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0451-0743- Franks, Merovingian Kings




Chapter 1.            EARLY FRANKISH LEADERS in GAUL. 4

Chapter 2.            KINGS of the FRANKS [451/57]-751 (MEROVINGIANS) 4

CHILDERIC I [451/57]-[481/82] 4

CLOVIS I [481/82]-511, THEODERIC I 511-533, CLODOMIR 511-524, CHILDEBERT I 511-558, THEODEBERT I 533-547, THEODEBALD I 547-555. 7

CLOTAIRE 511-561, CHARIBERT 561-567, GONTRAN 561-592. 16


CHILPERIC I 561-584. 33

CLOTAIRE II 584-629. 37

DAGOBERT I 629-[638/39], SIGEBERT III 634-656, DAGOBERT II 676-679. 40

CHILDEBERT (III) 656-662. 45

CLOVIS II [638/39]-657, CLOTAIRE III 657-673, CHILDERIC II 662-675, CHILPERIC II 715-718. 46

THEODERIC III 673-690, CLOVIS III 690-695, CHILDEBERT III 695-711, DAGOBERT III 711-715, THEODERIC IV 721-737. 50


CHILDERIC III 743-751. 53







Early sources are inconsistent regarding the origin of the Franks.  Gregory of Tours is cautious, recording that "it is commonly said" that they came from Pannonia, crossed the Rhine, and marched through Thuringia, citing "the historians whose works we still have"[1].  If this is correct, Frankish occupation of Pannonia predated the arrival of the Ostrogoths, which is probably dated to the last decades of the 4th century from the account provided by Jordanes in his mid-6th century Getica[2].  The possibility of an early connection with Thuringia is reinforced by Chlodio's supposed grandson King Childeric seeking refuge there during his temporary exile from France.  A more colourful version of the early history of the Franks is provided by the 7th century chronicler known as Fredegar who records a Trojan origin, and asserts that Merovech was conceived when Chlodio's wife went swimming and encountered a Quinotaur[3].  Ian Wood comments that there is no reason to believe that the Franks were involved in any long distance migration, as "archaeology and history suggest that they originated in the lands immediately to the east of the Rhine"[4]


The Franks are first mentioned in the context of the Barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century, Aurelius Victor and Eutropius stating that they crossed the Rhine near Köln in [257].  Gregory of Tours reports that "the Franks…set up in each country district and each city long-haired kings chosen from the foremost and most noble family of their race"[5].  If correct, this suggests a multiplicity of local leaders about whom nothing is known.  Many Frankish tribes remained east of the Rhine, but by [500] most had settled west of the river[6].  Gregory reports that Chlodio was the first Frankish leader to invade Roman-occupied Gaul, as far as the river Somme[7].  He attributes to him the title "King of the Franks", but Chlodio was presumably only one of the many local Frankish leaders and hardly a "king" in the sense of the word as used today.  It is not known whether Chlodio was the only Frankish leader to invade Roman-occupied Gaul. 


The Merovingian Franks quickly imposed themselves throughout Gaul.  This presumably was partly because they were geographically well placed to fill the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Roman Empire, but was also attributable to the personality and capabilities of King Clovis.  Although there are indications that the authority of Chlodio's supposed grandson Childeric was limited to "Belgica Secunda"[8], the latter's son Clovis subjugated the different Frankish sub-groups in the territory of what is now France and, by the end of his life, ruled between the Rhine and Loire valleys as well as in Aquitaine.  His successors conquered Provence, Burgundy, Rhaetia, Alemannia and Thuringia.  Royal rule was regionalised, for example the four sons of King Clotaire I, who died in 561, ruled different territories from their bases in Paris, Orléans, Metz and Soissons.  The division was later formalised into the kingdoms of Austrasia (from the Rhine to the Seine valley, including Flanders and Holland) and Neustria (between the Seine and Loire valleys), these names being used for the first time by Gregory of Tours in 577. 


The genealogy of the earliest generations of the Merovingian kings is reconstructed for the most part from the History of the Franks written by Gregory of Tours in the latter part of the 6th century.  As will be seen below, little supplementary information on the early generations is provided by other near contemporary sources, and all subsequent chroniclers appear to have used Gregory as their primary source.  Gregory was well-informed about contemporary political events and the lives of members of the ruling family[9].  For example, he writes of his personal role in the events which followed the second marriage of Queen Brunhilde to Merovech in 576[10].  However, his narrative spans more than 100 years so it would be unsurprising if there were inaccuracies concerning individuals in the earlier part of his history.  Dating presents a particular difficulty as Gregory rarely specifies dates, although he frequently refers to an occurrence happening a specific number of years after another event.  The documents known collectively as the Chronicle of Fredegar provide a comparable level of genealogical detail for the Merovingian rulers until the mid-7th century, although as with other sources the narrative dealing with the earlier years appears based almost exclusively on Gregory's work. 


From the later 7th century onwards, less detail is known about the families of the Merovingian kings.  This reflects the decline in the personal power of the Merovingian monarchs and the corresponding rise in the influence of their palace maiordomi, particularly those from the family which was later to become the Carolingian dynasty.  This absence of information about the later kings is such that the relationships between two of them and the main royal line is entirely speculative. 





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