Merovingians, dynasty of Frankish kings, descended, according to tradition, from Merovech, chief of the Salian Franks, whose son was Childeric I and whose grandson was Clovis I, the founder of the Frankish monarchy. Merovingian kings followed Frankish custom in dividing the patrimony. After the death (511) of Clovis I, the kingdom was divided among his descendants into various kingdoms, which later became known as Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy. These kingdoms, whose borders were constantly shifting, were often combined; for brief periods, they were all united in a single realm under Clotaire I (558–61), Clotaire II (613–23), and Dagobert I (629–39). The rule of the Merovingians before Dagobert I was disturbed by chronic warfare among aristocrats and rivals for power, notably between Queen Brunhilda of Austrasia and Queen Fredegunde of Neustria. Dagobert I was the last active ruler; his descendants were called the rois fainéants, or idle kings. They were entirely subject to their mayors of the palace, the Carolingians, who became the nominal as well as the actual rulers of the Franks when Pepin the Short deposed (751) the last Merovingian king, Childeric III. See Childebert I; Theodoric I; Guntram; Chilperic I; Sigebert I; Childebert II.
See S. Dill, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age (1926, repr. 1966); J. M. Wallace-Hedrill, Long-Haired Kings and Other Studies in Frankish History (1982); P. J. Geary, Before France and Germany (1988); E. James, The Franks (1991).
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