History Files


European Kingdoms

The Franks




Frankish Minor Kings (Germans)
Incorporating the Ripaurian Franks
AD 480s - c.509

The Franks who settled on the west bank of the Rhine at the start of the fifth century created minor kingdoms which covered much of north-eastern Gaul. They defended the Rhine against invading fellow Germans and remained a strong force in support of Rome for most of the century. However, when Clovis son of Childeric I of the Salian Franks of Yssel succeeded his father, he pursued an aggressive policy of conquest. He wanted to create a single Frankish kingdom, and his fellow Frankish kings were not going to stand in his way. They were eliminated between the 480s and around 509, fulfilling Clovis' dream of a single Merovingian-controlled Frankish state. This included the Ripuarian Franks, who had remained on the east bank of the Rhine, and who were formed of an amalgamation of smaller tribes such as the Bructeri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes, and possibly also the Chattuarii.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from Chronicon, Marius, from the Chronicle of Fredegar / Latin Chronicle (author unknown but the work has been attributed to Fredegar since the sixteenth century thanks to his name being written in the margin), from the Passio of St Killian, from Atlas historique mondial, Georges Duby (Larousse, 1978), from Genealogy of the Kings of France, Claude Wenzler (Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 2008), and from External Link: Le Mans Roman Walls (Spotting History).)

fl 480s

Ragnachar / Ragnacaire

King of the Salian Franks of Yssel (Cambrai). Killed.

before 509

Ragnachar is a king of the Salian Franks of Yssel (Cambrai) who aids the Merovingian king, Clovis, in the conquest of Soissons in 486. As he has the same title as Clovis' father, Childeric I, it is possible that Ragnachar has either inherited a portion of his territory, or has captured it, or is a relative in some way who governs territory nearby.


Brother. Killed.

after 486

Rignomer / Rigomer

Brother. King of the Franks of Le Mans (Breton March). Killed.


Rignomer, brother of Ragnachar, gains Le Mans from the fall of Soissons, the former Civitas Cenomanorum, capital of the Gaulish Aulerci Cenomani people. The city still retains most of its Roman city walls (in fact even today the walls form one of the most intact Roman city walls still in existence). Given the location, Rignomer clearly commands the defence of Frankish territories against incursions from the neighbouring Bretons - in fact in 491 the city of Nantes becomes the headquarters of the newly-formed Breton March, possibly with Rignomer as its first commander under the authority of Clovis.

The name Rignomer or Rigomer probably originates in the Indo-European word used to denote a king - 'rigno'. This is usually used to refer to a king's domain in German tongues, with the addition of '-mer' in this case, which is probably '-mar', meaning 'famous'. The 'rigno' element may be borrowed, which provides a probable meaning of 'famous king'.

However, Ragnachar is seen as a rival by Clovis. As such he is swiftly dispatched at some point before 509, along with his two brothers. If Rignomer has pretensions of being the 'famous king' he is named, then Clovis would do well to remove him. Le Mans cannot have been a Frankish kingdom until after 486 and the fall of Soissons, placing the murders of the three brothers between these two dates (486-509). Their territories are annexed by Clovis.

Map of Western Europe between AD 481-511
With the accession of Clovis, son of Childeric I of the Salian Franks, the Germanic occupiers of north-eastern Gaul had found a king who would change their fortunes out of all recognition (click on map to view full sized)

pre-486 - c.509


King of the Salian Franks of a location close to Yssel?


Chararic and his son wait to see the outcome of the battle between the Merovingian king, Clovis, and the domain of Soissons before taking sides. By then it is too late and Clovis has him and his son imprisoned. They are tonsured and ordained as priests, and when they rebel by growing back their hair, Clovis has them killed (in about 509) and annexes their lands.

? - c.509

Sigobert / Sigibert the Lame

King of the Ripuarian Franks of Zülpich & Cologne.


The Franks conquer the Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac in 496, although the victory is a narrow one. The Alemanni and their western neighbours, the Ripaurian Franks on the east bank of the Rhine have long been engaging in minor skirmishes. Now the Alemanni appear to instigate a full-blown attack on the Ripaurian Franks who are led by Sigobert the Lame. He calls on his ally, Clovis, of the Salian Franks, and a relief army soon arrives. Even Clovis is hard-pressed to defeat the Alemanni, and Gregory of Tours equates his victory with his subsequent conversion to Christianity.

The site of the battle, Tolbiac or Tulpiacum, is usually linked to Zülpich in the modern German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, not far from the Belgian border. This is one of the two main cities of the Ripaurian Franks so its use as a battlefield supports the claim that the Alemanni had been the aggressors. The Alemanni are now arranged into a formal duchy which is commanded by Clovis, who is responsible for appointing the governing duke.


Sigobert is murdered by his son, Chlodoric, at the instigation of the Merovingian king, Clovis. Clovis then publicly accuses Chlodoric of the murder and mounts a campaign against the Salian Franks, killing both Chlodoric and another king, Chararic, and absorbing Zülpich & Cologne into his kingdom.


Chlodoric the Parricide

Son. King of the Ripuarian Franks of Zülpich & Cologne.


By this time the Merovingian king, Clovis, counts himself master of all the Salian Franks, and a single kingdom has clearly emerged in north-eastern Gaul. Along the way he has probably disposed of many more minor Frankish leaders, such as that of the Germanic tribe of the Chattuarii.