France under the Carolingians (Between 715 and 987) Part I

France under the Carolingians 1

Carlo Martello after the victories over the Neustrians and the rebel Austrasians ruled Merovingian France with the title of butler. Although there were still Merovingian kings, Charles was now recognized as the head of state. He exercised the judicial powers of the monarchy, appointed the counts, the bishops, disposed of the royal and ecclesiastical lands. In his hands the unity of the Frankish state was recomposed, and he overthrew all attempts at autonomous local organization.

According to, the crisis of the Merovingian monarchy had in fact allowed certain regions of ancient Gaul to remain apart or to regain independence. This was the case in Aquitaine, the Visigothic Week and in Brittany. Aquitaine, a refuge for those plotting rebellions against the Neustrian kings, had tried to regain independence after 670 and Duke Lupo had organized a vast independent state in the Garonne basin. His son Eude had from Ragenfried of Neustria, on the death of Pepin II, the promise of being recognized as king of Aquitaine and therefore helped the Neustrians against the Austrasians at Soissons. Against the threat of Charles, the Aquitans resorted to the Arabs of Spain for help, who in the years preceding 720 had replaced the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo. Then in 720 the Arabs had crossed the Pyrenees occupying the Visigothic Week and Narbonne, the following year also Toulouse. And Odo (Eude) of Aquitaine ended up coming to terms with a rebel leader, Othman. Meanwhile the Arab-Berber columns were rampant in the south of France; they plundered Provence; after entering the Rhone valley, they climbed it up to Autun. Then to punish the agreement between Eude and Othman, the governor of Spain entered Aquitaine with great strength. Eude was defeated, Bordeaux was taken and sacked and the enemy entered the Loire valley. Carlo Martello now rushed to reject the threat that was aimed at the heart of France. At Poitiers the Arabs were driven back (17 October 732). But the Franks did not draw all possible fruits from the rapid retreat of the enemies, for they stopped to plunder the Arab camp; and on the other hand the Arabs were strengthened in Septimania and in Provence where still in 732 they occupied Arles and Avignon, from there leaving for new devastations in Aquitaine and Burgundy. Carlo Martello repeatedly returned to war: in 737 he appeared under Avignon, conquered it, defeated the Arabs in Narbonne, occupied Béziers, Maguelonne, Nîmes. In 739 a Lombard army rushed to Provence to help Charles and took part in the conquest of Marseille. But the Arabs remained in Septimania. Charles succeeded more easily on the death of Duke Eude, in 735, in imposing Frankish supremacy on the new Duke Hunald; but a military expedition and the occupation of Bordeaux were necessary. The defense of the southern possessions of the Franks is intertwined with that of the territories beyond the Rhine, with the Frisians,

At the death of Charles, in 741, there was no king among the Franks. Theodoric IV had died in 737. The Merovingian family seemed extinct, no one had been called to succeed Theodoric. Charles had dated his documents “from the death of King Theodoric” and had governed with the title of butler. To his two sons Pepin and Charlemagne he had assigned the regions to be governed as stewards: to Charlemagne, Austrasia; in Pippin, Burgundy and Neustria. Aquitaine seems to have been a common addiction. The two new butlers were recognized by the Frankish aristocracy. In 745, however, the two governors had to consider it prudent to re-establish the monarchy: a Merovingian was tracked down and put on the throne (Chilperico III), to justify the authority of the butlers. In the family of the butlers there were disagreements: an illegitimate son of Carlo, Grippone, not happy with the small territory assigned to him to govern, rebelled. Meanwhile Hiltrude, sister of the two butlers, married Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, uncle of Swanahild, mother of Grippone, and proclaimed herself independent; independence movements began again with the Alamanni and Aquitani. The two brothers vigorously suppressed the uprisings. The work of unification was further perfected, when in 747 Charlemagne retired, leaving only Pepin. The latter, having emerged triumphant from another wave of insurrections, decided to assume the royal crown. In 751 the proclamation of Pepin as king and his recognition by the great took place. The Carolingians replaced the Merovingians in times of extreme urgency.

Respect for traditions, the need to create a justification for the new royal dignity, led Pippin to seek the approval and blessing of Pope Zacharias. At this moment a new period in the history of the Franks begins. While before there had been only wars and conquests in foreign policy, now the alliance of the new dynasty with the Roman papacy is fundamental, which in turn is eager to help to free itself from the grip between the Lombards and the Byzantines. This alliance meant that Pope Stephen II went to the court of Pepin in 753, to consecrate him and his children with sacred chrism, so as to give the new dynasty a priestly, sacred character, superior to that of all the Franks. D ‘ on the other hand, in 754 the first Frankish expedition to Italy took place to force the Lombards to abandon those lands of imperial law which formed the first nucleus of temporal power. Dynastic interests therefore led the Carolingians into the tangle of Italian events, although the Frankish aristocracy thought rather of the resumption of expansion in Germany. But having assumed the protection of the Roman papacy and imposed an annual tribute on the small Lombard monarchy, it was necessary to give Italian politics the maximum development. On the other hand, it was necessary to remove support from the Lombards from the Bavarians. Pippin after the two campaigns of 754 and 756 had tried to dominate Italy, respecting the existence of the Lombard kingdom. The son, Charlemagne, in 773-774 personally went down to Italy.

France under the Carolingians 1