Leudast was a 6th-century count who was active in the politics of the fragmented Merovingian Empire. Born to humble beginnings, Leudast managed to come to prominence in the court of King Charibert (r. 561-567). After Charibert’s death, Leudast threw his support behind his late liege’s brother, King Chilperic (r. 561-584). As could be expected, Chilperic rewarded Leudast for his political and military aid, naming the man Count of Tours. Yet, Leudast’s lifestyle of paranoia and corruption eventually turned public opinion against him. A breaking point apparently occurred around 580, when Leudast was removed from his position as count. Instead of receiving the demotion gracefully, Leudast tried to regain leverage by accusing Bishop Gregory of Tours of slandering Chilperic’s wife, Queen Fredegund. In a trial attended by King Chilperic and a panel of other bishops, Gregory of Tours was found not guilty, and the court instead declared that Leudast, himself, had been the originator of the rumors against the queen. By this point, however, the disgraced former count had already fled, so the court had to make their charges against him in absentia. The king declared Leudast an outlaw and sent troops to hunt him down, while the bishops excommunicated him from the church and forbid him from receiving the eucharist. Queen Fredegund would also punish Leudast in her own way.
Around 583 or early 584, Leudast decided to stop running from the law. He returned to Tours, awkwardly bringing himself back into contact with Bishop Gregory, and he asked to be allowed to live in the city once more (as his wife was there) and to be readmitted to the church. Bishop Gregory, understandably not fond of the man, refused to allow Leudast any access to his wife or Holy Communion until express written permission to do so was given to him by Queen Fredegund. After hearing this answer, Leudast apparently decided on an action that surprised Gregory. The conflicted bishop reportedly even advised against the former count’s decision once he heard it—Leudast wanted to go directly to the king and queen to plead for forgiveness.
Set on his course, Leudast set out from Tours and tracked down King Chilperic in Melun. The king received him peaceably, but, like Bishop Gregory of Tours, Chilperic would not come to a decision without hearing what his wife, Fredegund, had to say about the matter. On that note, Chilperic invited Leudast to accompany him back to Paris, where Fredegund was residing. Sensing a glimmer of hope, the disgraced count accepted the deal and joined Chilperic on his trip to Paris.
Leudast’s hopes, whatever they might have been, were crushed in Paris. When Fredegund and Leudast finally met, she refused to forgive the former count, and pressured Chilperic not to forgive him, either. The King gave Leudast his protection for a while as he deliberated, allowing the man in question to roam free in Paris until the final decision was made. Nevertheless, King Chilperic ultimately gave way to his wife’s wishes and allowed her to do with Leudast as she wished. Given free rein in the matter, Fredegund had troops sent to arrest the former count. Leudast was reportedly browsing the shops and markets of Paris when Fredegund’s enforcers began encircling him, armed with weapons and chains. The former count, however, noticed these advancing troops and decided to make a final stand. Bishop Gregory of Tours described the grisly scene that ensued:
“Leudast drew his sword and hit one of them. Thereupon the others were roused to fury. They seized their own swords and their shields, and made a concerted attack upon him. One of them struck him on the head, cutting away most of his hair and scalp. He started to run across the city bridge, but he caught his foot between two of the planks of which the bridge is constructed and broke his leg” (History of the Franks, VI.32).
Even with a broken leg and a scalped head, Leudast’s torments did not end. After being given enough medical treatment to keep him alive, poor Leudast was handed over to the royal couple’s torturers. Gregory of Tours did not elaborate on which afflictions Leudast was exposed to, but Chilperic and Fredegund had a vast arsenal of grisly devices and techniques. The bishop did, however, claim to know how Leudast ultimately died, and he described it in unsympathetic detail, saying, “At the personal command of the Queen he was placed flat on his back on the ground, a block of wood was wedged behind his neck and they beat him on the throat with another piece of wood until he died” (History of the Franks, VI.32).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Public Domain scene depicting Syagrius brought before Clovis of the Franks in 487AD, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.