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King from 481-511 A.D.

While the power of the Roman Empire was declining there dwelt on

the banks of the River Rhine a number of savage Teuton tribes called

Franks. The word Frank means FREE, and those tribes took pride in

being known as Franks or freemen.

The Franks occupied the east bank of the Rhine for about two hundred

years. Then many of the tribes crossed the river in search of new<
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homes. The region west of the river was at that time called Gaul.

Here the Franks established themselves and became a powerful people.

From their name the country was afterwards called FRANCE.

Each tribe of the Franks had its own king. The greatest of all

these kings was Chlodwig, or Clovis, as we call him, who became

ruler of his tribe in the year 481, just six years after Theodoric

became king of the Ostrogoths. Clovis was then only sixteen years

of age. But though he was so young he proved in a very short time

that he could govern as well as older men. He was intelligent and

brave. No one ever knew him to be afraid of anything even when he

was but a child. His father, who was named Childeric (chil'-der-ic),

often took him to wars which the Franks had with neighboring

tribes, and he was very proud of his son's bravery. The young man

was also a bold and skillful horseman. He could tame and ride the

most fiery horse.

When Clovis became king of the Franks a great part of Gaul still

belonged to Rome. This part was then governed by a Roman general,

named Syagrius (sy-ag'-ri-us). Clovis resolved to drive the Romans

out of the country, and he talked over the matter with the head

men of his army.

"My desire," said he, "is that the Franks shall have possession of

every part of this fair land. I shall drive the Romans and their

friends away and make Gaul the empire of the Franks."

At this time the Romans had a great army in Gaul. It was encamped

near the city of Soissons (swah-son') and was commanded by Syagrius.

Clovis resolved to attack it and led his army at once to Soissons.

When he came near the city he summoned Syagrius to surrender.

Syagrius refused and asked for an interview with the commander of

the Franks. Clovis consented to meet him, and an arrangement was

made that the meeting should take place in the open space between

the two armies. When Clovis stepped out in front of his own army,

accompanied by some of his savage warriors, Syagrius also came

forward. But the moment he saw the king of the Franks he laughed

loudly and exclaimed:

"A boy! A boy has come to fight me! The Franks with a boy to lead

them have come to fight the Romans."

Clovis was very angry at this insulting language and shouted back:

"Ay, but this boy will conquer you."

Then both sides prepared for battle. The Romans thought that they

would win the victory easily, but they were mistaken. Every time

that they made a charge upon the Franks they were beaten back by

the warriors of Clovis. The young king himself fought bravely at

the head of his men and with his own sword struck down a number

of the Romans. He tried to find Syagrius and fight with him; but

the Roman commander was nowhere to be found. Early in the battle

he had fled from the field, leaving his men to defend themselves

as best they could.

The Franks gained a great victory. With their gallant boy

king leading them on they drove the Roman's before them, and when

the battle was over they took possession of the city of Soissons.

Clovis afterwards conquered all the other Frankish chiefs and made

himself king of all the Franks.

Not very long after Clovis became king he heard of a beautiful

young girl, the niece of Gondebaud (gon'-de-baud), king of Burgundy,

and he thought he would like to marry her. Her name was Clotilde

(clo-tilde'), and she was an orphan, for her wicked uncle Gondebaud

had killed her father and mother. Clovis sent one of his nobles

to Gondebaud to ask her for his wife. At first Gondebaud thought

of refusing to let the girl go. He feared that she might have

him punished for the murder of her parents if she became the wife

of so powerful a man as Clovis. But he was also afraid that by

refusing he would provoke the anger of Clovis; so he permitted the

girl to be taken to the court of the king of the Franks. Clovis

was delighted when he saw her; and they were immediately married.

Clotilde was a devout Christian, and she wished very much to

convert her husband, who, like most of his people, was a worshiper

of the heathen gods. But Clovis was not willing to give up his

own religion. Nevertheless Clotilde continued to do every thing

she could to persuade him to become a Christian.

Soon after his marriage Clovis had a war with a tribe called the

Alemanni. This tribe had crossed the Rhine from Germany and taken

possession of some of the eastern provinces of Gaul. Clovis speedily

got his warriors together and marched against them. A battle was

fought at a place called Tolbiac, not far from the present city

of Cologne. In this battle the Franks were nearly beaten, for the

Alemanni were fierce and brave men and skillful fighters. When

Clovis saw his soldiers driven back several times he began to lose

hope, but at that moment he thought of his pious wife and of the

powerful God of whom she had so often spoken. Then he raised his

hands to heaven and earnestly prayed to that God.

"O God of Clotilde," he cried, "help me in this my hour of need.

If thou wilt give me victory now I will believe in thee."

Almost immediately the course of the battle began to change in

favor of the Franks. Clovis led his warriors forward once more,

and this time the Alemanni fled before them in terror. The Franks

gained a great victory, and they believed it was in answer to the

prayer of their king.

When Clovis returned home he did not forget his promise. He told

Clotilde how he had prayed to her God for help and how his prayer

had been heard, and he said he was now ready to become a Christian.

Clotilde was very happy on hearing this, and she arranged that her

husband should be baptized in the church of Rheims on the following

Christmas day.

Meanwhile Clovis issued a proclamation to his people declaring that

he was a believer in Christ, and giving orders that all the images

and temples of the heathen gods should be destroyed. This was

immediately done, and many of the people followed his example and

became Christians.

Clovis was a very earnest and fervent convert. One day the bishop

of Rheims, while instructing him in the doctrines of Christianity,

described the death of Christ. As the bishop proceeded Clovis became

much excited, and at last jumped up from his seat and exclaimed:

"Had I been there with my brave Franks I would have avenged His


On Christmas day a great multitude assembled in the church at Rheims

to witness the baptism of the king. A large number of his fierce

warriors were baptized at the same time. The service was performed

with great ceremony by the bishop of Rheims, and the title of "Most

Christian King" was conferred on Clovis by the Pope. This title

was ever afterwards borne by the kings of France.

Like most of the kings and chiefs of those rude and barbarous

times, Clovis often did cruel and wicked things. When Rheims was

captured, before he became a Christian, a golden vase was taken by

some soldiers from the church. The bishop asked Clovis to have it

returned, and Clovis bade him wait until the division of spoils.

All the valuable things taken by soldiers in war were divided among

the whole army, each man getting his share according to rank. Such

things were called spoils.

When the next time came for dividing spoils Clovis asked that he

might have the vase over and above his regular share, his intention

being to return it to the bishop. But one of the soldiers objected,

saying that the king should have no more than his fair share, and

at the same time shattered the vase with his ax. Clovis was very

angry, but at the time said nothing. Soon afterwards, however, there

was the usual examination of the arms of the soldiers to see that

they were in proper condition for active service. Clovis himself

took part in the examination, and when he came to the soldier who

had broken the vase he found fault with the condition of his weapons

and with one blow of his battle-ax struck the man dead.

The next war that Clovis engaged in was with some tribes of the

Goths who occupied the country called Aquitaine lying south of the

River Loire. He defeated them and added Aquitaine to the kingdom

of the Franks.

Clovis afterwards made war upon other people of Gaul and defeated

them. At last all the provinces from the lower Rhine to the

Pyrenees Mountains were compelled to acknowledge him as king. He

then went to reside at the city of Paris, which he made the capital

of his kingdom. He died there A.D. 511.

The dynasty or family of kings to which he belonged is known in

history as the Merovingian dynasty. It was so called from Merovæus

(Me-ro-væ'-us), the father of Childeric and grandfather of Clovis.