(d. 680)
   Frankish mayor of the palace of the Neustrian kingdom of the Merovingians. Ebroin was a powerful figure who dominated politics in the Merovingian kingdom for much of the third quarter of the seventh century. Although deposed for a time in the 670s, Ebroin managed to recover his control of the office of mayor and dreamed of unifying the kingdoms of the Merovingians under his authority-a dream realized by the rival Carolingian dynasty and its leader Pippin of Herstal following the Battle of Tertry in 687. Before his period of disgrace, Ebroin engineered the retirement of Balthild, the Merovingian queen and saint, and, after his return to power, he appointed and controlled several Merovingian kings. His reign as mayor, however, was widely viewed as tyrannical, which led to a fierce rivalry with Pippin and his family, as well as his murder by a frightened noble in 680.
   Ebroin rose to power in the wake of the overthrow of the Carolingian pretender Grimoald in the late 650s. Although of unknown family, Ebroin was the most dominant figure at the Merovingian royal court of Balthild and her son Chlotar III (d. 673), and he assumed the office of mayor of the palace for the Neustrian kingdom in 659. In 664 Balthild retired to the monastery she founded at Chelles, possibly because of a coup led against her by Ebroin, whose thirst for power outweighed his sense of loyalty. He then served as mayor, and the real power in Neustria, under King Chlotar until the king's death in 673.
   After the death of Chlotar, the kingdom experienced a short period of crisis, which began with the fall of Ebroin and ended with his return to power. At the death of the king, Ebroin, without consulting the other nobles of the kingdom, raised Chlotar's brother, Theuderic III (d. 690/691) to the throne. Ebroin's high-handed act angered the other nobles of the kingdom, who offered the throne to the Merovingian king in Austrasia, Childeric II (d. 675). Ebroin and his king were overthrown, and both were tonsured and placed in a monastery-Ebroin received this punishment only after much pleading by several bishops, who thereby saved his life. But the reign of Childeric over both Austrasia and Neustria was a short and troubled one; not long after his elevation to the Neustrian throne a falling out with some of his key supporters occurred. Moreover, Childeric alienated the Neustrian nobility by his reliance on his loyal Austrasian supporters. He also developed a reputation as a brutal and tyrannical king who violated the rights and traditions of the nobility, actually beating one magnate. The Neustrian nobility, including many of Ebroin's supporters, orchestrated an assassination plot against the king and his wife Bilichild in 675. Their death opened the door for the return of Ebroin and his king Theuderic III to power in Neustria.
   Beginning in 675 Ebroin carefully and brutally established his control over the king and kingdom. Although outmaneuvered by a former ally, Bishop Leodegar, at first, Ebroin soon gained control of the king and took the office of mayor of the palace at the expense of his old ally. In fact, Leodegar was one of the many victims of Ebroin's ruthless quest to control all of the Merovingian kingdom. The bishop had his lips, eyes, and tongue cut out and was finally killed in 678 or 679 at Ebroin's order. Although he eliminated a powerful political rival, Ebroin gained little from his brutal treatment of the bishop, whose tomb became a center of miracles shortly after his death. But the bishop was only one of Ebroin's victims, who included other bishops and priests imprisoned or exiled because they had sided with the mayor's rivals. Many members of the nobility also suffered persecution in Ebroin's quest for power. Indeed, not only nobles and bishops in his own region of Neustria but also those in Austrasia were among Ebroin's victims. The most notable, of course, was the king, Dagobert II, who had been promoted in 675 to the Austrasian throne by Childeric's mayor of the palace, Wulfoald. In 679, the king was ambushed by Ebroin and killed, as Wulfoald may also have been, since he is no longer heard of after that time.
   By the end of the 670s, Ebroin had made himself master of almost the entire Merovingian kingdom and had nearly reunited Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, the three parts of the Merovingian realm, under the nominal authority of Theuderic. His success, together with the ruthless policies by which it was achieved, inspired great unrest in Austrasia and the opposition of noble families there, led by the early Carolingian Pippin of Herstal. Ebroin's power became even greater in 680, when he decisively defeated Pippin in battle and treacherously murdered Pippin's brother Martin. But Ebroin's triumph was short-lived; not long afterward he was murdered by a royal official afraid of being Ebroin's next victim. And not long after the murder, Ebroin's dream of unifying the kingdom was realized by his rival Pippin.
   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.
 ♦ 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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