Merovingian: who, where, when?
By the Merovingian period we mean the period from about 400 to 750 AD. The Romans had then left the Netherlands. This time is often seen as a chaotic period with the many migrations. At that time, people did not really speak of 'peoples', so the term 'migration of the population' was chosen somewhat unhappily. In addition, the migrations varied in size, time and place and were much more complex and slower than we often think. Moreover, there were always more people left behind than left.
The name 'Merovingian' comes from the mythical king Merovech. Yet we cannot speak of "Merovingians" as a people or race, it was merely a dynasty composed of Merovingian kings. In the Netherlands Franks, Frisians and Sasks lived side by side. Part of the Netherlands fell under the rule of Merovingian kings.
Local leaders made agreements with these kings and had to be accountable to them. The Merovingian dynasty consisted of Frankish kings who ruled over a regularly changing territory that included parts of present-day Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany. Among these kings was also the famous Clovis.
Many rich grave goods have been found from this period: precious metal jewelry with garnets, colorful beads, bronze objects and beautiful glassware.
Excavations of small settlements tell us that the people here lived in relatively great wealth. Skeletal research indicates that the humans were also quite healthy; people grew to a reasonable height, had little trouble with contagious diseases and their teeth were in pretty good condition. Moreover, during this time the foundations were laid for the successes of Charlemagne and the development of Dorestad, an important trading port in the Netherlands.
Dynasties and Kings
The Merovingian dynasty thus consisted of Frankish kings. They are often known today as the "long-haired kings" because many of them grew their hair, unlike the Romans who cut their hair short.
Who were these long-haired kings anyway?
It is said that Merovech was the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, but there is no evidence that he ever existed. His existence was probably made up, but a whole legend has arisen around him and his birth. According to this legend, he was conceived by a sea monster while his mother was bathing.
King Childeric I, succeeded him about 458. On May 27, 1653, the tomb of Childeric I was found intact in Tournai (in present-day Belgium).
King Childeric I in turn was succeeded by Chlodovech I, the famous king we now know as Clovis. In France many kings are named after Clovis, there he is known as Louis. Under the rule of Clovis, all Frankish kingdoms were united for the first time into a strong military unit. In addition, he expanded his empire enormously. This of course did not go without a fight. A great deal of violence was used both in the union of the realms and in the expansion of the area.
After his death, Clovis's empire was divided between his four sons. They in turn were succeeded. From the 8th century, the Merovingian kings were given less and less power. The function was interpreted more symbolically and power came to lie with the hofmeiers. In the period of the Carolingians, the office of hofmeier became hereditary. In 751 the Carolingians dethroned the Merovingians: the beginning of the Carolingian period.