16. The Creation of the French Realm

16.2 The Franks

The Burgunds, the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths were initially Aryan Christians. They developed Law Codes that reduced to rule and reason the social relations between the Romano-Gallic population and the conquerors. The Salian Franks devised a Codex at the beginning of the 6th century. The Salic law was decidedly male-oriented and punished with death the adulterous woman while her partner would go free. Polygamy was accepted. Its most renowned clause (LIX, 6) is: No portion of Salic land will be inherited by a woman. The Franks used this clause to their advantage to prevent the passage of land and political power in foreign hands (Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Hundred Years War) and will ignore it when to their advantage for the acquisition of foreign heritages (Louis XIV and the heritage of Spain).

Among the Germanic tribes, the Franks stood out for their immorality and savagery. All valid Franks had to carry arms: a sword and an ax made of excellent steel. The Frankish elite was notoriously greedy, ferocious and devious. According to W. Durant, rarely has an elite manifested such a disdain for morality. Murder, parricide, fratricide, torture, mutilation, treason, adultery and incest spiced their existence. Clovis became the king of the Salian Franks in 481 at age 15. His territory had been reduced to a tiny chunk of land, which he endeavored to expand in 487 with the conquest of the “Roman” kingdom centered around Soissons. At age 21, Clovis killed in front of his troops a soldier who refused to restitute a vase he had won in combat, at Soissons. If the warrior stated the Germanic and Hebraic right of private property (Ex. 20:17; Nb. 16:15; 1S. 12:3) Clovis, who was still a pagan at that time, stressed his right of life and death on his subjects. Clovis converted to Roman Christianity in 493 by opportunism, viewing it as an instrument for social consensus and political dominance. By adopting Roman Christianism, he gained the support of all the “roman” populations dominated by Arian Germanic tribes and easily conquered their lands. Clovis was allied to Sigebert, king of the Ripuarian Franks. Clovis suggested to the son of Sigebert to kill his father and, this having been done, organized the murder of the son to become king of the Ripuarian Franks in 508. He died in 511.

The sons of Clovis pursued the policy of barbaric unification through conquest, which brought them Thuringe in 530, Burgundy in 534, the Provence in 536, Baden-Wurtenberg and Bavaria in 555. Gallia was then greater than France (see fig. 11.7) will ever be. Throughout the following centuries, the leadership of France will endeavour to reconstitute this political entity. Whereas Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Saxons, Normans, Burgunds and Lombards administered their territories with competence, the Frankish kingdoms of Neustria and Austrasia were reputed for their savagery. Conversion to Christianism had no effect on them and barbarism dominated Europe during five centuries because the Church allied to the Franks in 751, to oppose the Lombards. The usurper Pepin sought the anointment by the Pope for his political legitimization but his son Charlemagne, in the year 800, was opposed to it.

The Frankish emperor Charlemagne reinforced the autocracy of the Frankish elite by making of the military service a condition for the possession of land. The obligation to carry weapons evolved in a privilege that lasted until the reign of Louis XIV. Charlemagne thus founded the martial moral which allowed him to conduct the 53 military campaigns required to create around the year 800 an ephemeral Carolingian empire, with its Capital city at Aachen, based on murder (the two sons of his deceased brother Carloman), despise of women (the Salic law and polygamy), violence and cruelty (the massacre of the Saxons and Bavarians, the destruction of the Avars and Lombards). The Carolingian empire crumbled down on his death but the martial and kleptocratic spirits thrived further in Frankish territories. By this means, France was able during centuries to follow a policy of ferocious territorial expansion.

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