Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter vi: Whether the Kingdom of Francogallia was hereditary or elective; and the manner of making its Kings - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter vi: Whether the Kingdom of Francogallia was hereditary or elective; and the manner of making its Kings - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Whether the Kingdom of Francogallia was hereditary or elective; and the manner of making its Kings
But here arises a famous Question; the decision of which will most clearly show the Wisdom of our Ancestors. Whether the Kingdom of Francogallia were Hereditary, or conferr’d by the Choice and Suffrages of the People? That the German Kings were created by the Suffrages of the People, Cornelius Tacitus, in his Book De moribus Germanorum, proves plainly; and we have shown, that our Franks were a German People: Reges ex nobilitate, Duces ex virtute sumunt; “Then Kings (says he) they chuse from amongst those that are most eminent for their Nobility; their Generals out of those that are famous for their Valor.” Which Institution, to this very day,74 the Germans,Danes, Swedes and Polanders do retain. They elect their Kings in a Great Council of the Nation; the Sons of whom have this privilege (as Tacitus has recorded) to be preferred to other Candidates. I do not know whether any thing could ever have been devised more prudently, or more proper for the Conservation of a Commonwealth, than this Institution. For so Plutarch, in his Life of Sylla, plainly advises. “Even (says he) as expert Hunters not only endeavour to procure a Dog of a right good Breed, but a Dog that is known to be a right good Dog himself; or a Horse descended from a generous sire, but a tried good horse himself: even so, those that constitute a commonwealth, are much mistaken if they have more regard to kindred, than to the qualification of the Prince they are about to set over them.”
And that this was the Wisdom of our Predecessors in constituting the Francogallian kingdom, we may learn, First, from the last will and Testament of the Emperor Charlemagn, publish’d by Joannes Nauclerus and Henricus Mutius; in which there is this clause, “And if any Son shall hereafter be born to any of these, my three Sons, whom the People shall be willing to Elect to succeed his Father in the Kingdom; My Will is, that his Uncles do consent and suffer the Son of their Brother to reign over that portion of the Kingdom which was formerly his father’s.” Secondly, What Aimoinus, lib. I. cap. 4 says, of Pharamond, commonly counted the first King of the Franks, in these Words. “The Franks electing for themselves a King, according to the custom of other Nations, raised up Pharamond to the Regal Throne.” And again, lib. 4. “But the Franks took a certain Clerk or Priest called Daniel; and as soon as his Hair was grown, established him in the Kingdom, calling him Chilperic. And lib. 4 cap. 67. King Pipin being dead, his two Sons, Charles and Carlomannus were elected kings by the consent of all the Franks. And in another place As soon as Pipin was dead, the Franks having appointed a solemn Convention, constituted both his Sons Kings over them, upon this foregoing condition, that they should divide the whole Kingdom equally between them.” And again, after the Death of one of the Brothers “But Charles, after his Brother’s Decease, was constituted King by the consent of all the Franks.”; Also, towards the end of his History of Charles the Great, he says, “The Nobility of the Franks being solemnly assembled from all parts of the Kingdom; he, in their presence, called forth to him Lewis King of Aquitain, (the only one of Heldegardis’s Sons then living) and by the advice and consent of them all, constituted him his Associate in the whole Kingdom, and Heir of the Imperial Dignity.” Thus much out of Aimoinus.
Many Testimonies of the like nature we find in Gregorius Turon. whereof we shall cite only these few following, lib. 2. cap. 12. “The Franks (says he) having expelled Childeric, unanimously elected Eudo for their King.” Also lib. 4. cap. 51 “Then the Franks (who once looked towards Childebert the Elder) sent an Embassy to Sigebert, inviting him to leave Chilperic and come to them, that they by their own Authority might make him King.” And a little after, “The whole Army was drawn up before him; and having set him upon a Shield, they appointed him to be their King.” And in another place, “Sigebert agreeing to the Franks proposals, was placed upon a Shield, according to the Custom of that Nation, and proclaimed King; and so got the Kingdom from his Brother Chilperic.”; And presently after, “The Burgundians and Austrasians concluded a Peace with the Franks, and made Clotharius King over them in all the three Kingdoms,”75 which particular the Abbot of Ursperg confirms. “The Burgundians (says he) and Austrasians having struck up a Peace with the Franks, advanced Clotharius to be King and sole Ruler of the whole Kingdom.” And in another place “The Franks appointed one of his Brothers, called Hilderic, who was already King of the Austrasians, to be also their King.”
To this matter belongs what Luitprandus Ticenensis writes, lib. 1. cap. 6. “And when he was about to enter into that Francia which is called Roman, (after having cross’d the Countries of the Burgundians) several Ambassadors of the Franks met him, acquainting him that they were returning Home again; because being tired with long expectation of his coming, and not able any longer to be without a King, they had unanimously Chosen Odo or Wido, though ’tis reported the Franks did not take Wido upon this occasion for their King, etc.”;
But concerning this Odo, the Story is memorable which Sigebert relates from whence we may more clearly be inform’d of the manner of their rejecting their King’s Son, and “setting up another in his stead.” For (sub anno 890.) he says thus “But the Franks neglecting Charles the Son of Lewis the Stammerer, a Boy scarce ten years old; elected Odo for their King, who was Son of Duke Robert, slain by the Romans.” Also Otto Frising. Chronic. lib. 6. cap. 10. “The Western Franks (says he) with the consent of Arnolphus, chose for their King Odo a valiant Man, and Son of Robert.” Also in the Appendix to Gregory of Tours, lib. 15. cap. 30. “After the Death of Dagobert,Clodoveus his Son obtain’d his Father’s Kingdom, being at that time very young, and all his Leudes (that is, Subjects) raised him to the Throne, in Villa Masolano.” Also Sigebert. in chronic. anno 987. “Lewis King of the Franks being dead, the Franks had a mind to transfer the Kingdom to Charles the Brother of Lotharius; but whilst he spent too much time, deliberating with his Council concerning that Affair, Hugo acquires the Kingdom of the Franks etc.”; There are many Testimonies of the same Kind in Ado, viz. anno 686. “Clodoveus the King dying, the Franks elect Clotarius his Son for their King.” And again, “Clotarius having reigned four Years, died; in whose stead the Franks elected Theodorick his Brother.” Again, anno 669. “The Franks establish’d in the Kingdom a certain Clerk, called Daniel, having caused him to quit his Tonsure and Orders, and name him Chilperic.”; And again, “The Franks appoint, as King over them, Theodoric the Son of Dagobert.”; Also Otto Frising. chron. 6. cap. 13. “Otto (says he) King of the Franks being dead, Charles was created King by unanimous Consent.” The Appendix to Greg. Turon. lib. 11. cap. 101. says thus, “When Theodoric was dead, the Franks elected Clodoveus his Son, who was very young, to be their King.” And cap. 106. “But the Franks appoint one Chilperick to be their King.” Also Godfrey of Viterbo, chron. part. 17. cap. 4. “But Pipin in being elected by the Franks, was declared King by Pope Zacharias, they having thrust their cowardly King Hilderic into a Monastery.”
From these Proofs, and very many others like them, I think ’tis most plain, that the Kings of Francogallia were made such rather by the Suffrages and Favour of the People, than by any Hereditary Right. Of which a farther Argument may be the Forms and Ceremonies used by our Ancestors, at the Inauguration of their Kings. For we observe, the very same Custom was continued at the Election of our Kings, which we told you before out of Cornelius Tacitus, was formerly practised by the Caninefates, (the Franks own Country-men) viz. that they set their Elected King upon a Shield, and carried him on high on Men’s Shoulders. So did we; for whoever was chosen by the Votes of the People, was set upon a Shield, and carried thrice round the place of publick Meeting for Election, or round about the Army on Men’s Shoulders, all the People expressing their Joy by Acclamations, and clapping of Hands. Greg. Turon. lib. 2. where he makes mention of King Clodoveus ’s Election, “But they (says he) as soon as they heard these things, applauding him both with their Hands and Tongues, and hoisting him on a Shield, appointed him to be their King.” Also lib. 7. cap. 10. where he speaks of Gondebaldus, “And there (says he) placing their King upon a Shield, they lifted him up; but ’tis reported, that as they were carrying him round the third time, he fell down; so that he was scarcely kept from tumbling to the very Ground by those that stood about him.” Of which Accident Aimoinus, lib. 3. cap. 6. gives us this Account, “They called forth Gondebaldus, and according to the Custom of the ancient Franks, proclaimed him their King, and hoisted him on a Shield; and as they were carrying him the third time round the whole Army, of a sudden they fell down with him, and could scarce get him up again from the Ground.” The like says Ado. Vien. Aetat. 6. “Sigebertus consenting to the Franks, was placed upon a Shield, according to the Custom of that Nation, and proclaimed King”: And peradventure from hence arose that Form among those Writers, who treat of the Creation of a King; In Regem elevatus est.76
But now we come to the third Part of this Controversy, in order to understand, how great the Right and Power of the People was, both in making and continuing their Kings. And I think it is plainly proved from all our Annals, that the highest Power of abdicating their Kings, was lodged in the People.77 The very first that was created King, of Francogallia, is a remarkable Instance of this Power. For when the People had found him out to be a profligate lewd Person, wasting his time in Adulteries and Whoredoms they removed him from his Dignity by universal Consent, and constrain’d him to depart out of the Territories of France: and this was done, as our Annals testify, in the Year of Christ 469. Nay, even Eudo, whom they had placed in his stead, abusing his Power through excessive Pride and Cruelty, was with the like Severity turned out. Which Fact we find attested by Gregory of Tours, lib. 2. cap. 12. Aimoinus, lib. 1. cap. 7. Godfrey of Viterbo, part. 17. cap. 1. Sigebertus, sub annis 461 & 469. “Childeric (says Gregorius) being dissolved in Luxury, when he was King of the Franks; and beginning to deflower their Daughters, was by his Subjects cast out of the Throne with Indignation, whereupon he finding they had a Design to kill him, fled into Thoringia. But the Abbot of Ursperg says, “the People were unwilling to kill him but contented themselves with having turned him out, because he was a dissolute Man, and a Debaucher of his Subjects Daughters.” Sigebertus says, “Hilderick behaving himself insolently and luxuriously, the Franks thrust him out of the Throne, and made Aegidius their King.”
And this most glorious and famous Deed of our Ancestors, deserves the more diligently to be remark’d, for having been done at the very Beginning, and as it were, the Infancy of that Kingdom; as if it had been a Denunciation, and Declaration, that the Kings of Francogallia were made such, upon certain known Terms and Conditions; and were not Tyrants with absolute unlimited and arbitrary Power.
Their Successors also, keeping up the same Custom, in the Year of Christ 679, forced Childeric, their Eleventh King, to Abdicate, because he had behaved himself insolently and wickedly in his Government. And he having formerly caused a certain Nobleman, called Bodilo, to be tied to a Stake and whipp’d, without bringing him to a Tryal, was a few Days after slain by the same Bodilo. Our Authors are Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 44. Trithemius, anno 678. and Sigebertus, anno 667.
The Severity of our Ancestors appear’d in the same Manner a little while after, in the Instance of their 12th King Theodoric; who being a wicked and covetous Prince, “the Franks (says Aimoinus) rose up against him, and cast him out of the Kingdom, cutting off his Hair by force,” lib. 4. cap. 44. Ado, Aetat. 6. anno 696. but Sigebertus sub anno 667. imputes a great many of his Crimes to Ebroinus his Favourite and chief General. “King Theodorick (says he) was deposed by the Franks, because of the Insolence of Ebroinus, and his Brother Hilderick was with unanimous Consent chosen King.” And Ado says, “The Franks cast Theodorick out of the Kingdom, shaved Ebroinus in the Monastery of Lexovium, and afterwards raised Childerick to be King over them.” Also the Appendix to Greg. of Tours, lib. 2. cap. 64. “The Franks rise up In Arms against Theodorick, cast him out of the Kingdom, and cut off his Hair: They shaved also Ebroinus.”;
The like Virtue our Ancestors exerted in the Case of Chilperick their 18th King, whom they “forced to abdicate the Kingdom,” and made him a Monk, judging him unworthy to sit at the Helm of so great an Empire, “by reason of his Sloth.”78 Whereof Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 61. Sigebertus and Trithemius, anno 750. and Godfrey, Chronic, part. 17. cap. 4. are our Witnesses.
Again, a sixth Example of the like Severity is extant in Charles the Gross, their 25th King; who for the like Cowardise, and because he had granted away part of France to the Normans, suffering his Kingdom to be dismembered, was “rejected and turn’d out by the Nobility and Gentry of the Kingdom,”79 as Sigebertus tells us anno 890. Which same thing Godfridus records, part. 17. But more at large Otto Frising. chron. 6. cap. 9. where he adds this memorable Passage, “This Man (says he) who next to Charles the Great, had been the King of greatest Power and Authority of all the Kings of the Franks, was in a short time reduced to so low a Condition, that he wanted Bread to eat; and miserably begg’d a small Allowance from Arnolphus, who was chosen King in his stead, and thankfully accepted of a poor Pension: From whence we may observe the uncertain and miserable State of all Human Greatness; that he who had govern’d all the Eastern and Western Kingdoms, together with the Roman Empire, should at last be brought down to such a Degree of Poverty, as to want even Bread.” A Seventh Instance is Odo the 26th King, who after he had been elected King in the Room of Charles the Son of Lewis the Stammerer, was, in the 4th Year of his Reign, by the Franks, banish’d into Aquitain, and commanded to abide there; they replacing in his stead the same Charles the Son of Lewis. Which Fact is recorded by Sigebertus, sub anno 894. Aimoinus lib. 5. cap. 42. and Godfridus part. 17.
We must add to this Number Charles the 27th King, surnamed (because of his Dulness80 ) Charles the Simple: Who having through his Folly suffer’d his Kingdom to run to Decay, and lost Lorrain (which he had before recover’d) was “taken and cast into Prison, and Rodolphus was chosen” in his place, as Aimoinus, lib. 5. cap. 42. and Sigebertus, anno 926. do testify.
[74. ]Note in margin: “1574.”
[75. ]GS Franc. could not identify this citation in Gregory of Tours.
[76. ]“He is elevated to kingship.”
[77. ]These italicized passages would have had special resonance for British audiences in the 1700s given the ongoing debate about the fall of James II in 1688– 89. The Latin text reads: “ordinum ac populi ius potestasque fuerit.” Molesworth’s translation silently drops the “ordinum” or “estates” qualification.
[78. ]Note in margin: “Regno se abdicare coegerunt” and “propter inertiam.” GS Franc. translate as “They obliged him to resign the throne.” Molesworth prefers “abdicate” for contextual reasons.
[79. ]Note in margin providing the Latin: “ab optimatibus Regni repudiatus.”
[80. ]Note in margin providing the Latin: “Propter stuporem ingenii.”