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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

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few, are dispeopled; the sword pursueth them abroad and famine at home.
I cannot speak without tears of Toulouse; if she be not reduced to equal
ruin, it is to the merits of her holy Bishop Exuperus that she oweth it."

Then took place throughout the Roman empire, in the East as well as in
the West, in Asia and Africa as well as in Europe, the last grand
struggle between the Roman armies and the barbaric nations. Armies is
the proper term; for, to tell the truth, there was no longer a Roman
nation, and very seldom a Roman emperor with some little capacity for
government or war. The long continuance of despotism and slavery had
enervated equally the ruling power and the people; everything depended on
the soldiers and their generals. It was in Gaul that the struggle was
most obstinate and most promptly brought to a decisive issue, and the
confusion there was as great as the obstinacy. Barbaric peoplets served
in the ranks and barbaric leaders held the command of the Roman armies:
Stilieho was a Goth; Arbogastes and Mellobaudes were Franks; Ricimer was
a Suevian. The Roman generals, Bonifacius, Aetius, AEgidius, Syagrius,
at one time fought the barbarians, at another negotiated with such and
such of them, either to entice them to take service against other
barbarians, or to promote the objects of personal ambition, for the Roman
generals also, under the titles of patrician, consul, or proconsul,
aspired to and attained a sort of political independence, and contributed
to the dismemberment of the empire in the very act of defending it. No
later than A.D. 412, two German nations, the Visigoths and the
Burgundians, took their stand definitively in Gaul, and founded there two
new kingdoms: the Visigoths, under their kings Ataulph and Wallia, in
Aquitania and Narbonness; the Burgundians, under their kings Gundichaire
and Gundioch, in Lyonness, from the southern point of Alsatia right into
Provence, along the two banks of the Saone and the left bank of the
Rhone, and also in Switzerland. In 451 the arrival in Gaul of the Huns
and their king Attila--already famous, both king and nation, for their
wild habits, their fierce valor, and their successes against the Eastern
empire--gravely complicated the situation. The common interest of
resistance against the most barbarous of barbarians, and the renown and
energy of Aetius, united, for the moment, the old and new masters of
Gaul; Romans, Gauls, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks, Alans, Saxons, and
Britons, formed the army led by Aetius against that of Attila, who also
had in his ranks Goths, Burgundians, Gepidians, Alans, and beyond Rhine
Franks, gathered together and enlisted on his road. It was a chaos and a
conflict of barbarians, of every name and race, disputing one with
another, pell-mell, the remnants of the Roman empire torn asunder and in
dissolution. Attila had already arrived before Orleans, and was laying
siege to it. The bishop, St. Anianus, sustained a while the courage of
the besieged, by promising them aid from Aetius and his allies. The aid
was slow to come; and the bishop sent to Aetius a message: "If thou be
not here this very day, my son, it will be too late." Still Aetius came
not. The people of Orleans determined to surrender; the gates flew open;
the Huns entered; the plundering began without much disorder; "wagons
were stationed to receive the booty as it was taken from the houses, and
the captives, arranged in groups, were divided by lot between the
victorious chieftains." Suddenly a shout re-echoed through the streets:
it was Aetius, Theodoric, and Thorismund, his son, who were coming with
the eagles of the Roman legions and with the banners of the Visigoths. A
fight took place between them and the Huns, at first on the banks of the
Loire, and then in the streets of the city. The people of Orleans joined
their liberators; the danger was great for the Huns, and Attila ordered a
retreat. It was the 14th of June, 451, and that day was for a long while
celebrated in the church of Orleans, as the date of a signal deliverance.
The Huns retired towards Champagne, which they had already crossed at
their coming into Gaul; and when they were before Troyes, the bishop, St.
Lupus, repaired to Attila's camp, and besought him to spare a defenceless
city, which had neither walls nor garrison. "So be it!" answered Attila;
"but thou shalt come with me and see the Rhine; I promise then to send
thee back again." With mingled prudence and superstition, the barbarian
meant to keep the holy man as a hostage. The Huns arrived at the plains
hard by Chalons-sur-Marne; Aetius and all his allies had followed them;
and Attila, perceiving that a battle was inevitable, halted in a position
for delivering it. The Gothic historian Jornandes says that he consulted
his priests, who answered that the Huns would be beaten, but that the
general of the enemy would fall in the fight. In this prophecy Attila
saw predicted the death of Aetius, his most formidable enemy; and the
struggle commenced. There is no precise information about the date; but
"it was," says Jornandes, "a battle which for atrocity, multitude,
horror, and stubbornness has not the like in the records of antiquity."
Historians vary in their exaggerations of the numbers engaged and killed:
according to some, three hundred thousand, according to others, one
hundred and sixty-two thousand were left on the field of battle.
Theodoric, King of the Visigoths, was killed. Some chroniclers name
Meroveus as King of the Franks, settled in Belgica, near Tongres, who
formed part of the army of Aetius. They even attribute to him a
brilliant attack made on the eve of the battle upon the Gepidians, allies
of the Huns, when ninety thousand men fell, according to some, and only
fifteen thousand according to others. The numbers are purely imaginary,
and even the fact is doubtful. However, the battle of Chalons drove the
Huns out of Gaul, and was the last victory in Gaul, gained still in the
name of the Roman empire, but in reality for the advantage of the German
nations which had already conquered it. Twenty-four years afterwards the
very name of Roman empire disappeared with Augustulus, the last of the
emperors of the West.

[Illustration: The Huns at the Battle of Chalons----135]

Thirty years after the battle of Chalons, the Franks settled in Gaul were
not yet united as one nation; several tribes with this name, independent
one of another, were planted between the Rhine and the Somme; there were
some in the environs of Cologne, Calais, Cambrai, even beyond the Seine
and as far as Le Mans, on the confines of the Britons. This is one of
the reasons of the confusion that prevails in the ancient chronicles
about the chieftains or kings of these tribes, their names and dates, and
the extent and site of their possessions. Pharamond, Clodion, Meroveus,
and Childeric cannot be considered as Kings of France, and placed at the
beginning of her history. If they are met with in connection with
historical facts, fabulous legends or fanciful traditions are mingled
with them: Priam appears as a predecessor of Pharamond; Clodion, who
passes for having been the first to bear and transmit to the Frankish
kings the title of "long-haired," is represented as the son, at one time
of Pharamond, at another, of another chieftain named Theodemer; romantic
adventures, spoiled by geographical mistakes, adorn the life of Childric.
All that can be distinctly affirmed is, that, from A.D. 450 to 480, the
two principal Frankish tribes were those of the Salian Franks and the
Ripuarian Franks, settled, the latter in the east of Belgica, on the
banks of the Moselle and the Rhine; the former, towards the west,
between the Meuse, the ocean, and the Somme. Meroveus, whose name was
perpetuated in his line, was one of the principal chieftains of the
Salian Franks; and his son Childeric, who resided at Tournay, where his
tomb was discovered in 1655, was the father of Clovis, who succeeded him
in 481, and with whom really commenced the kingdom and history of France.

Clovis was fifteen or sixteen years old when he became King of the Salian
Franks of Tournay. Five years afterwards his ruling passion, ambition,
exhibited itself, together with that mixture of boldness and craft which
was to characterize his whole life. He had two neighbors: one, hostile
to the Franks, the Roman patrician Syagrius, who was left master at
Soissons after the death of his father AEgidius, and whom Gregory of
Tours calls "King of the Romans;" the other, a Salian-Frankish chieftain,
just as Clovis was, and related to him, Ragnacaire, who was settled at
Cambrai. Clovis induced Ragnacaire to join him in a campaign against
Syagrius. They fought, and Syagrius was driven to take refuge in
Southern Gaul with Alaric, king of the Visigoths. Clovis, not content
with taking possession of Soissons, and anxious to prevent any
troublesome return, demanded of Alaric to send Syagrius back to him,
threatening war if the request were refused. The Goth, less bellicose
than the Frank, delivered up Syagrius to the envoys of Clovis, who
immediately had him secretly put to death, settled himself at Soissons,
and from thence set on foot, in the country between the Aisne and the
Loire, plundering and subjugating expeditions which speedily increased
his domains and his wealth, and extended far and wide his fame as well as
his ambition. The Franks who accompanied him were not long before they
also felt the growth of his power; like him they were pagans, and the
treasures of the Christian churches counted for a great deal in the booty
they had to divide. On one of their expeditions they had taken in the
church of Rheims, amongst other things, a vase "of marvellous size and
beauty." The Bishop of Rheims, St. Remi, was not quite a stranger to
Clovis. Some years before, when he had heard that the son of Childeric
had become king of the Franks of Tournai, he had written to congratulate
him: "We are informed," said he, "that thou halt undertaken the conduct
of affairs; it is no marvel that thou beginnest to be what thy fathers
ever were;" and, whilst taking care to put himself on good terms with the
young pagan chieftain, the bishop added to his felicitations some pious
Christian counsel, without letting any attempt at conversion be mixed up
with his moral exhortations. The bishop, informed of the removal of the
vase, sent to Clovis a messenger begging the return, if not of all his
church's ornaments, at any rate of that. "Follow us as far as Soissons,"
said Clovis to the messenger; "it is there the partition is to take place
of what we have captured: when the lots shall have given me the vase, I
will do what the bishop demands." When Soissons was reached, and all the
booty had been placed in the midst of the host, the king said, "Valiant
warriors, I pray you not to refuse me, over and above my share, this vase
here." At these words of the king, those who were of sound mind amongst
the assembly answered, "Glorious king, everything we see here is thine,
and we ourselves are submissive to thy commands. Do thou as seemeth good
to thee, for there is none that can resist thy power." When they had
thus spoken a certain Frank, light-minded, jealous, and vain, cried out
aloud as he struck the vase with his battle-axe, "Thou shalt have nought
of all this save what the lots shall truly give thee." At these words
all were astounded; but the king bore the insult with sweet patience,
and, accepting the vase, he gave it to the messenger, hiding his wound in
the recesses of his heart. At the end of a year he ordered all his host
to assemble fully equipped at the March parade, to have their arms
inspected. After having passed in review all the other warriors, he came
to him who had struck the vase. "None," said he, "hath brought hither
arms so ill kept as thine; nor lance, nor sword, nor battle-axe are in
condition for service." And wresting from him his axe he flung it on the
ground. The man stooped down a little to pick it up, and forthwith the
king, raising with both hands his own battle-axe, drove it into his
skull, saying, "Thus didst thou to the vase of Soissons!" On the death of
this fellow he bade the rest begone; and by this act made himself greatly

[Illustration: "Thus didst thou to the Vase of Soissons."----139]

A bold and unexpected deed has always a great effect on men: with his
Frankish warriors, as well as with his Roman and Gothic foes, Clovis had
at command the instincts of patience and brutality in turn: he could bear
a mortification and take vengeance in due season. Whilst prosecuting his
course of plunder and war in Eastern Belgica, on the banks of the Meuse,
Clovis was inspired with a wish to get married. He had heard tell of a
young girl, like himself of the Germanic royal line, Clotilde, niece of
Gondebaud, at that time king of the Burgundians. She was dubbed
beautiful, wise, and well-informed; but her situation was melancholy and
perilous. Ambition and fraternal hatred had devastated her family. Her
father, Chilperic, and her two brothers, had been put to death by her
uncle Gondebaud, who had caused her mother Agrippina to be thrown into
the Rhone, with a stone round her neck; and drowned. Two sisters alone
had survived this slaughter; the elder, Chrona, had taken religions vows,
the other, Clotilde, was living almost in exile at Geneva, absorbed in
works of piety and charity. The principal historian of this epoch,
Gregory of Tours, an almost contemporary authority, for he was elected
bishop sixty-two years after the death of Clovis, says simply,

"Clovis at once sent a deputation to Gondebaud to ask Clotilde in
marriage. Gondebaud, not daring to refuse, put her into the hands of the
envoys, who took her promptly to the king. Clovis at sight of her was
transported with joy, and married her." But to this short account other
chroniclers, amongst them Fredegaire, who wrote a commentary upon and a
continuation of Gregory of Tours' work, added details which deserve
reproduction, first as a picture of manners, next for the better
understanding of history. "As he was not allowed to see Clotilde," says
Fredegaire, "Clovis charged a certain Roman, named Aurelian, to use all
his wit to come nigh her. Aurelian repaired alone to the spot, clothed
in rags and with his wallet upon his back, like a mendicant. To insure
confidence in himself he took with him the ring of Clovis. On his
arrival at Geneva, Clotilde received him as a pilgrim charitably, and,
whilst she was washing his feet, Aurelian, bending towards her, said
under his breath, 'Lady, I have great matters to announce to thee if thou
deign to permit me secret revelation.' She consenting, replied, 'Say
on.' 'Clovis, king of the Franks,' said he, 'hath sent me to thee: if it
be the will of God, he would fain raise thee to his high rank by
marriage; and that thou mayest be certified thereof, he sendeth thee this
ring.' She accepted the ring with great joy, and said to Aurelian, 'Take
for recompense of thy pains these hundred sous in gold and this ring of
mine. Return promptly to thy lord; if he would fain unite me to him by
marriage, let him send without delay messengers to demand me of my uncle
Gondebaud, and let the messengers who shall come take me away in haste,
so soon as they shall have obtained permission; if they haste not, I fear
lest a certain sage, one Aridius, may return from Constantinople, and if
he arrive beforehand, all this matter will by his counsel come to
nought.' Aurelian returned in the same disguise under which he had come.
On approaching the territory of Orleans, and at no great distance from
his house, he had taken as travelling companion a certain poor mendicant,
by whom he, having fallen asleep from sheer fatigue, and thinking himself
safe, was robbed of his wallet and the hundred sous in gold that it
contained. On awaking, Aurelian was sorely vexed, ran swiftly home and
sent his servants in all directions in search of the mendicant who had
stolen his wallet. He was found and brought to Aurelian, who, after
drubbing him soundly for three days, let him go his way. He afterwards
told Clovis all that had passed and what Clotilde suggested. Clovis,
pleased with his success and with Clotilde's notion, at once sent a
deputation to Gondebaud to demand his niece in marriage. Gondebaud, not
daring to refuse, and flattered at the idea of making a friend of Clovis,
promised to give her to him. Then the deputation, having offered the
denier and the sou, according to the custom of the Franks, espoused
Clotilde in the name of Clovis, and demanded that she be given up to them
to be married. Without any delay the council was assembled at Chalons,
and preparations made for the nuptials. The Franks, having arrived with
all speed, received her from the hands of Gondebaud, put her into a
covered carriage, and escorted her to Clovis, together with much
treasure. She, however, having already learned that Aridius was on his
way back, said to the Frankish lords, "If ye would take me into the
presence of your lord, let me descend from this carriage, mount me on
horseback, and get you hence as fast as ye may; for never in this
carriage shall I reach the presence of your lord."

"Aridius, in fact, returned very speedily from Marseilles, and Gondebaud,
on seeing him, said to him, 'Thou knowest that we have made friends with
the Franks, and that I have given my niece to Clovis to wife.' 'This,'
answered Aridius, 'is no bond of friendship, but the beginning of
perpetual strife; thou shouldst have remembered, my lord, that thou didst
slay Clotilde's father, thy brother Chilperic, that thou didst drown her
mother, and that thou didst cut off her brothers' heads and cast their
bodies into a well. If Clotilde become powerful she will avenge the
wrongs of her relatives. Send thou forthwith a troop in chase, and have
her brought back to thee. It will be easier for thee to bear the wrath
of one person, than to be perpetually at strife, thyself and thine, with
all the Franks.' And Gondebaud did send forthwith a troop in chase to
fetch back Clotilde with the carriage and all the treasure; but she, on
approaching Villers, where Clovis was waiting for her, in the territory
of Troyes, and before passing the Burgundian frontier, urged them who
escorted her to disperse right and left over a space of twelve leagues in
the country whence she was departing, to plunder and burn; and that
having been done with the permission of Clovis, she cried aloud, 'I thank
thee, God omnipotent, for that I see the commencement of vengeance for my
parents and my brethren!'"

The majority of the learned have regarded this account of Fredegaire as
a romantic fable, and have declined to give it a place in history.
M. Fauriel, one of the most learned associates of the Academy of
Inscriptions, has given much the same opinion, but he nevertheless adds,
"Whatever may be their authorship, the fables in question are historic in
the sense that they relate to real facts of which they are a poetical
expression, a romantic development, conceived with the idea of
popularizing the Frankish kings amongst the Gallo-Roman subjects." It
cannot, however, be admitted that a desire to popularize the Frankish
kings is a sufficient and truth-like explanation of these tales of the
Gallo-Roman chroniclers, or that they are no more than "a poetical
expression," a romantic development of the real facts briefly noted by
Gregory of Tours; the tales have a graver origin and contain more truth
than would be presumed from some of the anecdotes and sayings mixed up
with them. In the condition of minds and parties in Gaul at the end of
the fifth century the marriage of Clovis and Clotilde was, for the public
of the period, for the barbarians and for the Gallo-Romans, a great
matter. Clovis and the Franks were still pagans; Gondebaud and the
Burgundians were Christians, but Arians; Clotilde was a Catholic
Christian. To which of the two, Catholics or Arians, would Clovis ally
himself? To whom, Arian, pagan, or Catholic, would Clotilde be married?
Assuredly the bishops, priests, and all the Gallo-Roman clergy, for the
most part Catholics, desired to see Clovis, that young and audacious
Frankish chieftain, take to wife a Catholic rather than an Arian or a
pagan, and hoped to convert the pagan Clovis to Christianity much more
than an Arian to orthodoxy.

The question between Catholic orthodoxy and Arianism was, at that time,
a vital question for Christianity in its entirety, and St. Athanasius was
not wrong in attributing to it supreme importance. It may be presumed
that the Catholic clergy, the bishop of Rheims, or the bishop of Langres,
were no strangers to the repeated praises which turned the thoughts of
the Frankish king towards the Burgundian princess, and the idea of their
marriage once set afloat, the Catholics, priesthood or laity, labored
undoubtedly to push it forward, whilst the Burgundian Arians exerted
themselves to prevent it. Thus there took place, between opposing
influences, religious and national, a most animated struggle. No
astonishment can be felt, then, at the obstacles the marriage
encountered, at the complications mingled with it, and at the indirect
means employed on both sides to cause its success or failure. The
account of Fredegaire is but a picture of this struggle and its
incidents, a little amplified or altered by imagination or the credulity
of the period; but the essential features of the picture, the disguise of
Aurelian, the hurry of Clotilde, the prudent recollection of Aridius,
Gondebaud's alternations of fear and violence, and Clotilde's vindictive
passion when she is once out of danger, there is nothing in all this out
of keeping with the manners of the time or the position of the actors.
Let it be added that Aurelian and Aridius are real personages who are met
with elsewhere in history, and whose parts as played on the occasion of
Clotilde's marriage are in harmony with the other traces that remain of
their lives.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TOLBIACUM----144]

The consequences of the marriage justified before long the importance
which had on all sides been attached to it. Clotilde had a son; she was
anxious to have him baptized, and urged her husband to consent. "The
gods you worship," said she, "are nought, and can do nought for
themselves or others; they are of wood, or stone, or metal." Clovis
resisted, saying, "It is by the command of our gods that all things are
created and brought forth. It is plain that your God hath no power;
there is no proof even that He is of the race of the gods." But Clotilde
prevailed; and she had her son baptized solemnly, hoping that the
striking nature of the ceremony might win to the faith the father whom
her words and prayers had been powerless to touch. The child soon died,
and Clovis bitterly reproached the queen, saying, "Had the child been
dedicated to my gods he would be alive; he was baptized in the name of
your God, and he could not live." Clotilde defended her God and prayed.
She had a second son, who was also baptized, and fell sick. "It cannot
be otherwise with him than with his brother," said Clovis; "baptized in
the name of your Christ, he is going to die." But the child was cured,
and lived; and Clovis was pacified and less incredulous of Christ. An
event then came to pass which affected him still more than the sickness
or cure of his children. In 496 the Allemannians, a Germanic
confederation like the Franks, who also had been, for some time past,
assailing the Roman empire on the banks of the Rhine or the frontiers of
Switzerland, crossed the river, and invaded the settlements of the Franks
on the left bank. Clovis went to the aid of his confederation and
attacked the Allemannians at Tolbiac, near Cologne. He had with him
Aurelian, who had been his messenger to Clotilde, whom he had made Duke
of Melun, and who commanded the forces of Sens. The battle was going
ill; the Franks were wavering, and Clovis was anxious. Before setting
out he had, according to Fredegaire, promised his wife that if he were
victorious he would turn Christian. Other chroniclers say that Aurelian,
seeing the battle in danger of being lost, said to Clovis, "My lord king,
believe only on the Lord of heaven whom the queen, my mistress,
preacheth." Clovis cried out with emotion, "Christ Jesus, Thou whom my
queen Clotilde calleth the Son of the living God; I have invoked my own
gods, and they have withdrawn from me; I believe that they have no power,
since they aid not those who call upon them. Thee, very God and Lord, I
invoke; if Thou give me victory over these foes, if I find in Thee the
power that the people proclaim of Thee, I will believe on Thee, and will
be baptized in Thy name." The tide of battle turned: the Franks
recovered confidence and courage; and the Allemannians, beaten and seeing
their king slain, surrendered themselves to Clovis, saying, "Cease, of
thy grace, to cause any more of our people to perish; for we are thine."

On the return of Clovis, Clotilde, fearing he should forget his victory
and his promise, "secretly sent," says Gregory of Tours, "to St. Remi,
bishop of Rheims, and prayed him to penetrate the king's heart, with the
words of salvation." St. Remi was a fervent Christian and an able
bishop; and "I will listen to thee, most holy father," said Clovis,
"willingly; but there is a difficulty. The people that follow me will
not give up their gods. But I am about to assemble them, and will speak
to them according to thy word." The king found the people more docile or
better prepared than he had represented to the bishop. Even before he
opened his mouth the greater part of those present cried out, "We abjure
the mortal gods; we are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remi
preacheth." About three thousand Frankish warriors, however, persisted
in their intention of remaining pagans, and deserting Clovis, betook
themselves to Ragnacaire, the Frankish king of Cambrai, who was destined
ere long to pay dearly for this acquisition. So soon as St. Remi was
informed of this good disposition on the part of king and people, he
fixed Christmas Day of this year, 496, for the ceremony of the baptism of
these grand neophytes. The description of it is borrowed from the
historian of the church of Rheims, Frodoard by name, born at the close of
the ninth century. He gathered together the essential points of it from
the _Life of Saint Remi,_ written, shortly before that period, by the
saint's celebrated successor at Rheims, Archbishop Hincmar. "The
bishop," says he, "went in search of the king at early morn in his
bed-chamber, in order that, taking him at the moment of freedom from
secular cares, he might more freely communicate to him the mysteries of
the holy word. The king's chamber-people receive him with great respect,
and the king himself runs forward to meet him. Thereupon they pass
together into an oratory dedicated to St. Peter, chief of the apostles,
and adjoining the king's apartment. When the bishop, the king, and the
queen had taken their places on the seats prepared for them, and
admission had been given to some clerics and also some friends and
household servants of the king, the venerable bishop began his
instructions on the subject of salvation. . . . Meanwhile
preparations are being made along the road from the palace to the
baptistery; curtains and valuable stuffs are hung up; the houses on
either side of the street are dressed out; the baptistery is sprinkled
with balm and all manner of perfume. The procession moves from the
palace; the clergy lead the way with the holy gospels, the cross, and
standards, singing hymns and spiritual songs; then comes the bishop,
leading the king by the hand; after him the queen, lastly the people.
On the road it is said that the king asked the bishop if that were the
kingdom promised him: 'No,' answered the prelate, 'but it is the entrance
to the road that leads to it.' . . . At the moment when the king bent
his head over the fountain of life, 'Lower thy head with humility,
Sicambrian,' cried the eloquent bishop; 'adore what thou hast burned:
burn what thou hast adored.' The king's two sisters, Alboflede and
Lantechilde, likewise received baptism; and so at the same time did three
thousand of the Frankish army, besides a large number of women and

When it was known that Clovis had been baptized by St. Remi, and with
what striking circumstance, great was the satisfaction amongst the
Catholics. The chief Burgundian prelate, Avitus, bishop of Vienne, wrote
to the Frankish king, "Your faith is our victory; in choosing for you and
yours, you have pronounced for all; divine providence bath given you as
arbiter to our age. Greece can boast of having a sovereign of our
persuasion; but she is no longer alone in possession of this precious
gift; the rest of the world cloth share her light." Pope Anastasius
hasted to express his joy to Clovis: "The Church, our common mother," he
wrote, "rejoiceth to have born unto God so great a king. Continue,
glorious and illustrious son, to cheer the heart of this tender mother;
be a column of iron to support her, and she in her turn will give thee
victory over all thine enemies."

Clovis was not a man to omit turning his Catholic popularity to the
account of his ambition. At the very time when he was receiving these
testimonies of good will from the heads of the Church, he learned that
Gondebaud, disquieted, no doubt, at the conversion of his powerful
neighbor, had just made a vain attempt, at a conference held at Lyons, to
reconcile in his kingdom the Catholics and the Arians. Clovis considered
the moment favorable to his projects of aggrandizement at the expense of
the Burgundian king; he fomented the dissensions which already prevailed
between Gondebaud and his brother Godegisile, assured to himself the
latter's complicity, and suddenly entered Burgundy with his army.
Gondebaud, betrayed and beaten at the first encounter at Dijon, fled to
the south of his kingdom, and went and shut himself up in Avignon.
Clovis pursued and besieged him there. Gondebaud in great alarm asked
counsel of his Roman confidant Aridius, who had but lately foretold to
him what the marriage of his niece Clotilde would bring upon him. "On
every side," said the king, "I am encompassed by perils, and I know not
what to do; lo! here be these barbarians come upon us to slay us and
destroy the land." "To escape death," answered Aridius, "thou must
appease the ferocity of this man. Now, if it please thee, I will feign
to fly from thee and go over to him. So soon as I shall be with him, I
will so do that he ruin neither thee nor the land. Only have thou care
to perform whatsoever I shall ask of thee, until the Lord in His goodness
deign to make thy cause triumph." "All that thou shalt bid will I do,"
said Gondebaud. So Aridius left Gondebaud and went his way to Clovis,
and said, "Most pious king, I am thy humble servant; I give up this
wretched Gondebaud, and come unto thy mightiness. If thy goodness deign
to cast a glance upon me, thou and thy descendants will find in me a
servant of integrity and fidelity." Clovis received him very kindly and
kept him by him, for Aridius was agreeable in conversation, wise in
counsel, just in judgment, and faithful in whatever was committed to his
care. As the siege continued, Aridius said to Clovis, "O king, if the
glory of thy greatness would suffer thee to listen to the words of my
feebleness, though thou needest not counsel, I would submit them to thee
in all fidelity, and they might be of use to thee, whether for thyself or
for the towns by the which thou dost propose to pass. Wherefore keepest
thou here thine army, whilst thine enemy doth hide himself in a
well-fortified place? Thou ravagest the fields, thou pillagest the
corn, thou cuttest down the vines, thou fellest the olive trees, thou
destroyest all the produce of the land, and yet thou succeedest not in
destroying thine adversary. Rather send thou unto him deputies, and lay
on him a tribute to be paid to thee every year. Thus the land will be
preserved, and thou wilt be lord forever over him who owes thee tribute.
If he refuse, thou shalt then do what pleaseth thee." Clovis found the
counsel good, ordered his army to return home, sent deputies to
Gondebaud, and called upon him to undertake the payment every year of a
fixed tribute. Gondebaud paid for the time, and promised to pay
punctually for the future. And peace appeared made between the two

Pleased with his campaign against the Burgundians, Clovis kept on good
terms with Gondebaud, who was to be henceforth a simple tributary, and
transferred to the Visigoths of Aquitania, and their king, Alaric II.,
his views of conquest. He had there the same pretexts for attack and the
same means of success. Alaric and his Visigoths were Arians, and between
them and the bishops of Southern Gaul, nearly all orthodox Catholics,
there were permanent ill-will and distrust. Alaric attempted to
conciliate their good-will: in 506 a Council met at Agde; the thirty-four
bishops of Aquitania attended in person or by delegate; the king
protested that he had no design of persecuting the Catholics; the
bishops, at the opening of the Council, offered prayers for the king; but
Alaric did not forget that immediately after the conversion of Clovis,
Volusian, bishop of Tours, had conspired in favor of the Frankish king,
and the bishops of Aquitania regarded Volusian as a martyr, for he had
been deposed, without trial, from his see, and taken as a prisoner first
to Toulouse, and afterwards into Spain, where in a short time he had been
put to death. In vain did the glorious chief of the race of Goths,
Theodoric the Great, king of Italy, father-in-law of Alaric, and brother-
in-law of Clovis, exert himself to prevent any outbreak between the two
kings. In 498, Alaric, no doubt at his father-in-law's solicitation,
wrote to Clovis, "If my brother consent thereto, I would, following my
desires and by the grace of God, have an interview with him." The
interview took place at a small island in the Loire, called the Island
d'Or or de St. Jean, near Amboise. "The two kings," says Gregory of
Tours, "conversed, ate, and drank together, and separated with mutual
promises of friendship." The positions and passions of each soon made
the promises of no effect. In 505 Clovis was seriously ill; the bishops
of Aquitania testified warm interest in him; and one of them, Quintian,
bishop of Rodez, being on this account persecuted by the Visigoths, had
to seek refuge at Clermont, in Auvergne. Clovis no longer concealed his
designs. In 507 he assembled his principal chieftains; and, "It
displeaseth me greatly," said he, "that these Arians should possess a
portion of the Gauls; march we forth with the help of God, drive we them
from that land, for it is very goodly, and bring we it under our own
power." The Franks applauded their king; and the army set out on the
march in the direction of Poitiers, where Alaric happened at that time to
be. "As a portion of the troops was crossing the territory of Tours,"
says Gregory, who was shortly afterwards its bishop, "Clovis forbade, out
of respect for St. Martin, anything to be taken, save grass and water.
One of the army, however, having found some hay belonging to a poor man,
said, 'This is grass; we do not break the king's commands by taking it;'
and, in spite of the poor man's resistance, he robbed him of his hay.
Clovis, informed of the fact, slew the soldier on the spot with one sweep
of his sword, saying, 'What will become of our hopes of victory if we
offend St. Martin?'" Alaric had prepared for the struggle; and the two
armies met in the plain of Vouille, on the banks of the little river
Clain, a few leagues from Poitiers. The battle was very severe. "The
Goths," says Gregory of Tours, "fought with missiles; the Franks sword in
hand. Clovis met and with his own hand slew Alaric in the fray; at the
moment of striking his blow, two Goths fell suddenly upon Clovis, and
attacked him with their pikes on either side, but he escaped death,
thanks to his cuirass and the agility of his horse."

Beaten and kingless, the Goths retreated in great disorder; and Clovis,
pursuing his march, arrived without opposition at Bordeaux, where he
settled down with his Franks for the winter. When the war season
returned, he marched on Toulouse, the capital of the Visigoths, which he
likewise occupied without resistance, and where he seized a portion of
the treasure of the Visigothic kings. He quitted it to lay siege to
Carcassonne, which had been made by the Romans into the stronghold of

There his course of conquest was destined to end. After the battle of
Vouille he had sent his eldest son Theodoric in command of a division,
with orders to cross Central Gaul from west to east, to go and join the
Burgundians of Gondebaud, who had promised his assistance, and in
conjunction with them to attack the Visigoths on the banks of the Rhone
and in Narbonness. The young Frank boldly executed his father's orders,
but the intervention of Theodoric the Great, king of Italy, prevented the
success of the operation. He sent an army into Gaul to the aid of his
son-in-law Alaric; and the united Franks and Burgundians failed in their
attacks upon the Visigoths of the Eastern Provinces. Clovis had no idea
of compromising by his obstinacy the conquests already accomplished; he
therefore raised the siege of Carcassonne, returned first to Toulouse,
and then to Bordeaux, took Angouleme, the only town of importance he did
not possess in Aquitania; and feeling reasonably sure that the Visigoths,
who, even with the aid that had cone from Italy, had great difficulty in
defending what remained to them of Southern Gaul, would not come and
dispute with him what he had already conquered, he halted at Tours, and
staid there some time, to enjoy on the very spot the fruits of his
victory and to establish his power in his new possessions.

It appears that even the Britons of Armorica tendered to him at that
time, through the interposition of Melanins, bishop of Rennes, if not
their actual submission, at any rate their subordination and homage.

Clovis at the same time had his self-respect flattered in a manner to
which barbaric conquerors always attach great importance. Anastasius,
Emperor of the East, with whom he had already had some communication,
sent to him at Tours a solemn embassy, bringing him the titles and
insignia of Patrician and Consul. "Clovis," says Gregory of Tours, "put
on the tunic of purple and the chlamys and the diadem; then mounting his
horse, he scattered with his own hand and with much bounty gold and
silver amongst the people, on the road which lies between the gate of the
court belonging to the basilica of St. Martin and the church of the city.
From that day he was called Consul and Augustus. On leaving the city of
Tours he repaired to Paris, where he fixed the seat of his government."

Paris was certainly the political centre of his dominions, the
intermediate point between the early settlements of his race and himself
in Gaul and his new Gallic conquests; but he lacked some of the
possessions nearest to him and most naturally, in his own opinion, his.
To the east, north, and south-west of Paris were settled some independent
Frankish tribes, governed by chieftains with the name of kings. So soon
as he had settled at Paris, it was the one fixed idea of Clovis to reduce
them all to subjection. He had conquered the Burgundians and the
Visigoths; it remained for him to conquer and unite together all the
Franks. The barbarian showed himself in his true colors, during this new
enterprise, with his violence, his craft, his cruelty, and his perfidy.
He began with the most powerful of the tribes, the Ripuarian Franks. He
sent secretly to Cloderic, son of Sigebert, their king, saying, "Thy
father hath become old, and his wound maketh him to limp o' one foot; if
he should die, his kingdom will come to thee of right, together with our
friendship." Cloderic had his father assassinated whilst asleep in his
tent, and sent messengers to Clovis, saying, "My father is dead, and I
have in my power his kingdom and his treasures. Send thou unto me
certain of thy people, and I will gladly give into their hands whatsoever
amongst these treasures shall seem like to please thee." The envoys of
Clovis came, and, as they were examining in detail the treasures of
Sigebert, Cloderic said to them, "This is the coffer wherein my father
was wont to pile up his gold pieces." "Plunge," said they, "thy hand
right to the bottom that none escape thee." Cloderic bent forward, and
one of the envoys lifted his battle-axe and cleft his skull. Clovis went
to Cologne and convoked the Franks of the canton. "Learn," said he,
"that which hath happened. As I was sailing on the river Scheldt,
Cloderic, son of my relative, did vex his father, saying I was minded to
slay him; and as Sigebert was flying across the forest of Buchaw, his son
himself sent bandits, who fell upon him and slew him. Cloderic also is
dead, smitten I know not by whom as he was opening his father's
treasures. I am altogether unconcerned in it all, and I could not shed
the blood of my relatives, for it is a crime. But since it hath so
happened, I give unto you counsel, which ye shall follow if it seem to
you good; turn ye towards me, and live under my protection." And they
who were present hoisted him on a huge buckler, and hailed him king.

After Sigebert and the Ripuarian Franks, came the Franks of Terouanne,
and Chararic their king. He had refused, twenty years before, to march
with Clovis against the Roman, Syagrius. Clovis, who had not forgotten
it, attacked him, took him and his son prisoners, and had them both
shorn, ordering that Chararic should be ordained priest and his son
deacon. Chararic was much grieved. Then said his son to him, "Here be
branches which were cut from a green tree, and are not yet wholly dried
up: soon they will sprout forth again. May it please God that he who
hath wrought all this shall die as quickly!" Clovis considered these
words as a menace, had both father and son beheaded, and took possession
of their dominions. Ragnacaire, king of the Franks of Cambrai, was the
third to be attacked. He had served Clovis against Syagrins, but Clovis
took no account of that. Ragnacaire, being beaten, was preparing for
flight, when he was seized by his own soldiers, who tied his hands behind
his back, and took him to Clovis along with his brother Riquier.
"Wherefore hast thou dishonored our race," said Clovis, "by letting
thyself wear bonds?" "Twere better to have died;" and cleft his skull
with one stroke of his battle-axe. Then turning to Riquier, "Hadst thou
succored thy brother," said he, "he had assuredly not been bound;" and
felled him likewise at his feet. Rignomer, king of the Franks of
Le Mans, met the same fate, but not at the hands, only by the order, of
Clovis. So Clovis remained sole king of the Franks, for all the
independent chieftains had disappeared.

It is said that one day, after all these murders, Clovis, surrounded by
his trusted servants, cried, "Woe is me! who am left as a traveller
amongst strangers, and who have no longer relatives to lend me support in
the day of adversity!" Thus do the most shameless take pleasure in
exhibiting sham sorrow after crimes they cannot disavow.

It cannot be known whether Clovis ever felt in his soul any scruple or
regret for his many acts of ferocity and perfidy, or if he looked, as
sufficient expiation, upon the favor he had bestowed on the churches and
their bishops, upon the gifts he lavished on them, and upon the
absolutions he demanded of them. In times of mingled barbarism and faith
there are strange cases of credulity in the way of bargains made with
divine justice. We read in the life of St. Eleutherus, bishop of
Tournai, the native land of Clovis, that at one of those periods when the
conscience of the Frankish king must have been most heavily laden, he
presented himself one day at the church. "My lord king," said the
bishop, "I know wherefore thou art come to me." "I have nothing special
to say unto thee," rejoined Clovis. "Say not so, O king," replied the
bishop; "thou hast sinned, and darest not avow it." The king was moved,
and ended by confessing that he had deeply sinned and had need of large
pardon. St. Eleutherus betook himself to prayer; the king came back the
next day, and the bishop gave him a paper on which was written by a
divine hand, he said, "The pardon granted to royal offences which might
not be revealed." Clovis accepted this absolution, and loaded the church
of Tournai with his gifts. In 511, the very year of his death, his last
act in life was the convocation at Orleans of a Council, which was
attended by thirty bishops from the different parts of his kingdom, and
at which were adopted thirty-one canons that, whilst granting to the
Church great privileges and means of influence, in many cases favorable
to humanity and respect for the rights of individuals, bound the Church
closely to the State, and gave to royalty, even in ecclesiastical
matters, great power. The bishops, on breaking up, sent these canons to
Clovis, praying him to give them the sanction of his adhesion, which he
did. A few months afterwards, on the 27th of November, 511, Clovis died
at Paris, and was buried in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul,
nowadays St. Genevieve, built by his wife Queen Clotilde, who survived

It was but right to make the reader intimately acquainted with that great
barbarian who, with all his vices and all his crimes, brought about, or
rather began, two great matters which have already endured through
fourteen centuries, and still endure; for he founded the French monarchy
and Christian France. Such men and such facts have a right to be closely
studied and set in a clear light by history. Nothing similar will be
seen for two centuries, under the descendants of Clovis, the
Merovingians; amongst them will be encountered none but those personages
whom death reduces to insignificance, whatever may have been their rank
in the world, and of whom Virgil thus speaks to Dante:--

"Non ragionam di for, ma guarda e passa."

"Waste we no words on them: one glance and pass thou on."
Inferno, Canto III.


[Illustration: The Sluggard King Journeying----156]

In its beginning and in its end the line of the Merovingians is mediocre
and obscure. Its earliest ancestors, Meroveus, from whom it got its
name, and Clodion, the first, it is said, of the long-haired kings, a
characteristic title of the Frankish kings, are scarcely historical
personages; and it is under the qualification of sluggard kings that the
last Merovingians have a place in history. Clovis alone, amidst his
vices and his crimes, was sufficiently great and did sufficiently great
deeds to live forever in the course of ages; the greatest part of his
successors belong only to genealogy or chronology. In a moment of
self-abandonment and weariness, the great Napoleon once said, "What
trouble to take for half a page in universal history!" Histories far
more limited and modest than a universal history, not only have a right,
but are bound to shed their light only upon those men who have deserved
it by the eminence of their talents or the important results of their
passage through life; rarity only can claim to escape oblivion. And
save two or three, a little less insignificant or less hateful than the
rest, the Merovingian kings deserve only to be forgotten. From A.D. 511
to A.D. 752, that is, from the death of Clovis to the accession of the
Carlovingians, is two hundred and forty-one years, which was the
duration of the dynasty of the Merovingians. During this time there
reigned twenty-eight Merovingian kings, which reduces to eight years and
seven months the average reign of each, a short duration compared with
that of most of the royal dynasties. Five of these kings, Clotaire I.,
Clotaire II., Dagobert I., Thierry IV. and Childeric III., alone, at
different intervals, united under their power all the dominions
possessed by Clovis or his successors. The other kings of this line
reigned only over special kingdoms, formed by virtue of divers
partitions at the death of their general possessor. From A.D. 511 to
638 five such partitions took place. In 511, after the death of Clovis,
his dominions were divided amongst his four sons; Theodoric, or Thierry
I., was king of Metz; Clodomir, of Orleans; Childebert, of Paris;
Clotaire I., of Soissons. To each of these capitals fixed boundaries
were attached. In 558, in consequence of divers incidents brought about
naturally or by violence, Clotaire I. ended by possessing alone, during
three years, all the dominions of his fathers. At his death, in 561,
they were partitioned afresh amongst his four sons; Charibert was king
of Paris; Gontran of Orleans and Burgundy; Sigebert I., of Metz; and
Childeric, of Soissons. In 567, Charibert, king of Paris, died without
children, and a new partition left only three kingdoms, Austrasia,
Neustria, and Burgundy. Austrasia, in the east, extended over the two
banks of the Rhine, and comprised, side by side with Roman towns and
districts, populations that had remained Germanic. Neustria, in the
west, was essentially Gallo-Roman, though it comprised in the north the
old territory of the Salian Franks, on the borders of the Scheldt.
Burgundy was the old kingdom of the Burgundians, enlarged in the north
by some few counties. Paris, the residence of Clovis, was reserved and
undivided amongst the three kings, kept as a sort of neutral city into
which they could not enter without the common consent of all. In 613,
new incidents connected with family matters placed Clotaire II., son of
Chilperic, and heretofore king of Soissons, in possession of the three
kingdoms. He kept them united up to 628, and left them so to his son,
Dagobert I., who remained in possession of them up to 638. At his death
a new division of the Frankish dominions took place, no longer into
three but two kingdoms, Austrasia being one, and Neustria and Burgundy
the other. This was the definitive dismemberment of the great Frankish
dominion to the time of its last two Merovingian kings, Thierry IV. and
Childeric III., who were kings in name only, dragged from the cloister
as ghosts from the tomb to play a motionless part in the drama. For a
long time past the real power had been in the hands of that valiant
Austrasian family which was to furnish the dominions of Clovis with a
new dynasty and a greater king than Clovis.

Southern Gaul, that is to say, Aquitania, Vasconia, Narbonness, called
Septimania, and the two banks of the Rhone near its mouths, were not
comprised in these partitions of the Frankish dominions. Each of the
copartitioners assigned to themselves, to the south of the Garonne and on
the coasts of the Mediterranean, in that beautiful region of old Roman
Gaul, such and such a district or such and such a town, just as heirs-at-
law keep to themselves severally such and such a piece of furniture or
such and such a valuable jewel out of a rich property to which they
succeed, and which they divide amongst them. The peculiar situation of
those provinces at their distance from the Franks' own settlements
contributed much towards the independence which Southern Gaul, and
especially Aquitania, was constantly striving and partly managed to
recover, amidst the extension and tempestuous fortunes of the Frankish
monarchy. It is easy to comprehend how these repeated partitions of a
mighty inheritance with so many successors, these dominions continually
changing both their limits and their masters, must have tended to
increase the already profound anarchy of Roman and Barbaric worlds thrown
pell-mell one upon the other, and fallen a prey, the Roman to the
disorganization of a lingering death, the barbaric to the fermentation of
a new existence striving for development under social conditions quite
different from those of its primitive life. Some historians have said
that, in spite of these perpetual dismemberments of the great Frankish
dominion, a real unity had always existed in the Frankish monarchy, and
regulated the destinies of its constituent peoples. They who say so show
themselves singularly easy to please in the matter of political unity and
international harmony. Amongst those various States, springing from a
common base and subdivided between the different members of one and the
same family, rivalries, enmities, hostile machinations, deeds of violence
and atrocity, struggles and wars soon became as frequent, as bloody, and
as obstinate as they have ever been amongst states and sovereigns as
unconnected as possible one with another. It will suffice to quote one
case which was not long in coming. In 424, scarcely thirteen years after
the death of Clovis and the partition of his dominions amongst his four
sons, the second of them, Clodomir, king of Orleans, was killed in a war
against the Burgundians, leaving three sons, direct heirs of his kingdom,
subject to equal partition between them. Their grandmother, Clotilde,
kept them with her at Paris; and "their uncle Childebert (king of Paris),
seeing that his mother bestowed all her affection upon the sons of
Clodomir, grew jealous; so, fearing that by her favor they would get a
share in the kingdom, he sent secretly to his brother Clotaire (king of
Soissons), saying, 'Our mother keepeth by her the sons of our brother,
and willeth to give them the kingdom of their father. Thou must needs,
therefore, cone speedily to Paris, and we must take counsel together as
to what shall be done with them; whether they shall be shorn and reduced
to the condition of commoners, or slain and leave their kingdom to be
shared equally between us.' Clotaire, overcome with joy at these words,
came to Paris. Childebert had already spread abroad amongst the people
that the two kings were to join in raising the young children to the
throne. The two kings then sent a message to the queen, who at that time
dwelt in the same city, saying, 'Send thou the children to us, that we
may place them on the throne.' Clotilde, full of joy, and unwitting of
their craft, set meat and drink before the children, and then sent them
away, saying, 'I shall seem not to have lost my son if I see ye succeed
him in his kingdom.' The young princes were immediately seized, and
parted from their servants and governors; and the servants and the
children were kept in separate places. Then Childebert and Clotaire sent
to the queen their confidant Arcadius (one of the Arvernian senators),
with a pair of shears and a naked sword. When he came to Clotilde, he
showed her what he bare with him, and said to her, 'Most glorious queen,
thy sons, our masters, desire to know thy will touching these children:
wilt thou that they live with shorn hair or that they be put to death?'
Clotilde, astounded at this address, and overcome with indignation,
answered at hazard, amidst the grief that overwhelmed her, and not
knowing what she would say, 'If they be not set upon the throne I would
rather know that they were dead than shorn.' But Areadius, caring little
for her despair or for what she might decide after more reflection,
returned in haste to the two kings, and said, 'Finish ye your work, for
the queen, favoring your plans, willeth that ye accomplish them.'
Forthwith Clotaire taketh the eldest by the arm, dasheth him upon the
ground, and slayeth him without mercy with the thrust of a hunting-knife
beneath the arm-pit. At the cries raised by the child, his brother
casteth himself at the feet of Childebert, and clinging to his knees,
saith amidst his sobs, 'Aid me, good father, that I die not like my
brother.' Childebert, his visage bathed in tears, saith to Clotaire,
'Dear brother, I crave thy mercy for his life; I will give thee
whatsoever thou wilt as the price of his soul; I pray thee, slay him
not.' Then Clotaire, with menacing and furious mien, crieth out aloud,
'Thrust him away, or thou diest in his stead: thou, the instigator of all
this work, art thou, then, so quick to be faithless?' At these words
Childebert thrust away the child towards Clotaire, who seized him,
plunged a hunting-knife in his side, as he had in his brother's, and slew
him. They then put to death the slaves and governors of the children.
After these murders Clotaire mounted his horse and departed, taking
little heed of his nephew's death; and Childebert withdrew into the
outskirts of the city. Queen Clotilde had the corpses of the two
children placed in a coffin, and followed them, with a great parade of
chanting, and immense mourning, to the basilica of St. Pierre (now St.
Genevieve), where they were buried together. One was ten years old and
the other seven. The third, named Clodoald (who died about the year 560,
after having founded, near Paris, a monastery called after him St.
Cloud), could not be caught, and was saved by some gallant men. He,
disdaining a terrestrial kingdom, dedicated himself to the Lord, was
shorn by his own hand, and became a church-man: he devoted himself wholly
to good works, and died a priest. And the two kings divided equally
between them the kingdom of Clodomir." (Gregory of Tours, _Histoire des
Francs,_ III. xviii.)

[Illustration: "Thrust him away, or thou diest in his stead."----160]

The history of the most barbarous peoples and times assuredly offers no
example, in one and the same family, of an usurpation more perfidiously
and atrociously consummated. King Clodomir, the father of the two young
princes thus dethroned and murdered by their uncles, had, during his
reign, shown almost equal indifference and cruelty. In 523, during a war
which, in concert with his brothers Childebert and Clotaire, he had waged
against Sigismund, king of Burgundy, he had made prisoners of that king,
his wife, and their sons, and kept them shut up at Orleans. The year
after, the war was renewed with the Burgundians. "Clodomir resolved,"
says Gregory of Tours, "to put Sigismund to death. The blessed Avitus,
abbot of St. Mesrnin de Micy (an abbey about two leagues from Orleans), a
famous priest in those days, said to him on this occasion, 'If, turning
thy thoughts towards God, thou change thy plan, and suffer not these folk
to be slain, God will be with thee, and thou wilt gain the victory; but
if thou slay them, thou thyself wilt be delivered into the hands of thine
enemies, and thou wilt undergo their fate; to thee and thy wife and thy
sons will happen that which thou wilt have done to Sigismund and his wife
and his sons.' But Clodomir, taking no heed of this counsel, said, 'It
were great folly to leave one enemy at home when I march out against
another; one attacking me behind and another in front, I should find
myself between two armies: victory will be surer and easier if I separate
one from the other; when the first is once dead, it will be less
difficult to get rid of the other also.' Accordingly he put Sigismund to
death, together with his wife and his sons, ordered them to be thrown
into a well in the village of Coulmier, belonging to the territory of
Orleans, and set out for Burgundy. After his first success Clodomir fell
into an ambush and into the hands of his enemies, who cut off his head,
stuck it on the end of a pike and held it up aloft. Victory,
nevertheless, remained with the Franks; but scarcely had a year elapsed
when Queen Guntheuque, Clodomir's widow, became the wife of his brother
Clotaire, and his two elder sons, Theobald and Gonthaire, fell beneath
their uncle's hunting-knife."

Even in the coarsest and harshest ages the soul of man does not
completely lose its instincts of justice and humanity. The bishops and
priests were not alone in crying out against such atrocities; the
barbarians themselves did not always remain indifferent spectators of
them, but sometimes took advantage of them to rouse the wrath and warlike
ardor of their comrades. "About the year 528, Theodoric, king of Metz,
the eldest son of Clovis, purposed to undertake a grand campaign on the
right bank of the Rhine against his neighbors the Thuringians, and
summoned the Franks to a meeting. 'Bethink you,' said he, that of old
time the Thuringians fell violently upon our ancestors, and did them much
harm. Our fathers, ye know, gave them hostages to obtain peace; but the
Thuringians put to death those hostages in divers ways, and once more
falling upon our relatives, took from them all they possessed. After
having hung children up, by the sinews of their thighs, on the branches
of trees, they put to a most cruel death more than two hundred young
girls, tying them by the legs to the necks of horses, which, driven by
pointed goads in different directions, tore the poor souls in pieces;
they laid others along the ruts of the roads, fixed them in the earth
with stakes, drove over them laden cars, and so left them, with their
bones all broken, as a meal for the birds and dogs. To this very day
doth Hermannfroi fail in his promise, and absolutely refuse to fulfil his
engagements: right is on our side; march we against them with the help of
God.' Then the Franks, indignant at such atrocities, demanded with one
voice to be led into Thuringia. . . . Victory made them masters of
it, and they reduced the country under their dominion. . . . Whilst
the Frankish kings were still there, Theodoric would have slain his
brother Clotaire. Having put armed men in waiting, he had him fetched to
treat secretly of a certain matter. Then, having arranged, in a portion
of his house, a curtain from wall to wall, he posted his armed men behind
it; but, as the curtain was too short, it left their feet exposed.
Clotaire, having been warned of the snare, entered the house armed and
with a goodly company. Theodoric then perceived that he was discovered,
invented some story, and talked of this, that, and the other. At last,
not knowing how to get his treachery forgotten, he made Clotaire a
present of a large silvern dish. Clotaire wished him good by, thanked
him, and returned home. But Theodoric immediately complained to his own
folks that he had sacrificed his silvern dish to no purpose, and said to
his son Theodebert, 'Go, find thy uncle, and pray him to give thee the
present I made him.' Theodebert went, and got what he asked. In such
tricks did Theodoric excel." (Gregory of Tours, III. vii.)

These Merovingian kings were as greedy and licentious as they were cruel.
Not only was pillage, in their estimation, the end and object of war, but
they pillaged even in the midst of peace and in their own dominions;
sometimes, after the Roman practice, by aggravation of taxes and fiscal
manoeuvres, at others after the barbaric fashion, by sudden attacks on
places and persons they knew to be rich. It often happened that they
pillaged a church, of which the bishop had vexed them by his protests,
either to swell their own personal treasury, or to make, soon afterwards,
offerings to another church of which they sought the favor. When some
great family event was at hand, they delighted in a coarse magnificence,
for which they provided at the expense of the populations of their
domains, or of the great officers of their courts, who did not fail to
indemnify themselves, thanks to public disorder, for the sacrifices
imposed upon them. At the end of the sixth century, Chilperic, king of
Neustria, had promised his daughter Rigonthe in marriage to Prince
Recared, son of Leuvigild, king of the Visigoths of Spain. "A grand
deputation of Goths came to Paris to fetch the Frankish princess. King
Chilperic ordered several families in the fiscal domains to be seized and
placed in cars. As a great number of them wept and were not willing to
go, he had them kept in prison that he might more easily force them to go
away with his daughter. It is said that several, in their despair, hung
themselves, fearing to be taken from their parents. Sons were separated
from fathers, daughters from mothers, and all departed with deep groans
and maledictions, and in Paris there reigned a desolation like that of
Egypt. Not a few, of superior birth, being forced to go away, even made
wills whereby they left their possessions to the churches, and demanded
that, so soon as the young girl should have entered Spain, their wills
should be opened just as if they were already in their graves. . . .
When King Chilperic gave up his daughter to the ambassadors of the Goths,
he presented them with vast treasures. Her mother (Queen Fredegonde)
added thereto so great a quantity of gold and silver and valuable
vestments, that, at the sight thereof, the king thought he must have
nought remaining. The queen, perceiving his emotion, turned to the
Franks, and said to them, 'Think not, warriors, that there is here aught
of the treasures of former kings. All that ye see is taken from mine own
possessions, for my most glorious king hath made me many gifts. Thereto
have I added of the fruits of mine own toil, and a great part proceedeth
from the revenues I have drawn, either in kind or in money, from the
houses that have been ceded unto me. Ye yourselves have given me riches,
and ye see here a portion thereof; but there is here nought of the public
treasure.' And the king was deceived into believing her words. Such was
the multitude of golden and silvern articles and other precious things
that it took fifty wagons to hold them. The Franks, on their part, made
many offerings; some gave gold, others silver, sundry gave horses, but
most of them vestments. At last the young girl, with many tears and
kisses, said farewell. As she was passing through the gate an axle of
her carriage broke, and all cried out alacic! which was interpreted by
some as a presage. She departed from Paris, and at eight miles' distance
front the city she had her tents pitched. During the night fifty men
arose, and, having taken a hundred of the best horses and as many golden
bits and bridles, and two large silvern dishes, fled away, and took
refuge with king Childebert. During the whole journey whoever could
escape fled away with all that he could lay hands on. It was required
also of all the towns that were traversed on the way, that they should
make great preparations to defray expenses, for the king forbade any
contribution from the treasury: all the charges were met by extraordinary
taxes levied on the poor." (Gregory of Tours, VI. xlv.)

"Close upon this tyrannical magnificence came unexpected sorrows, and
close upon these outrages remorse. The youngest son of King Chilperic,
Dagobert by name, fell ill. He was a little better, when his elder
brother Chlodebert was attacked with the same symptoms. His mother
Fredegonde, seeing him in danger of death, and touched by tardy
repentance, said to the king, 'Long hath divine mercy borne with our
misdeeds; it hath warned us by fever, and other maladies, and we have not
mended our ways, and now we are losing our sons; now the tears of the
poor, the lamentations of widows, and the sighs of orphans are causing
them to perish, and leaving us no hope of laying by for any one. We heap
up riches and know not for whom. Our treasures, all laden with plunder
and curses, are like to remain without possessors. Our cellars are they
not bursting with wine, and our granaries with corn? Our coffers were
they not full to the brim with gold and silver and precious stones and
necklaces and other imperial ornaments? And yet that which was our most
beautiful possession we are losing! Come then, if thou wilt, and let us
burn all these wicked lists; let our treasury be content with what was
sufficient for thy father Clotaire.' Having thus spoken, and beating her
breast, the queen had brought to her the rolls, which Mark had consigned
to her of each of the cities that belonged to her, and cast them into the
fire. Then, turning again to the king, 'What!' she cried, 'dost thou
hesitate? Do thou even as I; if we lose our dear children, at least
escape we everlasting punishment.' Then the king, moved with
compunction, threw into the fire all the lists, and, when they were
burned, sent people to stay the levy of those imposts. And afterwards
their youngest child died, worn out with lingering illness. Overwhelmed
with grief, they bare him from their house at Braine to Paris, and had
him buried in the basilica of St. Denis. As for Chlodebert, they placed
him on a litter, carried him to the basilica of St. Medard at Soissons,
and, laying him before the tomb of the saint, offered vows for his
recovery; but in the middle of the night, enfeebled and exhausted, he
gave up the ghost. They buried him in the basilica of the holy martyrs
Crispin and Crispinian. Then King Chilperic showed great largess to the
churches and the monasteries and the poor." (Gregory of Tours, V.

It is doubtful whether the maternal grief of Fredegonde were quite so
pious and so strictly in accordance with morality as it has been
represented by Gregory of Tours; but she was, without doubt, passionately
sincere. Rash actions and violent passions are the characteristics of
barbaric natures; the interest or impression of the moment holds sway
over them, and causes forgetfulness of every moral law as well as of
every wise calculation. These two characteristics show themselves in the
extreme license displayed in the private life of the Merovingian kings:
on becoming Christians, not only did they not impose upon themselves any
of the Christian rules in respect of conjugal relations, but the greater
number of them did not renounce polygamy, and more than one holy bishop,
at the very time that he reprobated it, was obliged to tolerate it.
"King Clotaire I. had to wife Ingonde, and her only did he love, when she
made to him the following request: 'My lord,' said she, 'hath made of his
handmaid what seemed to him good; and now, to crown his favors, let my
lord deign to hear what his handmaid demandeth. I pray you be graciously
pleased to find for my sister Aregonde, your slave, a man both capable
and rich, so that I be rather exalted than abased thereby, and be enabled
to serve you still more faithfully.' At these words Clotaire, who was
but too voluptuously disposed by nature, conceived a fancy for Aregonde,
betook himself to the country-house where she dwelt, and united her to
him in marriage. When the union had taken place he returned to Ingonde,
and said to her, 'I have labored to procure for thee the favor thou didst
so sweetly demand, and, on looking for a man of wealth and capability
worthy to be united to thy sister, I could find no better than myself;
know, therefore, that I have taken her to wife, and I trow that it will
not displease thee.' What seemeth good in my master's eyes, that let him
do,' replied Ingonde: 'only let thy servant abide still in the king's

Clotaire I. had, as has been already remarked, four sons: the eldest,
Charibert, king of Paris, had to wife Ingoberge, "who had in her service
two young persons, daughters of a poor work-man; one of them, named
Marcovieve, had donned the religious dress, the other was called
Meroflede, and the king loved both of them exceedingly. They were
daughters, as has been said, of a worker in wool. Ingoberge, jealous of
the affection borne to them by the king, had their father put to work
inside the palace, hoping that the king, on seeing him in such condition,
would conceive a distaste for his daughters; and, whilst the man was at
his work, she sent for the king.

"Charibert, thinking he was going to see some novelty, saw only the
workman afar off at work on his wool. He forsook Ingoberge, and took to
wife Meroflede. He had also (to wife) another young girl named
Theudoehilde, whose father was a shepherd, a mere tender of sheep, and
had by her, it is said, a son who, on issuing from his mother's womb, was
carried straight-way to the grave." Charibert afterwards espoused
Marcovive, sister of Meroflede; and for that cause both were
excommunicated by St. Germain, bishop of Paris.

Chilperic, fourth son of Clotaire I. and king of Soissons, "though he had
already several wives, asked the hand of Galsuinthe, eldest daughter of
Athanagild, king of Spain. She arrived at Soissons and was united to him
in marriage; and she received strong evidences of love, for she had
brought with her vast treasures. But his love for Fredegonde, one of the
principal women about Chilperic, occasioned fierce disputes between them.
As Galsuinthe had to complain to the king of continual insult and of not
sharing with him the dignity of his rank, she asked him in return for the
treasures which she had brought, and which she was ready to give up to
him, to send her back free to her own country. Chilperic, artfully
dissimulating, appeased her with soothing words; and then had her
strangled by a slave, and she was found dead in her bed. When he had
mourned for her death, he espoused Fredegonde after an interval of a few
days." (Gregory of Tours, IV. xxvi., xxviii.)

Amidst such passions and such morals, treason, murder and poisoning were
the familiar processes of ambition, covetousness, hatred, vengeance, and
fear. Eight kings or royal heirs of the Merovingian line died of brutal
murder or secret assassination, to say nothing of innumerable crimes of
the same kind committed in their circle, and left unpunished, save by
similar crimes. Nevertheless, justice is due to the very worst times and
the very worst governments; and it must be recorded that, whilst sharing
in many of the vices of their age and race, especially their extreme
license of morals, three of Clovis's successors, Theodebert, king of
Austrasia (from 534 to 548), Gontran, king of Burgundy (from 561 to 598),
and Dogobert I., who united under his own sway the whole Frankish
monarchy (from 622 to 688), were less violent, less cruel, less
iniquitous, and less grossly ignorant or blind than the majority of the

"Theodebert," says Gregory of Tours, "when confirmed in his kingdom,
showed himself full of greatness and goodness; he ruled with justice,
honoring the bishops, doing good to the churches, helping the poor, and
distributing in many directions numerous benefits with a very charitable
and very liberal hand. He generously remitted to the churches of
Auvergne all the tribute they were wont to pay into his treasury." (III.

Gontran, king of Burgundy, in spite of many shocking and unprincipled
deeds, at one time of violence, at another of weakness, displayed, during
his reign of thirty-three years, an inclination towards moderation and
peace, in striking contrast with the measureless pretensions and
outrageous conduct of the other Frankish kings his contemporaries,
especially King Chilperic his brother. The treaty concluded by Gontran,
on the 38th of November, 587, at Andelot, near Langres, with his young
nephew Childebert, king of Metz, and Queen Brunehant, his mother,
contains dispositions, or, more correctly speaking, words, which breathe
a sincere but timid desire to render justice to all, to put an end to the
vindictive or retrospective quarrels and spoliations which were
incessantly harassing the Gallo-Frankish community, and to build up peace
between the two kings on the foundation of mutual respect for the rights
of their lieges. "It is established," says this treaty, "that whatsoever
the kings have given to the churches or to their lieges, or with God's
help shall hereafter will to give to them lawfully, shall be irrevocable
acquired; as also that none of the lieges, in one kingdom or the other,
shall have to suffer damage in respect of whatsoever belongeth to him,
either by law or by virtue of a decree, but shall be permitted to recover
and possess things due to him. . . . And as the aforesaid kings have
allied themselves, in the name of God, by a pure and sincere affection,
it hath been agreed that at no time shall passage through one kingdom be
refused to the Leudes (lieges--great vassals) of the other kingdom who
shall desire to traverse them on public or private affairs. It is
likewise agreed that neither of the two kings shall solicit the Leudes of
the other or receive them if they offer themselves; and if, peradventure,
any of these Leudes shall think it necessary, in consequence of some
fault, to take refuge with the other king, he shall be absolved according
to the nature of his fault and given back. It hath seemed good also to
add to the present treaty that whichever, if either, of the parties
happen to violate it, under any pretext and at any time whatsoever, it
shall lose all advantages, present or prospective, therefrom; and they
shall be for the profit of that party which shall have faithfully
observed the aforesaid conventions, and which shall be relieved in all
points from the obligations of its oath." (Gregory of Tours, IX. xx.)

It may be doubted whether between Gontran and Childebert the promises in
the treaty were always scrupulously fulfilled; but they have a stamp of
serious and sincere intention foreign to the habitual relations between
the other Merovingian kings.

Mention was but just now made of two women--two queens--Fredegonde and
Brunehaut, who, at the Merovingian epoch, played important parts in the
history of the country. They were of very different origin and
condition; and, after fortunes which were for a long while analogous,
they ended very differently. Fredegonde was the daughter of poor
peasants in the neighborhood of Montdidier in Picardy, and at an early
age joined the train of Queen Audovere, the first wife of King Chilperic.
She was beautiful, dexterous, ambitious, and bold; and she attracted the
attention, and before long awakened the passion of the king. She pursued
with ardor and without scruple her unexpected fortune. Queen Audovere
was her first obstacle and her first victim; and on the pretext of a
spiritual relationship which rendered her marriage with Chilperic
illegal, was repudiated and banished to a convent. But Fredegonde's hour
had not yet come; for Chilperic espoused Galsuinthe, daughter of the
Visigothic king, Athanagild, whose youngest daughter, Brunehaut, had just
married Chilperic's brother, Sigebert, king of Austrasia. It has already
been said that before long Galsuinthe was found strangled in her bed, and
that Chilperic espoused Fredegonde. An undying hatred from that time
arose between her and Brunehaut, who had to avenge her sister. A war,
incessantly renewed, between the kings of Austrasia and Neustria
followed. Sigebert succeeded in beating Chilperic, but, in 575, in the
midst of his victory, he was suddenly assassinated in his tent by two
emissaries of Fredegonde. His army disbanded; and his widow, Brunehaut,
fell into the hands of Chilperic. The right of asylum belonging to the
cathedral of Paris saved her life, but she was sent away to Rouen.
There, at this very time, on a mission from his father, happened to be
Merovee, son of Chilperic, and the repudiated Queen Audovere; he saw
Brunehaut in her beauty, her attractiveness and her trouble; he was
smitten with her and married her privately, and Praetextatus, bishop of
Rouen, had the imprudent courage to seal their union. Fredegonde seized
with avidity upon this occasion for persecuting her rival and destroying
her step-son, heir to the throne of Chilperic. The Austrasians, who had
preserved the child Childebert, son of their murdered king, demanded back
with threats their queen Brunehaut. She was surrendered to them; but
Fredegonde did not let go her other prey, Merovice. First imprisoned,
then shorn and shut up in a monastery, afterwards a fugitive and secretly
urged on to attempt a rising against his father, he was so affrightened
at his perils, that he got a faithful servant to strike him dead, that he
might not fall into the hands of his hostile step-mother. Chilperic had
remaining another son, Clovis, issue, as Merovee was, of Queen Audovere.
He was accused of having caused by his sorceries the death of the three
children lost about this time by Fredegonde; and was, in his turn,
imprisoned and before long poniarded. His mother Audovere was strangled
in her convent. Fredegonde sought in these deaths, advantageous for her
own children, some sort of horrible consolation for her sorrows as a
mother. But the sum of crimes was not yet complete. In 584 King
Chilperic, on returning from the chase and in the act of dismounting, was
struck two mortal blows by a man who took to rapid flight, and a cry was
raised all around of "Treason! 'tis the hand of the Austrasian Childebert
against our lord the king!" The care taken to have the cry raised was
proof of its falsity; it was the hand of Fredegonde herself, anxious lest
Chilperic should discover the guilty connection existing between her and
an officer of her household, Landry, who became subsequently mayor of the
palace of Neustria. Chilperic left a son, a few months old, named.
Clotaire, of whom his mother Fredegonde became the sovereign guardian.
She employed, at one time in defending him against his enemies, at
another in endangering him by her plots, her hatreds and her assaults,
the last thirteen years of her life. She was a true type of the
strong-willed, artful, and perverse woman in barbarous times; she started
low down in the scale and rose very high without a corresponding
elevation of soul; she was audacious and perfidious, as perfect in
deception as in effrontery, proceeding to atrocities either from cool
calculation or a spirit of revenge, abandoned to all kinds of passion,
and, for gratification of them, shrinking from no sort of crime.
However, she died quietly at Paris, in 597 or 598, powerful and dreaded,
and leaving on the throne of Neustria her son Clotaire II., who, fifteen
years later, was to become sole king of all the Frankish dominions.

Brunehaut had no occasion for crimes to become a queen, and, in spite of
those she committed, and in spite of her out-bursts and the moral
irregularities of her long life, she bore, amidst her passion and her
power, a stamp of courageous frankness and intellectual greatness which
places her far above the savage who was her rival. Fredegonde was an
upstart, of barbaric race and habits, a stranger to every idea and every
design not connected with her own personal interest and successes; and
she was as brutally selfish in the case of her natural passions as in the
exercise of a power acquired and maintained by a mixture of artifice and
violence. Brunehaut was a princess of that race of Gothic kings who, in
Southern Gaul and in Spain, had understood and admired the Roman
civilization, and had striven to transfer the remains of it to the
newly-formed fabric of their own dominions. She, transplanted to a home
amongst the Franks of Austrasia, the least Roman of all the barbarians,
preserved there the ideas and tastes of the Visigoths of Spain, who had
become almost Gallo-Romans; she clung stoutly to the efficacious exercise
of the royal authority; she took a practical interest in the public
works, highways, bridges, monuments, and the progress of material
civilization; the Roman roads in a short time received and for a long
while kept in Anstrasia the name of Brunehaut's causeways; there used to
he shown, in a forest near Bourges, Brunehaut's castle, Brunehaut's tower
at Etampes, Brunehaut's stone near Tournay, and Brunehaut's fort near
Cahors. In the royal domains and wheresoever she went she showed
abundant charity to the poor, and many ages after her death the people of
those districts still spoke of Brunehaut's alms. She liked and protected
men of letters, rare and mediocre indeed at that time, but the only
beings, such as they were, with a notion of seeking and giving any kind
of intellectual enjoyment; and they in turn took pleasure in celebrating
her name and her deserts. The most renowned of all during that age,
Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers, dedicated nearly all his little poems to
two queens; one, Brunehaut, plunging amidst all the struggles and
pleasures of the world, the other St. Radegonde, sometime wife of
Clotaire I., who had fled in all haste from a throne, to bury herself at
Poitiers, in the convent she had founded there. To compensate, Brunehaut
was detested by the majority of the Austrasian chiefs, those Leudes,
landowners and warriors, whose sturdy and turbulent independence she was
continually fighting against. She supported against them, with
indomitable courage, the royal officers, the servants of the palace, her
agents, and frequently her favorites. One of these, Lupus, a Roman by
origin, and Duke of Champagne, "was being constantly insulted and
plundered by his enemies, especially by Ursion Bertfried. At last, they,
having agreed to slay him, marched against him with an army. At the
sight, Brunehaut, compassionating the evil case of one of her lieges
unjustly persecuted, assumed quite a manly courage, and threw herself
amongst the hostile battalions, crying, "'Stay, warriors; refrain from
this wicked deed; persecute not the innocent; engage not, for a single
man's sake, in a battle which will desolate the country!' 'Back, woman,'
said Ursion to her; 'let it suffice thee to have ruled under thy
husband's sway; now 'tis thy son who reigns, and his kingdom is under our
protection, not thine. Back! if thou wouldest not that the hoofs of our
horses trample thee under as the dust of the ground!' After the dispute
had lasted some time in this strain, the queen, by her address, at last
prevented the battle from taking place." (Gregory of Tours, VI. iv.) It
was but a momentary success for Brunehaut; and the last words of Ursion
contained a sad presage of the death awaiting her. Intoxicated with
power, pride, hate, and revenge, she entered more violently every day
into strife not only with the Austrasian laic chieftains, but with some
of the principal bishops of Austrasia and Burgundy, among the rest with
St. Didier, bishop of Vienne, who, at her instigation, was brutally
murdered, and with the great Irish missionary St. Columba, who would not
sanction by his blessing the fruits of the royal irregularities. In 614,
after thirty-nine years of wars, plots, murders, and political and
personal vicissitudes, from the death of her husband Sigebert I., and
under the reigns of her son Theodebert, and her grandsons Theodebert II.
and Thierry II., Queen Brunehaut, at the age of eighty years, fell into
the hands of her mortal enemy, Clotaire II., son of Fredegonde, now sole
king of the Franks. After having grossly insulted her, he had her
paraded, seated on a camel, in front of his whole army, and then ordered
her to be tied by the hair, one foot, and one arm to the tail of an
unbroken horse, that carried her away, and dashed her in pieces as he
galloped and kicked, beneath the eyes of the ferocious spectators.

[Illustration: The Execution of Brunehaut----175]

After the execution of Brunehaut and the death of Clotaire II., the
history of the Franks becomes a little less dark and less bloody. Not
that murders and great irregularities, in the court and amongst the
people, disappear altogether. Dagobert I., for instance, the successor
of Clotaire II., and grandson of Chilperic and Fredegonde, had no
scruple, under the pressure of self-interest, in committing an iniquitous
and barbarous act. After having consented to leave to his younger
brother Charibert the kingdom of Aquitania, he retook it by force in 631,
at the death of Charibert, seizing at the same time his treasures, and
causing or permitting to be murdered his young nephew Chilperic, rightful
heir of his father. About the same time Dagobert had assigned amongst
the Bavarians, subjects of his beyond the Rhine, an asylum to nine
thousand Bulgarians, who had been driven with their wives and children
from Pannonia. Not knowing, afterwards, where to put or how to feed
these refugees, he ordered them all to be massacred in one night; and
scarcely seven hundred of them succeeded in escaping by flight. The
private morals of Dagobert were not more scrupulous than his public acts.
"A slave to incontinence as King Solomon was," says his biographer
Fredegaire, "he had three queens and a host of concubines." Given up to
extravagance and pomp, it pleased him to imitate the magnificence of the
imperial court at Constantinople, and at one time he laid hands for that
purpose, upon the possessions of certain of his "leudes" or of certain
churches; at another he gave to his favorite church, the Abbey of St.
Denis, "so many precious stones, articles of value, and domains in
various places, that all the world," says Fredegaire, "was stricken with
admiration." But, despite of these excesses and scandals, Dagobert was
the most wisely energetic, the least cruel in feeling, the most prudent
in enterprise, and the most capable of governing with some little
regularity and effectiveness, of all the kings furnished, since Clovis,
by the Merovingian race. He had, on ascending the throne, this immense
advantage, that the three Frankish dominions, Austrasia, Neustria, and
Burgundy were re-united under his sway; and at the death of his brother
Charibert, he added thereto Aquitania. The unity of the vast Frankish
monarchy was thus re-established, and Dagobert retained it by his
moderation at home and abroad. He was brave, and he made war on
occasion; but, he did not permit himself to be dragged into it either by
his own passions or by the unlimited taste of his lieges for adventure
and plunder. He found, on this point, salutary warnings in the history
of his predecessors. It was very often the Franks themselves, the royal
"leudes," who plunged their kings into civil or foreign wars. In 530,
two sons of Clovis, Childebert and Clotaire, arranged to attack Burgundy
and its king Godomar. They asked aid of their brother Theodoric, who
refused to join them. However, the Franks who formed his party said, "If
thou refuse to march into Burgundy with thy brethren, we give thee up,
and prefer to follow them." But Theodoric, considering that the
Arvernians had been faithless to him, said to the Franks, "Follow me, and
I will lead you into a country where ye shall seize of gold and silver as
much as ye can desire, and whence ye shall take away flocks and slaves
and vestments in abundance!" The Franks, overcome by these words,
promised to do whatsoever he should desire. So Theodoric entered
Auvergne with his army, and wrought devastation and ruin in the province.

"In 555, Clotaire I. had made an expedition against the Saxons, who
demanded peace; but the Frankish warriors would not hear of it. 'Cease,
I pray you,' said Clotaire to them, 'to be evil-minded against these men;
they speak us fair; let us not go and attack them, for fear we bring down
upon us the anger of God.' But the Franks would not listen to him. The
Saxons again came with offerings of vestments, flocks, even all their
possessions, saying, 'Take all this, together with half our country;
leave us but our wives and little children; only let there be no war
between us.' But the Franks again refused all terms. 'Hold, I adjure
you,' said Clotaire again to them; 'we have not right on our side; if ye
be thoroughly minded to enter upon a war in which ye may find your loss,
as for me, I will not follow ye.' Then the Franks, enraged against
Clotaire, threw themselves upon him, tore his tent to pieces as they
heaped reproaches upon him, and bore him away by force, determined to
kill him if he hesitated to march with them. So Clotaire, in spite of
himself, departed with them. But when they joined battle they were cut
to pieces by their adversaries, and on both sides so many fell that it
was impossible to estimate or count the number of the dead. Then
Clotaire with shame demanded peace of the Saxons, saying that it was not
of his own will that he had attacked them; and, having obtained it,
returned to his own dominions." (Gregory of Tours, III. xi., xii.; IV.

King Dagobert was not thus under the yoke of his "leudes." Either by his
own energy, or by surrounding himself with wise and influential
counsellors, such as Pepin of Landen, mayor of the palace of Austrasia,
St. Arnoul, bishop of Metz, St. Eligius, bishop of Noyon, and St.
Andoenus, bishop of Rouen, he applied himself to and succeeded in
assuring to himself, in the exercise of his power, a pretty large measure
of independence and popularity. At the beginning of his reign he held,
in Austrasia and Burgundy, a sort of administrative and judicial
inspection, halting at the principal towns, listening to complaints, and
checking, sometimes with a rigor arbitrary indeed, but approved of by the
people, the violence and irregularities of the grandees. At Langres,
Dijon, St. Jean-de, Losne, Chalons-sur-Saline, Auxerre, Autun, and Sens,
"he rendered justice," says Fredegaire, "to rich and poor alike, without
any charges, and without any respect of persons, taking little sleep and
little food, caring only so to act that all should withdraw from his
presence full of joy and admiration." Nor did he confine himself to this
unceremonious exercise of the royal authority. Some of his predecessors,
and amongst them Childebert I., Clotaire I., and Clotaire II., had caused
to be drawn up, in Latin and by scholars, digests more or less complete
of the laws and customs handed down by tradition, amongst certain of the
Germanic peoples established on Roman soil, notably the laws of the
Salian Franks and Ripuarian Franks; and Dagobert ordered a continuation
of these first legislative labors amongst the newborn nations. It was,
apparently, in his reign that a digest was made of the laws of the
Allemannians and Bavarians. He had also some taste for the arts, and the
pious talents displayed by Saints Eloi and Ouen in goldsmith's-work and
sculpture, applied to the service of religion or the decoration of
churches, received from him the support of the royal favor and
munificence. Dagobert was neither a great warrior nor a great
legislator, and there is nothing to make him recognized as a great mind
or a great character. His private life, too, was scandalous; and
extortions were a sad feature of its close. Nevertheless his authority
was maintained in his dominions, his reputation spread far and wide, and
the name of great King Dagobert was his abiding title in the memory of
the people. Taken all in all, he was, next to Clovis, the most
distinguished of Frankish kings, and the last really king in the line of
the Merovingians. After him, from 638 to 732, twelve princes of this
line, one named Sigebert, two Clovis, two Childeric, one Clotaire, two
Dagobert, one Childebert, one Chilperic, and two Throdoric or Thierry,
bore, in Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy, or in the three kingdoms
united, the title of king, without deserving in history more than room
for their names. There was already heard the rumbling of great events to
come around the Frankish dominion; and in the very womb of this dominion
was being formed a new race of kings more able to bear, in accordance
with the spirit and wants of their times, the burden of power.


There is a certain amount of sound sense, of intelligent activity and
practical efficiency, which even the least civilized and least exacting
communities absolutely must look for in their governing body. When this
necessary share of ability and influence of a political kind are
decidedly wanting in the men who have the titles and the official posts
of power, communities seek elsewhere the qualities (and their
consequences) which they cannot do without. The sluggard Merovingians
drove the Franks, Neustrians, and Austrasians to this imperative
necessity. The last of the kings sprung from Clovis acquitted themselves
too ill or not at all of their task; and the mayors of the palace were
naturally summoned to supply their deficiencies, and to give the
populations assurance of more intelligence and energy in the exercise of
power. The origin and primitive character of these supplements of
royalty were different according to circumstances; at one time,
conformably with their title, the mayors of the palace really came into
existence in the palace of the Frankish kings, amongst the "leudes,"
charged, under the style of antrustions (lieges in the confidence of the
king: in truste regia), with the internal management of the royal affairs
and household, or amongst the superior chiefs of the army; at another, on
the contrary, it was to resist the violence and usurpation of the kings
that the "leudes," landholders or warriors, themselves chose a chief able
to defend their interests and their rights against the royal tyranny or
incapacity. Thus we meet, at this time, with mayors of the palace of
very different political origin and intention, some appointed by the
kings to support royalty against the "leudes," others chosen by the
"leudes" against the kings. It was especially between the Neustrian and
Austrasian mayors of the palace that this difference became striking.
Gallo-Roman feeling was more prevalent in Neustria, Germanic in
Austrasia. The majority of the Neustrian mayors supported the interests
of royalty, the Austrasian those of the aristocracy of landholders and
warriors. The last years of the Merovingian line were full of their
struggles; but a cause far more general and more powerful than these
differences and conflicts in the very heart of the Frankish dominions
determined the definitive fall of that line and the accession of another
dynasty. When in 687 the battle fought at Testry, on the banks of the
Somme, left Pepin of Heristal, duke and mayor of the palace of Austrasia,
victorious over Bertaire, mayor of the palace of Neustria, it was a
question of something very different from mere rivalry between the two
Frankish dominions and their chiefs.

At their entrance and settlement upon the left bank of the Rhine and in
Gaul, the Franks had not abandoned the right bank and Germany; there also
they remained settled and incessantly at strife with their neighbors of
Germanic race, Thuringians, Bavarians, the confederation of Allemannians,
Frisons, and Saxons, people frequently vanquished and subdued to all
appearance, but always ready to rise either for the recovery of their
independence, or, again, under the pressure of that grand movement which,
in the third century, had determined the general invasion by the
barbarians of the Roman empire. After the defeat of the Huns at Chalons,
and the founding of the Visigothic, Burgundian, and Frankish kingdoms in
Gaul, that movement had been, if not arrested, at any rate modified, and
for the moment suspended. In the sixth century it received a fresh
impulse; new nations, Avars, Tartars, Bulgarians, Slavons, and Lombards
thrust one another with mutual pressure from Asia into Europe, from
Eastern Europe into Western; from the North to the South, into Italy and
into Gaul. Driven by the Ouigour Tartars from Pannonia and Noricum
(nowadays Austria), the Lombards threw themselves first upon Italy,
crossed before long the Alps, and penetrated into Burgundy and Provence,
to the very gates of Avignon. On the Rhine and along the Jura the Franks
had to struggle on their own account against the new comers; and they
were, further, summoned into Italy by the Emperors of the East, who
wanted their aid against the Lombards. Everywhere resistance to the
invasion of barbarians became the national attitude of the Franks, and
they proudly proclaimed themselves the defenders of that West of which
they had but lately been the conquerors.

When the Merovingians were indisputably nothing but sluggard kings, and
when Ebroin, the last great mayor of the palace of Neustria, had been
assassinated (in 681), and the army of the Neustrians destroyed at the
battle of Testry (in 687), the ascendency in the heart of the whole of
Frankish Gaul passed to the Franks of Austrasia, already bound by their
geographical position to the defence of their nation in its new
settlement. There had risen up among them a family, powerful from its
vast domains, from its military and political services, and already also
from the prestige belonging to the hereditary transmission of name and
power. Its first chief known in history had been Pepin of Landen, called
The Ancient, one of the foes of Queen Brunehaut, who was so hateful to
the Austrasians, and afterwards one of the privy councillors and mayor of
the palace of Austrasia, under Dagobert I. and his son Sigebert II. He
died in 639, leaving to his family an influence already extensive. His
son Grimoald succeeded him as mayor of the palace, ingloriously; but his
grandson, by his daughter Bega, Pepin of Heristal, was for twenty-seven
years not only virtually, as mayor of the palace, but ostensibly and with
the title of duke, the real sovereign of Austrasia and all the Frankish
dominion. He did not, however, take the name of king; and four
descendants of Clovis, Thierry III., Clovis III., Childebert III., and
Dagobert III. continued to bear that title in Neustria and Burgundy,
under the preponderating influence of Pepin of Heristal. He did, during
his long sway, three things of importance. He struggled without
cessation to keep or bring back under the rule of the Franks the Germanic
nations on the right bank of the Rhine,--Frisons, Saxons, Thuringians,
Bavarians, and Allemannians; and thus to make the Frankish dominion a
bulwark against the new flood of barbarians who were pressing one another

He rekindled in Austrasia the national spirit and some political life by
beginning again the old March parades of the Franks, which had fallen
into desuetude under the last Merovingians. Lastly, and this was,
perhaps, his most original merit, he understood of what importance, for
the Frankish kingdom, was the conversion to Christianity of the Germanic
peoples over the Rhine, and he abetted with all his might the zeal of the
popes and missionaries, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Gallo-Roman, devoted to
this great work. The two apostles of Friesland, St. Willfried and St.
Willibrod, especially the latter, had intimate relations with Pepin of
Heristal, and received from him effectual support. More than twenty
bishoprics, amongst others those of Utrecht, Mayence, Ratisbonne, Worms,
and Spire, were founded at this epoch; and one of those ardent pioneers
of Christian civilization, the Irish bishop, St. Lievin, martyred in 656
near Ghent, of which he has remained the patron saint, wrote in verse to
his friend Herbert, a little before his martyrdom, "I have seen a sun
without rays, days without light, and nights without repose. Around me
rageth a people impious and clamorous for my blood. O people, what harm
have I done thee? 'Tis peace that I bring thee; wherefore declare war
against me? But thy barbarism will bring my triumph and give me the palm
of martyrdom. I know in whom I trust, and my hope shall not be
confounded. Whilst I am pouring forth these verses, there cometh unto me
the tired driver of the ass that beareth me the usual provisions: he
bringeth that which maketh the delights of the country, even milk and
butter and eggs; the cheeses stretch the wicker-work of the far too
narrow panniers. Why tarriest thou, good carrier? Quicken thy step;
collect thy riches, thou that this morning art so poor. As for me I am
no longer what I was, and have lost the gift of joyous verse. How could
it be other-wise when I am witness of such cruelties?"

It were difficult to describe with more pious, graceful, and melancholy
feeling a holier and a simpler life.

After so many firm and glorious acts of authority abroad, Pepin of
Heristal at his death, December 16, 714, did a deed of weakness at home.
He had two wives, Plectrude and Alpaide; he had repudiated the former to
espouse the latter, and the church, considering the second marriage
unlawful, had constantly urged him to take back Plectrude. He had by her
a son, Grimoald, who was assassinated on his way to join his father lying
ill near Liege. This son left a child, Theodoald, only six years old.
This child it was whom Pepin, either from a grandfather's blind fondness,
or through the influence of his wife Plectrude, appointed to succeed him,
to the detriment of his two sons by Alpaide, Charles and Childebrand.
Charles, at that time twenty-five years of age, had already a name for
capacity and valor. On the death of Pepin, his widow Plectrude lost no
time in arresting and imprisoning at Cologne this son of her rival
Alpaide; but, some months afterwards, in 715, the Austrasians, having
risen against Plectrude, took Charles out of prison and set him at their
head, proclaiming him Duke of Austrasia. He was destined to become
Charles Martel.

He first of all took care to extend and secure his own authority over all
the Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians, vexed at
the long domination of the Austrasians, had taken one of themselves,
Ragenfried, as mayor of the palace, and had placed at his side a
Merovingian sluggard king, Chilperic II., whom they had dragged from a
monastery. Charles, at the head of the Austrasians, twice succeeded in
beating, first near Cambrai and then near Soissons, the Neustrian king
and mayor of the palace, pursued them to Paris, returned to Cologne, got
himself accepted by his old enemy Queen Plectrude, and remaining
temperate amidst the triumph of his ambition, he, too, took from amongst
the surviving Merovingians a sluggard king, whom he installed under the
name of Clotaire IV., himself becoming, with the simple title of Duke of
Austrasia, master of the Frankish dominion.

Being in tranquillity on the left bank of the Rhine, Charles directed
towards the right bank--towards the Frisons and the Saxons--his attention
and his efforts. After having experienced, in a first encounter, a
somewhat severe check, he took, from 715 to 718, ample revenge upon them,
repressed their attempts at invasion of Frankish territory, and pursued
them on their own, imposed tribute upon them, and commenced with vigor,
against the Saxons in particular, that struggle, at first defensive and
afterwards aggressive, which was to hold so prominent a place in the life
and glorious but blood-stained annals of his grandson Charlemagne.

In the war against the Neustrians, at the battle of Soissons in 719,
Charles had encountered in their ranks Eudes or Eudon, Duke of Aquitania
and Vasconia, that beautiful portion of Southern Gaul situated between
the Pyrenees, the Ocean, the Garonne, and the Rhone, who had been for a
long time trying to shake off the dominion of the barbarians, Visigoths
or Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians had drawn
into alliance with them, for their war against the Austrasians, this Duke
Elides, to whom they gave, as it appears, the title of king. After their
common defeat at Soissons, the Aquitanian prince withdrew precipitately
into his own country, taking with him the sluggard king of the
Neustrians, Chilperic II. Charles pursued him to the Loire, and sent
word to him, a few months afterwards, that he would enter into friendship
with him if he would deliver up Chilperic and his treasures; otherwise he
would invade and ravage Aquitania. Eudes delivered up Chilperic and his
treasures; and Charles, satisfied with having in his power this
Merovingian phantom, treated him generously, kept up his royal rank, and
at his death, which happened soon afterwards, replaced him by another
phantom of the same line, Theodoric or Thierry IV.; whom he dragged from
the abbey of Chelles, founded by Queen St. Bathilde, wife of Clovis II.,
and who for seventeen years bore the title of king, whilst Charles Martel
was ruling gloriously, and was, perhaps, the savior of the Frankish
dominions. When he contracted his alliance with the Duke of Aquitania,
Charles Martel did not know against what enemies and perils he would soon
have to struggle.

In the earlier years of the eighth century, less than a hundred years
from the death of Mahomet, the Mussulman Arabs, after having conquered
Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Northern Africa, had passed into Europe,
invaded Spain, overthrown the kingdom of the Visigoths, driven back the
remnants of the nation and their chief, Pelagius, to the north of the
Peninsula, into the Asturias and Galicia, and pushed even beyond the
Pyrenees, into old Narbonness, then called Septimania, their limitless
incursions. These fiery conquerors did not amount at that time,
according to the most probable estimates, to more than fifty thousand;
but they were under the influence of religious and warlike enthusiasm at
one and the same time; they were fanatics in the cause of Deism and of
glory. "The Arab warrior during campaigns was not excused from any one
of the essential duties of Islamism; he was bound to pray at least once a
day, on rising in the morning, at the blush of dawn. The general of the
army was its priest; he it was who, at the head of the ranks, gave the
signal for prayer, uttered the words, reminded the troops of the precepts
of the Koran, and enjoined upon them forgetfulness of personal quarrels."
One day, on the point of engaging in a decisive battle, Moussaben-
Nossair, first governor of Mussulman Africa, was praying, according to
usage, at the head of the troops; and he omitted the invocation of the
name of the Khalif, a respectful formality indispensable on the occasion.
One of his officers, persuaded that it was a mere slip on Moussa's part,
made a point of admonishing him. "Know thou," said Moussa, "that we are
in such a position and at such an hour that no other name must be invoked
save that of the most high God." Moussa was, apparently, the first Arab
chief to cross the Pyrenees and march, plundering as he went, into
Narbonness. The Arabs had but very confused ideas of Gaul; they called
it _Frandjas,_ and gave to all its inhabitants, without distinction, the
name of Frandj. The Khalif Abdelmelek, having recalled Moussa,
questioned him about the different peoples with which he had been
concerned. "And of these Frandj," said he, "what hast thou to tell me?"
"They are a people," answered Moussa, "very many in number and abundantly
provided with everything, brave and impetuous in attack, but spiritless
and timid under reverses." "And how went the war betwixt them and thee?"
added Abdelmelek: "was it favorable to thee or the contrary?" "The
contrary! Nay, by Allah and the Prophet; never was my army vanquished;
never was a battalion beaten; and never did the Mussulmans hesitate to
follow me when I led them forty against fourscore." (Fauriel, _Histoire
de la Gaule,_ &c., t. III., pp. 48, 67.)

In 719, under El-Idaur-ben-Abdel-Rhaman, a valiant and able leader, say
the Arab writers, but greedy, harsh, and cruel, the Arabs pursued their
incursions into Southern Gaul, took Narbonne, dispersed the inhabitants,
spread themselves abroad in search of plunder as far as the borders of
the Garonne, and went and laid siege to Toulouse. Eudes, Duke of
Aquitania, happened to be at Bordeaux, and he hastily summoned all the
forces of his towns and all the populations from the Pyrenees to the
Loire, and hurried to the relief of his capital. The Arabs, commanded
by a new chieftain, El-Samah, more popular amongst them than El-Haur,
awaited him beneath the walls of the city determined to give him battle.
"Have ye no fear of this multitude," said El-Samah to his warriors; "if
God be with us, who shall be against us? "Elides had taken equally great
pains to kindle the pious courage of the Aquitanians; he spread amongst
his troops a rumor that he had but lately received as a present from Pope
Gregory II. three sponges that had served to wipe down the table at which
the sovereign pontiffs were accustomed to celebrate the communion; he had
them cut into little strips which he had distributed to all those of the
combatants who wished for them, and thereupon gave the sword to sound the
charge. The victory of the Aquitanians was complete; the Arab army was
cut in pieces; El-Samah was slain, and with him, according to the
victors' accounts, full three hundred and seventy-five thousand of his
troops. The most truth-like testimonies and calculations do not put down
at more than from fifty to seventy thousand men, in fighting trim, the
number of Arabs that entered Spain eight or ten years previously, even
with the additions it must have received by means of the emigrations from
Africa; and undoubtedly El-Samah could not have led into Aquitania more
than from forty to forty-five thousand. However that may be, the defeat
of the Arabs before Toulouse was so serious that, four or five centuries
afterwards, Ibn-Hayan, the best of their historians, still spoke of it as
the object of solemn commemoration, and affirmed that the Arab army had
entirely perished there, without the escape of a single man. The spot in
the Roman road, between Carcassonne and Toulouse, where the battle was
fought, was one heap of dead bodies, and continued to be mentioned in the
Arab chronicles under the name of Martyrs' Causeway. But the Arabs of
Spain were then in that unstable social condition and in that heyday of
impulsive youthfulness as a people, when men are more apt to be excited
and attracted by the prospect of bold adventures than discouraged by
reverses. El-Samah, on crossing the Pyrenees to go plundering and
conquering in the country of the Frandj, had left as his lieutenant in
the Iberian peninsula Anbessa-ben-Sohim, one of the most able, most
pious, most just, and most humane chieftains, say the Arab chronicles,
that Islamism ever produced in Europe. He, being informed of El-Samah's
death before Toulouse, resolved to resume his enterprise and avenge his
defeat. In 725, he entered Gaul with a strong army; took Carcassonne;
reduced, either by force or by treaty, the principal towns of Septimania
to submission; and even carried the Arab arms, for the first time, beyond
the Rhone into Provence. At the news of this fresh invasion Duke Eudes
hurried from Aquitania, collecting on his march the forces of the
country, and, after having waited some time for a favorable opportunity,
gave the Arabs battle in Provence. It was indecisive at first, but
ultimately won by the Christians without other result than the retreat of
Anbessa, mortally wounded, upon the right bank of the Rhone, where he
died without having been able himself to recross the Pyrenees, but
leaving the Arabs masters of Septimania, where they established
themselves in force, taking Narbonne for capital and a starting-point
for their future enterprises.

The struggle had now begun in earnest, from the Rhone to the Garonne and
the Ocean, between the Christians of Southern Gaul and the Mussulmans of
Spain. Duke Eudes saw with profound anxiety his enemies settled in
Septimania, and ever on the point of invading and devastating Aquitania.
He had been informed that the Khalif Hashem had just appointed to the
governor-generalship of Spain Abdel-Rhaman (the Abderame of the
Christian chronicles), regarded as the most valiant of the Spanish Arabs,
and that this chieftain was making great preparations for resuming their
course of invasion. Another peril at the same time pressed heavily on
Duke Eudes: his northern neighbor, Charles, sovereign duke of the Franks,
the conqueror, beyond the Rhine, of the Frisons and Saxons, was directing
glances full of regret towards those beautiful countries of Southern
Gaul, which in former days Clovis had won from the Visigoths, and which
had been separated, little by little, from the Frankish empire. Either
justly or by way of ruse Charles accused Duke Eudes of not faithfully
observing the treaty of peace they had concluded in 720; and on this
pretext he crossed the Loire, and twice in the same year, 731, carried
fear and rapine into the possession of the Duke of Aquitania on the left
bank of that river. Eudes went, not unsuccessfully, to the rescue of
his domains; but he was soon recalled to the Pyrenees by the news he
received of the movements of Abdel-Rhaman and by the hope he had
conceived of finding, in Spain itself and under the sway of the Arabs,
an ally against their invasion of his dominions. The military command
of the Spanish frontier of the Pyrenees and of the Mussulman forces
there encamped had been intrusted to Othman-ben-Abi-Nessa, a chieftain
of renown, but no Arab, either in origin or at heart, although a
Mussulman. He belonged to the race of Berbers, whom the Romans called
Moors, a people of the north-west of Africa, conquered and subjugated by
the Arabs, but impatient under the yoke. The greater part of Abi-
Nessa's troops were likewise Berbers and devoted to their chiefs. Abi-
Nessa, ambitious and audacious, conceived the project of seizing the
government of the Peninsula, or at the least of making himself
independent master of the districts he governed; and he entered into
negotiations with the Duke of Aquitania to secure his support. In spite
of religious differences their interests were too similar not to make an
understanding easy; and the secret alliance was soon concluded and
confirmed by a precious pledge. Duke Eudes had a daughter of rare
beauty, named Lampagie, and he gave her in marriage to Abi-Nessa, who,
say the chronicles, became desperately enamoured of her.

But whilst Eudes, trusting to this alliance, was putting himself in
motion towards the Loire to protect his possessions against a fresh
attack from the Duke of the Franks, the governor-general of Spain, Abdel-
Rhaman, informed of Abi-Nessa's plot, was arriving with large forces at
the foot of the Pyrenees, to stamp out the rebellion. Its repression was
easy. "At the approach of Abdel-Rhaman," say the chroniclers, "Abi-Nessa
hastened to shut himself up in Livia [the ancient capital of Cerdagne, on
the ruins of which Puycerda was built], flattering himself that he could
sustain a siege and there await succor from his father-in-law, Eudes; but
the advance-guard of Abdel-Rhaman followed him so closely and with such
ardor that it left him no leisure to make the least preparation for
defence. Abi-Nessa, had scarcely time to fly from the town and gain the
neighboring mountains with a few servants and his well-beloved Lampagie.
Already he had penetrated into an out-of-the-way and lonely pass, where
it seemed to him he ran no more risk of being discovered. He halted,
therefore, to rest himself and quench the thirst which was tormenting his
lovely companion and himself, beside a waterfall which gushed from a mass
of lofty rocks upon a piece of fresh, green turf. They were surrendering
themselves to the delightful feeling of being saved, when, all at once,
they hear a loud sound of steps and voices; they listen; they glance in
the direction of the sound, and perceive a detachment of armed men, one
of those that were out in search of them. The servants take to flight;
but Lampagie, too weary, cannot follow them, nor can Abi-Nessa abandon
Lampagie. In the twinkling of an eye they are surrounded by foes. The
chronicler Isidore of Bdja says that Abi-Nessa, in order not to fall
alive into their hands, flung himself from top to bottom of the rocks;
and an Arab historian relates that he took sword in hand, and fell
pierced with twenty lance-thrusts whilst fighting in defence of her he
loved. They cut off his head, which was forthwith carried to Abdel-
Rhaman, to whom they led away prisoner the hapless daughter of Eudes.
She was so lovely in the eyes of Abdel-Rhaman, that he thought it his
duty to send her to Damascus, to the commander of the faithful, esteeming
no other mortal worthy of her." (Fauriel, _Historie de la Gaulle,_ &c.,
t. III., p. 115.)

Abdel-Rhaman, at ease touching the interior of Spain, reassembled the
forces he had prepared for his expedition, marched towards the Pyrenees
by Pampeluna, crossed the summit become so famous under the name of Port
de Roncevaux, and debouched by a single defile and in a single column,
say the chroniclers, upon Gallic Vasconia, greater in extent than French
Biscay now is. M. Fauriel, after scrupulous examination, according to
his custom, estimates the army of Abdel-Rhaman, whether Mussulman
adventurers flocking from all parts, or Arabs of Spain, at from
sixty-five to seventy thousand fighting men. Duke Eudes made a gallant
effort to stop his march and hurl him back towards the mountains; but
exhausted, even by certain small successes, and always forced to retire,
fight after fight, up to the approaches to Bordeaux, he crossed the
Garonne, and halted on the right bank of the river, to cover the city.
Abdel-Rhaman who had followed him closely, forced the passage of the
river, and a battle was fought, in which the Aquitanians were defeated
with immense loss. "God alone," says Isidore of Beja, "knows the number
of those who fell." The battle gained, Abdel-Rhaman took Bordeaux by
assault and delivered it over to his army. The plunder, to believe the
historians of the conquerors, surpassed all that had been preconceived
of the wealth of the vanquished: "The most insignificant soldier," say
they, "had for his share plenty of topazes, jacinths, and emeralds, to
say nothing of gold, a somewhat vulgar article under the circumstances."
What appears certain is that, at their departure from Bordeaux, the
Arabs were so laden with booty that their march became less rapid and
unimpeded than before.

In the face of this disaster, the Franks and their duke were evidently
the only support to which Eudes could have recourse; and he repaired in
all haste to Charles and invoked his aid against the common enemy, who,
after having crushed the Aquitanians, would soon attack the Franks, and
subject them in turn to ravages and outrages. Charles did not require
solicitation. He took an oath of the Duke of Aquitania to acknowledge
his sovereignty and thenceforth remain faithful to him; and then,
summoning all his warriors, Franks, Burgundians, Gallo-Romans, and
Germans from beyond the Rhine, he set himself in motion towards the
Loire. It was time. The Arabs had spread over the whole country between
the Garonne and the Loire; they had even crossed the latter river and
penetrated into Burgundy as far as Autun and Sens, ravaging the country,
the towns, and the monasteries, and massacring or dispersing the
populations. Abdel-Rhaman had heard tell of the city of Tours and its
rich abbey, the treasures whereof, it was said, surpassed those of any
other city and any other abbey in Gaul. Burning to possess it, he
recalled towards this point his scattered forces. On arriving at
Poitiers he found the gates closed and the inhabitants resolved to defend
themselves; and, after a fruitless attempt at assault, he continued his
march towards Tours. He was already beneath the walls of the place when
he learned that the Franks were rapidly advancing in vast numbers. He
fell back towards Poitiers, collecting the troops that were returning to
him from all quarters, embarrassed with the immense booty they were
dragging in their wake. He had for a moment, say the historians, an idea
of ordering his soldiers to leave or burn their booty, to keep nothing
but their arms, and think of nothing but battle: however, he did nothing
of the kind, and, to await the Franks, he fixed his camp between the
Vienne and the Clain, near Poitiers, not far from the spot where, two
hundred and twenty-five years before, Clovis had beaten the Visigoths;
or, according to others, nearer Tours, at Mire, in a plain still called
the Landes de Charlemagne.

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF TOURS----193]

The Franks arrived. It was in the month of September or October, 732:
and the two armies passed a week face to face, at one time remaining in
their camps, at another deploying without attacking. It is quite certain
that neither Franks nor Arabs, neither Charles nor Abdel-Rhaman
themselves, took any such account, as we do in our day, of the importance
of the struggle in which they were on the point of engaging; it was a
struggle between East and West, South and North, Asia and Europe, the
Gospel and the Koran; and we now say, on a general consideration of
events, peoples, and ages, that the civilization of the world depended
upon it. The generations that are passing upon earth see not so far, nor
from such a height, the chances and consequences of their acts; the
Franks and Arabs, leaders and followers, did not regard themselves, now
nearly twelve centuries ago, as called upon to decide, near Poitiers,
such future question; but vaguely, instinctively they felt the grandeur
of the part they were playing, and they mutually scanned one another with
that grave curiosity which precedes a formidable encounter between
valiant warriors. At length, at the breaking of the seventh or eighth
day, Abdel-Rhaman, at the head of his cavalry, ordered a general attack;
and the Franks received it with serried ranks, astounding their enemies
by their tall stature, stout armor, and their stern immobility. "They
stood there," says Isidore of Beja, "like solid walls or icebergs."
During the fight, a body of Franks penetrated into the enemy's camp,
either for pillage or to take the Arabs in the rear. The horsemen of
Abdel-Rhaman at once left the general attack, and turned back to defend
their camp or the booty deposited there. Disorder set in amongst them,
and, before long, throughout their whole army; and the battle became a
confused melley, wherein the lofty stature and stout armor of the Franks
had the advantage. A great number of Arabs and Abdel-Rhaman himself were
slain. At the approach of night both armies retired to their camps. The
next day, at dawn, the Franks moved out of theirs, to renew the
engagement. In front of them was no stir, no noise, no Arabs out of
their tents and reassembling in their ranks. Some Franks were sent to
reconnoitre, entered the enemy's camp, and penetrated into their tents;
but they were deserted. "The Arabs had decamped silently in the night,
leaving the bulk of their booty, and by this precipitate retreat
acknowledging a more severe defeat than they had really sustained in the

[Illustration: "The Arabs had decamped silently in the night."----195]

Foreseeing the effect which would be produced by their reverse in the
country they had but lately traversed as conquerors, they halted nowhere,
but hastened to reenter Septimania and their stronghold Narbonne, where
they might await reenforcements from Spain. Duke Eudes, on his side,
after having, as vassal, taken the oath of allegiance to Charles, who
will be henceforth called Charles Martel (Hammer), that glorious name
which he won by the great blow he dealt the Arabs, reentered his
dominions of Aquitania and Vasconia, and applied himself to the
reestablishment there of security and of his own power. As for Charles
Martel, indefatigable alike after and before victory, he did not consider
his work in Southern Gaul as accomplished. He wished to recover and
reconstitute in its entirety the Frankish dominion; and he at once
proceeded to reunite to it Provence and the portions of the old kingdom
of Burgundy situated between the Alps and the Rhone, starting from Lyons.
His first campaign with this object, in 733, was successful; he retook
Lyons, Vienne, and Valence, without any stoppage up to the Durance, and
charged chosen "leudes" to govern these provinces with a view especially
to the repression of attempts at independence at home and incursions on
the part of the Arabs abroad. And it was not long before these two
perils showed head. The government of Charles Martel's "leudes" was hard
to bear for populations accustomed for some time past to have their own
way, and for their local chieftains thus stripped of their influence.
Maurontius, patrician of Arles, was the most powerful and daring of these
chieftains; and he had at heart the independence of his country and his
own power far more than Frankish grandeur. Caring little, no doubt, for
the interests of religion, he entered into negotiations with Youssouf-
ben-Abdel-Rhaman, governor of Narbonne, and summoned the Mussulmans into
Provence. Youssouf lost no time in responding to the summons; and, from
734 to 736, the Arabs conquered and were in military occupation of the
left bank of the Rhone from Arles to Lyons. But in 737 Charles Martel
returned, reentered Lyons and Avignon, and, crossing the Rhone, marched
rapidly on Narbonne, to drive the Arabs from Septimania. He succeeded in
beating them within sight of their capital; but, after a few attempts at
assault, not being able to become master of it, he returned to Provence,
laying waste on his march several towns of Septimania, Agde, Maguelonne,
and Nimes, where he tried, but in vain, to destroy the famous Roman
arenas by fire, as one blows up an enemy's fortress. A rising of the
Saxons recalled him to Northern Gaul; and scarcely had he set out from
Provence, when national insurrection and Arab invasion recommenced.
Charles Martel waited patiently as long as the Saxons resisted; but as
soon as he was at liberty on their score, in 739, he collected a strong
army, made a third campaign along the Rhone, retook Avignon, crossed the
Durance, pushed on as far as the sea, took Marseilles, and then Arles,
and drove the Arabs definitively from Provence. Some Mussulman bands
attempted to establish themselves about St. Tropez, on the rugged heights
and among the forests of the Alps; but Charles Martel carried his pursuit
even into those wild retreats, and all Southern Gaul, on the left bank of
the Rhone, was incorporated in the Frankish dominion, which will be
henceforth called France.

The ordinary revenues of Charles Martel clearly could not suffice for so
many expeditions and wars. He was obliged to attract or retain by rich
presents, particularly by gifts of lands, the warriors, old and new
"leudes," who formed his strength. He therefore laid hands on a great
number of the domains of the Church, and gave them, with the title of
benefices, in temporary holding, often converted into proprietorship,
and under the style of precarious tenure, to the chiefs in his service.
There was nothing new in this: the Merovingian kings and the mayors of
the palace had more than once thus made free with ecclesiastical
property; but Charles Martel carried this practice much farther than his
predecessors had. He did more: he sometimes gave his warriors
ecclesiastical offices and dignities. His liege Milo received from him
the archbishoprics of Rheims and Troves; and his nephew Hugh those of
Paris, Rouen, and Bayeux, with the abbeys of Fontenelle and Jumieges.
The Church protested with all her might against such violations of her
mission and her interest, her duties and her rights. She was so
specially set against Charles Martel that, more than a century after his
death, in 858, the bishops of France, addressing themselves to Louis the
Germanic on this subject, wrote to him, "St. Eucherius, bishop of
Orleans, who now reposeth in the monastery of St. Trudon, being at
prayer, was transported into the realms of eternity; and there, amongst
other things which the Lord did show unto him, he saw Prince Charles
delivered over to the torments of the damned in the lowest regions of
hell. And St. Eucherius demanding of the angel, his guide, what was the
reason thereof, the angel answered that it was by sentence of the saints
whom he had robbed of their possessions, and who, at the day of the last
judgment, will sit with God to judge the world."

Whilst thus making use, at the expense of the Church, and for political
interests, of material force, Charles Martel was far from
misunderstanding her moral influence and the need he had of her support
at the very time when he was incurring her anathemas. Not content with
defending Christianity against Islamism, he aided it against Paganism by
lending the Christian missionaries in Germany and the north-west of
Europe, amongst others St. Willibrod and St. Boniface, the most effectual
assistance. In 724, he addressed to all religious and political
authorities that could be reached by his influence, not only to the
bishops, "but to the dukes, counts, their vicars, our palatines, all our
agents, our envoys, and our friends this circular letter: 'Know that a
successor of the Apostles, our father in Christ, Boniface, bishop, hath
come unto us saying that we ought to take him under our safeguard and
protection. We do you to wit that we do so very willingly. Wherefore we
have thought proper to give him confirmation thereof under our own hand,
in order that, whithersoever he may go, he may there be in peace and
safety in the name of our affection and under our safeguard; in such sort
that he may be able everywhere to render, do, and receive justice. And
if he come to find himself in any pass or necessity which cannot be
determined by law, that he may remain in peace and safety until he be
come into our presence, he and all who shall have hope in him or
dependence on him. That none may dare to be contrary-minded towards him
or do him damage; and that he may rest at all times in tranquillity and
safety under our safeguard and protection. And in order that this may be
regarded as certified, we have subscribed these letters with our own hand

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