Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter xii: Of the Kingly Officers, commonly call'd Mayors of the Palace - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter xii: Of the Kingly Officers, commonly call’d Mayors of the Palace - 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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Of the Kingly Officers, commonly call’d Mayors of the Palace
Before we treat farther of the uninterrupted Authority of the Publick Council, we think it not improper to say somewhat of those Regal great Officers, which, during the Merovingian Race were called (Majores domus) Masters or Mayors of the Palace. These having for some Time encroach’d upon the Kingly Power, finding at last a fit Opportunity, seiz’d upon it entirely as their own. Their Dignity near the Persons of our Kings seems to have been much the same with that of Praefecti Pretorio, or Generals of the Guards in the Time of the Roman Emperors, who were sometimes also stiled Aulae Praefecti. They were usually appointed in and by the same convention which chose the Kings, and were wont to be Chiefs or Heads of the Publick Council. And upon this Account we frequently meet with such-like Expressions as these among our Historians. “They elected such and such a Man to the Dignity of Mayor of the Palace. Herchinold, Mayor of the Palace, being dead, the Franks conferr’d that Dignity upon Ebroinus, and appointed him to be Mayor or in the King’s Court. Also They chose Hilderick for their King, and Wolfold for Mayor of the Palace.” Which Quotations of ours might indeed have been made as properly in our foregoing Chapter, where we proved that the greater Employments were not usually given by the Kings, but appointed by the Yearly General Council, and conferred upon Men of the greatest Fidelity and Probity.
But in this Magistracy, the same Thing happened, which Plutarch tells us (in his Life of Lysander) came to pass when Agesilaus was appointed by the Lacedemonians to be General of their Army, and Lysander to be Legate or Lieutenant-General: “Even as in Stage-Plays, (says he) the Actors who represent a Servant or Messenger, have better Parts, and are more regarded than him that wears the Crown and Scepter, who scarce speaks a Word in the whole Play: So the chief Authority and Command was lodg’d in Lysander, whilst with the King remained only a naked and empty Title.” Just so it fell out in our Francogallia; Fair Opportunities of increasing the Power of these Mayors of the Palace, being offer’d by the Sloth and Negligence of our Kings; among whom we may reckon Dagobert, Clodoveus, Clotharius, Childericus, Theodoricus, etc. For the Author of the History of the Franks, often cited by Venericus Vercellensis, though without naming him, writes, That during the Reign of Clotharius, Father of Dagobert, the Kingdom of the Franks began to be administered and govern’d by some which were called Provisores Regiae, or Majores Domus. The same says Godfrey Viterbo parte Chron. 16. Whereupon, whilst those Mayors of the Palace executed all the important Affairs of the Commonwealth, and commanded all the Armies in Time of War; and the Kings (spending their Days in Sloth and Idleness) tarried at Home, content with the bare Title of a King; Matters at last were brought to such a pass, that during the Reign of Childerick the 18th King, Pipin, Mayor of the Palace, (who in the King’s Name had waged great and long Wars, and had overcome and reduced the Saxons to Terms of Submission) finding a fit Occasion to assume the Regal Title which was offer’d him, did not let it slip: Especially seeing himself at the Head of a great and victorious Army, that espoused his interests. Of which we have the Testimony of many Authors. First Otto Frising. Chron. 5. cap. 12. and his Transcriber Godfrey Viterbo Part. 16. who write thus. “The Kings of France, before the Time of Pipin the Great, (formerly Mayor of the Palace) were in a Manner but Titular Princes, having very little to do with the Government of the Realm. Sigebertus says almost the same thing sub. Anno 662. “From this Time, (says he) the Kings of the Franks degenerating from their ancient Wisdom and Fortitude enjoy’d little more than the bare Name of King. They did indeed bear the Title according to Custom, as being of the ancient Regal Race; but neither acted nor disposed of any thing. The whole Administration and Power of the Kingdom, was lodg’d in the Hands of the Mayor of the Palace.”
Yet in reading such-like Authorities, we ought to take this Observation along with us. That since Pipin and his Sons laboured (as ’tis probable they did) under a great Load of Envy, for having violently wrested the Royal Dignity from King Childerick, they made it their Business to find out and employ plausible ingenious Historians, who magnified the Cowardliness of Childerick and his Predecessors, upbraiding them with Sloath and Idleness, beyond what they deserv’d. And among such as these, we may reckon Eguinarthus, Chancellor to Charles the Great, and one that did him special Service of this Nature; who in the Beginning of his Book writes thus. “The Family of the Merovingians, out of which the Franks used to elect their Kings, is supposed to have lasted as long as to Hilderic; who by the Appointment of Pope Stephen, was deposed, shaven, and thrust into a Monastery. Now though it may be said to have ended in him, yet in truth, for a long Time before, it ceased to have any Value or Excellency, bating the bare empty Title of King. For both the Riches and Power of the Kingdom, were at the Disposition of the Prefects of the Palace, commonly called Majores Domus; with whom was also lodg’d the Authority of the Empire: Neither was there any Thing left remaining to the King, but only that contenting himself with the Title, he should sit on a Throne, wearing his Hair and Beard very long, and representing the Person of a Ruler; sometimes giving the first and last Audience to Ambassadors from Foreign Parts, and returning such Answers as were made for him, as if they proceeded immediately from himself. But besides the unprofitable Name of a King, and a precarious Allowance for his private Expences, (which the Mayor of the Palace was pleased out of Bounty to give him) he had nothing that he could call his own, except one Village of very small Revenue, where he had a little House, and a few Servants, barely sufficient for his necessary Occasions, etc.”;
Sigebertus, sub Anno 662. taking Eguinarthus for his Pattern, inveighs against the former Kings in almost the same Contumelious Terms. “Whose Custom (says he) it was, indeed, to make an Appearance like a Prince, according to what had been usual to their Family; but neither to act, nor dispose of any thing, only to tarry at Home, and to Eat and Drink like Irrational Creatures.” As if the like Sloth and Cowardise ought to be imputed to all the former Kings, among whom we nevertheless find many brave Men, such as Clodoveus, who not only defeated a great Army of Germans, which had made an Irruption into France, in a great Battle near Tolbiacum; but also drove the Remainder of the Romans out of the Confines of Gallia. What shall we say of Childebert and Clotharius, who rooted the Visigoths and Ostrogoths out of Provence and Aquitain, where they had seated themselves? In the Histories of all which Princes, there is no Mention made of any Mayor of the Palace, but cursorily, and by the By, as one of the King’s Servants. This we may see in Gregorius, lib 5. cap. 18. where he speaks of Gucilius. Lib. 6. cap. 9. and cap. 45. Lib. 7. cap. 49. And we find this Employment to have been not only in the King’s Palace, but also in the Queen’s; For the same Gregorius, lib. 7. cap. 27. mentions one Waddo as Mayor of the Palace, in the Court of Queen Riguntha: And in very many other Places of their Histories, we find both Gregorius and Aimoinus making Mention of these Masters of the Court and the King’s House.
Now the first beginning of the great Authority of these Praefecti Regii, was (as we told you before) during the Reign of King Clotharius the Second, about the Year of our Lord 588. that is, about 130 Years after the constituting the Francogallican Kingdom; which we may also learn from the before-mention’d Historian, so often quoted by Venericus.
Yet there are two other Historians, (though not of equal Credit) Sigebertus and Trithemius, who refer the Beginning of so great a Power in the Mayor of the Palace, to the Reign of Clotair the Third; whose Magister Palatii was one Ebroinus, a Man of extraordinary Wickedness and Cruelty: But however this may be, we find Historians calling them by several other Appellations; such as Comites Domus Regiae,Praefecti Aulae, Comites Palatii,etc.