Pippin I

Pippin I
   , Called Pippin of Landen
(d. 640)
   A leading noble in the Merovingian subkingdom of Austrasia, Pippin rose to prominence in the revolt against the queen, Brunhilde, in 613. He was rewarded for his role with the office of mayor of the palace and exercised great influence on the kingdom during the reigns of Chlotar II and his son Dagobert. With St. Arnulf of Metz, with whom he was joined by the marriage of his daughter and Arnulf's son, Pippin was one of the founders of the Carolingian dynasty. He built up substantial wealth and family connections and laid the groundwork for the later success of the family. Although his efforts were later undermined by the failed coup of his nephew Grimoald, Pippin's achievements did provide the necessary foundation for the family's ultimate triumph. His namesakes, Pippin II and III, restored the family to the office of mayor of the palace, from which they rose to the office of king of the Franks.
   Pippin's rise to power was aided by birth and wise marriage alliances. He was from an economically prosperous area of Austrasia, the Meuse River basin, where his family held extensive lands. His position was enhanced by his marriage to Itta, who was the sister of the future bishop of Trier and, according to a contemporary text, was celebrated because of her virtues and wealth. The marriage alliance he forged with Arnulf of Metz, however, proved of even greater value to Pippin and his family. The marriage of his daughter Begga (d. 693) to Arnulf's son Ansegisel (d. 676) drew two powerful families closer together, and the lands of Pippin and Arnulf provided the territorial and economic foundation for the Carolingian family whose rise to prominence began with Pippin.
   Already a wealthy and influential landowner, Pippin's status in the kingdom improved dramatically in 613 when he and Arnulf joined with the Merovingian king Chlotar II to overthrow Queen Brunhilde, who had been the effective ruler of Neustria and the bitter rival of Chlotar's mother Fredegund. Successful in his revolt and in reuniting the kingdom, Chlotar rewarded his supporters. Arnulf was made bishop of Metz, and Pippin was made mayor of the palace in Austrasia, where he became the virtual ruler. Pippin's appointment came shortly after Chlotar appointed his young son Dagobert king in Austrasia. Pippin assumed a heavy share of the burden of government and held an office that enabled him to exercise great power in the king's name. Dagobert benefited from the tutelage of Pippin as well. Moreover, Pippin continued to serve the Merovingian dynasty after Chlotar's death in 629. When Dagobert assumed control of the entire Merovingian kingdom, Pippin continued in his position as mayor. According to the seventh-century chronicle of Fredegar, Pippin provided a steadying hand in the early years of Dagobert's reign. The new king, who had ruled so well in Austrasia during his father's lifetime, now became debauched and greedy. Responding to the complaints of the nobles from the subkingdom of Neustria, Pippin reprimanded the young king and restored him to the virtues he exhibited during Chlotar's life.
   Although Fredegar recognized Pippin as a wise counselor who loved justice, rival nobles in Austrasia were not so enamored of the mayor and sought to create a break between Pippin and Dagobert. Their efforts were not immediately successful, but Dagobert did gradually move away from his former mentor, and in 633 removed him from the position of mayor. Pippin's loss of office and the efforts to separate him from Dagobert reveal the nature of Merovingian politics in the seventh century. Although still firmly in charge of the kingdom, the Merovingians ruled over a number of aristocratic families that were involved in frequently shifting alliances. For much of his life, however, Pippin had been able to manage these alliances, as his marriage ties suggest, and even after his fall from office he remained a vital force in Austrasia.
   After the death of Dagobert in 639, Pippin moved quickly to retake his position as mayor of the palace. According to Fredegar, he ruled prudently and through friendly tips with his vassals. He also strove to have the nobility recognize the new king in Austrasia, Sigebert III, the ten-year old son of Dagobert. Despite his ability to restore his authority quickly after the death of Dagobert, Pippin did not rule long; he died suddenly in 640. Although he did not long survive Dagobert, Pippin had provided a secure base for his family's future.
   See also
 ♦ Fouracre, Paul, and Richard A. Gerberding. Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography, 640-720. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1996.
 ♦ James, Edward. The Franks. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., ed. and trans. The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar with Its Continuations. London: Nelson, 1960.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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