Childeric I

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Childeric I (c. 437- c. 482) was the Merovingian king of the Salian Franks from 457 until his death.


He succeeded his father Merovech (Latinised as Meroveus or Merovius) as king, traditionally in 457 or 458. With his Frankish warband he was established with his capital at Tournai, on lands which he had received as a foederatus of the Romans, and for some time he kept the peace with his allies.

In about 463 at Orléans, in conjunction with the Roman General Aegidius, who was based at Soissons, he defeated the Visigoths, who hoped to extend their dominion along the banks of the Loire River; after the death of Aegidius he first assisted Comes ("count") Paul of Angers in a mixed band of Gallo-Romans and Franks, defeating the Goths and taking booty. Odoacer reached Angers but Childeric arrived the next day and a battle ensued. Count Paul was killed and Childeric took the city. Childeric having delivered Angers, he followed a Saxon warband to the islands at the Atlantic mouth of the Loire, and massacred them there. In a change of alliances, he also joined forces with Odoacer, according to Gregory of Tours, to stop a band of the Alamanni who wished to invade Italy.

These are all the facts known about him, and they are not secure. The stories of his expulsion by the Franks, whose women he was taking; of his stay of eight years in Thuringia with King Basin and his wife Basine; of his return when a faithful servant advised him that he could safely do so by sending to him half of a piece of gold which he had broken with him; and of the arrival at Tournai of Queen Basine, whom he married, are entirely legendary and come from Gregory of Tours' Historia Francorum (Book ii.12).

After the fall of the Western Empire in 476 there is no doubt that Childeric regarded himself as freed from his engagements towards Rome. He died in 481 and was buried at his capital, Tournai, leaving a son Clovis, afterwards king of the Franks.

His Tomb

Childeric's tomb was discovered in 1653, by a mason doing repairs at the church of Saint-Brice in Tournai when numerous precious objects were found, a richly ornamented sword, a torse-like bracelet, jewels of gold and cloisonné enamel with garnets, gold coins, a gold bull's head and a ring with the inscription CHILDERICI REGIS ("of Childeric the king"), which identified the tomb. Some 300 golden bees were also in the find. Archduke Leopold William, Spanish governor of the Netherlands, had the find published in Latin, and the treasure went first to the Habsburgs in Vienna, then as a gift to Louis XIV, who was not impressed with them and stored them in the royal library, which became the Bibliothèque National at the Revolution. Napoleon was more impressed with Childeric's bees: looking for a heraldic symbol to trump the Bourbon fleur-de-lys, he settled on Childeric's bees as symbols of the French Empire.

On the night of November 5-6, 1831, the treasure of Childeric was among 80 kilos of treasure stolen from the Library and melted down for the gold. A few pieces were retrieved where they had been hidden in the Seine, including two of the bees, but record of the treasure now exists only in the fine engravings made at the time of its discovery, and in some reproductions made for the Habsburgs.

Preceded by:
King of Salian Franks
Succeeded by:
Clovis I

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External links

  • Northvegr webite: ( Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum
  • "A note on Childeric's bees" ( the discovery of his tomb: follow the links for the engravings of Childeric's treasure and the two remaining gold bees.Template:Lived

de:Childerich I. fr:Childéric Ier hu:I. Childeric nl:Childerik I sv:Childerik I


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