Childeric was a Frankish king of the Merovingian Dynasty, who ruled from approximately 456 to 481. Unfortunately, we know relatively few solid facts about his reign. It is widely documented that Childeric was an ally of the Romans (or at least small kingdoms led by former Romans), and that he came to the aid of Roman troops at Orléans (463) and Angers (469). Yet, Childeric was in no way a Roman puppet—while receiving pay from Rome, Childeric expanded his own borders by attacking the lands of groups such as the Saxons and Alamanni. Other than this, most of what is told about Childeric is hopelessly filled with rumor and folklore. Of these bizarre tales, one of the most peculiar was recorded by Gregory of Tours (c.539-594), who is considered the best Frankish historian of the 6th century.
According to Gregory, King Childeric was a notorious womanizer. Apparently, at some time before 464, Childeric had slept with so many wives and daughters of his vassals that the lustful king was exiled by his own people and forced to flee from the kingdom of the Franks. Before he left the country, the refugee king gave a loyal friend half of a coin, telling the man to send him the token once it was safe to return to the land of the Franks. With that complete, Childeric traveled to Thuringia, where he was given shelter by the local king and queen of the region.
The Franks must have been very angry, for, according to Gregory of Tours, Childeric spent a whole eight years in exile. At some point during the king’s absence, the Franks allegedly even voted to put a Roman affiliate named Aegidius in charge of Frankish land. Yet, by the end of the supposed eight years of Childeric’s exile, the refugee king’s supporters were allegedly able to convince the rest of the population to admit Childeric back into the kingdom. With tempers finally cooled in the lands of the Franks, Childeric’s loyal friend sent the signal coin to Thuringia, informing his liege that it was time to come home.
Interestingly, it was immediately apparent that Childeric had not changed his ways during his long stay in Thuringia. As the story goes, the Frankish king had become quite cozy with the queen of Thuringia. Therefore, when Childeric returned to his kingdom he did not travel alone. According to Gregory of Tours, the queen of Thuringia abandoned her husband and followed Childeric back to the land of the Franks. The runaway queen’s name was Basina and she eventually gave birth to Childeric’s famous son, King Clovis.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (Childeric roy de France par Jean Dassier (1676-1763) -+01+ (ca 436-481). Buste du roi à gauche ceint d’une couronne barbare. Médaille de bronze, 31 mm, 15,37 g. [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.