Front Page Titles (by Subject) THIRD NARRATIVE. 575—578. - The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
THIRD NARRATIVE. 575—578. - Augustin Thierry, The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era 
The Historical Essays, published under the Title of “Dix Ans d’Études historiques,” and Narratives of the Merovingian Era; or, Scenes of the Sixth Century, with an Autobiographical Preface (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE HISTORY OF MEROWIG, THE SECOND SON OF KING HILPERIK.
(ad 575.)—Ever since the departure of Sighebert. Brunehilda had remained alone at Paris, nourishing ambitious hopes which the events of each day seemed to confirm, and already in imagination both queen of Neustria and mistress of the fate of her enemies, when the news of Sighebert’s death reached her; an event by which she was suddenly cast down from the highest pitch of prosperity, and reduced to a state of extreme and imminent danger. Hilperik, victorious through the murder of his brother, advanced toward Paris in order to seize on the family and treasures of Sighebert. Not only did all the Neustrians, without exception, return to their allegiance, but the defection extended to the principal. Austrasians, who meeting him on the way, swore fidelity to him, either in hopes of obtaining some of the fiscal lands in return, or to assure themselves of protection in the troubles with which their country was threatened. One noble, named Godin or Godewin, received extensive territories in the neighbourhood of Soissins, as the reward of his defection; and the keeper of the royal ring or great seal of Austrasia, the referendary Sig or Sigoald, and many others, followed the same example.*
Bowed down by her misfortune and this melancholy news, Brunehilda knew not what to decide upon, and there was no one in whom she could trust. The old imperial palace which she inhabited on the banks of the Seine had already become a prison for her and her three children; for, although she was not openly watched, she did not dare to leave it and take the road to Austrasia, for fear of being seized or betrayed in her flight, and thus aggravating the dangers of a situation already sufficiently perilous.† Convinced of the impossibility of flight with her family and baggage, she conceived the idea of saving at least her son, who, although a child, stood too much in the way of Hilperik’s ambition for his life to be spared. The escape of young Hildebert was planned with the most profound secrecy by the only devoted friend his mother still possessed: this was the duke Gondobald, the same who, two years before, had so ill defended Poitou against the invasion of the Neustrians. The child was placed in a large basket which usually held the household provisions, let down from the window, and carried out of the town by night. Gondobald, or, according to other accounts, a servant, who was less likely to excite suspicion, travelled alone with the son of king Sighebert, and conducted him to Metz, to the great astonishment and delight of the Austrasians. His unexpected arrival altered the state of things entirely; the defection ceased, and the oriental Franks proceeded at once to restore their national dynasty. A great assembly of the nobles and warriors of Austrasia took place at Metz; Hildebert the Second, not quite five years old, was there proclaimed king, and a council was chosen from amongst the bishops and principal men to govern in his name.*
At this news, which deprived him of all hopes of uniting his kingdom to his brother’s without war, Hilperik, furious at the failure of his favourite scheme, hastened to Paris to seize at least the person and treasures of Brunehilda.† The widow of king Sighebert soon found herself in presence of her mortal enemy, with no other protection than her beauty, her tears, and feminine coquetry. She was scarcely eight-and-twenty; and whatever might be the evil intentions the husband of Fredegonda entertained towards her, probably the grace of her manners, so lauded by her cotemporaries, would have made some impression on him, even had he not been attracted by other charms, those of the treasures which she was known to possess. But Merowig, the eldest of the sons of the king of Neustria, who accompained their father, was deeply touched at the sight of this fascinating and unfortunate woman, and his looks of pity and admiration did not escape Brunehilda.
Either because the young man’s sympathy was a consolation to the imprisoned queen, or because, with the quick glance of a woman fertile in resources, she saw in it a means of safety, she employed all her address to encourage this infant passion, which soon grew into the most blind and violent love. (ad 576.) By giving himself up to it, Merowig became the enemy of his own family, causing thereby an irreparable breach between himself, his father, and all connected with him. Perhaps he was not himself conscious of the criminality and danger of such a position; or perhaps, foreseeing the consequences, he yet determined to brave every thing, and follow, without fear or remorse, wherever his will and inclination might lead him. However this might be, and whatever the degree of attention shown by Merowig to his uncle’s widow, Hilperik saw nothing of it; he was too much occupied in looking over and taking an inventory of the bags of gold and silver, the coffers of jewels, and the bales of rich stuffs.‡ It happened that their number exceeded his hopes, and this fortunate discovery had an immediate influence on his temper, rendering him more mild and merciful towards his prisoner. Instead of cruelly wreaking his vengeance upon her for the ill she had wished him, he contented himself with exiling her by way of punishment, and with a sort of courtesy even restored to her a small portion of the treasure of which he had despoiled her. Brunehilda, more humanely treated than her own conscience told her she deserved, departed under escort for Rouen, which was assigned to her as a place of banishment. The only really painful trial she had to go through after so many alarms, was her separation from her two daughters, Ingonda and Chlodoswinda, whom king Hilperik, no one knew why, sent to Meaux and detained as prisoners there.*
This departure left young Merowig tormented by pangs all the more acute for his not daring to confide them to any one; he followed his father to the palace of Braine, a place always dull, and which now appeared to him insupportable.
Fredegonda entertained towards her husband’s children a stepmother’s hatred, which might have become proverbial, even had she been the only example of it. All their father’s tenderness or kindness to them excited jealousy and anger in her. She longed for all their deaths, and that of Theodebert in the preceding year had caused her much delight.† Merowig as the future head of the family, was at present the principal object of her aversion, and of the numberless persecutions with which she contrived to harass those whom she hated. The young prince wished to leave Braine and go to Rouen, to her whose looks and, perhaps, words, had told him that he was beloved; but he had neither pretext nor means to enable him successfully to attempt this journey. His father, unconscious of what he was doing, soon furnished him with an opportunity.
Hilperik, who was persevering in his plans more from dullness of apprehension than from energy of character, after having settled the affairs of Neustria in the best way he could, began to meditate another attempt on those towns which had been already the subject of a two years’ war between his brother and himself. These towns, which the Austrasian generals had regained a little before Sighebert’s death, had just acknowledged the authority of his son, with the exception of Tours, the inhabitants of which, become more cautious, took the oath of fidelity to King Hilperik, because they were nearer the centre of Neustria. The attempt so often repeated upon Poitiers, Limoges, Cahors and Bordeaux, was once more to be renewed. Hilperik chose for the command of this expedition the one of the two sons who remained to him after the death of Theodebert, who had not been defeated; this was Merowig. His father entrusted him with a small army and ordered him to march into Poitou at its head.‡ This was not the direction the young man would have preferred to follow if he had been free to march where he pleased; for his heart was full of a passion very different from that of glory and battles. Whilst marching slowly by the Loire with his horse and foot soldiers, he thought of Brunehilda and regretted that he was not pursuing a road by which he should be nearer to her. This idea, which haunted him incessantly, soon made him lose sight of the object of his expedition, and of the mission with which he was entrusted. On arriving at Tours, instead of a simple halt, he made a stay in that city of several weeks, giving as an excuse his wish to celebrate the festival of Easter in the basilica of Saint Martin.* During this interval of repose, he employed his leisure, not in preparing the plan of his campaign, but in arranging projects of escape, and how to collect for himself a treasure which, consisting of objects of great value but small bulk, could be the most easily transported. Whilst his soldiers overran the environs of the city, pillaging and ravaging everywhere, he took every thing he could lay hands upon from Leudast, Count of Tours, a devoted partisan of his father, who had received him in his house with the utmost hospitality.† After plundering this house of every thing valuable it contained, and finding himself master of a sum sufficient for his purpose, he left Tours under pretence of visiting his mother, who had been a nun in the Mans ever since Hilperik had repudiated her to marry Fredegonda. But instead of fulfilling this filial duty, and then returning to his army, he passed on, and took the road to Rouen through Chartres and Evreux.‡
Whether Brunehilda expected this proof of affection, or whether the arrival of Hilperik’s son was a matter of surprise to her, she was so much rejoiced at it, and their mutual attachment made such rapid progress, that in a few days the widow of Sighebert had entirely forgotten her husband and consented to marry Merowig.§ This marriage, on account of the affinity of the parties, was one of those unions prohibited by the laws of the church; and although religious scruples had little hold on the consciences of the two lovers, they ran the risk of being disappointed in their wishes, from the difficulty of finding a priest who would exercise his functions in open violation of canonical rules. The bishop of the metropolitan church of Rouen at that time was Prætextatus, of Gallic origin, and who, by a curious accident was Merowig’s godfather, and who, in consequence of this spiritual paternity, had felt the affection of a father for him ever since the day of his baptism.∥ This kind-hearted but weak-minded man was unable to resist the pressing entreaties, and, perhaps, the unruly passions of the young prince, whom he called his son; and notwithstanding the duties of his order, he consented to celebrate and bless the marriage of the nephew with the uncle’s widow.
During this relapse of Gaul into barbarism, the impatience and neglect of all authority were the vices of the age; and in all minds, even the most enlightened, individual caprice or the enthusiasm of the moment, took the place of law and order. The natives only followed too well in that respect the example of the Germanic conquerors, so that the supineness of these, no less than the ferocity of the others, contributed to the same end. Blindly yielding to a feeling of sympathy, Prætextatus secretly celebrated the marriage between Merowig and Brunehilda, and holding the hands of the lovers according to the custom of the epoch, he pronounced the sacramental formula of the nuptial benediction, an act of weakness which was one day to cost him his life, and of which the consequences were not less fatal to the rash young man for whom he had performed it.*
Hilperik was at Paris, full of hope for the success of the Aquitanian expedition, when he received the unexpected account of his son’s flight and marriage. His anger was mixed up with suspicions of treachery and fear of some conspiracy against his person and power. In order to defeat it, if there was still time to do so and to withdraw Merowig from the influence and bad counsel of Brunehilda, he immediately set out for Rouen, resolved to separate them and break off their connection.† In the meantime, the newly married lovers, entirely absorbed in the first delights of then marriage, had thought of nothing but love, and notwithstanding her active mind and fertility in expedients, the arrival of the King of Neustria found Brunehilda quite unprepared. To avoid falling into his hands in the first heat of his anger, and to gain time if possible, she and her husband took refuge in the little church of Saint Martin, built on the ramparts of the town. It was one of those wooden basilicas then common all over Gaul, and which from their height, their pillars formed by several trunks of trees fastened together and the arches necessarily pointed on account of the difficulty of rounding them with such materials, furnished in all probability the original type of the pointed style, which some centuries afterwards prevailed in architecture.‡ Although such an asylum was very inconvenient, on account of the insufficiency of the accommodations, which, adjoining the walls of the little church, and participating in its privileges, served as a place of retreat for fugitives, Merowig and Brunehilda determined not to leave the spot, so long as they had any reason to suppose themselves in danger. It was in vain that the King of Neustria used all sorts of stratagems to induce them to leave it; they did not suffer themselves to be deceived, and as Hilperik did not dare to use violenee, for fear of drawing down the terrible vengeance of Saint Martin upon his head, he was obliged to make a capitulation with his son and daughter-in-law. Before giving themselves up, however, they exacted an oath from the king that he would not employ his authority to separate them. Hilperik made this promise, but in a manner so adroitly perfidious that it left him at liberty to act as he pleased; he swore that he would not separate them, if such was the word of God.* However ambiguous the terms of this oath, the fugitives were satisfied with them, and partly through weariness partly through persuasion, they left the sacred precincts to which the church of Saint Martin of Rouen communicated its right of sanctuary. Hilperik, a little re-assured by his son’s submissive behaviour, prudently dissembled his anger and concealed his suspicions; he even embraced the bride and bridegroom and sat down to dinner, assuming a tone of paternal kindness towards them. After two or three days passed in the most intense dissimulation, he suddenly carried off Merowig and proceeded with him on the road to Soissons, leaving Brunehilda at Rouen more strictly guarded than before.†
A few miles from Soissons, the King of Neustria and his young travelling companion were stopped by the disagreeable intelligence that the city was besieged by an Austrasian army, and that Fredegonda, who was there at the time waiting the return of her husband, had scarcely time to fly with her step-son Chlodowig and her own child still in its cradle. Other and more positive accounts left no doubt as to the parties concerned in this unexpected attack. These were the Austrasian deserters, who with Godewin and Sigoald at their head, had abandoned Hilperik for young Hildebert the Second, and before returning to their own country, thought proper to commemorate this act of repentance by an an insolent attack upon the capital of Neustria. Their small army was composed principally of the inhabitants of the Rhenish province, a turbulent race, who as soon as they heard of a war with the Neustrians, crossed the frontiers to plunder the territory of the enemy.‡ King Hilperik had no difficulty in assembling a larger army in Paris and Soissons. He marched at once to the relief of the besieged city; but instead of at once attacking the Austrasians, he contented himself with displaying his troops, and sending them a message, hoping they might be induced to retire without a battle. Godewin and his companions answered that they came there to fight. But they fought with bad success, and Hilperik, for the first time a conqueror, entered the capital of his kingdom in triumph.*
His joy, however, was of short duration. Other and graver considerations soon rendered him anxious and uneasy. It occurred to him that the attempt of the Austrasians against Soissons, might be the result of a plot formed by Brunehilda’s intrigues, that Merowig knew of it, and was even concerned in it, and that his apparent sincerity and submissive deportment were only a mask put on to deceive him.† Fredegonda took advantage of this opportunity to blacken the young man’s imprudent conduct by false insinuations. She attributed to him ambitious designs of which he was utterly incapable; that his object was nothing less than to depose his father and reign over the whole of Gaul, with the woman to whom he had united himself by an incestuous marriage. In consequence of these artful representations, the suspicions and want of confidence of the king increased to such a degree as almost to become a panic terror. Imagining his life to be endangered by the presence of his son, he deprived him of his arms and ordered him to be closely watched until some definitive arrangement should be made respecting him.‡
Some days afterwards, an embassy, sent by the nobles who governed Austrasia in the name of young Hildebert, and commissioned to disavow the attempt of Godewin as an act of private warfare, arrived in the presence of Hilperik. The king affected such a love of peace, and so much friendship for his nephew, that the envoys were emboldened to add to their apologies a demand, the success of which was very doubtful, that of the liberation of Brunehilda and her two daughters. In any other circumstances, Hilperik would not, at the first request, have given up an enemy who had fallen into his hands; but, struck with the idea that Merowig’s wife would overthrow his kingdom, he seized the occasion of doing an act of prudence with a good grace, and without hesitation granted what was asked of him.§
At this unhoped-for repeal of the orders which kept her in exile, Brunehilda quitted Rouen and Neustria as hastily as if the earth trembled under her feet. Fearful of the least delay, she hurried the preparations for her departure, and resolved even to set off without her baggage, which was still of great value, notwithstanding the vast losses she had sustained. Several thousands of gold pieces, and many bales containing jewels and valuable tissues, were by her orders confided to the care of the bishop Prætexiatus, who, by accepting this rich deposit, compromised himself a second time, and still more deeply than he had done before, for the sake of his godson Merowig.* Having left Rouen, the mother of Hildebert the Second went to meet her two daughters at Meaux; then avoiding Soissons, she took the road to Austrasia, where she arrived without obstacle. Her presence, so strongly desired in that country, soon became the cause of great troubles, by exciting the jealousy of the powerful and ambitious chiefs, who wished the care of the young king to remain in their hands alone.
Brunehilda’s departure neither put a stop to king Hilperik’s mistrust, nor to the rigorous measures against his eldest son. Merowig, deprived of his arms and military baldric, which among the Germans was deemed a sort of civic degradation, was still kept in confinement and carefully guarded. As soon as the king had recovered from the agitation into which these events, following each other so rapidly, had thrown him, he returned once more to his beloved project of conquering the five cities of Aquitania, of which Tours was the only one in his possession. Having no longer a choice between his two sons, he gave Chlodowig the command of this new expedition, notwithstanding his former misfortune. The young prince was ordered to march upon Poitiers, and assemble as many men as he was able in Touraine and Anjou.† Having levied a small army, he took Poitiers without resistance, and was there joined by a larger force from the south, under the command of a powerful chief of Gallic origin, named Desiderius.
He was a man of high birth, the proprietor of large estates in the neighbourhood of Alby, turbulent and recklessly ambitious, as all men were at that time, but superior to his rivals of barbaric origin, from his extended views and turn for military affairs. As governor of a district near the frontiers of the Goths, he had made himself formidable to that nation, the enemy of the Gallo-Franks, and had acquired great renown and influence amongst the southern Gauls by many brilliant actions.‡ The large number of well equipped men, who, under his orders, joined the Neustrian army, was due to this influence; and from the moment that the two forces were united, Desiderius took the command of the whole. Looking as a warrior and a politician on the plan of taking four towns, separated by considerable distances, one by one, as utterly contemptible, he substituted for Hilperik’s projects a plan for subjugating the whole of the country which lies between the Loire, the ocean, the Pyrenees, and the Cevennes. This project of territorial invasion made no sort of distinction between the cities dependant on Austrasia and those which belonged to Gonthramn; accordingly Desiderius did not spare the latter, but began by taking possession of Saintes, which opened to him the road to Bordeaux.*
At the news of this unexpected aggression, king Gonthramn for the second time roused himself from his habitual inaction, and hastily dispatched with a sufficient body of forces Eonius Mummolus, a patrician of Provence, who had throughout Gaul the reputation of being invincible. Mummolus advanced through the plain of Auvergne by forced marches, entered the territory of Limoges, and forced Desiderius to abandon the western part of the country for the purpose of marching against him.† The two armies, commanded by men of Gallic race, were soon in presence of each other; and a pitched battle was fought, one of those battles which had not been seen in Gaul since Roman tactics had been supplanted by a warfare of skirmishes and surprises, the only one which the Barbarians could comprehend. The victory was long undecided, but it remained, as usual, in the hands of Mummolus, who compelled his adversary to retreat after a fearful carnage. The chronicles speak of five thousand men killed on one side, and twenty-four thousand on the other. This it is difficult to believe; but the exaggeration shows the impression it made on those who lived at the time.
Seeing the Neustrian army thus completely destroyed, Mummolus retreated in his turn, either because such were his instructions, or because he thought he had done enough.‡ Although victorious, he conceived a great respect for the talents of his opponent; and later, this opinion served to unite them in an enterprise of no less importance than the founding a new kingdom in the Gallic territory. In a short time Desiderius was at the head of a new army, and aided by sympathy arising from their common origin and his own personal credit with the Gallo-Romans, he renewed his military operations with uninterrupted success. Five years afterwards, all the cities, from Dax to Poitiers, and from Alby to Limoges, belonged to the king of Neustria; and the Roman conqueror was installed in Toulouse, the ancient capital of the Visigoths, where with the title of duke he became a sort of viceroy.* Merowig had already passed several months in a state of semi-captivity, when his doom was pronounced by domestic authority, in which the voice of his stepmother Fredegonda prevailed. This decree, against which there was no appeal, condemned him to lose his hair, that is, to be cut off from the family of the Merowigs. According to an ancient custom, most probably once a part of some religious institution, long hair, preserved untouched by scissors from the moment of birth, was the peculiar attribute of this family, and the symbol of its hereditary right to the royal dignity. The descendants of the first Merowig were thus distinguished from all the other Franks; under the most miserable dress, they were always to be known by their hair, which, sometimes in plaits, sometimes floating at liberty, covered their shoulders and descended to the middle of their loins.† To deprive them of the smallest portion of this ornament, was to profane their persons, deprive them of the privilege of receiving the communion, and suspend their rights to sovereignty; a suspension which custom tolerantly limited to the time necessary for the hair to grow to a certain length.
A Merovingian prince might suffer this temporary forfeiture in two ways; either his hair was cut according to the manner of the Franks, to cover the neck, or else it was cropped quite short, in the Roman fashion; and this sort of degradation, more humiliating than the other, was usually accompanied by ecclesiastical tonsure. Such was the severe sentence passed upon his son by king Hilperik; the young man lost at the same time the right of reigning and that of bearing arms. He was forced to become a priest against his own inclination, contrary to the canons of the church, and compelled to deliver up the sword and military baldric which had been solemnly given him, according to the Germanic custom, to lay aside every part of the national costume, and put on the Roman dress, which was the costume of the clergy.‡ Merowig was ordered to mount on horseback in this dress, so little suited to his tastes, and to proceed to the monastery of Saint Calais near the Mans, where he was to conform, in the most rigid seclusion, to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline. Escorted by armed horsemen, he departed without hope of flight or deliverance, but perhaps consoled by this popular saying, made for members of his family who were the victims of a similar fate, “The wood is still green, the leaves will shoot forth again.”*
There was at that time in the basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, the most respected of sanctuaries, a fugitive whom king Hilperik was endeavouring to decoy from thence in order to seize his person. This was the Austrasian Gonthramn-Bose, whom public rumour accused of having killed young Theodebert with his own hand, or at least of having allowed him to be massacred by his soldiers, when as a generous enemy, he might have spared his life.† The terrible news of Sighebert’s murder reached him in the centre of Aquitania, and fearing, not without reason, to fall into the hands of the king of Neustria, he had placed himself for safety under the protection of Saint Martin. Duke Gonthramn was assured of perfect safety, not only from this supernatural protection, but also from the more visible, though not less efficacious intervention of the Bishop of Tours, Georgius Florentius Gregorius, who was ever the firm guardian and protector of the rights of his church, but more especially of the right of sanctuary. However perilous it might be in the midst of these social disorders to defend the cause of the weak and of fugitives against the brute force and bad faith of powerful men, Gregory displayed, in this constantly renewed struggle, an unwearied constancy, and a prudent but intrepid dignity.
Since the day in which Gonthramn-Bose had fixed himself with his two daughters in one of the houses which formed the court of the basilica of Saint Martin, the bishop of Tours and his clergy had not had a single moment of repose. They had to resist king Hilperik, who, thirsting for vengeance against the fugitive, and yet not daring to drag him by violence from his asylum, endeavoured to compel the priests themselves to drive him from the sacred precincts, in order to spare himself the crime and dangerous consequences of sacrilege. First, the king sent a friendly invitation, then menacing insinuations, and finally, as words and messages had no effect, such hostile demonstrations as were likely to terrify not only the clergy of Tours, but the entire population.
A Neustrian duke named Rokkolen, encamped at the gates of the city with a body of men raised in the territory of the Mans. He took up his quarters in a house belonging to the metropolitan church of Tours, and sent from thence the following message to the bishop: “If you do not oblige Duke Gonthramn to leave the basilica, I will burn the city and its suburbs.” The bishop calmly replied that the thing was impossible. But he received a second message still more menacing than the first: “If you do not this very day expel the king’s enemy, I will destroy every thing green for one league round the city, so that the plough may pass over it.”*
Bishop Gregory was not more moved by this than by the first threat; and Rokkolen, who to all appearance had too few followers to attempt any thing serious against the population of a large town, contented himself, after all his boasting with pillaging and demolishing the house in which he had taken up his abode. It was constructed of pieces of wood joined and fixed with iron fastenings, which the Mans soldiery carried off in their leathern knapsacks with the rest of the booty.† Gregory of Tours congratulated himself at seeing this rude trial terminate thus, when new embarrassments occurred, produced by a complication of events impossible to foresee.
Gonthram-Bose was a singular character. Of Germanic origin, he surpassed the most talented men of the Gallo-Roman race in practical ability, the fertility of his inventive genius, and the instinct of rouerie, if that word may be employed here. It was not the usual Germanic falseness, a brutal lie accompanied by a horse laugh;‡ it was something more refined, and at the same time more corrupt; an universal and restless spirit of intrigue, which carried him unceasingly from one end of Gaul to the other. No one knew better than this Austrasian how to persuade others to venture into danger, and yet keep out of it himself. It was said of him that he had never sworn an oath to a friend without breaking it immediately; and it was to that probably that he owed his Germanic surname.§ In the sanctuary of Saint Martin of Tours, instead of leading the habitual life of a fugitive of distinction, that is to say, passing the day in eating and drinking, without any sort of occupation, Duke Gonthramn was always on the watch for news, and took care to be informed of whatever occurred, that he might turn it to some account. He soon learnt the details of Merowig’s misfortunes, his forced ordination and exile in the monastery of Saint Calais. The idea struck him of forming out of these materials a plan of escape for himself, by inviting the son of Hilperik to join him, share his sanctuary, and then to concert with him the means of passing together into Austrasia. Gonthramn-Bose hoped by those means to augment his own chances of escape, from the far more numerous ones which might be opened to the young prince on account of his rank and the devotion of his friends. He confided his plans and his hopes to a sub-deacon of Frankish origin named Rikulf, who, out of friendship to him, undertook to go to Saint Calais, and obtain, if possible, an interview with Merowig.*
While the sub-deacon was journeying towards the town of Le Mans, Gailen, a young Frankish warrior attached to Merowig by the ties of vassalage and brotherhood in arms, watched in the environs of Saint Calais for the arrival of the escort which was to place the newly-made recluse in the hands of his superiors and gaolers. As soon as the escort appeared, a body of men lying in ambush rushed upon them, and by the superiority of their number, compelled them to fly and abandon the prisoner confided to their care.† Once more restored to liberty, Merowig joyfully quitted the clerical dress to resume the military costume of his nation; the shoes fastened round the leg by long strips of leather, light, short-sleeved tunic hardly reaching to the knees, and the jacket lined with furs, over which was passed the baldric from which the sword hung.‡ It was in this dress the messenger of Gonthramn-Bose met him, uncertain what direction it would be safe for him to follow. Rikulf’s proposal was accepted without much reflection, and the son of Hilperik, this time escorted by his friends, took the road to Tours. A travelling cloak, of which the hood covered his head, served to protect him from the astonishment and laughter which the sight of the head of a priest on the shoulders of a soldier would have excited. As soon as he arrived under the walls of Tours, he got off his horse, and his head still enveloped in the hood of his cloak, he marched towards the basilica of Saint Martin, the doors of which were at that moment all open.§
It was a solemn festival, and the Bishop of Tours, who officiated pontifically, had just administered to the faithful the communion of the two kinds. The bread which remained over after the consecration of the Eucharist, covered the altar, arranged on cloths by the side of the large two-handled chalice which held the wine. It was the custom for these loaves, which were not consecrated, but only blessed by the priest, to be cut in pieces and distributed among the congregation at the end of the mass; this was called giving the eulogies. The entire assembly, with the exception of excommunicated persons, participated in this distribution made by the deacons, as that of the Eucharist was by the priest or officiating bishop.* After going all over the basilica, giving each one his share of holy bread, the deacons of Saint Martin saw near the door a man unknown to them, and whose face being half hidden, seemed to indicate on his part the desire of not being recognized; they therefore passed him over, and offered him none.
The temper of young Merowig, naturally hot, was over-excited by care and the fatigue of the journey. On finding himself deprived of a distinction which all the rest of the congregation had obtained, he fell into a violent fit of rage. Making his way through the crowd which filled the nave of the church, he penetrated into the choir where Gregory and another bishop, Raghenemod, a Frank by origin, who had just succeeded Saint Germain in the see of Paris, sat. When he came opposite the place where Gregory sat, clothed in his pontifical robes, Merowig said in a rough and imperious tone: “Bishop, why are not the eulogies given to me as well as to the rest of the faithful? Tell me if I am excommunicated?”† At these words, he threw back the hood of his cloak, and discovered to the bystanders the face, crimson with rage, of a tonsured soldier.
The Bishop of Tours had no difficulty in recognizing the eldest of the sons of King Hilperik, for he had often seen him, and already knew all his story. The young fugitive appeared before him charged with a double infraction of the ecclesiastical laws, marriage within the prohibited degrees, and the renunciation of the sacred character of a priest, so serious a fault, that rigid casuists termed it apostasy. The extreme state of delinquency in which the secular costume and the arms he wore placed him, prevented Merowig from being admitted to the communion of the consecrated bread and wine, or even to that of the holy bread, which was, so to speak, the type of the first, without having been tried by the canonical laws. Bishop Gregory, with his usual cálmness and dignity of manner, informed him of this. But his serious and gentle speech served only to exasperate the young man’s anger, and, losing all regard and respect for the sanctity of the spot, he exclaimed: “Thou hast not the power to cut me off from the communion of the faithful, and if by thy own private authority, thou refusest me the communion, I will conduct myself like an excommunicated person, and kill some one on the spot.”* These words, pronounced in a very savage manner, terrified the audience, and created a feeling of profound regret in the mind of the bishop. Fearing to excite the frenzy of the young barbarian too far, and thus create further evils, he yielded from necessity; and after deliberating some time with his colleague from Paris, to save appearances at least, he distributed to Merowig some of the eulogies which he desired.†
As soon as the son of Hilperik, with Gailen his brother in arms, his young companions and numerous followers, had established themselves in the court of the basilica of Saint Martin, the Bishop of Tours hastened to fulfil certain formalities required by the Roman law; the principal one consisted in his giving notice to the competent magistrate and the civil authorities of the arrival of every new fugitive.‡ In the present case, King Hilperik was the sole judge and party interested; it was to him therefore that the declaration was to be made, whatever might be the necessity of soothing his resentment by a show of deference and respect. Accordingly a deacon of the metropolitan church of Tours was sent to Soissons, a royal city of Neustria, commissioned to give an exact account of all that had taken place. A relation of the bishop’s named Nicetius, who was going to Paris for his own affairs, was his companion in this embassy.§
Arrived at Soissons, and admitted to the royal presence, they began to disclose the motives of their journey, when Fredegonda suddenly interrupted them, exclaiming: “These men are spies, who are only come to see what the king is doing, in order to give the information they obtain to Merowig.” These words were sufficient to rouse Hilperik’s suspicions, and orders were given to arrest Nicetius and the deacon, who were the bearers of the message. They were stripped of all the money they had about them, and conducted to the confines of the kingdom, whence neither returned until after an exile of seven months.* While the messenger and the relation of Gregory of Tours were treated in this arbitrary manner, he himself received from King Hilperik a dispatch couched in these terms: “Drive the apostate from your basilica, otherwise I will lay waste all the surrounding country.” The bishop simply replied that such a thing had never occurred, not even in the times of the Gothic kings, who were heretics, and that it could not possibly happen now that the true Christian faith was established. Forced by this answer to proceed from threats to deeds, Hilperik made up his mind to act, but with apathy; and at the instigation of Fredegonda, who had no horror of the crime of sacrilege, it was resolved that an army should be raised, and the king place himself at its head, to punish the city of Tours and violate the sanctuary of Saint Martin.†
On learning the news of these preparations, Merowig was seized with a sort of religious terror: “God forbid,” he exclaimed, “that the holy basilica of Saint Martin should suffer any violence, or his country be devastated on my account!” He wanted instantly to depart with Gonthramn-Bose; and endeavour to reach Austrasia, where he flattered himself that he should find a safe asylum, repose, riches, and all the delights of power with Brunehilda; but nothing was ready for this long journey; they had neither men enough around them, nor sufficient influence with those at a distance. Gonthramn’s advice was, to wait, and not throw themselves from fear of one danger into a still greater one.‡ Incapable of attempting any thing without the help of his new friend, the young prince sought a refuge from his anxieties in acts of fervent devotion which were quite new to him. He resolved to pass a night in prayer in the sanctuary of the basilica, and taking with him his most valuable movables, he laid them as offerings on the tomb of Saint Martin; then, kneeling down near the sepulchre, he besought the saint to come to his assistance, and by his gracious interference to enable him soon to regain his liberty, and at some future day to become king.*
With Merowig, these wishes naturally followed each other, and the last it appears formed the principal topic of his conversations with Gonthramn-Bose, and of the projects they devised together. Gonthramn, full of confidence in the resources of his own mind, rarely invoked the aid of the saints; but on the other hand, he had recourse to fortune-tellers, in order to test the justness of his conclusions by their science. Leaving Merowig to pray alone, he sent one of his followers to a woman in whose predictions he had great confidence, and who had already foretold amongst other things, the year, day, and hour on which King Haribert was to die.† When interrogated in the name of duke Gonthramn on the future which was reserved for himself and the son of Hilperik, the sorceress, who probably knew them both very well, gave this answer, addressed to Gonthramn himself: “It will happen that King Hilperik will die in the course of the year, and that Merowig will obtain the throne, to the exclusion of his brothers: thou, Gonthramn, will be duke of all the kingdom for five years; but in the sixth, by the favour of the people, thou wilt receive the episcopal dignity in a town situated on the left bank of the Loire, and thou wilt in time depart this life old and full of days.”‡
Gonthramn-Bose, who passed his life in making dupes, was himself the dupe of sorcerers and conjurors. He was delighted with this extravagant prophecy, which was doubtless in accordance with his dreams of ambition and most secret thoughts. Thinking that the town so vaguely indicated could be no other than that of Tours, and seeing himself already in imagination the successor of Gregory on the pontifical throne, he took care to impart his future good fortune to him with a malicious satisfaction, for the title of bishop was much coveted by the barbarian chiefs. Gregory had just arrived at the basilica of Saint Martin to perform the night service, when the Austrasian duke made him this strange communication with the air of a man firmly convinced of the infallibility of the sorceress. The bishop answered: “You should ask such things of God,” and was unable to restrain his laughter.§ But this foolish and insatiable vanity reminded him but too painfully of the men and miseries of his time. He was preoccupied with these sad reflections during the chaunting of the Psalms; and when after the service of the vigils he was desirous of taking a short repose, and retired to bed for that purpose in a room near the church, the crimes of which that church seemed destined to be the theatre in the unnatural war between a father and son, and the misfortunes which he foresaw but was not able to prevent, haunted him until he fell asleep. During his slumber, the same ideas, but in colours still more terrible, presented themselves to his mind. He saw an angel traversing the air, hovering over the basilica, and crying in the most lugubrious accents: “Alas! alas! God has smitten Hilperik and all his sons! Not one of them will survive him, or possess his kingdom.”* This dream appeared to Gregory as a revelation of the future far more worthy of credit than the answers and predictions of fortune-tellers.
Fickle and inconsistent in character, Merowig soon had recourse to distractions more in accordance with his turbulent habits, than vigils and prayers by the tombs of saints. The law which sanctioned the inviolability of these religious asylums, also gave the fugitives full power to provide themselves with all sorts of provisions, so that it should be impossible for their pursuers to drive them out by means of famine. The priests of the basilica of Saint Martin took upon themselves the care of supplying the articles necessary to the subsistence of such of their guests as were poor, and consequently had no servants. The rich people were served either by their own servants, who were at liberty to go backwards and forwards, or by men and women from without, whose presence frequently caused a great deal of confusion and excess. The courts of the buildings, and the peristyle of the basilica, were at all hours filled by people engaged in business, or a crowd of idlers and loungers. At the time of the different repasts, the noise and confusion sometimes drowned the chaunting of the service, disturbing the priests in their stalls and the monks in their cells. Sometimes the guests, half intoxicated, quarreled until they came to blows, and bloody frays took place at the door, and even in the interior of the church.†
If similar disorders did not follow the banquet by which Merowig and his companions tried to divert themselves, boisterous merriment was not wanting; shouts of laughter and coarse jests resounded in the hall, and above all were heard joined with the names of Hilperik and Fredegonda. Merowig did not spare either of them. He related the crimes of his father, and the debauches of his stepmother, spoke of Fredegonda as an infamous adulteress, and of Hilperik as an imbecile husband, and the persecutor of his own children. “Although there was nothing in this but what was perfectly true,” says the cotemporary historian, “I think it was not agreeable to God that such things should be divulged by a son.”* This historian, Gregory of Tours himself, being one day invited to Merowig’s table, heard the young man’s scandalous speeches with his own ears. At the end of the repast, Merowig, who remained alone with his pious guest, felt himself in a devotional mood, and begged the bishop to read him something for the benefit of his soul. Gregory took the book of Solomon, and opening it at hazard, read the following verse: “The eye of him that mocketh at his father, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out.” This singular coincidence was looked upon by the bishop as a second revelation of the future, as menacing as the first.†
Meanwhile Fredegonda, more inveterate in her hatred and more active than her husband, resolved to be beforehand with the expedition which was in preparation, and to have Merowig murdered by an ambush. Leudaste, Count of Tours, who was anxious to be in the queen’s good graces, and who besides had to revenge the pillage committed in his house the preceding year, offered himself with eagerness to be the instrument of the murder. Reckoning on the want of circumspection of the man he wished to kill by surprise, he tried various stratagems to entice him beyond the limits of the sanctuary: he did not succeed. Either out of savage spite, or to excite the anger of the young prince so as to make him lose all feeling of prudence, he caused his followers to be attacked in the streets of the town.‡ Most of them were massacred, and Merowig, enraged at this news, would have run blindly into the snare, if the prudent Gonthramn had not withheld him. When he was railing violently, saying that he should have no rest until he had avenged himself on the lover of Fredegonda, Gonthramn counselled him to direct his retaliation where there was no risk, and where the advantage would be considerable; to punish for this insult, not Leudaste, who was on his guard, but some other, no matter whom, of the friends of King Hilperik.*
Marileïf, first physician to the king, a very rich man, and of an unwarlike disposition, was then at Tours, on his road from Soissons to Poitiers, his native city. He had with him but few followers and much baggage; and nothing was more easy than for the young warriors, Merowig’s companions, to carry him off from his inn. They entered it unawares, and cruelly ill treated the peaceful doctor, who, luckily for himself, contrived to escape, and took refuge in the cathedral almost naked, leaving his gold, silver, and the rest of his movables in the hands of the assailants.† All this was looked upon as lawful booty by the son of Hilperik, who, satisfied with the trick he had played his father, and thinking himself sufficiently revenged, was anxious to display his clemency. At the request of the bishop he announced to poor Marileïf, who did not venture to quit his asylum, that he was at liberty to continue his journey.‡ But at the moment that Merowig was congratulating himself on having so prudent a man as Gonthramn-Bose as companion of his fortunes and his intimate friend, the latter did not hesitate in selling his services to the mortal enemy of the young man who so inconsiderately placed entire confidence in him.
Far from sharing the hatred which King Hilperik felt for Gonthramn on account of the murder of Theodebert, Fredegonda was grateful to him for having rid her of one of her stepsons, as she would fain have been of the other two. The interest she displayed in favour of the Austrasian duke, had become still stronger ever since she had a glimpse of the possibility of using him as an instrument in Merowig’s destruction. Gothramn-Bose never willingly undertook a dangerous commission; but the ill success of the attempt of Count Leudaste, a man more violent than adroit, determined the queen to look for one who might, by his craft, render certain the murder which she meditated, although he did not execute it himself. She therefore sent a confidential person to Gonthramn with this message: “If thou canst contrive to decoy Merowig out of the basilica, so that he may be killed, I will make thee a magnificent present.”§ Gonthramn-Bose joyfully accepted the proposal. Persuaded that the artful Fredegonda had already taken her measures, and that suborned assassins kept watch in the environs of Tours, he went to Merowig and said to him in a most cheerful tone, “Why do we lead here the lives of cowards and idlers, skulking like fools round this basilica? Let us send for our horses, and take dogs and hawks with us, and let us go out hunting, to take exercise, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy the fine view.”*
The desire for space and fresh air which prisoners feel so keenly, spoke to Merowig’s heart, and the extreme facility of his character made him approve of every thing his friend proposed without examination. He accepted this attractive invitation with the readiness natural to his age. The horses were instantly brought into the court of the basilica, and the two fugitives set out completely equipped for hunting, their birds on their wrists, escorted by their servants, and followed by their dogs in couples. They fixed upon a domain belonging to the church of Tours, and situated in the village of Jocundiacum, now Jouay, at a short distance from the city, as the spot they were to go to. They spent the day in this manner, hunting and racing together, without Gonthramn’s giving the slightest sign of premeditation, or appearing to think of any thing but amusing themselves as much as possible. What he expected did not occur; either Fredegonda’s emissaries had not yet arrived at Tours, or else her instructions had not been properly followed up, but no armed troop appeared to fall upon Merowig, either in the various excursions of the day, or on the way home. Merowig, therefore, returned quietly to the sanctuary which afforded him security, rejoiced at getting his liberty for a few hours, and not at all aware that he had been in danger of perishing by the most signal treachery.†
The army which was to attack Tours was ready, but when it was necessary to depart, Hilperik suddenly became undecided and timid; he wished to know how great at that moment was Saint Martin’s susceptibility against the infringers of his privileges, and if the holy confessor was in an indulgent or choleric mood. As there was no one in the world who could give him the slightest information on this point, the king conceived the strange idea of writing to the saint himself, requesting a clear and positive answer. He therefore composed a letter, which expressed in law terms his paternal grievances against the murderer of his son Theodebert, and appealed to the justice of the saint against this great culprit. The conclusion of this request was the following peremptory demand: “Is it permitted me, or is it not, to take Gonthramn from the sanctuary?”* It is still more singular, that beneath this there was a stratagem by which King Hilperik thought to deceive his celestial correspondent, intending, if he received permission for Gonthramn, to make use of the same for Merowig, whose name he did not mention for fear of frightening the saint.† This singular epistle was brought to Tours by a student of Frankish race, named Baudeghisel, who placed it on Saint Martin’s tomb with a sheet of blank paper, on which the saint might write his answer. At the end of three days the messenger returned, and finding on the tombstone the paper just as he had left it, without the smallest word of writing, he supposed that Saint Martin refused to explain himself, and returned to King Hilperik.‡
What the king feared above all things was, that Merowig should join Brunehilda in Austrasia, and, aided by her counsels and money, should succeed in creating a party in his favour among the Neustrian Franks. In the mind of Hilperik this fear surpassed even his hatred for Gonthramn-Bose, whom he felt inclined to forgive, provided he in no way favoured the escape of his companion in confinement. This produced another plan in which Hilperik again displayed the same heavy and timorous policy. This plan consisted in obtaining from Gonthramn, without whom Merowig was unable to undertake a journey for want of resources and firmness, an oath not to leave the basilica without giving the king notice of it. King Hilperik hoped by this means to be warned in time to intercept all communications between Tours and the Austrasian frontier. He sent emissaries to confer secretly with Gonthramn; and in this struggle between two parties to overreach each other, the latter was not behindhand. Trusting little to the conciliatory speeches sent him by Hilperik, but thinking that it might be a last chance of safety if all others failed, he took the oath required of him, and swore in the sanctuary itself of the basilica, with one hand on the silken cloth which covered the high altar.* This done, he continued secretly, but with no less activity than before, to prepare for a sudden flight.
(ad 577.) Since the lucky blow which had thrown the Doctor Marileif’s money into the hands of the fugitives, these preparations had progressed rapidly. Mercenary soldiers, a class of men which conquest had created, offered themselves in numbers to serve as escort to the end of the journey; their number soon amounted to more than five hundred. With such a force, escape was easy, and the arrival in Austrasia highly probable. Gonthramn-Bose, judging that there was no longer any reason for delay, and taking care, notwithstanding his oath, that the king should not have the least notice of it, told Merowig that it was time to think of departing. Merowig, weak and irresolute when not roused by passion, just when he was on the point of making this great attempt, gave way, and again sunk into his former state of indecision. “But,” said Gonthramn to him, “have we not the predictions of the sorceress in our favour?” The young prince was not reassured by this; but to divert himself from his sad forebodings, he determined to seek for information as to the future from some better source.†
There was at that time a method of religious divination, which, although prohibited by the councils, was, notwithstanding, practised in Gaul by the wisest and most enlightened men of the time. Merowig determined to have recourse to it. He went to the chapel in which was the tomb of Saint Martin, and placed on the sepulchre three of the inspired books, the book of Kings, the Psalms, and the Gospels. During one whole night he prayed to God and the holy confessor to reveal to him what was to happen, and whether he might hope to obtain his father’s kingdom or not.‡ He then fasted three whole days, and on the fourth he returned to the tomb, and opened the three volumes one after another. The book of Kings was the one whose reply he was most anxious to obtain: it opened at a page at the top of which stood the following verse: “Because they forsook the Lord their God, and have served other gods; therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil.” In opening the book of Psalms, he found this passage: “Thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation!” Lastly, in the Gospels he read these words: “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”§ It was impossible to imagine any thing more appalling for one who imagined he received an answer from God himself, than each of these words; it might have shaken a stronger mind than that of the son of Hilperik. He remained as if overpowered by the weight of this triple menace of treason, ruin, and violent death, and wept bitterly for a long while by the tomb of Saint Martin.* Gonthramn-Bose, who had equal faith in his oracle, and, moreover, found in it no cause of fear for himself, persisted in his resolution. By means of that influence which strong minds exercise in an almost magnetic manner upon weak and impressionable characters, he restored the courage of his companion so well, that the departure took place without delay, and Merowig mounted on horseback with a look of tranquillity and confidence. Gonthramn in this decisive moment had also a trial to go through; he was going to separate himself from his two daughters, who had taken refuge with him in the basilica of Saint Martin, and whom he feared to take with him, on account of the hazards of so long a journey. Notwithstanding his profound selfishness, and imperturbable duplicity, he was not completely devoid of good feeling, and amidst so many vices, he had at least one redeeming virtue, paternal love.† The society of his daughters was in the highest degree dear to him. If he was separated from them, he never hesitated to expose himself to danger that he might rejoin them, and if there was any danger to defend them from, he became fierce and courageous even to rashness. Compelled to leave them in an asylum which King Hilperik, if he became desperate, might cease to respect, he determined to fetch them away himself; and it was with this idea, the only good one which could find a place in his bosom, that he quitted the sanctuary, and galloped on by the side of Merowig.‡
Nearly six hundred horsemen recruited, to all appearance, among the adventurers and vagabonds of the country, both Franks and Gauls by origin, accompanied the two fugitives. Keeping along the left bank of the Loire, from south to north, they passed over King Gonthramn’s territories in good order. When they arrived near Orleans, they turned eastward to avoid passing through Hilperik’s dominions and reached the environs of the city of Auxerre without encountering any obstacle; but here their good fortune ceased. Erp or Erpoald, count of that city, refused to allow them to pass through it, either because he had received some dispatch from King Hilperik, requesting his friendly assistance or else did so of his own accord, to maintain peace between the two kingdoms. It appears that this refusal gave rise to a combat, in which the troops of the two fugitives were totally defeated. Merowig, whose anger had probably driven him to commit some imprudence, fell into the hands of Count Erpoald; but Gonthramn, always ready in a retreat, escaped with the remains of his little army.*
Fearing to venture further northwards, he determined to retrace his steps and reach one of the towns of Aquitania, belonging to the kingdom of Austrasia. It was very dangerous for him to approach Tours; it was to be feared that the news of his flight had decided Hilperik to order his troops to march, and that the town was full of soldiers. But all his prudence gave way to his paternal feelings; instead of passing at a distance with his small and badly armed band of fugitives, he marched straight to the basilica of Saint Martin. It was well guarded; nevertheless he forced his way in, and reappeared almost immediately with his daughters, whom he wished to place in safety out of Hilperik’s kingdom. After this bold manœuvre, Gonthramn took the road to Poitiers a town which had become Austrasian ever since the victory of Mummolus. He arrived there without accident, placed his two travelling companions in the basilica of Saint Hilary, and left them to go and see what was passing in Austrasia.† This time, for fear of a second misfortune, he made a long circuit, and directed his course northwards by Limousin, Auvergne, and the road leading from Lyons to Metz.
Before Count Erpoald was able to give information of this to King Gonthramn and receive his orders relative to the prisoner, Merowig succeeded in escaping from the place where he was confined. He took refuge in the principal church of Auxerre, one dedicated to Saint Germain, the apostle of the Bretons, and established himself there in safety as at Tours, under the shelter of the right of sanctuary.‡ The news of his flight reached King Gonthramn almost as soon as that of his arrest. This was more than sufficient to displease in the highest degree this timid and pacific king, whose principal care was to keep himself aloof from the quarrels which might spring up around him. He feared that Merowig’s remaining in his kingdom would create a deal of trouble, and wished either that the son of Hilperik should have been allowed to pass quietly, or else have been detained and strictly guarded. Accusing Erpoald at the same time of excess of zeal and want of skill, he summoned him instantly before him; and when the count was about to answer and justify his conduct, the king interrupted him, saying: “Thou didst arrest him whom my brother calls his enemy; but, if thy intentions were serious, thou shouldst have brought him to me without loss of time; otherwise thou shouldst not have interfered with a man whom thou didst not intend to keep prisoner.”*
The ambiguity of these expressions proved on the part of King Gonthramn as much repugnance to take part with the son as fear of quarrelling with the father. The weight of his displeasure fell on Count Erpoald, who was not only deprived of his office, but condemned moreover to pay a fine of seven hundred golden pieces.† It seems that in spite of Hilperik’s messages and entreaties, Gonthramn took no measure for disturbing the fugitive in his new asylum, and that, so far from it, he contrived, without compromising himself, and yet saving appearances, that Merowig should quickly find means to escape and continue his journey. Indeed, after a residence of two months in the basilica of Auxerre, the young prince departed accompanied by his faithful friend Gallen, and this time the roads were open to him. He at last arrived in the territory of Austrasia, where he hoped to find repose, friends, the delights of marriage and all the honours attached to the title of husband of a queen, but where new obstacles and misfortunes awaited him, which were only to end with his life.‡ The kingdom of Austrasia, governed in the name of a child by a council of nobles and bishops, was at that time the theatre of continual troubles and violent dissensions. The absence of all legal restraint and the headstrong wilfulness of individual wills, were felt there still more strongly than in any other part of Gaul. There was in this respect no distinction of race or state; barbarians or Romans, prelates or military chiefs, all men who felt themselves strong from power or wealth, rivalled each other in turbulence and ambition. Divided into opposite factions, they agreed only in one thing, a violent dislike to Brunehilda, whom they wanted to deprive of all influence in the government of her son. The principal chiefs of this formidable aristocracy were Ægidius, Bishop of Reims, notoriously sold to the King of Neustria, and Duke Raukhing, the richest of the Austrasians, the very type, if such an expression can be used, of those who did ill from a sheer love of it, as the other barbarians did from passion or interest.§ Traits of almost incredible cruelty, such as popular traditions impute to the nobles of the feudal times, and the remembrance of which is still attached to the ruins of their keeps and castles, were related of him. When he supped, lighted by a slave who held in his hand a waxen torch, one of his favourite amusements was to oblige the poor slave to extinguish the torch against his naked legs, then to light it again and put it out and relight it several times in the same way. The deeper the burn was, the more was Duke Raukhing amused and laughed at the contortions of the miserable wretch who was forced to submit to this species of torture.* He caused two of his serfs, a young man and woman, whose crime was their having married without his consent, and whom, at the entreaties of a priest, he had sworn not to separate, to be buried alive in the same grave. “I have kept my word,” said he with a ferocious sneer; “they are now united for ever.”†
This terrible man, whose insolence towards Queen Brunehilda exceeded all bounds, and whose conduct was a perpetual rebellion, had for his constant attendants Bertefred and Ursio, the one of Germanic origin, the other, son of a Gallo-Roman, but both thoroughly imbued with the cruelty and violence of Germanic manners. In their savage opposition, they attacked, not only the queen, but whoever sided with her and endeavoured to maintain order and public tranquillity. They had a peculiar hatred to the Roman Lupus, Duke of Champagne, or the Rhenish provinces, a severe and vigilant governor, and fully imbued with the traditions of the imperial government.‡ The domains of Lupus were almost daily ravaged, his houses pillaged, and his life threatened by Duke Raukhing’s faction. Once Ursio and Bertefred, with a troop of soldiers, fell upon him and his followers at the very gates of the palace where the young king and his mother lived. Attracted by the tumult, Brunehilda hastened to the spot, and courageously throwing herself among the armed men, she exclaimed, addressing herself to the chiefs of the assailants: “Why do you thus attack an innocent man? Do not commit this outrage; do not provoke a war which would be the ruin of the country!” “Woman,” replied Ursio with brutal haughtiness, “retire; let it suffice thee to have governed in thy husband’s lifetime; it is thy son who reigns now, and it is to our protection, not thine, that the kingdom looks for safety. Retire, then, or we will trample thee under our horses’ feet.”* This situation of things in Austrasia, ill accorded with the hopes in which Merowig had indulged; but the illusion did not last long. He had scarcely entered Metz, the capital of the kingdom, when he received from the council of regency the order to depart immediately, even if he was permitted to enter the town. The ambitious chiefs, who treated Brunehilda as a stranger without rights or power, were not likely to submit to the presence of the husband of this queen, whom they feared, although pretending to despise her. The more she prayed and entreated that Merowig should be received hospitably, and allowed to live with her in peace, the more harsh and inexorable those who governed in the name of the young king became. They alleged as their reason, the danger of a rupture with the King of Neustria; they did not fail to avail themselves of it, and their compliance with their queen’s wishes was confined to simply dismissing the son of Hilperik, without using violence, or giving him up to his father.†
Deprived of his last hope of refuge, Merowig retired by the same road he had come; but before passing the frontier of Gonthramn’s kingdom, he left the high road and wandered from village to village through the Rhenish country. He went at random, walking by night and concealing himself all day, especially avoiding people of high rank, who might have recognised him; in constant fear of being betrayed, and exposed to all sorts of evils, and with no prospect in view but that of reaching the sanctuary of Saint Martin of Tours in disguise. As soon as all traces of him were lost, it was supposed that he had taken that resolution, and the news of it soon reached Neustria.‡
At this report, King Hilperik dispatched his army to occupy the city of Tours, and guard the abbey of Saint Martin. The army, arrived in Touraine, pillaged, devastated, and destroyed the country, without even sparing the property of the church. All sorts of rapine were committed in the buildings of the abbey, which was converted into barracks, where soldiers were quartered to keep guard at all the entrances to the basilica. The gates were kept closed day and night, excepting one, through which a small number of priests were allowed to enter to chaunt the offices, and the people were excluded from the church, and deprived of Divine service.§ At the same time that these precautions were taken to cut off the retreat of the fugitive, King Hilperik, probably with the consent of the nobles of Austrasia, passed the frontier in arms, and searched every part of the territory where it was possible that Merowig had concealed himself. Although surrounded like a wild beast pursued by the hunters, the young man succeeded in escaping from his father’s search, thanks to the compassion of the lower classes of Franks, or those of Roman origin, in whom alone he could trust. After having fruitlessly scoured the country, and taken a military ride along the forest of Ardennes, Hilperik re-entered his kingdom without the troops whom he led on this reconnoitering expedition having committed any act of hostility against the inhabitants.*
Whilst Merowig saw himself reduced to lead the life of an outlaw and a vagrant, his old companion in adversity, Gonthramn-Bose, arrived in Austrasia from Poitiers. He was the only man of any importance in the country of whom the son of Hilperik could ask assistance; and he without doubt very soon learnt the retreat, and all the secrets of the unhappy fugitive. So completely desperate a state of things offered to Gonthramn two prospects, between which he was not accustomed to hesitate, an onerous fidelity, or the profits of an act of treachery; he decided in favour of the latter. Such was at least the general opinion; for, according to his usual way, he avoided compromising himself, by working in secret, and playing a double game, so as to enable him boldly to deny it, if the plot did not succeed. Queen Fredegonda, who never failed to act for herself whenever it happened (and it was not a rare occurrence) that her husband’s dexterity was at fault, seeing the little success of the chase after Merowig, resolved to have recourse to less noisy, but more certain measures. She communicated her plan to Ægidius, Bishop of Reims, who was united to her by friendship, and an assistant in her political intrigues; and through him Gonthramn-Bose once more listened to the instructions and brilliant promises of the queen. From the union of these two men with the implacable enemy of the son of Hilperik, arose a skilfully combined plot to hurry him to his ruin, by means of his greatest forble, the wild ambition natural to a young man, and his desire to reign.†
Some men from the country of Thérouanne, the country most devoted to Fredegonda, entered Austrasia secretly to obtain an interview with the son of Hilperik. Having found him in the retreat in which he kept himself concealed, they gave him the following message, in the name of their fellow-countrymen:—“Since thy hair has grown once more, we will submit to thee, and are ready to abandon thy father, if thou wilt come amongst us.”*
Merowig eagerly seized this offer; he even fancied himself secure of dethroning his father, on the good faith of persons he did not know, the delegates of an obscure canton of Neustria. He set out at once for Therouanne, accompanied by a few men blindly devoted to his fortunes; Gaïlen, his inseparable friend in fortune and adversity; Gaukil, count of the palace of Austrasia under King Sighebert, and now fallen into disgrace; and finally Grind, and several others whom the chronicler does not name, but whom he honours with the title of men of courage.†
They ventured into the Neustrian territory, without considering that the further they advanced, the more difficult retreat became. On the confines of the savage district which extended north of Arras to the coasts of the ocean, they found what had been promised them, troops of men who welcomed them, and received King Merowig with acclamations. Invited to rest in one of the farms which the Frankish population inhabited, they entered without mistrust; but the doors were instantly closed upon them, guards defended every issue, and armed bodies of men surrounded the house like a besieged city. At the same time, couriers mounted on horseback, and hastened to Soissons to announce to King Hilperik that his enemies had fallen into the snare, and that he might come and dispose of them.‡
At the noise of the barricaded doors, and the military preparations which rendered his departure impossible, Merowig, struck with the sense of his danger, remained pensive and dejected. The sad and thoughtful imagination of the man of the north, which formed the most striking trait in his character, gradually got the better of his reason; he was beset with ideas of violent death, and horrible images of tortures and punishments. A profound terror of the fate for which he was reserved seized on him with such intensity, that, despairing of every thing, he saw no resource but suicide.§ But, wanting the courage to strike the blow himself, he required for that purpose another arm than his own, and addressing his brother in arms: “Gaïlen,” said he, “we have never had but one soul and one mind until now: do not let me fall into the hands of my enemies, I conjure thee; take a sword and kill me.” Gaïlen, with the obedience of a vassal, drew the knife which he wore at his girdle, and struck the young prince a mortal blow. King Hilperik, who arrived in great haste to seize his son, found only his corpse.* Gaïlen was taken with the other companions of Merowig; he had clung to life, either from some remaining hope, or some inexplicable weakness.
There were persons who doubted the truth of these facts, and believed that Fredegonda, going straight to the point, had had her step-son murdered, and that the suicide was an invention to get over the paternal scruples of the king. However, the horrible treatment which Merowig’s companions met with, seemed to justify his forebodings for himself and his anticipated terrors. Gailen perished, mutilated in the most barbarous manner; his feet, hands, nose, and ears, were cut off: Grind had his limbs broken on the wheel, which was raised in the air, and where he expired: Gaukil, the eldest of the three, was the least unfortunate; he was simply beheaded.†
Thus Merowig paid the penalty of his disgraceful intimacy with the murderer of his brother, and Gonthramn-Bose became a second time the instrument of that fatality which seemed to attend upon the sons of Hilperik. He did not feel his conscience more loaded than before; and, like the bird of prey who, at the end of his chase, returns to the nest, he became anxious about his two daughters whom he had left at Poitiers. This town had just fallen again into the hands of the King of Neustria; the project of conquest which the victory of Mummolus (ad 578) had put an end to for the time, was recommenced after an interval of a year, and Desiderius, at the head of a numerous army, again menaced all Aquitania. Those who had been most remarkable for their fidelity to King Hildebert, or to whom King Hilperik had any particular dislike, were arrested in their houses, and sent under escort to the palace of Braine. The Roman Ennodius, Count of Poitiers, guilty of having attempted to defend that city, and the Frank Dak, son of Dagarik, who had shown himself in the field as a partisan leader, were seen passing in the same plight on the road from Tours to Soissons.‡ In such circumstances, the return to Poitiers was a perilous enterprise for Gonthramn-Bose; but this time he did not reflect, and determined, at any price, to deliver his daughters from the danger of being carried off from their asylum. Accompanied by a few friends, for he always found some in spite of his multiplied treacheries, he took the road to the south as the safest he could select, arrived at Poitiers without molestation, and was no less successful in withdrawing his two daughters from the basilica of Saint Hilary. This was not all; it was necessary to hasten away and reach promptly some spot where they might be safe from pursuit. Gonthramn and his friends remounted their horses without loss of time, and left Poitiers by the gate which opened on the road to Tours.*
They marched by the side of the covered wagon which contained the two young girls, armed with daggers and short lances, the ordinary equipment of the most peaceful travellers. They had not advanced more than a few hundred yards on the road, when they perceived some horsemen coming towards them. The two forces halted to reconnoiter each other, and that of Gonthramn-Bose placed itself on the defensive, for the men in front of it were soon discovered to be enemies.† These had for their leader a certain Drakolen, a very active partisan of the King of Neustria, and who was returning from the palace of Braine, whither he had been conveying the son of Dagarik and other captives, their hands tied behind their backs. Gonthramn felt that it was necessary to give battle; but before coming to an engagement, he tried to parley. He sent one of his friends to Drakolen, giving him the following instructions: “Go, and tell him this in my name: Thou knowest that formerly there was an alliance between us; I therefore pray thee to leave me a free passage: take what thou wilt of my property; I abandon every thing to thee, even should I remain naked; only let me and my daughters go where we intend.”‡
On hearing these words, Drakolen, who thought himself the stronger of the two, gave a shout of derision, and pointing to a bundle of cords which hung at his saddle-bow, he said to the messenger, “Here is the cord with which I bound the other culprits I have led to the king; it will do for him also.”* Instantly spurring his horse, he rushed upon Gonthramn-Bose, and attempted to give him a blow with his lance; but the blow was ill-directed, and the iron of the lance, detaching itself from the wood, fell to the ground. Gonthramn resolutely seized that moment, and striking Drakolen on the face, made him stagger in his saddle; some one else knocked him down and dispatched him with a stroke of a lance through the ribs. The Neustrians, seeing their leader dead, turned their horses’ heads, and Gonthramn-Bose continued his journey, but not before he had carefully stripped the body of his enemy.†
After this adventure, Duke Gonthramn travelled quietly into Austrasia. Arrived at Metz, he recommenced the life of a great Frankish noble, a life of savage and disorderly independence, which neither partook of the dignity of the Roman patrician, nor the chivalric manners of the feudal lord. History makes little mention of him during an interval of three years; we then suddenly meet with him at Constantinople, where he seems to have been drawn by his restless and truant disposition. It was in this journey that, through his mediation, the great intrigue of the century was planned, an intrigue which shook the whole of Gaul, in which the feeling of rivalry of the Austrasian Franks towards their western brethren, united with the national hatred of the southern Gauls, for the destruction of the two kingdoms of which Soissons and Châlons-sur-Saône were the capital towns.
[* ] Tunc remoti paululum, dum hinc inde sermocinaremur, ait mihi: Videsne super hoc tectum quæ ego suspicio? Cui ego: Video enim supertegulum, quod nuperrex poni gussit Et ille: Aliud. inquit, non adspicis? Cui ego: Nihil aliud enim video. Suspicabar enim quod aliquid joculariter loqueretur, et adjeci: Si tu aliquid magis cernis, enarra. At ille, alta trahens suspiria, ait: Video ego evaginatum iræ divinæ gladnum super domum hanc dependentem. (Ibid., lib. v. t. ii. p. 264.)
[† ] Igitur, interempto Sigiberto rege, Brunechildis regina cum filiis Parisius residebat. Quod factum cùm adi eam perlatum fuisset, et conturbata dolore et luctu, quid. ageret ignoraret .. (Ibid.)
[* ] Gondobaldus dux adprehensum Childebertum filium ejus parvulum furtim abstulit: ereptumque ab imminenti morte, collectisque gentibus super quas pater ejus regnum tenuerat, regem instituit, vix lustro ætatis uno jam peracto. (Ibid. p. 233.) Sed factione Gondoaldi ducis, Childebertus in pera positus, per fenestram a puero acceptus est, et ipse puer singulus eum Mettis exhibuit (Fredegarii Hist. Francor. Epitom ibid., p. 407.)
[† ] Chilpericus rex Parisius venit, adprehensamque Brunichildem... thesaurosque ejus quos Parisius detulerat, abstulit. (Greg. Turon. loc. supr. cit.)
[‡ ] Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 245.
[* ] Brunichildem apud Rotomagensem civitatem in exilium trusit ..Filias vero ejus Meldis urbe teneri præcepit. (Ibid. p. 233.)
[† ] Eo quod Guntchramnus (dux) Fredegundis reginæ occultis amicitris potiretur pro interfectione Theodoberti. (Ibid. p. 246.)
[‡ ] Chilpericus vero filium suum Merovechum cum exercitu Pictavis dirigit. (Ibid. p. 233.)
[* ] At ille, relicta ordinatione patris, Turonis venit ibique et dies sanctos Paschæ tenuit. (Ibid.)
[† ] Multum enim regionem illam exercitus ejus vastavit. (Ibid.) Adventente autem Turonts Merovecho, omnes res ejus (Merovechus) usquequaque diripuit. (Ibid. p. 261.)—See fifth Narrative.
[‡ ] Ipse vero simulans ad matrem suam ire velle, Rothomagum petnt. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc. lib. v apud Script Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 233.)
[§ ] Et ibi Brunichildi reginæ conjungitur, eamque sibi in matrimonio sociavit. (Ibid.)
[∥ ] Proprium mihi esse videbatur, quod filio meo Merovecho erat, quem de lavacro regenerationis excepi. (Ibid. p. 245.)
[* ] See the fourth Narrative.
[† ] Hæc audiens Chilpericus, quod scilicet contra fas legemque canonicam uxorem patrui accepisset, valde amarus, dicto citius ad supra memoratum oppidum dirigit. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib v apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 233.)
[‡ ] At illi cùm hæc cognovissent, quod eosdem separare decerneret, ad basilicam sancti Martini, quæ super muros civitatis ligneis tabulis fabricata est, confugium faciunt. (Ibid.)
[* ] Rex vero adveinens, cùm in multis igeniis eos exinde auferre niteretur et ille dolose eum putuntes facere, non crederent, juravit eis, dicens: Si, inquit, voluntas Dei fuerit, ipse hos separare non conaretur. (Ibid.)
[† ] Hæc illi sacramenta audientes, de basilica egressi sunt, exosculatisque et dignenter acceptis, epulavit cum eis. Post dies vero paucos, adsutnto secum rex Merovecho, Suessionas rednt. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Collecti aliqui de Campania, Suessionas urbem adgrediuntur, fugataque ex ea Fredegonda regina, atque Chlodovecho filio Chilperici, volebant sibi subdere civitatem ... Godinus autem caput belli istius fuit. (Ibid.)—Siggo quoque referandarius ... ad Childebertum regem Sigiberti filium, relicto Chilperico, transvit. (Ibid. p. 234.)
[* ] Quod ut Chilpericus rex comperit, cum exercitu illuc direxit, mittens nuntios ne sibi injuriam facerent...Illi autem, hæc negligentes, præparantur ad bellum, commissioque prœlio invaluit pars Chilperici......Fugatisque reliquis, Suessionas ingreditur. (Ibid.)
[† ] Quæ postquam acta sunt, rex, propter conjugationem Brunichildis, suspectum habere cœpit Merovechum filium suum, dicens hoc prœlium ejus nequitia surrexisse. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Spoliatumque ab armis, datis custodibus, libere custodiri præcepit, tractans quid de eo in posterum ordinaret. (Ibid. p. 233.) Adriani Valesii Rer. Francic., lib. x. p. 73.
[§ ] Tunc quoque Chilpericus legationem suscepit Childeberti junioris, nepotis sui, petentis matrem suam sibi reddi Brunichildem. Cujus ille non aspernatus preces, eam cum munere pacis poscenti remisit filio. (Aimoini, de Gest Franc., apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. iii. p. 73.)
[* ] Duo volucia speciebus et diversis ornamentis referta quæ adpreciabantur amplias quam tria millia solidorum. Sed et sacculum cum numismatis auri pondere tenentem quasi millia duo ...... quia res ejus, id est quinque sarcinas, commendatas haberem (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 245.)
[† ] Chilpericus rex Chlodovechum filium suum Turonis transmisit. Qui, congregato exercitu, in terminum Turonicum et Andegavum ...... (Ibid. p. 239.)
[‡ ] Ibid. lib. viii. t. ii. p. 332. Desiderius Francorum dux, Gothis satis infestus. (Chron. Joannis Biclariensis apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 21.)
[* ] Usque Santonas transiit, eamque pervasit. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v., apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)
[† ] Mummolus vero, patricius Guntchramni regis, cum magno exercitu usque Lemovicinum transiit, et contra, Desiderium, ducem Chilperici regis, belium gessit. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] In quo prœlio cecidere de exercitu ejus quinque millia; de Desiderii vero viginti quatuor millia. Ipse quoque Desiderius fugiens vix evasit. Mummolus vero patricius per Arvernum rediit. (Ibid.)
[* ] Ibid., p. 281, 282, 296, 303, etc.
[† ] Solemne enim est Francorum regibus nunquam tonderi: sed a pueris intonsi manent: cæsaries tota decenter eis in humeros propendet: anterior coma e fronte discriminata in utrumque latus detlexa... Idque velut insigne quoddam eximiaque honoris prærogativa regio generi apud eos tribuitur. Subditi enim orbiculatim tondentur. (Agathiæ Histor. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 49.)
[‡ ] Post hæc Merovechus, cùm in custodia a patre retineretur, tonsuratus est, mutataque veste qua clericis uti mos est, presbyter ordinatur. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)
[* ] Et ad monasterium Cenomannicum, quod vocatur Aninsula, dirigitur, ut ibi sacerdotali erudiretur regula. (Ibid.) In viridi ligno hæ frondes succissæ sunt, nec omnino arescunt, sed velociter emergent ut crescere queant. (Ibid., lib. ii. p. 185.)—V. Adriani Valesn Notit. Galliar. p. 22.
[† ] Ut scilicet Guntchramnum, qui tunc de morte Theodoberti impetebatur, a basilica sancta deberemus extrahere. (Greg. Turon., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 234.)—See the second Narrative.
[* ] Quod si non faceremus, et civitatem et omnia suburbana ejus juberet incendio concremari. Quo audito mittimus ad eum legationem, dicentes: hæc ab antiquo facta non fuisse, quæ hic fieri deposcebat... Sed (Roccolenus) mandata aspera remittit dicens: “Nisi hodie projeceritis Guntchramnum ducem de basilica, ita cuncta virentia quæ sunt circa urbem adteram, ut dignus fiat aratro locus ille.” (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 234, 235.)
[† ] Cùm in domo ecclesiæ ultra Ligerim resideret, domum ipsam quæ clavis adfixa erat, disfixit. Ipsos quoque clavos Cenomannici, qui tunc cum eodem advenerant, impletis follibus portant, annonas evertunt et cuncta devastant. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Ipsis prodentibus Francis, quibus familiare est ridendo fidem frangere. (Flav. Vopsic, apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. i. p. 541.)
[§ ]Bose, in modern German Böse, signifies malicious, wicked.—Verumtamen nulli amicorum sacramentum dedit, quod non protinus omisisset. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 241.)
[* ] Hæc audiens Guntchramus Boso, qui tunc in basilica Sancti Martini, ut diximus, residebat, misit Riculfum subdiaconum, ut ei consilium occulte præberet expetendi basilicam Sancti Martini. (Ibid. p. 239.)
[† ] Ab alia parte Gailenus puer ejus advenit. Cùmque parvum solatium qui eum ducebant haberent, ab ipso Gaileno in itinere excussus est. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Quorum pedes primi perone setoso talos ad usque vinciebantur; genua, crura, suræque sine tegmine. Præter hoc vestis alta, stricta, versicolor, vir appropinquans poplitibus exertis: manicæ sola brachiorum principia velantes... Penduli ex humero gladii balteis super currentibus strinxerant clausa bullatis latera rhenonibus. (Sidon. Apollinar. Epist. apud Script. Rer. Gallic., et Francic., t. i. p. 793.)—V. Monachi Sangallensis de Gestis Caroli Magni. lib. i. ibid. t. v. p. 121, et Vitam Caroli Magni per Eginhardum scriptam, ibid. p. 93.
[§ ] Opertoque capite, indutusque veste sæculari, beati Martini templum expetit. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)—These words opertoque capite are explained by the following passage of the same author, as bearing the meaning which I have attributed to them:—Et tectocapite ne agnoscaris silvam pete ... et ille accepto consilio, dum obtecto capite fugere niteretur, extracto quidam gladio caput ejus cum cucullo decidit. (Lib. vii. p. 310.)—The use of cloaks with hoods to them had passed from Gaul to Rome. See the Satires of Juvenal, passim, the Père Montfaucon, Antiquité expliquée.
[* ] Nobis autem missas celebrantibus in sanctum basilicam, aperta reperiens ostia, ingressus est. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)—Præfatio D. Theod. Ruinart. ad Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., ibid. p. 95.
[† ] Petiit, ut ei eulogias dare deberemus. Erat autem tunc nobiscum Ragnemodus Parisiacæ sedis episcopus, qui sancto Germano successerat. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)—In rendering thus literally this speech, I have employed a form of expression very common in the History of Gregory of Tours: Quid tibi visium est, o episcope, etc. See the fourth Narrative.
[* ] Quod cùm refutaremus, ipse clamare cœpit et dicere, quod non recte eum a communione sine fratrum conniventia suspenderemus ... Minabatur enim aliquos de populo nostro interficere, si communionem nostram non meruisset (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)
[† ] Illo autem hæc dicente, cum consensu fratris qui præsens erat contestata causa canonica, eulogias a nobis accepit. Veritas autem sum, ne dum unum a communione suspendebam, in multos existerem homicida. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Law of the Emperor Leon respecting sanctuaries (466). See Histoire Ecclésiastique de Fleury, t. vi. p. 562.
[§ ] Nicetius vir neptis meæ, propriam habens causam, ad Chilpericum regem abiit cum diacono nostro, qui regi fugam Merovechi narraret. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 239.)
[* ] Quibus visis, Fredegundis regina ait: “Exploratores sunt, et ad sciscitandum quid agat rex advenerunt, ut sciant quid Merovecho renuntient.” Et statim exspoliatos in exilium retrudi præcepit, de quo mense septimo expleto relaxati sunt. (Ibid.)
[† ] Igitur Chilpericus nuntios ad nos direxit, dicens: “Ejicite apostatam illum de basilica, sin autem, totam regionem illam igni succindam” Cúmque nos rescripsissemus impossibile esse quod temporibus hæreticorum non fuerat Christianorum nunc temporibus fieri, ipse exercitum commovet. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Cùm videret Merovechus patrem suum in hac deliberatione intentum, adsumto secum Guntchramno duce ad Brunichildem pergere cogitat, dicens: Abait ut propter meam personam basilica domini Martini violentiam perferat, aut regio ejus per me captivitati subdatur. (Ibid. p. 240.)
[* ] Et ingressus basilicam, dum vigilias ageret, res quas secum habebat, ad sepulchrum beati Martini exhibuit, orans ut sibi sanctus succurreret, atque ei concederet gratiam suam, ut regnum accipere posset. (Ibid. p. 241.)
[† ] Tunc direxit Guntchramnus puerum ad mulierem quamdam, sibi jam cognitam a tempore Chariberti regis, habentem spiritum Pythonis, ut ei quæ erant eventura narraret. (Ibid. p. 240.)
[‡ ] Quæ hæc ei per pueros mandata remisit: “Futurum est enim ut rex Chilpericus hoc anno deficiat, et Merovechus rex, exclusis fratribus, omne capiat regnum. Tu vero ducatum totius regni ejus annis quinque tenebis. Sexto vero anno in una civitatum, quæ super Ligeris alveum sita est in dextra ejus parte, favente populo, episcopatus gratiam adipisceris .....” (Ibid.). By the words dextra parte we must here understand the right side of the river, going up towards its source V. Adriani Valesli Notitiam Galliarum.
[§ ] Statim ille vanitate elatus, tanquam si jam in cathedra Turonicæ ecclesiæ resideret, ad me hæc detulit verba Cujusego, inridens stultitiam, dixi: “A Deo hæc poscenda sunt ..” Illo quoque cum confusione discedente, valde inridebam hominem, qui talia credi putabat. (Greg. Turon., Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 240.)
[* ] Vigiliis in basilica sancti antistitis celebratis, dum lectulo decubans obdormissem, vidi angelum per aera volantem: cùmque super sanctam basilicam præteriret, voce magna ait: “Heu! heu! percussit Deus Chilpericum, et omnes filios ejus, nec superabit de his qui processerunt ex lumbis ejus qui regat regnuni illius in æternum.” (Ibid.)
[† ] Nam sæpe cædes infra ipsum atrium, quod ad pedes Beati extat, exegit (Eberulfus,) exercens assidue ebrietates ac vanetates ...... Introeuntes puellæ, cum reliquis pueris ejus, suspiciebant picturas parietum, rimabanturque ornamenta beati sepulchri: quod valde facinorosum religiosis erat ...... hæc ille cùm post cœnam vino madidus advertisset ...... Furibundus ingreditur. (Ibid. lib. vii. t. ii. p. 300.)
[* ] Merovechus vero de patre atque noverca multa crimina loquebatur; quæ cùm ex parte vera essent, credo acceptum non fuisse Deo, ut hæc per filium vulgarentur. (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 240.)
[† ] Quadam enim die, ad convivium ejus adscitus, dum pariter sederemus, suppliciter petnt aliqua ad instructionem animæ legi. Ego vero, reserato Salomonis libro, versiculum qui primus occurrit arripui, qui hæc continebat: “Oculum qui adversus adspexerit patrem, effodiant eum corvi de convallibus.” Illo quoque non intelligente, consideravi hunc versiculum a Domino præparatum. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Leudastes tunc comes, cùm multas ei in amore Fredegundis insidias tenderet, ad extremum pueros ejus, qui in pago egressi fuerant circumventos dolis gladio trucidavit, ipsumque interimere cupiens si reperire loco opportuno potuisset. (Ibid.)
[* ] Sed ille consilio usus Guntchramni, et se ulcisci desiderans...... (Ibid.)
[† ] Redeunte Marileifo archiatro de præsentia regis (eum) comprehendi præcepit, cæsumque gravissime, ablato auro argentoque ejus, et reliquis rebus quas secum exhibebat, nudum reliquit. Et interfecisset utique, si non, inter manus cædentium elapsus, ecclesiam expetisset. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Quem nos postea indutum vestimentis, obtenta vita, Pictavum reinismus. (Ibid.)
[§ ] Misit ad Gunichramnum Bosoneum Fredegundis regina, quæque ei jam pro morte Theodoberti patrocinabatur, occulte dicens: Si Merovechum ejicere potueris de basilica ut interficiatur, magnum de me munis accipies. (Ibid.)
[* ] At ille presto putans esse interfectores, ait ad Merovechum: “Ut quid hic quasi segnes et timidi residemus, et ut hebetes circa basilicam banc occulimur? Veniant enim equi nostri, et acceptis accipitribus, cum canibus exerceamur venatione, spectaculisque patulis jocundemur.” Hoc enim agebat callide, ut eum a sancta basilica separaret. (Ibid.)
[† ] Egressi itaque, ut diximus, de basilica ad Jocundiacensem domum civitati proximam progressi sunt: sed a nemine Merovechus nocitus est. (Ibid. p. 241.)
[* ] Et quia impetebatur tunc Guntchramnus de interitu ut diximus, Theodoberti, misii Chilpericus rex nuntios et epistolam scriptam ad sepulchrum sancti Martini, quæ habebat insertum, ut ei beatus Martinus rescriberet, utrum liceret extrahi Guntchramnum de basilica ejus an non. (Ibid.)
[† ] [This attempt of savage cunning to outwit its fears, and juggle with the higher powers, is very characteristic of the mixture of superstition, obtuseness, and low cunning of that epoch. Nine centuries later we meet with a still more singular case of this juggling with infernal power. Gilles de Retz, whose fourteen years’ horrible worship of the devil (to whom he offered up no less than 140 infants as sacrifices!) blackens the annals of France, at the very time that he was committing this infamy felt himself sure of heaven, having, as he thought, deceived or corrupted his Supreme Judge “by masses and processions!” Michelet, Histoire de France, livre xi.—Editor.]
[‡ ] Sed Baudegisleus diaconus, qui hanc epistolam exhibuit, chartam puram cum eadem quam detulerat, ad sanctum tumulum misit. Cùmque per triduum expectasset, et nihil rescripti reciperet, redivit ad Chilpericum. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 241.)
[* ] Ille vero misit alios, qui a Guntchramno sacramenta exigerent, ut sine ejus scientia basilicam non relinqueret. Qui, ambienter jurans, pallam altaris fidejussorem dedit nunquam se exinde sine jussione regia egressurum. (Ibid.)
[† ] Merovechus vero non credens Pythonissæ... (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Tres libros super Sancti sepulchrum posuit, id est, Psalterii, Regum, Evangeliorum: et vigilans tota nocte, petnt ut sibi beatus confessor quid eveniret ostenderet, et utrum possit regnum accipere, an non ut Domino indicante cognosceret. (Ibid.)
[§ ] Post hæc continuato triduo in jejuniis, vigiliis, atque orationibus, ad beatum tumulum iterum accedens, revol vit librum, qui erat, Regum, versus autem primus paginæ quam reseravit, hic erat ... (Ibid.)—See 1 Kings ix. 9 Ps. lxxii. 18. Matt. xxvi. 2.
[* ] In his responsionibus ille confusus flens diutissime ad sepulchrum beati antistitus. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 241.)
[† ] Guntchramnus vero alias sane bonus. Nam ad perjuria nimium præparatus erat... (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Adsumto secum Guntchramno duce, cum quingentis aut eo amplius viris discessit. Egressus autem basilicam ... (Ibid.)
[* ] Cùm iter ageret per Antisiodorense territorium, ab Erpone duce Guntchramni regis comprehensus est. (Ibid.)
[† ] Guntchramnus Boso Turonis cum paucis armatis veniens, filias suas, quas in basilica sancta reliquerat, vi abstulit, et eas usque Pictavis civitatem, quæ erat Childeberti regis, perduxit. (Ibid. p. 249.)
[‡ ] Cùmque ab eo Erpone detineretur, casu nescio quo dilapsus, basilicam Sancti Germani ingressus est. (Ibid. p. 241.)
[* ] “Retinuisti, ut ait frater meus, inimicum suum quod si hoc facere cogitabas, ad me eum debuisti prius adducere. sin autem aliud, nectangere debueras quem tenere dissimulabas.” (Ibid.)
[† ] Guntchramnus rex in ira commotus Erponem septingentis aureis damnat, et ab honore removet. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Merovechus prope duos menses ad antedictam basilicam residens, fugam iniit, et ad Brunichildem reginam usque pervenit. (Ibid.)
[§ ] Rauchingus vir omni vanitate repletus, superbia tumidus, elatione protervus; qui se ita cum subjectis agebat, ut non cognosceret in se aliquid humanitatus habere, sed ultra modem humanæ maliciæ atque stultitiæ in suos desæviens nefanda mala gerebat. (Ibid. p. 233.)
[* ] Num si ante eum, ut adsolet, convivio urentem puer cereum tenuisset, nudari ejus tibias faciebat, atque tamdiu in his cereum comprimi, donec lumine privaretur: iterum cùm inluminatus fuisset, similiter faciebat usque dum totæ tibiæ famuli tenentis exurerentur; fiebatque ut, hoc flente, iste magna lætitia exultaret. (Ibid. p. 234.)
[† ] Sepelivitque eos viventes dicens: “Quia non frustravi juramentum meum, ut non separarentur hi in sempiternum...” In talibus enim operibus valde nequisissimus erat, nuliam aliam habens potius utilitatem, nisi in cachinnis ac dolis. (Ibid.)Illis consulibus Romana potentia fulsit;Te duce sed nobis hic modo Roma redit.Justitia florente, favent, te judice, leges,Causarumque æquo pondere libra manet ...
[‡] (Fortunati carmen de Lupo duce, apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 514.)
[* ] Hæc illa loquente, respondit Ursio: “Recede a nobis, o mulier, sufficiat tibi sub viro tenuisse regnum. Nunc autem filius tuus regnat; regnumque ejus non tua, sed nostra tuitione salvatur. Tu vero recede a nobis, ne te ungulæ equorum nostrorum cum terra confodiant. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. vi. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 267.)
[† ] Sed ab Austrasiis non est collectus (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 241.) Adriani Valesii Rer. Francic., lib. x. p. 83.)
[‡ ] Merovechus vero dum in Remensi campania latitaret, nec palam se Austrasiis crederet. (Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 246.) Post hæc sonuit, quod Merovechus iterum basilicam sancti Martini conaretur expetere. (Ibid.)
[§ ] Exercitus autem Chilperici regis usque Turonis accedens, regionem illam in prædas mittit, succendit atque devastat: nec rebus sancti Martini pepercit. (Ibid. p. 241.) Chilpericus vero custodiri basilicam jubet, et omnes claudi aditus. Custodes autem unum ostium, per quod pauci clerici ad officium ingrederentur, relinquentes, reliqua ostia clausa tenebant, quod non sine tædio populis fuit. (Ibid. p. 246.)
[* ] Pater vero ejus exercitum contra Campanenses commovit, putans eum ibidem occultari: sed nihil nocuit, nec eum potuit reperire. (Ibid. t. ii. p. 241.)
[† ] Loquebantur etiam tunc homines, in hac circumventione Egidium episcopum et Gunichramnum Bosonem fuisse maximum caput, eo quod Guntchramnus Fredegundis reginæ occultis amicitris potiretur pro interfectione Theodoberti: Egidius vero quod er jam longo tempore esset carus ...... (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 246.)
[* ] Merovechus vero a Tarrabennensibus circumventus est, dicentibus, quod, relicto patre ejus Chilperico, er se subjugarent, si ad eos accederet.—(Ibid.) Danihelem quondam clericum, cæsarie capitis crescente, regem Franci constituunt. (Erchanberti fragmentum, apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 690.)
[† ] Qui velociter, adsumtis secum viris fortissimis, ad eos venit. (Greg. Turon Hist. Franc., lib. v. apud Script. Rer. Gallic. et Francic., t. ii. p. 246.)
[‡ ] Hi præparatos detegentes dolos, in villiam eum quamdam concludunt, et circumseptum cum armatis, nuntios patri dirigunt. Quod ille audiens, illuc properare destinat. (Ibid.)
[§ ] Sed hic cùm in hospitiolo quodam retineretur, timens ne ad vindictam inimicorum multas lueret pœnas ......... (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 246.)
[* ] Vocato ad se Gaileno familiari suo, ait: Una nobis usque nunc et anima et consi lium fuit: rogo ne patiaris me manibus inimicorum tradi: sed accepto gladio inruas in me. Quod ille nec dubitans, eum cultro confodit. Adveniente autem rege, mortuus est repertus. (Ibid.)
[† ] Extiterunt tunc qui adsererent verbo Merovechi, quæ superius diximus, a regina fuisse conficta; Merovechum vero ejus fuisse jussu clam interemptum. Gailenum vero adprehensum, abscissis manibus et pedibus, auribus et narium summitatibus, et aliis multis cruciatibus adfectum infeliciter necaverunt. Grindionem quoque, intextum rotæ, in sublime sustulerunt Gucilionem, qui quondam comes palatii Sigiberti regis fuerat abscisso capite interfecerunt. (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 246.)
[‡ ] Chilpericus quoque rex Pictavum pervasit, atque nepotis sui homines ab ejus sunt hominibus effugati. Ennodium ex comitatu ad regis præsentiam perduxerunt ...... Cùm Dacco, Dagarici quondam filius, relicto rege Chilperico, huc illucque vagaretur, a Dracoleno duce, qui dicebatur industrius, fraudulenter adprehensus est, quem vinctum ad Chilpericum regem Brennacum deduxit ...... (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 246.)
[* ] His diebus Guntchramnus Boso filias suas a Pictavo auferre conabatur. (Ibid. p. 249.)
[† ] Dracolenus se super eum objecit: sed illi, sicut erant parati resistentes, se defensare nitebantur. (Ibid.)
[‡ ] Guntchramnus vero misit unum de amicis suis ad eum, dicens: Vade et dic er. Scis enim quod fœdus inter nos initum habemus, rogo ut te de meis removeas insidus Quantum vis de rebus tollere non prohibeo; tantum mihi etsi nudo liceat cum filiabus meis accidere quo voluero. (Ibid.)
[* ] Ecce, inquit, funiculum, in quo alii culpabiles ad regem, me ducente, directi sunt: in quo et hic hodli ligandus illuc deduceter vinctus. (Ibid. lib. v. t. ii. p. 250.)
[† ] Elevatoque conto, Dracolenum artat in faucibus. Suspensumque de equo sursum, unus de amicis suis eum lancea latere verberatum finivit. Fugatisque sociis, ip. soque spoliato, Guntchramnus cum filiabus liber abscessit. (Ibid.)