A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times The Mayors Of The Palace. The Pepins And The Change Of Dynasty. byGuizot, M.
There is a certain amount of sound sense, of intelligent activity and practical efficiency, which even the least civilized and least exacting communities absolutely must look for in their governing body. When this necessary share of ability and influence of a political kind are decidedly wanting in the men who have the titles and the official posts of power, communities seek elsewhere the qualities (and their consequences) which they cannot do without. The sluggard Merovingians drove the Franks, Neustrians, and Austrasians to this imperative necessity. The last of the kings sprung from Clovis acquitted themselves too ill or not at all of their task; and the mayors of the palace were naturally summoned to supply their deficiencies, and to give the populations assurance of more intelligence and energy in the exercise of power. The origin and primitive character of these supplements of royalty were different according to circumstances; at one time, conformably with their title, the mayors of the palace really came into existence in the palace of the Frankish kings, amongst the "leudes," charged, under the style of antrustions (lieges in the confidence of the king: in truste regia), with the internal management of the royal affairs and household, or amongst the superior chiefs of the army; at another, on the contrary, it was to resist the violence and usurpation of the kings that the "leudes," landholders or warriors, themselves chose a chief able to defend their interests and their rights against the royal tyranny or incapacity. Thus we meet, at this time, with mayors of the palace of very different political origin and intention, some appointed by the kings to support royalty against the "leudes," others chosen by the "leudes" against the kings. It was especially between the Neustrian and Austrasian mayors of the palace that this difference became striking. Gallo-Roman feeling was more prevalent in Neustria, Germanic in Austrasia. The majority of the Neustrian mayors supported the interests of royalty, the Austrasian those of the aristocracy of landholders and warriors. The last years of the Merovingian line were full of their struggles; but a cause far more general and more powerful than these differences and conflicts in the very heart of the Frankish dominions determined the definitive fall of that line and the accession of another dynasty. When in 687 the battle fought at Testry, on the banks of the Somme, left Pepin of Heristal, duke and mayor of the palace of Austrasia, victorious over Bertaire, mayor of the palace of Neustria, it was a question of something very different from mere rivalry between the two Frankish dominions and their chiefs.
At their entrance and settlement upon the left bank of the Rhine and in Gaul, the Franks had not abandoned the right bank and Germany; there also they remained settled and incessantly at strife with their neighbors of Germanic race, Thuringians, Bavarians, the confederation of Allemannians, Frisons, and Saxons, people frequently vanquished and subdued to all appearance, but always ready to rise either for the recovery of their independence, or, again, under the pressure of that grand movement which, in the third century, had determined the general invasion by the barbarians of the Roman empire. After the defeat of the Huns at Chalons, and the founding of the Visigothic, Burgundian, and Frankish kingdoms in Gaul, that movement had been, if not arrested, at any rate modified, and for the moment suspended. In the sixth century it received a fresh impulse; new nations, Avars, Tartars, Bulgarians, Slavons, and Lombards thrust one another with mutual pressure from Asia into Europe, from Eastern Europe into Western; from the North to the South, into Italy and into Gaul. Driven by the Ouigour Tartars from Pannonia and Noricum (nowadays Austria), the Lombards threw themselves first upon Italy, crossed before long the Alps, and penetrated into Burgundy and Provence, to the very gates of Avignon. On the Rhine and along the Jura the Franks had to struggle on their own account against the new comers; and they were, further, summoned into Italy by the Emperors of the East, who wanted their aid against the Lombards. Everywhere resistance to the invasion of barbarians became the national attitude of the Franks, and they proudly proclaimed themselves the defenders of that West of which they had but lately been the conquerors.
When the Merovingians were indisputably nothing but sluggard kings, and when Ebroin, the last great mayor of the palace of Neustria, had been assassinated (in 681), and the army of the Neustrians destroyed at the battle of Testry (in 687), the ascendency in the heart of the whole of Frankish Gaul passed to the Franks of Austrasia, already bound by their geographical position to the defence of their nation in its new settlement. There had risen up among them a family, powerful from its vast domains, from its military and political services, and already also from the prestige belonging to the hereditary transmission of name and power. Its first chief known in history had been Pepin of Landen, called The Ancient, one of the foes of Queen Brunehaut, who was so hateful to the Austrasians, and afterwards one of the privy councillors and mayor of the palace of Austrasia, under Dagobert I. and his son Sigebert II. He died in 639, leaving to his family an influence already extensive. His son Grimoald succeeded him as mayor of the palace, ingloriously; but his grandson, by his daughter Bega, Pepin of Heristal, was for twenty-seven years not only virtually, as mayor of the palace, but ostensibly and with the title of duke, the real sovereign of Austrasia and all the Frankish dominion. He did not, however, take the name of king; and four descendants of Clovis, Thierry III., Clovis III., Childebert III., and Dagobert III. continued to bear that title in Neustria and Burgundy, under the preponderating influence of Pepin of Heristal. He did, during his long sway, three things of importance. He struggled without cessation to keep or bring back under the rule of the Franks the Germanic nations on the right bank of the Rhine,—Frisons, Saxons, Thuringians, Bavarians, and Allemannians; and thus to make the Frankish dominion a bulwark against the new flood of barbarians who were pressing one another westwards.
He rekindled in Austrasia the national spirit and some political life by beginning again the old March parades of the Franks, which had fallen into desuetude under the last Merovingians. Lastly, and this was, perhaps, his most original merit, he understood of what importance, for the Frankish kingdom, was the conversion to Christianity of the Germanic peoples over the Rhine, and he abetted with all his might the zeal of the popes and missionaries, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Gallo-Roman, devoted to this great work. The two apostles of Friesland, St. Willfried and St. Willibrod, especially the latter, had intimate relations with Pepin of Heristal, and received from him effectual support. More than twenty bishoprics, amongst others those of Utrecht, Mayence, Ratisbonne, Worms, and Spire, were founded at this epoch; and one of those ardent pioneers of Christian civilization, the Irish bishop, St. Lievin, martyred in 656 near Ghent, of which he has remained the patron saint, wrote in verse to his friend Herbert, a little before his martyrdom, "I have seen a sun without rays, days without light, and nights without repose. Around me rageth a people impious and clamorous for my blood. O people, what harm have I done thee? 'Tis peace that I bring thee; wherefore declare war against me? But thy barbarism will bring my triumph and give me the palm of martyrdom. I know in whom I trust, and my hope shall not be confounded. Whilst I am pouring forth these verses, there cometh unto me the tired driver of the ass that beareth me the usual provisions: he bringeth that which maketh the delights of the country, even milk and butter and eggs; the cheeses stretch the wicker-work of the far too narrow panniers. Why tarriest thou, good carrier? Quicken thy step; collect thy riches, thou that this morning art so poor. As for me I am no longer what I was, and have lost the gift of joyous verse. How could it be other-wise when I am witness of such cruelties?"
It were difficult to describe with more pious, graceful, and melancholy feeling a holier and a simpler life.
After so many firm and glorious acts of authority abroad, Pepin of Heristal at his death, December 16, 714, did a deed of weakness at home. He had two wives, Plectrude and Alpaide; he had repudiated the former to espouse the latter, and the church, considering the second marriage unlawful, had constantly urged him to take back Plectrude. He had by her a son, Grimoald, who was assassinated on his way to join his father lying ill near Liege. This son left a child, Theodoald, only six years old. This child it was whom Pepin, either from a grandfather's blind fondness, or through the influence of his wife Plectrude, appointed to succeed him, to the detriment of his two sons by Alpaide, Charles and Childebrand. Charles, at that time twenty-five years of age, had already a name for capacity and valor. On the death of Pepin, his widow Plectrude lost no time in arresting and imprisoning at Cologne this son of her rival Alpaide; but, some months afterwards, in 715, the Austrasians, having risen against Plectrude, took Charles out of prison and set him at their head, proclaiming him Duke of Austrasia. He was destined to become Charles Martel.
He first of all took care to extend and secure his own authority over all the Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians, vexed at the long domination of the Austrasians, had taken one of themselves, Ragenfried, as mayor of the palace, and had placed at his side a Merovingian sluggard king, Chilperic II., whom they had dragged from a monastery. Charles, at the head of the Austrasians, twice succeeded in beating, first near Cambrai and then near Soissons, the Neustrian king and mayor of the palace, pursued them to Paris, returned to Cologne, got himself accepted by his old enemy Queen Plectrude, and remaining temperate amidst the triumph of his ambition, he, too, took from amongst the surviving Merovingians a sluggard king, whom he installed under the name of Clotaire IV., himself becoming, with the simple title of Duke of Austrasia, master of the Frankish dominion.
Being in tranquillity on the left bank of the Rhine, Charles directed towards the right bank—towards the Frisons and the Saxons—his attention and his efforts. After having experienced, in a first encounter, a somewhat severe check, he took, from 715 to 718, ample revenge upon them, repressed their attempts at invasion of Frankish territory, and pursued them on their own, imposed tribute upon them, and commenced with vigor, against the Saxons in particular, that struggle, at first defensive and afterwards aggressive, which was to hold so prominent a place in the life and glorious but blood-stained annals of his grandson Charlemagne.
In the war against the Neustrians, at the battle of Soissons in 719, Charles had encountered in their ranks Eudes or Eudon, Duke of Aquitania and Vasconia, that beautiful portion of Southern Gaul situated between the Pyrenees, the Ocean, the Garonne, and the Rhone, who had been for a long time trying to shake off the dominion of the barbarians, Visigoths or Franks. At the death of Pepin of Heristal, the Neustrians had drawn into alliance with them, for their war against the Austrasians, this Duke Elides, to whom they gave, as it appears, the title of king. After their common defeat at Soissons, the Aquitanian prince withdrew precipitately into his own country, taking with him the sluggard king of the Neustrians, Chilperic II. Charles pursued him to the Loire, and sent word to him, a few months afterwards, that he would enter into friendship with him if he would deliver up Chilperic and his treasures; otherwise he would invade and ravage Aquitania. Eudes delivered up Chilperic and his treasures; and Charles, satisfied with having in his power this Merovingian phantom, treated him generously, kept up his royal rank, and at his death, which happened soon afterwards, replaced him by another phantom of the same line, Theodoric or Thierry IV.; whom he dragged from the abbey of Chelles, founded by Queen St. Bathilde, wife of Clovis II., and who for seventeen years bore the title of king, whilst Charles Martel was ruling gloriously, and was, perhaps, the savior of the Frankish dominions. When he contracted his alliance with the Duke of Aquitania, Charles Martel did not know against what enemies and perils he would soon have to struggle.
In the earlier years of the eighth century, less than a hundred years from the death of Mahomet, the Mussulman Arabs, after having conquered Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Northern Africa, had passed into Europe, invaded Spain, overthrown the kingdom of the Visigoths, driven back the remnants of the nation and their chief, Pelagius, to the north of the Peninsula, into the Asturias and Galicia, and pushed even beyond the Pyrenees, into old Narbonness, then called Septimania, their limitless incursions. These fiery conquerors did not amount at that time, according to the most probable estimates, to more than fifty thousand; but they were under the influence of religious and warlike enthusiasm at one and the same time; they were fanatics in the cause of Deism and of glory. "The Arab warrior during campaigns was not excused from any one of the essential duties of Islamism; he was bound to pray at least once a day, on rising in the morning, at the blush of dawn. The general of the army was its priest; he it was who, at the head of the ranks, gave the signal for prayer, uttered the words, reminded the troops of the precepts of the Koran, and enjoined upon them forgetfulness of personal quarrels." One day, on the point of engaging in a decisive battle, Moussaben- Nossair, first governor of Mussulman Africa, was praying, according to usage, at the head of the troops; and he omitted the invocation of the name of the Khalif, a respectful formality indispensable on the occasion. One of his officers, persuaded that it was a mere slip on Moussa's part, made a point of admonishing him. "Know thou," said Moussa, "that we are in such a position and at such an hour that no other name must be invoked save that of the most high God." Moussa was, apparently, the first Arab chief to cross the Pyrenees and march, plundering as he went, into Narbonness. The Arabs had but very confused ideas of Gaul; they called it Frandjas, and gave to all its inhabitants, without distinction, the name of Frandj. The Khalif Abdelmelek, having recalled Moussa, questioned him about the different peoples with which he had been concerned. "And of these Frandj," said he, "what hast thou to tell me?" "They are a people," answered Moussa, "very many in number and abundantly provided with everything, brave and impetuous in attack, but spiritless and timid under reverses." "And how went the war betwixt them and thee?" added Abdelmelek: "was it favorable to thee or the contrary?" "The contrary! Nay, by Allah and the Prophet; never was my army vanquished; never was a battalion beaten; and never did the Mussulmans hesitate to follow me when I led them forty against fourscore." (Fauriel, Histoire de la Gaule, &c., t. III., pp. 48, 67.)
In 719, under El-Idaur-ben-Abdel-Rhaman, a valiant and able leader, say the Arab writers, but greedy, harsh, and cruel, the Arabs pursued their incursions into Southern Gaul, took Narbonne, dispersed the inhabitants, spread themselves abroad in search of plunder as far as the borders of the Garonne, and went and laid siege to Toulouse. Eudes, Duke of Aquitania, happened to be at Bordeaux, and he hastily summoned all the forces of his towns and all the populations from the Pyrenees to the Loire, and hurried to the relief of his capital. The Arabs, commanded by a new chieftain, El-Samah, more popular amongst them than El-Haur, awaited him beneath the walls of the city determined to give him battle. "Have ye no fear of this multitude," said El-Samah to his warriors; "if God be with us, who shall be against us? "Elides had taken equally great pains to kindle the pious courage of the Aquitanians; he spread amongst his troops a rumor that he had but lately received as a present from Pope Gregory II. three sponges that had served to wipe down the table at which the sovereign pontiffs were accustomed to celebrate the communion; he had them cut into little strips which he had distributed to all those of the combatants who wished for them, and thereupon gave the sword to sound the charge. The victory of the Aquitanians was complete; the Arab army was cut in pieces; El-Samah was slain, and with him, according to the victors' accounts, full three hundred and seventy-five thousand of his troops. The most truth-like testimonies and calculations do not put down at more than from fifty to seventy thousand men, in fighting trim, the number of Arabs that entered Spain eight or ten years previously, even with the additions it must have received by means of the emigrations from Africa; and undoubtedly El-Samah could not have led into Aquitania more than from forty to forty-five thousand. However that may be, the defeat of the Arabs before Toulouse was so serious that, four or five centuries afterwards, Ibn-Hayan, the best of their historians, still spoke of it as the object of solemn commemoration, and affirmed that the Arab army had entirely perished there, without the escape of a single man. The spot in the Roman road, between Carcassonne and Toulouse, where the battle was fought, was one heap of dead bodies, and continued to be mentioned in the Arab chronicles under the name of Martyrs' Causeway. But the Arabs of Spain were then in that unstable social condition and in that heyday of impulsive youthfulness as a people, when men are more apt to be excited and attracted by the prospect of bold adventures than discouraged by reverses. El-Samah, on crossing the Pyrenees to go plundering and conquering in the country of the Frandj, had left as his lieutenant in the Iberian peninsula Anbessa-ben-Sohim, one of the most able, most pious, most just, and most humane chieftains, say the Arab chronicles, that Islamism ever produced in Europe. He, being informed of El-Samah's death before Toulouse, resolved to resume his enterprise and avenge his defeat. In 725, he entered Gaul with a strong army; took Carcassonne; reduced, either by force or by treaty, the principal towns of Septimania to submission; and even carried the Arab arms, for the first time, beyond the Rhone into Provence. At the news of this fresh invasion Duke Eudes hurried from Aquitania, collecting on his march the forces of the country, and, after having waited some time for a favorable opportunity, gave the Arabs battle in Provence. It was indecisive at first, but ultimately won by the Christians without other result than the retreat of Anbessa, mortally wounded, upon the right bank of the Rhone, where he died without having been able himself to recross the Pyrenees, but leaving the Arabs masters of Septimania, where they established themselves in force, taking Narbonne for capital and a starting-point for their future enterprises.
The struggle had now begun in earnest, from the Rhone to the Garonne and the Ocean, between the Christians of Southern Gaul and the Mussulmans of Spain. Duke Eudes saw with profound anxiety his enemies settled in Septimania, and ever on the point of invading and devastating Aquitania. He had been informed that the Khalif Hashem had just appointed to the governor-generalship of Spain Abdel-Rhaman (the Abderame of the Christian chronicles), regarded as the most valiant of the Spanish Arabs, and that this chieftain was making great preparations for resuming their course of invasion. Another peril at the same time pressed heavily on Duke Eudes: his northern neighbor, Charles, sovereign duke of the Franks, the conqueror, beyond the Rhine, of the Frisons and Saxons, was directing glances full of regret towards those beautiful countries of Southern Gaul, which in former days Clovis had won from the Visigoths, and which had been separated, little by little, from the Frankish empire. Either justly or by way of ruse Charles accused Duke Eudes of not faithfully observing the treaty of peace they had concluded in 720; and on this pretext he crossed the Loire, and twice in the same year, 731, carried fear and rapine into the possession of the Duke of Aquitania on the left bank of that river. Eudes went, not unsuccessfully, to the rescue of his domains; but he was soon recalled to the Pyrenees by the news he received of the movements of Abdel-Rhaman and by the hope he had conceived of finding, in Spain itself and under the sway of the Arabs, an ally against their invasion of his dominions. The military command of the Spanish frontier of the Pyrenees and of the Mussulman forces there encamped had been intrusted to Othman-ben-Abi-Nessa, a chieftain of renown, but no Arab, either in origin or at heart, although a Mussulman. He belonged to the race of Berbers, whom the Romans called Moors, a people of the north-west of Africa, conquered and subjugated by the Arabs, but impatient under the yoke. The greater part of Abi- Nessa's troops were likewise Berbers and devoted to their chiefs. Abi- Nessa, ambitious and audacious, conceived the project of seizing the government of the Peninsula, or at the least of making himself independent master of the districts he governed; and he entered into negotiations with the Duke of Aquitania to secure his support. In spite of religious differences their interests were too similar not to make an understanding easy; and the secret alliance was soon concluded and confirmed by a precious pledge. Duke Eudes had a daughter of rare beauty, named Lampagie, and he gave her in marriage to Abi-Nessa, who, say the chronicles, became desperately enamoured of her.
But whilst Eudes, trusting to this alliance, was putting himself in motion towards the Loire to protect his possessions against a fresh attack from the Duke of the Franks, the governor-general of Spain, Abdel- Rhaman, informed of Abi-Nessa's plot, was arriving with large forces at the foot of the Pyrenees, to stamp out the rebellion. Its repression was easy. "At the approach of Abdel-Rhaman," say the chroniclers, "Abi-Nessa hastened to shut himself up in Livia [the ancient capital of Cerdagne, on the ruins of which Puycerda was built], flattering himself that he could sustain a siege and there await succor from his father-in-law, Eudes; but the advance-guard of Abdel-Rhaman followed him so closely and with such ardor that it left him no leisure to make the least preparation for defence. Abi-Nessa, had scarcely time to fly from the town and gain the neighboring mountains with a few servants and his well-beloved Lampagie. Already he had penetrated into an out-of-the-way and lonely pass, where it seemed to him he ran no more risk of being discovered. He halted, therefore, to rest himself and quench the thirst which was tormenting his lovely companion and himself, beside a waterfall which gushed from a mass of lofty rocks upon a piece of fresh, green turf. They were surrendering themselves to the delightful feeling of being saved, when, all at once, they hear a loud sound of steps and voices; they listen; they glance in the direction of the sound, and perceive a detachment of armed men, one of those that were out in search of them. The servants take to flight; but Lampagie, too weary, cannot follow them, nor can Abi-Nessa abandon Lampagie. In the twinkling of an eye they are surrounded by foes. The chronicler Isidore of Bdja says that Abi-Nessa, in order not to fall alive into their hands, flung himself from top to bottom of the rocks; and an Arab historian relates that he took sword in hand, and fell pierced with twenty lance-thrusts whilst fighting in defence of her he loved. They cut off his head, which was forthwith carried to Abdel- Rhaman, to whom they led away prisoner the hapless daughter of Eudes. She was so lovely in the eyes of Abdel-Rhaman, that he thought it his duty to send her to Damascus, to the commander of the faithful, esteeming no other mortal worthy of her." (Fauriel, Historie de la Gaulle, &c., t. III., p. 115.)
Abdel-Rhaman, at ease touching the interior of Spain, reassembled the forces he had prepared for his expedition, marched towards the Pyrenees by Pampeluna, crossed the summit become so famous under the name of Port de Roncevaux, and debouched by a single defile and in a single column, say the chroniclers, upon Gallic Vasconia, greater in extent than French Biscay now is. M. Fauriel, after scrupulous examination, according to his custom, estimates the army of Abdel-Rhaman, whether Mussulman adventurers flocking from all parts, or Arabs of Spain, at from sixty-five to seventy thousand fighting men. Duke Eudes made a gallant effort to stop his march and hurl him back towards the mountains; but exhausted, even by certain small successes, and always forced to retire, fight after fight, up to the approaches to Bordeaux, he crossed the Garonne, and halted on the right bank of the river, to cover the city. Abdel-Rhaman who had followed him closely, forced the passage of the river, and a battle was fought, in which the Aquitanians were defeated with immense loss. "God alone," says Isidore of Beja, "knows the number of those who fell." The battle gained, Abdel-Rhaman took Bordeaux by assault and delivered it over to his army. The plunder, to believe the historians of the conquerors, surpassed all that had been preconceived of the wealth of the vanquished: "The most insignificant soldier," say they, "had for his share plenty of topazes, jacinths, and emeralds, to say nothing of gold, a somewhat vulgar article under the circumstances." What appears certain is that, at their departure from Bordeaux, the Arabs were so laden with booty that their march became less rapid and unimpeded than before.
In the face of this disaster, the Franks and their duke were evidently the only support to which Eudes could have recourse; and he repaired in all haste to Charles and invoked his aid against the common enemy, who, after having crushed the Aquitanians, would soon attack the Franks, and subject them in turn to ravages and outrages. Charles did not require solicitation. He took an oath of the Duke of Aquitania to acknowledge his sovereignty and thenceforth remain faithful to him; and then, summoning all his warriors, Franks, Burgundians, Gallo-Romans, and Germans from beyond the Rhine, he set himself in motion towards the Loire. It was time. The Arabs had spread over the whole country between the Garonne and the Loire; they had even crossed the latter river and penetrated into Burgundy as far as Autun and Sens, ravaging the country, the towns, and the monasteries, and massacring or dispersing the populations. Abdel-Rhaman had heard tell of the city of Tours and its rich abbey, the treasures whereof, it was said, surpassed those of any other city and any other abbey in Gaul. Burning to possess it, he recalled towards this point his scattered forces. On arriving at Poitiers he found the gates closed and the inhabitants resolved to defend themselves; and, after a fruitless attempt at assault, he continued his march towards Tours. He was already beneath the walls of the place when he learned that the Franks were rapidly advancing in vast numbers. He fell back towards Poitiers, collecting the troops that were returning to him from all quarters, embarrassed with the immense booty they were dragging in their wake. He had for a moment, say the historians, an idea of ordering his soldiers to leave or burn their booty, to keep nothing but their arms, and think of nothing but battle: however, he did nothing of the kind, and, to await the Franks, he fixed his camp between the Vienne and the Clain, near Poitiers, not far from the spot where, two hundred and twenty-five years before, Clovis had beaten the Visigoths; or, according to others, nearer Tours, at Mire, in a plain still called the Landes de Charlemagne.
The Franks arrived. It was in the month of September or October, 732: and the two armies passed a week face to face, at one time remaining in their camps, at another deploying without attacking. It is quite certain that neither Franks nor Arabs, neither Charles nor Abdel-Rhaman themselves, took any such account, as we do in our day, of the importance of the struggle in which they were on the point of engaging; it was a struggle between East and West, South and North, Asia and Europe, the Gospel and the Koran; and we now say, on a general consideration of events, peoples, and ages, that the civilization of the world depended upon it. The generations that are passing upon earth see not so far, nor from such a height, the chances and consequences of their acts; the Franks and Arabs, leaders and followers, did not regard themselves, now nearly twelve centuries ago, as called upon to decide, near Poitiers, such future question; but vaguely, instinctively they felt the grandeur of the part they were playing, and they mutually scanned one another with that grave curiosity which precedes a formidable encounter between valiant warriors. At length, at the breaking of the seventh or eighth day, Abdel-Rhaman, at the head of his cavalry, ordered a general attack; and the Franks received it with serried ranks, astounding their enemies by their tall stature, stout armor, and their stern immobility. "They stood there," says Isidore of Beja, "like solid walls or icebergs." During the fight, a body of Franks penetrated into the enemy's camp, either for pillage or to take the Arabs in the rear. The horsemen of Abdel-Rhaman at once left the general attack, and turned back to defend their camp or the booty deposited there. Disorder set in amongst them, and, before long, throughout their whole army; and the battle became a confused melley, wherein the lofty stature and stout armor of the Franks had the advantage. A great number of Arabs and Abdel-Rhaman himself were slain. At the approach of night both armies retired to their camps. The next day, at dawn, the Franks moved out of theirs, to renew the engagement. In front of them was no stir, no noise, no Arabs out of their tents and reassembling in their ranks. Some Franks were sent to reconnoitre, entered the enemy's camp, and penetrated into their tents; but they were deserted. "The Arabs had decamped silently in the night, leaving the bulk of their booty, and by this precipitate retreat acknowledging a more severe defeat than they had really sustained in the fight."
Foreseeing the effect which would be produced by their reverse in the country they had but lately traversed as conquerors, they halted nowhere, but hastened to reenter Septimania and their stronghold Narbonne, where they might await reenforcements from Spain. Duke Eudes, on his side, after having, as vassal, taken the oath of allegiance to Charles, who will be henceforth called Charles Martel (Hammer), that glorious name which he won by the great blow he dealt the Arabs, reentered his dominions of Aquitania and Vasconia, and applied himself to the reestablishment there of security and of his own power. As for Charles Martel, indefatigable alike after and before victory, he did not consider his work in Southern Gaul as accomplished. He wished to recover and reconstitute in its entirety the Frankish dominion; and he at once proceeded to reunite to it Provence and the portions of the old kingdom of Burgundy situated between the Alps and the Rhone, starting from Lyons. His first campaign with this object, in 733, was successful; he retook Lyons, Vienne, and Valence, without any stoppage up to the Durance, and charged chosen "leudes" to govern these provinces with a view especially to the repression of attempts at independence at home and incursions on the part of the Arabs abroad. And it was not long before these two perils showed head. The government of Charles Martel's "leudes" was hard to bear for populations accustomed for some time past to have their own way, and for their local chieftains thus stripped of their influence. Maurontius, patrician of Arles, was the most powerful and daring of these chieftains; and he had at heart the independence of his country and his own power far more than Frankish grandeur. Caring little, no doubt, for the interests of religion, he entered into negotiations with Youssouf- ben-Abdel-Rhaman, governor of Narbonne, and summoned the Mussulmans into Provence. Youssouf lost no time in responding to the summons; and, from 734 to 736, the Arabs conquered and were in military occupation of the left bank of the Rhone from Arles to Lyons. But in 737 Charles Martel returned, reentered Lyons and Avignon, and, crossing the Rhone, marched rapidly on Narbonne, to drive the Arabs from Septimania. He succeeded in beating them within sight of their capital; but, after a few attempts at assault, not being able to become master of it, he returned to Provence, laying waste on his march several towns of Septimania, Agde, Maguelonne, and Nimes, where he tried, but in vain, to destroy the famous Roman arenas by fire, as one blows up an enemy's fortress. A rising of the Saxons recalled him to Northern Gaul; and scarcely had he set out from Provence, when national insurrection and Arab invasion recommenced. Charles Martel waited patiently as long as the Saxons resisted; but as soon as he was at liberty on their score, in 739, he collected a strong army, made a third campaign along the Rhone, retook Avignon, crossed the Durance, pushed on as far as the sea, took Marseilles, and then Arles, and drove the Arabs definitively from Provence. Some Mussulman bands attempted to establish themselves about St. Tropez, on the rugged heights and among the forests of the Alps; but Charles Martel carried his pursuit even into those wild retreats, and all Southern Gaul, on the left bank of the Rhone, was incorporated in the Frankish dominion, which will be henceforth called France.
The ordinary revenues of Charles Martel clearly could not suffice for so many expeditions and wars. He was obliged to attract or retain by rich presents, particularly by gifts of lands, the warriors, old and new "leudes," who formed his strength. He therefore laid hands on a great number of the domains of the Church, and gave them, with the title of benefices, in temporary holding, often converted into proprietorship, and under the style of precarious tenure, to the chiefs in his service. There was nothing new in this: the Merovingian kings and the mayors of the palace had more than once thus made free with ecclesiastical property; but Charles Martel carried this practice much farther than his predecessors had. He did more: he sometimes gave his warriors ecclesiastical offices and dignities. His liege Milo received from him the archbishoprics of Rheims and Troves; and his nephew Hugh those of Paris, Rouen, and Bayeux, with the abbeys of Fontenelle and Jumieges. The Church protested with all her might against such violations of her mission and her interest, her duties and her rights. She was so specially set against Charles Martel that, more than a century after his death, in 858, the bishops of France, addressing themselves to Louis the Germanic on this subject, wrote to him, "St. Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, who now reposeth in the monastery of St. Trudon, being at prayer, was transported into the realms of eternity; and there, amongst other things which the Lord did show unto him, he saw Prince Charles delivered over to the torments of the damned in the lowest regions of hell. And St. Eucherius demanding of the angel, his guide, what was the reason thereof, the angel answered that it was by sentence of the saints whom he had robbed of their possessions, and who, at the day of the last judgment, will sit with God to judge the world."
Whilst thus making use, at the expense of the Church, and for political interests, of material force, Charles Martel was far from misunderstanding her moral influence and the need he had of her support at the very time when he was incurring her anathemas. Not content with defending Christianity against Islamism, he aided it against Paganism by lending the Christian missionaries in Germany and the north-west of Europe, amongst others St. Willibrod and St. Boniface, the most effectual assistance. In 724, he addressed to all religious and political authorities that could be reached by his influence, not only to the bishops, "but to the dukes, counts, their vicars, our palatines, all our agents, our envoys, and our friends this circular letter: 'Know that a successor of the Apostles, our father in Christ, Boniface, bishop, hath come unto us saying that we ought to take him under our safeguard and protection. We do you to wit that we do so very willingly. Wherefore we have thought proper to give him confirmation thereof under our own hand, in order that, whithersoever he may go, he may there be in peace and safety in the name of our affection and under our safeguard; in such sort that he may be able everywhere to render, do, and receive justice. And if he come to find himself in any pass or necessity which cannot be determined by law, that he may remain in peace and safety until he be come into our presence, he and all who shall have hope in him or dependence on him. That none may dare to be contrary-minded towards him or do him damage; and that he may rest at all times in tranquillity and safety under our safeguard and protection. And in order that this may be regarded as certified, we have subscribed these letters with our own hand and sealed them with our ring.'"
Here were clearly no vague and meaningless words, written to satisfy solicitation, and without a thought of their consequences: they were urgent recommendations and precise injunctions, the most proper for securing success to the protected in the name of the protector. Accordingly St. Boniface wrote, soon after, from the heart of Germany, "Without the patronage of the prince of the Franks, without his order and the fear of his power, I could not guide the people, or defend the priests, deacons, monks, or handmaids of God, or forbid in this country the rites of the Pagans and their sacrilegious worship of idols."
At the same time that he protected the Christian missionaries launched into the midst of Pagan Germany, Charles Martel showed himself equally ready to protect, but with as much prudence as good-will, the head of the Christian Church. In 741, Pope Gregory III. sent to him two nuncios, the first that ever entered France in such a character, to demand of him succor against the Lombards, the Pope's neighbors, who were threatening to besiege Rome. These envoys took Charles Martel "so many presents that none had ever seen or heard tell of the like," and amongst them the keys of St. Peter's tomb, with a letter in which the Pope conjured Charles Martel not to attach any credit to the representations or words of Luitprandt, king of the Lombards, and to lend the Roman Church that effectual support which, for some time past, she had been vainly expecting from the Franks and their chief. "Let them come, we are told," wrote the Pope, piteously, "this Charles with whom ye have sought refuge, and the armies of the Franks; let them sustain ye, if they can, and wrest ye from our hands." Charles Martel was in fact on good terms with Luitprandt, who had come to his aid in his expeditions against the Arabs in Provence. He, however, received the Pope's nuncios with lively satisfaction and the most striking proofs of respect; and he promised them, not to make war on the Lombards, but to employ his influence with King Luitprandt to make him cease from threatening Rome. He sent, in his turn, to the Pope two envoys of distinction, Sigebert, abbot of St. Denis, and Grimon, abbot of Corbie, with instructions to offer him rich presents and to really exert themselves with the king of the Lombards to remove the dangers dreaded by the Holy See. He wished to do something in favor of the Papacy to show sincere good-will, without making his relations with useful allies subordinate to the desires of the Pope.
Charles Martel had not time to carry out effectually with respect to the Papacy this policy of protection and at the same time of independence; he died at the close of this same year, October 22, 741, at Kiersy-sur-Oise, aged fifty-two years, and his last act was the least wise of his life. He had spent it entirely in two great works, the reestablishment throughout the whole of Gaul of the Franco-Gallo-Roman empire, and the driving back from the frontiers of this empire, of the Germans in the north and the Arabs in the south. The consequence, as also the condition, of this double success was the victory of Christianity over Paganism and Islamism. Charles Martel endangered these results by falling back into the groove of those Merovingian kings whose shadow he had allowed to remain on the throne. He divided between his two legitimate sons, Pepin, called the Short, from his small stature, and Carloman, this sole dominion which he had with so much toil reconstituted and defended. Pepin had Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, and the suzerainty of Aquitaine; Carloman, Austrasia, Thuringia, and Allemannia. They both, at their father's death, took only the title of mayor of the palace, and, perhaps, of duke. The last but one of the Merovingians, Thierry IV., had died in 737. For four years there had been no king at all.
But when the works of men are wise and true, that is, in conformity with the lasting wants of peoples, and the natural tendency of social facts, they get over even the mistakes of their authors. Immediately after the death of Charles Martel, the consequences of dividing his empire became manifest. In the north, the Saxons, the Bavarians, and the Allemannians renewed their insurrections. In the south, the Arabs of Septimania recovered their hopes of effecting an invasion; and Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine, who had succeeded his father Eudes, after his death in 735, made a fresh attempt to break away from Frankish sovereignty and win his independence. Charles Martel had left a young son, Grippo, whose legitimacy had been disputed, but who was not slow to set up pretensions and to commence intriguing against his brothers. Everywhere there burst out that reactionary movement which arises against grand and difficult works when the strong hand that undertook them is no longer by to maintain them; but this movement was of short duration and to little purpose. Brought up in the school and in the fear of their father, his two sons, Pepin and Carloman, were inoculated with his ideas and example; they remained united in spite of the division of dominions, and labored together, successfully, to keep down, in the north the Saxons and Bavarians, in the south the Arabs and Aquitanians, supplying want of unity by union, and pursuing with one accord the constant aim of Charles Martel—abroad the security and grandeur of the Frankish dominion, at home the cohesion of all its parts and the efficacy of its government. Events came to the aid of this wise conduct. Five years after the death of Charles Martel, in 746 in fact, Carloman, already weary of the burden of power, and seized with a fit of religious zeal, abdicated his share of sovereignty, left his dominions to his brother Pepin, had himself shorn by the hands of Pope Zachary, and withdrew into Italy to the monastery of Monte Cassino. The preceding year, in 745, Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine, with more patriotic and equally pious views, also abdicated in favor of his son Waifre, whom he thought more capable than himself of winning the independence of Aquitaine, and went and shut himself up in a monastery in the island of Rhe, where was the tomb of his father Eudes. In the course of divers attempts at conspiracy and insurrection, the Frankish princes' young brother, Grippo, was killed in combat whilst crossing the Alps. The furious internal dissensions amongst the Arabs of Spain and their incessant wars with the Berbers did not allow them to pursue any great enterprise in Gaul. Thanks to all these circumstances, Pepin found himself, in 747, sole master of the heritage of Clovis and with the sole charge of pursuing, in State and Church, his father's work, which was the unity and grandeur of Christian France.
Pepin, less enterprising than his father, but judicious, persevering, and capable of discerning what was at the same time necessary and possible, was well fitted to continue and consolidate what he would, probably, never have begun and created.
Like his father, he, on arriving at power, showed pretensions to moderation, or, it might be said, modesty. He did not take the title of king; and, in concert with his brother Carloman, he went to seek, Heaven knows in what obscure asylum, a forgotten Merovingian, son of Chilperic II., the last but one of the sluggard kings, and made him king, the last of his line, with the title of Childeric III., himself, as well as his brother, taking only the style of mayor of the palace. But at the end of ten years, and when he saw himself alone at the head of the Frankish dominion, Pepin considered the moment arrived for putting an end to this fiction. In 751, he sent to Pope Zachary at Rome, Burchard, bishop of Wurtzhurg, and Fulrad, abbot of St. Denis, "to consult the Pontiff," says Eginhard, "on the subject of the kings then existing amongst the Franks, and who bore only the name of king without enjoying a tittle of royal authority." The Pope, whom St. Boniface, the great missionary of Germany, had prepared for the question, answered that "it was better to give the title of king to him who exercised the sovereign power;" and next year, in March, 752, in the presence and with the assent of the general assembly of "leudes" and bishops gathered together at Soissons, Pepin was proclaimed king of the Franks, and received from the hand of St. Boniface the sacred anointment. They cut off the hair of the last Merovingian phantom, Childeric III., and put him away in the monastery of St. Sithiu, at St. Omer. Two years later, July 28, 754, Pope Stephen II., having come to France to claim Pepin's support against the Lombards, after receiving from him assurance of it, "anointed him afresh with the holy oil in the church of St. Denis to do honor in his person to the dignity of royalty," and conferred the same honor on the king's two sons, Charles and Carloman. The new Gallo-Frankish kingship and the Papacy, in the name of their common faith and common interests, thus contracted an intimate alliance. The young Charles was hereafter to become Charlemagne.
The same year, Boniface, whom, six years before, Pope Zachary had made Archbishop of Mayence, gave up one day the episcopal dignity to his disciple Lullus, charging him to carry on the different works himself had commenced amongst the churches of Germany, and to uphold the faith of the people. "As for me," he added, "I will put myself on my road, for the time of my passing away approacheth. I have longed for this departure, and none can turn me from it; wherefore, my son, get all things ready, and place in the chest with my books the winding-sheet to wrap up my old body." And so he departed with some of his priests and servants to go and evangelize the Frisons, the majority of whom were still pagans and barbarians. He pitched his tent on their territory and was arranging to celebrate there the Lord's Supper, when a band of natives came down and rushed upon the archbishop's retinue. The servitors surrounded him, to defend him and themselves; and a battle began. "Hold, hold, my children," cried the arch-bishop; "Scripture biddeth us return good for evil. This is the day I have long desired, and the hour of our deliverance is at hand. Be strong in the Lord: hope in Him, and He will save your souls." The barbarians slew the holy man and the majority of his company. A little while after, the Christians of the neighborhood came in arms and recovered the body of St. Boniface. Near him was a book, which was stained with blood, and seemed to have dropped from his hands; it contained several works of the Fathers, and amongst others a writing of St. Ambrose "on the Blessing of Death." The death of the pious missionary was as powerful as his preaching in converting Friesland. It was a mode of conquest worthy of the Christian faith, and one of which the history of Christianity had already proved the effectiveness.
St. Boniface did not confine himself to the evangelization of the pagans; he labored ardently in the Christian Gallo-Frankish Church, to reform the manners and ecclesiastical discipline, and to assure, whilst justifying, the moral influence of the clergy by example as well as precept. The Councils, which had almost fallen into desuetude in Gaul, became once more frequent and active there; from 742 to 753 there may be counted seven, presided over by St. Boniface, which exercised within the Church a salutary action. King Pepin, recognizing the services which the Archbishop of Mayence had rendered him, seconded his reformatory efforts at one time by giving the support of his royal authority to the canons of the Councils, held often simultaneously with and almost confounded with the laic assemblies of the Franks, at another by doing justice to the protests of the churches against the violence and spoliation to which they were subjected. "There was an important point," says M. Fauriel, "in respect of which the position of Charles Martel's sons turned out to be pretty nearly the same as that of their father: it was touching the necessity of assigning to warriors a portion of the ecclesiastical revenues. But they, being more religious, perhaps, than Charles Martel, or more impressed with the importance of humoring the priestly power, were more vexed and more anxious about the necessity under which they found themselves of continuing to despoil the churches and of persisting in a system which was putting the finishing stroke to the ruin of all ecclesiastical discipline. They were more eager to mitigate the evil and to offer the Church compensation for their share in this evil to which it was not in their power to put a stop. Accordingly at the March parade held at Leptines in 743, it was decided, in reference to ecclesiastical lands applied to the military service: 1st, that the churches having the ownership of those lands should share the revenue with the lay holder; 2d, that on the death of a warrior in enjoyment of an ecclesiastical benefice, the benefice should revert to the Church; 3d, that every benefice by deprivation whereof any church would be reduced to poverty should be at once restored to her. That this capitular was carried out, or even capable of being carried out, is very doubtful; but the less Carloman and Pepin succeeded in repairing the material losses incurred by the Church since the accession of the Carlovingians, the more zealous they were in promoting the growth of her moral power and the restoration of her discipline. . . . That was the time at which there began to be seen the spectacle of the national assemblies of the Franks, the gatherings of the March parades transformed into ecclesiastical synods under the presidency of the titular legate of the Roman Pontiff, and dictating, by the mouth of the political authority, regulations and laws with the direct and formal aim of restoring divine worship and ecclesiastical discipline, and of assuring the spiritual welfare of the people." (Fauriel, Histoire de la Gaule, &c., t. III., p. 224.)
Pepin, after he had been proclaimed king and had settled matters with the Church as well as the warlike questions remaining for him to solve permitted, directed all his efforts towards the two countries which, after his father's example, he longed to reunite to the Gallo-Frankish monarchy, that is, Septimania, still occupied by the Arabs, and Aquitaine, the independence of which was stoutly and ably defended by Duke Eudes' grandson, Duke Waifre. The conquest of Septimania was rather tedious than difficult. The Franks, after having victoriously scoured the open country of the district, kept invested during three years its capital, Narbonne, where the Arabs of Spain, much weakened by their dissensions, vainly tried to throw in re-enforcements. Besides the Mussulman Arabs the population of the town numbered many Christian Goths, who were tired of suffering for the defence of their oppressors, and who entered into secret negotiations with the chiefs of Pepin's army, the end of which was, that they opened the gates of the town. In 759, then, after forty years of Arab rule, Narbonne passed definitively under that of the Franks, who guaranteed to the inhabitants free enjoyment of their Gothic or Roman law and of their local institutions. It even appears that, in the province of Spain bordering on Septimania, an Arab chief, called Soliman, who was in command at Gerona and Barcelona, between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, submitted to Pepin, himself and the country under him. This was an important event indeed in the reign of Pepin, for here was the point at which Islamism, but lately aggressive and victorious in Southern Europe, began to feel definitively beaten and to recoil before Christianity.
The conquest of Aquitaine and Vasconia was much more keenly disputed and for a much longer time uncertain. Duke Waifre was as able in negotiation as in war: at one time he seemed to accept the pacific overtures of Pepin, or, perhaps, himself made similar, without bringing about any result, at another he went to seek and found even in Germany allies who caused Pepin much embarrassment and peril. The population of Aquitaine hated the Franks; and the war, which for their duke was a question of independent sovereignty, was for themselves a question of passionate national feeling. Pepin, who was naturally more humane and even more generous, it may be said, in war than his predecessors had usually been, was nevertheless induced, in his struggle against the Duke of Aquitaine, to ravage without mercy the countries he scoured, and to treat the vanquished with great harshness. It was only after nine years' war and seven campaigns full of vicissitudes that he succeeded, not in conquering his enemy in a decisive battle, but in gaining over some servants who betrayed their master. In the month of July, 759, "Duke Waifre was slain by his own folk, by the king's advice," says Fredegaire; and the conquest of all Southern Gaul carried the extent and power of the Gallo-Frankish monarchy farther and higher than it had ever yet been, even under Clovis.
In 753, Pepin had made an expedition against the Britons of Armorica, had taken Vannes, and "subjugated," add certain chroniclers, "the whole of Brittany." In point of fact Brittany was no more subjugated by Pepin than by his predecessors; all that can be said is, that the Franks resumed, under him, an aggressive attitude towards the Britons, as if to vindicate a right of sovereignty.
Exactly at this epoch Pepin was engaging in a matter which did not allow him to scatter his forces hither and thither. It has been stated already, that in 741 Pope Gregory III. had asked aid of the Franks against the Lombards who were threatening Rome, and that, whilst fully entertaining the Pope's wishes, Charles Martel had been in no hurry to interfere by deed in the quarrel. Twelve years later, in 753, Pope Stephen, in his turn threatened by Astolphus, king of the Lombards, after vain attempts to obtain guarantees of peace, repaired to Paris, and renewed to Pepin the entreaties used by Zachary. It was difficult for Pepin to turn a deaf ear; it was Zachary who had declared that he ought to be made king; Stephen showed readiness to anoint him a second time, himself and his sons; and it was the eldest of these sons, Charles, scarcely twelve years old, whom Pepin, on learning the near arrival of the Pope, had sent to meet him and give brilliancy to his reception. Stephen passed the winter at St. Denis, and gained the favor of the people as well as that of the king. Astolphus peremptorily refused to listen to the remonstrances of Pepin, who called upon him to evacuate the towns in the exarchate of Ravenna, and to leave the Pope unmolested in the environs of Rome as well as in Rome itself. At the March parade held at Braine, in the spring of 754, the Franks approved of the war against the Lombards; and at the end of the summer Pepin and his army descended into Italy by Mount Cenis, the Lombards trying in vain to stop them as they debouched into the valley of Suza. Astolphus beaten, and, before long, shut up in Pavia, promised all that was demanded of him; and Pepin and his warriors, laden with booty, returned to France, leaving at Rome the Pope, who conjured them to remain a while in Italy, for to a certainty, he said, king Astolphus would not keep his promises. The Pope was right. So soon as the Franks had gone, the King of the Lombards continued occupying the places in the exarchate and molesting the neighborhood of Rome. The Pope, in despair and doubtful of his auxiliaries' return, conceived the idea of sending "to the king, the chiefs, and the people of the Franks, a letter written, he said, by Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, to announce to them that, if they came in haste, he would aid them as if he were alive according to the flesh amongst them, that they would conquer all their enemies and make themselves sure of eternal life!" The plan was perfectly successful: the Franks once more crossed the Alps with enthusiasm, once more succeeded in beating the Lombards, and once more shut up in Pavia King Astolphus, who was eager to purchase peace at any price. He obtained it on two principal conditions: 1st, that he would not again make a hostile attack on Roman territory or wage war against the Pope or people of Rome; 2d, that he would henceforth recognize the sovereignty of the Franks, pay them tribute, and cede forthwith to Pepin the towns and all the lands, belonging to the jurisdiction of the Roman empire, which were at that time occupied by the Lombards. By virtue of these conditions, Ravenna, Rimini, Pesaro, that is to say, the Romagna, the Duchy of Urbino and a portion of the Marches of Ancona, were at once given up to Pepin, who, regarding them as his own direct conquest, the fruit of victory, disposed of them forthwith, in favor of the Popes, by that famous deed of gift which comprehended pretty nearly what has since formed the Roman States, and which founded the temporal independence of the Papacy, the guarantee of its independence in the exercise of the spiritual power.
At the head of the Franks as mayor of the palace from 741, and as king from 752, Pepin had completed in France and extended in Italy the work which his father, Charles Martel, had begun and carried on, from 714 to 741, in State and Church. He left France reunited in one and placed at the head of Christian Europe. He died at the monastery of St. Denis, September 18, 768, leaving his kingdom and his dynasty thus ready to the hands of his son, whom history has dubbed Charlemagne.