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Childeric's Grave, Clovis' Succession, And The Origins Of The Merovingian Kingdom

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Chapter Summary

The discovery of the grave of the Frankish king Childeric I in Tournai in 1653 marks the beginning of Merovingian archaeology. Traditionally the burial is dated to century 481, on the basis of Gregory of Tours' statement that Clovis died after reigning for thirty years. The presence of Childeric's seal ring does not prove beyond doubt that the burial is his but, to borrow a phrase of English law, it places the identification 'beyond reasonable doubt'. This chapter suggests that furnished burial is a symptom of social instability, and especially of power passed only with difficulty from one generation to the next. The exceptional nature of Childeric's burial was thus directly related to the exceptional political stress involved in Clovis' succession to his father's position, and, in the precise political circumstances of the end of the fifth century, to the exceptionally high stakes played for.

Keywords: Childeric's grave; Clovis' succession; Merovingian archaeology



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