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July 10, 2020

38 – The Long-haired Kings

38 – The Long-haired Kings

The sons of Clovis vie for supremacy, threatening the kingom their father left to them.



Hello everyone. Before I begin today’s episode I have three quick announcements. First, I was a guest on the French Embassy to the United States’ official podcast ‘Francofiles’ where I discussed the history behind Juillet Quatorze, known as Bastille Day in the Anglo-Phone world. It’s coming up this Tuesday so there’s no better time to learn about this great holiday. I posted the episode across my social media, so if you missed it, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Reddit, or just check in to the French History Podcast website and follow the links under the ‘About’ page. So far I have been a guest on five different podcasts, Francofiles, Radio France Internationale, Industrial Revolutions, History’s Most and History’s What if?

My second announcement is that I have another book out…sort of. Brain Lag, the publishing house that published my book The Maiden Voyage of New York City asked their authors to each write a short story for an anthology called The Light Between the Stars. My short story “The Thief and the Coward in Paradise” is their #2, and having gotten an early copy I can tell you that these are incredible stories. As an author who has been publishing short stories for twelve years now, I am convinced that short stories are where real literature is. Novels can become formulaic and you can be sure the main character will probably make it until the last twenty pages, but with short stories you have no idea what will happen from sentence to sentence. Please check out the anthology and be sure to tell me if you like it.

My third announcement is I have a birthday coming up! This July 13th, I turn 30 and boy…things really didn’t turn out like I thought they would. I was supposed to be in New Zealand for a month touring the Lord of the Rings sites, and then a global pandemic occurred and now I’m stuck at home. But I am not ungrateful, especially because I know so many people have it worse than me. In fact, I am incredibly thankful that this podcast has done so well and reached so many people; if you had told me that I would be featured on Radio France Internationale and the French Embassy’s official website I would not have believed you.

If you want to make my birthday the best ever, please consider becoming a patron or making a one-time donation as your money keeps the show and my daily historical posts on Facebook and Twitter going. Or, if you want to support me and get some awesome swag, go to our website and check out our merchandise, where we have four awesome, French history designs that you can get on t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone covers, face masks, stickers and pretty much anything. Or, you can buy my book The Maiden Voyage of New York City, and maybe even give it a positive review. If you don’t have money to spare you can still support me and the show by telling your friends and family about us and sharing our posts on social media so that we can grow the French history family. If you like what we’ve been doing, feel free to give us a positive review on iTunes or whatever source you use. And you can always leave me a comment with well wishes as I appreciate them all. As I mentioned before, this year I am not going to return to teaching and my day job will be this podcast so any support you can give is appreciated. Thank you all very much, it’s been an amazing ride so far, now on to the show.


Episode 38: The Long-Haired Kings


Today we return to the political narrative and follow the early Merovingians, otherwise known as the long-haired kings, since their long hair was a symbol of royalty. For those of you who like the medieval setting, and aristocratic intrigue, the Merovingians will provide all that and more, as affairs and debauchery determined the course of entire countries. There’s lots of names and relations to remember. I’ll make a family tree of all the major players and their relations with each other and post it on my website. For now though, I’ll try to make things easy by frequently mentioning each person’s title and their relation with the other major leaders. While there are many important figures in this episode, our focus is on Clovis I’s youngest  and most ruthless son, Clothar I.

The Merovingians have a pretty bad reputation, and are often depicted as cruel, violent, sadistic and insane. Part of this isn’t their fault but the world they lived in. The Merovingians divided their kingdoms amongst their sons, at a time when economic necessity naturally led to conflict. The economy of pre-industrial countries was tied to, if not dependent on, conquest. In our modern era, the most advanced economies grow at around 1-2% annually as more machines are built and technology progresses to increase production. Additionally, fossil fuels and advanced energies allow machines to accomplish what hundreds of individuals couldn’t. In pre-industrial societies machines were primitive, and labor was based almost entirely on human and animal labor. Nearly all labor went into agriculture and herding for subsistence with very little left over. Thus, pre-industrial economies usually grew at .1% during a good year. Medieval kings didn’t gain much by investing in building projects or patronizing science, since the rate of growth was so slow. But if a king conquered another realm, their wealth and power would increase remarkably.

Another thing to consider is the recurrence of death in medieval society. Remember, before modern medicine, half of all people died before the age of ten. Historians still debate what impact this had on the psyche of medieval peoples and how they emotionally and psychologically coped with frequent mortality. Some historians argue that child mortality, starvation, disease and constant war meant that medieval peoples accepted death as a regular fixture of life. This made them less emotionally attached to individuals, even their own children, and they were more violent. This is all an interesting debate, as historians since Lawrence Stone have tried to reconstruct the emotions and psychology of medieval peoples, though there is no consensus. What we do know is that medieval peoples were far more violent than today, with murder rates in medieval societies being twenty times higher than in modern France.

Add to this a masculine warrior culture that glorified conquerors, a semi-professional military that demanded regular booty, and divided realms all next to each other and you have the perfect recipe for constant war. This was Merovingian Francia. Even if the early Merovingians had been the wisest of all kings, war probably would have engulfed their realms anyway because this was how medieval society operated. But as we shall see, the Merovingians were not the wisest of all kings, and this made things even worse.

The day is 27 November 511, and king Clovis I has passed away. The body of the King of all the Franks is interned at Abbey of St Genevieve in Paris. Clovis I left behind the greatest kingdom in Europe, whose only rival was Byzantium far to the east. He united his people and many others under one rule, one faith, and bound them with a common cultural, linguistic and economic heritage. Greater than his conquests, Clovis I created a united people, who saw themselves as Franks. This legacy managed to outlive the disastrous rule of his descendants, as over the next two hundred years Francia fell into regular political chaos. After burying Clovis, his four sons each took a quarter of the kingdom.

I’m going to put up a map on the podcast page so you can follow along, as it may be a bit complicated, for now I’ll do my best to explain. The second oldest son of Clovis, Chlodomer, became King of Orléans, a realm straddled between Armorica in the north and Aquitania in the south. It stretched from the Atlantic coast, and followed the Loire River all the way to Burgundy, which was an independent kingdom, yet a vassal to Francia. The third son Childebert I was the King of Paris; his realm was essentially modern-day Brittany and Normandy, with some territory more southward, including Paris, which was the very edge of his kingdom.

I highly recommend looking at the map I’m going to post because the next two brothers received divided realms. The youngest, Clothar I inherited the north-center, and styled himself the King of Soissons, for its most important city. He also inherited what would become Aquitania in the southwest. Finally, the eldest brother Theuderic I inherited the far northeast, and a large chunk of land between Aquitania in the west, the Kingdom of Orléans in the north, Burgundy in the east, and the small Visigothic rump state of Septimania to the south. The Franks usually didn’t have set capitals as kings and their courts travelled from city to city in order to maintain order. However, the most important city in Theuderic’s realm was Reims.

This division of Francia sounds confusing, arbitrary and unmanageable because it was. We really don’t know much about why the brothers divided the land the way that they did, other than that it was Frankish custom to divide lands based on wealth, rather than area. Childebert I and Chlodomer’s kingdoms were roughly half the size of Clothar I and Theuderic’s. But Childebert I controlled Paris, and most of the trade with the British Isles, while Chlodomer’s realm included Orléans and since it was between most of the others, much trade had to pass through it. Meanwhile, Clothar I and Theuderic I’s realms were sparsely-populated, with fewer large cities. I know keeping track of all of these brothers might be hard but don’t worry; they’re going to start dying off pretty quick.

There’s one other element that really gave the Merovingian rule an extra helping of madness: family drama. The inner dynamics of the Merovingians and their relatives often led to conflict, as in the Burgundian War of 523-524. A little background is needed: In the late 5th century Gundobad became King of the Burgundians, a title which his three brothers each contested at some point. Gundobad killed each of his brothers, among them Chilperic II and his wife who he drowned. Gundobad then ordered Chilperic II’s two daughters, Chroma and Clotilde into exile. As you’ll recall, Clovis I married Clotilde so he and his descendants could have a claim to the Burgundian throne. I swear I am trying to tell this in the least complicated way possible.

Clotilde never forgave Gundobad for killing her mother and father, but before she could have her revenge Gundobad died in 516 and his son Sigismund became King of Burgundy. The sons of Clovis I could have declared war against Sigismund for the crimes of his father, as this sort of justice was accepted; but it was a weak reason to declare war at best. Thankfully for Clotilde and the sons of Clovis, Sigismund sealed his own doom when he murdered his son in 522.

As King of the Burgundians, Sigismund naturally feared the powerful Franks, and allied with the Ostrogoths in Italy, sealing this alliance by marrying the daughter of King Theodoric I. Just a reminder: Theodoric was the Ostrogothic King of Italy, Theuderic I was the oldest son of Clovis; again I’m trying to make this as simple as possible. Sigismund married the Ostrogothic princess and the two had a son named Sigeric, though she passed away and Sigismund remarried. His new wife despised Sigeric, who she viewed as a threat to her own children and the two quarreled viciously. Sigismund’s wife convinced him that Sigeric was planning to murder him and take the throne, at which point he ordered his son drowned. This foul murder led to cataclysmic war.

First, Sigismund was a kinslayer who had murdered his son and Clotilde’s nephew, just as his father had murdered her mother and father. This angered the Franks and justified their invasion. Second, Sigeric was Ostrogothic royalty and Theoderic I’s grandson. Sigismund had effectively murdered a family member of the two most powerful nations on his borders. Not a great idea, especially at a time when personal relationships were what tied society together. Theodoric I and Clotilde’s hearts yearned for revenge and they gave the sons of Clovis I justification for invasion. In 523 Sigismund was busy performing penance with a group of monks when the four brothers united and invaded Burgundy from the west while Theodoric I invaded from the south.

A quick note on the Frankish military since it’s going to be an important part of this episode. During the early medieval period the Franks were almost entirely mounted warriors. In fact, the entire invading force in the upcoming Thuringian War was Frankish cavalry. We don’t know if this was their indigenous tradition or if they adopted it in emulation of the Huns. Whatever the origins, their horses allowed the Franks to invade their neighbors quickly and put down any rebellions before they could spread. Their Saxon subjects formed the Frankish navy, while the Gallo-Romans operated complex siege equipment. Meanwhile poor Frankish militias made up the infantry.

The swift invasion caught the Burgundians off-guard. Sigismund and his brother Godomar rallied their troops but were quickly defeated. Godomar escaped, while Sigismund hid in the monastery of Saint Maurice at Agaune, disguised as one of the monks. But he was found, and the sons of Clovis beheaded him and threw his body down a well, before killing his wife and children as they extinguished the rightful heirs to the Burgundian throne. Sigismund was far more loved in death, as his body was removed to the abbey and the Catholic Church canonized as a saint because of his support of Catholicism against Arianism.

The four brothers left behind a small force to occupy the territory and returned to their kingdoms. After they left Godomar, now the rightful King of the Burgundians, rallied his people killed the occupiers and prepared for a second invasion. This time, the Burgundians could concentrate all their forces against the Franks since the Ostrogoths were once again their allies. See, Theodoric I was content now that Sigismund had died horribly, and he had no personal enmity against Godomar. Moreover, the Ostrogoths feared and hated the Franks, who were the great power in the region; even worse, the Franks were close allies of the Byzantines who, under emperor Justin I and his son Justinian, wanted to reconquer Italy. Godomar fought with the brothers and on 25 June 524 met them at the Battle of Vézeronce, today known as Isère in southeastern France. Godomar won a surprising victory and even killed Chlodomer. The Franks retreated, and Godomar ruled an independent Burgundy.

After burying their fallen brother the remaining three sons of Clovis vied for Chlodomer’s kingdom, though there was a problem: the rightful heirs to the Kingdom of Orléans were the three young sons of Chlodomer, Theodabald, Clodoald and Gunthar. However, they were far too young to rule and so they moved to Paris and were raised by their grandmother Clotilde while Clothar I and Childebert divided their lands and ruled as regents. Clothar I married Chlodomer’s widow Guntheuc and took the western share of the Kingdom of Orléans, while Childebert I took the east, including the capital.

Now Theuderic looked at his siblings with jealousy; he was the elder brother but he controlled the smallest portion of Francia. In 531 Theuderic claimed that Hermanfrid, the king of Thuringia, a country in south-central Germany, asked him for help in defeating his brother and co-ruler. In exchange for his support, Hermanfrid promised to give Theuderic I half his kingdom. Theuderic I was clearly lying, as no ruler of a minor kingdom would give up half their land to a powerful rival. Moreover, the Thuringians were intermarrying with the Ostrogoths as they developed an alliance against the Franks. Thus, Theuderic invaded Thuringia to pre-empt an anti-Frank coalition and to expand his dominion so he could rival his younger brothers.

Hermanfrid held off Theuderic’s initial invasion and the eldest son of Clovis grudgingly called upon Clothar for aid. The two rode out to Thuringia and won a major battle, which forced Hermanfrid to flee, leaving behind his eleven-year old niece Radegund, who Clothar took as a royal hostage. Theuderic then offered Hermanfrid clemency and invited him come to the city of Zülpich to discuss his future. Hermanfrid believed Theuderic would let him remain a king, albeit a vassal of the Franks, and he rode west to meet with him. Hermanfrid arrived in Zülpich and deliberated with the Franks when he mysteriously fell from the city walls, dying instantly. Theuderic and Clothar then split Thuringia between themselves.

While Theuderic and Clothar fought the Thuringians in the east, Childebert I expanded his realm by fighting the Visigoths to the south. In 531 Childebert I received a distressed message from his sister Clotilde, not to be confused with his mother, also named Clotilde. Just when you thought this episode couldn’t be any more confusing. In 526 Clotilde the younger married Amalaric, the Visigothic king of Hispania as part of their anti-Ostrogothic alliance. But Clotilde was a Catholic and the Visigoths were Arians and she complained that she was persecuted for her faith. Tensions rose and Childebert I seized Narbonne. Childebert I then marched southward on Barcelona where King Amalaric was assembling his forces, when suddenly he was betrayed by the governor of Barcelona, Theudis, who assassinated his lord and declared himself king. Theudis made peace with Childebert I, recognized his claim to territories north of the Pyrenees Mountains and released Clotilde. Childebert I was content; he expanded his territory, he defeated the Visigoths which forced them to focus on conquering within Hispania and northern Africa while abandoning Francia, and his beloved sister Clotilde was marching with him back to Paris. All was well until the Frankish princess fell ill and died on the way back.

In 532 the three sons of Chlodomer were growing long hair, figuratively and literally. Theodabald and Clodoald were ten, while Gunthar was seven. They were still too young to inherit the Kingdom of Orléans but their childhood was ending and at least the older two were moving into adolescence. At this point Clothar I decided that he would never let Chlodomer’s children inherit their father’s holdings and he convinced Childebert I to join him. Clothar sent an emissary to his mother Clotilde with a pair of scissors and sword. The message couldn’t have been clearer: the children must either cut their hair, give up all claim to the throne and join a monastery, or die. The old queen Clotilde rebuked her sons and reasserted her grandsons’ right to rule. In response, Clothar I and Childebert rode out to Paris and entered the royal chambers where Clotilde and the three sons of Cholodmer sat. Clothar I again demanded that they cut their hair but they refused. He then drew his sword and stabbed his ten-year old nephew Theodebald to death. The seven-year old Gunthar threw himself at Childebert I’s feet, crying for his uncle to save him. But Childebert I simply stood as Clothar drove his sword through the child’s chest. The last surviving son Clodoald fled, and sympathetic Frankish nobles hid him from his murderous uncle. Clodoald cut his hair and became a monk in a small commune to the west of Paris. He eventually became Saint Cloud, and today that commune bears his name.

In one year Queen Clotilde had lost her beloved daughter and watched her sons murder two of her grandchildren in front of her. Ironically, Clotilde provided her sons an excuse to war against the Burgundians by naming their king a kinslayer. After this event Clotilde largely retired from politics and spent her life founding churches and monasteries as she abandoned any hope of reforming her warmongering sons, and died in 548.

Around the same time that Clothar murdered his nephews, The Munderic Affair nearly toppled Theuderic I’s kingdom. A rumor spread that Theuderic I was killed in battle while fighting in Thuringia. A powerful noble named Munderic claimed he had royal blood and that Theuderic’s lands should pass to him. But Theuderic I wasn’t dead and when he returned he turned his armies against Munderic. What’s fascinating about the Munderic Affair was how it demonstrated the divisions in the Frankish army. In the north, the army led by Theuderic was almost entirely Germanic, meaning that they were ferocious but didn’t have practically any skill in siege warfare. Meanwhile in the south the Franks led by Theuderic’s thirty-year old son Theudebert, were supplemented by Gallo-Romans who used siege equipment to take a number of fortresses, including Béziers and Dio. Theuderic’s horsemen and infantry couldn’t break any sizeable fortress and only succeeded through dumb luck and subterfuge. Munderic’s loyalists held a fort at Vollore but a treacherous defender opened the gates and Theuderic took the fort. Next he moved to Chastel-Marlhac, which withstood a siege but the defenders grew overconfident and left the fort to attack Theuderic’s men at which point they were defeated, captured and most likely beheaded. Munderic himself held out at Vitry. Theuderic I attacked him, but his men didn’t have siege engines and could only chuck spears at the walls. Theuderic realized the futility of his actions and he had a messenger swear numerous oaths of loyalty and clemency to Munderic should he emerge and pledge fealty to the Frankish king. Munderic and his men left the garrison and were immediately killed. Munderic really should have known better; after all, just the previous year Theuderic promised clemency to the king of Thuringia and pushed him off a city wall.

In 534 Theuderic I died, for real this time, and his son Theudebert inherited his territories. Clothar I wanted his territory and convinced Childebert to join him in a war against their nephew. But Theudebert wasn’t a child; he was an established general who defeated a Geatish army, even killing King Hygelac, who is mentioned in the epic poem Beowulf. Moreover he fought in his father’s campaigns, and had over a decade of experience as a leader and soldier. Theudebert I held his own against Clothar I, and Childebert, sickened by his treacherous brother, decided to switch sides. Childebert, who had two daughters but no sons, adopted Theudebert as his heir and the two drove Clothar back. But luck was on Clothar’s side; a storm devastated his enemies’ supplies and the two retreated, leaving the status quo intact.

At this point the three Frankish kings could never trust each other. However, these three kings continued to fight alongside each other in future wars. This might seem insane but it actually makes sense. These kings wanted to expand their kingdoms, in fact they needed to conquer or raid in order to pay their troops. But they couldn’t fight on their own or risk the other two uniting to attack them. Thus, whenever they fought a major war they joined forces so they could watch each other. The old saying, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” might as well have been the Merovingian family motto.

In 534 the Ostrogothic king of Italy died, sparking a succession crisis. With the Ostrogoths in the midst of a civil war, the two remaining sons of Clovis and their nephew Theudebert invaded Burgundy. They captured and executed Gundomar and annexed Burgundy into Francia, where they divided it amongst themselves. While Burgundy was now a territory within Francia, it maintained an important identity and many Frankish kings claimed the title King of Burgundy. Moreover, since the Burgundians were more heavily Romanized, the Frankish armies became more specialized, which helped in future wars. I should note at this time that a century after the Roman Empire’s fall some still wore Roman-style uniforms to honor their ancestors, which made the Frankish armies much more colorful.

The Ostrogothic civil war turned out to be the gift that kept on giving for the Franks. In 535 Byzantine Emperor Justinian I took advantage of the chaos and ordered an invasion of Italy. By 536, the Byzantines took Rome. The Ostrogoths were so hard-pressed that they recalled their forces from Provence, which the three Frankish kings gobbled up. Now Francia included nearly all of what we call France, save for the minor realm of Septimania.

Over the next few years the Byzantines struggled to hold Italy and Theudebert I decided to take advantage of the mutual bloodshed and in 539 he marched south. The Ostrogoths and the Byzantines both believed the Franks were on their side so no one tried to stop his army, which numbered in the tens of thousands. The Franks marched down the Po River and discovered a Gothic and Byzantine army staring each other down. The Goths welcomed the Franks, who then started killing them. The Byzantines then made the mistake of thinking that since they were fighting the Goths the Franks must have been on their side. They welcomed the Franks who also attacked them. This comedy of errors ended when the Frankish army contracted dysentery. Theudebert I called a retreat and the army left, laden-down with booty. While this might seem insignificant, Theudebert’s invasion of the Italian peninsula aided in its long decline. Constant warfare and raiding for centuries massively reduced Italy’s population, wealth and power. By the end of the Gothic War in 554, Italy was a hollow shell of its former self. Once the center of the Mediterranean world, it became a depopulated, poorly-defended battleground for more powerful countries, namely the Byzantines, the Franks and the Lombards who invaded in 568.

Before we get to even more wars, let’s take a little break and cover some debauchery. The long-haired kings patronized Catholic monasteries and churches, and espoused piety. But despite these godly trappings, Frankish kings were traditionally polygamists, who married as many women as possible to secure alliances, and many continued this tradition despite condemnation from the church. By now, Clothar I was so powerful he believed he could defy his bishops, the Pope, and maybe even God himself. At some point he married his second wife, Ingund, daughter of Baderic, a former king of Thuringia. Ingund then asked Clothar to find her sister Aregund a suitable husband, at which point he claimed he was a suitable husband and he took her as his third wife. In 540 Clothar married his royal hostage Radegund, daughter of the last king of Thuringia. Radegund despised her kinslaying, womanizing, warmongering, oath-breaking, lying, treacherous, conniving, untrustworthy, depraved, monstrous, philandering, diabolical, debauched, demented, deplorable, abominable, reprehensible, unchristian, wicked, sadistic, malevolent, black-hearted, iniquitous, malcontent, shameful, heinous, corrupt, nefarious, loathsome, unholy, repugnant, spiteful, atrocious, deceitful, damnable, two-faced, mendacious, brutal, savage, heretical, murderous, blasphemous, bloodthirsty, vicious, profane, insane, unsanctimonious, and all around not-very-nice husband, and later ran off to a convent. Clothar’s actions disturbed his bishops but he was powerful and patronized churches so they did nothing but counsel him against polygamy and murdering children. Meanwhile, Theudebert I took multiple wives, to which Saint Nicetius, then-bishop of Trier threatened to excommunicate him.

Theudebert didn’t just piss off holy men but the Byzantine Emperor as well. Up until this point, Frankish coins had the Byzantine Emperor’s name and likeness on them, as the Franks nominally ruled within the Roman Empire. While we in the present think of the Western Roman Empire falling in 476 with the Gothic sack of Rome, many contemporaries thought that the Roman Empire still existed, just in a new form. After all, the word ‘Byzantine’ is something historians started calling the Eastern Roman Empire in the 19th century; they called themselves Romans, and many people living under barbarian rulers still thought of themselves as Romans too. In 538 Theudebert decided to do away with any pretense that he served Rome or the Byzantines and minted coins in his own image, shocking the court at Constantinople. But this soon became the norm as each Frankish king minted coins in their own image.

Alright, enough scandal, back to war. In 541 Childebert asked his brother to join him against the Visigoths in what was their last war together, at least on the same side. The two marched through the Pyrenees and took Pamplona before moving to Zaragoza. Historians disagree about what happened next, though it appears that the Visigothic king Theudis held them at bay and the Franks retreated without securing any major territory in Hispania, though they left with a fair share of plunder including important relics.

In 547 Theudebert went on a royal hunt and was killed by a wild animal and the throne passed to his thirteen year-old son, Theudebald, who was habitually ill. At this point, I’m sure you’re suspecting Clothar to do something murdery, but Theudebald’s court had such respect for his father that they swore allegiance to the young king, preventing another civil war. Yet, Theudebald’s perennial weakness overcame him and in 555 he died at the age of twenty. When he did, Clothar I immediately marched upon Metz and claimed his grand-nephew’s territory for his own. He took Theudebald’s widow Vuldetrada as either a wife or a concubine to secure his claim to the territory, but this was too much for the church who condemned his actions and Clothar wedded off Vuldetrada to a German noble.

Clothar’s next war was against one of his many sons. In the mid-550s, Chram made a pact with his uncle Childebert to overthrow Clothar and raised an army around Poitiers. Clothar sent two of his sons to deal with Chram. But before their armies could meet a violent storm hit, delaying a battle. Chram then forged a message and tricked his brothers into thinking their father had died, at which point the two retreated to Burgundy to safeguard their inheritance, freeing Chram to conquer more land, until he met his uncle Childebert in Paris, where the two debated strategies for killing Clothar once and for all.

Then fate turned against Chram. On 13 December 558, Childebert died, leaving behind two daughters and no sons. Childebert’s former vassals feared Clothar’s power and wrath and they swore their allegiance to him, leaving Chram completely outnumbered. The rebellious prince fled to Armorica and raided his father’s territories until Clothar arrived in force in 560. According to one source, Chram prepared to flee to Britannia to avoid certain execution, but he was captured before he could sail out. Clothar condemned him to death and Chram, his wife and children were strangled and then burned.

This second kinslaying combined with his lifelong polygamy was too much for many in the church, and Nicetius excommunicated him. Clothar understood how powerful the church was and how poor his reputation became and he travelled to Tours to the Tomb of Saint Martin to due penance, but caught pneumonia and died. Clothar was 64 and at his death he ruled over all of Francia. He killed or otherwise outlived all of his brothers and rival claimants and reunited Clovis’ kingdom while adding even more territory. Upon his death, Francia included nearly all of modern-day France, with the notable exception of Septimania in the south, and parts of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Clothar had married every noble woman he could take, betrayed everyone he cared for and committed every ruthless deed until finally all of Francia was united under his banner.

When he died he left behind four sons, who divided Francia into four kingdoms. Next time we take up the political narrative, we’ll talk about how these four brothers warred with each other and brought havoc upon the kingdom of Francia as each attempted to rule a united kingdom.





Ancient Encyclopedia


Encyclopedia Britannica


The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 – 751, by Ian Wood, 1994


Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751, by Bernard S. Bachrach, 1972


Perceiving War and the Military in Early Christian Gaul (Ca. 400-700 A. D.) by Laury Sarti, 2013.