Francia

Kingdom of the Franks
Francia

 

 

481–843
 

 

Diachronic map of the Frankish kingdom
Capital Tournai (431–508)
Paris (508–768)
Languages Old Franconian, Latin
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Monarchy
King of the Franks
 •  481–511 Clovis I
 •  613–629 Clotaire II
 •  629–639 Dagobert I
 •  751–768 Pepin the Younger
 •  768–814 Charlemagne
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Established 481
 •  Clovis I crowned first King of the Franks 496
 •  Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor December 25, 800
 •  Treaty of Verdun 843
Currency Denier
Today part of see list.

Francia or Frankia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks (Latin: Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankish Empire, Frankish Realm or occasionally Frankland, was the territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks, a confederation of Germanic tribes, during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

The kingdom was founded by Clovis I, crowned first King of the Franks in 496. Under the nearly continuous campaigns of Pepin of Herstal, Charles Martel, Pepin the Younger, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious—father, son, grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson—the greatest expansion of the Frankish empire was secured by the early 9th century.

The tradition of dividing patrimonies among brothers meant that the Frankish realm was ruled, nominally, as one polity subdivided into several regna (kingdoms or subkingdoms). The geography and number of subkingdoms varied over time, but the particular term Francia came generally to refer to just one regnum, that of Austrasia, centred on the Rhine and Meuse rivers in northern Europe. Even so, sometimes the term was used as well to encompass Neustria north of the Loire and west of the Seine.

Eventually, the singular use of the name Francia shifted towards Paris, and settled on the region of the Seine basin surrounding Paris, which still today bears the name Île-de-France and gave its name to the entire Kingdom of France. Most Frankish Kings were buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis, near Paris. Modern France is still named Francia in Spanish and Italian as well as Frankreich in German and Frankrijk in Dutch.

Contents

  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Merovingian rise and decline, 481–687 1.2
      • Clovis's sons 1.2.1
      • Chlothar 1.2.2
      • Francia split into Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy 1.2.3
      • The rule of Chlothar II 1.2.4
      • Dagobert I 1.2.5
    • Dominance of the mayors of the palace, 687–751 1.3
      • Death of Pepin 1.3.1
      • Islamic invasion 1.3.2
    • Carolingian empire, 751–840 1.4
    • Divided empire, after 840 1.5
  • Life in Francia 2
    • Law 2.1
    • Church 2.2
    • Society 2.3
    • Currency 2.4
  • See also 3
  • References and sources 4
  • External links 5

History

The partition of the Frankish kingdom among the four sons of Clovis with Clotilde presiding, Grandes Chroniques de Saint-Denis (Bibliothèque municipale de Toulouse).

Origins

The Franks emerged in the 3rd century as a confederation of smaller tribes, such as the Sicambri, Bructeri, Ampsivarii, Chamavi and Chattuarii, in the area north and east of the Rhine. Some of these peoples, such as the Sicambri and Salians, already had lands in the Roman Empire and delivered troops to Roman forces at the border. In 357 the Salian king entered the Roman Empire and made a permanent foothold there by a treaty granted by Julian the Apostate, who forced back the Chamavi to Hamaland.

As Frankish territory expanded, the meaning of "Francia" expanded with it. Some of the early Frankish leaders, such as Bauto and Arbogastes, were committed to the cause of the Romans, but other Frankish rulers, such as Mallobaudes, were active on Roman soil for other reasons. After the fall of Arbogastes, his son Arigius succeeded in establishing a hereditary countship at Trier and after the fall of the usurper Constantine III some Franks supported the usurper Jovinus (411). Jovinus was dead by 413, but the Romans found it increasingly difficult to manage the Franks within their borders. The Frankish king Theudemer was executed by the sword, in c. 422. Around 428 the Salian king Chlodio, whose kingdom included Toxandria and the civitatus Tungrorum (Tongeren), launched an attack on Roman territory and extended his realm as far as Camaracum (Cambrai) and the Somme. Though Sidonius Apollinaris relates that Flavius Aëtius fought the Franks and temporarily drove them back (c. 431), this period marks the beginning of a situation that would endure for many centuries: the Germanic Franks ruled over an increasing number of Gallo-Roman subjects.

The kingdom of Chlodio changed the borders and the meaning of the word "Francia" permanently. Francia was no longer barbaricum trans Rhenum (barbarians across the Rhine), but a landed political power on both sides of the river, deeply involved in Roman politics. Chlodio's family, the Merovingians, extended Francia even further south. Due to pressure from the Saxons, the northeastern borders of Francia were pressed southwest so that most of the original Frankish people came to live more southwesterly, roughly between the Somme and Münster. The core territory of the Frankish kingdom later came to be known as Austrasia (the "eastern lands").

Merovingian rise and decline, 481–687

The political divisions of Gaul at the inception of Clovis's career (481). Note that only the Burgundian kingdom and the province of Septimania remained unconquered at his death (511).

Chlodio's successors are obscure figures, but what can be certain is that Childeric I, possibly his grandson, ruled a Salian kingdom from Tournai as a foederatus of the Romans. Childeric is chiefly important to history for bequeathing the Franks to his son Clovis, who began an effort to extend his authority over the other Frankish tribes and to expand their territorium south and west into Gaul. Clovis converted to Christianity and put himself on good terms with the powerful Church and with his Gallo-Roman subjects.

In a thirty-year reign (481–511) Clovis defeated the Roman general Syagrius and conquered the Roman exclave of Soissons, defeated the Alemanni (Tolbiac, 504) and established Frankish hegemony over them. Clovis defeated the Visigoths (Vouillé, 507) and conquered their entire kingdom (save Septimania) with its capital at Toulouse, and conquered the Bretons (according to Gregory of Tours) and made them vassals of Francia. He conquered most or all of the neighbouring Frankish tribes along the Rhine and incorporated them into his kingdom.

He also incorporated the various Roman military settlements (laeti) scattered over Gaul: the Saxons of Bessin, the Britons and the Alans of Armorica and Loire valley or the Taifals of Poitou to name a few prominent ones. By the end of his life, Clovis ruled all of Gaul save the Gothic province of Septimania and the Burgundian kingdom in the southeast.

The Merovingians were a hereditary monarchy. The Frankish kings adhered to the practice of partible inheritance: dividing their lands among their sons. Even when multiple Merovingian kings ruled, the kingdom—not unlike the late Roman Empire—was conceived of as a single realm ruled collectively by several kings and the turn of events could result in the reunification of the whole realm under a single king. The Merovingian kings ruled by divine right and their kingship was symbolised daily by their long hair and initially by their acclamation, which was carried out by raising the king on a shield in accordance with the ancient Germanic practice of electing a war-leader at an assembly of the warriors.

Clovis's sons

At the death of Clovis, his kingdom was divided territorially by his four adult sons in such a way that each son was granted a comparable portion of fiscal land, which was probably land once part of the Roman fisc, now seized by the Frankish government.

The division of Francia on Clovis's death (511). The kingdoms were not geographic unities because they were formed in an attempt to create equal-sized fiscs. The discrepancy in size reveals the concentration of Roman fiscal lands.

Clovis's sons made their capitals near the Frankish heartland in northeastern Gaul. Theuderic I made his capital at Reims, Chlodomer at Orléans, Childebert I at Paris, and Chlothar I at Soissons. During their reigns, the Thuringii (532), Burgundes (534), and Saxons and Frisians (c. 560) were incorporated into the Frankish kingdom. The outlying trans-Rhenish tribes were loosely attached to Frankish sovereignty, and though they could be forced to contribute to Frankish military efforts, in times of weak kings they were uncontrollable and liable to attempt independence. The Romanised Burgundian kingdom, however, was preserved in its territoriality by the Franks and converted into one of their primary divisions, incorporating the central Gallic heartland of Chlodomer's realm with its capital at Orléans.

The fraternal kings showed only intermittent signs of friendship and were often in rivalry. On the early death of Chlodomer, his brother Chlothar had his young sons murdered in order to take a share of his kingdom, which was, in accordance with custom, divided between the surviving brothers. Theuderic died in 534, but his adult son Theudebert I was capable of defending his inheritance, which formed the largest of the Frankish subkingdoms and the kernel of the later kingdom of Austrasia.

Theudebert was the first Frankish king to formally sever his ties to the Byzantine Empire by striking gold coins with his own image on them and calling himself magnus rex (great king) because of his supposed suzerainty over peoples as far away as Pannonia. Theudebert interfered in the Gothic War on the side of the Gepids and Lombards against the Ostrogoths, receiving the provinces of Rhaetia, Noricum, and part of Venetia.

Chlothar

His son and successor, Theudebald, was unable to retain them and on his death all of his vast kingdom passed to Chlothar, under whom, with the death of Childebert in 558, the entire Frankish realm was reunited under the rule of one king.

The division of Gaul on Chlothar I's death (561). Though more geographically unified realms were created out of the second fourfold division of Francia, the complex division of Provence created many problems for the rulers of Burgundy and Austrasia.

In 561 Chlothar died and his realm was divided, in a replay of the events of fifty years prior, between his four sons, with the chief cities remaining the same. The eldest son, Charibert I, inherited the kingdom with its capital at Paris and ruled all of western Gaul. The second eldest, Guntram, inherited the old kingdom of the Burgundians, augmented by the lands of central France around the old capital of Orléans, which became his chief city, and most of Provence.

The rest of Provence, the Auvergne, and eastern Aquitaine were assigned to the third son, Sigebert I, who also inherited Austrasia with its chief cities of Reims and Metz. The smallest kingdom was that of Soissons, which went to the youngest son, Chilperic I. The kingdom Chilperic ruled at his death (584) became the nucleus of later Neustria.

This second fourfold division was quickly ruined by fratricidal wars, waged largely over the murder of Galswintha, the wife of Chilperic, allegedly by his mistress (and second wife) Fredegund. Galswintha's sister, the wife of Sigebert, Brunhilda, incited her husband to war and the conflict between the two queens continued to plague relations until the next century. Guntram sought to keep the peace, though he also attempted twice (585 and 589) to conquer Septimania from the Goths, but was defeated both times.

All the surviving brothers benefited at the death of Charibert, but Chilperic was also able to extend his authority during the period of war by bringing the Bretons to heel again. After his death, Guntram had to again force the Bretons to submit. In 587, the Treaty of Andelot—the text of which explicitly refers to the entire Frankish realm as Francia—between Brunhilda and Guntram secured his protection of her young son Childebert II, who had succeeded the assassinated Sigebert (575). Together the territory of Guntram and Childebert was well over thrice as large as the small realm of Chilperic's successor, Chlothar II. During this period Francia took on the tripartite character it was to have throughout the rest of its history, being composed of Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy.

Gaul as a result of the Treaty of Andelot (587). The treaty followed the division of Charibert's kingdom between the three surviving brothers. It gave Guntram's portion with Poitou and Touraine to Childebert in exchange for extensive lands in southern and central Aquitaine.

Francia split into Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy

When Guntram died in 592, Burgundy went to Childebert in its entirety, but he died in 595. His two sons divided the kingdom, with the elder Theudebert II taking Austrasia plus Childebert's portion of Aquitaine, while his younger brother Theuderic II inherited Burgundy and Guntram's Aquitaine. United, the brothers sought to remove their father's cousin Chlothar II from power and they did succeed in conquering most of his kingdom, reducing him to only a few cities, but they failed to capture him.

In 599 they routed his forces at Dormelles and seized the Dentelin, but they then fell foul of each other and the remainder of their time on the thrones was spent in infighting, often incited by their grandmother Brunhilda, who, angered over her expulsion from Theudebert's court, convinced Theuderic to unseat him and kill him. In 612 he did and the whole realm of his father Childebert was once again ruled by one man. This was short-lived, however, as he died on the eve of preparing an expedition against Chlothar in 613, leaving a young son named Sigebert II.

During their reigns, Theudebert and Theuderic campaigned successfully in Gascony, where they had established the Duchy of Vasconia and brought the Basques to submission (602). This original Gascon conquest included lands south of the Pyrenees, namely Biscay and Guipúzcoa, but these were lost to the Visigoths in 612.

On the opposite end of his realm, the Alemanni had defeated Theuderic in a rebellion and the Franks were losing their hold on the trans-Rhenish tribes. In 610 Theudebert had extorted the Duchy of Alsace from Theuderic, beginning a long period of conflict over which kingdom was to have the region of Alsace, Burgundy or Austrasia, which was only terminated in the late seventh century.

During the brief minority of Sigebert II, the office of the Mayor of the Palace, which had for sometime been visible in the kingdoms of the Franks, came to the fore in its internal politics, with a faction of nobles coalescing around the persons of Warnachar, Rado, and Pepin of Landen, to give the kingdom over to Chlothar in order to remove Brunhilda, the young king's regent, from power. Warnachar was himself already the mayor of the palace of Austrasia, while Rado and Pepin were to find themselves rewarded with mayoral offices after Chlothar's coup succeeded and Brunhilda and the ten-year-old king were killed.

The rule of Chlothar II

Immediately after his victory, Chlothar II promulgated the Edict of Paris (614), which has generally been viewed as a concession to the nobility, though this view has come under recent criticism. The Edict primarily sought to guarantee justice and end corruption in government, but it also entrenched the regional differences between the three kingdoms of Francia and probably granted the nobles more control over judicial appointments.

By 623 the Austrasians had begun to clamour for a king of their own, since Chlothar was so often absent from the kingdom and, because of his upbringing and previous rule in the Seine basin, was more or less an outsider there. Chlothar thus granted that his son Dagobert I would be their king and he was duly acclaimed by the Austrasian warriors in the traditional fashion. Nonetheless, though Dagobert exercised true authority in his realm, Chlothar maintained ultimate control over the whole Frankish kingdom.

The Frankish Kingdom of Aquitaine (628). The capital of Aquitaine was Toulouse. It included Gascony and was the basis of the later Duchy of Aquitaine.

During the joint reign of Chlothar and Dagobert, who have been called "the last ruling Merovingians", the Saxons, who had been loosely attached to Francia since the late 550s, rebelled under Duke Berthoald and were defeated and reincorporated into the kingdom by the joint action of father and son. When Chlothar died in 628, Dagobert, in accordance with his father's wishes, granted a subkingdom to his younger brother Charibert II. This subkingdom, commonly called Aquitaine, was a new creation.

Dagobert I

Francia and neighbouring Slavic peoples ca. 650.

Dagobert, in his dealings with the Saxons, Alemans, and Thuringii, as well as the Slavic peoples beyond the borders of Francia, upon whom he tried to force tribute but who instead defeated him under their king Samo at the Battle of Wogastisburg in 631, made all the far eastern peoples subject to the court of Neustria and not of Austrasia. This, first and foremost, incited the Austrasians to request a king of their own from the royal household.

The subkingdom of Aquitaine corresponded to the southern half of the old Roman province of Aquitaine and its capital was at Toulouse. The other cities of his kingdom were Cahors, Agen, Périgueux, Bordeaux, and Saintes; the duchy of Vasconia was also part of his allotment. Charibert campaigned successfully against the Basques, but after his death they revolted again (632). At the same time the Bretons rose up against Frankish suzerainty. The Breton leader Judicael relented and made peace with the Franks and paid tribute after Dagobert threatened to lead an army against him (635). That same year Dagobert sent an army to subdue the Basques, which it did.

Meanwhile, Dagobert had Charibert's infant successor Chilperic assassinated and reunited the entire Frankish realm again (632), though he was forced by the strong Austrasian aristocracy to grant his own son Sigebert III to them as a subking in 633. This act was precipitated largely by the Austrasians desire to be self-governing at a time when Neustrians dominated at the royal court. Chlothar had been the king at Paris for decades before becoming the king at Metz as well and the Merovingian monarchy was ever after him to be a Neustrian monarchy first and foremost.

Indeed, it is in the 640s that "Neustria" first appears in writing, its late appearance relative to "Austrasia" probably due to the fact that Neustrians (who formed the bulk of the authors of the time) called their region simply "Francia". Burgundia too defined itself in opposition to Neustria at about this time. However, it was the Austrasians, who had been seen as a distinct people within the realm since the time of Gregory of Tours, who were to make the most strident moves for independence.

The young Sigebert was dominated during his minority by the mayor Grimoald I, who convinced the childless king to adopt his own Merovingian-named son Childebert as his son and heir. After Dagobert's death in 639, the duke of Thuringia, Radulf, rebelled and tried to make himself king. He defeated Sigebert in what was a serious reversal for the ruling dynasty (640).

The king lost the support of many magnates while on campaign and the weakness of the monarchic institutions by that time are evident in his inability to effectively make war without the support of the magnates; in fact, he could not even provide his own bodyguard without the loyal aid of Grimoald and Adalgisel. He is often regarded as the first roi fainéant: "do-nothing king", not insofar as he "did nothing", but insofar as he accomplished little.

Clovis II, Dagobert's successor in Neustria and Burgundy, which were thereafter attached yet ruled separately, was a minor for almost the whole of his reign. He was dominated by his mother Nanthild and the mayor of the Neustrian palace, Erchinoald. Erchinoald's successor, Ebroin, dominated the kingdom for the next fifteen years of near-constant civil war. On his death (656), Sigbert's son was shipped off to Ireland, while Grimoald's son Childebert reigned in Austrasia.

Ebroin eventually reunited the entire Frankish kingdom for Clovis's successor Chlothar III by killing Grimoald and removing Childebert in 661. However, the Austrasians demanded a king of their own again and Chlothar installed his younger brother Childeric II. During Chlothar's reign, the Franks had made an attack on northwestern Italy, but were driven off by the Lombard king Grimoald near Rivoli.

Dominance of the mayors of the palace, 687–751

Gaul at the death of Pepin of Heristal (714). At this time the vast duchy of Aquitaine (yellow) was not a part of the Frankish kingdom.

In 673, Chlothar III died and some Neustrian and Burgundian magnates invited Childeric to become king of the whole realm, but he soon upset some Neustrian magnates and he was assassinated (675). The reign of Theuderic III was to prove the end of the Merovingian dynasty's power. Thoroughly Neustrian in outlook, he allied with his mayor Berthar and made war on the Austrasian who had installed Dagobert II, Sigebert III's son, in their kingdom (briefly in opposition to Clovis III).

In 687 he was defeated by Pepin of Heristal, the Arnulfing mayor of Austrasia and the real power in that kingdom, at the Battle of Tertry and was forced to accept Pepin as sole mayor and dux et princeps Francorum: "Duke and Prince of the Franks", a title which signifies, to the author of the Liber Historiae Francorum, the beginning of Pepin's "reign". Thereafter the Merovingian monarchs showed only sporadically, in our surviving records, any activities of a non-symbolic and self-willed nature.

During the period of confusion in the 670s and 680s, attempts had been made to re-assert Frankish suzerainty over the Frisians, but to no avail. In 689, however, Pepin launched a campaign of conquest in Western Frisia (Frisia Citerior) and defeated the Frisian king Radbod near Dorestad, an important trading centre. All the land between the Scheldt and the Vlie was incorporated into Francia.

Then, circa 690, Pepin attacked central Frisia and took Utrecht. In 695 Pepin could even sponsor the foundation of the Archdiocese of Utrecht and the beginning of the conversion of the Frisians under Willibrord. However, Eastern Frisia (Frisia Ulterior) remained outside of Frankish suzerainty.

Having achieved great successes against the Frisians, Pepin turned towards the Alemanni. In 709 he launched a war against Willehari, duke of the Ortenau, probably in an effort to force the succession of the young sons of the deceased Gotfrid on the ducal throne. This outside interference led to another war in 712 and the Alemanni were, for the time being, restored to the Frankish fold.

However, in southern Gaul, which was not under Arnulfing influence, the regions were pulling away from the royal court under leaders such as Savaric of Auxerre, Antenor of Provence, and Odo of Aquitaine. The reigns of Clovis IV and Childebert III from 691 until 711 have all the hallmarks of those of rois fainéants, though Childebert is founding making royal judgements against the interests of his supposed masters, the Arnulfings.

Death of Pepin

When Pepin died in 714, however, the Frankish realm plunged into civil war and the dukes of the outlying provinces became de facto independent. Pepin's appointed successor, Theudoald, under his widow, Plectrude, initially opposed an attempt by the king, Dagobert III, to appoint Ragenfrid as mayor of the palace in all the realms, but soon there was a third candidate for the mayoralty of Austrasia in Pepin's illegitimate adult son, Charles Martel.

After the defeat of Plectrude and Theudoald by the king (now Chilperic II) and Ragenfrid, Charles briefly raised a king of his own, Chlothar IV, in opposition to Chilperic. Finally, at a battle near Soisson, Charles definitively defeated his rivals and forced them into hiding, eventually accepting the king back on the condition that he receive his father's positions (718). There were no more active Merovingian kings after that point and Charles and his Carolingian heirs ruled the Franks.

After 718 Charles Martel embarked on a series of wars intended to strengthen the Franks' hegemony in western Europe. In 718 he defeated the rebellious Saxons, in 719 he overran Western Frisia, in 723 he suppressed the Saxons again, and in 724 he defeated Ragenfrid and the rebellious Neustrians, ending the civil war phase of his rule. In 720, when Chilperic II died, he had appointed Theuderic IV king, but this last was a mere puppet of his. In 724 he forced his choice of Hugbert for the ducal succession upon the Bavarians of Hugbert and forced the Alemanni to assist him in his campaigns in Bavaria (725 and 726), where laws were promulgated in Theuderic's name. In 730 Alemannia had to be subjugated by the sword and its duke, Lantfrid, was killed. In 734 Charles fought against Eastern Frisia and finally subdued it.

Islamic invasion

In the 730s the Arab conquerors of Spain, who had also subjugated Septimania, began advancing northwards into central Francia and the Loire valley. It was at this time (circa 736) that Maurontus, the dux of Provence, called in the Arabs to aid him in resisting the expanding influence of the Carolingians. However, Charles invaded the Rhône Valley with his brother Childebrand and a Lombard army and devastated the region. It was because of the alliance against the Arabs that Charles was unable to support Pope Gregory III against the Lombards.

In 732 or 737—modern scholars have debated over the date—Charles marched against an Arab army between Poitiers and Tours and defeated it in a watershed battle that turned back the tide of the Arab advance north of the Pyrenees. But Charles's real interests lay in the northeast, primarily with the Saxons, from whom he had to extort the tribute which for centuries they had paid to the Merovingians.

Shortly before his death in October 741, Charles divided the realm as if he were king between his two sons by his first wife, marginalising his younger son Grifo, who did receive a small portion (it is unknown exactly what). Though there had been no king since Theuderic's death in 737, Charles's sons Pepin the Younger and Carloman were still only mayors of the palaces. The Carolingians had assumed the regal status and practice, though not the regal title, of the Merovingians. The division of the kingdom gave Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia to Carloman and Neustria, Provence, and Burgundy to Pepin. It is indicative of the de facto autonomy of the duchies of Aquitaine (under Hunoald) and Bavaria (under Odilo) that they were not included in the division of the regnum.

After Charles Martel was buried, in the Abbey of Saint-Denis alongside the Merovingian kings, conflict immediately erupted between Pepin and Carloman on one side and Grifo their younger brother on the other. Though Carloman captured and imprisoned Grifo, it may have been enmity between the elder brothers that caused Pepin to release Grifo while Carloman was on a pilgrimage to Rome. Perhaps in an effort to neutralise his brother ambitions, Carloman initiated the appointment of a new king, Childeric III, drawn from a monastery, in 743. Others have suggested that perhaps the position of the two brothers was weak or challenged, or perhaps there Carloman was merely acting for a loyalist or legitimist party in the kingdom.

In 743 Pepin campaigned against Odilo and forced him to submit to Frankish suzerainty. Carloman also campaigned against the Saxons and the two together defeated a rebellion led by Hunoald at the head of the Basques and another led by Alemanni, in which Liutfrid of Alsatia probably died, either fighting for or against the brothers. In 746, however, the Frankish armies were still, as Carloman was preparing to retire from politics and enter the monastery of Mount Soracte. Pepin's position was further stabilised and the path was laid for his assumption of the crown in 751.

Carolingian empire, 751–840

The growth of Frankish power, 481–814, showing Francia as it originally was after the crumbling of the Western Roman Empire. It was located northeasterly of that during the time of Constantine the Great.
Frankish expansion from the early Clovis I' kingdom (481) to the divisions of Charlemagne's Empire (843/870).

Pepin reigned as an elected king. Although such elections happened infrequently, a general rule in Germanic law stated that the king relied on the support of his leading men. These men reserved the right to choose a new "kingworthy" leader out of the ruling clan if they felt that the old one could not lead them in profitable battle. While in later France the kingdom became hereditary, the kings of the later Holy Roman Empire proved unable to abolish the elective tradition and continued as elected rulers until the empire's formal end in 1806.

Pepin solidified his position in 754 by entering into an alliance with Donation of Constantine" at Paris and in a magnificent ceremony at Saint-Denis anointed the king and his family and declared him patricius Romanorum ("protector of the Romans"). The following year Pepin fulfilled his promise to the pope and retrieved the Exarchate of Ravenna, recently fallen to the Lombards, and returned it to the Papacy.

Pepin donated the re-conquered areas around Rome to the Pope, laying the foundation for the Papal States in the "Donation of Pepin" which he laid on the tomb of St Peter. The papacy had good cause to expect that the remade Frankish monarchy would provide a deferential power base (potestas) in the creation of a new world order, centred on the Pope.

Upon Pepin's death in 768, his sons, Charles and Carloman, once again divided the kingdom between themselves. However, Carloman withdrew to a monastery and died shortly thereafter, leaving sole rule to his brother, who would later become known as Charlemagne or Charles the Great, a powerful, intelligent, and modestly literate figure who became a legend for the later history of both France and Germany. Charlemagne restored an equal balance between emperor and pope.

From 772 onwards, Charles conquered and eventually defeated the Saxons to incorporate their realm into the Frankish kingdom. This campaign expanded the practice of non-Roman Christian rulers undertaking the conversion of their neighbours by armed force; Frankish Catholic missionaries, along with others from Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, had entered Saxon lands since the mid-8th century, resulting in increasing conflict with the Saxons, who resisted the missionary efforts and parallel military incursions.

Charles's main Saxon opponent, Widukind, accepted baptism in 785 as part of a peace agreement, but other Saxon leaders continued to fight. Upon his victory in 787 at Verden, Charles ordered the wholesale killing of thousands of pa