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The Merovingians were a group of people who ruled the Franks (which included present France) for three hundred years beginning in the fifth century. Like their Roman predecessors, the Merovingians wielded power based upon one’s birthright, the aristocratic were destined to remain that way and likewise, the peasants would continue to live in poverty. As such, it behooved the king to ally the powerful. It was an unusual society in that the wealthy were the ones who practiced and fought the wars.
However, the wars and aristocratic lifestyles required a great deal of money for upkeep so the powerful enacted an extensive series of laws known as the Salic Laws. With this, enormous fines were levied that might seem excessive and even ludicrous today. For example, not answering a court’s summons today might result in a contempt charge and a few hundred dollars fine. The penalty for that under the Merovingians was in excess of $180,000! By the year 700, Merovingians had embraced Christianity and the children’s teachings were based upon that philosophy entirely.
The one thing that led to the Merovingians’ downfall was their decision to appoint mayoral families to control the royal palace. In the early eighth century, one such set of mayors, the Carolingians, began to peacefully seize power from the Merovingians and the Franks in what is now France. Withstanding an invasion from Muslims and with the blessings of the Pope, Pippin III deposed the final Merovingians in 751. Thus, the Catholic Church began its systematic control of Western governments, which continued unabated for almost one thousand years.
Yet is was the son of Pippin III who was to gain the most fame Charles I of the Carolingians, who possessed the more famous name Charlemagne (pp 268-75) lived from 742 until 814. Known as the Father of Europe, the
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