Just a little piece of something I’ve wanted to put together
c.450 CE - 751
The Merovingians (also Merovings) were a Salian Frankish dynasty that came to rule the Franks in a region (known as Francia in Latin) largely corresponding to ancient Gaul from the middle of the fifth century. Their politics involved frequent civil warfare among branches of the family. During the final century of the Merovingian rule, the dynasty was increasingly pushed into a ceremonial role. The Merovingian rule was ended in 751 when Pepin the Short formally deposed Childeric III, beginning the Carolingian monarchy.
The Merovingian dynasty owes its name to the semi-legendary Merovech (Latinised as Meroveus or Merovius), leader of the Salian Franks, and emerges into wider history with the victories of his son Childeric I (reigned c.457 – 481) against the Visigoths, Saxons, and Alemanni. Childeric’s son Clovis I went on to unite most of Gaul north of the Loire under his control around 486, when he defeated Syagrius, the Roman ruler in those parts. He won the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alemanni in 496, at which time, according to Gregory of Tours, Clovis adopted his wife’s Nicene Christian faith. He subsequently went on to decisively defeat the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouillé in 507. After Clovis’ death, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons, and over the next century this tradition of partition would continue. Even when several Merovingian kings simultaneously ruled their own realms, the kingdom — not unlike the late Roman Empire — was conceived of as a single entity ruled collectively by these several kings (in their own realms) among whom a turn of events could result in the reunification of the whole kingdom under a single ruler. Leadership among the early Merovingians was probably based on mythical descent and alleged divine patronage, expressed in terms of continued military success.
751 - c. 900
The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolings, or Karlings) was a Frankish noble family with its origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century. The name “Carolingian”, Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling (meaning “descendant of Charles”, cf. MHG kerlinc), derives from the Latinised name of Charles Martel: Carolus. The family consolidated its power in the late 7th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the throne. By 751, the Merovingian dynasty which until then had ruled the Franks by right was deprived of this right with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy and a Carolingian, Pepin the Short, was crowned King of the Franks.
The greatest Carolingian monarch was Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III at Rome in 800. His empire, ostensibly a continuation of the Roman Empire, is referred to historiographically as the Carolingian Empire. The traditional Frankish (and Merovingian) practice of dividing inheritances among heirs was not given up by the Carolingian emperors, though the concept of the indivisibility of the Empire was also accepted. The Carolingians had the practice of making their sons (sub-)kings in the various regions (regna) of the Empire, regna which they would inherit on the death of their father. Following the death of Louis the Pious, the surviving adult Carolingians fought a three-year civil war ending only in the Treaty of Verdun, which divided the empire into three regna while according imperial status and a nominal lordship to Lothair I. The Carolingians differed markedly from the Merovingians in that they disallowed inheritance to illegitimate offspring, possibly in an effort to prevent infighting among heirs and assure a limit to the division of the realm. In the late ninth century, however, the lack of suitable adults among the Carolingians necessitated the rise of Arnulf of Carinthia, a bastard child of a legitimate Carolingian king.
The Carolingians were displaced in most of the regna of the Empire in 888. They ruled on in East Francia until 911 and they held the throne of West Francia intermittently until 987.
The sons of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s grandsons, fought a civil war after Louis’ death over their inheritance, which only ended in exhaustion. The Frankish lands were divided between them. Charles the Bald was given the western lands, “West Francia”, that would later become France. Louis the German received the eastern lands, which would become Germany. Lothair I was given the lands between the two, “Middle Francia” which consisted of Lotharingia, Provence, and northern Italy. Middle Francia was not united in any way, and in the next generation disintegrated into smaller lordships, with West Francia and East Francia fighting for control over them. Arguably, France and Germany continued to fight over these lands up until World War II.