Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

chants, and cut down the mulberry-trees, to destroy the silk that enticed strangers to the celestial empire.

For nearly six hundred years, the Greeks were the only Europeans who possessed the silkworm: at length. Roger I., king of Sicily, engaged in war with the Byzantine empire, having captured some persons skilled in the production and manufacture of silk, established factories at Palermo, which rose rapidly into celebrity. Thence the trade spread into Italy, Spain, and France; but in most of these countries the manufacture was long deemed of greater importance than the production of the raw material. France owes her present superiority in the trade to the patriotic exertions of Henry IV., who made extensive nurseries of mulberry plants, and distributed them gratuitously to all desirous of establishing plantations. James I. endeavored to introduce the production of raw silk, as a trade, into England; since his time the experiment has been frequently repeated, but it never has been attended with complete

Similar trials have also been made in Ireland, but the result has not yet answered the expectations of the patriotic projectors.

success.

SECTION V.—The Monarchy of the Franks under the Merovingian Dynasty.

The history of the Franks properly begins with the establishment of a large body of that nation in Belgic Gaul, under a chief named Merewig,* from whom the dynasty received the name Merovingian.t He was succeeded by his son Hilderik,f a brave warrior, but the slave of his passions. An insult that he offered to the wife of one of his officers occasioned a revolt; Hilderik was dethroned, and a Count Egidius, or Giles, proclaimed king. After an exile of eight years, Hilderik was restored, and the remainder of his reign appears to have passed in tranquillity. Hlodowig|| was the next sovereign : his harsh German name was softened by the Latins into Clodovecus, or Clovis, the origin of the modern Ludovicus, or Louis. At his accession (A. D. 481), Clovis had scarcely reached his twentieth year; the ardor of youth combined with the circumstances of his position to urge him to foreign conquests ; for the fertility of the Belgic soil, the purity of its waters, and its atmosphere, continually attracted fresh hordes to the lower Rhine, who sought admission into the Belgic colony

Clovis found it necessary to enlarge his frontiers, and invaded the Roman province. Near Soissons he encountered Syagrius, the son of his father's rival, Egidius, and gained a decisive victory. Syagrius sought refuge with the Visigoths, but that nation had lost much of its martial spirit ; Alaric II., unworthy of the name he bore, sent the unfortunate general bound to Clovis, by whom he was beheaded. The conqueror was now the most powerful monarch of his

age,

and the neighboring princes eagerly sought his alliance: he chose for his queen, Hlodohilde, g or Clotilda, whose uncle was king of the Burgundians. Clotilda was a Christian ; she labored earnestly to convert her husband, and especially urged him when his crown and life were en

* Mere-wig, eminent warrior.

† The other Franks were named Ripe-Warians; that is, inhabitants of the banks of the Rhine. | Hilde-rik, bold in combat.

|| Hlodo-wig, famous warrior. § Hlodo-hilde, brilliant and noble.

He gave

his name.

dangered by an invasion of the Germanic confederation of tribes, called the Allemans. Clovis, persuaded that he owed the great victory of 'Tolbiac to the prayers of Clotilda, became a convert, and received the sacrament of baptism from the bishop of Rheims (A. D. 496). He the prelate, as a fee, all the land he could ride round while he himself slept after dinner, a gift very characteristic of a conqueror, who felt that he had only to wake and acquire new dominions. Soon afterward he undertook new conquests. Advancing in the direction of Genabum (Orleans), he crossed the Loire, spreading everywhere the terror of

The Bretons, long subject to the Romans, consented without reluctance to a change of masters. Clovis, having traversed their country, entered Aquitaine, pillaged the houses, laid waste the fields, plundered the temples, and returned to Paris, leaving," as the cotemporary historian says, “nothing to the wretched inhabitants but the soil, which the Franks could not take away.”

The kingdom established by Clovis extended from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, from the Alps to the ocean, but its security was very uncertain. Wherever the conqueror appeared, he met nothing but submission from the various races settled in Gaul ; as soon, however, as he passed onward, his nominal subjects closed upon his rear, retaining no more trace of his march than the furrowed wave does of a vessel's keel. Neither was the Frankish monarch absolute over his own soldiers ; his army was composed of freemen, who disdained to submit to despotic rule. They gave to their monarch his share of the booty, and nothing more. When they disapproved of the expedition for which they assembled, they abandoned it without scruple; or if the monarch resused to undertake a war which they deemed advisable, they forced him to comply with their wishes, not merely by menaces, but by actual force.f

On the death of Clovis (A. D. 511), his dominions were divided between his four sons, Hildebert (Childebert), Hlodomerl (Chlodomer), Hlodher (Clotaire), and Theodoric, 1 who respectively occupied the capitals of Paris, Orleans, Soissons, and Metz. This distribution gave rise to a new geographical division ; all the districts between the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Moselle, received the name of Oster-rike,** since corrupted into Austrasia and the country between the Meuse, the Loire, and the ocean, was named Ni-oster-rike,ttor, as it was latinized,

Gregory of Tours furnishes us with a curious anecdote on this subject. 66 About this time the army of Clovis pillaged a great number of churches and houses. His soldiers had taken away, from one of the cathedrals, a vase of surprising size and beauty. The bishop of the diocese sent a messenger to reclaim it. To this man, the king said, “ Follow me to Soissons, where the plunder will be shared, and should chance give me the vase, I will do what your prelate requires. When they reached Soissons, they went to the place where the plunder was piled, and the king said, 'I entreat you, my brave warriors, to give me this vase in addition to my share.' Upon this, a presumptuous soldier exclaimed, "You shall have nothing but the portion assigned you by lot.

† The historian quoted in the preceding note says, “ After this, Clotaire and Childebert (sons of Clovis) formed the design of marching against the Burgundi

Their brother, Theodoric, was unwilling to engage in the expedition, but the Franks who followed him, said unanimously, ' If you will not join your brothe ers, we will quit you, and choose another leader. »

# Hilde-berlla, brilliant warrior. || Hlodo-mer, celebrated chief. § Hlod-her, celebrated and excellent. 1 Theod-e-rik, brave arrong the people. ** That is, Eastern kingdom.

ft That is, Northeasteri: kingdom.

ans.

Neustria. All that was not comprised in this division, belonged not to the Merovingian Franks, but retained its ancient name of Gaul.

Chlodomer and Theodoric engaged in war Gundumer,* king of the Burgundians. In a great battle fought near Vienne (A. D. 522), Chlodomer was slain,t but Theodoric gained a decisive victory, and added the Burgundian kingdom to his own dominions. Clotilda took the guardianship of her infant grandchildren, but the favor she showed to the three sons of Chlodomer provoked the resentment of Childebert, king of Paris. He secretly proposed to his brother Clotaire, that they should secure the persons of the young princes, shave their heads, I and divide their dominions. Clotaire readily joined in the project, and put the two eldest of his nephews to death; the third, saved by faithful servants, cut off his hair with his own hands, and entering into a monastery, spent a life of celibacy. Ten years after this event, Thec doric

* Gundu-mer, pacific and great.

† “ The brothers joined their forces at Veserancia, a place situated in the territory of the city of Vienna, and gave battle to Gundumer. The Burgundian having taken to flight with his army, Chlodomer pursued him, and when he was at a distance from his friends, the Burgundians, imitating the signals of the Franks, exclaimed, Come this way, we are thine.' He believed them, and spurred his horse into the midst of the enemy. They surrounded him, cut off his head, and fixing it on a pike, displayed it to their pursuers.”Gregory of Tours.

I To shave the head was the form of dethroning a sovereign at this period. Among the early Franks, the crown of hair was as much a symbol of royalty as the crown of gold.

|| The account given of this transactiou by Gregory of Tours is too interesting to be omitted. - Clotaire readily adopted his brother's project, and came to Paris. Childebert had already spread a report that he and his brother had agreed to in vest their nephews with royalty, and they sent a messenger to Clotilda, then residing in the same city, who said, 'Send your grandchildren, that they may be raised to the throne.' She, joyous, and knowing nothing of the plot, after having made the children eat and drink, sent them to their uncles, saying, 'Go, children, I will believe that my son is not lost, when I see you on the throne. When the ehildren came to their uncles, they were taken and separated from their servants and governors. Then they shut them up apart, the children in one place, and the attendants in another. When this was done, Childebert and Clotaire sent Arcadius (one of their officers), to the queen, with a scissors and drawn sword. When he came into her presence, showing her these, he said, “Thy sons, our lords, desire to know thy pleasure, gracious queen, respecting the manner in which they should treat the children. Order either their hair or their throats to be cut. Astounded by these words, and enraged at beholding the scissors and naked sword, the queen gave vent to her wrath, and, scarcely knowing what she said, so troubled was her mind, imprudently replied, 'If they are not to reign like their father, I would rather see them dead than shaven.' Then Arcadius returned promptly to those who sent him, and said, 'You may persevere; the queen approves what you have begun, and her will is, that you complete your project.' Immediately, Clotaire, taking the eldest of the children by the arm, threw him on the ground, and stabbing him under the shoulder, put him cruelly to death. His brother, terrified at the scene, threw himself at the feet of Childebert, and kissing his knees, exclaimed, “Help me, my good father, let me not be murdered like my poor brother.' Then, Childebert, melting into tears, said to Clotaire, 'Oh! I entreat you, my very dear brother, have the kindness to spare this child's life; if you consent to spare him, I will give you whatever you may demand. But Clotaire, overwhelming him with reproaches, said, “Thrust the child away, or you shall die in his stead, for you were the first to urge me to this deed, though you now shrink from its completion. Then Childebert, alarmed, pushed the child over to Clotaire, who struck his dagger into the boy's side, and slew him on the body of his brother. Afterward they murdered the servants and tutors. When they were dead, Clotaire mo inted his horse, without showing any compunction for the murder of his died, and was succeeded by his son, Theodobert,* who took the title of king of Austrasia. His uncles attempted to deprive Theodobert of his dominions, but being daunted by the mere display of his power, they turned their arms against Spain, laid waste Arragon, Biscay, and Cata lonia, stormed Pampeluna, besieged Saragossa, and were only inducer to retire by a present of the tunic of St. Vincent, a relic which, in tha superstitious age, was deemed an invaluable treasure.

The fame of Theodobert extended to Constantinople ; Justinian en deavored to win his friendsliip, by the cession of the nominal claims which the empire retained over Provence, but the Austrasian monarch entered into an alliance with Totila, the emperor's enemny, crossed the Alps, and quickly subdued the greater part of northern Italy. After his return, the army he left behind met with some reverses, and the inflated vanity of Justinian led him to issue a medal, on which he styled him self Conqueror of the Franks. Theodobert was so enraged at this arrogance, that he prepared to lead an army through Hungary into Thrace, and assail Justinian in his capital, but this daring enterprise was frustrated by his sudden death; he was killed by the fall of a tree (A. D. 548), while hunting the wild buffalo, a dangerous sport, to which he was passionately addicted.

Theodobaldt succeeded to the Austrasian throne, but died after an inglorious reign of seven years. Childebert soon followed him to the tomb, and thus Clotaire acquired the sole, but not the undisturbed possession of Neustria and Austrasia. His own son, Chramnè, I headed a revolt of the turbulent Bretons, but he was defeated and barbarously put to death, with his entire family,|| by command of his cruel father. The chroniclers add, that Clotaire died the next year (A. D. 561), at Compeigne, on the anniversary of his son's death, and at the precise hour of the horrid butchery.

Clotaire left four sons—Charibert, Gontram, Chilperic, ** and Sigebert,tf who shared his dominions. The turbulent period that followed, is principally remarkable for the troubles occasioned by the crimes of two infamous women, Brunilda and Fredegonda, the wives of Sigebert and Chilperic. Fredegonda had won her way to the throne by murdering Galswintha, the sister of her rival ; and the jealousy between nephews, and retired with Childebert to the suburbs. The queen Clotilda, having placed the bodies on a bier, conducted them, with litanies, sacred songs, and profound grief, to the church of St. Peter's, where they were buried together. One was ten years old, and the other six. The third son, named Clodoald, was saved by the interference of some brave men, cailed barons. Renouncing his earthly kingdom, he became a clerk, and, persisting in good works, finally received priest's orders. The two kings shared among them the inheritance of Clodomer.”

* Theode-bert, very brilliant among the people. † Theode-bald, vigorous above all.

I Hram, warlike. | “The two armies having come to an engagement, the count of the Bretons ran away, and was slain in flight; after which Hram (Chramne) began to fly toward the ships he had prepared on the sea, but, while he was endeavoring to save his wife and children, he was overtaken by his father's arıny, made prisoner, and bound. When the news was brought to Clotaire, he ordered that the prince, together with his wife and daughters, should be burned. They shut them up in a poor hut, where Hram, extended on a bench, was strangled ; they then set fire to the house, and it was consumed with all its inmates.”_Gregory of T'ours. § Hari-bert, glorious in the army.

q Gont-ram, generous man. ** Hilpe-rik, brave in combat.

# Sighe-bert, glorious conqueror.

two ambitious and unprincipled women was aggravated, on one side, by the desire of revenge, and, on the other, by the difficulty of maintaining her dignity, when she was changed from a mistress into a wife. During the long period over which their resentments spread, it is difficult to distinguish anything but murders and assassinations, in the gloomy annals of the time. Fredegonda procured the death of Sigebert, and afterward of Chilperic and his two sons, being chiefly enraged against Merovèe,* who had married Brunilda.

Childebert inherited the kingdom of his father, Sigebert, and that of his uncle, Gontram ; aided by his mother, Brunilda, he maintained a long and sanguinary struggle against Fredegonda, and her young son, Clotaire : but he died early, leaving two children to divide his distracted dominions. Both of these were destroyed by Brunilda, whose hatred they had provoked by remonstrating against her crimes, and after a dreary scene of confusion, France was again united into a single monarchy, under Clotaire II., son of Chilperic and Fredegonda (A. D. 613). His first care was to punish Brunilda, the ancient enemy of his mother and his house : she was exhibited for three days, mounted on a camel, to the derision of the army, subjected to the most cruel tortures, and finally fastened to the tail of a wild horse, which tore her wretched carcass to pieces, in the presence of the soldiers.

Clotaire published a code of laws, which enjoys some reputation ; but his administration was deficient in vigor, and during his reign several encroachments were made on the royal power, by the ambitious nobles. His son, Dagobert I.,f succeeded (A. D. 628), and had the mortification to see his authority weakened by the growing greatness of the mayors of the palace : he died, after a feeble and dissolute reign (A. D. 638), but was strangely enough canonized as a saint. I

The successors of Dagobert were mere phantoms of royalty ; the entire sovereignty was possessed by the mayors of the palace, who finally acquired absolute possession of half the monarchy, as dukes of Austrasia. Pepin D'Heristal, the greatest of these nominal ministers, and real monarchs, governed France in the name of several successive kings. After his death (A. D. 714), his power descended to his grandson, Theodobald, a child only eight years of age, who was thus singularly appointed guardian to a king that was not yet sixteen. Karl,|| the

* Mere-wig, eminent warrior.

f Dago-bert, brilliant as the day | The cause of his canonization is singularly illustrative of the superstitions of the age. Audoald, bishop of Poictiers, while on an embassy in Sicily, was miraculously, as he declared, informed of the king's death by a holy hermit named John. This pious anchoret said, “ While I was asleep last night, an old man with a long beard bade me get up, and pray for the soul of King Dagobert, who was on the point of death. I arose, and looking through the window of my hermitage, I saw, in the middle of the sea, a host of devils carrying the king's soul to hell. The unfortunate soul, grievously tormented, invoked the aid of St. Martin, St. Maurice, and St. Denis. At his cries, the spirits of these holy martyrs descended from heaven, in the midst of thunders and lightnings, delivered the king's soul, and bore it up with them through the air, singing the canticle of David, O Lord, how happy is the man that thou hast chosen." Audoald recited this relation to the king's chancellor, on his return, by whom it was entered in the archives of the kingdom, and Dagobert enrolled among the number of saints.Gaguin.

ll Karl, robust.

« ElőzőTovább »