Chilperic I (c. 539 – September 584) was the king of
Soissons) from 561 to his death. He was one of the sons of the
Clotaire I and Queen Aregund.
4 Cultural references
7 External links
Immediately after the death of his father in 561, he endeavoured to
take possession of the whole kingdom, seized the treasure amassed in
the royal town of Berny and entered Paris. His brothers, however,
compelled him to divide the kingdom with them, and Soissons, together
with Amiens, Arras, Cambrai, Thérouanne, Tournai, and Boulogne fell
to Chilperic's share. His eldest brother Charibert received Paris, the
second eldest brother
Guntram received Burgundy with its capital at
Orléans, and Sigebert received Austrasia. On the death of Charibert
in 567, his estates were augmented when the brothers divided
Charibert's kingdom among themselves and agreed to share Paris.
Not long after his accession, however, he was at war with Sigebert,
with whom he would long remain in a state of—at the very
least—antipathy. Sigebert defeated him and marched to Soissons,
where he defeated and imprisoned Chilperic's eldest son, Theudebert.
The war flared in 567, at the death of Charibert. Chilperic
immediately invaded Sigebert's new lands, but Sigebert defeated him.
Chilperic later allied with
Guntram against Sigebert (573), but
Guntram changed sides and Chilperic again lost the war.
When Sigebert married Brunhilda, daughter of the Visigothic sovereign
Spain (Athanagild), Chilperic also wished to make a brilliant
marriage. He had already repudiated his first wife, Audovera, and had
taken as his concubine a serving-woman called Fredegund. He
accordingly dismissed Fredegund, and married Brunhilda's sister,
Galswintha. But he soon tired of his new partner, and one morning
Galswintha was found strangled in her bed. A few days afterwards
Chilperic married Fredegund.
This murder was the cause of more long and bloody wars, interspersed
with truces, between Chilperic and Sigebert. In 575, Sigebert was
Fredegund at the very moment when he had Chilperic at
his mercy. Chilperic then made war with the protector of Sigebert's
wife and son, Guntram. Chilperic retrieved his position, took from
Poitiers and some places in Aquitaine, and
fostered discord in the kingdom of the east during the minority of
In 578, Chilperic sent an army to fight the Breton ruler
Waroch II of
Bro-Wened along the Vilaine. The Frankish army consisted of units
from the Poitou, Touraine, Anjou, Maine, and Bayeux. The Baiocassenses
(men from Bayeux) were
Saxons and they in particular were routed by
the Bretons. The armies fought for three days before Waroch
submitted, did homage for Vannes, sent his son as a hostage, and
agreed to pay an annual tribute. He subsequently broke his oath but
Chilperic's dominion over the Bretons was relatively secure, as
evidenced by Venantius Fortunatus's celebration of it in a poem.
Most of what is known of Chilperic comes from The History of the
Franks by Gregory of Tours. Gregory detested Chilperic, calling him
Nero and Herod of his time" (VI.46): he had provoked Gregory's
wrath by wresting
Tours from Austrasia, seizing ecclesiastical
property, and appointing as bishops counts of the palace who were not
clerics. Gregory also objected to Chilperic's attempts to teach a new
doctrine of the Trinity.
Chilperic's reign in
Neustria saw the introduction of the Byzantine
punishment of eye-gouging. Yet, he was also a man of culture: he was a
musician of some talent, and he wrote verse (modelled on that of
Sedulius); he attempted to reform the Frankish alphabet; and he worked
to reduce the worst effects of
Salic law upon women.
In September 584, while returning from a hunting expedition at his
royal villa of Chelles, Chilperic was stabbed to death by an unknown
Chilperic I's first marriage was to Audovera. They had five children:
Theudebert (killed at battle 573).
Merovech (killed by a servant at his request in 577), married the
widow Brunhilda (his aunt by marriage) and became his father's enemy
Clovis (assassinated by
Fredegund in 580).
Basina (d. aft. 590), nun, led a revolt in the abbey of Poitiers
Childesinda (died young from dysentery)
His short second marriage to
Galswintha produced no children.
His concubinage and subsequent marriage to
Fredegund in about 568
produced six more legitimate offspring:
Rigunth (born c. 569 – aft. 589), betrothed to Reccared but never
Chlodebert (c. 570/72 – 580), died young.
Samson (c. 573 – late 577), died young.
Dagobert (c. 579/80 – 580), died young.
Theuderic (c. 582 – 584), died young.
Clotaire (born before September 584 – died 18 October 629),
Chilperic's successor in Neustria, later sole king of the Franks.
Chilperic's name in Frankish meant "powerful supporter", akin to
German hilfreich "auxiliary" (cf. German Hilfe "aid" and reich "rich,
An operetta on the subject, Chilpéric, was created by Hervé, first
performed in 1864.
^ Howorth, 309.
Sérésia, L'Eglise el l'Etat sous les rois francs au VI siècle
Dahmus, Joseph Henry. Seven Medieval Queens. 1972.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chilperic".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chilperic I.
History of the Franks: Books I-X At Medieval Sourcebook.
Born: 539 Died: 584
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)
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