Page 1083

1083 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-KINGDOM OF THE FRANKS.

royal puppets in the hands of the great Frankish master. Once a year, on Mayday, when

the national assembly was convened at Paris,

Pepin would bring forth his little sovereign and

show him to the people. After this ceremony

had been performed the king was sent back

to the seclusion of his villa, where he was kept

under guard, while Pepin conducted the affairs

of state.

The period reaching from the year 687 to

712 was occupied with fierce struggles between the Franks and Frisians on the Rhine

frontier. The former, however, having now

gained the strength of civilization without

having lost the heroic virtues of barbarism,

were more than a match for the savage tribes

whom they encountered in the northeast.

Great were the domestic misfortunes to

which Pepin in his old age was subjected. A

fierce rivalry broke out between his queen,

named Plectruda, and his mistress, Alpaida.

Grimoald, son of the former, the legitimate

heir of his father's power, was murdered; and

the king was obliged to indicate a grandson,

Dagobert III., as his successor. The son of

Alpaida was Karl, or Charles, afterwards surnamed Martel, meaning the Hammer. When

in the year 714, the boy grandson of Pepin

acceded to power, he was placed under the

regency of the widowed queen Plectruda; but

Charles Martel soon escaped from the prison

in which he had been confined by his father,

seized his nephew, the king, and drove the

queen from the palace.

In his restoration to liberty, Charles was

aided by the Austrasians, who proclaimed

him their duke. The Franks were now, as

always, greatly discontented with the rule of

a woman. Wherefore, when Martel led an

army of Austrasians into Neustria, he easily

gained the victory over the forces of the

queen; and the Western Franks were little

indisposed to acknowledge his leadership and

authority. Becoming mayor of the palace,

he permitted Dagobert to continue in the

nominal occupancy of the throne. After his

death three other kings, Chilperic, Clotaire, and Thierry, followed in rapid succession, playing the part of puppets. But when,

in 737, the last of this imbecile dynasty died, Charles refused to continue the farce, and

no successor was appointed. He, himself assumed supreme direction of affairs, and the

Rois Faineants were dispensed with. The

new monarch, however, declined to accept

any title of royalty, merely retaining his

rank as Duke of the Franks.

Great was the energy now displayed in the

government. This was the epoch in which

the struggle began to be manifested between

the Frankish kings and their nobles. The

barbarian aristocracy was little disposed to

submit to the rule of a monarch. They felt

that their free doom was curtailed by the authority of a king. Charles Martel was compelled to take arms against the powerful chieftains of Austrasia before they would

submit; and the prelates of Neustria were in

like manner reduced to obedience. He was

also successful in several campaigns against

the German tribes on the northeastern frontier; but the great distinction of his reign

and glory of his own genius were shown in

his conflict with the Mohammedans.

The appearance in Spain of these fiery followers of the Arabian Prophet, their victories over the Visigoths, and the establishment

of the Moorish kingdoms in the peninsula

have already been referred to and will hereafter be narrated in full. Having conquered

Spain, the Moslems crossed the Pyrenees and

invaded Gaul. Their purpose of conquest was

nothing less than all Europe for Allah and the

Crescent. In the south of France a gallant

defense was made by Count Eudes, Duke of

Aquitaine, who in 721 defeated the Saracens

in a battle at Toulouse, where Zama, leader

of the host and lieutenant of the caliph, was

slain. The Moslems rallied, however, under

their great leader Abdalrahman, and continued the invasion. Count Eudes called

loudly to the Franks for aid, and the call

needed no second; for the Saracens had already penetrated as, far as Poitiers, and the

kingdom was threatened with extinction.

Charles took the field at the head of his

Frankish and German warriors and confronted the Moslem host on the memorable

field a few miles northeast of Poitiers. Here,