THE SLUGGARD KINGS
 CLOVIS, you will remember, was the first of the
Merovingian monarchs. Dagobert was the last who was
worthy to bear the name of king.
After the death of Dagobert twelve princes of his race
ruled, but little is remembered of them save only their
They were weak and lazy, these Merovingian kings;
indeed, they became so lazy that they were called the
"Sluggard Kings," and sluggard is a name which no one,
and least of all a king, should ever bear.
These sluggard or do-nothing kings sat upon the throne
and pretended to rule.
If an ambassador from a distant land came to the court
of France, he was brought into the king's presence to
deliver his message. And the do-nothing king would seem
to listen, but when he answered, the words he spoke
were those that had been put into his mouth by his
The chief minister of these Merovingian kings was
called the Mayor of the Palace. At first these mayors
were only stewards of high rank, but when they saw the
weakness and laziness of the kings, then, little by
little, they seized upon the power which was slipping
from the hands of the listless race of Meroveus, and
became the real rulers of the land.
You will be almost sorry for these kings, in spite of
their foolish lazy ways, when you hear how they were
treated by the Mayors of the Palace.
To begin with, the kings had no money, save a small
 sum which was given to them by the mayor, and even
the amount of that varied according to the minister's
The kings owned no palaces, but were lodged in poorly
furnished houses in the country, and there they held
their dreary court, surrounded by a few roughly dressed
When they wished to drive, no carriage was ordered for
these make-believe kings. A cart drawn by a yoke of
oxen and guided by a cowherd was the only chariot they
One of the most powerful of the mayors was named Pepin.
Pepin was a duke, and although he never tried to change
his title to king, he could easily have done so had he
For twenty-seven years Duke Pepin ruled France. While a
lazy, shadowy figure sat upon the throne and was called
king, Pepin led the warriors forth to battle. And when
the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome was now called, sent
teachers or missionaries into France, it was Pepin who
protected them from the fierce German tribes who were
still wandering over the country.
As Christmastide drew near in the year 714 A.D. Pepin
died. His son Charles now became Mayor of the Palace.
Charles seemed to think that the Franks could not be
ruled unless a king was on the throne. He therefore saw
to it that one of the sluggard kings should still sit
there, for well he knew that such a king would not
interfere with him.
A strong ruler was needed in France, for the country
was threatened with a great danger. The Saracens or
Arabs, followers of the Prophet Mahomet and enemies of
the Cross, had spread all over the southern world.
In India they had taught their faith and put to death
those who refused to accept it. In Spain, too, they had
forced their faith upon the people, and in 718 A.D.possessed most of that country.
Then in 782 A.D. the Saracens determined to cross the
 Pyrenees, the mountains that separated Spain from
This was the great danger that threatened the country.
And you will remember that Charles, in fighting against
the Saracens, was fighting for the Christian faith as
well as in defence of his country.
The Saracens, having crossed the Pyrenees, fell upon
the town of Bordeaux and sacked it. They then crossed
the river Garonne, and laid waste the province of
The leader of the Saracens was named Abdel-Rahman He
had heard of the rich abbeys, filled with treasures,
that were to be found in the city of Tours, and thither
he now led his army. Already the Saracens were beneath
the walls of the city, when they heard that the Franks
were approaching in great numbers.
Abdel-Rahman ordered his troops to fall back on
Poitiers, a town quite near to Tours, and there, for a
week the two armies faced one another. Then
Abdel-Rahman's patience gave way, and at the head of
his horsemen he ordered a general attack.
The Franks were already drawn up in battle array. They
stood there," says an old writer. "like solid walls or
icebergs and the Saracens were amazed to see how tall
and strong the enemy seemed."
As the battle raged, a small body of Franks crept round
to the Arabs' camp, perhaps in the hope or robbing it,
or, it may be, wishing to attack the enemy in the rear.
The Saracens had much booty in their camp, and
Abdel-Rahman's horsemen seeing the Franks, as they
believed, falling upon it, at once left their post to
defend their treasure. But they fell into disorder,
broke their ranks, and soon the whole army was in
confusion. Meanwhile the main body of the Franks,
shouting their war-cry, clashing their shields, pressed
in among them and beat them down, slaying Abdel-Rahman,
Night fell, and both armies withdrew to their tents The
Franks were early astir, eager to finish the fight. But
 in the camp of the Saracens all was strangely
still. A few Franks were sent to find out what the
enemy was about. They entered the camp unhindered. In
the tents not a soldier was to be seen, for under cover
of the darkness the Saracens had beat a retreat,
leaving their booty behind them.
The battle of Tours or Poitiers, for it is called by
either name, was a very important battle, for by the
victory of the Franks, not only France, but Europe was
saved from becoming the home of the fierce followers of
Mahomet the Prophet.
It was because of the heavy blows that Duke Charles
showered upon the Saracens at the battle of Tours, that
he was from henceforth called Charles Martel, or, as
the word Martel means hammer, Charles the Hammer. After
the battle of Poitiers in 781 A.D., Charles did not
rest until he had swept the Saracens utterly out of
"BECAUSE OF THE HEAVY BLOWS DUKE CHARLES SHOWERED UPON THE SARACENS HE WAS CALLED CHARLES THE HAMMER."
To reward his warriors for their valour on the
battlefield, Charles the Hammer robbed the churches of
their treasures; he even made some of his soldiers,
bishops and priests. This made the Pope very angry. But
it was in vain that he rebuked Charles. Charles was
all-powerful and would have his own way.
The Pope's anger did not make the duke cease to protect
the missionaries who were sent from Rome to teach the
German tribes the faith of Christ.
One of these missionaries was St. Boniface. You will
remember his name with interest when I tell you that he
was born in Wessex, which was once the name of the
south-west of England.
Charles wrote a letter and sent it, not only to the
bishops, but to all those dukes and counts who had
power in the land, to tell them that St. Boniface was
under his care.
St. Boniface was grateful for Charles's protection, and
from the heart of Germany, where he was working among
 the fierce pagan people, he wrote a grateful
tribute to the powerful duke.
"Without the patronage of the Prince of the Franks," said
St. Boniface, "without his order and the fear of
his power, I could not guide this people, or defend the
priests . . . and handmaids of God, or forbid in this
country the rites of the pagans and their worship of
In 787 A.D. the Merovingian king whom Charles had
placed upon the throne died, and during the last few
years of his life Charles the Hammer ruled without a
shadowy sluggard king sitting upon the throne.
Charles himself died at the age of fifty-two, and his
brave warriors wept because he would lead them forth to
battle no more.
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