History Files

European Kingdoms

Western Europe


Merovingian Kingdom of Orleans

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 (otherwise known as Neustria and now northern France), 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.

The town of Orleans was originally the oppidum of Cenabum of the Carnutes tribe, which had been renamed in AD 275. Its new name, Aureliani, was mangled by the Franks to become Orleans, although the Roman name still seems to have been in use - or was at least acknowledged - during the sixth century. The kingdom also included the bishoprics of Tours, Poitiers (sixth century home of the Taifali), and Orleans.

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

511 - 524

Chlodomer / Clodomir

Second son of Clovis I. king of all Franks.


Sigismund of the Burgundians had earlier assassinated the cousin of the four ruling Frankish kings. Now all of them join in an expedition against him and he is captured. The victorious Franks return home, leaving a garrison behind, but this is later massacred. Chlodomer has Sigismund and his sons assassinated on 1 May 524 and leads a second expedition against the Burgundians. He is killed at the Battle of Vézeronce.

Map of Western Europe at the death of Clovis in AD 511
Partition of the kingdom of Clovis
Clotilde, the widow of Clovis I, oversaw the partition of his kingdom between her four sons, as pictured in the medieval Grandes Chroniques de Saint-Denis, while above that is a map showing the state of the Frankish kingdom at Clovis' death in 511 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

524 - 558

Chlodomer's three sons, Theodebald, Gunthar, and Clodoald, are entrusted to the care of his mother until his widow marries his brother, Chlothar I of Frankish Soissons. However, Chlothar has two of Chlodomer's children killed, while Clodoald escapes, later becoming abbot of Nogent (later known as St Cloud).

Chlodomer's kingdom is divided between his brothers. Childebert I of Paris annexes the heart of the territory, Carnutum (Chartres, former tribal capital of the Celtic Carnutes tribe) and Aureliani (Orleans, the Cenabum of the Carnutes tribe), while Chlothar takes Turonensis (Tours, former capital of the Turones tribe) and Pictavia (Poitiers, former capital of the Pictavii).

558 - 561

Childebert of Paris fails to produce a surviving heir before his death in 558, so the kingdom of Paris is re-absorbed into the Frankish empire for the lifetime of Chlothar I. When Clothar dies in 561, Paris has been merged with the heart of the former kingdom of Orleans to create the larger Frankish kingdom of Neustria, which is handed to one of his sons, Charibert.

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