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European Kingdoms

The Franks

 

 

 

Merovingian Kingdom of Paris / Neustria
AD 511 - 751

The great empire-builder of the Franks, Clovis, succeeded his father in AD 481 as the Frankish ruler or Camaracum (Cambrai) and Tournai in north-eastern Gaul (now in Belgium). He went on to consolidate a single Frankish kingdom which he was able to hand on to his sons, converting the Franks to Christianity in 497 and ruthlessly eliminating his rivals. All the time he was expanding his influence southwards from the Tournai region. He took the Western Roman province of Belgica Secunda in 486 (better known by this time as the enlargened domain of Soissons), the territories of the Alemanni in 496, the Burgundians in 500, and the Visigoths in 507. The Franks quickly became the dominant Germanic tribe not only in Gaul but throughout Central and Western Europe. The territory that forms modern France and Germany, and south to central Italy, soon became known as Francia.

The Pactus Legis Salicae (Law of the Salian Franks) was a written code which combined customary law, Roman written law, Christian ideals, and royal edicts, and this most likely originated during the reign of Clovis. It had a strong influence on what would happen to the Frankish kingdom over the next few centuries. When Clovis died in 511, tradition and his own codified Salic Law demanded that his holdings be divided equally among his sons.

One of them, Childebert I, inherited the kingdom of Paris, while Orleans went to Chlodomer (upper central France), Austrasia went to Theuderich (the modern Netherlands, Austria, and northern Germany), and Soissons to Chlothar, the youngest of the brothers. The Frankish-dominated Burgundy (by 534, along with Provence) bordered Orleans to the east, while three other Frankish regions, Bordeaux, Aquitaine and Auvergne lay to the south of Orleans. Bordeaux was held by the king of Paris. The independent kingdom of Brittany bordered both Paris and Orleans in the west. By the time Paris was an independent kingdom again, in 561, its territory had been fully merged with that of Orleans and it was coming to be known as Neustria, which meant roughly 'north-western land', situated as it was in the north and west of France.

(Additional information 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), and from Genealogy of the Kings of France, Claude Wenzler (Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 2008).)

511 - 558

Childebert I

Third son of Clovis I, king of all Franks. King of Paris & Bordeaux.

524

Upon the death of Chlodomer of Orleans, Childebert annexes the heart of his kingdom, Carnutum (Chartres, former tribal capital of the Celtic Carnutes tribe) and Aureliani (Orleans, the Cenabum of the Carnutes tribe), uniting them with Paris.

Map of Western Europe at the death of Clovis in AD 511
The Education of the Children of Clovis by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Like their powerful father, the children of Clovis probably received the warrior's education they would have needed in the constant fighting both within and without the various Merovingian kingdoms, while above that is a map showing the state of the Frankish kingdom at Clovis' death in 511 (click on map to show full sized)

528

FeatureChildebert builds the magnificent St Etienne Basilica in Paris, which is later to become the Notre Dame Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris.

558 - 561

Childebert has failed to produce an heir, so the kingdom of Paris is re-absorbed into the Frankish empire for the lifetime of Chlothar I. When he dies in 561, Paris has been merged with the heart of the former kingdom of Orleans to create the larger kingdom of Neustria, which is handed to one of his sons, Charibert. This also includes Aquitaine, Bordeaux and Toulouse.

561 - 567

Charibert / Caribert I

Son of Chlothar I, king of all the Franks.

567 - 629

Charibert dies without a surviving male heir, so Neustria is reunited with the Frankish kingdom of Soissons under Chilperic I and then his son, Chlothar II. Full reunification of the empire is achieved in 613, with Neustria and Soissons now permanently combined. This remains the case under Dagobert I, who swiftly secures Neustria from his base in Austrasia on his father's death in 629, preventing his half-brother Charibert II from gaining it. Charibert instead is given Aquitaine.

629

Charibert / Caribert II

Son of Chlothar II, king of the Franks. King of Aquitaine (629).

630 - 656

Neustria remains a constituent part of the Frankish kingdom under Dagobert I and his successor, Clovis II. When Chlothar III succeeds to the throne of Neustria, he leaves the governance of his kingdom to his mayor of the palace.

657 - 673

Chlothar / Clotaire III

Son of Clovis II. King of Neustria & Burgundy, and the Franks (661).

657 - 664

St Balthild of Ascania

Mother and regent.

657

Chrodbert (Robert, sometimes shown as Chrodbert II to distinguish him from his uncle or grandfather of the same name) serves as chancellor to Chlothar III and may be the ancestor of the later Robertians who rule West Francia from AD 888 as the counts of Paris (the later Capetian dynasty). Chrodbert's son is Chrotgar, duke of Le Mans, and a possible early dux Cenomannici of the Breton March. His own son, Charivius, certainly fulfils the duties of this position in 723.

662 - 664

Austrasia remains a unified part of the Frankish kingdom until its nobles again beg for a king of their own. The regent of Neustria, the mother of Chlothar III, assigns the boy's brother, Childerich II to the Austrasians in 662. Two years later, when Chlothar III comes of age, Balthild is forced into a convent.

673

Theuderich / Thierry III

Brother of Chlothar. Dispossessed.

673 - 674

Childerich II of Austrasia displaces Theuderich III and takes control of his kingdom for the remaining year or so of his life. Once he is dead, Theuderich is able to reclaim his throne.

675 - 691

Theuderich / Thierry III

Restored. King of Franks, Burgundy, Austrasia (687-691).

691 - 737

The Frankish empire is fully reunited under Theuderich's son, Clovis IV, and for the most part remains united under succeeding generations of kings; Childebert III, Dagobert III, Chilperich II, and Theuderich IV.

737 - 743

There is a seven year interregnum during which the Carolingian mayors govern the empire.

743 - 751

Merovingian 'rule' of the empire is restored with the accession of Childerich III.

751

With the Pope's blessing, the Carolingian Mayors of the Palace depose the Merovingians and take control of the empire. Childeric is sent to a monastery and dies in 755. Neustria, Austrasia & Burgundy are controlled directly, and the former two names fade from use after a period for the former as a margraviate.