The History of Medieval Europe

By Lynn Thorndike; James T. Shotwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI.
THE FRANKISH STATE AND CHARLEMAGNE

WE now turn our attention once more to the Frankish kingdoms, which under the lead of Charles Martel had brought the westward drive of the Arabs to a halt, and which were to be the center of interest in the West for the next century or so. Indeed, except for the Anglo-Saxons and their adversaries in the British Isles and the Lombards and their rivals in the Italian peninsula, the Franks included within their borders practically all that was left of Western Christendom. Christian territory in the West had shrunk to a scanty area limited on the northeast by heathen hordes and on the south by the waves of Mohammedan conquest. Moreover, this scanty area was in a rude, inland, and agricultural condition, with no flourishing industries, and with foreign trade either cut off or monopolized by the Scandinavians, who controlled the seas to the north, and by the Saracens and Byzantines, who held the Mediterranean and the routes to the East.

Franks the chief power in the Christian West

It will be remembered that sometimes the Franks were all united under one ruler, but that usually they had two or three kings in Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy. After the death of Dagobert, who from 629 to 639 had ruled the entire Frankish territory, the kings were "good-for-nothings," mere boys who wrecked their lives by early debaucheries in the royal residences, which they seldom quitted, and who died before they were half through their twenties, leaving their weak children to replicate their empty reigns. We need not be surprised that these gilded youths remained for the most part shut up in their palaces, since he who was not strenuous enough to ride a horse, and who insisted on lolling at his

The worthless later Merovingian kings

-192-

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