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The Merovingian Dynasty

The Merovingian Dynasty c. AD 476–750

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The name 'Merovingian' comes from the semi-legendary ruler, Merovech, of whom nothing is known except that he was the father of Childeric I.

Childeric I ruled a tribe of Salian Franks from his capital at Tournai, and was succeeded by his son Clovis I in 481 or 482.

Clovis I extended his rule over all the Salian Franks and conquered or annexed the territories of the Ripuarian Franks and the Alemanni, thereby uniting virtually all of Gaul except for Burgundy and what is now Provence. He was converted to Christianity in 496 or 506.

When Clovis died in 511, his realm was divided between his four sons: Theuderic I, Chlodomir, Childebert I, and Chlotar I. Although there was often fierce competition between the brothers, they extended Frankish rule over Thuringia (c. 531) and Burgundy (534). They also gained partial control over Septimania on the Mediterranean coast, Bavaria, and the lands of the Saxons to the north. By 558 Chlotar I was the last surviving son of Clovis I, and until his death in 561 the Frankish realm was once again united.

After the death of Chlotar I, the realm was once more divided among four brothers: Charibert I, Guntram, Sigebert, and Chilperic I.

Once again, their was fierce strife among the brothers, especially between Chilperic and his wife, Fredegund, in the northwest of Gaul and Sigebert and his wife, Brunhild, in the northeast.

Dynastic struggles and increasing pressures exerted on the realm by Bretons and Gascons in the west, Lombards in the southeast and Avars in the east resulted in a reorganization of the Frankish kingdoms.

Several eastern regions were formed into the kingdom of Austrasia, with its capital at Metz; in the west was Neustria, with its capital first at Soissons and later at Paris; and in the south was the enlarged kingdom of Burgundy, with its capital at Chalon-sur-Saône.

In 613 Chlotar II, son of Chilperic I and king of Neustria, inherited the other two kingdoms as well, but in 639, with the death of Dagobert 1 the realm was divided once again.

By that time, however, the kings of the two regions: Neustria and Burgundy; and Austrasia had lost much of their power to royal household officials - the 'Mayors of the Palace'.

The Merovingian rule came to an end in 750, when the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed by Pepin the Short (Pippin III) who established the Carolingian royal dynasty.

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