Descendants of the Salian Franks, this dynasty takes its name from Merovech, the ancestor of Clovis. The power of the first Merovingians was limited originally to the kingdoms of Cambrai, ruled by Clodio, and Tournai, governed by Childeric. Clovis (481-511), son of Childeric, soon extended his authority to all of Gaul.
His conversion to Christianity under the influence of his wife, the Burgundian princess Clotilda, paved the way for the Gallo-Roman population to recognize and accept him as king.
Divided among Clovis’s four sons , who continued to expand its borders, the kingdom was united once again under Clotaire I (558-561). His sons in turn subdivided the legacy, but two of them, Chilperic I, king of Neustria wedded to Fredegund, and Sigibert I, king of Austrasia married to Brunhild, embarked on a long and savage conflict that lasted until Clotaire II (613-629) ascended the throne.
His son, Dagobert I, reigned until 639. Dagobert’s royal treasurer, Saint Eligius, established numerous religious houses and charitable institutions in his diocese of Noyon. Around this time mayors of the palace, who represented the interests of important landowners and royal officials, began to wield increasing power.
Mayors of the palace exerted total control over the last Merovingians, impoverished and debauched figureheads known as rois fainÃˆants (” do-nothing kings ” ), who were gradually supplanted by the Carolingians. The much-vaunted Trojan origins of the Franks are but a legend that dates back to the seventh century ; it was developed by chroniclers of the Capetian era to enhance the monarchy’s prestige.