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 the Sons of Clovis

When Clovis died, his four sons divided his kingdom. But after a time one of the sons, Clodomer, was killed in battle. He in his turn left three little sons, who, as they were too young to rule, went to live in Paris with their grandmother, Queen Clotilda.

But their uncle, King Childebert, seeing how much his mother loved her grandchildren, grew jealous of them. He sent secretly to his brother King Clotair saying: "Our mother keeps our brother's sons with her, and wishes to give them the whole of the kingdom. You must come to Paris quickly, so that we can take counsel together, and decide what we shall do with them. Either we must cut their hair like the rest of the people, or we must kill them and divide the kingdom of our brother equally between ourselves."

It seems strange to us that the choice should lie between cutting the little boys' hair and killing them. But among the Franks long hair was a sign of royalty. The King and his sons alone were allowed to wear their hair long; all the common people were obliged to cut theirs short. So Childebert knew that if he cut his little nephews' hair they could not be kings, for the Franks would not obey a common man with short hair.

When Clotair heard his brother's message, he was very glad and hastened to Paris. Childebert had mean time spread it abroad among the people that he and King Clotair were going to bring up the young princes so that they should one day be able to rule wisely. So now they sent to Queen Clotilda saying, "Send us the children and we will bring them up as befits princes."

When the Queen heard that she was greatly rejoiced. She called the children to her, dressed them in their best, gave them a little feast, and sent them away with many loving words. Her heart was heavy at parting from them, yet she said, "I shall feel that I have not altogether lost my son, if I see you succeed to his kingdom."

But as soon as the children came to their cruel uncles they were taken from their servants and shut up in prison. The servants, too, were put in prison. Then King Clotair and King Childebert sent a messenger to the Queen. In one hand he bore a naked sword, and in the other a pair of scissors.

When he came to the Queen, he showed them to her saying: "Oh, most glorious Queen! thy sons, our masters, desire to know how you would they should treat these children. Do you desire that they shall live with their hair cut, or do you desire that they shall die?"

When the Queen heard the cruel message, and saw the great, naked sword, she was filled with grief and despair. She covered her eyes, not daring to look at that sword, knowing for what it was meant. Yet she was shaken with anger, too, anger that any one should dare so to insult her darling children. To live disgraced! Nay, she thought, let them die as princes. So in her grief and anger, hardly knowing what she said, she cried out, "I would rather see them dead than shorn."

The messenger was a hard, cruel man who cared little for her grief, and ere she had time to repent of her hasty words he sped back to those who had sent him.

"You can go on," he said, "the Queen approves of what you have done. She wishes you to finish what you have begun."

At these words the two brothers were glad. They sent for the children, and when they came, Clotair at once took the eldest by the arm, and throwing him on the ground, killed him. Hearing his cries, his little brother, who was only seven years old, threw himself at Childebert's feet, clinging to his knees. "Help me, dear uncle," he cried; "do not let me be killed like my brother. Oh, save me!"

Then Childebert's heart was touched. With tears running down his face he begged Clotair to spare the child. "Dear brother," he said, "be generous. Grant me his life. I will give you anything you ask in return for it."

But such weakness only made Clotair the more angry. He turned upon his brother in terrible wrath. "Keep back," he cried, "or you shall surely die in place of the child. It was you who led me on. Now you would leave me to it alone. Is that the way you keep faith? Stand back, I say."

So Childebert, afraid of Clotair's anger, pushed the child away and Clotair seized and killed him as he had killed his brother.

But by this time the cries of the children had been heard, and some soldiers rushing in saved the third, who was named Clodoald. They carried him to a monastery outside Paris. There he grew up and spent his life in safety. When he died, he was made a saint, and the monastery was called by his name St. Clodoald or St. Cloud.

Meanwhile Clotair ordered the children's nurses and servants to be killed, and then he mounted upon his horse and rode away as if nothing had happened. For he was a cold, hard-hearted man, and thought nothing of having killed his little nephews. But Queen Clotilda was filled with grief. Sorrowfully she took the poor little bodies in her arms, and laid them on a bier. Then, with great and solemn pomp, with mournful chant and psalm, they were carried to the grave. All the people mourned with her, and wept for the death of the pretty, fair-haired princes; but none dared question the deeds of the two fierce Kings.

Clotair and Childebert then divided the kingdom of Clodomer, each taking a portion. But this was by no means the end of strife. The three brothers who remained were nearly always fighting with their neighbours, and they often quarrelled among themselves.

But, as the years went on, first one and then another died, till at length only Clotair was left. Then once more the kingdom of the Franks was united under one ruler. It was a much larger kingdom than Clovis had left. For each of the brothers had fought with the surrounding peoples, and each had added something to his kingdom.

Clotair was a cruel and vicious king, delighting in bloodshed. But he was punished by having a bad son called Chramme. Chramme was handsome and of great courage, but we are told in malice and disloyalty he had no equal, and that his heart was filled with so great cruelty that he destroyed the land which was his to keep and guard. At length Chramme rebelled against his father, and Clotair in great wrath gathered an army and marched to subdue him.

This savage old Frank was in name a Christian, and as he went into battle he prayed: "Great Lord God, look down from heaven. Judge according to the right and according to the judgement that Thou hast already given against Absalom when he also rebelled against his father David. I am, it seemeth, the second David."

Chramme was defeated and fled to the seashore where a ship was ready to take him, his wife, and children over the sea to safety. But, before they could embark, they were made prisoner by Clotair's soldiers.

When Clotair saw his son a captive, no pity filled his heart, but only savage wrath and desire for some fearful vengeance. So he ordered that Chramme and his wife and children should be bound and placed in a poor man's cottage hard by. This was done. Then the cottage was set on fire, and Chramme and all his family were burned to death.

So Clotair's vengeance was satisfied for the time. But afterward he began to repent of this horrid deed, and all his last years were made sorrowful by the thought of it. At last he died, worn out with his labours and his griefs, in 561, having reigned fifty years, but only for three years as sole King of the Franks.