Pepin the Short - King of the Franks (751-768)

Pepin the Short - King of the Franks (751-768)

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Son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne, Pepin the Brief was king of the Franks from 751 to 768. He was the founder of the Carolingian dynasty, which he legitimized by a hitherto unknown rite by being anointed with holy oil at his coronation by the bishops. During his reign, he led a skilful policy, made up of alliance with the papacy and territorial conquests. Nicknamed "the Short" (the little one) because of his short stature, he was renowned for his extraordinary strength.

Pepin the brief, the first of the Carolingians

On the death of his father Charles Martel in 741, Pépin became mayor of the palace and received Neustria, Burgundy and Provence. His brother, Carloman, inherits Austrasia and Thuringia. Both rule a kingdom without a king since the death of Thierry IV (737). Faced with many oppositions, they must be conciliatory. Even if they defeated Odilon, Duke of Bavaria, in 743, they had to restore Childeric III to the throne to appease the followers of the Merovingian dynasty.

Both returned to the churches part of the goods which had been taken from them by Charles Martel, reformed ecclesiastical discipline on the occasion of several councils (743-747). Carloman having become a monk (or having been forced into it in 747), Pepin rules alone. He had to face the intrigues of Grifon, the natural son of Charles Martel, who was recognized as Duke of Bavaria before being defeated and given Le Mans in compensation.

Supported by Pope Zacharie, Pepin took advantage of his position of strength to convene an assembly in Soissons in 752 and lay before it. The last Merovingian king, Childeric III, found himself locked up in an abbey and Pépin was proclaimed king of the Franks and then consecrated by the bishops. Sacred once again by Pope Stephen II in Saint-Denis (755), Pepin inaugurates the monarchy of divine right and for a long time forges a solid alliance between Rome and Frankish royalty.

A kingdom to consolidate

In order to thank the papacy, he led two military expeditions against the Lombards and forced them to cede, in 756, to the Holy See, the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna which they had just conquered, origin of the Papal States (which will exist until in 1870).

Pépin tirelessly defends the borders of the kingdom. He beats the Saxons and the Bavarians, reconquers Narbonne and the south of Gaul from the Arabs (759), and completes the subjugation of the revolted Aquitaine. Indeed, Duke Hunald had been defeated but his son Waïfre continued the fight, which lasted eight years (760-768). Each year, the Franks cross the Loire, plunder the country and it is only after a long time and the assassination of Waïfre by one of his family that Pépin is also considered to be the chief of the south of Gaul. It extends the vassalic relations by the oaths of fidelity.

He died in 768, more powerful than Clovis and Dagobert had been. Having firmly established his authority, he prepared the work of his son, Charlemagne. On his death, his kingdom was shared between his two sons, Charlemagne and Carloman, born of his union with Berthe au Grand Pied, daughter of the Count of Laon.


- Pepin the Short (751-768), by Ivan Gobry. Pygmalion, 2012.

- The Carolingians: A family that made Europe, by Pierre Riché. Plural, 2012.

Video: Pepin the Short


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