History of France

The Franks, a tribe of German origin, had marched from their hereditary possessions on the Lower Rhine to the Meuse and the Sambre, A. D. 486. From this place, their warlike king, Clovis, led them forth to war and plunder. After he had conquered and put to death the last Roman governor, Syagrius, in Soissons, and made himself master of the country between the Seine and the Loire, he advanced against the Alemanni, who were in possession. of an extensive kingdom on both banks of the Rhine. Ile defeated them in the great battle of Zülpich (between Bonn and Aix), and subjected their country on the Moselle and the Lahr. In the heat of the battle, Clovis had sworn, that if the doubtful combat should terminate in his favor, he would embrace the faith of his Christian wife; and in the same year, he, with 3,000 nobles of his train, received baptism in the waters of the Rhine. But Christianity produced no emotions of pity in his savage heart. After he had extended the Frank empire to the Rhone on the east, and to the Garonne on the south, he attempted to secure the whole territory to himself and his posterity, by putting to death the chiefs of all the Frank tribes.

The wickedness of the father was inherited by his four sons, who, after Clovis's death, divided the Frank empire between them; the eldest received the eastern kingdom, Austrasia, with the capital, Metz; the three younger sons shared the western territory, Neustria, and Burgundy, which was connected with it. But the empire was again from time to time united. The history of the kingly house of Merovingians displays a frightful picture of human depravity. The murders of brothers and relatives, bloody civil wars, and the explosion of unbridled passions, fill its annals. The savage enormities of the two queens, Brunhilda and are particularly dreadful. These horrors at length destroyed all the power of the race of Clovis, so that they are distinguished in history as sluggish kings, whilst the steward of the royal possessions (Mayor of the palace) gradually obtained possession of all the powers of government. A. visit to the yearly assemblies of the people (Marzfelder), upon a carriage drawn by four oxen, was at last the only occupation of the imbecile Merovingians. At first, each of the three kingdoms had its own mayor, until the brave and shrewd Pepin of Heristal succeeded in uniting the mayoralties of Neustria and Burgundy with that of Austrasia, and making them hereditary in his own family. From this time, Pepin's descendants, who were called dukes of Franconia, possessed the regal power, whilst the Merovingians were kings in nothing but name.

Pepin of Heristal, and his son Charles Martel, had gained the confidence of the nation by their warlike deeds, and the favor of the priests by their zeal in the propagation of Christianity. Both parties were instrumental in raising Pepin the Little, the son of Charles Martel, to the throne of the Franks. For when the assembly of the nation deposed the last imbecile representative of the Merovingians (Childeric III), and proclaimed the chief steward, Pepin, king, the pope confirmed the election, in hope of finding in the Frank ruler a support against the Longobards and the iconoclastic emperor of Byzantium. In return for the royal consecration, which was first performed by Boniface, and afterwards by Pope Stephen himself, Pepin endowed the Roman chair with the portion of coast on the Adriatic sea, southwards from Ravenna. This was the foundation of the temporal power of the pope.

Pepin reigned for sixteen years with vigor and renown over the Frank empire, which extended far into South and Central Germany, and which, at his death, he divided between his two sons, Charles and Carloman. About three years afterwards, A. D. 771, Carloman died, and Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was declared sole ruler of the Franks, by the voice of the estates of the Empire. He conducted many wars, and advanced Christian cultivation and civil order. For the purpose of securing the boundaries of his kingdom and extending Christianity, he made war for thirty-one years on the Saxon confederation, which was formed by various Pagan tribes on the Weser and Elbe. Charles took the fortress of Eresburg, on the south of the Teutoburger forest, destroyed the national palladium - the statue of Arminius, and compelled the Saxons to a peace. He next proceeded against the Longobard king, Desiderius, in obedience to , the summons of Pope Adrian. With an army collected together near Geneva, he crossed the St. Bernard, stormed the passes of the Alps, and conquered Pavia. Desiderius ended his days in a cloister. Charles erected the Lombard throne in Milan, united Upper Italy to the kingdom of the Franks, and confirmed the gifts made by Pepin to the pope.