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TWO RIVAL QUEENS
OU have heard the story of the reigns of the first
Merovingian kings in some detail, and therefore have a
fair idea of the times in which they lived, and of the
way in which these early rulers behaved. But it would
be weary work to read as minute a history of all the
kings of this race, whose names and dates you can find
att eh end of this book if you care to look them up.
 Only a few interesting events happened in France during
the next two centuries, by the end of which the
Merovingians had ceased forever to occupy the throne.
During that time the first kings were brave, and their
successors were in turn cruel, revengeful, sly, and
cowardly, each ruler sinking a little lower than the
one who came before him.
Not many years after the death of Clotaire I., a deadly
rivalry arose between his sons' wives, Brunhilda and
Fredegonda. The former was a handsome, strong-minded
Visigoth princess, who married Sig'ebert, king of
Austrasia, shortly before her gentle sister was given
as wife to his brother Chilperic, king of Neustria.
The Neustrain monarch, however, soon grew tired of his
meek wife, and she was strangled in her sleep by his
order, so that he could marry her handmaiden,
Fredegonda, one of the most wicked as well as most
beautiful women in history.
In those days, some people who called themselves
Christians yet believed it a sacred duty to avenge
every injury received. Brunhilda no sooner heard of her
sister's death than she urged her husband to attack his
After a few years of warfare, Siggebert managed to gain
possessions of Paris, and was elected king of the
Neustrian Franks. He was about to pursue his deposed
 when he was stabbed by some murderers bribed by
Brunhilda's husband being thus slain, she fell into
Fredegonda's hands, and suffered great hardships before
she managed to get back to Austrasia. There, and later
in burgundy also, Brunhilda became regent for her son,
her grandson, and her great-grandsons in turn, all of
whom proved little more than puppets in her hands.
There is something fine and strong about Brunhilda. She
was a wise woman, and made many improvements in the
country, where an ancient road still bears her name;
but her desire to avenge her sister's death and to harm
Fredegonda kept her people in a constant state of
warfare and turmoil.
Each year the hatred between the two queens became more
bitter, and when Fredegonda, after murdering her
stepsons and husband, become regent of neustria for her
infant son, the feud was worse than ever. During those
years, when neither queen stopped at anything,
Fredegonda generally managed to get the better of the
quarrel. And when, after a long time, she found that
she would die before she had wreaked all her hatred
upon Brunhilda, she charged her son, Clotaire II., to
carry out her wicked plans.
This king, having by treachery finally secured
Brunhilda and her four great-grandsons, had two of
these princes slain on the spot, shut the other two up
in monasteries after shearing off their royal locks,
and then proceeded to torture poor Brunhilda.
Although an old woman, by this time, Brunhilda, the
daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and
great-grandmother of kings, was by his order mounted
upon a camel,
camel  —like the meanest of criminals—and led through the
camp, where the soldiers were encouraged to pelt her
with mud, and to insult her in every possible way.
After three days of torture and shameful treatment,
she was finally tied, hair, hand and foot, to the tail
of a wild horse, which dashed through briers and over
stones, until she was torn to pieces!