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sionary enterprise. The Merovingian kings had been, almost without exception, a godless race, Christian in name alone, They had taken no pains to favour the spread of Christianity among their vassals: it was sufficient in their eyes if their own people, the ruling race, conformed to the Catholic faith; for the souls of Suabians, Frisians, or Bavarians, they had no care. Such missionaries as had hitherto been seen in the German forests, along the shores of the Bodensee, or the upper reaches of the Danube and Main, had been, almost without exception, Irish monks, drawn from the Isle of Saints by their own fervent zeal for the spread of the Gospel, not by any encouragement from the Frankish kings. In the sixth and seventh centuries these holy men overran the whole Continent, seeking for heathen to convert, or planting their humble monasteries in the wildest recesses of the mountains or the primeval forest. They wandered as far as Italy and Switzerland, where two of the greatest of them fixed their homes, St. Fridian at Lucca, St. Gall in the hills above the Bodensee. But till the time of Pippin no systematic attempt had been made to convert those among the German races who still lay in the darkness of Paganism. It was Pippin who first saw that this duty was incumbent on the Frankish government. He sent to England for St. Willibrord, the first apostle of the Frisians, who with his twelve companions wandered over the newly conquered West Friesland, preaching to the wild heathen. It was by Pippin's encouragement also conversion of that the Englishman Suidbert laboured among Germany. the Hessians, till he and his converts were driven away by the invasion of the pagan Saxons. At the same time St. Rupert, bishop of Worms, completed the conversion of Bavaria, and founded there the great bishopric of Salzburg (696). Much about the same date the Irish monk Killian passed up the Main and along the skirts of the Thüringerwald, to preach to the Thuringians, till he met with a martyr's death at Würzburg. Everywhere the ascendency of the grandson of Arnulf was followed by the arrival of zealous missionary workers, Franks, Irish or English, who strove to bear the standard of the Cross into the German woodlands, where Woden and Thunor alone had hitherto been adored. What Pippin began, his greater son, Charles the Hammer, and his still mightier great-grandson, Charles the Emperor, were destined to complete. By this work alone the house of the great Austrasian mayors did more to justify their existence in three generations than the wicked Merovings had done in eight. The years during which Pippin governed the Franks were marked in their regal annals by four obscure names. Theuderich, the weak king who had been drawn from the cloister to sit on his brother's throne,1 died in 691 : he was followed by his two infant sons, Chlodovech III. (691-5), and Childebert III. (695-711), both of whom were recognised alike in Neustria and Austrasia, but had no real authority. Chlodovech died while yet a boy: Childebert survived to early manhood, begat a son, and then hastened to the grave. Apparently the vices of their ancestors had sapped the vital energy of the later Merovings; scarce one of them survived to reach the age of thirty, and each long minority made the kingly power more and more shadowy, and the authority of the great mayor more and more real. Childebert III. was followed by one more young boy, his son Dagobert III. (711-16), the last of the four puppet kings in whose names the great Pippin swayed the Frankish sceptre. Pippin lived to a great age, and had the misfortune to lose in his declining years his two legitimate sons, Grimoald and Drogo, whom he had destined to succeed him. The heirs then remaining to him were Theudoald, a young boy, the son of Grimoald, and Carl [Charles Martel], an illegitimate son whom he had by a concubine named Alphaida. The former was only eight years of age, the latter twenty-five ; but the old Death of man designated the boy Theudoald as his suc*PP” 75 cessor, hoping that he might be spared to see him grow up to manhood. He died, however, within a few * See page 259.
months, and a strange problem was put before the Franks, whether they would tolerate a child-mayor ruling in the name of a child-king. Pippin's widow Plectrudis tried to seize the reins of government in behalf of her little grandson, and some of the Austrasians adhered to her cause. As a precautionary measure she cast her husband's natural son Charles into prison, knowing that many men regarded him as the only possible heir to Pippin's position, since the idea of a childmayor was preposterous. Plectrudis’ endeavour to rule in the name of her grandson proved, as might have been expected, a complete failure. The counts and dukes of Neustria hastened to take the opportunity of shaking off the domination of the Austrasians. They mustered in arms, chose a certain Raginfred, one of themselves, as Neustrian Mayor of the Palace, and raised an army to invade Austrasia in the name of the young Dagobert III. They did not shrink from allying themselves with the enemies of the state, the Frisians and Saxons, who attacked Austrasia from the rear, while they themselves, advancing through the Ardennes, wasted all the lands between Meuse and Rhine with fire and sword. Plectrudis and her grandson shut themselves up within the walls of Köln. Before the end of the year, however, two important events occurred to give a new turn to the war. Charles, the son of Pippin, escaped from his stepmother's prison, and size of was at once saluted as chief by the majority of charles the Austrasians, who had been driven to wild "*** rage by the ravages of the Neustrian army, and yearned for a leader capable of commanding in the field. Shortly after the young king, whom East and West had both acknowledged, died, as did all his ancestors, just when he had attained manhood, and immediately after the birth of his first child. Like the Grand Lamas of Thibet, these wretched Merovings expired, with hardly an exception, just as they grew old enough to interfere in politics. As with the Lamas, so with the Franks, we cannot help suspecting that there was more in these sudden deaths than appears on the surface: it certainly was not to the interest of those about the persons of the kings that they should ever live long enough to assert their regal power. On the death of Dagobert, the Neustrians drew out from the monastery, where he had been placed in earliest infancy, the son of Childerich I., the king whom Bodolin had slain in 678. The monk Daniel was saluted by the royal name of Chilperich, and raised on the shield: he was the first Meroving for eighty years who had reached manhood at the moment of his accession, being in his thirty-eighth year. Chilperich, in spite of his monastic rearing—or perhaps in virtue of it— chilperich II., turned out a far more vigorous personage than 716. any of his relatives, and cannot be called one of the ‘rois fainéants.’ He continually took the field at the head of his Neustrians, and did his best to become their national champion. Unfortunately the times were against him. In 716 the Neustrian king and mayor marched together into Austrasia to make an end of the resistance alike of Plectrudis and of Charles. At the same time Radbod, the Frisian duke, pushed up the Rhine towards Köln. Charles offered battle to the invaders near that city, but was defeated, and forced to take refuge in the mountains of the Eifel. Chilperich then laid siege to Köln, and compelled Plectrudis and her party to acknowledge him as king, give up the royal treasure-hoard of Austrasia, and withdraw the boy Theudoald's claim to the mayoralty. But while the Neustrian army was returning in triumph to its own land, Charles, who had assembled a new force, fell upon it near Malmédy, on the skirts of the Ardennes. At the battle of Ambleve all the work of Chilperich's vigorous campaign was undone, for his army was routed, and he and his mayor, Raginfred, barely escaped with their lives (716). This was the first blow of Charles the Hammer [Martel], as after generations named him. From henceforth his career was to be one of uninterrupted success against every foe who dared withstand him. Early in the spring he followed up his first stroke by invading Neustria, and defeating Battle of
Chilperich for a second time at Vincy, near Cam- Vincy, 717. bray, Pressing on after his victory he pursued the Neustrians up to the gates of Paris, and when resistance ceased, turned back in triumph to Austrasia. There he compelled his stepmother Plectrudis to give up Köln to him, and dispersed her partisans. Being now undisputed master of the Eastern kingdom, he proclaimed a certain Chlothar king, and named himself Mayor of the Palace. Chlothar IV., whose descent is not certain, but who was perhaps grandson of the Irish exile Dagobert II., was of course a mere puppet in his mayor's hands. After securing for himself a legitimate position in the state, Charles started forth to humble all the enemies who had vexed Austrasia in its time of trouble. He drove the Saxons over the Weser, compelled Radbod the Frisian to surrender West Friesland for the second time, and then turned against Neustria. It was in vain that king Chilperich, who fought hard to maintain his independence, joined forces with Eudo, who in the late troubles had made himself independent duke of Aquitaine. Charles beat them both at a battle near Soissons, and chased king and duke beyond the Loire. This battle of Soissons was the last effort alike of the Merovingian house and the Neustrian realm. After it had been lost they both bowed before the Austrasian sword, and humbly took their orders
from the great Mayor of the Palace (718).
At this conjuncture Charles's puppet, king Chlothar IV.
died. The victor of Soissons might perchance have chosen to proclaim himself king of Austrasia, but remembering the fate of his grandfather Grimoald, preferred to offer terms to the exiled king Chilperich. On recognising Charles as mayor of East and West alike, the vanquished Meroving was allowed to return to Neustria, and proclaimed King of all the Franks (719). He had deserved a better fate than to sink into a mere name and shadow, and if he had been born eighty years earlier might perchance by his courage and persistence have