Pippin II

Pippin II
   , Called Pippin of Herstal
(d. 714)
   Frankish mayor of the palace and virtual leader of the Merovingian kingdom in the late seventh and early eighth century. His reign as mayor witnessed the further growth in power of the Carolingian family, and contributed to the ultimate triumph of the dynasty in the time of his descendants Pippin III the Short and Charlemagne. His victory at the Battle of Tertry in 687 solidified his hold on power and reunited the kingdom under the Merovingian king he supported, Theuderic III (d. 691). He held the office of mayor and remained the main authority in the kingdom until his death in 714; he was ultimately succeeded by his son Charles Martel.
   Although Pippin was noted, according to the annals written circa 800, for "the strength of his justice, the unconquerable solidity of his bravery and the guidance of his moderation,"(Fouracre 1996, 351) his path to power was not an easy one. Despite the success of his grandfathers, Pippin I of Landen and Arnulf of Metz, the second Pippin was faced by powerful opponents and forced to deal with the failed coup of the family's previous leader, Grimoald, who had sought to replace the ruling Merovingian dynasty with a member of his own family. Pippin was also forced to deal with the murder of his father, Ansegisel, who was killed by a rival family after emerging as the leader of the family after Grimoald's failure. Moreover, in his first contests with the Neustrian mayors of the palace, Pippin, who was an Austrasian noble, was defeated. In 680, he fought a battle against the Neustrian mayor Ebroin and was decisively defeated. The family suffered more than military defeat; Ebroin ordered the murder of Pippin's brother, Martin, who had sought refuge in Laon. A later battle with Ebroin's successor Waratto ended in another defeat for Pippin.
   Although he endured some serious defeats early in his career, Pippin ultimately triumphed over his Neustrian rivals. For one thing, the near tyrannical rule of the Neustrian mayors alienated a large portion of the nobility, which turned to Pippin for help. In 687, war again broke out between the Neustrian mayor, now Berchar, and the Austrasians, led by Pippin. At the request of the Neustrian nobility, Pippin led a campaign against Berchar and his king, Theuderic III, and fought a major battle at Tertry. Pippin's victory secured his position, along with that of his family, in the kingdom. He took control of the king and the royal treasury and reunited the kingdom under his authority as mayor of the palace. Pippin and his descendants ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next three centuries, and after 751 they ruled as kings.
   From 687 until his death in 714, Pippin was the real power in the Frankish kingdom, even though a member of the Merovingian dynasty continued to reside on the throne. As mayor of the palace, Pippin directed both the internal and external affairs of the realm. To strengthen his own position after the Battle of Tertry, Pippin promoted family members and loyal supporters to key positions in the kingdom. He made one supporter mayor in Neustria, and then later replaced this supporter with his own son, Grimoald. He placed other allies in places of power in Neustria and made other sons, including Drogo who was duke of the Burgundians, officials in other parts of the kingdom. He also arranged marriages between his family and the families of important nobles throughout the kingdom, the most successful of the marriages he arranged being his own earlier marriage to Plectrude, who came from an important family in the area of modern Cologne.
   Pippin extended his family's control of the kingdom, but he did not attempt to usurp the Merovingian throne as his uncle Grimoald had. Perhaps learning the lessons of his uncle's failed coup, Pippin continued to install Merovingians on the throne. He ruled first with Theuderic III, and then with Clovis IV (r. 691-695), Childebert III (r. 695-711), and finally Dagobert III (r. 711-715). Although not the rois fainéants (do-nothing kings) of popular legend, these kings were clearly the junior partners in the government of the kingdom. Indeed, as the Annals of Metz notes, Pippin called the annual meeting of the nobles of the realm and presided over it, after allowing the kings to ask for peace, call for the protection of widows and orphans, and the like.
   Among Pippin's many duties was the prosecution of war against external foes and rebellious elements within the kingdom. Although Pippin led the armies, the Annals of Metz report that the king "ordered the army to be ready for departure on the appointed day" (356), which suggests that the Merovingian kings, with the exception of the infant Clovis, had greater authority than the pro-Carolingian annals allow. Whatever the case, Pippin led a campaign into Aquitaine, the first of many Carolingian forays into that rich region, which had traditionally resisted Frankish authority. Of greater concern to Pippin, however, were affairs on the northern and eastern frontiers of the kingdom. He marched against the Frisians to the north, who had raided Frankish territory and had extensive trade contacts with England. Pippin's success against the Frisians was followed by the colonization of the region by Austrasian nobles and by the construction of churches. Pippin also appointed the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord bishop of the newly conquered region. Although relations between Rome and the Carolingians were formalized only in the reign of Pippin's grandson, the connection with Willibrord, who had close ties to Rome, laid the foundation for the later alliance. Just as his descendants later expanded on ties to Rome, so too they adopted his policy of conquest and conversion of pagan peoples along their eastern frontier.
   Pippin also exploited his relationship with the church in the kingdom. His relations with the bishops were sometimes difficult, and he exiled bishops and replaced them with personal allies or family members. Pippin not only appointed bishops to important sees in the kingdom, but also appointed abbots to prominent monasteries. He also endowed monasteries and churches, and established proprietary family churches. His ecclesiastical policy mirrored his political one and was intended to further strengthen his and his family's hold on power. Appointments to office and charitable donations to religious communities were designed to bring the support of the church to Pippin. Toward this end as well, Pippin put churches and monasteries, and their significant wealth, under the control of close allies, and sometimes took territories from the churches and granted the land to his supporters.
   By the time of his death on December 16, 714, Pippin had successfully established himself and, to a lesser degree, his family as the most important power in the Frankish kingdom. His death, however, led the kingdom into turmoil, as his wife and children struggled for control of his legacy. Despite the best efforts of his widow, Plectrude, to promote the interests of her grandson, it was the son of one of Pippin's concubines, Charles Martel, who eventually took over his father's legacy and continued the growth of the family's power.
   See also
 ♦ 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.
 ♦ Halphen, Louis. Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Trans. Giselle de Nie. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1977.
 ♦ 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.
 ♦ 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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