a magnificent effort to stand up against the storm, but she found herself deserted on all hands, and was taken prisoner on the shores of the Lake of Neuchatel. Her great-grandsons were killed, or at any rate disappear from history. Brunhild herself was tortured for three days, set upon a camel as a mark of derision, and then tied by her hair, one arm, and one foot, to the tail of a vicious horse, which was then lashed to fury.

Brunhild is undoubtedly the most forceful figure of this period, and it would be a gross injustice to put her on the same footing with Fredegund. It is true she was exceedingly ambitious and eager for power, but she attempted by means of this power to carry out a policy. She upheld with unrivalled energy the rights of the king against the aristocracy. She treated the Church with firmness but with respect, made gifts to the bishoprics and built a number of abbeys. She entered into relations with Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) who addressed to her a large number of letters, sent her relics, and requested her to take under her protection the estates of the Church of Rome which lay in Gaul. He urged her to reform the Frankish Church, to call councils and to protect Augustine and his companions who were going across the Channel to carry the Gospel to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. But while maintaining these relations Brunhild knew how to control the Frankish Church, as she did the lay aristocracy. She disposed of the episcopal sees at her pleasure, and expelled from his monastery of Luxeuil the abbot Columbanus who had refused to obey her orders. In short in all her conduct Brunhild displayed the qualities of a great statesman.

Chlotar II sole King614-629

After Brunhild’s death Chlotar II found himself, as Clovis had done before him, sole master of the whole of Gaul. But how different are the two periods! Clovis had been strong in his recent victories, victories due to his own courage and political ability. Chlotar II owed his success not to himself but to the treason of the Austrasian and Burgundian nobles, whom he was consequently obliged to conciliate. In his constitution of 18 October 614, as well as in a praeceptio of which the date is unknown, he had to make large concessions to the aristocracy. He proclaimed, under certain restrictions, freedom of episcopal elections, extended the competence of the ecclesiastical courts, and promised to respect wills made by private persons in favor of the Church. He suppressed unjust taxes and pledged himself to choose the counts from the districts they were to administer, which was equivalent to making over this important office to the landed aristocracy. Moreover Chlotar was forced to accord a measure of independence to Austrasia and Burgundy; each of these countries had its own Mayor of the Palace, who was as much the representative of the interests of the local nobles as of those of the king. In 623 he was even obliged to give the Austrasians a king in his young son Dagobert. In the latter's name, Arnulf, bishop of Metz, and Pepin, the Mayor of the Palace, exercised the actual authority. Thus ancient Gaul became once more distinctly divided into three kingdoms: Neustria, Burgundy and Austrasia, having each a distinct character and a separate administration. Already within these kingdoms the local officials, strong in the possession of vast estates, were endeavoring to usurp the royal prerogatives: already these three kingdoms were being parceled out into seigniories.

Reign of Dagobert629-639

Chlotar II's son Dagobert (629-639), however, was still a king in something more than name. Although he had a brother Charibert he succeeded in reigning alone over the whole Frankish kingdom. He even subjected it to the authority of a single Mayor of the Palace, by name Aega. He made royal progresses through Austrasia, through Neustria, and through Burgundy, sitting in judgment each day, and doing strict justice without respect of persons. In Aquitaine he left to his brother Charibert the administration of the counties of Toulouse, Cahors, Agen, Perigueux, and Saintes, thus making him a kind of warden of the marches on the Basque frontier. But on the death of Charibert in 632, he took over the government of this district also—and up to about 670 Aquitaine remained under the rule of the Frankish kings. After that date it broke away, and the local nobles founded independent dynasties.

Dagobert caused many estates which had been usurped by the seigniors and the Church to be restored to the royal domain. He kept up a luxurious court, which gave, it must be said, anything but a good example in regard to morals. He was a patron of the arts and took great delight in the rich examples of goldsmith's work produced by his treasurer Eligius (Eloi), whom he afterwards appointed bishop of Noyon. Many abbeys were founded in his reign. There was a revival of missionary activity, too, and St. Amandus preached the Gospel to the Basques in the south and to the inhabitants of Flanders and Hainault in the north. Throughout the whole of the kingdom the royal authority was paramount. The duke of the Basques came to court to swear allegiance, and Judicael, chief of the Domnonée, was seen at the royal residence at Clichy. Dagobert intervened not unsuccessfully in the affairs of the Visigoths in Spain, and in those of the Lombards in Italy. He had also relations with the Empire of Constantinople, taking an oath of perpetual peace with Heraclius in 631; and the two rulers took concerted action against the Bulgarian and Slavonic tribes who raided by turns the Byzantine Empire and the regions of Germany which were under the suzerainty of the Franks. Towards the close of his life, in 634, Dagobert was obliged to give to the Austrasians a king of their own in the person of his eldest son Sigebert. Ansegis, son of Arnulf and of a daughter of Pepin, was appointed Mayor of the Palace and governed in the name of this child in conjunction with Cunibert, bishop of Cologne. In spite of this, when Dagobert died (19 January 639), in his villa at Epinay, men held him to have been a very great prince. And his fame was to grow still greater owing to the contrast between his reign and the period which followed it.

The faineant Kings . 639-751

This new period, which extends from 639 to 751, is marked by the lamentable decadence of the Merovingian race. It is with justice that the sovereigns who then reigned are known as the rois fainéants. It was a dynasty of children; they died at the age of 23, 24, or 25, worn out by precocious debauchery. They were fathers at sixteen, fifteen, and even at fourteen years, and their children were miserable weaklings. As kings they had only the semblance of power; they remained shut up in their villae surrounded by great luxury. Only at long intervals did they go forth, in chariots drawn by oxen. The real authority was thenceforth exercised by the Mayor of the Palace, or by the different mayors who were at the head of the three kingdoms, Neustria, Burgundy, and Austrasia, whose separateness became more clearly marked. The mayors made and unmade the kings as interest or caprice prompted; sometimes they exiled them, only to recall them later. Apocryphal Merovingians were often produced who had no connection with the sacred race. It is useless to make any further reference to these sovereigns, who were nothing but shadows and whose names serve only to date charters. The historian must direct his attention exclusively to the Mayors of the Palace.

Among these mayors the most distinguished were those of Austrasia. They were to make the office hereditary in their family and to found a powerful dynasty which was destined gradually to supplant the Merovingians. The two founders of that dynasty were, as has already been said, Arnulf, bishop of Metz, and Pepin, who had been Mayor of the Palace to the youthful Dagobert when the latter was king of Austrasia only. Both were men of distinguished piety. Arnulf ruled the city of Metz wisely and effected important reforms in the Church. Pepin destined his daughters for the cloister; one of them, Gertrude, founded the abbey of Nivelle in the district now known as Brabant. In this neighborhood is situated the estate of Landen; whence the designation "of Landen" by which Pepin is distinguished in later documents. Arnulf's son Ansegis, who was Mayor of the Palace to the young Sigebert, married a daughter of Pepin whom the chronicles later call Begga; of this marriage was born the second Pepin, known to historians as Pepin of Heristal.

At first however it seemed probable that the chief representative of the family would be Pepin of Landen's own son Grimoald. For thirteen years, from 643 to 656, he held the office of Mayor of the Palace in Austrasia, while Sigebert continued to bear the title of king. On the death of that prince Grimoald considered himself strong enough to attempt a revolution. He had the locks of Dagobert, the young son of Sigebert, shorn, sent him to an Irish monastery, and had his own son proclaimed king of Austrasia. But the times were not yet ripe for a change of this kind. The Austrasian nobles refused to obey a youth who was not of the blood royal. They rose in revolt and gave up the Mayor of the Palace to the king of Neustria, Clovis II, who had him put to death.

Battle of Tertry670-687 

After this tragic event the families of Arnulf and Pepin remained in the background for about twenty-five years. The stage of politics was occupied by two men named Ebroin and Leodegar (Leger) who engaged in a desperate rivalry. Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace in Neustria, was intent on maintaining, for his own advantage, the unity of the Frankish kingdom and exercising a commanding influence in Austrasia and Burgundy as well as in Neustria. His schemes failed first in Austrasia where he had to acknowledge a king and a Mayor of the Palace, Wulfoald by name. In Burgundy Leodegar, bishop of Autun, placed himself at the head of the nobles. He was at first successful and shut up his rival in the monastery of Luxeuil (670). The principle was accepted that each country was to keep its own laws and customs, that no official was to be sent from one country to another, that no one should aspire to absolute power, and that the post of Mayor of the Palace should be held by each of the great men in turn. But Ebroin was to take a signal vengeance. Escaping from Luxeuil, he besieged Leodegar in Autun, and captured the town and the bishop with it. After the lapse of a considerable time he caused the prelate to be put to death. The Church revered Leodegar as a saint, and many monasteries were dedicated to him. Ebroin remained master of Burgundy and Neustria until at length, in 681, he fell by the dagger of an assassin.

But in the later portion of his life Ebroin had encountered an obstinate resistance in Austrasia; and now the second Pepin appears upon the scene. In Austrasia his authority was almost absolute, and after the death of Ebroin he kept himself fully informed regarding the affairs of Neustria and plotted against the successive Mayors of the Palace in that country. Finally he took the field against the mayor Berthar, and gained a decisive victory over him at Tertry on the Omignon in the neighborhood of St Quentin (687). Many historians have represented this battle as a victory of the Germans of the east over the Gallo-Romans of the west and have seen in Pepin II's expedition something in the nature of a second Germanic invasion. But in point of fact there were many Germans in Neustria, while a large part of Austrasia was occupied by Gallo-Romans. In its capital, Metz, the Latin tongue—now in process of transformation into the lingua Romana—was alone spoken. The victory of Pepin over Berthar is rather a victory of the aristocracy over the Merovingian royal house; and in fact Pepin was to find many supporters among the Neustrian nobles. Pepin, having won the victory, now proceeded to set up again, for his own advantage, the power which he had overthrown; in fact, this battle marks the fall of the Merovingians and the real accession of the new dynasty, which, from its most illustrious representative, Charles the Great, was to be known as the Carolingian. Some chronicles have this entry: "In the year 687 Pepin began to reign."

The reign of Pepin over this Merovingian kingdom which he had succeeded in reuniting was not lacking in brilliance. He defeated the Frisians, dispossessed them of a portion of their territory, and caused Christianity to be preached among them. In this last work he found a valuable auxiliary in the Anglo-Saxon Willibrord. Born on the banks of the Humber, Willibrord had gone to Rome to have his mission sanctioned by Pope Sergius I; for the Anglo-Saxons who had been converted to Christianity by the missionaries of Pope Gregory I, showed their gratitude by attaching to the papal see the barbarian peoples whom they evangelised. Willibrord founded the see of Utrecht and pointed out the way which Boniface was to follow later on. Pepin also wished to make the Germans on the right bank of the Rhine, who during the recent period of anarchy had cast off their allegiance, recognize again the suzerainty of the Franks. He subjugated the Alemans, and he established once more a member of the noble family of the Agilolfings in the duchy of Bavaria. It was at this period that the church of Salzburg was founded by St Rupert; and about the same time Kilian preached the Gospel in Franconia on the banks of the Main. Pepin protected all these missionaries and cherished the project of assembling councils to reform the Church. From 687 till his death in 714 Pepin II was undisputed master of the whole of Gaul, with the exception of Aquitaine, which alone maintained an independent position.

Pepin II had appointed one grandson (Theodebald) as Mayor of the Palace in Neustria, two others (Arnulf and Hugo) all under the regency of his widow Plectrude in Austrasia. But the great men refused to fall in with this arrangement and there ensued a period of anarchy. Charles, an illegitimate son of Pepin, restored order, and was the real executor of his father's policy. His name signifies valiant, bold, and as the continuator of Fredegar remarks, the name fitted the man. He wrested the power from Plectrude and took the title of Mayor of the Palace in his nephew's stead. He defeated the Neustrians at Ambleve near Liege (716), at Vincy near Cambrai (717), and again at Soissons, in 719, and forced them to recognize his authority. He made himself master of Burgundy also, and appointed his own leudes to the countships and bishoprics of that country. In Aquitaine the duke, Eudo, who had his seat at Toulouse, exercised an independent authority; but Charles obliged him in 719 to acknowledge, at least in name, the suzerainty of the northern Franks. Charles had thus acquired great power, and during some years he even governed without a king. His official title remained the same, Mayor of the Palace, but he was already called, even by his contemporaries, princeps or subregulus. He presided over the royal court of justice, issued decrees in his own name and had the disposal of every appointment, lay and ecclesiastical; he summoned the assembly of the great men of the kingdom, decided questions of peace and war and held the command of the army. He was king in fact if not in name.

  732-739. Battle of Tours

Charles was now to save from a serious danger the realm which he had reunited. The Arabs had conquered Spain in 711; in 720 they had crossed the Pyrenees and seized Septimania, which was a dependency of the kingdom of the Visigoths. Using this as a base they had invaded Gaul. Eudo, duke of Aquitaine, had succeeded, by his able policy, in holding them in check for some years, but in 732 a new wali or governor Abd-ar-Rahman, belonging to a sect of extreme fanatics, assumed the offensive. Eudo was vanquished on the banks of the Garonne, Bordeaux was taken and its churches burnt, and the Arabs then advanced, by way of the Gap of Poitiers, towards the north. Poitiers resisted their attack, but the basilica of St Hilary, situated outside the walls, was burnt. Without halting, Abd-ar-Rahman continued his march on Tours, the resting-place of the body of St Martin, which was, as it were, the religious capital of Gaul. Eudo besought the aid of Charles, who hurried up and posted himself at the junction of the Clain and the Vienne. The two armies halted, facing one another, for seven days. Then, on an October Saturday of 732 exactly a hundred years after the death of Mahomet the battle was joined, and Charles came off victorious. Abd-ar-Rahman was slain on the field. This battle became extremely celebrated and it is chiefly on account of it that later chronicles give to Charles the surname of Tudites or Martellus (Charles Martel).

The day of Poitiers marks the turning-point in the fortunes of the Arabs. Harassed during their retirement by Eudo and his Aquitanians, they met with defeat after defeat. But to crown all, at this moment internal dissensions broke out within the Arab Empire. The Maddites regained the ascendancy at the expense of their enemies the Yemenites, but the Berbers in Africa refused to obey the new rulers and rose in revolt. The Arabs, occupied with the suppression of this rebellion, were thenceforth unable to throw powerful armies into Gaul.

Charles proceeded to take the offensive against the Muslims. In 737 he wrested from them the town of Avignon which they had seized, and then attempted the conquest of Septimania, but in spite of strenuous efforts he was unable to effect the capture of Narbonne. He had to content himself with laying waste the country systematically and destroying the fortifications of Agde, Beziers, and Maguelonne. He set fire to the amphitheatre at Nimes, and the marks of the fire are still visible. In 739, the Arabs having attempted a new descent on Provence and even threatened Italy, Charles marched against them once more and drove them out. He allied himself against them with Liutprand, king of the Lombards, who adopted the Frankish ruler according to the Germanic custom.

Charles also completed the subjugation of the barbarian tribes of Germany. He abolished the duchy of Alemannia, intervened in the affairs of Bavaria, made expeditions into Saxony, and even, in 738, compelled some of the Saxon tribes to pay tribute. He gave a safe-conduct to Boniface who preached Christianity in Thuringia, in Alemannia and in Bavaria, and constantly befriended the devoted Anglo-Saxon missionaries. Boniface, like Willibrord, went to Rome to receive investiture, and the Pope conferred on him successively the titles of missionary, bishop, and archbishop. It may have been Boniface who brought the papal see into relations with the Carolingians.

739-741. Embassy of Gregory III

The circumstances were as follows. Liutprand king of the Lombards was anxious to impose his authority on the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento and to wrest from the Byzantine Empire its last remaining possessions in Italy. He first attacked and defeated Thrasamund, duke of Spoleto, who thereupon took refuge at Rome. Liutprand demanded from Pope Gregory III the surrender of Thrasamund, and on Gregory's refusal he laid siege to the Eternal City. The Pope, in distress, sent an embassy to Charles, consisting of the bishop Anastasius and a priest named Sergius, to implore him to deliver the people of Rome from the Lombard oppression. By these ambassadors he sent to Charles "the keys of the Confession of St Peter", portions of the chains of the Prince of the Apostles and various magnificent gifts. The "keys" were a kind of decoration which the pontiffs were accustomed to confer on illustrious personages, while the chains were supposed to have miraculous virtues. This embassy impressed the imagination of contemporaries, and the continuator of Fredegar lays much stress on it. In return for the help which he implored Gregory III offered to renounce the imperial suzerainty and to confer upon the Mayor of the Palace a certain authority over Rome, with the title of Roman Consul. Gregory III seems to have had a kind of intuition of the great historic change which was afterwards to take place when the popes were to turn away from the Emperor of Byzantium and attach themselves to the king of the Franks. Charles gave the papal envoys a cordial reception (739) and showered gifts upon the Pope, sending them by the hands of Grimo, abbot of Corbie, and Sigebert, a monk of St Denis. But that was all. He could not take sides against Liutprand who had been his ally against the Arabs. In vain did Gregory write to him in 740 two imploring letters: "I adjure thee in the name of the true and living God, and by the keys of St Peter’s Confession which I sent thee, not to prefer the friendship of a king of the Lombards to that of the Prince of the Apostles, but to come quickly to our aid." Charles turned a deaf ear to this new appeal, and both he and the Pope died not long after.

When he felt his end approaching, Charles divided the kingdom between his sons as if he had been sole master of it. The eldest, Carloman, received Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia, with the suzerainty of Bavaria; the younger, Pepin, had for his share Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, with the suzerainty of Aquitaine. Not long afterwards (22 October 741), Charles died at Quierzy-sur-Oise and was buried at St Denis. His grandson, Charles the Great, bore his name and closely resembled him in character; he inherited his great vigour and martial ardour, but he had a higher conception of his political duty and a wider outlook upon life. In the chansons de geste the two personages were afterwards confused.

Charles' sons, Carloman and Pepin, rendered some service to France. They defeated Hunald duke of Aquitaine, the successor of Eudo, and when Hunald had retired to a monastery in the Île de Rhé they defeated his son Waifar also. They took from the Alemans the last vestiges of their independence. They forced Odilo duke of Bavaria to give up to them a portion of his territories doubtless the Nordgau and obliged him to acknowledge their suzerainty. They made a series of incursions into Saxony. But the two brothers were not to govern jointly for long. In 747 came an unexpected change. Carloman, fired by religious zeal, relinquished his throne in order to become a monk. At Rome, which was more and more coming to be considered the capital of Western Europe, he received the priestly vestments from Pope Zachary, and founded on Mount Soracte a monastery dedicated to St Sylvester, a name full of significance since at that time the legend was widely current of the Emperor Constantine's "donation of Italy" to Pope Sylvester. Carloman had children, whom he had committed to the care of his brother; but Pepin gradually got them out of the way and drew all authority into his own hands.

Pepin, now sole Mayor of the Palace, from this time forward aimed still higher. He desired the title of king. For two years a profound peace had reigned --et quievit terra a proeliis annis duobus, says the chronicler, borrowing the expression from the Book of Joshua. The moment seemed propitious for the decisive step. Pepin proceeded with great caution. He was especially desirous of securing the approval of the highest moral authority of the age. He sent to Pope Zachary an embassy consisting of Fulrad, abbot of St Denis, and Burchard, bishop of Worms, a disciple of St Boniface, and laid before him a question regarding the kings who still nominally held the royal authority. The Pope replied that it would be better that he should be king who held the reality of power rather that he who only possessed the semblance of royalty. Pope Zachary gave a written decision --auctoritas-- to that effect. Armed with this authoritative pronouncement Pepin called together at Soissons in November 751 an assembly of the Franks. There he was unanimously chosen king; unlike the Merovingians, therefore, he held his throne by right of election. But besides this he had himself, like the Anglo-Saxon kings, consecrated by the bishops, and it may safely be conjectured that St Boniface presided at the ceremony. In virtue of this anointing, Pepin, king by election, became also king “by the Grace of God”. King Childeric was shut up in the monastery of St Bertin, and the manner of his death is unknown. The Merovingian dynasty was ended: a new period opened in the history of France.