(c. 615-c. 657)
   Early leader of what became the Carolingian dynasty. Grimoald's ambition nearly destroyed the family and sent it to the political wilderness until its restoration to power by Grimoald's nephew, Pippin II of Herstal. The son of Pippin I of Landen-Pippin had established the family's early prominence through an alliance with Arnulf of Metz and their combined support of Chlothar's rebellion against Brunhilde-Grimoald assumed the office of mayor of the palace in Austrasia on his father's death in 640. But Grimoald dreamed of greater power than that of mayor and had his son adopted into the Merovingian family; his son actually assumed the throne for a time, but in the end Grimoald's plan failed and nearly ruined the family's fortunes.
   Assuming leadership of the family at his father's death, Grimoald was a popular and ambitious figure. He sought the office of mayor of the palace, which his father had held, but which was now held by Otto, the tutor of King Sigebert III (d. c. 656). Grimoald's opportunity came during the revolt of Radulf, duke of Thuringia. Joining the king and other nobles in the battle, Grimoald displayed courage and ingenuity that won the king's favor. Sigebert's army was decisively defeated by Radulf, and the king himself survived only because he was rescued by Grimoald. Rising in royal favor, Grimoald took the opportunity to strike out against Otto, arranging his assassination and then taking his place as mayor of the palace in Austrasia. According to contemporary accounts, Grimoald held the region in tight control and was recognized as ruler of the realm. His success was due both to his own skill and the king's youth.
   As mayor of the palace, Grimoald managed to accumulate great power and undertook a number of policies that continued to be pursued by later generations of the Carolingian family. As Pippin's son, Grimoald possessed numerous estates, an important source of wealth and power. His landed wealth allowed him to establish monasteries, which became sources of both political and spiritual support. By establishing monasteries, Grimoald could place political allies in positions of power with the ability to command even greater amounts of land and wealth that they could use on Grimoald's behalf. He continued to support these monasteries with his own wealth or that of the king after their foundation. Moreover, he persuaded his mother, Itta, to establish a monastery where she could retire. She established three churches on her property near the monastery and dedicated one of them to St. Peter. Her activities brought her into contact with St. Peter's successor, the pope in Rome; thus Grimoald and his mother laid the foundation for the relationship between the Carolingians and the pope that was so important to the family's success.
   Grimoald also was an active supporter of Irish missionaries, who, along with the monks of the monasteries he founded, surely prayed for Grimoald and his family. He also benefited from another family connection. His residence as mayor was at Metz, where his father's ally and Grimoald's uncle Arnulf of Metz was buried. A powerful aristocrat and bishop, Arnulf was recognized as a saint shortly after his death. The spiritual power of the saint enhanced the reputation of Grimoald's family, and Grimoald's own ties to the church of Metz were strengthened when he successfully supported the appointment of his relative, Chlodulf, the son of Arnulf, as bishop of Metz.
   His success as mayor of the palace, and the power he acquired in that role, may have inspired Grimoald to take an even more ambitious step at the death of King Sigebert in 656. The king, who died at the age of 26, owed his life to Grimoald, and because of his youth he was dominated by the powerful mayor. Although still young, Sigebert was most anxious to have a male heir, but he met at first with no success. According to some contemporary accounts, Grimoald took advantage of the king's anxiety to convince Sigebert to adopt Grimoald's own son, Childebert, as the king's heir. When the queen produced a male heir, Dagobert II (d. 679), it appeared that Grimoald's plans for the succession of Childebert the Adopted, as he is known, were ruined. Indeed, Sigebert changed his plans and entrusted Dagobert's education to his trusted ally Grimoald. But the mayor preferred the advancement of his family to loyalty to the Merovingian line, and he orchestrated the deposition of Dagobert and the promotion of Childebert as king.
   After Sigebert's death, Grimoald had Dagobert tonsured as a monk and taken to Ireland. Childebert was made king in his place, and the moment of the triumph of the Carolingian family seemed to have arrived. But the nobles of Neustria and their king Clovis II (d. 657) were not willing to accept the usurpation and lured Grimoald into a trap. He was captured and executed, probably in 657. His son Childebert, however, survived the death of his father and reigned until 662. He may have survived because of the death of Clovis and the youth of Clovis's heir, Chlotar III (d. 673). In 662, Childebert's reign came to an end for reasons unknown, and he was replaced by Clovis's son Childeric II (d. 675). Grimoald's coup, therefore, was a terrible failure, and it pushed the family out of power until the time of Pippin of Herstal. Although the Carolingian family successfully usurped the throne in the eighth century, they were unable to do so in the time of Grimoald, whose attempt nearly destroyed the family.
   See also
 ♦ Bachrach, Bernard S. Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.
 ♦ Fouracre, Paul, and Richard A. Gerberding. Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography, 640-720. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1996.
 ♦ Gerberding, Richard, A. The Rise of the Carolingians and the "Liber Historiae Francorum." Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.
 ♦ James, Edward. The Franks. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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