The Merovingians: Charlemagne’s Infamous Predecessors

Empires: A History of Mankind’s Imperial Past

In the course of only twenty five years, Clovis — the first of the Merovingians — had united the Frankish people, adopted Roman Christianity, and laid the foundations for a kingdom that would last about two and half centuries. In the vision of Clovis’ father, Childeric, he imagines that the Merovingian dynasty would transmogrify from a procession of mythic creatures into a pack of wild bears, wolves, and dogs. This is their story… as well as the prelude to the Carolingians. The vaunted ancestors of Charlemagne, the Carolingians first appear as mayors of the Merovingian palace in Paris before supplanting them.

Nonetheless, by the time of their fall, the Merovingians ruled Francia for 250 years. Ian Wood, a leading authority on the Merovingian period, has gone so far as to say that “No other state equalled the overall achievements of the Franks [under the Merovingians] in the sixth, seventh, and eight centuries.” Whether we go that far or not, we must acknowledge that the Merovingians have been overlooked for far too long. Their reign is too often seen as a gap in the late antique period, a dark age preceding the Carolingian renaissance. But that is a disservice to the Merovingians, without whom there would have been no Carolingians, and no Charlemagne.

Theme track used: The Age of Empire (Zero Project), re-composed by Stavros Stavrou

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