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vence and the Rhone valley. By his decision Chilperich gave up as weregeld for his wife's murder, her dowry and five Aquitanian cities, which had been bestowed upon her at the marriage. These were made over to Brunhildis, who took them, but nevertheless bided her time for a fuller revenge (568).

Four years of Lombard wars kept the Frankish kings engaged on their southern borders, and they were at last successful in forcing the invaders beyond the Alps, in a series of campaigns in which the chief glory was gained by the RomanoGallic duke, Eunius Mummolus, who led the armies of Guntram of Burgundy. But in 573 the civil war between ... , .. .

° J J' ° Wars of Sigi

Sigibert and Chilperich burst forth again. It bert and Chiispread at once over the whole of the Frankish pench' 573-75realm; for Chilperich attacked his brother's dominions in Aquitaine, while Sigibert pressed on beyond Meuse and Scheldt. There followed two years of fierce fighting, attended by the most barbarous wasting of the land. Chilperich's sons burnt every open town between Tours and Limoges; Sigibert's troops from beyond the Rhine devastated the valley of the Meuse. The Austrasians had the better in the struggle, and Chilperich sued for peace, offering large territorial concessions. But it was his life and not his lands that Brunhildis wanted. Her husband was induced to decline his brother's proposals, and pushed his victorious arms into the heart of Neustria, after a battle in which Chilperich's son and heir, Theudebert, was slain. The king of the West abandoned his capital, and fled north to hide himself and his wife behind the walls of Tournay. Most of the Neustrian counts came to do homage to Sigibert at Paris, and 'when he had chased his brother behind the Scheldt, the Austrasian had himself lifted on the shield, according to old Frankish custom, and saluted as King of all the Franks at Vitry, near Arras. He sent for his wife and children to Paris to share in his Murder of triumph, and determined to end the war by the Sigibert, 575. siege of Tournay. But, when all Gaul seemed at his command, two murderers, hired by queen Fredegundis, came before him with a pretended message, and stabbed him while he listened to their words (575).

The death of Sigibert changed the whole aspect of affairs in Gaul, and raised his assassin from the depth of despair to the height of fortune. The Austrasian army dispersed when its commander was slain, and the Neustrian counts flocked to Tournay to do homage again to Chilperich. Queen Brunhildis, who lay at Paris with Sigibert's infant son and heir Childebert, was seized and imprisoned by the partisans of the Neustrian king. Her little four-year-old son only escaped from his uncle's clutches by being let down in a basket from his mother's prison window, and received by a faithful adherent, who rode away with him to Metz. If Chilperich had laid hands on the boy, the Austrasian royal house would have been ended in the promptest way.

The East-Frankish counts and dukes, when the news of Sigibert's death reached them, resolved not to submit to his murderer, but to take a step unheard of heretofore in the annals of the Merovings. When they found that the boy Childebert had escaped, they bound his father's diadem about his brows, and saluted him as king. Hitherto the Franks had always lived under the strong hands of a grown man, and the provincial governors had been as powerless as the meaner people under the autocratic sway of the ruler; but in the long minority that would follow the accession of a four-year-old child, they found their opportunity for lowering the royal power, and dividing many of its privileges among themselves. From this point begins the degradation of the kingly office, which was to be the rule henceforth among them; and the counts and dukes, as well as the great officers of the palace, were destined to acquire, in the early years of Childebert, a control over the central power which they had never hitherto possessed.

Meanwhile the fate of the little king's mother, Brunhildis, had been a strange one. Chilperich had seized her treasures, and thrown her into prison at Rouen. There she caught the eye of Merovech, her captor's eldest surviving son,1 who was charged by his father with the command of an Adventures of atmy destined to attack the Austrasian king's Brunhiidis. dominions beyond the Loire. Merovech was so infatuated by the beauty of the captive queen that, braving his father's displeasure, he delivered her from her dungeon, and induced Praetextatus, bishop of Rouen, to marry them in his cathedral. King Chilperich immediately flew to Rouen in great wrath, and at his approach the newly-married pair took sanctuary under the bishop's protection. After some hesitation the king of Neustria promised to spare their lives, but, when his son surrendered himself, he took him away to Soissons, and shortly afterwards tonsured him, and compelled him to become a monk. Brunhildis escaped to Austrasia, whither her husband strove to follow her. He fled from his monastery, and had almost reached the frontier, when the emissaries of his stepmother, Fredegundis, caught him, and murdered him (577).

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In Austrasia there now commenced a struggle between the liberated queen-mother and the great officers of state, for the guardianship of the little six-year-old king. The struggle was an obstinate one; for if the Frankish nobles were hampered by the autocratic traditions of the kingship, Brunhildis, on the other hand, was a foreigner, and met with little support save among the Gallo-Roman clergy and officials, who found some protection, under the shield of the king, from the arrogance and violence of their Frankish fellow-subjects. In Neustria or Aquitaine, where the Roman elements were stronger, Brunhildis might have done more, but her lot was cast in Austrasia, where the Germans were entirely preponderant.

1 Theudebert, the eldest, had fallen in battle in the preceding year.

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