THE LIFE OF CHARLEMAGNE

Gens Meroingorum

[1] Gens Meroingorum, de qua Franci reges sibi creare soliti erant, usque in Hildricum regem, qui iussu Stephani Romani pontificis depositus ac detonsus atque in monasterium trusus est, durasse putatur. Quae licet in illo finita possit videri, tamen iam dudum nullius vigoris erat, nec quicquam in se clarum praeter inane regls vocabulum praeferebat. Nam et opes et potentia regni penes palatii praefectos, qui maiores domus dicebantur, et ad quos summa imperii pertinebat, tenebantur. Neque regi aliud relinquebatur, quam ut regio tantum nomine contentus crine profuso, barba summissa, solio resideret ac speciem dominantis effingeret, legatos undecumque venientes audiret eisque abeuntibus responsa, quae erat edoctus vel etiam iussus, ex sua velut potestate redderet; cum praeter inutile regis nomen et precarium vitae stipendium, quod ei praefectus aulae prout videbatur exhibebat, nihil aliud proprii possideret quam unam et eam praeparvi reditus villam, in qua domum et ex qua famulos sibi necessaria ministrantes atque obsequium exhibentes paucae numerositatis habebat. Quocumque eundum erat, carpento ibat, quod bubus iunctis et bubulco rustico more agente trahebatur. Sic ad palatium, sic ad publicum populi sui conventum, qui annuatim ob regni utilitatem celebrabatur, ire, sic domum redire solebat. At regni administrationem et omnia quae vel domi vel foris agenda ac disponenda erant praefectus aulae procurabat.


 

The Merovingians

[1] The Merovingian family, from which the Franks used to choose their kings, is commonly said to have lasted until the time of Childeric [III, 743-752] who was deposed, shaved, and thrust into the cloister by command of the Roman Pontiff Stephen [II (or III) 752-757]. But although, to all outward appearance, it ended with him, it had long since been devoid of vital strength, and conspicuous only from bearing the empty epithet Royal; the real power and authority in the kingdom lay in the hands of the chief officer of the court, the so-called Mayor of the Palace, and he was at the head of affairs. There was nothing left the King to do but to be content with his name of King, his flowing hair, and long beard, to sit on his throne and play the ruler, to give ear to the ambassadors that came from all quarters, and to dismiss them, as if on his own responsibility, in words that were, in fact, suggested to him, or even imposed upon him. He had nothing that he could call his own beyond this vain title of King and the precarious support allowed by the Mayor of the Palace in his discretion, except a single country seat, that brought him but a very small income. There was a dwelling house upon this, and a small number of servants attached to it, sufficient to perform the necessary offices. When he had to go abroad, he used to ride in a cart, drawn by a yoke of oxen driven, peasant-fashion, by a Ploughman; he rode in this way to the palace and to the general assembly of the people, that met once a year for the welfare of the kingdom, and he returned him in like manner. The Mayor of the Palace took charge of the government and of everything that had to be planned or executed at home or abroad.

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