Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Story of Clovis

While the last of all the Romans was fighting against the Huns, there ruled over the Franks a King called Merovee, the Son of the Seas. After him the Kings who ruled over the Franks for nearly three hundred years were called Merovingians. When Merovee died, his son Childeric was made King. But after a time the Franks rebelled, and chased Childeric from the throne. The King took refuge in a far-off country, but before he fled he cut a coin in two, giving half to his faithful friend, Wiomad. "When I send you the half which I keep," said Wiomad, "you will know that you may safely return."

For eight years Childeric stayed in that far country. Then, at length, one day a messenger came who bore in his hand the half of a golden coin. By this Childeric knew that he might safely return home, which he gladly did. The Franks received him with joy, and once more he became their King. Once more he stood upon his shield, while his warriors raised him shoulder high, acclaiming him King with shouts and clashing of swords. For such was the custom of the Franks.

Childeric thought no more of the eight long years he had spent in that far country. But one day a lady came and stood at the palace door and knocked. When Childeric was told of it, he commanded that the strange lady should be led before him. And when she was brought, lo! it was Queen Basine, who had been kind to him in that far-off land. Childeric was filled with wonder.

'What has made you journey thus all alone from that far-off land?" he asked.

"I have come," replied Queen Basine,"because I know your worth and your courage. I have come to stay with you. Think not if I believed there was another even in these strange lands beyond the sea who could equal you that I would come to you. Nay, I should go to him."

When Childeric heard this he was overcome with joy, and made Queen Basine his wife.

Childeric and Basine had a son whose name was Clovis. When Childeric died, Clovis became King. He was then only fifteen years old, and he possessed none of the land which is now called France. His kingdom lay north of it, in what we now call Belgium. But when Clovis had reigned five years he began to wish to enlarge his kingdom, and he waged war against the tribes which surrounded him, and subdued them until a great part of the north of France was under his rule.

The people of Gaul against whom Clovis fought were Christians, but he and his Franks were heathen. So they destroyed the churches and robbed them of their treasures.

A story is told of how, after a battle at Soissons, the Frankish soldiers plundered the church. Among the spoil there was a vase of wonderful beauty. It was the greatest treasure the church possessed, so the Bishop sent to Clovis begging him to restore it. Although he was King, Clovis did not feel himself free to restore the vase. Therefore he replied to the messengers: "Follow me to Soissons where the booty is to be divided. If fate gives me the vase, I will return it to the Bishop."

When all the booty was gathered together, Clovis pointed to the vase. "I pray you, my brave soldiers," he said, "give me that vase as part of my share."

Those around him answered, "Great King, all that you see is yours. Do as you please with it."

Only one soldier was angry. Starting forward he cried in a loud voice, "You shall have nothing but what falls to you by lot." Then he raised his battle axe, and with one blow shattered the vase in pieces.

The King replied not a word, although his heart was full of rage. He sent another vase to the Bishop, but he could not forget that a soldier had set his wishes at naught, and deep in his heart anger slumbered.

A year passed. Then Clovis held a great review of his troops. All the soldiers passed before him, and at length came the man who had struck the vase. Clovis stopped him. "No one in all the army," he said, "has arms so badly kept as yours. Neither your lance, your sword, nor your axe is clean."

Saying that, Clovis seized the man's axe and threw it to the ground. The soldier stooped to pick it up, and as he did so the King raised his battle axe, and brought it crashing down.

"Even thus did you treat the vase of Soissons," cried Clovis, as the soldier fell dead at his feet. When his comrades saw the fate of the man who had dared to oppose the King's wishes, they were struck with fear.

It was some time after this that Clovis married the beautiful princess Clotilda. She was the niece of Gondebaud, King of Burgundy. Clotilda greatly feared her uncle, for he had slain her father, had thrown her mother into the river with a stone tied round her neck so that she was drowned, and seized the throne for himself. So when Clovis sent a messenger to her with a ring, begging her to be his wife, Clotilda gladly consented, although she was a Christian and Clovis was a heathen.

Gondebaud did not love his niece, and did not wish her to become a Queen. But Clovis was already so powerful that Gondebaud was afraid to refuse. So Clotilda set out in great state to the court of Clovis, riding in a litter and surrounded by a guard of honor. But hardly had Clotilda set out when Gondebaud was sorry that he had let her go, and he sent messengers after her to bring her back.

When Clotilda became aware of this she turned to the Franks who surrounded her. "If you wish that I shall reach your master," she said, "let me leave this litter. Put me on a horse, and let us gallop with all speed until we reach your borders; otherwise I shall never see your King."

So the Franks obeyed her, and put her upon a swift horse, and made great haste until they reached the court of Clovis. There Clotilda and Clovis were married with much pomp and state. Clovis was well pleased with the beauty and wisdom of his wife, and loved her dearly. But, although he allowed his children to be baptized, he would not himself become a Christian.

One day, however, when Clovis was fighting against the Allemans, his army began to lose. In vain he tried to rally his men, in vain he called upon his gods for help. The Allemans gained upon the Franks every moment. All seemed lost. Then in his despair Clovis raised his hands to heaven. "Jesus Christ," he cried, "Thou whom Clotilda believes to be the Son of God, Thou who, they say, grants help to those who are in danger, victory to those who believe in Thee, hear me. If Thou givest me to triumph over mine enemies, if Thou shewest me thy power, I will believe in Thee, and be baptized in Thy name. For I have called upon my own gods, and they are far from me. If they do not aid their faithful followers, it is that they are powerless."

Immediately the rout of the Allemans began. Their King was killed, and his soldiers yielding, became vassals of Clovis.

Then Clovis returned in peace to his own land, and told the Queen of the wonderful thing that had happened to him. She was greatly rejoiced and begged him at once to be baptized. But Clovis said "There is still one thing of which I must think. Will the people over whom I rule be willing to give up their gods? I will ask them."

So Clovis gathered his people together. But before he had spoken to them they cried out as with one voice: " Pious King, we will no longer worship gods of wood and stone. We are ready to obey the Everlasting God."

Then on Christmas Day, 496, there was a great and solemn ceremony at Rheims. The road from the palace to the church was hung with costly cloths, every house' was gay with banners and flowers. The clergy marched first, carrying golden crosses and jeweled banners, and singing hymns, as they marched. Behind them came the Bishop leading the King by the hand, then the Queen, and then the great crowd of people. The church itself was hung with rich cloths and silks, thousands of candles shone, and the scent of incense filled the stately building.

Amidst the glowing lights and colors Clovis and his followers sat gravely listening, while the Bishop taught them the story of Christ. He told them how the Lord of Heaven was despised and beaten and crucified. And at the sad story the heart of Clovis was touched with a kind of fierce pity. "Ah! had I been there with my Franks," he cried," I would have avenged Him."

Clovis was baptized first, and as the fierce warrior stood before him, clad no more in shining armor, but in a long white robe of peace, the aged Bishop murmured: "Bow thy head humbly, adore that which thou hast hitherto burned, burn that which thou hast hitherto adored." After Clovis, three thousand of his followers were baptized, and thus it was that Christianity came to the Franks.

But although Clovis became a Christian, he did not become gentle or peace-loving. God for him was still the God of battles. He still fought, until, by force or treachery, he had conquered all the lesser Frankish kings. The Burgundians and the Visigoths owned him as overlord, and even the wild Bretons of Armorica, whom the Romans had never been able really to conquer, paid him homage.

The Emperor of the East also honored him. He sent messengers to Clovis, giving him the titles and honor of Consul and Patrician. Then, like a Roman Emperor, he was clothed in a purple robe, and a golden crown was set upon his head. After this, mounting upon a splendid war-horse, he rode among the people, scattering gold and silver by the way. Henceforth Clovis called himself Clovis Augustus, and the common people looked upon him as the rightful heir to all the power and dignity of the Roman Caesars. After this, too, Clovis moved his court from Tours to Paris, as it was more in the center of his kingdom.

But although Clovis was thus in name a Christian and a Caesar he remained in his heart a true barbarian, and to the day of his death he was cunningly cruel and fierce.

He died in 511, having reigned thirty years, and was buried in Paris.