Childeric I /ˈkɪldərɪk/ (French: Childéric, Latin: Childericus,
reconstructed Frankish: *Hildirīk; c. 440 – 481/482) was a
Merovingian king of the
Salian Franks and the father of Clovis I, who
would unite the
Franks and found the
2 Marriage, children, and death
6 External links
Childeric succeeded his father
Merovech as king of the Salian Franks,
traditionally in 457 or 458. By 457 at the latest he
was the ruler of the
Franks in the territory covering
Tournai and the
Lys valley. He may have had power over further territories to the
south, but the sources are unclear on this. According to Gregory of
Tours, Childeric was exiled at some point, the reason being
traditionally given as Frankish unhappiness with Childeric's private
life. Gregory further records that the
Franks recalled Childeric after
8 years of exile.
In 463 Childeric and the Roman General
Aegidius helped the
Orléans to repel the Visigoths, who had hoped to extend their
dominion along the banks of the Loire River. By 466 Childeric
shifted allegiance and attacked the Orléanais, but he was defeated by
the Alans. After the death of Aegidius, Childeric assisted Comes
("count") Paul of Angers, together with a mixed band of Gallo-Romans
and Franks, in defeating the Goths and taking booty. Saxon raiders
under the command of Eadwacer reached
Angers and captured it, but
Childeric and Count Paul retook the city in 469. Childeric, having
delivered Angers, followed a Saxon warband and recaptured the islands
in the Atlantic at the mouth of the Loire. In the period around 476
to 481, he and Odoacer were discussing the possibility of an alliance
Alamanni who wished to invade Italy.
Marriage, children, and death
Gregory of Tours, in Libri Historiarum (Book ii.12), records the story
of the expulsion of Childeric by the
Salian Franks for seducing their
wives. He was exiled for eight years in Thuringia, where he sought
refuge with King
Bisinus and his wife, Basina of Thuringia. He
returned only when a faithful servant advised him that he could safely
do so by sending him half of a gold piece that Childeric had split
with him before his exile. The book also describes his arrival in
Tournai with Basina, who had left her husband to be with him.
Childeric married Basina of Thuringia, and they had the following
Clovis I (466 – 511).
Audofleda, Queen of the Ostrogoths, wife of Theodoric the Great.
Lanthilde (468 – ?).
Aboflede (470 – c. 500).
Childeric died in 481 or 482 and was buried in Tournai. His son
Clovis succeeded him as king of the Salian Franks.
Detail of golden bees with garnet insets
Detailed drawing of the golden bees/flies discovered in the tomb of
Childeric I in
Tournai on 27 May 1653. Drawn by J. J. Chifflet in 1655
Childeric's tomb was discovered in 1653 not far from the
12th-century church of Saint-Brice in Tournai, now in Belgium.
Numerous precious objects were found, including jewels of gold and
garnet cloisonné, gold coins, a gold bull's head, and a ring with the
king's name inscribed. Some 300 golden winged insects (usually viewed
as bees or cicadas) were also found which had been placed on the
king's cloak. Archduke Leopold William, governor of the Southern
Netherlands (today's Belgium), had the find published in Latin. The
treasure went first to the
Habsburgs in Vienna, then as a gift to
Louis XIV, who was not impressed with the treasure and stored it in
the royal library, which became the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
during the Revolution.
Napoleon was more impressed with Childeric's
bees and when he was looking for a heraldic symbol to trump the
Bourbon fleur-de-lys, he settled on Childeric's bees as symbols of the
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 from where they had been hidden
in the Seine, including two of the bees. The record of the treasure,
however, now exists only in the fine engravings made at the time of
its discovery and in some reproductions made for the Habsburgs.
^ G. Salaün, A. McGregor & P. Périn, "Empreintes inédites de
l'anneau sigillaire de Childéric Ier : état des connaissances",
Antiquités Nationales, 39 (2008), pp. 217-224 (esp. 218).
^ Alain de Benoist, Dictionnaire des prénoms, d'hier et aujourd'hui,
d'ici et d'ailleurs, p. 294, éd. Jean Picollec, 2009.
^ Wallace-Hadrill Long-Haired Kings pp. 158-161
^ a b Bachrach, Bernard S. (1973). A History of the
Alans in the West.
U of Minnesota Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780816656998.
^ The Cambridge Medieval History, (Joan Mervyn Hussey, ed.), CUP
Archive, 1957, p. 298
^ Heather Fall of the Roman Empire p. 416
^ Collins Early Medieval Europe p. 103
^ Cambridge, p. 299.
^ a b Collins Early Medieval Europe pp. 112-113
^ Wallace-Hadrill Long-Haired Kings p. 3
^ Wickham Inheritance of Rome p. 112
^ a b Wallace-Hadrill Long-Haired Kings p. 162
^ "Location of Childeric's grave: A plaque at the site reads (in
King of the Franks
King of the Franks Died in his palace in Tournai
the year 481. His tomb was found in this place in the year 1653"".
Archaeology in Europe. Archived from the original on 2015-07-01.
Collins, Roger (1999). Early Medieval Europe: 300–1000 (Second ed.).
New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-21886-9.
Heather, Peter (2006). The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of
Rome and the Barbarians. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. (1982). The Long-Haired Kings. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-6500-7.
Wickham, Chris (2009). The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark
Ages 400–1000. New York: Penguin Books.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Childeric I.
Livius.org on Childeric
Merovingian sword and scabbard mounts from the tomb of King
Childeric featuring silver-gilt and cloisonné garnets
"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
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Childeric". Encyclopædia
Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Born: 437 Died: 481
King of the Salian Franks
Merovingian dynasty (400–755 AD)
Childeric I (457–481)
Clovis I (481–511)
Childebert I (511–558)
Theuderic I (511–533)
Theudebert I (533–548)
Chlothar I the Old (511–561)
Charibert I (561–567)
Sigebert I (561–575)
Childebert II (575–595)
Theudebert II (595–612)
Theuderic II (612–613)
Sigebert II (613)
Chilperic I (561–584)
Chlothar II the Great (584–623)
Dagobert I (623–634)
Charibert II (629–632)
Sigebert III (634–656)
Childebert the Adopted
Childebert the Adopted (656–661)
Clovis II (639–657)
Chlothar III (657–673)
Childeric II (662–675)
Theuderic III (675–691)
Dagobert II (675–679)
Clovis IV (691–695)
Childebert III the Just (695–711)
Dagobert III (711–715)
Chilperic II (715–721)
Chlothar IV (717–720)
Theuderic IV (721–737)
Childeric III (743–751)